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From the May 1999 MediaWatch


Tax Wonders

At tax time ABC lectured viewers about the wondrous benefits of taxes. On the April 14 World News Tonight, Judy Muller found some locals in San Louis Obispo, California to complain about big government and high taxes. She countered: "In fact, the federal government takes about a billion dollars a year from this county, but what most residents donít realize is that the government gives back almost the same amount Ė money that makes a difference."

Muller ran through a list of local projects, for which residents should be grateful, such as stabilizing the banks of a creek, dredging a bay, fixing a water tower and issuing $6 million in grants to Cal Poly for such projects as writing a computer program to load cargo onto military ships. In an analysis reminiscent of the trickle-down economics so disparaged by the networks, Muller explained their value: "While that money does not directly affect the townspeople, it does add to the prestige and overall economic health of the university which is directly linked to that of the town."

Over video of an empty field Muller contended: "What you donít see is suburban sprawl. Thatís because federal money helped the county buy up development rights in order to preserve farmland Ė farmland that feed the farmers who feed the tourists, who feed the town."

In her conclusion, Muller stated, "In other words, the benefits of tax dollars are not always visible." And just why are the federal middlemen needed to gather funds to redistribute instead of simply allowing localities to levy the taxes to pay for all these things? Muller didnít explain.


Lying to Congress?
Energy Department officials admitted before a House committee on April 15 that they withheld information from Congress about Chinese espionage at the national labs, but only FNC found it newsworthy. Not a word that night on ABC, CBS, CNN or NBC.

The Associated Press reported that subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter said two Energy officials "testifying under oath in a closed session in October, dodged specific questions about spying activities at the departmentís national weapons laboratories."

Notra Trulock, the agencyís special adviser for intelligence, said on April 15 that "he acted at the behest of then-Deputy Secretary Elizabeth Moler, who also testified at the hearing, when he did not discuss the investigation into possible Chinese espionage at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico." The APís Jim Abrams added: "Trulock said Moler also edited written testimony he had prepared for the hearing to delete references to counterintelligence operations. Moler denied editing the testimony and said she only instructed Trulock to limit his comments to the subject of the national labsí foreign visitor program."

This was Trulock's second congressional appearance of the week and the second time ABC, CNN and NBC ignored him. As noted by the April 19 MediaWatch, on April 12 he told a Senate hearing his bosses "ridiculed" and "ignored" his discovery of espionage.


Arnett Axed
Nine months after retracting its Operation Tailwind piece reported by Peter Arnett, CNN decided to not renew his contract. In doing so, CNN fulfilled the recommendation of Perry Smith, CNNís military consultant who quit in protest after CNN ignored his warnings.

The Washington Postís Howard Kurtz relayed how Arnett "has said he contributed Ďnot one commaí to the story, which aired on the debut of the CNN-Time program NewsStand, charging that U.S. troops used nerve gas in Laos in 1970. He said he participated in only a couple of interviews but read the script on the air because he is a Ďcompany man.í" In fact, producer April Oliver, who was fired by CNN, told a Freedom Forum event last July: "Peter participated fully. He took time off in April and May just to be available to us for this program."

Appearing on the January 5 Late Late Show with Tom Snyder, Smith said that while CNN admitted making an error, "They didnít get rid of Peter Arnett and [CNN President] Rick Kaplan, which they should have done." One down and one to go.



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