Concealed carry of guns on Kansas campuses: Potentially deadly consequences

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill allowing people to carry  concealed weapons into public buildings, including college campuses in the state.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law a bill allowing people to carry concealed weapons into public buildings, including college campuses in the state.

I’m the father of two daughters. One is a Kansas University graduate. Our other daughter is currently enrolled at KU, where three generations of our family have taught or attended.

So, I have to raise my voice in opposition to the 2013 Kansas law that will allow people to carry concealed guns on college campuses in 2017, even without concealed-carry permits. How can that be? The law provides no guarantee that someone, anyone toting a gun on a Kansas college campus would be qualified to possess the firearm or use it safely.

“The right to bear arms has long been among those constitutional rights held most sacred by the citizens of Kansas,” Gov. Sam Brownback said after signing the bill into law in April of 2013.

Right-to-carry or concealed-carry laws have generated much debate in the past two decades. Do they make society safer or more dangerous? Last November, a Stanford University study found that right-to-carry gun laws were connected with an increase in violent crime. The study debunked claims that more guns lead to less crime. Distressingly, the Stanford study found that homicides increased in eight states that adopted right-to-carry laws during 1999-2010.

I suspect many parents and students may share my concern over Kansas’ concealed-carry law. Should the law take effect, parents may decide not to enroll their children in the state’s public colleges. Many Kansas college students, concerned for their own safety, may take similar action. For the same reason, faculty resignations could follow. If this happens, enrollment declines, teacher resignations and associated revenue losses could be significant.

“Our students would rather not have them,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little in a 2013 Lawrence Journal- World story. “There is not a group on campus as a whole that would prefer to have concealed-carry on campus.”

A year earlier, Richard Johnson, chief of University Police at KU Medical Center, said allowing concealed-carry on campuses would increase security risks and complicate the job of law enforcement.

“Police must treat any report of an armed individual on campus with extreme caution and rapid response,” said Johnson in testimony before the Kansas Legislature. “How does the responding officer know which person in the classroom of 300 students is legally in possession of a firearm or is armed with the intention of killing others?”

The concealed-carry law will make matters worse for families, students, teachers and higher education in Kansas. It’s a loss for us all if it happens, and a risk I believe we should avoid. What do you think?

J-notes and such: April 25-29

Some passing notes from the journalism, new media, advertising/PR landscape-

OMG: It’s the Katie Couric gab and speculation fest- reports: Katie Couric: I Am Leaving CBS Evening News (People / TV Watch)
After weeks of widespread speculation about her future, Katie Couric is finally ready to go on the record. “I have decided to step down from the CBS Evening News,” Couric tells People exclusively. “I’m really proud of the talented team on the CBS Evening News and the award-winning work we’ve been able to do in the past five years, in addition to the reporting I’ve done for 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday Morning. In making the decision to move on, I know the Evening News will be in great hands, but I am excited about the future.” TVNewser: In the wake of Couric’s announcement that she’ll step down at the completion of her contract in June, Rome Hartman will return to CBS in his former role as executive producer of CBS Evening News, TVNewser has learned. B&C: CBS News is expected to announce Couric’s successor next week, after she anchors the network’s royal wedding coverage in London Friday. 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley is likely to be named to replace her. Business Insider / The Wire: Both CBS and ABC want the services of the star, but they are trying to distance themselves from her in the press. As the front-runner, CBS does not want to look foolish if it loses out on its current anchor, while ABC is hoping to avoid raising expectations. TVNewser: This could get very interesting at ABC News. Diane Sawyer, Couric, and Barbara Walters under the same roof? TVNewser: On their respective newscasts, both Brian Williams and Sawyer made note of Couric’s decision. TVNewser: Couric to PBS’ Tavis Smiley: “While it was such a privilege to sit in that chair that once was occupied by Walter Cronkite…you know…it’s a pretty confining venue.” / Media Alley: That Couric would decide to make her first official statement on her exodus to People magazine — and not, say, on the CBS Evening News — is telling.

  A hacker stole the names, birth dates and possibly credit-card numbers for 77 million people who play online videogames through Sony Corp.’s PlayStation   The Wall Street Journal reports that in what could rank among the biggest data breaches in history. A week after taking down its PlayStation Network, Sony said its popular online network had been hacked, affecting 77 million users.  Sony, whose gaming network has been offline for six days, disclosed Tuesday that an “illegal and unauthorized intrusion” between April 17 and April 19 resulted in the loss of a significant amount of personal information that could be used in identity theft.

Un-bear-ably bad news story from WJW-TV in Cleveland– Thanks to colleague Rick Alloway for tipping me off to this “so bad it’s actually funny” news story from Fox affiliate WJW-TV in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s just the local news reenacting a bear sighting, so that viewers will know what a bear looks like if it is two-dimensional and has to be held up by the person creeping along behind it. Click below to play.

Keith Olbermann resurfaces in June- Huffington Post reports Keith Olbermann finally announced what his new Current TV show will be called, and when it will air. The new name? “Countdown With Keith Olbermann.” “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Olbermann joked in a video announcement posted to his “Fok News Channel” site on Tuesday morning. Previously, Olbermann would only say that the show would air in “late spring.” In the video, he at last gave a specific date: Monday, June 20, at 8 PM Eastern. Olbermann’s show has been in the works since he abruptly left MSNBC in January.

Speaking of the royal wedding- The See-Through-Dress Incident: Sampling the investigative journalism inspired by Will and Kate’s wedding. Pardon that gagging sound. The broadcast and cable networks are sending more people to cover Will and Kate’s royal hitching than they assigned  to cover Japan’s devastating ( 14,400 are dead and 11,000 are still missing) earthquake and tsunami. reports Last night’s edition of

Photo by Mario Testion/Clarence House Press Office via Getty Images

Dateline NBC swanned onto the tube bearing the title “Kate Middleton: Her Royal Journey” and proceeded to devote considerable semi-journalistic energies to telling the story of a young woman from the provinces who will be marrying into a “good” family this Friday. Here was Meredith Vieira on the banks of the Thames, threatening to make her network’s weeklong march down the aisle feel like a monthlong trot through every princess fantasy Western culture has to offer.

(Bulletin: Guard Dismissed After Calling Kate Middleton “Stuck Up Cow” on Facebook)

CNN Presents also dwelt on Kate’s humble origins last night, necessarily so. She is, after all, “a commoner destined to be a queen,” as Soledad O’Brien intoned, in one of many resorts to talking about “fate” and such. But CNN’s stab at treating the royal wedding as a Meaningful Story—as opposed to the highly entertaining meaning-free one that it is—arrived under the title “The Women Who Would Be Queen.” It tasked Soledad O’Brien with teasing out psychodrama, talking over split screens, and drawing as many comparisons between William’s mother and his bride as she could without actively rooting for a ghastly horror to befall the latter.  NBC News Exec: Royal Wedding Is ‘Biggest International Technical Buildout Ever’– The Hollywood Reporter notes: “Yes, we’re moving to London. Where else would you be?” says Chris Hampson, NBC News’ director of international news. “Everybody wants to be here. You can’t sit in New York and tell this story. You have to be right in the thick of it.”

Digital Overload- From the Center for Media Research:
According to new The Digital Lifestyle survey by in April, consumers and web surfers are facing a torrent of data growing faster than ever before. 78% of respondents were Technologies, Journalists, Entrepreneurs, Executives, and Professionals, with 48.5% saying that they where connected to the web: “from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed.”

Connected To The Web
Connecton to the Web (% of Respondents)
Wake up to bed time


9am to  9pm


Most of the work day


Source:, April 2011

64.2% said that the Information coming at them today had grown by more than 50% compared with last year. 72.7% described their data stream as:  “A roaring river”, “a flood”, or a “massive tidal wave.”

People are missing important news, information, and appointments; friendships and family suffer, says the report.

  • 76.7% read email and respond evenings and weekends
  •  43.2% answer texts or emails on date/social occasion
  •  57.4 % never turn off phone
  • 33.0% check email middle of the night
  • 35.2% answer work emails while with children
  • 46.9% unable to answer all email
  • 41.4% miss important news
  • 39.9% ignore family and friends
  • 16.9% miss appointments
  • 62.5% wish they could filter out the flood of data

1Q Reports Show New Year Brings New Earnings Slump For Newspapers  The Poynter Institute- It’s not new, but it’s a slow downward trend leading to the end of newsprint. If 2011 is to be a turnaround year financially for newspapers, business needs to pick up briskly. Returns from the first earnings reports for the first quarter are familiar and distressing — lower revenues driving lower earnings compared with the period a year ago. E&P / NAA: Newspaper publishers drove tremendous traffic to their websites in this year’s first quarter, attracting an average monthly audience of 108.3 million unique visitors — nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of all adult Internet users.

Meanwhile- The Incredible Shrinking New York Times (Business Insider / The Wire/MediaBistro)- The New York Times has righted its ship after a near-death experience during the last recession. Thanks to sharp cost-cutting, the company has returned to profitability. And thanks to frantic debt restructuring, the NYT has also removed its creditors’ foot from its throat and bought several more years to figure out a long-term plan. But this happy escape has not alleviated the company’s long-term problem: Its core business, the print newspaper, is shrinking, and its digital business, however successful, cannot replace the lost revenue and profitability of the print business.

Apple & Google Summoned for Senate Hearing on Mobile Privacy- The Mac Observer reports:  Senator Al Franken has convened a Senate hearing on mobile privacy to be held on May 10th, and tops on the list of invitees are Google, maker of the Android operating system, and Apple, maker of the iPhone and iOS. Titled, “Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy,” the hearing was announced as controversy about the ways in which both companies might be collecting data about their users has mounted. Google reportedly collects data from Android-powered smartphones every few seconds, with Android devices transmitting that data back to Google “several times an hour.” That data includes location information for the device, as well as the name, location and signal strength of any nearby WiFi networks. Google has said the information is anonymous, though one researcher said that a unique identifier is gathered and transmitted.Apple told two U.S. Representatives last Summer in a letter that it was collecting data through its iOS devices on WiFi networks for use with location services. In that letter, Apple said that the data was transmitted via WiFi back to Apple once every twelve hours, and that the information was not tied to user (i.e., that it is anonymously collected).

Al Jazeera Journalist, Held At Guantanamo So He Could Be Questioned About Network- The Huffington Post reports: An Al Jazeera journalist was held at Guantanamo Bay for six years partially so he could be interrogated about the network, according to one of the files on the prison released by WikiLeaks and newspapers around the world.  Sami al-Hajj, a Sudanese national, became one of the more high-profile detainees held at Guantanamo during his many years of captivity.  Click below to listen to interview

A cameraman for the network, he was captured in Pakistan in late 2001. However, while the classified file released late Sunday says that U.S. authorities thought al-Hajj had Al Qaeda ties, his lawyer has long asserted that al-Hajj’s interrogations were almost exclusively focused on al-Jazeera.  The file says that he is being held in part because the interrogators want to find out more about “the al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL.”

The New York Times "Project Cascade" tracks the impact new stories have as they cascade through social networks.

A fascinating glimpse into tracking the flow of a news story (They call it “Project Cascade.” ) being developed by the NY Times. (For more on the group’s doings, check out the series of Nieman Lab videos.) Nieman Journalism Lab writes:

Some of the most exciting work taking place in The New York Times building is being done on the 28th floor, in the paper’s Research and Development Lab. The group serves essentially as a skunkworks project for a news institution that stands to benefit, financially and otherwise, from creative thinking; as Michael Zimbalist, the Times’ vice president of R&D, puts it, the team is “investigating the ideas at the edges of today and thinking about how they’re going to impact business decisions tomorrow.”

Hey Kids, Stop Asking Me to Do Your Homework: LA Times columnist Meghan Daum is sick of ‘entitled’ children who don’t think for themselves: 

Here are excerpts from Meghan Daum’s column — exactly as written — from just a few.

I have to write a paper about your article about Facebook. One thing I don’t understand though is what you think about Facebook. Can you please explain?

Hi, my name is ___ and i am the editor in chief of my school newspaper, and i am having so much trouble writing my column, i was wondering if you had any tips please help …

The teachers write in too.

I have a student, ____, who is writing a reasearch [sic] paper on your artiles She will be sending you three to five questions that she would very much appreciate you answering …

Couric expected to say she’s exiting CBS News this week (NYT / Media Decoder via– This is one of the worst kept secrets in TV news:  This week, Katie Couric is planning to acknowledge one of the worst-kept secrets in television: that she is leaving the CBS Evening News after five years. Then, as soon as she returns from London, where she will be anchoring the network’s coverage of the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton Friday, CBS will announce her successor during the first week of May. Let the speculation continue (That’s also been going on for months now) of who Katie’s successor will be.

“Don’t you track me.”  Online Media Daily reports:  The Internet guidelines group World Wide Web Consortium, which helped create standards for HTML, XML and other technologies, is gearing up to tackle online privacy. A W3C committee examining online privacy will meet at Princeton University on Thursday and Friday to discuss some of the key issues raised by proposals for universal do-not-track mechanisms. Topics up for discussion range from fundamental matters like the definition of do-not-track to operational questions like how cookie-based opt-outs can work in conjunction with browser tools to communicate users’ preferences. Almost 60 Web companies, academics and others — including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook — submitted position papers in advance of the conference.  Currently, three major browser developers — Mozilla, Microsoft and Apple — have said they intend to offer a do-not-track header. When activated by users, the header will inform Web sites that users do not wish to be tracked as they surf the Web, but won’t block content.

HOW TO: Find and Land Freelance Work- Good advice from Though freelance work is plentiful in many areas, especially creative professions like design and writing, actually finding jobs, writing proposals and negotiating with clients often took up more time than the actual work. Based on one free lancers own experience, plus that of three current freelance professionals, this article presents five tips for finding and landing freelance work.

Meanwhile: The New York Times gets faked out by fake Obama Tiger Beat Cover  Mediaite reports: The New York Times admitted that it made the mistake of treating a fake creation from The Onion as something legitimate. Last week the Times printed an article documenting the history of the squeaky-clean teen magazine Tiger Beat, and included a retrospective of past magazine covers. Unfortunately (or humorously depending on one’s perspective), in the collection they also included a parody cover created by The Onion, which featured President Obama.

Hopefully the New York Times won’t fall for this one either: (Click to play) 

Tweet This: Agencies Get 28% of Revenue From Digital: Ad Age reports:   Madison Ave Better Take Note — You Are Digital, or You Are Very, Very Unimportant.  Digital services accounted for an estimated $8.5 billion (28%) of the $30.4 billion in 2010 U.S. revenue generated by the 900-plus advertising and marketing-services agencies that Ad Age analyzed for Agency Report 2011. Digital’s share of agency revenue rose from 25.8% in 2009. In dollar terms, agencies’ digital revenue jumped 16.9% in 2010.

Who’s your daddy? Demand Builds For TV Ad Time  Adweek reports:  When the last trumpet sounds, the Big Five networks will ring up around $9.5 billion in 2011-12 upfront commitments, a remarkable feat considering that: (a) broadcast television is dead; (b) the 30-second spot is dead; and (c) the upfront itself is dead. NOT! On the cable side of the ledger, Adweek reports the national nets are expected to boost their total take by 15.3 percent, landing $9.23 billion in business––on par with the broadcast estimate. If this holds true, cable will also enjoy its most lucrative late-spring sell-off.

Koran-Burning Pastor’s Gun Goes Off Outside Detroit’s WJBK Following Appearance with Muslim Leader– TVSpy reports:  Controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones, who gained national notoriety last year for burning a Koran in protest of radical Islam, almost literally shot himself in the foot last Thursday following an appearance with a local Muslim leader on Detroit’s WJBK.  Jones, who had to pass through a metal detector upon entering WJBK’s studios, returned to his car following the taping and a gun, which Jones owns legally, accidentally fired a bullet into the vehicle’s floor. Jones was in the Detroit area for a planned demonstration in front of Dearborn’s Islamic Center of America.

Robert De Niro gets somewhat chatty about his love for the news … and ‘SNL’ The New York Daily News reports: Robert De Niro was willing to give more than one-word responses to NBC News anchor Brian Williams at Saturday’s “Directors Series” talk as part of the Tribeca Film Festival’s opening weekend. “Do you consider yourself an introvert?” Williams asked as one of his lead-in questions.  “I guess I am in some ways and in some ways I’m not,” De Niro mused, not bothering to expand on his cryptic answer.  When asked if he likes rewatching his old movies, De Niro clarified that he doesn’t ever browse through HBO in high hopes of catching himself in a replay of “Taxi Driver” or “Raging Bull.”  “I don’t do that, Brian,” the actor admonished Williams’ eager questioning. “I watch the news and I watch the ‘Today’ show.  I’m very set in my ways.”

Bloomberg News Crew Mistaken for Robbers- KTLA-TV in Los Angeles reports:  A Bloomberg news crew was surrounded by police in Hollywood Thursday after their SUV was mistaken for a vehicle involved in an armed robbery.  The robbery happened in the 8900 block of Shoreham Drive, according to the LAPD. Two male suspects took an ID, a gold watch and a ring from someone on the street. One of the suspects was carrying a semi-automatic handgun, police said.  About an hour after the robbery, an LAPD air unit started following a vehicle that matched the description of the suspect vehicle — a dark-colored Yukon.  Police said it turned out to be the wrong car.

Online video ads come up short in England- WARC reports: Online video advertising is largely failing to make a mark with UK consumers, a study has revealed.  Consultancy Deloitte and research firm YouGov surveyed 2,000 people, asking respondents what types of internet ads exerted the strongest impact on purchase decisions.  Just 17% mentioned pre-roll video clips within their top three on this metric, down from 28% two years ago, and 3% afforded them the highest weight overall.  Scores rose among 14-17 year olds, 22% of which awarded pre-roll a position in the three best-performing kinds of web advertising.  “The group we might expect to be most responsive – teenagers – are only marginally more open to pre-roll,” said Andrew Haughton, a Deloitte media analyst.

FTC goes after fake news ads on the Web

An example of what the FTC calls a fake news ad. Photo: From FTC court documents

The Federal Trade Commission has asked the federal courts to temporarily halt what it calls “allegedly deceptive tactics” of 10 operations using fake news websites to market acai berry weight-loss products.

The FTC seeks to permanently stop this misleading practice and has asked courts to freeze the operations’ assets pending trial.

Last fall,  I blogged about misleading ads in the Lawrence Journal World’s online edition that appeared as legitimate news reports.

Now the Federal Trade Commission has asked the federal courts to temporarily halt the allegedly deceptive tactics of the companies using using the fake news websites to market acai berry weight-loss products.  The FTC seeks to permanently stop this misleading practice and has asked courts to freeze the operations’ assets pending trial.

Interestingly, when I checked today, I found at least one major daily newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times, is running another version of those fake news ads which make claims about hometown moms pulling down thousands of dollars a month working from home.  Journalistically, this raises ethical questions so I called Sun-Times Managing Editor Andrew Herrmann today for comment.  He referred me to Sun-Times General Counsel Jim McDonough who emailed saying: “We are aware of this matter and we are investigating.” 

I responded to Mr. McDonough, asking when I might  to get a response regarding the Sun-Times use of third-party advertising on its web site. This evening, I received this reply from the Sun-Times counsel: “We will not make any further comments on this matter.” (More on that in a minute.)

Profit System Online is using an ad that masqueraded as a CNBC report .

The Lawrence Journal World pulled similar third-party web ads last fall that touted the virtues of signing-up for a so-called “Internet Income System.”  The misleading ads claimed it made one local mom $6,795 a month while working 10-13 hours a week from home.

I also found a similar  advertisement masquerading as a report featuring the logos for the financial and business news cable network CNBC.  I contacted CNBC about the fake CNBC report and was told-

“This company and its website have no affiliation with CNBC, and we are currently looking into this matter.”

From FTC court filing

Meanwhile in Chicago

The FTC announced legal action against third-party Internet marketers of acai berry weight-loss pills who may be using the same fake news websites to sell their products.

The acai berry comes from a species of palm native to Central and South America and has become a popular diet supplement in recent years.

According to the FTC,  millions of consumers are being lured to websites that imitate reputable news organizations whose “reporters” have supposedly done independent evaluations of acai berry supplements. The web sites claim the products cause major weight loss in a short period of time with no diet or exercise.

“In reality,” says the FTC, “the websites are deceptive advertisements placed by third-party or “affiliate” marketers.  The websites are aimed at enticing consumers to buy the featured acai berry weight-loss products. ”

More specifically, in a federal court filing in Seattle, Washington, the FTC wrote:

In fact, Defendant’s news reports are fake. The featured reporters on the sites are not
journalists and never conducted the research or experienced the results described in the report. The
“responses” and “comments” following the reports are simply additional advertising content, not
independent statements from ordinary consumers.

The influx of cases signals that the FTC views phony Web content as a serious problem, says Jeffrey Greenbaum, an expert in advertising law and a partner in Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.MediaPost reports:

The influx of cases signals that the FTC views phony Web content as a serious problem, says Jeffrey Greenbaum, an expert in advertising law and a partner in Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz.

He adds that the FTC has a long history of criticizing deceptive formats in traditional media — such as infomercials that appear to be real news programs. A series of enforcement actions around 20 years ago resulted in consent decrees that require infomercials to include disclosures stating that they are paid ads.

“It’s even easier to create fake content online,” Greenbaum says, “and even harder for consumers to distinguish it.” reports:

The news sites claimed to feature “objective investigative reports,” but the FTC states in its lawsuits that the reporters were “fictional” and never did any tests with acai berry products at all.

The sites had names like and, and featured attractive news “reporters” …claiming they had tested the products themselves. But everything about the sites—the news reports, the reporters giving them, even the comments—is bogus, according to FTC court documents. adds:

The sites also allegedly use the names and logos of well-known broadcast and cable television networks, falsely representing that the reports on the sites have been seen on those networks, the FTC said.

I mentioned that the website quickly pulled the misleading ads after I blogged about them last fall.  “We agree that this ad is misleading and unacceptable, and it has been removed from our site,”  Edwin Rothrock, director of marketing strategies for The  World Company said in a reply.

That’s still not the case for one (I suspect there are many more) other newspaper who risks its news credibility and the incomes of unsuspecting readers by running the fake ads.

The April 19 Chicago Sun-Times featured a series of banner ads at the bottom of the Herb Gould story about the Chicago Bulls play-off victory over the Indiana Pacers that link to two fake news sites. This one is for a fake publication called "Consumer Finance Reviews."

Case in point: Today’s Chicago Sun-Times. It featured a series of banner ads for at least two fake news sites at the bottom of Herb Gould’s sports story about the Chicago Bulls play-off victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Coincidentally, Chicago is where several of the FTC lawsuits have been filed  against the third-party Internet marketers the government claims are  using fake news ads to sell their products.

One of the Sun-Times ads clicks through to a website that masquerades as an investigative report by “Consumer Finance Reviews”  into an out-of-work mom who turned $47 into

The Chicago Sun-Times featured another banner ad for a fake news sites at the bottom of the Herb Gould story about the Monday Chicago Bulls play-off victory over the Indiana Pacers. This one was links to a fake online news service called ""

$6,795 by using an online work at home program.

The other Sun-Times ad takes you to what appears to be a report by an online news operation called  The so-called news report features a Lincoln, Neb. mom who also knocks down $6,795 a month by belonging to a paid survey club called Survey Revenue System.

I’ll be curious to see if the FTC’s action will shut down such misleading advertising for good. More realistically, the FTC’s action may slow down the ads pretending to dispense factual information produced by legitimate news organizations.

This is where I get preachy:  Newspapers and other news organizations who run fake news online ads should pay closer attention. After all, they are paid by these unscrupulous merchants to run the ads; the same merchants post misleading ads on news organization websites knowing they drive customer traffic to their fake news sites. The fake news sites then link to the sites where the merchants sell their questionable products.

Newspapers and other news organizations have an ethical responsibility to their readers and viewers to make sure no misleading third-party advertising appear on their websites. The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics spells it out:

Journalists should — Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.

False and/or misleading advertising is not good for news customers who depend on fact-based information. It’s not good for the news organization’s own legitimate news gathering reputation.

The FTC will ask the courts to permanently bar the allegedly deceptive claims, and to require the companies to provide money for refunds to consumers who purchased the supplements and other products.  The FTC charges that the defendants:

  • make false and unsupported claims that acai berry supplements will cause rapid and substantial weight loss;
  • deceptively represent that:
    • their websites are objective news reports;
    • independent tests demonstrate the effectiveness of the product, and
    • comments following the “articles” on their websites reflect the views of independent consumers; and
  • fail to disclose their financial relationships to the merchants selling the products.

The Federal Trade Commission has a new consumer alert to help consumers recognize and avoid deceptive claims made by fake news sites that market acai berries for weight loss.  It also has a new video detailing the risks of free trials, which often are used to market acai berry supplements and other products.

Thanks to,  the five lawsuits are listed and linked below. Except for the Vaughn suit, all were filed in Chicago federal court.

»  FTC v. Ricardo Jose Labra. [PDF] The defendant is accused of running fake news sites like and, which ran fake news reports and used the logos of major broadcast and TV networks. Labra is also accused of promoting products through fake blogs like

»  FTC v. Ambervine Marketing et al. [PDF] This lawsuit says that Ambervine and another company, Encastle, were run out of Minnesota by Zachary S. Graham, who ran fake news sites including and, which he called USA Health News.

»  FTC v. Beony International LLC et al. [PDF] FTC lawyers state that Beony was run out of San Diego by Mario Milanovic, who ran sites like,, and

»  FTC v. IMM Interactive, Inc. [PDF] IMM is located in Woodbury, New York, and hosted fake sites including, and The sites used the logos of major TV networks and had names like “News 4 Daily.”

»  FTC v. Tanner Garrett Vaughn [PDF] Filed in Seattle. Vaughn ran websites including and

What are your thoughts on these deceptive online ads? Give us your comments. We’d like to know if you think this form of advertising is fair and honest. 

Kansas lawmaker’s immigration comments draw gasps

Kansas Republican lawmaker Virgil Peck suggested it might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled -- with hunters shooting from helicopters.

Kansas State Rep. Virgil Peck said he was just joking Monday.

The Tyro Republican suggested it might be a good idea to control illegal immigration the way the feral hog population has been controlled — with hunters shooting from helicopters.

“Looks like to me, if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works, maybe we have found a (solution) to our illegal immigration problem,” said Peck.  Click here to listen to Rep. Peck’s comments.

Bad joke Virgil.  Racist joke Virgil.

I wonder if Mrs. Peck approves? Or your family and friends?   My guess is that most people aren’t laughing.

A century ago, some folks thought it was funny when they suggested lynching blacks in America. It wasn’t funny then. It’s not funny now.

Rep. Peck’s comments came during a discussion by the Kansas House Appropriations Committee on state spending for controlling the state’s feral swine population. According to the Kansas City Star, several people in the hearing room gasped after Peck’s remarks. Appropriations Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades later said: “I know that the preface to your question was an attempt at humor, but I would ask that in the future you refrain from comments that could be deemed inappropriate.”

Afterwards, Peck told the Lawrence Journal World he was just joking, but that his comment did reflect frustration with the problem of illegal immigration.  Added Peck: “I was just speaking like a southeast Kansas person.”

I’m guessing there are quite a few folks from southeast Kansas who would disagree with that comment too.

Peck said he didn’t expect further controversy over his comment. “I think it’s over,” he said.

As of Monday evening, Rep. Peck’s comments were circulating nationally. They’ve drawn criticism from groups like the Somos Republicans in Arizona.  Somos Republicans call themselves the largest Hispanic Republican grassroots organization in the nation and are “pro immigration reform. In a press release this evening group commented:

“There are people advocating to shoot the heads off of “illegal Mexicans”, and Peck’s behavior is extremely violent and inappropriate ..We are sick and tired of the bigotry from state legislators who would rather advocate for violence and shooting people than to focus on reasonable solutions. “

Closer to home Topeka Capital-Journal blogger Tim Carpenter gave his two-cents worth;

“If honestly framed as a joke, this legislator is not ready for a stand-up comedy gig. Certainly, his subsequent explanation stands as the type of sweeping analysis that fails to reflect nuanced reality of public opinion.”

I don’t think this is the last you’ve heard about your immigration comments Virgil.  After all, it’s one thing to say something like this in private.  It’s another thing to say it when you’re an elected official.

My bet-  That you’ll realize the political damage this might cause your career and make an apology sometime soon.  But, will you really mean it? pulls misleading ad

This ad on the website gave the impression that it's a real investigative report.

I am pleased to report that the website has pulled the misleading ads I have blogged about this past week.


I’ve added the ad on the left side of this page for you to see.

“We agree that this ad is misleading and unacceptable, and it has been removed from our site,”  Edwin Rothrock, director of marketing strategies for The  World Company said in a reply today.

The ad had appeared on the front page and other sections of the website and promoted  an investigative story by a reporter named Shannon Fitzgerald.

Click on the ad link and it took you to a story about a local mother named Jessica Holcomb who supposedly turned $97 into $6,795.  “We investigated and found a job that can earn you $77 hour from home,” says the photo caption for the ad.

Clicking on the photo led readers to this fake investigative report that masquerades as a sales pitch for Profit System Online.

The photo didn’t say it was an advertisement.  It gave readers the impression that it was an investigative report produced by a journalist.

The ad is actually for a company called Profit System Online.

The company markets a so-called “Internet Income System” that the ad claims made one local mom $6,795 a month while working 10-13 hours a week from home.  When you got to the bottom of the fake investigative story you found the small print from Profit System Online.

It says:


We are not affiliated in any way with any news organization. This is an advertisement for Profit System Online.

The small print goes on to say that the website is…

“based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this advertisement, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story. This advertisement, and the results mentioned on this advertisement, although achievable for some, are not to be construed as the results that you may achieve if you purchase the Profit System Online.”

Last week, I spoke by phone with Whitney Mathews, online editor at  She explained that buys into an ad network where the online ads originate. “What you’re looking at is something that’s becoming a lot more common in advertising,” explained Ms. Mathews.

A follow-up phone call to Tamara Hand in the advertising department went unanswered until today when I received another reply from Jonathan Kealing, assistant director of media strategy for The World Company.  Kealing explained that Ms. Hand had been on vacation. He added:

“Thanks for bringing this ad to our attention.  It’s a terrible ad that belongs no where on the Internet — at least not on what we like to think is a reputable news source.  As I think you’ve learned via Twitter already, and as I can confirm, we’ve blocked that ad.”

"It’s a terrible ad that belongs no where on the Internet — at least not on what we like to think is a reputable news source," said Jonathan Kealing, assistant director of media strategy for The World Company. Photo by Thad Allender, Lawrence Journal-World

Kealing kindly explained that the ad was provided by an advertising network the participates in so it can generate revenue for its online operation.

The network doesn’t allow to prescreen ads. can block ads though from the network that violate its advertising standards.

“This one clearly does,” said Kealing. “Unfortunately, those ad networks help pay the bills so we’re loathe to entirely abandon them while we work to build up our own online local advertising.  In time, we hope to not use an advertising network over which we have so little control.”

The World Company’s Rothrock added:

” The revenue from networks such as these are used by many, if not most, news sites to help keep the doors open and pay the salaries of our outstanding journalists here at the Lawrence Journal World… The downside is that occasionally, questionable ads slip into the stream. When that happens, we can (and do) go in and suppress those ads.”

Kudos to The World Company for pulling the misleading advertising.  The media company reacted responsibly in the interests of its readers when it pulled the deceptive  ad today.

I do wonder- Who at is in charge of screening their website for deceptive / offensive advertising?

The fake ad appeared on the front page section of  It ran for at least a week after I first noticed it.  If employees were more vigilant in this regard it would better serve the best interests of readers and the website’s own reputation.