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Disease From Child Migrants Called Unlikely

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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Administration Disagrees With Assertions by Columnists

Media Groups Call Out Obama on Suppression of News

Inquirer Promotes Clark, Escobar to Managing Editors

China Signs Agreement for More Study Visits From HBCUs

Veteran Photog, 83, Denied Credentials at BET Awards

Menendez Story Could Have Been Smear by Cuban Agents

Shawna Thomas Given Digital Role at "Meet the Press"

Jezebel Said to Miss Opportunity for Diversity

Blogger for Redskins Quits After Old Tweets Surface

Short Takes

Administration Disagrees With Assertions by Columnists

The Obama administration has denied suggestions by at least two columnists that the children migrating to the United States from Central America are potentially spreading communicable diseases.

"CDC does not believe the children arriving at U.S. borders pose a public health risk to the general public or U.S. communities," a spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services told Journal-isms Wednesday in an email, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Syndicated columnists Ruben Navarrette Jr. and Cal Thomas had suggested otherwise, as did protesters who confronted buses carrying some of the children last week in Murrieta, Calif.

"In the case of the border kids, it turns out that those worries about diseases were not so far-fetched after all," Navarrette wrote last week for the Daily Beast. "And so I was wrong to dismiss them so quickly."

Navarrette also wrote, "The real worry was those children who had — by mid-June — already been relocated around the country, to unsuspecting communities as far away as California and Pennsylvania? What then? Before we knew it, we could be dealing with a national health emergency.

"Now, sure enough, that once inconceivable nightmare scenario that we were all afraid to ponder could be one step closer to coming true. The culprit: H1N1, more commonly known as 'swine flu.'

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently that an unaccompanied minor from Central America has the H1N1 flu. The minor, who entered the country in the last few months, had recently been — along with 1,000 other border kids — relocated to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio. . . ."

Thomas, in a column for Tribune Content Agency this week, wrote, "The Department of Homeland Security website publishes a list of restrictions and prohibitions on aliens wishing to enter the United States. Among those barred are people with 'a communicable disease of public health significance .'

"From various media reports it appears some of those flooding our southern border have, or are suspected of having, such diseases. Among those who are to be denied entry are children who have not been vaccinated for certain types of diseases, including 'mumps, measles, rubella, polio, tetanus and diphtheria toxoids, pertussis, influenza type B and hepatitis B, and any other vaccinations for preventable diseases recommended by the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices.

"Does anyone believe the unaccompanied minors pouring over the border — 52,000 so far and 240,000 other migrants since April, according to The New York Times — have brought with them proof of vaccinations?

"Who will follow up to make sure each alien child is vaccinated, much less 'sponsored'? Probably no one, because no one will ensure they will ever show up in court, as required for their cases to be properly adjudicated. . . ."

The HHS spokesman messaged Journal-isms, "When children come into the Department of Health and Human Services program, they are given a well-child exam and given all needed childhood vaccinations to protect against communicable diseases. They are also screened for tuberculosis, and receive a mental health exam. If children are determined to have any communicable disease or have been exposed to a communicable disease, they are placed in a program or facility that has the capacity to quarantine. If they have mental health problems, they are similarly placed in a specialized facility to meet their needs and not in a temporary shelter.

"CDC is supporting other federal partners in responding to the increase in unaccompanied children entering the United States by providing consultation on medical screening and disease surveillance, as needed, throughout this process. CDC does not believe the children arriving at U.S. borders pose a public health risk to the general public or U.S. communities."

The spokesman included links to a fact sheet [PDF]; "Unaccompanied Children Frequently Asked Questions"; a statement, " Unaccompanied Children at the Southwest Border"; and a fact sheet on the HHS program for "unaccompanied alien children."

Jackie Wasiluk, a public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, added, in part, "CBP has public health controls in place to minimize any possible health risks. Throughout the Rio Grande Valley Sector, we are conducting public health screens on all incoming detainees to screen for any symptoms of illnesses and contagious diseases of possible public health concern. . . ."

Navarrette began his column with skepticism born of history. "I’d been down this 'immigrants bring disease' road before, and I'd always found it to be a dead-end street paved by fear, intolerance, and prejudice," he wrote.

Mary Elson, managing editor of Tribune Content Agency, defended Thomas, a onetime spokesman for the Religious Right. "He largely speculated that there could be cracks in the system to make sure that no children were carrying communicable diseases — and questioned whether enough documentation could exist to be certain of their history," Elson said in an email. "That is within his license as a columnist, to suggest that the government might not get everything right. He did not state anything as fact, just raised questions, as did many in the media."

Examining the coverage of the migrant children on July 3 in Columbia Journalism Review, Michelle Garcia praised multipart series that ran in the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News and other Texas outlets but said, "the story about detention conditions for children was subsumed by political grandstanding and politicking as Texas politicians redefined the crisis within the emotional issues of immigration and border security.

Garcia noted, "How the issue is framed and explained plays a critical function in shaping the public policy response," and concluded, "Tough reporting has emerged from those putting aside politics to focus the largely silent players in the story: the children."

Media Groups Call Out Obama on Suppression of News

"From the department of important efforts likely to yield little reward, the Society of Professional Journalists and 37 other media organizations sent an open letter to President Obama on Tuesday calling on him to stop stifling the media and provide greater transparency," Dylan Byers reported for Politico.

" 'You recently expressed concern that frustration in the country is breeding cynicism about democratic government. You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration — politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies,' the letter states. 'We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in.'

"It continues: 'Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees. This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship — an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear'. . . ."

Signatories included the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and Unity: Journalists for Diversity. Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms that he "absolutely" agreed with the letter but "just missed it" when it went to his email account on Saturday.

Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told Journal-isms he had not received the statement. However, he said by email:

"I support the spirit of the letter.

"Journalists have been dissatisfied with the access the U.S. government provides them since probably the George Washington administration (if not earlier). I don't think it is unreasonable for government agencies (like other organizations) to want journalists to go through the proper channels in obtaining information to produce their stories (all in the interest of the public of course).

"Too often leaked information has proven to be less whistle blowing and more incomplete information resulting in inaccurate reporting. Still, if government assigned spokespersons are not transparent in the information shared [then] journalists are forced to use other avenues in getting to the truth of the matter.

"NAHJ supports like-kind [associations'] demand that President Barack Obama's administration do a better job in providing the access journalists need to do their jobs. It is in the best interests of both to work together to ensure that the information provided to the public is fair and accurate."

Inquirer Promotes Clark, Escobar to Managing Editors

"The Philadelphia Inquirer has named two new managing editors, each with a title suggesting the paper is putting new emphasis on its digital operations," Joel Mathis reported Wednesday for Philadelphia magazine.

"Sandra Clark and Gabriel Escobar were both promoted Wednesday — Clark to managing editor of features/operations/digital, Escobar to managing editor of news/digital.

"The two move up the hierarchy to fill space left by Stan Wischnowski, the former executive editor, who was promoted last week to be the vice president of news operations for Interstate General Media, the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and

"The press release announcing the duo's promotion was careful to mention that both were deeply involved with, the newspaper's paywalled website: Clark had served as the editor of the website, while Escobar was credited with helping develop the site and its 'social media linkages.'

" 'These promotions guarantee our commitment to readers that we will provide the best news report — in print, online, social and mobile — in our region,' Bill Marimow, the Inquirer's editor, said in the press release announcement.

"Clark had been a deputy managing editor at the paper since 2011; Escobar had been a deputy managing editor since 2012. (The paper, until this week at least, listed four deputy managing editors on its masthead.) Clark is a University of Kansas graduate and a former Peace Corps volunteer who has spent her journalism career at the Inquirer; Escobar previously served 16 years at the Washington Post, along with stints at the Dallas Morning News, Philadelphia Daily News, and Hartford Courant. . . ."

China Signs Agreement for Study Visits From HBCUs

A delegation of presidents and senior administrators from eight American historically black colleges and universities signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing Wednesday as part of an effort "to encourage and increase international educational study opportunities for diverse students to study in China."

The announcement was made by Julia Wilson, CEO and founder of Wilson Global Communications, who managed and organized the HBCU delegation's visit. Many of the colleges have journalism programs, but their participation has not been determined. Carol C. Crabbe, Wilson Global's executive director, programs, said by email, "The institutions on both sides (U.S. and China) are meeting this week to discuss the details so we don't have a complete list yet of programs that will be offered."

The announcement said, "The HBCUs meetings in Beijing this week are parallel to the 5th U.S.-China Consultation on People to People Exchange (CPE) being held in Beijing from July 9-11, 2014. The CPE is co-hosted by U.S. Sec. Of State John Kerry and China's Vice Premier Madam Liu Yandong, China's highest-ranking government official overseeing education. . . ."

David Wilson, president of Morgan State University, led the HBCU delegation and signed the memorandum. Others represented Tougaloo College, Morehouse College, Hampton University, Bowie State University, Spelman College, Howard University and Xavier University of Louisiana.

Veteran Photog, 83, Denied Credentials at BET Awards

Photographer Bill Jones, "one of the most respected photographers in the business, and quite possibly the oldest Black photographer still working Hollywood's red carpets," was among veteran journalists newly denied credentials to the top-rated "BET Awards" on June 29, Tanya Young Williams reported Wednesday for the Huffington Post.

Jones, 83, told Williams, "As a photojournalist, I've always felt that it's important to document the important moments in Black America from the Civil Rights Movement to a post-Obama Era. I think there's a problem when one of the largest networks, catering to African Americans, doesn't show Black press the respect and dignity it deserves in doing its job effectively. From a professional standpoint, it was truly disappointing and disgraceful that members of press were treated like second-class citizens for an awards show, honoring Black Music Month."

Menendez Story Could Have Been Smear by Cuban Agents

"In November 2012, Matthew Boyle, then a reporter for the Daily Caller, reported claims that Sen. Robert Menendez had paid to romp with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic," Erik Wemple reported Tuesday for the Washington Post.

"Titled 'Women: Sen. Bob Menendez paid us for sex in the Dominican Republic ,' the story passed along the allegations of the unnamed women, whose faces were shrouded in the accompanying video, that they had shown up at a high-end resort in the Dominican Republic to have sex with the senator. 'They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100,' noted the story.

"Though Boyle's scoop sustained pointed debunking in subsequent months, another blow came last night in the pages of The Post. Carol Leonnig and Manuel Roig-Franzia reported that U.S. investigators had gathered evidence that the sordid allegations against Menendez may have been the work of Cuban intelligence agents committed to discrediting Menendez, an outspoken opponent of the Castro regime, in advance of his November 2012 reelection campaign.

"Boyle last night no-commented the Erik Wemple Blog's request for comment on this latest, salacious round in the Menendez saga. . . ."

Leonnig and Roig-Franzia reported that Menendez, D-N.J., asked the Justice Department to pursue evidence obtained by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government concocted an elaborate plot to smear him.

Shawna Thomas Given Digital Role at "Meet the Press"

"As of July 16, Shawna Thomas will join Meet the Press as senior editor responsible for leading its digital strategy," Nick Massella reported Tuesday for FishbowlDC. "Thomas joins 'Meet' having been with the [NBC] network since 2006, serving as White House producer and Capitol Hill producer as well as a news associate, political assignment editor, and digital associate producer."

Executive Producer Rob Yarin said in his internal note, "In this newly-created role, she will spearhead Meet's digital vision and voice as we continue to expand our presence beyond Sunday mornings and find new ways to engage on all platforms. She will develop and lead a data-driven strategy to define our digital identity and differentiate us from the competition . . ."

Jezebel Said to Miss Opportunity for Diversity

The failure to name deputy editor Dodai Stewart for the top job at Jezebel rankles for racial reasons as well as the perceived undervaluing of Stewart's personal and professional qualities, staffers and admirers say.

Emma Carmichael, editor of the Hairpin, was given the job. 

"Stewart is one of the few women of color on Jezebel’s masthead and the longest-serving staffer at the site, having been hired by founding editor Anna Holmes shortly after the site launched in 2007," Peter Sterne wrote Monday for "In the past year, she has also assumed a larger role in running the site, three people familiar with the site's internal workings told Capital."

Sterne also wrote, "But the decision to hand the site to a young white woman instead of Stewart — a black woman who has been working at the site since Carmichael was still in college — rubs some current and former staffers the wrong way, especially since the site has been criticized in the past for its handling of race issues.

" 'I would not say that I think it is like a racist action, but it is kind of a missed opportunity,' one staffer said. 'The race thing would have been a really wonderful — just like to have a really well-established Black woman who is so good at her job running the site would have been great.'

" 'But that's not the crux of what's disappointing about Dodai not getting the job,' the staffer added. 'She deserves it.' . . ."

Sterne added, "Gawker owner Nick Denton told Capital in an instant message conversation that Carmichael will bring a slightly different editorial direction for the site, though he declined to go into detail. . . ."

Blogger for Redskins Quits After Old Tweets Surface

"Eight years after 'macaca,' Ben Tribbett has found himself in the middle of a second name-calling debate," Michael Phillips wrote Tuesday for the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch. "This time, though, he's the one holding his tongue.

"Tribbett, a political blogger . . . abruptly resigned from a position with the Washington Redskins on Monday after two weeks on the job. He had been hired to defend the team against protest groups advocating a name change.

"The Oneida Indian Nation, a group funding the name-change movement, posted a series of online comments made several years ago by Tribbett at a casino that appeared to be derogatory to Native Americans.

" 'Just took Chief for his last 300 (dollars),' Tribbett wrote on Twitter. 'I'd call it a scalping but that seems uncalled for.'

"Tribbett said the tweets were taken out of context. He said he was playing cards with a man wearing a Native American headdress, and that it was not meant as a broad generalization.

"Still, he resigned his position with the Redskins so as not to be a distraction to the team in its efforts. . . ."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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