Thinking of subscribing to DirecTV? Think again. DirecTV pulls a fast one on subscribers to push them into more expensive packages after they sign up. Here’s how it works: Like all cable and satellite TV providers, DirecTV offers different levels of programming that include specific channels. New subscribers select the package with the channels they want — or so they think. A few months after you subscribe to their service, DirecTV pulls some of the channels originally included in your package. All of a sudden when you try to watch those channels, you get a “Channel Not Purchased” message on your screen. When you call DirecTV to tell them about the suddenly-missing channels, they say they’ve taken them out of your package and you’ll need to upgrade to a pricier package to get them back. DirecTV makes little effort to notify subscribers in advance of this change. They don’t announce the changes, for example, in any of the regular emails they send customers announcing special deals and “free” weekends of premium channels. They don’t add any more channels to your package to make up for the ones they’ve removed, and they don’t compensate customers financially for the loss by adjusting your bill for the channels you no longer get. On their website, they explain the loss by saying they took the channels away to help “manage rising programming costs.” Their website also says, “At DIRECTV, we strive to bring you the best entertainment experience available.” All you have to do is subscribe, or peruse the comments at CustomerServiceScoreboard.com/DIRECTV to find out that DirecTV pulls this scam with relative frequency. DirecTV also charges you $10.00/month extra to get a high-definition receiver, where most other pay TV services provide HD to all customers as part of the deal.
Editor’s note: In this blog, I will occasionally summarize lesser-known but highly important tobacco industry documents that should be part of the public record, and the public consciousness. Following is one such article. — A.L.
In a twisted 1997 memo, Seth Moskowitz of R.J. Reynolds’ (RJR) Public Relations department recounts a brainstorming session held to address problems facing the tobacco industry at the time, particularly a lack of credibility and an onslaught of lawsuits being filed against the industry by state Attorneys General seeking to recoup the costs of treating sick smokers.
The memo begins by discussing the need to “humanize” the tobacco industry by putting kind and helpful face on the company (RJR). Moskowitz complains that the public perceives the industry to be “a group of two-faced, conscience-less killers who trade lives for dollars. Nothing could be further from the truth,” he says, “but the public doesn’t know this.”
The discussion quickly turns to ideas for turning public opinion against the AG’s lawsuits. One plan was to instigate a wave of frivolous, ridiculous lawsuits against a number of other industries. For example, Moskowitz proposes using a study to “indicate that drinking citrus juice carries an increased risk of lung cancer.” Moskowitz muses,
“What if we worked with the state AGs or legislators in some tobacco states (NC, VA), and with a business or citizens group in Florida to sue the citrus producers in Florida and California for reimbursement of state medical expenses paid to treat illnesses ’caused’ by the consumption of citrus products? Under current Florida law, this could be done entirely using a statistical model. All we need to do is plug in a few statistics and suddenly we can calculate the dollar amount Florida has paid out in medical expenses to treat orange juice-related cancers. Could also mount a highly emotional PR campaign against citrus growers for harming children (stunting their growth). We could choose other states and industries and do the same thing (Minnesota and dairy products? California and wine consumption? Beef and any number of states.) A series of Medicaid reimbursement-type suits simultaneously launched against a number of industries in a number of states would get major coverage and drive home how ridiculous the recent AG attacks on the tobacco industry are.”
Immediately following this self-serving idea to cause havoc in other industries, Moskowitz flips back to seeking ways to “humanize” the industry. One idea was to use an ad campaign to highlight the good works RJR employees do in their private lives, like helping school children and carrying the torch for the Olympics.
Moskowitz currently still works for Reynolds American as Director of Communications for Reynolds’ subsidiary, the Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company.
See the memo here.
After weeks of silence, the Kroger Company — America’s biggest supermarket purveyor — announced in a short press release March 22 that it will no longer use “pink slime,” the ground beef filler that has caused an uproar among consumers. Critics of pink slime, including former USDA scientists, publicly contend that the ammonia-treated meat filler, made from low quality meat scraps previously used only in cooking oil and dog food, is less nutritious than pure ground beef, and a riskier product due to its higher potential for bacterial contamination. Kroger’s announcement followed similar announcements from smaller grocery chains like Safeway and Food Lion, which moved more quickly to address consumer concerns about the filler. Other grocery chains, like Whole Foods and Costco, told ABC News immediately that their products have never contained the additive. Kroger operates Ralph’s, Fred Meyer, Dillons, Food 4 Less and other stores, and King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado. Consumers were unaware that 70 percent of ground meat contained pink slime because USDA doesn’t require labeling to make consumers aware the additive is in their ground meat.
Main source: The Kroger Co., March 22, 2012
Media Matters for America is embarking on a long-term effort to further weaken bombastic radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh by peeling away advertisers from his show. The group bought $100,000 worth of radio air time to run two ads in eight major U.S. cities that already have active local campaigns to push Limbaugh off the air: Boston, Cedar Rapids, Chicago, Detroit, Macon (Georgia), Milwaukee, Seattle and St. Louis. The ads use recordings of Limbaugh making his repeated verbal attacks on Ms. Fluke to make their point. After railing against law student Sandra Fluke by calling her a “slut” and “prostitute” for her testimony before members of Congress about the necessity of funding contraception, Limbaugh made 46 additional personal attacks on her over the next three days. Attacks against Limbaugh are continuing on other fronts, as well. The National Organization for Women (NOW) is also protesting Limbaugh. Members of the Missouri chapter of NOW sent hundreds of rolls of toilet paper to Missouri’s Speaker of the House, Steve Tilley (R), to encourage him to “flush Rush.” On March 5, Tilley made the decision to add Limbaugh to the Hall of Famous Missourians in the states’ capitol building. People inducted into the Hall are represented by sculpted busts displayed at the Capitol. Numerous lawmakers have protested Limbaugh’s inclusion in the Hall, and sent letters to Tilley asking him to reconsider his decision. Currently the decision over who to include in the Hall is made solely by Missouri’s House Speaker, but Missouri Democrats are trying to change that so bipartisan approval will be required for future inductees. In still another front in the assault on Limbaugh, the Los Angeles City Council voted 13-2 in favor of a resolution urging L.A. television and radio broadcasters to ensure on-air hosts do not use racist or sexist slurs over public airwaves. In addition to Limbaugh’s extended and particularly vile outburst, they were also prompted to issue the resolution after KFI radio hosts of the “John and Ken Show” — and L.A. talk show –referred to Whitney Houston as a “crack ho.” The show was pulled off the air briefly as a result.
Click here to hear one of Media Matters’ radio ads against Rush Limbaugh.
“Stand your ground” laws — also called “Shoot First” laws — are drawing greater scrutiny in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year old African American in Florida who was allegedly shot while simply walking home from a convenience store. Shoot First laws are versions of “Make My Day” laws that allow people who claim they fear for their life or bodily safety to freely shoot to kill someone who enters their home. Florida’s version confers a shoot-first right on people who are even in public places outside their homes. Many Shoot First laws were enacted starting in 2006 in large part due to the efforts of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a secretive collaboration between corporations and legislators that helps advance corporate agendas in legislatures across the U.S. ALEC composed and circulated Shoot First model legislation (pdf), which they then got into the hands of conservative legislators, helping to greatly advance their spread. ALEC’s “model” Shoot First law (which they dubbed the “Castle Doctrine Act,”) was composed by ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections” committee. In 2011, the National Rifle Association was the corporate co-chair of this ALEC committee. The NRA is funded by gun manufacturers (pdf). ALEC apparently got the idea for the law from Florida state Rep. Dennis Baxley of Ocala, taking the idea from him and adopting it as their “model legislation” in 2006, after which the laws spread across the nation.
Even some Coloradans who lack the sports gene are relieved to hear that the Denver Broncos signed Peyton Manning as their new star quarterback. This could mean Tim Tebow is on his way out. For people who aren’t fans of overt proselytizing — whether they follow football or not — that is a good thing.
Religiosity is doubtless important to lots of football stars. That’s fine, but none of them have ever promoted their religion as overtly as Tebow. While in college, Tebow literally shoved his religion into viewers’ faces by writing Bible verse references in the black spots painted under his eyes, a practice that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) then had to ban, in a rule dubbed “the Tebow rule.” In 2010, he pushed his luck further, appearing in a $2.5 million anti-abortion ad that aired during the Super Bowl, paid for by Focus on the Family.
Then there was “Tebowing,” his trademark prayer-bow, which he was always careful to do in front of the crowds that came to watch the games. He tried to portray this as a humble act, but had he really been humble, he could just have easily dropped to his knee in prayer in the locker room before he went out in front of the crowds. Instead he exploited the opportunity to show everyone what a super-religious guy he is. Tebow even told one reporter that he considered his rise to fame a “great opportunity to get a public platform” for his public prayer. Indeed, some news reporters labeled him a football “phenomenon,” and then spoke more about his public prayer than how well he played.
Tebow’s overt hyper-religiosity also sometimes drew ridicule to both him and the Broncos. In October, 2011, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tullock knelt in mock-prayer after sacking Tebow in a game where the Lions trounced the Broncos 45-10. Saturday Night Live even did a skit ridiculing Tebow. In it, Jesus appears in the Denver Broncos’ locker room to have a talk with the team. Jesus says he can’t always be there to rescue to the team in the fourth quarter, and says he needs their help. He tells Tebow, “I could throw better, and I’m 2,010 years old!” He says the team “should be thanking your kicker…Matt Prader.” Jesus then turns to Prader and says, “I pray to you, brother.” Prader replies, “Wow, I didn’t know you prayed to me!” Jesus then looks directly at Tebow and says “That’s because I’m not in everyone’s face about it.”
When we ask evangelical Christians to please not foist their religion on others, they complain they are the victims of a “war on Christianity.” What they don’t get is that when Americans who belong to different religions — or no religion — have messages promoting Christianity foisted on them in public venues like shopping malls, sporting venues or in legislative hearing rooms, it starts to feel like the war is on them, for believing in something other than Christianity. It’s a turn-off, and so, for many people, was Tebow’s public religious behavior.
Tim Tebow deserves credit for avoiding harmful behaviors that so often turn pro-football players into front page news, like drinking, dog-fighting and domestic violence. But Tebow turned himself into front-page news for other reasons which not everyone view as positive. His penchant for using his fame to blatantly promote his Christianity no doubt made some football fans, and maybe even his bosses, uncomfortable. After all, it’s a simple concept to grasp that people go to football games to have fun and not to get preached to. For that, there’s church.
So now we get to say with great relief, “Goodbye, Tim Tebow, and the best of luck to you.” Maybe if you’re lucky the Church will start a football team someday. Now wouldn’t THAT be perfect.
Rick Santorum told the Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia that Congress would require English to “be universal here on the Island…” before Puerto Rico could gain statehood, adding that universal English would be a “condition for coming into the country” as America’s 51st state. No federal law exists requiring English to be universal in a commonwealth or territory prior to being admitting to the union. After his comments angered Puerto Ricans, Santorum tried to walk back his statements by claiming he was misquoted. “What I said is English has to be learned as a language and this has to be a country where English is widely spoken and used …” A Santorum campaign representative also tried to soft pedal the candidate’s remarks, saying, “Rick is an advocate of making English our official language — just like 90% of Americans. He knows there’s no current federal law in place — but what he was talking about — is that once English is made the official language — obviously all states would need to comply.” Attempts to backpedal his statements proved useless. Santorum lost the Puerto Rican primary election to Mitt Romney in a landslide.
Main Source: Washington Post, March 15, 2012
Beef Products, Inc. (BPI), the manufacturer of pink slime, has started a new website, PinkSlimeIsAMyth.com, to battle the growing tide of anti-slime public sentiment. One of the pages of Beef Products’ new website attempts to discredit Kit Foshee, who formerly worked as Manager of BPI’s Quality Assurance Group. Foshee, who questioned the byproduct’s safety, has become an outspoken critic of pink slime — a position the company characterizes as “revenge.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is sticking to its story that “Lean Finely Textured Beef” (pink slime) is safe, but on March 15 the agency bowed to public pressure and issued a press release saying it will now “adjust procurement specifications” to give schools “additional options in procuring ground beef products.” Translation? USDA will now offer schools a choice whether or not to feed their students ground beef that contains pink slime. The change assumes that USDA will now distinguish beef containing the additive from beef that does not. Ground beef is currently not labeled as to whether it contains the additive or not since USDA considers the additive “beef.” Pink slime is a cheap meat filler made of rejected meat scraps that are heated, mixed, and treated with ammoniated gas to kill pathogenic bacteria like E Coli and salmonella.
A national poll conducted for Bloomberg News found that Republican candidates have wandered way off base in their recent public discussions of contraception. When asked “Do you believe birth control should or should not be part of the national political debate?,” a whopping 77 percent of respondents said the topic has no place in the political debate. The most important issues to respondents were unemployment (42 percent), the federal deficit (21 percent), gas prices (11 percent) and health care (10 percent). When asked whether the debate about insurance plans covering birth control was one of religious liberty or whether it was a matter of a woman’s health and access to birth control, 62 percent said it was a matter of a woman’s health and access to birth control. A majority of respondents would prefer religion not even be a major factor for the country’s leader. When asked to what extent a president’s religious beliefs should influence his federal policy decisions, 58 percent answered “Never.” A significant portion of respondents — 16 percent — said they did not identify with any organized religion at all. On another current topic, fully 53 percent thought Rush Limbaugh should lose his radio show based solely on his comments towards Sandra Fluke, the law school student who testified before Senate Democrats about access to birth control at religious universities. The poll was conducted by Selzer and Company, Inc., of Des Moines, Iowa and was based on interviews with 1,002 U.S. adults age 18 or older. Respondents were called on randomly-selected landline and cell phone numbers. It was conducted March 8-11, 2011. The entire original Bloomberg Poll results can be accessed here (pdf).
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) failed to hold proper public hearings before licensing a private energy company to build the first uranium mill in the country in decades. The Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE) held public meetings, rather than public hearings before licensing the mill, the latter being a formal legal proceeding that involves testimony under oath and cross-examination. Energy Fuels Resources Corporation asked the state to build the Pinion Ridge Uranium Mill in the Paradox Valley near Nucla in western Colorado to supply nuclear power plants and other technological users of radioactive material, but residents of western Colorado are wary. Past uranium mines have left an expensive, long-lasting and toxic legacy of contamination that cost taxpayers over a billion dollars to clean up. Western Colorado has been particularly hard-hit by these environmental disasters. Energy Fuels is enticing local residents to support the new mine by promising it
will supply high-paying jobs with health benefits. The Nucla area has fallen on economic hard times in recent years, so some residents are clamoring for the mine to be built to help turn the community around, but others who remember the past aren’t taking the bait. The state ordered Energy Fuels to pay $12 million in surety funds to pay for cleanup in case the mill contaminates water, soil or air, but opponents argue that amount is nowhere near enough, and they’re right. In 2010, the Denver Post found the cost of cleaning up environmental contamination caused by uranium mills in Colorado has ranged from $50 million to $504 per mill.
Main source: Denver Post, March 15, 2012