Why hasn’t the media told this story?

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on October 15, 2014

Directions

-Read the excerpt below from a Joseph Rossell post at Media Research Center.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are busy leveraging the Ebola crisis to demand more taxpayer dollars from Congress with the media’s help.

 

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein appeared on “NOW with Alex Wagner” Oct. 14, to give the big government side of the issue. “I interviewed the director of NIH, Dr. Francis Collins, and his point to me was that a 10-year slide, not just a two- or three-year slide, a 10-year slide in research funding had set that institution back in terms of its study of vaccines for Ebola,” said Stein. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer tried to put the blame on the GOP-run House of Representatives, asking that same day, “Is Congress doing enough?”  However, The Washington Post called the Democrats’ argument blaming budget cuts on the GOP “absurd.”

A bigger issue has been the media’s unwillingness to point to wasteful spending at both NIH and CDC. The two award about 64,000 taxpayer-funded research grants annually with little incentive for responsible spending under “secretive, autocratic and unaccountable” leadership, according to David Wright, a former health official.

If NIH and CDC are still having trouble coming up with ways to fund their fight against Ebola, here is a list of 15 wasteful programs totaling $15,135,574,669 where they could have saved:

  • Telling Taxpayers How to Eat ($15 billion) – Yes, that’s billion with a “b” in front. In a massive overstep of government power, Obamacare carved out $15 billion for Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to convince Americans to make “healthy” choices through “Community Transformation Grants” (CTG). The CTG program “supports efforts to modify behavior through anti-obesity campaigns, as well as anti-smoking and…tax regulations and legislation” at the state and local levels, according to the bipartisan Citizens Against Government Waste.
  • Grant Money to China ($90 million) – NIH awarded more than $90 million to Chinese researchers. This included $2 million to develop a vaccine for a parasite disease common in China. The Traditional Values Coalition asked, “As our country heads to fiscal ruin, why are we giving millions in taxpayer dollars to Chinese science — which benefits China and its institutions — when they hold more than $1 trillion in American debt?”
  • Duplicate Agricultural Programs ($22 million) – CDC spent $22 million on their Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing Program.  The problem? This project was nearly identical to efforts already underway at the Department of Agriculture. CDC allotted $181,966 for developing a smart phone app for specialized farmers in Tennessee.
  • “Why Are Lesbians Obese?” ($2.87 million) – That’s one question NIH has decided to research for the last four years, spending more than $2.87 million so far on the project. The ongoing study is meant to explain why “women of minority sexual orientation are disproportionately affected by the obesity epidemic,” operating under the claim that “three-quarters” of lesbians are obese. First funded in 2011, the study is slated to continue into 2016.
  • Promoting HPV Vaccine for Young Girls ($544,188) – CDC provided $544,188 for a study on how to boost the number of young girls getting Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccinations in Los Angeles County. Although CDC says the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risk, it counts 772 serious adverse side effects, including 32 deaths, among the millions of doses administered to young girls between June, 2006, and December, 2008. Parents have raised moral objections as to whether young girls should receive the vaccine, which covers four sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Drunken Monkeys ($3.2 million) – NIH spent $3.2 million getting monkeys drunk just to see what would happen.  The agency…also “doled out money in recent years for research on binge-drinking mice, inebriated gamblers and pilots seeking the sensation of flying drunk,” according to The Washington Times.
  • Bizarre Sex Studies ($1.5 million) – Congress voted to give NIH $1.5 million to spend on four…studies: “Mood Arousal and Sexual Risk Taking,” “Study on Sexual Habits of Older Men,” “Study on San Francisco’s Asian Prostitutes/Masseuses,” and “Study on American Indian Transgender Research.” NIH still received the requested funds from Congress, despite efforts by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., in 2004 to defund the projects.
  • Funds for Homosexual Activists in Public Schools ($1.4 million) – CDC gave The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), the homosexual activist group, $1.4 million to create “safe spaces” in public schools starting in 2011. The funding will be distributed during a five year period, as GLSEN works in 20 targeted school districts across the country.
  • Gun Violence Prevention ($2.6 million) – CDC spent $2.6 million on studies that also seemed to favor greater gun control before when Congress defunded the research in 1999. Apparently Congress thought CDC had more important issues to study, like how to control actual diseases. For FY 2015, President Obama is asking Congress to grant CDC $22.2 million in new funding to study and prevent gun violence.  Obama has made similar requests in previous years, though unsuccessfully.
  • Gun Control ($5 million) – Separately from the CDC, NIH also handed out nearly $5 million for research promoting gun control as of October, 2009, according to an article in The Washington Times. NIH pursued research on “gun related violence,” despite the issue being well outside the organization’s typical domain. Grants included “$642,561 in taxpayer funds to learn how inner-city teenagers whose friends, acquaintances and peers carry firearms and drink alcohol on street corners could show up in emergency rooms with gunshot wounds.”
  • Cocaine Enhances Japanese Quail’s Sex Drive ($181,406) – …This was a real study sponsored by NIH and slated to run through next year. Why quail? Because “quail provide a convenient and interesting alternative to standard laboratory rats and pigeons.”
  • Empowering Women to Choose Contraception … in Jail ($279,789) – …In June 2012, NIH allocated $279,789 “to improve contraceptive use for incarcerated women” as they neared the end of their jail time. The program, which ran from 2008-2014, was ultimately intended to reduce unexpected pregnancies and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) among recently incarcerated women.
  • Bogus AIDS Experiments ($4.9 million) – Results of an HIV/AIDS vaccine study funded by NIH were faked by a researcher at Iowa State University (ISU), calling into question $19 million in grants awarded to the same researcher over the years. “Inauthentic” samples throughout a period of four years made the vaccine reportedly appear far more effective than it actually was. Although NIH refused to pay ISU the final installment of the grant money, the university was allowed to keep more than $4.9 million after paying back the researcher’s salary – nearly three-quarters of the original grant.
  • Sex Workers Spreading STDs ($675,786) – Ever wonder why sex workers spread HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? The answer might seem obvious, but NIH is spending $675,786 to find out exactly how and why in an ongoing study. Researches are continuing the regular testing of 600 female sex workers on the U.S.-Mexico border for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia.
  • Examining ‘Barriers to Correct Condom Use’ ($423,500) – It turns out “young, heterosexual adult men” weren’t using condoms as frequently as NIH would like. A study investigating the apparent problem in 2009 was $423,500.

By way of comparison, the combined budgets the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, FBI, DEA and Secret Service came to nearly $1 billion less than the NIH and CDC combined budgets.

(from mrc.org)

Questions

1. What is the goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)? What is its main focus? (see “Background” for answer)

2. What is the goal of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)?

3. The media has reported on the NIH Director’s claim that an Ebola vaccine would likely have been found by now if not for budget cuts.
In the MRC report below, Mr. Rossell writes, “A bigger issue has been the media’s unwillingness to point to wasteful spending at both NIH and CDC.”

Consider the following examples. Do you think the media not reporting on this questionable spending is an example of bias by omission and story selection? Explain your answer.


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.

Background

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the national public health institute of the United States. The CDC is a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Its main goal is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability.
  • The CDC focuses national attention on developing and applying disease control and prevention.
  • It especially focuses its attention on infectious disease, food borne pathogens, environmental health, occupational safety and health, health promotion, injury prevention and educational activities designed to improve the health of U.S. citizens. (from wikipedia)
  • The yearly budget is approximately $7 billion.

National Institutes of Health (NIH):

  • The NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is the primary agency of the government responsible for biomedical and health-related research.
  • The goal of NIH research is to acquire new knowledge to help prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat disease and disability, from the rarest genetic disorder to the common cold.
  • The NIH mission is to uncover new knowledge that will lead to better health for everyone. NIH works toward that mission by conducting research in its own laboratories, supporting the research of non-federal scientists (in universities, medical schools, hospitals, and research institutions throughout the country and abroad), helping in the training of research investigators, and fostering communication of medical and health sciences information.
  • As of 2010, Congress increased the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget to $31 billion per year. (from wikipedia)























Answer(s)

1.  The main goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to protect public health and safety through the control and prevention of disease, injury, and disability.

2.  The goal of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) research is to acquire new knowledge to help prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat disease and disability, from the rarest genetic disorder to the common cold.

3.  Opinion question. Answers vary.