The Docs of War (& Did irresponsible journalism lead to murder?)

July 03, 2007

* Hamas TV: We have “proof of homosexual relations between Fatah officials”

* I attach six entries of mine from recent days from the media blog of the National Review, America’s most read opinion news website. (Some subscribers to this list have been sent some of these already in recent days.) Not all entries concern the Middle East; some concern the media in general. After the six entries I attach in full some of the articles linked to in those six blog entries.

 

CONTENTS

1. Doctors as terrorists is nothing new
2. Update: It’s now seven doctors of death
3. Hamas TV: We have “proof of homosexual relations between Fatah officials”
4. Did irresponsible journalism lead to murder?
5. In what many are calling a final act of spite, BBC cut off Blair’s final speech
6. Mrs Murdoch takes the wheel at MySpace China
7. Ratings boon – Paris Hilton triples Larry King’s audience
8. “Seven NHS doctors held over al-Qa’eda campaign” (Daily Telegraph, July 3, 2007)
9. “Hamas-Fatah struggle moves from street to TV” (Yediot Ahronot, July 2, 2007)
10. “Top Palestinian journalist seeks asylum in Norway” (Jerusalem Post, July 1, 2007)
11. “Ex-Mossad head: Israeli reports led to death of Egyptian agent” (Ha’aretz, June 30, 2007)
12. “BBC apologises for Blair ‘mistake’” (Guardian, June 27, 2007)
13. “Mrs. Murdoch takes the wheel at MySpace China” (Forbes, June 28, 2007)
14. “3.2 million pay a visit to Paris via CNN” (Washington Post, June 29, 2007)



[Note by Tom Gross]

DOCTORS AS TERRORISTS IS NOTHING NEW

(By Tom Gross, National Review, July 2, 2007)

After the revelation that two of the terror suspects arrested in Britain over the weekend are doctors, much nonsense is being spouted by “experts” on British television saying that for terrorists to be educated and middle class is “virtually unprecedented” and that the average terrorist is motivated by such things as “poverty,” “opposition to Zionism,” and so on.

In fact many, possibly most, terrorists and suicide bombers have been educated and middle class – just like many leading communists and Nazis were.

Among several of the more prominent terrorist doctors of recent years:

* Dr Abdel al-Rantissi (who succeed Sheikh Yassin as leader of Hamas): He studied pediatric medicine and genetics at Egypt’s Alexandria University, graduating first in his class and was a certified physician.

* Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri (the No. 2 in Al Qaeda). He studied behavior, psychology and pharmacology at Cairo University, graduating in 1974, and earning a Masters degree in surgery in 1978.

* Dr. George Habash, founder of the notorious PFLP, which gained world notoriety after a string of high-profile airplane hijackings and mass murders.

UPDATE: IT’S NOW SEVEN DOCTORS OF DEATH

Since this item was published, it has now been revealed that the total number of doctors involved in the UK terror plot is seven. For more details, see the article from today’s Daily Telegraph, whish is the first article below in the Full Articles section.

HAMAS TV: WE HAVE “PROOF OF HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONS BETWEEN FATAH OFFICIALS”

(By Tom Gross, National Review, July 2, 2007)

The Hamas-Fatah power struggle has moved from the street to the TV.

The rival Palestinian factions are now engaged in a war of words through their respective media. A Fatah-run TV station has condemned Hamas’ “dark coup” in the Gaza Strip and Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV says the organization “liberated” Gaza from “Fatah occupation.”

The Hamas network added that they have “proof of homosexual relations between Fatah officials.” For more see the Yediot Ahronot article attached in the full articles section.

Meanwhile, a prominent Palestinian journalist from Gaza has sought political asylum in Norway. Seif al-Din Shahin, the correspondent for the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, has fled Gaza together with his family, after receiving death threats. (Fifth article attached below.)

A campaign is also apparently being waged by Fatah against Al-Arabiya’s rival, Al-Jazeera. Fatah leaders have called for closing down the Al-Jazeera offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, accusing the Qatari-owned TV station of serving as “a mouthpiece for Hamas” and other radical Islamic groups.

“Al-Jazeera is openly biased in favor of Hamas,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Fatah figure. “This station must be banned from working in the Palestinian territories.”

(The above item has been linked to by several prominent commentators including Andrew Sullivan.)

DID IRRESPONSIBLE JOURNALISM LEAD TO MURDER?

(By Tom Gross, National Review, June 30, 2007)

The former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency, Zvi Zamir, has said that reports by irresponsible Israeli journalists about Dr. Ashraf Marwan, the Egyptian Mossad agent who tipped Israel off about the pending outbreak of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, may have led to his death.

Marwan, 63, was found dead outside his home in London’s upscale Mayfair neighborhood on Wednesday. Scotland Yard has opened an investigation into his mysterious death, which they have called “suspicious”.

As son-in-law of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abd el-Nasser, Marwan was one of the best-connected agents Israel has ever had in Egypt. Nasser had made him a roving ambassador after which Marwan began dabbling on his own in arms deals. By the time of his death last week, Marwan had reportedly become a billionaire.

His tip-off to the Mossad is credited with helping spare Israel’s destruction after the surprise attack by several Arab armies on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

Marwan was first identified as an Israeli agent by the Vanity Fair writer Harold Bloom in his book “Eve of Destruction,” in 2004. But Blum’s allegations were confirmed in the Israeli daily Ha’aretz two weeks ago following a libel case between two former Mossad agents, and then reprinted in Arab media after that.

“I have no doubt that reports published about him in Israel caused his death,” Zamir said yesterday. “There will also now be serious concerns about our ability to recruit quality sources in the future,” the spymaster added.

Marwan’s friends are blaming “Egyptian elements” for his death.

(For more, see the Ha’aretz article attached below.)

IN WHAT MANY ARE CALLING A FINAL ACT OF SPITE, BBC CUT OFF BLAIR’S FINAL SPEECH

(By Tom Gross, National Review, June 29, 2007)

Attacking him to the last, the BBC cut off British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s final speech to the House of Commons on Wednesday. The BBC – which as a state-funded organization is meant to be impartial – has never forgiven Blair for Iraq. No wonder Blair recently called the British media a “feral beast”.

(For more, see the Guardian article in the full articles section.)

MRS MURDOCH TAKES THE WHEEL AT MYSPACE CHINA

(By Tom Gross, National Review, June 29, 2007)

Wendi Deng, the Chinese wife of Rupert Murdoch, appears for the first time to have been elevated to an official post within News Corp.: chief of strategy for MySpace’s China operation, reports Forbes magazine. (Article attached below.)

The new role would provide the 39-year-old Deng with her first chance to prove her mettle in the succession battle with Murdoch’s children for control of the sprawling family-run media empire.

Critics fear Murdoch may be quick to submit to the wishes of Chinese authorities if he acquires The Wall Street Journal, the same way he has cooperated with China’s heavy Internet censorship to obtain the relatively fast launch of MySpace China.

RATINGS BOON – PARIS HILTON TRIPLES LARRY KING’S AUDIENCE

(By Tom Gross, National Review, June 29, 2007)

“Larry King tripled his audience by lobbing softball questions at a vacant-looking Paris Hilton on Wednesday. After which, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt more than doubled his usual Anderson Cooper 360 crowd with his neo-ironic performance of a journalist holding his nose and whining about having to analyze King’s interview with the privileged child of a gillionaire,” writes Lisa de Moraes in the Washington Post.

(The Washington Post article is the final full article attached below.)

-- Tom Gross



FULL ARTICLES

DOCTORS OF DEATH

Seven NHS doctors held over al-Qa’eda campaign
By Duncan Gardham, Nigel Bunyan, Auslan Cramb and Richard Edwards
The Daily Telegraph
July 3, 2007

www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/07/03/nterror103.xml

The suspected al-Qa’eda terrorists behind the attempted car bomb attacks on Britain were almost all foreign doctors working in the NHS, it can be disclosed today.

In a development that will raise questions over the vetting procedures for medics from abroad, it emerged that five of the seven suspects held by police are young Middle Eastern men employed at British hospitals.

One is Mohammed Asha, a “brilliant” neurosurgeon from Jordan. Another being questioned over both the London and Glasgow attacks is Bilal Abdulla, an Iraqi junior doctor who was a passenger in the car that rammed Glasgow airport.

The driver of the Jeep Cherokee –who suffered 90 per cent burns after setting himself on fire in the attack – is said to be a locum doctor working at the hospital where he is now being treated. Two of his colleagues at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley, Renfrewshire, were also arrested yesterday and another junior doctor is understood to have been the man police arrested in Liverpool.

Disclosures of the suspected terrorists’ backgrounds – which came as the hunt for any others who may have been connected to the terrorist incidents continued – surprised detectives and the intelligence services.

Five men have been arrested, while a sixth, the Jeep driver, is under police guard in hospital. He was operated on yesterday but doctors said his chances of survival were slim. He has not been officially arrested because detectives are waiting for him to recover and do not want to trigger the 28-day maximum time limit for detaining him as a terrorism suspect.

The seventh person arrested is Dr Asha’s wife.

Last night Scotland Yard said an eighth person was arrested at an undisclosed location, believed to be in Britain, in connection with the London and Glasgow attacks. Meanwhile inquiries were also taking place overseas and there were reports of another arrest overseas.

As Britain remained on its highest state of alert, information emerged on how the suspects were tracked down through their mobile phones and the number plates on their cars.

Clues were gathered from mobiles which were meant to act as detonators in the London car bombs. The bombers called twice to the mobile in a Mercedes parked outside Tiger Tiger nightclub in Haymarket and another in a car parked 200 yards away four times. The devices failed because of technical problems and detectives tracked the calls to identify suspects.

Dr Asha and his wife were stopped by police on the M6 in Cheshire on Saturday in an operation involving up to 15 unmarked police cars. An alert had been put out on his vehicle and it was clocked by Automatic Numberplate Recognition cameras as it headed north.

The focus of an ever widening investigation yesterday centred on the Paisley hospital.

The men arrested yesterday, aged 25 and 28, lived in the block attached to the occupational health unit. Police said they were “not of Scottish origin” but refused to elaborate. The arrests were followed by a series of controlled explosions on a blue Vauxhall car in the hospital car park. Police were searching the building and grounds.

A white BMW was blown up the day before and both vehicles are thought to belong to men who worked at the hospital. Two others are believed to have been living in staff accommodation, while two others, who are suspected of launching the attacks in London and Glasgow, were renting a semi-detached house in the village of Houston.

Sources confirmed that Abdulla qualified in Baghdad in 2004 and registered with the General Medical Council in August last year.

Sources said the man arrested in a vehicle near Lime Street Station in Liverpool, who had lived in the city, was also a junior doctor.

One of the Liverpool man’s colleagues told a Muslim website yesterday that the suspect, who is 26, was a post-graduate trainee from Bangalore in India.

He said he believed it was a case of mistaken identity involving another associate from a hospital in the city, who went abroad a year ago.

He said the suspect, who began work at the hospital just under a year ago, may have been detained because he had mobile chip of the former associate and was using his internet account.

He was said to have been travelling home from Penny Lane Mosque late on Saturday night when he was arrested.

Medical sources said the men were probably recruited by the NHS or applied directly to the hospitals.

From 2006 foreign applicants had to have a visa allowing them to work in Britain – normally associated with working at a given hospital.

It is understood that the suspect in intensive care had been working as a locum at the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Police sources said last night they hoped they had the main figures in the suspected cell.

Officers are trying to ascertain the real identities of the men and believe one may be a British citizen. Another arrest was made at Stansted airport last night.

***

HIGHLY-PAID PROFESSIONALS INTENT ON KILLING PEOPLE

Tom Gross adds:

For space reasons I am not including the other full articles on this subject linked to in the media blog, but they can be read at the following URLs:

(1) Two more arrested over ‘doctors terror plot’
The Daily Mail (London), July 2, 2007

(2) Two terror suspects are hospital doctors
Sky News, July 1, 2007

 

HAMAS-FATAH SMEAR CAMPAIGN BEGINS IN EARNEST

Hamas-Fatah struggle moves from street to TV
Palestinian rival factions continue war through media as Fatah-run TV station condemns Hamas’ ‘dark coup’ in the Gaza Strip; Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV says the organization liberated the Strip from Fatah occupation
By Ali Waked
Yediot Ahronot
July 2, 2007

www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3419913,00.html

Palestinian infighting has moved from the streets to the TV set, as rival factions Fatah and Hamas carry out smear campaigns against each other through their local channels in the West Bank and Gaza.

Hamas has been using its official television station al-Aqsa TV in the Gaza Strip to broadcast documents and tapes allegedly found in the PA’s headquarters.

Hamas sources claim that such documents are proof of “corruption, collaboration with Israel and a total lack of morals, including homosexual relations between officials.”

The official Palestinian TV station is run by Fatah in the West Bank, and is being used to serve the party’s interests and condemn “Hamas’ dark coup and the acts of murder and execution that were carried out by the organization.”

On the channel’s broadcasts Fatah members call the Hamas organization a satellite state controlled by Iran and Syria, saying Hamas men are greedy gold diggers disguised as religious men.

On Sunday, Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV took cameras into the PA security staff’s investigation facilities.

The reporter, who visited the facility accompanied by a Hamas operative who was previously held there, described the “disgraceful conditions in which prisoners of the Islamic resistance (Hamas) lived.”

In a dramatic tone, the reporter entered interrogation rooms saying, “Here, the best of the Palestinian people and the Hamas movement were tortured.”

The program reached its peak when the reporter approached a noose which, according to the report, was supposed to be used to execute two Hamas men from Rafah. The reporter explained that “the execution was prevented when Rafah residents rose up and prevented it.”

The Hamas TV station gave emotional descriptions of the torture methods, the emotional and physical stress and the difficult conditions under which “Hamas’ Mujahideen” were held. The program also depicted how Muhammad Dahlan’s deputy, Rashid Abu Shbak of Fatah overlooked the oppression of the prisoners and thier protests.

According to al-Aqsa TV, Hamas liberated the Gaza Strip from Fatah occupation in the summer of 2007.

 

FATAH: BIASED AL-JAZEERA TV MUST BE EXPELLED FROM THE WEST BANK

Top Palestinian journalist seeks asylum in Norway
By Khaled Abu Toameh
The Jerusalem Post
July 1, 2007

www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1183053071940&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/Printer

A prominent Palestinian journalist from the Gaza Strip has sought political asylum in Norway, Palestinian journalists said Saturday.

Seif al-Din Shahin, the correspondent for the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel network, left the Gaza Strip together with his family, they said, noting that he had received many death threats over the past few months.

Shahin’s request has yet to be approved by the Norwegian government. Several other Palestinian journalists are also reported to have fled the Gaza Strip out of fear for their lives.

Earlier this year, masked gunmen set fire to the offices of Al-Arabiya in Gaza City, causing heavy damage to furniture and equipment. Although no group claimed responsibility, Palestinian journalists blamed members of Fatah’s armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

The group was also responsible for beating Shahin in two separate incidents in 2001 and 2004. The second assault followed Shahin’s live broadcast of a rally held on Fatah’s anniversary. The report angered Fatah leaders who had instructed Shahin and other journalists to report that tens of thousands had participated.

In 2003 he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces because of his reporting. Al-Arabiya’s offices in Ramallah have also been attacked by Fatah gunmen on a number of occasions.

Shahin’s brother, Muhammad, confirmed that his brother had left the Gaza Strip, but said he was unaware of the reports that he had asked for political asylum. “My brother left for personal reasons,” he said.

Shahin’s decision to seek political asylum in Norway comes amid a campaign that is being waged by Fatah against Al-Arabiya’s rival, Al-Jazeera.

Fatah leaders have even called for closing down the Al-Jazeera offices in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, accusing the Qatari-owned TV station of serving as a mouthpiece for Hamas and other radical Islamic groups.

“Al-Jazeera is openly biased in favor of Hamas,” said a senior Fatah leader. “This station must be banned from working in the Palestinian territories.”

Muhammad Dahlan, the former Fatah security commander in the Gaza Strip, is said to be spearheading calls for banning Al-Jazeera. Last week he told Palestinian journalists that Al- Jazeera had been doing everything to drive a wedge and encourage schism among Palestinians. “This station has become an organ for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top PLO official closely associated with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, accused Al-Jazeera of endorsing Hamas and its terrorists. “Al-Jazeera is a partner in the crimes that are being perpetrated by the terrorists of Hamas’s armed wing against our people,” he said.

Muhammad Hourani, a senior Fatah operative in the Gaza Strip, said Al-Jazeera was no longer an independent and objective source for news. “They are a party to the conflict [between Hamas and Fatah],” he said. He said that Al-Jazeera had refused to cover atrocities committed by Hamas in the Gaza Strip over the past few weeks and was providing a platform for Fatah’s enemies.

Two weeks ago, Fatah militiamen set fire to the home of Hassan al-Titi, the Al-Jazeera correspondent in Nablus. One of the station’s correspondents in the Gaza Strip, Hiba Akileh, came under fire from Fatah for allegedly ignoring the fact that Fatah gunmen had participated in the fighting against the IDF last week.

Fatah gunmen have also torched two vehicles belonging to Al-Jazeera in Ramallah. The attack came after Al-Jazeera ignored demands to cover a Fatah rally in the city.

 

“I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT REPORTS PUBLISHED ABOUT HIM IN ISRAEL CAUSED HIS DEATH”

Ex-Mossad head: Israeli reports led to death of Egyptian agent
By Yossi Melman
Ha’aretz
June 30, 2007

www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/876369.html

Former Mossad head Zvi Zamir has said that reports in Israel about Dr. Ashraf Marwan, Israel’s Egyptian agent who warned of the pending outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, led to his death.

“I have no doubt that reports published about him in Israel caused his death,” Zamir told Haaretz Thursday, in response to Marwan’s mysterious death in London on Wednesday.

The real damage, said Zamir, concerns the implications the case has for the future.

“There are serious concerns about our ability to recruit quality sources in the future,” the spy master said.

Zamir, who questioned Marwan during a secret meeting held in London on the Friday on the eve of the 1973 war, said he had no idea whether the Egyptian had committed suicide or had been assassinated.

“This is a matter to be investigated by the British police. But it is clear that the reports and the exposure of his name by Eli Zeira [who was head of Military Intelligence in 1973] have led to his death,” Zamir said.

Four years ago, Zamir and two retired senior Military Intelligence officers – Brigadier General Amos Gilboa and Colonel Yossi Langotsky – had asked Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to initiate an investigation against Zeira. Mofaz refused the request and directed the three to the Attorney General’s office. The group filed a complaint with Menachem Mazuz but nothing came of it.

Recently, Supreme Court Justice Theodore Or ruled in arbitration over a law suit Zeira had filed against Zamir for slander. Or ruled that Zeira had indeed leaked the name of the agent to the press.

Zamir insisted that “the attorney general should indict Zeira. He has our complaint and he also has the evidence from the ruling of the arbitrator [Or].”

The former Mossad chief also said that, “The tragedy of this case is that the defense and intelligence establishment, including the defense minister and the law enforcement bodies, have proven to be impotent.”

Meanwhile, British police investigating Marwan’s death have described the circumstances surrounding it as “suspicious.” Marwan’s body was found on the sidewalk near his apartment in Carlton House Terrace in London.

At the time, he was in the apartment with his housekeeper who told police that she had not heard a thing. At approximately 4 P.M., she heard a knock on the door and someone told her Marwan’s body had been found on the sidewalk.

A gag order has been imposed on the investigation and investigators noted the testimonies of neighbors and acquaintances.

Marwan’s friends told Arab media that the 63-year-old had been upset in recent weeks, after Justice Or’s ruling had linked his name directly with Israeli intelligence. “He believed that there were official Egyptian sources behind this media campaign against him, and that behind it all there were plans to harm him,” the friends said.

During the past few years Marwan was busy writing his memoirs and said that the book would be titled “October 1973 – What took place.” His book was expected to shed light on his activities in the Egyptian leadership and on the claims that he was a Mossad agent. If he did address this issue in his memoirs, he probably denied the charges. The British police are likely to try to locate the manuscript.

A well-to-do businessman, Marwan had lived in London since the late 1970s. He was married to the daughter of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abd el-Nasser.

***

Tom Gross adds:

For space reasons I am not including the other full articles on this subject linked to in the media blog, but they can be read at the following URLs:

(1) UK to probe Yom Kippur spy death
By Abraham Rabinovich and Jonny Paul,
The Jerusalem Post, June 29, 2007

(2) Death plunge of Egyptian billionaire who ‘spied for Israel’
By Charlotte Gill
The Daily Mail (London), June 28, 2007

(3) London police probe death of Yom Kippur War Mossad agent
By Yossi Melman and Yoav Stern
Ha’aretz, June 28, 2007

 

“IT WAS AN OPERATIONAL MISTAKE AND WE WOULD LIKE TO APOLOGISE TO THE VIEWERS”

BBC apologises for Blair ‘mistake’
By Stephen Brook
The Guardian
June 27, 2007

media.guardian.co.uk/broadcast/story/0,,2112989,00.html

The BBC has apologised for cutting off the prime minister’s final speech to parliament today, saying it made the “wrong decision”.

“It was an operational mistake and we would like to apologise to the viewers,” the BBC said in a statement. “There are often difficulties when live events do not run according to schedule but we recognise that this was the wrong decision under the circumstances.”

The BBC’s decision to end the BBC2 Daily Politics live special before Mr Blair’s final PMQs performance had finished meant terrestrial TV viewers missed the climax of his last speech at the despatch box, which drew a standing ovation from the government and opposition benches.

Instead, BBC2 viewers saw trailers for the dramas Rome and Jekyll before the network’s Wimbledon coverage commenced.

“The Daily Politics was scheduled to finish at 12.35 today, at which point BBC2 would go to Wimbledon and a special news programme would start on BBC1,” the BBC said in a statement.

“This should have given more than enough time to come out of prime minister’s questions at its usual finishing time of 12.30 and allow a short studio summing up by Andrew Neil before the end of the Daily Politics,” the corporation added.

“Unexpectedly Tony Blair’s last PMQs overran by five minutes and as a result the Daily Politics came off the air a minute before the end of PMQs.

A row is understood to have occurred inside the corporation over the decision to cut away early from the coverage.

“I think it’s disappointing that the final historic remarks of the prime minister and his historic standing ovation were not broadcast live on terrestrial television,” said Andrew Neil, the presenter of The Daily Politics. “I was very disappointed. I sympathise with viewers who feel that this was a wrong decision.”

Mr Blair’s final PMQs was shown live in full on digital channels BBC News 24 and BBC Parliament – but both draw tiny audiences compared with BBC2.

The Daily Politics was due to end at 12.35pm to allow for PMQs overrunning. But it is understood that because the programme went to air at 11am, it was ordered to come off air at 12.34pm.

 

MRS MURDOCH TAKES OVER AS CHIEF OF STRATEGY FOR CHINESE MYSPACE

Mrs. Murdoch takes the wheel at MySpace China
By Shu-Ching Jean Chen
Forbes
June 28, 2007

Wendi Deng, the young Chinese wife of Rupert Murdoch, appears to have finally been elevated to an official post within News Corp: chief of strategy for MySpace’s China operation.

News of the impending appointment was confirmed by unnamed sources separately in media in China and the U.S., as well as in Australia. The new title, plus a seat on the board of MySpace China, would bring her into the glare of the public eye for the first time after an important backstage role setting up the venture.

MySpace China, which aspires to duplicate the success of the pioneering U.S. social-networking Web site, debuted in April as a trial site. It is a locally incorporated company that News Corp. has only a minority stake in, alongside U.S. venture capital firm International Data Group and China Broadband Capital Partners, an investment company founded by Edward Tian, the former head of China Netcom.

An official role at MySpace China would provide the 39-year-old Deng with her first chance to prove her mettle in the succession battle with Murdoch’s children for control of the sprawling family-run media empire.

By appointing Deng as an executive with management responsibility, Murdoch is also attempting to take a more hands on approach with MySpace China, a venture that is increasingly complicating Murdoch’s bid for Dow Jones, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal.

Critics fear Murdoch would be quick to submit to the wishes of Chinese authorities once he acquires The Wall Street Journal, the same way he has cooperated with China’s heavy Internet censorship to obtain the relatively fast launch of MySpace China.

By choosing to set it up as a Chinese company that is majority owned by Chinese interests, the site has come to incorporate much heavier self-censorship and content controls than if it had chosen to operate from outside China’s borders, critics say.

Seven of the Journal’s China reporters sent a letter to Dow Jones shareholders in May accusing Murdoch of cozying up to the regime in the past to advance his business interests.

An article about Deng that was recently spiked by the Australian magazine Good Weekend is also providing ammunition to Murdoch’s opponents over The Wall Street Journal bid. The magazine is owned by Fairfax, in which News Corp. has a minority stake. The highly regarded journalist Eric Ellis spent three months working on the 10,000-word profile of Deng, only to have it killed, arousing speculation of intervention from above.

A native of China born in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, Deng has been the locomotive behind Murdoch’s long push into the country, serving first as his personal interpreter at News Corp., then a mistress and an intimate adviser on China after their eventual marriage in 1999.

Deng has made frequent trips to China since News Corp.’s acquisition of MySpace early in 2006 to lay the political and business groundwork to launch MySpace China.

In a management role, she would be working alongside Luo Chuan, a former head of Microsoft’s MSN Internet service in China. They face a formidable challenge to gain traction in China’s fast-growing Internet sector, which has long favored established domestic players. No major foreign Internet company has yet been able to make much headway, except Google to a limited extent.

Since its April trial launch, MySpace China has been faulted as dull and criticized for its less than impressive Chinese name, which translates as “Befriend you, befriend me.”

Besides Deng, the other two News Corp. representatives on MySpace China’s board are expected to be MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson.

 

WHEN PARIS MET LARRY

3.2 million pay a visit to Paris via CNN
By Lisa de Moraes
The Washington Post, TV review
June 29, 2007

Larry King tripled his audience by lobbing softball questions at a vacant-looking Paris Hilton in her first TV chat since her release from jail early Tuesday.

After which, the son of Gloria Vanderbilt more than doubled his usual “Anderson Cooper 360°” crowd with his neo-ironic performance of a journalist holding his nose and whining about having to analyze King’s interview with the privileged child of a gillionaire. In so doing, Cooper joined all those media columnists who for weeks had been sniffing about journalism embracing tabloid instincts in re the Paris story, only to stick their own greedy snouts into the trough holding the juiciest pop-culture gruel served up in ages.

And Barbara Walters sat bolt upright on her Disney Throne of Principles, mumbling “tawdry” while dialing Lionel Richie on his private line to say “Hi!”

Hilton’s Wednesday night chat on “Larry King Live”– her first since being sent to the slammer for about 23 days with only bologna sandwiches and a Bible to comfort her – clocked about 3.2 million viewers. They came to hear her declare she had emerged from the ordeal a new, improved Paris Hilton, one dedicated to raising money for kids and to fight breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, one determined not to let her voice get really high when she gets nervous, one who will never again be sent to prison for driving with a suspended license and violating probation on an alcohol-related reckless-driving charge but who will instead call the family driver to take her to In-N-Out Burger.

Nearly 2 million of those viewers were 50 and older, which is par for King’s course, but not exactly the demo Paris presumably was targeting when Mommy and Daddy were trying to sell their little girl to the highest bidder at a broadcast network.

(Babs Walters had had the inside track – simpering on her daytime show “The View” June 11 about having chatted up Momsie on the phone the day before and even receiving a collect call from Incarcerated Paris herself. Only then Daddums reportedly called to say another network that starts with N-B-C was talking about tacking another zero onto the $100,000 ABC had agreed to pony up for use of the family photo album and home videos. Word of the negotiations mysteriously leaked to the media, scuttling the negotiations and paving the way for King to land the “get.”)

Cooper’s post-interview “360” telecast clocked nearly 2 million viewers – a big jump from his calendar-year average of just 812,000.

To put these numbers in perspective, Paris got nowhere near the crowd who’d tuned in to King’s show in 2005 when a JetBlue plane had to make an emergency landing with its landing gear on the fritz. Nearly 5 million were glued to his coverage that night. Because we don’t just love tabloid journalism – we also love tragedy, or the possibility of seeing it.

And speaking of Walters, when Star Jones went on King’s show two days after she ambushed Walters on “The View” and announced she was leaving before Walters could announce she’d given Star the hook, “LKL” logged 3 million viewers, nearly matching Paris’s numbers.

But, of course, all these stats combined can’t match that “LKL” telecast in 1993 when Al Gore went mano a mano with Ross Perot, attracting a morbid 16.8 million viewers – the biggest number of all time for an ad-supported cable telecast.


All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.