Stuff You Should Know

Accidental Blast Rocks Benghazi

With tensions in the Middle East high, it’s only natural that any kind of explosion would raise suspicions of continued terrorism. However, a May 13 explosion near the coast line of the Mediterranean Sea appears to have been accidental. At least 13 people are dead and more than 40 injured following a powerful explosion that originated from a vehicle parked near a hospital. The car was carrying a type of explosive used by fisherman. The explosive was set off  while the car was moving. The explosion destroyed a nearby restaurant as well as several nearby buildings.

An incident like this might not be seen as newsworthy except that Libya is in confusion because of the months of civil war and government upheaval in the country. Also, the United States is paying closer attention than ever after the explosions at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that claimed American lives. A visible presence of the nation’s police and Army soldiers can be seen on the streets of Benghazi.

Dig Deeper–Check the initial reports on this story. Did any first interpretations suspected terrorist activity? If so, what kind of correction was made? If not, compare the details of the first story you can find to the most recent. What kinds of discrepancies can you find?

Understanding Media Bias

Presdent Obama speaks to the press

Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
In recent weeks, the press has increased its focus on government agency actions during Obama’s second term.

There are many people who believe that news coverage of the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi has been under-reported or minimized without enough follow up. The critics who hold this view may explain this with a claim of “media bias.” The New York Times and the Washington Post, did very little reporting on the incident shortly after it occurred near the last year’s presidential election. However, Fox News was the only one of five Sunday morning news shows to address the issue.

We may think and hope that news organizations operate to objectively report the facts of events. But the pressure of cable news television ratings and the desire to sell newspapers can push news organization (which are run by businessmen) to craft their observations into opinion and emphasize the different, and conflicting interpretations of complicated events. Most often, the different interpretations are shaped by the dominant political interpretations that drive the federal government’s current membership.

What Do You Think? Do some research into news organizations that have been accused of political bias in their reporting, both toward liberal and toward conservative agendas. Do you think this is okay? Why or why not? Are their any considered neutral? What makes them so?

More Troubles in the News

In addition to the recent developments surrounding the consulate attack in Benghazi,  some other political scandals have recently entered the news.

  1. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently admitted to conducting audits of conservative groups, especially those with the words “Tea Party” or “Patriot” in their name. This meant that the IRS was placing a higher level of scrutiny on such groups requesting classification as a tax-exempt organization. The IRS is a non-partisan, independent agency and such behavior is inappropriate.
  2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been accused of giving favorable treatment to left-leaning political groups while making it harder for conservative groups to obtain government records. If true, this is an unfair use of agency authority.
  3. New reports indicate that the Justice Department secretly obtained two-months-worth of phone records for a number of Associated Press reporters and editors. If proven to be true, this is a violation of the traditional interpretations of the First Amendment’s right of Freedom of the Press.

Opinions of the seriousness and truthfulness  of these scandals are mostly divided along party lines. Republicans believe these incidents show a government’s abuse of power. On the other hand, Democrats believe the Republicans have over-reacted and are making a bigger deal of these incidents than is necessary.

What Do You Think? Follow the unfolding of these stories on your own. Write down what both Democrats and Republicans are saying in response to the scandals. Can you find a source that you believe is neutral? Why? Formulate a personal opinion of all three of the events. Share with your class.

Hillary Clinton in 2016?

Even though she has claimed responsibility for the inadequate security in Benghazi during the 2012 attack, her “favorability ratings” have increased slightly the past three months. According to a new poll taken by the Washington Post and ABC News, 62% of Americans approve of the way she handled her job as Secretary of State. However, as Americans have grown more critical of Barack Obama’s second term administration, Hillary Clinton’s support may decline by association.

Clinton unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic Party nomination against Barack Obama in 2007 and 2008. There is always media speculation that she may become a candidate again for 2016. Former President Bill Clinton downplayed his wife’s presidential ambition during his appearance at the recent 2013 Fiscal Summit.

Dig Deeper–Do you think Hillary Clinton is really running for President in 2016? What evidence can you find to support your opinion? Usually, when a second-term President leaves office, his Vice-President automatically runs on the party ticket. See how many times in history this has not happened and why?