Here's what Syrian children would've asked at last night's debate
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No, the debate wasn't all about one Trump response on rigged elections, though the subsequent coverage left the impression. If you cared, Chris Wallace asked a question about the horrific civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria.
The responses were banal. Shame on the candidates, and on us, as we're reminded by a few beleaguered kids framed by total disarray we can't really fathom.
If you don't frequent The Huffington Post, check this video shot in the rubble of Aleppo: Kids staring into a camera and asking some questions they would have posed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump:
"People are being killed, can't you see?"
"When will you come and stop Bashar?"
"When will you start protecting us from the planes?"
"Why haven't they removed Bashar?"
"Don’t you think that it's wrong that little children are dying?"
As HuffPost's story recounted, it "worked with freelance journalists in Aleppo to let children answer this question on camera: 'If you could ask the U.S. presidential candidates one question, what would it be?'"
Says Sharaf Mowjood, a senior producer, "The idea for this video came about when Omar Daqneesh was pulled from the rubble of a building and his photo and video went viral. And from hearing talk about Syria without hearing from anyone in Syria, or a Syrian."
"With this piece, it was important to me that the kids not be filmed inside a bunker or an underground school. Even though it was more dangerous to film outside, I wanted our readers to see the surroundings in which children in Aleppo live, and the rubble they walk through every day. Also, filming inside an underground school can be a security risk because bunker busting bombs are being dropped on those locations."
"Our videographer went to different neighborhoods, and he settled on those that weren't bombed the night before, thinking it was safer for them to be outside in these areas." And nobody was coached or reading off cards. They were asked one specific question and looked straight into the camera when answering.
"The kids weren’t coached, and filmed their answers only during daylight hours, when it was safe to go outside. They looked directly into the camera and conveyed the urgency of their ordeal. Mostly, they wanted to know when they’d be saved."
If only the kids had their chance last night to confront the two rivals. As Hooman Majd, a smart Middle East observer and contributor to NBC News and Vanity Fair, put it to me after the debate, "On Mosul and Syria and ISIS, Clinton talks tough, but it's unclear if there's a realistic policy. How does a 'no-fly zone' work with the Russians? What leverage do we have with Putin?"
"Trump, on the other hand, just makes it about Iran, which is simplistic and also not a policy. What neither offers is any sort of plan to deal with Syria, Iraq, and ISIS. Trump is probably right that Clinton underestimated Assad, but he is not offering an alternative. Criticizing is easy, but the horror will continue as long as no one takes any action." And the general election public doesn't really care.
I was bitching the other day to a chum at The New York Times about something involving my boys. It had something to do with kids sports, coaches, playing time and improving performance.
"First world problem," he said.
He's right, as I am reminded just watching the images of all that rubble — and all those succinct cries of the heart from boys and girls with more primal realities than travel baseball and soccer.
The post-debate consensus
It went like this: Trump was doing just fine for the first half hour until he imploded with that refusal to say he'd definitely support the election results. It didn't change the dynamic of the race, or, to use the favorite cliche, it "didn't move the needle."
"Debate stunner: Trump won't say he'll accept election result," declared the Associated Press. "Trump declines to say that he'll accept election results; Clinton calls that 'horrifying'" was the Los Angeles Times' take. From The Salt Lake Tribune (via The Washington Post), "Trump won’t say whether he’d accept an electoral loss."
Charles Krauthammer summed up the consensus on Fox: "You don't challenge the legitimacy of an election and hold up the prospect of actual non-acceptance. When he did that, it was a terrible mistake." And you can add the "mean Hillary" comment, further cementing his doom among women voters he desperately needs.
Chris Wallace was "masterful"
Conservative Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin: "Chris Wallace was masterful, asking more substantive questions than were asked in the other debates combined. He was forceful in pinning down the candidates without unduly interfering. His performance should be studied by future moderators. Actually, the debate commission might consider giving him all the debates to moderate."
Megyn Kelly said it proved that Fox is "fair and balanced" during Fox News' unfettered post-debate self-congratulations. It was a solid, dutiful performance whitewashes often egregious, ideologically-driven efforts, especially in prime time. If you missed it there was the recent casual bigotry of a Jesse Watters piece on New York City's Chinatown for Bill O'Reilly's show. (New York Daily News)
Yahoo asks feds to explain snooping order
"Yahoo secretly scanned its users' emails at the behest of a U.S. government agency — and now it wants the government to explain why." (TechCrunch) "In a letter to James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Yahoo carefully avoids admitting that it scanned users’ emails or that it received an order to do so, but asks Clapper to 'clarify this matter of public interest.'" The New York Times previously indicated that this was all about finding a specific signature that could be tied to terrorists.
Kelly-Brazile go at it
You can't beat live TV, like Megyn Kelly fencing post-debate with Donna Brazile, the temporary Democratic National Committee chairman, on some undercover tapes that suggested a concerted effort to foment trouble at Trump rallies.
"You're dodging," Kelly said. "I don't play dodgeball, honey, I play basketball," Brazile responded, while referring to Kelly simply as "Kell" as she, well, dodged. Meanwhile, another issue involved whether Brazile leaked a town hall question, word for word, to Clinton. Kelly's obvious disbelief was justified.
"As a Christian woman I understand persecution, but I will not sit here and be persecuted because your information is totally false," said Brazile. Fox erred by forcing Kelly to cut Brazile off short for another segment. Too bad.
Twitter's troll problem
"Twitter might have finally found some motivation to deal with its troll problem. Three and a half billion motivations, really." (The Guardian) Google, Disney and Salesforce are among those who have sniffed around a purchase and taken a pass, with Twitter's market cap down $3.5 billion since sales rumors commenced.
CNBC's Jim Cramer contends that the troll problem is part of the disinclination to grab Twitter. “What’s happened is, a lot of the bidders are looking at people with lots of followers and seeing the hatred. Twitter says ‘listen, we have a filter.' I mean, the filter filters out a very small amount of the haters, and I know that the haters reduce the value of the company.”
The whole topic surfaced among tech hotspots at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco. (Recode) In sum, there's no obvious, quick fix.
Where's "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?"
"Why Isn’t ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ on Netflix"? wonders The Ringer, Bill Simmons' new sports and culture site. "Classic Black TV shows haven’t made the jump to streaming platforms — and their window of opportunity may be closing."
The answer is...actually, it's not entirely clear. Amazon, Hulu and Netflix wouldn't respond. And, given the craven ways of Hollywood, you'd figure that if those shows could make a buck, they'd likely be on.
"'I don’t think there is some overall, purposeful, ‘We’re not gonna stream these shows,’ says Kim Bass, a television producer who co-created 'Sister, Sister' and 'Kenan & Kel.' 'I think that everything gets monetized in a way that the execs at the various entities think will generate the most revenue. Ultimately, it’s a business, right?'” (The Ringer)
Bill Belichick ditches Microsoft, NFL
"New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is sacking the 'official tablet and PC operating system of the NFL' in favor of physical pictures." (Ad Age)
He says, "I'm done with tablets," alluding to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. "I've given them as much time as I can give them. They're just too undependable for me. I'm going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn't enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can't take it anymore."
The Pulitzers expand
"The Pulitzer Prizes announced Wednesday that magazines can now enter every category in the annual contest, which traditionally recognized America's best newspaper journalism each year." It was opened up to magazines in two categories in 2015 and five this year, with the New Yorker winning twice this year.
Like much with newspapers, it's both smart and tardy. It should have happened a long time ago. There's been a brain drain of talent from most, not all papers and too many aspiring journalists probably more desirous of starting in the mailroom at Vox or Vice than covering cops in a small town.
It will be interesting in, say, five or 10 years to see what percentage of all the awards go to magazines. It may be hefty, especially with The New York Times and The Washington Post lapping the newspaper field with resources and enterprise. It could be those two, and a precious few others, competing against their now savvier, mostly online rivals and their frequently far greater sense of imagination, ingenuity and sophistication. It's not the recipe for covering the county board adequately but it will be for turning the heads of the Pulitzer board.
The morning babble
"Republicans slam Trump for questioning election," was the headline on CNN's "New Day," which touted the networks' own poll that showed Clinton winning easily. The poll suggests that precious few viewers thought the debate will change votes. As for the election results comment, it's a "death blow" to Trump, argued David Gregory.
Co-host Chris Cuomo made putty out of Neera Tanden, a Clinton chum who runs the liberal Center for American Progress, for unflattering email comments (disclosed by WikiLeaks) about how Clinton was handling her email mess. He correctly snapped, "You're ducking because you don't want to own up to what you said," as she cited privacy reasons for not responding to anything related to "stolen" emails.
On "Morning Joe" MSNBC's Harold Ford Jr. said unequivocally Clinton won the debate and was cut short by Joe Scarborough, who asked him why. "I woke up to these screaming headlines," the co-host declared, alluding to the scads of copy and air time devoted to the election results comment. "He actually said 'I'll look at it at the time.'" The tsunami-like press response exemplifies media unfairness, he said, and a "holier than thou attitude."
Just Google, he counseled, and "you will see that Democrats who are shocked and stunned and deeply saddened this morning...Bernie Sanders supporters were just saying six months ago that Hillary Clinton was rigging the election. I mean, seriously, did you just bump your head or just think we're that stupid?" He then took a sip of his iced coffee as he concluded a speech that probably didn't inspire much enthusiasm among his loyal audience even if accurate.
Should news organizations run the WikiLeaks emails?
"My conclusion: I don't see how NPR can ignore the emails altogether, but it needs to tread very cautiously," writes ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen. "I believe most of NPR's disclaimers so far have been very clear and admirable. (NPR standards overseer Mark) Memmott called the situation 'awkward, which may not be satisfying to some listeners and readers, but it is an accurate reflection, in my opinion, of the dilemma that journalists are facing in this case." (NPR)
Ivanka Trump goes cerebral (not)
"On Wednesday, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti expressed surprise that Ivanka Trump would be shocked by the lewd language her father used on the leaked 'Access Hollywood' tape." (Business Insider)
"'I met her once & she casually said: 'I've never seen a mulatto c--k, but I'd like to!' Peretti wrote in a tweet," which spread like wildfire. Ivanka denied the truth of wildfire's high-brow catalyst. Now she best get dad to quickly recant that elections comment last night. That wildfire is spreading.