Murdoch, Media & the Military

JSPAN Newsletter - July 29, 2011

Jewish Social Policy Action Network
In This Issue:
Newsletter: July 29, 2011
PA Should Abolish Capital Punishment: Letter to the Editor of the Legal Intelligencer
JSPAN policy opposes the death penalty as currently applied in the United States and supports immediate abolition of capital punishment. The full policy is posted on the JSPAN website at: -Ed.

From Kenneth L. Fox
Chair, JSPAN Death Penalty Policy Center
July 26, 2011

To the Legal:

As an individual who has had the privilege of working with the Federal Defender's Office in successfully representing a client in federal habeas corpus litigation in a capital case, and on behalf of the Jewish Social Policy Action Network (JSPAN), I would like to thank the Editorial Board of The Legal for its thoughtful and important editorial commentary on the recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision and opinions in Commonwealth v. Spotz , questioning the judicial propriety of Chief Justice Ronald D. Castille's intemperate attack on both individual lawyers within the Federal Public Defender's Office and the office as a whole in its zealous advocacy of its clients in a concurring opinion. ("Chief Justice Castille's Opinion in Death Penalty Case Was Disturbing," published July 11.)

The court's decision and opinions, and The Legal's editorial, bring into sharp relief a greater truth: The death penalty in Pennsylvania is not applied in a manner that is guaranteed to be accurate, fair and equitable, and, as the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Harlan II warned, this appears to be a task "beyond present human ability."

The court's decision and opinions, and The Legal's editorial, constitute just the latest proof that, as the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun conceded, "The death penalty experiment has failed." We encourage the Editorial Board of The Legal to join JSPAN and others who oppose the death penalty as it is currently applied and press for the immediate abolition of capital punishment in Pennsylvania.


Scandal Stirs U.S. Debate on Big Media
The New York Times
By Brian Stelter
July 19, 2011

Progressive activists and public interest groups have long blasted Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation for political biases. But in recent weeks they have seized on a new and more tangible reason to call for the revocation of his TV licenses and the breakup of his company: the British hacking scandal.

The scandal, they say, is an opportunity to raise awareness of - and, they hope, objection to - media consolidation at a time when the American government is reviewing the rules that govern how much companies like News Corporation, Comcast and the Walt Disney Company can own.


[read more]


Amid Murdoch Scandal, Israel Backers Worry about Muting of Pro-Israel Media Voice
By Ron Kampeas
July 19, 2011

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Pro-Israel leaders in the United States, Britain and Australia are warily watching the unfolding of the phone-hacking scandal that is threatening to engulf the media empire of Rupert Murdoch, founder of News Corp.

Murdoch's sudden massive reversal of fortune -- with 10 top former staffers and executives under arrest in Britain for hacking into the phones of public figures and a murdered schoolgirl, and paying off the police and journalists -- has supporters of Israel worried that a diminished Murdoch presence may mute the strongly pro-Israel voice of many of the publications he owns.

"His publications and media have proven to be fairer on the issue of Israel than the rest of the media," said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. "I hope that won't be impacted."

Murdoch's huge stable encompasses broadsheets such as The Wall Street Journal, the Times of London and The Australian, as well as tabloids, most notably The Sun in Britain and the New York Post. It also includes the influential Fox News Channel in the United States and a 39 percent stake in British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB, a satellite broadcaster. Murdoch founded the neoconservative flagship The Weekly Standard in 1995, and sold it last year.

Jewish leaders said that Murdoch's view of Israel's dealings with the Palestinians and with its Arab neighbors seemed both knowledgeable and sensitive to the Jewish state's self-perception as beleaguered and isolated.


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Nothing in Murdoch Meltdown Justifies Hacking into the First Amendment
Gene Policinski, author of the following article, is senior vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center, Nashville, TN. -Ed.

By Gene Policinski
The Gainville Gazette
July 23, 2011

For me, as an advocate for a free press, watching the ongoing phone-hacking flap in Great Britain involving News Corp. and media mogul Rupert Murdoch is part fascination, part revulsion and, at least for the moment, just a touch of First Amendment concern.

Members of Parliament have questioned Murdoch, his son James and others about alleged misconduct of the corporation's newspaper employees. The FBI has opened an investigation into claims of phone hacking here, possibly involving victims of the 9/11 terror attacks, and whether U.S. corporate laws were broken if it's shown Murdoch employees bribed public officials overseas.

Accounts of "correspondents" who indulged in drug-and-alcohol binges with celebrities, charges that staffers erased messages in a murder victim's voicemail, resignations at famed Scotland Yard-it's a series of stories that tabloid editors once could only dream of.

The First Amendment provides no legal protection to those who break the law. Still, anytime the government opens an investigation into a news operation, it merits special attention, whether you are a fan of Murdoch's news outlets or not.


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U.S. Military's Ban on Gays to End on Sept. 20
Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed several historic decisions lifting barriers to LGBT civil rights. President Obama took the final steps to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell, effective September 20, 2011. JSPAN has been a strong supporter of the legislative movement for the repeal of this law. He also announced his administration's support for a congressional effort to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law defining marriage as a legal union between a man and a woman. In the U.S. Senate, the first openly gay man was confirmed for a federal judgeship, and, in New York, the new state law allowing same sex marriage became effective with this new civil right being exercised rigorously immediately thereafter. -Ed.

Thomson Reuters
By Phil Stewart and Laura MacInnis
July 22, 1011

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Friday announced the U.S. military's ban on gays will end on Sept. 20, in a major victory for rights advocates who overcame concerns about enacting the change during wartime.

Obama, along with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Admiral Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer, certified that military readiness will not suffer by repealing the nearly 18-year-old "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law.

The long-awaited move triggers a 60-day waiting period before repeal of the divisive policy, which over the years has led to the expulsion of more than 13,000 gays and lesbians who failed to keep their sexual orientation secret.

"Today, we have taken the final major step toward ending the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy," Obama said. "'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' will end, once and for all, in 60 days."

Abolishing the ban fulfills one of Obama's campaign promises and answers a call by gay rights advocates, who had been successfully pursuing a parallel battle in court to strike down the policy on constitutional grounds. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had temporarily reinstated the ban on July 15. Although the flurry of reaction to the repeal in Washington was overwhelmingly positive, not everyone was cheering the news.

Representative Howard McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, accused the president of failing to properly address the concerns expressed by military service chiefs about the impact on troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.


[read more]


Obama Backs Bill to Repeal Defense of Marriage Act
The Washington Post
By David Nakamura
July 19, 2011

The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it will support a congressional effort to repeal a federal law that defines marriage as a legal union between a man and woman.

White House spokesman Jay Carney denounced the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), saying the administration will back a bill introduced this year by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) to remove the law from the books.

Feinstein's bill, called the Respect for Marriage Act, would "uphold the principle that the federal government should not deny gay and lesbian couples" the same rights as others, according to Carney.

The Senate is scheduled to hold an initial hearing on Feinstein's proposal on Wednesday. "The policy was wrong then and it is wrong today, and I believe it should be repealed," Feinstein said Tuesday morning during remarks at the National Press Club. Obama's decision came five months after his administration instructed U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to stop defending DOMA and represents a continuing evolution in Obama's views on same-sex marriage. In February, Holder said parts of DOMA were unconstitutional because of "classifications based on sexual orientation." The issue has become politically dicey for Obama as he and his Republican rivals ramp up for the 2012 campaign season. The president was booed last month during an appearance in New York, when he told a gay audience that "traditionally, marriage has been decided by the states." Forty-one states currently ban same-sex marriage.


[read more]


State Department Embraces Religion
Huffington Post
From Religion News Service
By Lauren Markoe
July 20, 2011

WASHINGTON (RNS) Often accused of ignoring religion as they craft foreign policy, the White House and State Department are trying to show that religion is a rising priority for U.S. diplomacy.

The most recent case in point: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Istanbul last week (July 15) promoted a new U.S.-backed international agreement to protect freedom of speech and religion, an accord described by her department as a "landmark" change.

"These are fundamental freedoms that belong to all people in all places," Clinton said, "and they are certainly essential to democracy."

Elsewhere in the State Department, its school for Foreign Service officers rolled out a new course last month on how diplomats can practice "religious engagement."

And the National Security Council is touting a new partnership with the White House Office on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, which represents a "renewed focus on the intersection of religion and foreign policy across the United States government," faith-based director Joshua DuBois wrote in a July 11 blog post.


[read more]


Christian Leaders Criticize Deficit Proposals
CNN Political Unit
July 26, 2011

(CNN) - An organization of progressively-aligned Christian leaders launched new radio ads Tuesday attacking the proposals currently being considered on Capitol Hill to cut the deficit and raise the debt ceiling. Their main criticism centers on the proposals' neglect of necessary Biblical priorities to care for the poor, according to the group.

Sojourners, a progressive Christian coalition led by Rev. Jim Wallis, placed ads narrated by local pastors on Christian and country radio stations in several localities home to congressional leaders. The group's representatives said the ads are non-partisan and emphasized they are trying to encourage lawmakers to understand the importance of helping those less fortunate.

The ads are airing in House Speaker John Boehner's Ohio congressional district, statewide in Kentucky, home of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and in Nevada, home of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. The size of the buy has not yet been disclosed.

The minute-long spot attacking Boehner's plan says the book of Proverbs "teaches that where there is not leadership a nation falls and the poor are shunned while the rich have many friends."


[read more]


Senate Dems to Jews: How About a Little Help?
The Jewish Daily Forward
By J.J. Goldberg
July 20, 2011

Things got a little testier than usual on Capitol Hill July 13 when the Senate Democrats held their annual midsummer get-together with Jewish organizational leaders to discuss next year's legislative priorities. The Jewish leaders were expecting their traditional hug. What they got was more of a spanking.

Most years, the hour-long powwow features senators nodding sagely while the Jewish leaders take turns listing what they'd like from Congress that fall: Aid to Israel, seniors' housing, refugee assistance and so on. This year, however, the senators had their own wish list, with a rude surprise: If you want all those goodies, help us pass a budget. By implication, the senators also offered a little lesson in the forgotten art of Jewish leadership: Stand by your friends. Remember where you came from. Make sure your deeds match your words.

The Jews-and-senators sit-down is one of several such sessions staged annually by the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee for constituencies that need stroking. Senatorial turnout for the Jewish event is traditionally high, testimony to the Jewish organizations' perceived influence. This year 21 senators showed up, out of 51 Senate Democrats total (plus two independents who caucus with the Democrats). That's close to the record 22 who participated in 2009. Of course, it's a little less surprising when you consider that 10 of those 51 Senate Democrats are themselves Jewish (as are both independents).



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