Aljazeera America offers different news perspective
I have spent the last week watching some of the new TV news channel, Aljazeera America. The first thing I noticed was they do not use half-naked Barbie doll newscasters. Unlike Fox, and to a lesser extent CNN, they do not feel the need for sexy eye candy to attract viewers.
Another obvious difference is their limited use of banners and other reductions of out-of-studio pictures. I absolutely hate seeing other networks cut off large parts of the visional news with running tapes or banners or logos that often cover important parts of the picture. I really do not want to give up part of the picture to advertisements of what news story will be shown later that day or week. Aljazeera does run a thin, printed tape across the bottom of the screen, but it does not appear to significantly reduce the total picture.
As many new channels, Aljazeera has some picture quality and transmission problems. The picture is a little fuzzy outside of the studio, but still of good content.
The quality of the newscasters is excellent, so far. They have basically hired people from the other major networks, and have added overseas personnel with a superior knowledge of the country they are reporting form. I have seen parts of news stories, which were obviously true, that were not reported by any of the other channels. It stands to reason if you want to know about a drought or new law in Australia or China, a person who lives in that country, speaks the language and knows the people, can give us better information than some Barbie doll in New York or Atlanta.
As to be expected, the other networks either ignored the new network or, like Fox, declared it to be a Muslim plot by radicals to influence Americans, which is absolutely not true. The Middle Eastern countries that own Aljazeera are some of our closest allies in that part of the world and are leading the Muslim world in human rights.
What I like best is that Aljazeera gives us a viewpoint lacking in our domestic networks. For example, Sunday afternoon they broadcast the best documentary on Chinese political, social and financial history of the last 40 years I have ever seen. It was neither pro nor anti China. It was an evenhanded report of the amazing progress in China and it also reported the great cost of that progress, such as the undisputed fact that China has lifted 682 million of its citizens out of abject poverty into an educated, employed middle class. But they also reported the huge improvements were accomplished by denying free public education and used little public funds for health care.
They also showed the hundred million Chinese who cannot even be considered subsystem farmers. They still live as an aboriginal society, unchanged for thousands of years.
In addition to the economic progress in China, the story showed how Chinese now live with greater political and social freedom than any time in their 5,000-year history. What might be considered a restricted life by Westerners is to the Chinese a miracle of change. People can now choose where they live, where they work and if they are not happy, they can openly protest to their employers or government. An act of civil disobedience that was severely punished a few decades ago is now unpunished or punished with what is the western equivalent of a traffic ticket.
The news story also reported the negatives of this true Chinese revolution. It showed the damage to the environment and the disruptions to the social fabric when hundreds of millions of agriculture families are moved from villages to great cities.
It cannot be denied that China in four decades has changed itself from a basket case to a breadbasket, with the second largest industrial economy in the world. What I find heartening is this gigantic manufacturing base is not producing weapons and addicting drugs. They are producing consumer goods for home and export.
It is not their one aircraft carrier we need to worry about, it is their lead in alternative energy and low-cost, universally wanted consumer products that we need to concentrate on in this country. When China becomes the world’s largest economic power, it will be by selling solar panels and pot holders instead of weapons of war and communist propaganda.
The information in this type of program is essential for Americans to deal with the new world that will be reality very soon. Ignorance is our greatest enemy.
Dennis Tilly, Weatherford
How safe are the nation’s consumer meats?
According to the lead story in Sunday’s Washington Post, the meat inspection program that the Department of Agriculture plans to roll out in meat and poultry plants nationwide has repeatedly failed to stop production of contaminated meat. The program allows meat producers to increase the speed of processing lines and replace USDA safety inspectors with their own employees.
But plants operating under this program have experienced some of the worst health and safety violations, which include failure to remove fecal matter and partly digested food, according to the USDA inspector general. These contaminants may contain complex strains of deadly E. coli and Listeria.
Traditionally, USDA has catered more to the interests and profitability of the meat industry than health and safety concerns of American consumers. Consumer interests come into play only when large numbers of us get sick. Having the USDA protect consumers is like asking the fox to guard the chicken house.
The Obama administration must reallocate responsibility for consumer safety to the Food and Drug administration. In the meantime, each of us must assume responsibility for our own safety by switching to the rich variety of plant-based meats offered in local supermarkets.
Wilson Crowley, Weatherford