Category Archives: news

daily news summaries

Satire beyond The Onion

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Fact, fiction, or satire?

Does Hilary Clinton wear the bullet that killed Osama bin Laden on a chain around her neck? Did marijuana overdoses kill 37 people in Colorado on the first day of legalization? Was a Black Lives Matter group sued for being racist, not allowing white members? Did a vacationing President Obama really dedicate an 18th hole birdie to Louisiana flood victims? Did Trump really put Ben Carson and Sarah Palin on his foreign policy advisory team? Or is Michele Bachmann going to be his foreign policy adviser?

In this election more, even more than in previous campaign seasons, it can be hard to tell truth from satire. Continue reading


Filed under elections, media, news

Don’t believe everything you read: Phony news and how to spot it

Did you read about the world’s biggest baby, born in China, weighing 73 pounds? How about Pope Francis’s denunciation of Pokemon as the devil’s tool? Or about Donald Trump’s cousin leaving a statement for his obituary begging people not to vote for him? Or that Donald Trump says President Obama founded ISIS? Okay – the last one is unfortunately true, which shows how hard it can be to tell actual news from fiction and satire, this year more than ever.

I spend lots of time reading news, and I care passionately about sorting truth from lies. So I’m going to write a series of blog posts to share what I’ve learned over a lifetime of working at this Sisyphean task. Today: phony news sites. Next time: Satire beyond The Onion. After that: Outright lies and hoaxes. Finally: Not really science and not really health. Continue reading


Filed under elections, media, news

1964 DNC: “I question America”

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from Smithsonian NMAAHC Twitter feed @NMAAHC

The Freedom Summer before the 1964 Democratic convention saw courageous efforts to register black voters in Mississippi, as well as continuing civil rights organizing across the south. In June, Freedom Summer workers Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner were murdered in Mississippi. In July, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, passed with strong Republican support and despite opposition by Southern Democrats. With racism and tension running high, the national parties held their conventions in August. Continue reading

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Catching up on news between elephant fights

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When two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled, says a Swahili proverb, which puts me in mind of the RNC and DNC domination of July news. Despite the elephants, other news is happening to people who, like grass under elephants’ feet, seem barely noticed. If you, like me, feel closer to the grass underfoot than to the elephants in Cleveland and Philadelphia, here’s a quick round-up of some important news items you may have missed. Continue reading

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Filed under children, environment, immigration, news, police and crime, race

Munich, Kabul, Manbij: the calculus of carnage


Photo by L.C. Notaasen, published under Creative Commons license

Yesterday, an eighteen-year-old with a Glock pistol shot and killed nine people in a mall in Germany. Yesterday, a suicide bomber targeted a protest in Kabul and killed at least 80 people. The ISIS bomber targeted Shia Muslims, members of Afghanistan’s Hazara minority. Last Tuesday, an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in Syria killed families who were fleeing ISIS. The exact number of dead is disputed – 56? 85? 160? 212? The families, who included many young children, were fleeing ISIS when the coalition bombers mistakenly targeted them. Guess which of these three stories got the bigger headlines? Continue reading

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Filed under media, news

Quack grass, thistles and the Minnesota legislature


Photo by Miheco, published under Creative Commons license.


As I dug out weeds in the garden this morning, my thoughts turned to the just-ending legislative session. A bold, bright-eyed robin supervises as I dig out thistles and quack grass, pull creeping Charlie, and leave the milkweed for the butterflies.

Weeding is not my favorite part of gardening, but it’s essential. If I don’t keep at it, the thistles and quack grass will take over and choke out everything else. Still, pulling weeds is pointless, unless you also plant. Continue reading

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Filed under children, education, news

New Year, news re-runs

SherlockDownton Abbey is new. NCIS is new. Sherlock is new (not very good, IMHO, but new.) So why is the news in reruns? We have, once again, a stupid, mean-spirited deportation move against Central American families and children. Ultra-right-wing, anti-government, white supremacist grandstanding — take over a bird sanctuary? Really? And a re-run of old gun control rhetoric, with minimalist but highly choreographed executive action substituting for actual gun control.   Continue reading

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Filed under immigration, news

Stories while we wait


“I am waiting,” Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote more than half a century ago, “for a rebirth of wonder.” In this in-between week, waiting for the new year, waiting for normal time to return, I am looking for stories that offer a rebirth of wonder and hope, that could light the dark nights and point to the possibility of a better future. I offer not YouTube cats, but Silent Night at the Fourth Precinct, heroism on a Kenyan bus, a connection between teacher and student. And, if you will, click over to read Ferlinghetti’s poem in full. Continue reading

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Filed under news, Uncategorized

MPR makes us all losers

MPR laid off nine news people yesterday. That’s nine full and part-time people from a full and part-time staff of 74, according to the Pioneer Press. For the news people leaving and the news people staying and for all of us who count on MPR for news, that’s a major blow.

Nick Woltman’s story in the Pioneer Press also aggregated tweets from MPR’s Bob Collins, which paid tribute to each of the nine employees. I couldn’t find any other new stories about the layoffs, which make Minnesota’s news landscape poorer and more barren. As Collins observed, “it is against the law of physics to remove creativity from a world and expect creativity to flourish in its place.” (By the way, if you don’t already follow Bob Collins on Twitter and on his News Cut blog, you should. Right now.)

All of the nine will be missed. I will especially miss Alex Friedrich, who reported carefully and caringly about Minnesota higher education, and Cat Richert, whose coverage of politics and fact-checking in Poligraph provide essential insights into how government works.

Friedrich and Richert represent a kind of reporting too often under-appreciated: covering a beat, getting to know the players and institutions, building a deep background and insight into the issues, which takes time on the job and can’t be easily replaced. Any shenanigans in higher ed or in the legislature will be harder to follow and harder to expose without their deep knowledge and careful reporting.

American Public Media, MPR’s parent company, signaled earlier this month that layoffs were coming. An internal memo said that changes would “expand our services in health, education and sustainability – adding to our current strengths in business and public affairs journalism, and classical and contemporary music.” Cutting to the bone does not accomplish that end.

Bob Collins got it right yesterday in his series of tweets about the layoffs.

Some layoffs apparently took place earlier in the month — I don’t know who those people were. You can go to the MPR pages of the people laid off yesterday, and read or view or listen to the work they have produced in the past. I hope they all land in places where they can continue to do good journalism work in the future. They will be missed.


Filed under media, news

Tax Day – Who pays, who plays

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 9.22.40 PMApril 15 is tax day. I’m happy to pay taxes. I’m happy to have an income so that I can pay taxes — and buy food and clothing and books and wi-fi. I’m happy to pay my share for schools and roads and social services. I am not complaining one bit about tax day.

Plenty of other people have complaints. Continue reading

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