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Sneaking out a press release, word of higher female rate
We all bury our dead. The government likes to bury news of the dead.
"Veterans Administration throws suicide stats out the back door on Friday at 5 p.m." is the Foreign Policy headline on a story by longtime defense expert Thomas Ricks, a onetime Washington Post mainstay.
Yes, there was a press release late Friday, a time when governments at all levels think it's just so slick to disclose bad news. This news is very, very bad. And this comes after a presidential campaign in which Donald Trump frequently bashed the Obama-era department for a variety of ills and, shortly after taking office, signed legislation to overhaul the agency.
Change apparently comes slowly, and old government habits, when it comes to lack of disclosure, die hard — whatever the administration.
"Veterans are about 20 percent more likely than nonveterans to kill themselves, according to a Veterans Affairs press release issued on Friday afternoon at the close of business. (Traditionally, that’s when Washington public affairs types put out bad news they don’t wish to discuss. Mainly they hope to see it tucked into Saturday newspapers that no one reads.)"
Further, "The suicide rate for female veterans is 250 percent more than for female non-vets."
Of course, it's not the first time this topic has been addressed.
In 2008 the department was accused of covering up suicide rates. (NBC) A 2013 Veterans Affairs study disclosed a higher suicide rate for vets. (Washington Post) Last year came word of a stunning 20 vets a day (yes, 20 a day) committing suicide in 2014. (USA Today)
This has gotten scant pick-up, but those chiming in yesterday included the Associated Press with, "Suicide among military veterans is especially high in the western U.S. and rural areas, according to new government data that show wide state-by-state disparities and suggest social isolation, gun ownership and access to health care may be factors."
"The figures released Friday are the first-ever Department of Veterans Affairs data on suicide by state. It shows Montana, Utah, Nevada and New Mexico had the highest rates of veteran suicide as of 2014, the most current VA data available. Veterans in big chunks of those states must drive 70 miles or more to reach the nearest VA medical center."
When President Donald Trump presumably talks tough at the United Nations today, addressing the General Assembly, it's an inadvertent reminder of the many consequences of military force.
And, perhaps more fundamentally, of this, Ricks told me: "I think it says generally that vets get a lot of lip service from American society as a whole, but people really are not that interested in their problems or experiences."
A CBS win Down Under over the Murdochs
It was late last night in the U.S. when CBS "received the emphatic blessing of creditors in its attempt to take over the Ten Network but the fierce battle with the rival bidder associated with the homegrown media moguls Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon is far from over." (The Guardian)
Ten Network is an Australian broadcaster and "In the hours before the meeting CBS sweetened its offer to $40m in an attempt to stave off action by disgruntled creditors, particularly 20th Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp."
"Staff were overwhelmingly in favour of the CBS offer, because it offers a new owner and many are jaundiced by their experiences of Ten under the management of Lachlan Murdoch, who was acting chief executive and executive chairman for a substantial period during Ten’s decline."
The Morning Babel
"Fox & Friends" opened with rampant speculation on what "insider" President Trump will say to the world at the UN. "They need to listen to this president," said co-host and temporary global affairs savant Ainsley Earhardt. "We contribute a big portion of the budget. 163 countries and we fund almost a fourth." It then segued to predictable bashing of the Emmys with "Emmy Ratings Hit All-Time Low," which is apparently not correct (see Emmys item below).
CNN's "New Day" were the lone folks to go right to the latest hurricane endangering the Caribbean before top-notch Justice reporter Evan Perez reported on a CNN exclusive with colleagues Shimon Prokupecz and Pamela Brown about Robert Mueller wiretapping former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort both before and after the election. It's a small advance on a larger exclusive by The New York Times. So were chats between Manafort and president-elect Trump caught? What does it mean? As is readily apparent, the investigation is accelerating and may broach the question of whether Manafort might be flipped by Mueller, perhaps in part due to his unsavory dealings in Ukraine.
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" celebrated itself on a 10th anniversary for the show with perhaps unavoidable immodesty (post-sunrise revelers included New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mike Bloomberg, Chris Christie and Tony Blair). "Insiders were all watching the show and we knew it," said co-host Joe Scarborough. It lauded early appearances by the late Tim Russert as central to conveying early legitimacy in a universe where more efforts die than survive and where ensemble dynamics are pretty tough to assure in advance. It still gets crushed in local markets like Chicago by local shows. But its audience is one advertisers love, especially as its co-hosts debarked the Trump Train, seamlessly morphed into 24/7 Trump critics, got engaged, inherited the quasi-Don Imus mantel as being an "in" venue for guests, and now is rewarded by Harvard Kennedy School fans with a visiting fellowship there (with dissembling Sean Spicer) that is assured to endure longer than the one Harvard quickly rescinded from convicted leaker Chelsea Manning.
Bill Simmons on Jemele Hill
In The Ringer, the former ESPN star who had a public divorce from the sports goliath, says, “But I enjoyed how brilliantly Jemele checkmated her bosses. She knew ESPN couldn’t punish her for speaking candidly, as a black woman, about a president whose pattern of behavior toward women and minorities speaks for itself. She used her platform and it worked. Now she has a higher profile than she did three days ago. She seems more fearless and genuine than she did three days ago. She doubled down on a fan base that already liked her and openly shunned the other side. And she flipped her relationship with ESPN — now, the company needs Jemele Hill more than she needs the company."
Facebook's anemic self-policing
"The Facebook page for Bee Cave (Texas) patisserie Baguette et Chocolat has improbably become a war ground for gun rights activists. It all started when The Truth About Guns editor Robert Farago entered the patisserie last week with a gun, despite the fact that they prohibit open and concealed carry on the premises. When the owners noticed Farago’s gun 'under his t-shirt,' they called Austin’s 311 service, which dispatched two police officers to Baguette. A few minutes after casing the scene, the police asked Farago to leave." (Eater)
Things then hit the fan on its Facebook page. The pastry joint tells Eater it plans on shutting the page next week "because their star rating has been negatively affected." Notably, Yelp’s "active cleanup" alert appeared on Baguette’s Yelp page but the Facebook page remains unpoliced by anyone at Facebook.
Saying farewell to Twitter
Glenn Thrush, a fine New York Times reporter who been a prolific and opinionated tweeter (and caricatured on "Saturday Night Live" by Bobby Moynihan), tweeted farewell to the medium: "Hey folks — I've decided to delete my Twitter account at midnight. Too much of a distraction. DM me for contact info. Thanks for reading!"
An interesting move. Twitter can be a self-aggrandizing addiction for journalists, rationalized by some (and their bosses) as a great way to stay in touch with consumers. To penetrate the walls of once inaccessible elite media. To gain a sense of the "real" America. To help beleaguered employers brand their products and stay vital.
In the hands of bright and responsibly provocative folks, including some once media wary academics, it can be a treasure trove of insight and discovery. For a few too many journalists, it's a self-regarding, self-aggrandizing vehicle of delusion about their roles, wisdom and (unwittingly) relative importance compared to those they cover. There's a 24/7 "Look ma, I can fly!" element to it all.
Once, you would b.s. to a few similarly overserved patrons on barstools. Now you can hit tens of thousands instantly with the same penetrating observations on anything.
The pretty lousy Emmy Awards
Maureen Ryan in Variety: "TV loves nothing more than sending viewers to a different dimension. So on Sunday night, CBS’ brisk, lively Emmy ceremony opened a portal to another world. It wasn’t the real world of TV, which still has miles to go when it comes to matters of representation, diversity and inclusion, but instead a place where the industry reassured itself that it was doing the work necessary to resist the worst of the present moment."
Emily Nussbaum in The New Yorker: "Colbert isn’t a priest, of course, or an activist: he’s a talk-show host who works for CBS, a large, conservative corporation driven by advertising. On his show, he’s wavered in effectiveness in handling the Trump era, but he’s also come through, plenty of times: in his best, most singular segments, like a devastating interview with Oliver Stone, he is a quiet assassin, precisely because he knows when to push and when to pull back. For me, last night did feel like a letdown: it made me feel angry and sad, frustrated by the limits of my favorite medium."
As for ratings, the initial news was awful, and heralded by Fox News ("people are not capable of that much hatred," said Rush Limbaugh in a favorite Fox clip) then a slight adjustment upward followed, says Hollywood Reporter. It averaged 11.4 million viewers for the night, just avoiding last year's all-time stinker of 11.3 million. "In the key demo of adults 18-49, this year's show did bottom out, slipping 10 percent from a 2.7 rating to a 2.5 rating."
Whew! Harvard's financial health returning
Journalist Malcolm Gladwell's very good "Revisionist History" podcast had done several episodes on elite university endowments, which he thinks are out of control. So he might read this news from the Harvard Crimson:
"A year after Harvard’s endowment dropped nearly $2 billion in value, three of the University’s peer institutions have already posted double-digit returns for fiscal year 2017— which, experts say, may portend growth for Harvard."
Whew. It was languishing at a mere $35 billion. And the university asserts such weak recent returns threaten its financial health. Fortunately, this cache will be around a lot longer than any controversial Kennedy School fellows.
The corruption of soccer
It's the world's greatest sport and also deeply corrupt, as a Simon Kuper essay in The New York Review of Books underscores. This is a snippet in his review of David Conn's "The Fall of the House of FIFA: The Multimillion-Dollar Corruption at the Heart of Global Soccer," about Joao Havelange, an imperious Brazilian businessman who led FIFA, the organizing body, from 1974 to 1998:
"He treated everyone as an underling. 'When Rupert Murdoch gate-crashed the VIP box at the 1994 World Cup trying to get a meeting with Havelange,' (sports historian David) Goldblatt writes, 'he was treated with glacial contempt and sent packing.' ”
And this reminder, too, of the potency of television: "Havelange was aware of the power of media, and during his reign television transformed soccer. He realized that there is something about soccer that allows it to make converts in any society."
That feisty Latin media
Anita Kumar of McClatchy had pool duty as Trump met in New York with Latin American leaders. Sounds like a pretty rough and tumble affair:
"The Latin American press corps was particularly aggressive, pushing and shoving to get a photo. At one point, a journalist spoke over POTUS and knocked down part of the rope barricade until the White House asked her to move."
Chicago: Literary capital
A prominent former big-city editor, who is exhausted by cable news and chagrined by the decline of print, passes along this from a 1920 H.L. Mencken piece in The Nation:
"Journalism was a good training ground, a daily discourse of words composed under deadline. Nearly every writer in Chicago had some experience with newspapers. In the early twentieth century, Chicago was dominated by the Chicago Tribune, Sun, and Times and Daily News, as well as the weekly Defender. Neighborhood presses produced numerous smaller newspapers, weeklies, and publications."
"Paradoxically, the ephemeral work of writing for the newspapers may have been the most stable element of Chicago’s literary scene, in a city where many venues — bookstores, writing groups, galleries, salons — sometimes lasted only a few years and rarely more than a decade. Other modernist metropoles like New York, London, and Paris were also centers of journalistic culture, but Chicago’s newspapers functioned as an incubator for the literary when there were not always other sites. "