Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Discussion of New Mammogram Recommendations, Killings At The Canal: The Army Tapes, Palin Book Tour Continues, And Hasan Update

Hi everyone. We begin tonight with more focus on those confusing new mammogram guidelines, the general question being: What is up with that? For discussion, we're joined by Dr. Kimberly Gregory, who was a member of the task force that issued the guidelines, and Dr. Daniel Kopans, one of the world's leading experts on mammography screening. Honestly? We don't really get much further than where we were yesterday. Dr. Gregory urges women to talk to their doctors about their own personal risks, while Dr. Kopans states there is no science to support that screening high risk women will save lives. According to him, 75 to 90 percent of women who develop breast cancer are not at increased risk, which makes the guidelines pretty ridiculous.

Dr. Gregory also does some talking about the "net benefit" of screenings and that just makes me think this is about rationing and money. Exactly how many lives need to be saved before a "benefit" is determined? If it's somebody you love, that number is one. The question of whether or not this will affect insurance coverage of screenings is brought up, and Dr. Gregory isn't going to touch that responsibility ball. "We don't make recommendations for insurance coverage," she says. "That's just ignoring what the fallout is going to be," says Dr. Kopans. Exactly. I'm still suspicious as to how this all came about. If there's a story to be uncovered, as they say, follow the money.

Transitioning now to the first segment of Abbie Boudreau's investigative series, "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes." CNN was able to obtain 23 1/2 hours of interrogation tapes of three Army sergeants. First Sergeant John Hatley, Sergeant 1st Class Joseph Mayo, and Sergeant Michael Leahy have all been convicted of the execution-style murders of four Iraqis in a canal in Baghdad in March 2007. This story was brought to CNN's attention by Private 1st Class Joshua Hartson, who was there, but not charged with any crime. He believes the convicted men are heroes.

This all came about on a routine mission that was halted when shots were fired. The men subsequently found the four Iraqis--the shooters--along with a haul of weapons. Initially there was nothing out of the ordinary. The Iraqis were blindfolded, zip-tied, and loaded into the vehicle to be dropped off at a detainee housing area. But one of them spoke English, and when Hartson asked him if he had killed Americans, the detainee laughed, which Hartson took as an affirmative. Believing these Iraqis would just be immediately freed to kill again, the men decided to take matters into their own hands. The detainees were then lined up and shot execution style, their bodies left in the canal.

The secret was kept for nine months. I'm guessing its revealing will be covered in forthcoming segments. I'm also imagining that we'll be seeing more of the actual interrogation tapes in the coming days, as this segment pretty much just set the scene. Taking on investigations like this one really is CNN at its best. For some background, you can watch Abbie answer a few questions. I think I'll wait until I've seen the entire series before I fully weigh in, but tonight I'll leave you with something Michael Ware once said. From a profile of him in Men's Journal (emphasis mine):
Of the many stories that haunt Ware when he closes his eyes but can’t sleep, this one singes a little more because he caught it on film and CNN refused to air it: It was spring 2007. He was in Diyala province, in a village north of Baghdad, embedded with a U.S. infantry platoon conducting a sweep for insurgents. By the time they arrived at daybreak, the insurgents had fled. The whole thing looked like a bust, but then there was a shot. An American sniper had seen an armed man running toward the platoon and put a bullet in the back of his skull. The soldiers went to look for him. Was he dead? Was he still a threat? When they found him, alive, they dragged him to a secure area.

“Then, for the next 20 minutes,” Ware remembers, “all of us just stood around and watched this guy’s life slowly ebb away in painful, heaving sobs for air, rendering him absolutely no assistance or aid. If that had been an American soldier, he would have been medevacked out and in 20 minutes would’ve landed on an operating table. Once an enemy combatant comes into your custody, you’re obliged by the Geneva Conventions to render that wounded prisoner all aid. Even I — with my rudimentary medical training, I don’t think his life could’ve been saved — but even I could’ve eased his passing.

“Instead a towel was laid over his face, making his breathing much more labored and painful, the taunts continued, and we just sat around and watched him die.

“And for some bizarre reason, it was just me and this platoon of soldiers, and I was able to see the dispassion of these kids in the way they just watched his life slip away. I was filming and worrying about the best composition of the shot, and I realized that I too was watching just as dispassionately. There’s no blame to be laid here. That guy was a legitimate target who was rightfully shot in the head. But it made me realize, just once more, that this kind of dehumanization is what happens when we send our children to war.

Following Abbie's piece, we're joined by former Air Force attorney Scott Silliman and former Army Staff Sergeant David Bellavia, who fought in the Battle of Fallujah. While Scott notes that what the soldiers did violates the law and Geneva Conventions, much of the discussion is focused on what David describes as a "catch-and-release program for terrorists." Abbie explains how incredibly hard it was to obtain enough evidence to hold detainees, which confuses me a little, since I've read so much about Iraqis being scooped up just willy nilly. But it's implied that the policy changed following Abu Ghraib, so maybe that's the discrepancy. Wouldn't it be nice if these kind of intricacies got the same level of coverage as, say, balloon boy? Anyway, good discussion.

Transitioning now to the continuing Sarah Palin press tour. Next stop: Barbara WaWa! Oh 360, why you gotta do me like this? Going so strong and then...Palin. Le sigh. So anyway, for those keeping score at home, the former Veep candidate is asked about Obama and the word "dithering" comes up. Twice! Anderson Cooper explains that the interview was because Palin has a new book out, "In case you haven't heard about it..." Yes, I've heard about it. Because you won't let me not hear about it! Damn you, Silver Fox! Damn your piercing blue eyes and...wait, what was I saying?

So anyhoo! Tom Foreman is back to do some more fact-checking, but I don't really even care. Palin has even sucked away my enthusiasm for facts! One thing that's kinda funny though, is that she's been caught in a contradiction (two dueling soundbites) about the occurrence of a "family vote" regarding deciding to run for Veep. She's now lying about things that no one cares about, and which could never have been disputed in the first place. Good lord. Also? Tom sorta throws Katie Couric under the bus when he states that Palin is right when she claims Couric went easier on Biden. The evidence? Gaffe-tastic Joe claimed Roosevelt went on TV when TV didn't exist. That doesn't necessary mean she went easier, but it is a MAJOR case of follow-up fail.

For discussion of Palin (oh yes), we're joined by Bill Bennett and Donna Brazile. Says Anderson Cooper: "Sarah Palin has obviously gotten a huge amount of attention. The A.P. devoted a lot of time to fact checking it. We've done fact checks, as well. Is that fair?" WTF kind of question is that? Yeah media, cut it out with your unfair fact-checking and information gathering! C'mon, is there not some kid in a flying object you could be telling me about right now? To be fair to our anchor, I think (hope) he was talking more about the amount of attention Palin is getting. But um, she's courting it. She has a book to sell. So...yeah. Good rule of thumb? Fact-checking is always good. Erm, unless you're talking about a comedy skit. But what kind of network would do something idiotic like that? Oh, wait...

Moving on (yeah, I'm done with Palin) to an update on the case of the Fort Hood shooter, Major Nidal Hasan. Apparently, he was trying to get some of the soldiers he counseled investigated for war crimes. To talk about this, we're joined by Eugene Fidel, a military law attorney and president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Anderson is really focused on doctor-patient confidentiality, but Eugene believes there's a plausible argument Hasan was "under obligation to report" possible crimes. A war crime is a very, very serious thing. Though many soldiers kill and witness killing; that's not the same thing as being involved in a war crime. A war crime is wrong and punishable--hence the crime part. I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.

First it was snakes on a plane. Now the "shot" tonight? Goats on a bus. Then they whip out the infamous "bear on a trampoline" video. Just cuz. "Don't you love having bears on the trampoline video, just standing by? Do we have the "who the hell is Wolf" standing by?" asks Anderson. Hey, where's the love for Seaman Ship these days? Also? Earlier in the show, there was a story related to Facebook that allowed Anderson to display his technological cluelessness. He goes back to the subject now: "And by the way, I do know that I have many friends on Facebook. I just don't have friends in real life." Awww. I will be your friend, Anderson! We can play Scrabble. Good times will be had.

The show wasn't too bad. Much of the awesomeness obviously coming from Abbie's excellent report. I'm wondering how much more Palin we've got in store for us. The media's obsession with her is crazeh! By the time 2012 rolls around her career could be completely dead. I mean, remember Fred Thompson? I wish they'd take a pill. I'll give Palin the Newsweek cover though. That was pretty uncool. Anyway, until tomorrow.

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