- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chamber hoax

An activist group called the “Yes Men” duped the national press into thinking the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had changed its position on climate-change legislation to support carbon taxes.

The Yes Men e-mailed a mock press release on fake letterhead that was reported by a number of major news outlets, including CNBC, Reuters and the Fox Business Channel. The pranksters then held a hoax press conference at the National Press Club on Monday morning that appeared to be real until an actual member of the chamber disrupted it.

“This guy is a fake! He’s lying! This is a stunt that I’ve never seen before,” said real chamber official Eric Wohlschlegel, according to bewildered reporters at the event. He pointed to the man leading the event, who would only identify himself as “Hingo Sembra.” Mr. Sembra was later identified as Andy Bichlbaum, a member of the Yes Men, a loose-knit group of some 300 imposters.



The chamber was not amused.

“Public relations hoaxes undermine the genuine effort to find solutions on the challenge of climate change,” said Thomas J. Collamore, senior vice president for communications and strategy. “We will be asking law enforcement authorities to investigate this event. Beyond that, the chamber will simply continue to focus on a positive vision for getting people back to work and growing our economy.”

This isn’t the first prank Yes Men has pulled, making fun of corporate opposition to global-warming policies. The group’s Web site says Yes Men impersonates “big-time criminals in order to publicly humiliate them.”

“Targets are leaders and big corporations who put profits ahead of everything else,” it says.

In June 2007, the Yes Men posed as representatives of Exxon Mobil and the National Petroleum Council at an oil conference in Calgary, Alberta. There, they proposed rendering dead humans into a new product called Vivoleum and handed the audience “climate-victim candles” supposedly made from a dead Exxon janitor named Reggie, who died from cleaning up a “level three” toxic spill.

They aired a video tribute about Reggie. In it, the fake Reggie was interviewed and said, “I’m going to die anyways, yeah, might as well give it a whirl.” It ended with Reggie singing an off-key version of “You Light Up My Life.”

Palin on Oprah

2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will be sitting down with one of President Obama’s biggest fans to promote her new book.

Oprah Winfrey’s media company, Harpo Productions, announced Mrs. Palin would be coming on the show on Nov. 16, a day before her memoir “Going Rogue: An American Life” will be hitting bookstores.

Miss Winfrey voted for Mr. Obama in the 2008 election and most recently traveled to Denmark for the Obamas’ unsuccessful bid to get the International Olympic Committee to select Chicago for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Brain change

A new study conducted by UCLA has found that the Internet has changed the way humans think.

Researchers discovered that searching for information on the Internet stimulated areas of the brain that control working memory and decision-making.

“We found that for older people with minimal experience, performing Internet searches for even a relatively short period of time can change brain-activity patterns and enhance function,” said Dr. Gary Small, study author and professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

Outreach

Stalwart conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, shared a byline on a piece about government-run health care with an unexpected ally in an unexpected publication.

Mr. Coburn wrote a piece with GOProud’s Christopher R. Barron, published online by the Advocate on Monday about the problems with HIV/AIDS treatment under the Ryan White CARE Act (RWCA).

The Republicans said the federal program is riddled with inefficiencies that prevent sick patients from being treated or getting newer, more effective treatments.

“These shortcomings aren’t simply the result of insufficient funds,” the two said in the pages of America’s oldest gay newsmagazine. “An investigation by the Government Accountability Office found that the program was overpaying for many of the drugs it provided. The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector found that tens of millions of dollars were going unspent at the same time as patients languished on [drug-assistance program] waiting lists. Additionally, millions of dollars have been misspent on beachside junkets by AIDS executives and bureaucrats or lost to fraud and abuse. In Puerto Rico alone, millions of RWCA dollars never reached patients because they were embezzled.

“These bureaucratic inefficiencies and mismanagement have literally cost lives,” the Republicans warned.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com

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