U.S. Government

Pentagon Propaganda Gets a Pass

Is there a difference between covert propaganda and secretive campaigns to shape public opinion on controversial issues? The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) apparently thinks that there is.

The GAO recently ruled that the Pentagon pundit program did not break the law against taxpayer-funded domestic propaganda. The program involved some 75 retired military officers who serve as frequent media commentators. From 2002 to 2008, the Pentagon set up meetings between the pundits and high-level Department of Defense (DOD) officials. The Pentagon's PR staff not only gave the pundits talking points, but helped them draft opinion columns and gave them feedback on their media appearances. The Pentagon also paid for the pundits to travel overseas, following carefully-scripted itineraries designed to highlight successes in Iraq and humane measures at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

An Inescapable Web of Advertisements

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) "may soon require online media to comply with disclosure rules under its truth-in-advertising guidelines." FTC assistant director Richard Cleland said, "Consumers have a right to know when they're being pitched a product." But the "hypercommercialism of the Web" may be "changing too quickly for consumers and regulators to keep up," reports the New York Times.

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Public Health Physicians: Philip Morris Drafted FDA Tobacco Law

The American Association of Public Health Physicians (AAPHP), who opposed the new bill giving the U.S. government regulatory authority over cigarettes and other tobacco products, says the bill was essentially written by Philip Morris for the company's own benefit.

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Big Business Fights Consumer Protection

Key to the Obama administration's proposal for financial industry reform is the establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency. The proposed agency would "have a broad mandate to cover the spectrum of consumer financial products and to fill gaps in current regulations." Not surprisingly, big business is fighting back.

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Astroturf Expert Forms NIMBY Campaign

The new Virginia-based group "Citizens for a Safe Alexandria" describes itself as a grassroots group, but its founder works for a public relations firm that specializes in "'grassroots' and 'grasstops' media strategies." Citizens for a Safe Alexandria's Sara Raak has appeared on local television news, urging the Obama administration not t

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