Thursday, May 31, 2012

Americans Imprisoned Abroad

These are the stories of three Americans in prison in foreign countries that every American should know.

Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl is a US soldier who is being held captive by the Taliban.

Bowe Bergdahl went missing from his base in eastern Afghanistan on June 30, 2009.  The Taliban posted a video of Bergdahl on July 18, 2009 that made it clear that he was their prisoner. This was the first of five videos showing Bergedahl that were released by the Taliban. The Daily Beast reported that sometime in late August or early September 2011, Bergdahl attempted an unsuccessful escape.  

Berghdahl has now been in Taliban custody for almost three years. 

Amir Mirza Hekmati

Amir Hekmati is a former Marine who has been convicted of espionage in Iran.

Hekmati was born in Arizona to parents of Iranian decent. He served in the US Marines from 2001 to 2004. He was arrested in Iran in August 2011. His family says that he was visiting his grandmother and other relatives at the time.  

In December 2011 Iranian state TV aired a report that alleged that Hekmati was a spy for the CIA and that he had planned to provide Iran false intelligence. The report also contained a video confession from Hekmati.

Hekmati’s confession may have been coerced. In 2009 Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian journalist, was arrested in Iran. He gave a forced confession that was subsequently played on Press TV, Iran’s English-language state-funded news channel. Bahari was eventually released.

In January 2012 an Iranian court sentenced Hekmati to death. According to Iranian media, Hekmati was found guilty of, “cooperating with a hostile nation, membership of the CIA, and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism.” The court also declared that he was, “corrupt on earth and waging war on god.”

In March 2012 the Iranian Supreme Court overturned Hekmati’s conviction and ordered a retrial. Amir Hekmati remains in prison after 9 months of detention.

Iran has a long history of imprisoning Americans. Following the 1979 revolution in Iran, the Iranian government held members of the American embassy hostage, 52 of which were held hostage for 444 days.

In 2009 Iran arrested three American hikers and subsequently charged them with espionage. Two of the hikers were held for nearly 26 months. The New York Times reported that the Iranian government never publicly provided evidence that supported the contention that the hikers were spies.

It is not unreasonable to think that the US is spying on Iran, however. In December 2011 the Iranian government announced that they had captured a US spy drone that was monitoring Iran. This allegation has been confirmed by anonymous US officials.

James Risen, a New York Times journalist, described Operation Merlin in his 2006 book “State of War.” Risen alleges that the CIA gave flawed designs for a nuclear bomb triggering devise to a Russian scientist who passed it on to the Iranians. The designs were supposed to put back Iran’s nuclear program but, according to Risen, the scientist pointed out the flaws to the Iranians and they were able to extract valuable information from them. The CIA claims that Risen’s account of the operation is inaccurate.

Alan Phillip Gross

Alan Gross worked to set up uncensored satellite internet service for Cuba’s Jewish community. He was working for the US Agency for International Development in order to break the Cuban government’s “information blockade.” As Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out, the government controls all media outlets in Cuba. HRW goes on to say that limited internet access in Cuba means that only a few Cubans can read independently published articles and blogs.

Alan Gross is a US citizen. While he was in Cuba he claimed that he was working for a Jewish humanitarian group rather than the US government. Alan Gross was arrested on December 3, 2009. He was charged with “acts against the independence and integrity” of Cuba.

In March 2011 Alan Gross was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison. After his conviction, the Cuban News Agency stated that Gross participated in, “a subversive project of the US government to try to destroy the Revolution, by way of the use of info-communication systems out of the control of the authorities, in order to promote destabilizing plans against various social sectors.”

In August 2011 the Cuban Supreme Court upheld his sentence.

Alan Gross has been imprisoned in Cuba for almost 30 months.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Christian Pastor Persecuted in Iran

The Iranian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is being persecuted by an Iranian theocracy that shows no respect for religious freedom.  

In December 2006 Youcef Nadarkhani was imprisoned in Iran based on the charges of apostasy (converting from Islam to Christianity) and evangelism (converting others to Christianity). He was released after two weeks of detention.

Pastor Youcef is the father of two sons. He went to their school to protest its mandatory teaching of Islam to his children. As a result Youcef was arrested on October 13, 2009 and charged with protesting. The charges were later changed to apostasy and evangelism, the same charges he faced in 2006.

On June 18, 2010, Youcef’s wife was arrested and charged with apostacy. She was released 4 months later.

In September 2010 Pastor Youcef was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death. In June 2011 the Iranian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence. The Iranian Supreme Court also said that Youcef’s conviction could be overturned if he recanted his Christian faith.

In October 2011 Iranian state media claimed that Youcef was sentenced to death for rape and extortion, crimes that bore no resemblance to the conviction of apostasy he had been fighting in court for over a year. Youcef Nadarkhani remains in prison to this day. He has been behind bars for 31 months.

Pastor Youcef is being persecuted for believing and preaching his Christian faith. He should be released immediately and deserves a full pardon for a crime he never should have been charged with in the first place. 

UPDATE (9/10/12): On September 8 Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was freed from prison. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) and Jay Sekulow worked tirelessly for his freedom. Their sources say that Pastor Youcef was acquitted of the charge of apostasy but convicted on the charge of evangelism and sentenced to time served. Pastor Youcef spent almost 3 years in prison. 

Friday, May 25, 2012


This post is an extension of The American News Media: An Overview, which I wrote in January. Since I wrote the post four months ago I didn’t feel right making major changes to it. I also wanted my readers to know that I have new content on the subject. There were some parts of the American news media that I forgot about or did not know how to explain at the time. Without further ado, here is the rest of what you need to know about the American News Media (unless I think of more later).

The Associated Press

The Associated Press (AP) is a wire service based in the US. Journalists all over the country (and some foreign correspondents as well) write news articles for the AP. Editors at the AP then edit and approve the articles. Newspapers, radio and TV stations, and websites can, for a cost, subscribe to the AP. These outlets can then edit and publish Associated Press content. Much of the content of local newspapers comes from the Associated Press. Reuters is a wire service based in Great Britain. AFP is a wire service based in France. Much of the content found on news aggregators like Yahoo! News comes from wire services.

Thomas Hartmann

This is an addition to the talk radio section.

One talk radio host that I enjoy and would recommend is Thomas Hartmann. He is a thoughtful liberal who doesn’t call his opponents names or yell at you. His insightful commentary is an antidote to those who think that all political talk radio is irredeemably vile. Hartmann also hosts The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann on RT America.


C-SPAN stands for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network.  C-SPAN is best known for its uninterrupted footage of Congress. C-SPAN shows the deliberations of the House of Representatives. C-SPAN 2 shows the deliberations of the Senate. C-SPAN 1, 2, and 3 all show political meetings done by think tanks or other civic groups. C-SPAN also shows candidates on the campaign trail. If you wish to watch a speech by a newsmaker, such as the State of the Union, without commentary or analysis in order to make up your own mind, C-SPAN is the place to go.

C-SPAN also has specialty programming. Washington Journal is a news show where politicians, pundits, and experts appear for an hour to discuss a topic with a C-SPAN host and regular people who phone in. Several editions of Washington Journal air each weekday morning on C-SPAN.

C-SPAN has several specialty shows that air on the weekend. Newsmakers is an hour-long show where three journalists interview a politician. Q & A is an hour-long interview program hosted by Brian Lamb, C-SPAN’s CEO. The Communicators is a show that focuses on the media. America and the Courts is a series that looks at the American Judiciary.

C-SPAN 2 is known as Book TV on the weekend. Book TV includes afterwords, an hour long interview show with authors. It is the sequel to Booknotes, whose reruns are also shown on Book TV. In Depth, a three-hour interview show with an author, airs once a month on Book TV.  C-SPAN 3 has shows about American History during the weekend.

C-SPAN is funded by the cable systems (such as Cox in my area) that provide the channel on their cable packages. Its channels are not funded by governments or advertisements. You will never see a commercial or pledge drive on C-SPAN.

Post Script: Television channel abbreviations

            ABC= American Broadcasting Company

            NBC= National Broadcasting Company

            CBS= Columbia Broadcasting System

CNN= Cable News Network

NPR= National Public Radio

PBS= Public Broadcasting Service

AJE= Al Jazeera English

BBC= British Broadcasting Corporation

Where do People turn for News?

It has been a year since I wrote my last article comparing news audience sizes. The numbers have remained largely the same. Only at Truth Matters can you directly compare the reach of newspapers, cable news shows, news magazines, and the network news. Inclusion on this list is only meant to show the reach of a news source, not to comment on its credibility or value. I did that back in January.

The following numbers represent the average circulation of weekly opinion news magazines in 2010. These statistics old because State of the News Media included them last year, but not this year. Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations. Accessed through State of the News Media 2011.

1. National Review                             203,085
2. The Nation                                     146,602
3. The Weekly Standard                       99,033

The following number represents the average viewership of PBS Newshour, PBS’s evening news program, for the month of March 2011. This statistic is older than the others because PBS’s lack of traditional commercials means that it doesn’t subscribe to Nielson’s ratings service. Source: PBS. Accessed through the Huffington Post.

PBS Newshour                                            1,100,000

The following numbers are the average daily circulation for the 26 most widely read newspapers from October 2011 through March 2012. Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations.  Accessed through the Huffington Post.

1. Wall Street Journal                                             2,118,315
2. USA Today                                                           1,817,446
3. New York Times                                                 1,586,757
4. Los Angeles Times                                               616,575
5. New York Daily News                                          579,636
6. San Jose Mercury News                                      575,786
7. New York Post                                                     555,327
8. Washington Post                                                507,615
9. Chicago Sun-Times                                            422,335
10. Chicago Tribune                                              414,590
11. Dallas Morning News                                       405,349
12. Denver Post                                                      401,120
13. Newsday                                                           397,973
14. Houston Chronicle                                          384,007
15. Philadelphia Inquirer                                     325,291
16. Phoenix Republic                                            321,600
17. Minneapolis Star-Tribune                             300,330
18. Tampa Bay Times                                            299,497
19. Orange County Register                                280,812
20. Newark Star-Ledger                                       278,940
21. Oregonian                                                      247,833
22. Cleveland Plain Dealer                                   246,571
23. Seattle Times                                                 236,929
24. San Diego Union-Tribune                             230,742
25. Detroit Free Press                                           230,739
26. San Francisco Chronicle                                 220,515

The following numbers represent the average daily audience of Comedy Central’s satirical news programs for the second quarter (April-June) of 2011. This statistic is old because I have to wait on Comedy Central to release press releases to obtain audience numbers. Source: Comedy Central Press Release. Accessed through TV by the Numbers.

The Daily Show with John Stewart            2,200,000
The Colbert Report                                    1,500,000

These are the average daily viewership values for the top 30 cable news shows for the month of April 2012. Source: Nielson. Accessed through the Huffington Post.

1. The O’Reilly Factor                                            2,870,000
2. Hannity                                                                2,075,000
3. Special Report with Bret Baier                          1,778,000
4. On the Record with Greta Van Susteren        1,722,000
5. Fox Report with Shepard Smith                       1,688,000
6. The Five                                                                1,674,000
7. America’s Newsroom                                          1,272,000
8. Your World with Neil Cavuto                            1,252,000
9. The O’Reilly Factor (replay)                               1,220,000
10. America Live                                                     1,191,000
11. Studio B                                                             1,113,000
12. Fox and Friends                                               1,082,000
13. Happening Now                                              1,029,000
14. The Rachel Maddow Show                              985,000
15. The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell     931,000
16. The Ed Show                                                       875,000
17. Hardball with Chris Matthews                        744,000
18. Politics Nation                                                    712,000
19. Piers Morgan Tonight                                      567,000
20. The Situation Room                                            548,000
21. The Ed Show (replay)                                       537,000
22. Anderson Cooper 360 (10 PM East Coast)        522,000
23. Anderson Cooper 360 (8 PM East Coast)           504,000
24. Red Eye                                                                   466,000
25. Fox and Friends First                                           458,000
26. Dylan Ratigan Show                                            455,000
27. Martin Bashir                                                        449,000
28. John King USA                                                       435,000
29. Morning Joe                                                          412,000
30. Erin Burnett                                                           409,000

                                  Sunday News Shows       

The following numbers represent the viewership of the Sunday News Shows on May 13. Sadly, CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley was not included by TV Newser. Source: Nielson. Accessed through TV Newser.

1. Face the Nation              CBS                             3,010,000
2. Meet the Press               NBC                            2,720,000
3. This Week                        ABC                            2,150,000
4. Fox News Sunday          Fox News                    1,050,000
5. Al Punto                           Univision                    553,000

The following numbers represent the average circulation for the US weekly news magazines for the year of 2011. Data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Accessed via State of the News Media 2012, a report created by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

1. Time                                  3,337,308
2. Newsweek                       1,524,989
3. The New Yorker             1,041,420
4. The Economist                  844,577
5. The Week                        528,406
6. The Atlantic                       463,625

These numbers represent the average daily audience for the network morning shows in 2011. Data from Nielson. Accessed through State of the Media 2012.

1. Today Show                                NBC    5,400,000
2. Good Morning America           ABC    4,800,000
3. Early Show                                  CBS     2,900,000

These numbers represent the average daily audience for the network evening news broadcasts in 2011. Data from Nielson. Accessed through State of the Media 2012.

1. NBC Nightly News                                 8,750,000
2. ABC World News                                   7,820,000
3. CBS Evening News                                5,650,000

Several network television programs imitate the style of magazines with longer, more detailed stories.  The shows have varying focuses and styles. 60 Minutes is a high quality news program. Dateline covers crime stories. 48 Hours also covers crime stories. 20/20 is a weekly news program that often covers human interest stories. Nightline is a nightly news program. Rock Center is a weekly news magazine on NBC that wasn’t listed in State of the Media 2012. These numbers represent the average audience per show throughout 2011. All are weekly shows except Nightline. Source: Nielson. Accessed through State of the Media 2012.

1. 60 Minutes                     CBS              11,600,000
2. Dateline Friday              NBC                5,700,000
3. 48 Hours Mystery          ABC                5,400,000
4. 20/20                               ABC                4,900,000
5. Dateline Sunday           NBC                4,700,000
6. Nightline                         ABC                3,900,000

These numbers represent the average weekly audience for NPR’s most widely listened to news programs. As these numbers are for weekly viewership, rather than daily or per show viewership, they are not directly comparable with the numbers in other categories. These statistics are from a New York Review of Books Article from 2010. Newer numbers are not available because NPR does not regularly release the audience sizes for their shows. Source: Arbitron

Morning Edition                                         13,000,000
All Things Considered                                13,000,000

The following numbers represent the average weekly audience for the top Talk Radio hosts. As these are weekly audience values, as opposed to daily or per show values, these numbers are not directly comparable to the other categories in this post. Source: Arbitron, among others. Accessed through Talkers Magazine.

Rush Limbaugh                               15,000,000
Sean Hannity                                   14,000,000
Michael Savage                                  9,000,000

Glenn Beck                                          8,500,000
Mark Levin                                          8,500,000
Dave Ramsey                                      8, 500,000

Neal Boortz                                         6,000,000
Laura Ingraham                                 6,000,000

Jim Bohannon                                    3,750,000
Jerry Doyle                                          3,750,000
Mike Gallagher                                  3,750,000
Michael Medved                               3,750,000
Doug Stephan                                    3,750,000

Bill Bennett                                          3,500,000
Clark Howard                                      3,500,000
George Noory                                     3,500,000

Thom Hartmann                                3,000,000
Alan Colmes                                        3,000,000
Stephanie Miller                                3,000,000
Ed Schultz                                            3,000,000
Rusty Humphries                               3,000,000

Kim Komando                                    2,250,000
Dennis Miller                                      2,250,000
Don Imus                                             2,250,000

Hugh Hewitt                                      1,750,000
Mancow                                                1,750,000

Lars Larson                                          1,500,000
Dennis Prager                                      1,500,000

Dr. Joy Browne                                  1,000,000
Gordon Deal                                    1,000,000
Lou Dobbs                                           1,000,000
Bill Handel                                           1,000,000
Roger Hedgecock                              1,000,000
G. Gordon Liddy                                1,000,000

These are the average circulation of select monthly magazines in 2011. National Geographic and Smithsonian are high quality educational magazines. The rest are listed primarily for comparative purposes. It is a partial list, a longer one can be found by clicking the subheading above. Data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Accessed via State of the News Media 2012.

1. AARP The Magaine                               22,407,421
2. AARP The Bulletin                                  22,171,632
3. Better Homes and Gardens                  7,617,844
4. Game Informer Magazine                     7,514,460
5. Reader’s Digest                                     5,560,046
6. National Geographic                              4,480,788
25. Smithsonian                                        2,113,637