When did disaster press conferences become like awards speeches?

Cartoonist and essayist Ted Rall asks a good question.

This is for you older readers: when did news conferences become long-winded acceptance speeches?

I’m too young to remember for sure, but there must have been a time when, after a train derailment or a tornado or a flood or a race riot or whatever, public officials stepped up to the microphones to deliver a status update (“as soon as we learn more, we’ll let you know”), and perhaps some advice to the public (“avoid downed live wires, especially the ones that are sparking, like in that movie The Ice Storm”), answered reporters’ questions and left the stage.

Today’s news conferences are a dreary, undignified mélange of pro forma acknowledgements and sentimental pabulum.

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The strange case of Dennis Hastert

I am in Washington, DC for a conference and so read the hard-copy version of the local paper the Washington Post. One thing about reading the hard copy is that one tends to go through the entire paper rather than zeroing in on the main topics you are interested in when you read it online. The big story today was the indictment of the former speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, who retired from Congress in 2007 and (surprise!) became a high-paid lobbyist.
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The US and Israel block the creation of a nuclear-free Middle East

The US and Israel repeatedly use the threat of nuclear weapons being developed by other countries as the basis for going to war. They used that fear of an ‘imminent’ nuclear threat in the case of Iraq even though that was known to be false. And now they are using that same argument against Iran. So you would think that they would welcome a move towards nuclear non-proliferation in that region, right?
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Update on the status of the USA Patriot Act

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept interviewed the ACLU’s Deputy Legal Director, Jameel Jaffer about the maneuvering behind the USA Patriot Act whose provisions under section 215 will expire because of sunset provisions on June 1 unless Congress acts to pass something. The House has passed something known as the USA Freedom Act that revised some key provisions of section but that failed to pass in the Senate.
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Book review: The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

For many people of my generation, the Vietnam war was a turning point that radicalized us. For the first in our lives, we saw a cruel war waged by a massive military power that used chemical and biological weapons on a massive scale against a much weaker nation and a defenseless population and whose effects will be felt for generations to come. But we also saw how that military could be defeated by a determined population that was fighting to repel foreign invaders and their local puppets. We saw first hand how the US government and its allies lied shamelessly in the effort to advance its imperialist ambitions, cloaking its real goals behind the rhetoric of democracy. That undoubtedly colored our view of geopolitics and is maybe why we saw so clearly the lies that led to the Iraq war and can also see the same dynamic trying to be resurrected against Iran.
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