The Matti Friedman Story: A Different Perspective on Israel

Americas, Middle East & North Africa

Matti Friedman

Former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman outlined a behind-the-scenes look at what he considers media bias against Israel in a presentation sponsored by the American Jewish Committee in Newton, MA on February 3rd.

Friedman recently published two stories about the media coverage of Israel titled, “An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth” in Tablet and “What the Media Gets Wrong About Israel” in The Atlantic.

“The narrative of Israel is very carefully engineered,” said Friedman at Temple Emanuel.

Both stories received viral positive and negative attention. The overarching theme in both articles states that journalists craft their stories in the Gaza Strip to fit a single narrative of Israel as the ultimate perpetrator.

He lists several examples of publishing certain stories against the Associated Press’ code of conduct as long as they fit the Palestinian side of the story.

One of his examples is refusing to quote a pro-Israel NGO called Monitor who had made concessions about Israel’s war crimes, but accepting pro-Palestinian anonymous sources against the Associated Press ethics code.

The Associated Press issued a press release on Dec 1, 2014 refuting these claims.

His [Friedman] arguments have been filled with distortions, half-truths and inaccuracies, both about the recent Gaza war and more distant events. His suggestion of AP bias against Israel is false. There’s no ‘narrative’ that says it is Israel that doesn’t want peace; the story of this century-long conflict is more complicated than that.”

   The Director of the American Jewish Committee, Robert Leikind, introduced Friedman as “telling a different kind of story about Israel.”

Although the majority of the approximately 200 attendees were Jewish, many brought up varying viewpoints on Friedman’s claims. Some audience members nodded their heads in agreement fervently, others chose to leave early, and a couple dared to directly question him.

One attendant contested Friedman’s claim that the Associated Press’ Jerusalem Bureau hired up to 40 full time staff to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the most important issue in the Middle East. Friedman’s peg was that the Associated Press only had 1 part time stringer in Syria, where thousands of more people were dying.

The attendee, who asked not to be named, directly refuted the claim and asked whether or not that could be seen as a safety issue rather than clear cut bias.

Despite the intensity of the discussion, Friedman stayed strong through the hot spots. He went as far as admitting fault on his part as a Jewish reporter.

“During my time at the AP, I was overcorrecting not to show bias,” Friedman said.

Friedman didn’t rest all blame on the press corps, though. He raised the point that no prior knowledge is required to cover conflicts such as these and gave the example of his coverage of the Russian invasion of Georgia.

“When you have a lack of knowledge, you’re more susceptible to group think,” said Friedman.

He also raised a concern about college students’ perceptions of Israel a few times throughout the event.

“Those are the ones that are going to be journalists and congressional aides. They’re the ones witnessing Israel being portrayed as a pariah,” he said.

America’s Next New Warplane: Worth It Or Not?

Americas
Credit: Creative Commons

Credit: Creative Commons

The F-35 is the latest and greatest addition to the U.S. military’s arsenal of war planes. Combining the stealth needed for Air Force missions, the vertical landing engine needed for close contact Marine missions, and fortified landing gear for Navy missions the plane is supposed to represent a versatile union among the military branches.

But what happens when that union causes cracks in the plane’s structure, limits operation capabilities based upon weather, and even causes some engines to explode?

Originally intended to save money by performing different functions for different military branches, the production of F-35’s has been elongated and hit record costs. Currently being produced by 1200 suppliers in 45 states and 9 other countries, the cost of a fleet is now estimated at $1.5 trillion dollars.

That’s the same as the budgeted cost of the entire Iraq War.

The price may be worth it if the aircraft could do what politicians have said it will be capable of, but that seems unlikely at this point. The F-35 has been known to blow up, crack prematurely, and sometimes can’t even fly in clouds.

The F-35 is meant to replace older plane models like the A-10, an aircraft originally created for the Army according to a seminar sponsored by the Strauss Military Reform Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But the cost difference in producing the F-35s vs. older models combined with the structural issues may be a warning sign.

Capture

A recent example of the plane’s implications occurred at the Luke Air Force Base in Arizona, when the base had to repaint fuel trucks from green to white in efforts to lower fuel temperatures. The base discovered that when fuel hit higher temperatures, F-35’s would experience a “shutdown”.

On top of stories like this, China has recently announced a new and improved warplane, the J-31. They claim the J-31 could beat the F-35 in combat.

If F-35 production doesn’t speed up and fix the kinks soon, it may be outdated and surpassed by new technology.

Honduras: Death Trap for Journalists

Americas

 

Herlyn Espinal Reporting on "Hoy Mismo"

Herlyn Espinal Reporting on “Hoy Mismo”

On July 22nd, a missing Honduran reporter was found dead. The naked body of 32-year-old Herlyn Espinal, a correspondent for the daily television show “Hoy Mismo“, was found shot twice on the side of a highway according to National Police. Espinal is the 32nd member of Honduran media murdered since 2003.

This figure reflects the terrifying truth that Honduras has the highest homicide rate in the world at 90.4 people per every 100,000 inhabitants. Reports attribute this statistic to the increasing number of Mexican drug cartels that use Honduras as a pitstop for their U.S. bound substances. Not so ironically, 60% of journalists murdered in Honduras covered Crime and Corruption beats according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Unfortunately, Espinal’s death will probably go unsolved. 90% of journalists’ murders remain unsolved in Honduras.

Why Puerto Rico Will Hurt the United States

Americas, Regions
Credit: Creative Commons

Credit: Creative Commons

The United States is staring down an economic crisis, but it’s not coming from any of the 50 states. The U.S. controls 12 territories outside it’s borders, one of which is experiencing an extreme economic crisis.

Puerto Rico was once an investor’s tax heaven. Since it’s bonds are triple tax exempt, investors who buy in avoid federal, state, and local taxes. A tempting offer combined with cheap labor has also attracted some of the United States’ largest company headquarters.

However, not even the business of United States investors can stop the inevitable. The country announced an additional new debt of 3.5 billion on March 11th through bond sales, bringing the total debt up to $70 billion.

This may save Puerto Rico today, but it’s only pushing the crisis further down the road.

How does this affect us?

The United States took control of Puerto Rico in 1898. While our ties to the island may not extend as far as statehood, the influx of American investment in Puerto Rico’s bonds is ultimately what’s going to hurt us. If Puerto Rico defaults, U.S. stock markets will suffer a massive hit.

How bad can it be?

According to Standards and Poors, Puerto Rico’s debt boils down to $10,600 per capita. That’s 10 x the U.S. median.

With 51% of the country’s 4 million residents on welfare, citizens are fleeing the island in search of jobs at an alarming rate. This past decade marks the largest migration wave since the 1950s.

The problem may be difficult to resolve, but one thing is clear. It’s time to face the financial reckoning of Puerto Rico, before it becomes the European Union’s Greece for the United States.

Highlights of 2014 Munich Security Conference

Americas, Asia, Europe, Middle East & North Africa, Regions

John Kerry, Ban Ki-Moon

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (right) greeted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (left) before the 50th Munich Security Conference. Credit: AP Photo

Yesterday concluded the 50th annual Munich Security Conference in Germany. The Conference is a 3 day global platform used to discuss international security policy. A grueling and intensive 72 hours later, our world’s foremost policy makers walked away with these highlighted accomplishments and discussions:

International Cyber Security:

  • Prompted by the recent NSA security breaches, a debate on cyber security ensued. Participants agreed that a common effort for improvement must be implemented.

Peace in Southeastern Europe:

  • After 220 hours of dialogue, Kosovo and Serbia achieved a peace agreement.

More of the Same in Syria:

  • A discussion led by UN Envoy to the Middle East Brahimi on the Syrian Civil War revealed disappointment with the Assad regime, but no progress with Geneva II.
  • Prince Turki Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia accused Assad of genocide and the West (except France) of ignoring the Syrian people.
  • The debate concluded that the UN Security Council needed to increase its’ efforts and countermeasures.

Progress in Iran:

  • U.S. Senator Chris Murphy says the U.S. Senate will not vote on a new round of U.S. sanctions.
  • Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif says they should reopen human rights talks with the European Union.
  • Secretary of State Kerry and Secretary of Defense Hagel stand by disarmament deal with Iran.

U.S. Perspective:

U.S. officials who attended the conference used the platform to push their support for the Obama administration and certain agenda items.

Kerry’s speech called for the investment in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), a trade investment agreement meant to promote economic growth in the United States and the European Union. T-TIP aims to open EU markets, strengthen rules-based investment, eliminate all tariffs, and promote global competitiveness.

Kerry spoke in support of the chemical weapons deal with Syria, the arms deal with Iran, and the Israel-Palestine peace talks. He also voiced support for Ukraine’s protests, but pledged no U.S. involvement.

Hagel led with what he labeled a successful operation in Afghanistan, followed by support of the French in the Central African Republic. He also spoke on military partnerships with countries such as the U.K. and Spain, and echoed Kerry’s call for a transatlantic renaissance.

Hagel concluded with a defense of the U.S. shrinking defense budget, and a promise to further U.S. influence by working with international allies.

Quotes from Kerry at Conference:

“I was recently in Korea and reminded that 10 of the 15 countries that used to receive aid from the United States of America as recently as in the last 10 years are today donor countries. Think about that: 10 of the 15 and the others are on their way to being donor countries.”

“What we need in 2014 is a transatlantic renaissance, a new burst of energy and commitment and investment in the three roots of our strength: our economic prosperity, our shared security, and the common values that sustain us.”

“If we’re ambitious enough, T-TIP will do for our shared prosperity what NATO has done for our shared security, recognizing that our security has always been built on the notion of our shared prosperity.”

“Nowhere is the fight for a democratic European future more important today than in Ukraine. While there are unsavory elements in the streets in any chaotic situation, the vast majority of Ukrainians want to live freely in a safe and a prosperous country, and they are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations.”

Quotes from Hagel at Conference:

“In reviewing U.S. defense priorities tempered by our fiscal realities, it’s clear that our military must place an even greater strategic emphasis on working with our allies and partners around the world. That will be a key theme of the Department of Defense’s upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review which will articulate our defense strategy in a changing security and fiscal environment.”

“All of us must work closely together with African nations in helping them build their security forces and institutions. A more collaborative approach to global security challenges will require more defense establishments to cooperate not just on the operational level, but on the strategic level as well.

Despite fiscal constraints, the budget that we will release next month fully protects our investment in European missile defense. Our commitment to Europe is unwavering. Our values and our interests remain aligned. Both principle and pragmatism secure our transatlantic bonds.”

“I would venture to say the United States is more present doing more things in more places today than maybe ever before. How we’re doing it is differently, and it’s what I talked about, what John talked about – capacity-building for our partners, working closer with our partners, being able to do more as we are more creative with these initiatives.”