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Author: TriSec    Date: 09/08/2020 10:18:28

Good Morning.

Let's think about the news. How do you get it? I've got a number of what I consider to be "primary" sources around these parts.

Of course, there is the award-winning Boston Globe newspaper. But they are literally the only local source that I check. I have increasingly removed any sort of reliance on most American media - although nobody can break a story as quickly and efficiently as we can. (and then obsess over "breaking" news for hours or even days, but that's another story.)

I have long been a fan of the BBC World Service. In order to truly understand the rest of the globe, an American source is not going to be your primary.

In any case, a treasured national icon was in the news over the weekend for all the wrong reasons. "Stars and Stripes" can trace its origin back to the Civil War. It has an air of bizarre around it, but this is generally accepted as the origin story.

On November 9, 1861, during the Civil War, soldiers of the 11th, 18th, and 29th Illinois Regiments set up camp in the Missouri city of Bloomfield. Finding the local newspaper's office empty, they decided to print a newspaper about their activities. They called it the Stars and Stripes. Tradition holds this as the origin story for the newspaper and the Stars and Stripes Museum/Library Association is located in Bloomfield.

Over the years, it has served America well. Reporters have traveled with military units in both war and peace, and some of the WWII correspondents became famous in their own right. Ernie Pyle was the most famous of them all (KIA, Okinawa), but names like Bill Maudlin, Andy Rooney, and even Shel Silverstein once put pen to paper for the venerable publication.

The newspaper itself has become entrenched in military life. Even though us civilians can access it online, their heart and soul is still the iconic print edition that can be found at military bases around the world. It remains an important news source for our overseas service members, and is a reminder of home for many of them.

But you no doubt saw during the Labor Day Weekend Friday News Dump, the Pentagon actually wants to shut it down.

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has ordered the military's independent newspaper, Stars and Stripes, to cease publication at the end of the month, despite Congressional efforts to continue funding the century-old publication.

The order to halt publication by Sept. 30, and dissolve the organization by the end of January, is the latest salvo in the Pentagon's move earlier this year to cut the $15.5 million in funding for the paper from the department's budget. And it is a reflection of the Trump administration's broader animosity for the media and members of the press.

Members of Congress have objected to the defunding move for months. And senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper this week urging him to reinstate funding. The letter, signed by 15 senators — including Republicans and Democrats — also warns Esper that the department is legally prohibited from canceling a budget program while a temporary continuing resolution funding the federal government is in effect.

“Stars and Stripes is an essential part of our nations freedom of the press that serves the very population charged with defending that freedom,” the senators said in the letter.

But can the Pentagon do that? Despite it's independent and humble beginnings, Congress today authorizes the publication, although the funding does come from the Department of Defense.

Stars and Stripes is authorized by Congress and the US Department of Defense to produce independent daily military news and information distributed at U.S. military installations in Europe and Mideast and East Asia. A weekly derivative product is distributed within the United States by its commercial publishing partners. Stars and Stripes newspaper averages 32 pages each day and is published in tabloid format and online at www.stripes.com/epaper. Stars and Stripes employs civilian reporters, and U.S. military senior non-commissioned officers as reporters, at a number of locations around the world and on any given day has an audience just shy of 1.0 million. Stars and Stripes also serves independent military news and information to an online audience of about 2.0 million unique visitors per month, 60 to 70 percent of whom are located in the United States.

Stars and Stripes is a non-appropriated fund (NAF) organization, only partially subsidized by the Department of Defense. A large portion of its operating costs is earned through the sale of advertising and subscriptions but it relies on government funding to back overseas reporting and distribution. Unique among the many military publications, Stars and Stripes operates as a First Amendment newspaper and is part of the newly formed Defense Media Activity. The other entities encompassed by the Defense Media Activity (the DoD News Channel and Armed Forces Radio and Television Service, for example), are command publications of the Department of Defense; only Stars and Stripes maintains complete editorial independence.

Of course what passes for a president has his blood-soaked hands all over it.

The Wall Street Journal initially reported in February 2020, that President Donald Trump's administration proposed reducing the newspaper's federal support in 2021 under a $5 billion shift to higher priorities in the defense budget. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Elaine McCusker indicated its funding would be cut and said: “We have essentially decided that, you know, kind of coming into the modern age that newspaper is probably not the best way that we communicate any longer.” The subsidy is more than $15 million a year, which represents approximately half the publication's budget and roughly 0.002 percent of the Department of Defense budget, which was $721,500 million in 2020. It was described by the Stars and Stripes ombudsman as "a fatal cut”. In September, the Pentagon delivered an order for the newspaper to shutter, specifically by presenting a plan for it to dissolve by September 15, including "specific timeline for vacating government owned/leased space worldwide" and to end publication by September 30, 2020. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) leads a bipartisan group opposed to the move, including Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), a veteran, and Susan Collins (R-ME).

It remains to be seen what the final outcome will be. But perhaps in a cynical nod to the increasingly restive military - the president quickly reversed the decision after a national outcry.

(Reuters) - After an outcry from U.S. lawmakers, President Donald Trump on Friday said his administration would not be shutting down the Stars and Stripes military newspaper as announced by the Pentagon earlier this year.

“The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch,” Trump, who is running for re-election in November, said on Twitter.

“It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!” he added.

The independent military newspaper had been expected to stop publishing at the end of September after the Pentagon announced in February that it would be cutting its funding.

Of course we all know that no matter what the president says - the opposite is usually true. So add one more item to the "List of things that need to be fixed" after the next change of power.


11 comments (Latest Comment: 09/08/2020 18:30:31 by Raine)
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