2 years ago

A guide to ‘fake news’

More than once every day. That’s how often President Trump publicly calls something “fake”— be it a story, poll, or news organization.

Just this week, Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress about, among other things, the proliferation of falsities on his social media platform, including in Alabama’s special election for U.S. Senate last year.

We see the term everywhere, hear it lobbied daily on cable news, and use it ourselves (although perhaps often in jest).  But what really is fake news and how do we spot it?

The term “fake news” is often used to describe three very distinct and separate entities.

First, the reporting of reputable national organizations (think press that have a seat in the White House briefing room, especially those in the first few rows) is often labeled as “fake news”. Although many would argue otherwise, the fact is that outright lies by the news divisions of these organizations are rare.
When reporting failures do occur, news organizations hold their reporters accountable and publicly apologize and correct the story. The suspension of ABC’s Brian Ross after incorrectly reporting that Trump had directed Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials before the 2016 election is one example.

This doesn’t mean, however, that print or televised media are free from falsehoods. They’re not. That’s because newspapers and news channels aren’t just publishing journalism — no, their business requires something else — opinion and commentary, the second bearer of the “fake news” label.

Fox News’ Chief News Anchor Shephard Smith isn’t shy about rebutting the unsubstantiated claims of his primetime opinion counterparts. Why? In his words, “We serve different masters.” In his interview with Time, he goes on to say, “They don’t really have rules on the opinion side … some of our opinion programming is there strictly to be entertaining.”

Nevertheless, false news and misrepresentation is most onerous and rampant, not on television or in newspapers, but on social media, the third and most appropriately labeled agent of “fake news”.

Facebook and its competitors are places where claims, no matter how ridiculous, baseless, and unproven, spread like wildfire. It’s where we see a supposed ‘Friends’ reunion, that President Obama was a Black Panther, that Pope Francis canceled the Bible, and that Snopes, a useful fact-checking website, has ties to George Soros.

Even so, Facebook is a major source of news for many people. Thanks to this and increased cries of “fake news”, I’ve found a few practices helpful in maneuvering this volatile news environment.

As NPR’s Anya Kamenetz suggests, I begin with a gut check. Does what I’m reading affirm my biases, my hopes, and my expectations? If so, I should adopt a healthy level of suspicion.

Second, I automatically reject any news in the form of a meme or screenshot. These easily sharable images often have incendiary captions, outlandish claims, and lack sources. They are designed to go viral—like the emails of yesteryear that promise a free vacation if you simply forward to ten friends—and they are rarely factual. Political memes and screenshots are one way Russians fostered division in 2016, and they are genuinely worthless.

Third, I check the source. Does the website, newspaper, or cable news channel have a history of deceptive practices or falsehoods? Are they well-known and given access to government officials, or do they have a strange web address, an unknown name, or a homepage full of inflammatory headlines?

Fourth, I look to see if other sources are corroborating the report. If not and the news is a credible exclusive, I expect the reporting organization to include their sources in the article.

Fifth, I determine whether the author is a journalist or a commentator. As described earlier, commentators and journalists are very different, as are their standards.

Finally, before reposting or sharing, I consider my own credibility. Do I want to be someone who shares unsubstantiated news and memes, or do I want to ensure its accuracy, and therefore my own?

I’ve found these methods helpful, and I hope you do as well.

Parker Snider is Manager of Policy Relations for the Alabama Policy Institute, an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization dedicated to strengthening free enterprise, defending limited government, and championing strong families.

23 mins ago

Sessions: Making Alabama’s judiciary great again

President Trump has done a tremendous job nominating smart, qualified and tough conservative judges to the federal judiciary. But there are a lot more vacancies to fill, and he needs another term to finish what he started. While Supreme Court justices receive most of the attention, federal appeals court judges are nearly as influential.

Like the justices, they are appointed for life and hear cases touching on religious freedom, free speech, gun rights, abortion, criminal law, immigration and government regulation issues. Because the Supreme Court hears only 0.1% of appeals, these are essentially the most significant federal courts in the country.

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When President Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009, only one of these 13  federal appeals courts — the Ninth Circuit — was controlled by activist Democratic appointees. When he left office, nine of 13 circuits were controlled by Democratic appointees. Despite President Trump’s historic gains on the federal courts, if he is not reelected in 2020, the courts would flip back to the left — placing at risk his greatest legacy.

Most federal judges serve for several decades, and so their actions continue to impact the country long after the President who appointed them leaves office. For example, nearly half the federal circuit judges still hearing cases in Chicago were appointed by President Reagan. These numbers are the reason why some say that judicial appointments are President Reagan’s greatest legacy. And he certainly made an impact on the Supreme Court, elevating Justice Rehnquist to Chief Justice, who led the “the Rehnquist Revolution” that began to return power to the states, appointing Justice Scalia, one of the greatest jurists in our nation’s history. He also appointed 83 circuit judges, surpassing each of his four successors. But many of these judges are no longer on the bench and those who continue to serve are nearing retirement.

While President Reagan’s judicial legacy is at its twilight, President Obama’s judicial legacy has just begun to impact the country. And while President Reagan understood that our constitutional system depends on an impartial judiciary that will interpret the law as written, President Obama openly sought activist judges who would promote liberal policy preferences that Congress and the American people would not adopt. His Supreme Court nominees — Justices Sotomayor and Kagan — both of whom I opposed — are two of its younger members and over half of his appellate judges could feasibly sit on the courts for the next 40 years.

During my time as the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, I led Republicans in successfully blocking President Obama’s most extreme judicial nominees who exhibited leniency for sex offenders and violent criminals promoted radical left-wing policy agendas like “constitutional welfare rights, rejected originalism and the limited role of the judiciary, and were openly hostile towards the right to bear arms, religious liberty, private property rights (to name just a few). So when President Trump was elected, he had over 100 judicial vacancies to fill and he has delivered, nominating two outstanding Supreme Court justices and over 50 appellate judges.

Indeed, just a few years ago, there were many federal judicial vacancies in Alabama — vacancies that President Obama tried to fill with progressive appointees. Alabama’s federal courts — as we know them — were one election away from a dangerous transformation. But Senator Shelby and I stood together through eight grueling years of the Obama presidency and blocked all but two of his nominees to our federal bench — including one appointee to a powerful appeals court. Fortunately, a lot has changed since President Trump was elected. In less than half the time President Obama was in office, President Trump has appointed five times that many highly qualified lawyers to sit on Alabama federal courts — including the first female judge in Montgomery and the first African-American judge in Mobile. More great Alabama judges are on the way.

One of President Trump’s first appeals court nominees was Judge Kevin Newsom of Birmingham. Before his nomination, Judge Newsom was a partner at one of Alabama’s oldest law firms and served as the chief appellate lawyer for the state of Alabama, where he argued in support of the Ten Commandments and against the use of federal law to prosecute abortion protestors. This past November, President Trump nominated Judge Andrew Brasher of Montgomery to the same court. Just 38 years of age, Judge Brasher also served as Alabama’s top appellate lawyer, where he tirelessly defended Alabama laws from lawsuits brought by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. Once confirmed, Judge Brasher could sit on this court for the next 50 years. Judges Newsom and Brasher are — as President Reagan said of one of his judicial appointees — the kind of judges the American people want on the federal courts; judges who believe in the rule of law, who revere the Constitution and whose sense of fairness and justice are above reproach.

While President Trump has done great work filling judicial vacancies, whoever is elected president in 2020 will be responsible for filling even more vacancies. President Obama’s judges have upheld Obamacare, forced transgender bathrooms in public schools, struck down reasonable voter identification requirements, endlessly blocked the enforcement of our immigration laws and taken over schools and police departments. Whoever the Democrat party nominates to run against President Trump will appoint judges who are even more radical and will accelerate the left’s march to eviscerate the Constitution. With a third of the federal appellate judiciary hanging in the balance, the American people must decide whether they want more of President Trump’s originalists or President Obama’s progressives confirmed to the federal bench for life.

I promise you this — if I am so fortunate as to return to the U.S. Senate, I will continue the work I started as a leading voice in support of the President’s historic efforts to make the judiciary great again.

Jeff Sessions served as the 84th Attorney General of the United States, as Senator from Alabama, and as Ranking Member on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

13 hours ago

Nick Saban: I still consider Jalen Hurts ‘one of our players’

MOBILE — Former University of Alabama Crimson Tide star quarterback Jalen Hurts is still beloved by many in Bama nation, including head coach Nick Saban.

Saban has spoken this past year about his respect and admiration for Hurts. However, speaking to members of the media on Wednesday at the second day of Senior Bowl Week practices at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Saban made it clear he really feels that Hurts is still part of the Tide family.

To open his remarks, Saban said, “My only comment is we’re glad to be here. It’s always great to come back to Mobile for the Senior Bowl. It’s such a tradition, and I think this community really embraces this game.”

“It’s really good for the players to have the opportunity to showcase their talent, any player from any place but especially good to see our players be able to do it — and Jalen, who I still consider one of our players … always good to be here to support our players,” Saban continued.

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The legendary coach then answered questions for approximately four minutes.

He discussed what NFL teams will like about both Hurts and outgoing Tide junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

Watch:

This came after Hurts this week has spoken highly of the University of Alabama football program, its fanbase and the state of Alabama.

Hurts will wear a two-sided helmet during Saturday’s Senior Bowl game; one side is a replica of his iconic No. 2 Bama helmet, and the other has the Oklahoma Sooners logo on it.

RELATED: Bama’s Jared Mayden glad to be reunited with ‘natural leader’ Jalen Hurts for Senior Bowl

Hurts recently said about Saban, “We always had a love for each other … our relationship will never die.”

Get tickets to Saturday’s Senior Bowl game here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Shelby County sheriff one of 18 officials appointed to Trump law enforcement commission

Shelby County Sheriff John Samaniego on Wednesday was named by the U.S. Department of Justice as an appointee to the newly-established Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr appointed Samaniego and 17 other law enforcement officials from across the nation to the commission, which was created through executive order by President Donald Trump in late October.

The commission will explore modern issues affecting law enforcement that most impact the ability of American policing to reduce crime, according to the DoJ.

“There is no more noble and important profession than law enforcement,” Barr said in a statement. “A free and safe society requires a trusted and capable police force to safeguard our rights to life and liberty.”

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“But as criminal threats and social conditions have changed the responsibilities and roles of police officers, there is a need for a modern study of how law enforcement can best protect and serve American communities,” he continued. “This is why the President instructed me to establish this critical Commission, whose members truly reflect the best there is in law enforcement. Together, we will examine, discuss, and debate how justice is administered in the United States and uncover opportunities for progress, improvement, and innovation.”

Read more about the commission here.

This comes after Samaniego was recently named as the winner of the 2019 Crime Stopper of the Year Award by Crime Stoppers of Metro Alabama.

On Monday, he was one of eight Alabama sheriffs to publicly endorse former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ 2020 bid to return to the Senate.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Etowah County mega-site to receive $2.7M in improvements

The Etowah County-located Little Canoe Creek mega-site is to receive $2.7-million in improvements as part of an effort to make it a more attractive location to potential industry.

The site is composed of around 1,100 acres just off of I-59 southwest of the city of Gadsden. The funding for the improvements comes from a donation by the Norfolk Southern Corporation.

According to a release sent to Yellowhammer News, the improvements “will include grading a portion of the over 1,000-acre property to create a pad-ready rail-served site sufficient to accommodate a large industry. Natural gas lines will be relocated near the edge of the property, and a new railroad crossing will be added to the industrial access road off U.S. Highway 11.”

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“The mega-site has many location advantages for industrial recruitment and this project will improve upon its assets and greatly increase our overall competitiveness,” said Marilyn Lott, economic development director for Etowah County.

Etowah County began buying the land that now composes the Little Canoe Creek site in 2008. In addition to bordering the local interstate, the site is also adjacent to U.S. Highway 11 and a Norfolk Southern mainline.

Little Canoe Creek was designated an “Alabama AdvantageSite” in 2018. Being labeled an “AdvantageSite” amounts to a guarantee from the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama “that the site is ready for major industrial use.”

According to local leaders, a key factor in the improvements announced on Wednesday is the Growing Alabama Tax Credit. A credit “is equal to 100% of the donating taxpayer’s contributions to the economic development opportunity during the taxable year for which the credit is claimed and may offset up to 50% of the taxpayer’s income tax liability.”

“We truly appreciate this funding made possible by Norfolk Southern and the state,” said Jeffery Washington, president of the Etowah County Commission.

“This infrastructure improvement project at the Little Canoe Creek Mega-Site perfectly illustrates how we can use the Growing Alabama Credit as a tool to facilitate growth and expand employment,” added Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.

14 hours ago

Steve Marshall travels to D.C. to urge Senate to reject Trump impeachment articles

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday traveled to Washington, D.C. to file a blistering 14-page “friend of the Senate” letter urging the upper chamber to reject the two articles of impeachment filed against President Donald J. Trump.

The Senate on Tuesday began the impeachment trial of Trumps, and Marshall joined 20 of his Republican attorneys general from across the nation in signing the letter.

However, Marshall was only one of six of the attorneys general invited to the U.S. Capitol to attend a press conference Wednesday commenting on their letter and the impeachment trial.

Of the letter, Marshall remarked, “It is thorough. It is a full examination of both the facts and the law that the Senate has to apply. But despite that significant analysis, fundamentally what that letter is about is the idea of fairness — or maybe better said, the lack of fairness.”

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“As a prosecutor for 20 years, what I’ve seen is an unfair process brings about an unjust result,” Marshall advised. “And that is what the Senate now has an opportunity to stop.”

“I also find it remarkable, as somebody who has stood before juries and judges, whose brought charging instruments against defendants, to now hear the House say that they are not prepared. And that they are not ready. What that simply shows is not that they are not prepared but that they have no case,” he continued. “Our letter demonstrates the various reasons why the Senate should reject this effort, and we need to return the president back to the work of this country…”

Watch:

In a tweet referencing the letter, Marshall called the articles of impeachment passed by House Democrats against Trump “unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

The letter states, “If not expressly repudiated by the Senate, the theories animating both Articles will set a precedent that is entirely contrary to the Framers’ design and ruinous to the most important governmental structure protections contained in our Constitution: the separation of powers.”

Read the letter below:

State AG letter to Senate o… by Fox News on Scribd

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn