Do you believe Snopes or Pam Tebow?


Snopes say they cannot confirm Pam’s Story.

English: Tim Tebow, a player on the Denver Bro...

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I opened a forward today because it came from a cousin. It was entitled “Pam’s Story.” The email told the story of a woman named Pam who served as a missionary in the Philippines. She contracted Amoebic Dysentery during her pregnancy and was advised to terminate the pregnancy. She refused, and  after a very difficult pregnancy gave birth to a son – a son named Tim Tebow.

This is a touching and interesting story, but there is another aspect that is also very interesting! Snopes cannot confirm the story?

How easy should it be to confirm this story

If one reads the Snopes account, it isn’t long before the reader realizes the story is true. Snopes CHOSE not to confirm the story.

Now consider these facts: The Mother’s story was told to the Gainesville Sun in 2007 and later to Focus on the Family. Snopes doesn’t deny that the Tebow family served in the Philippines as missionaries. They do not deny that while the family served there the mother became pregnant. There is no question about the mother contracting amoebic dysentery. The uncertain outcome of the pregnancy is not questioned. The parents both say the story is true and yet Snopes refused to write TRUE as the outcome of their research, but rather call into question the integrity of the Mother and Father!

The reason they give: Most Doctors in the Philippines are Catholic and Catholics do not ‘usually’ suggest abortion.

Who do you believe – Snopes or the Tebow family? I believe the Tebows!

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About jlue

I am a grandmother of seven and I like to garden, read, study the Bible, and spend time with family. I am not very politically active, but very interested in who is elected to lead our country.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Our World Today, Religion. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Do you believe Snopes or Pam Tebow?

  1. smijer says:

    Doctor-patient confidentiality would prevent a story of this sort from being confirmed. It is possible to believe both Pam Tebow and Snopes. As far as I can tell, only Blue-Green cultural identification and the phenomenon of arguments as soldiers could make it feel necessary to adopt an either/or position on the matter even though the possibilities are not mutually exclusive,

    I believe Pam’s story, and I’m glad that she made the choice she felt best. I am glad also that she was able to make it through a difficult pregnancy alive and without long-term harm.

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    • jlue says:

      Snopes should have confirmed the story based on the testimony of the parents and the mound of evidence that did support the story. Many people will never read past the large font words UNCONFIRMED. We all know that. I say the story was confirmed.

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      • smijer says:

        Snopes would have little value if they confirmed stories based on only the testimony of the person telling the story.

        Based only on the facts in your possession and your best understanding of cognitive psychology, what probability estimate do you put on the proposition that the story is true exactly in all of its details? How do you arrive at that estimate? What alternative explanations of the facts at hand did you consider?

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      • jlue says:

        Snopes claims to determine the accuracy or inaccuracy of e-mail forwards. It appears pretty simple to me. Based on what they had to report, the story should have received a Truth rating at best and a multiple truth values at worst. Snopes does not dispute the claims that the Tebows were Missionaries in the Philippines at the time Tim Tebow was conceived. They do not dispute that the Mother had a severe infection from an Amoebic pathogen and that she suffered a severe placental abruption as a result of the medications used to treat the infection. It is certainly well documented that in spite of all these adverse conditions, Tim Tebow was what one would call normal or viable. Since none of this is disputed, why would they not accept her word for the remainder of the story if they cannot find the Dr. who advised the mother. We have friends who are missionaries in Mexico and they make frequent trips back to the states when a family member is ill. It is possible that Mrs.Tebow came here or it is possible that the Dr. there knew she suffered a high risk of hemorrhage and therefore suggested an abortion.

        It would seem more likely that the Snopes staff have the same aversion to acknowledging the truth of the story due to the fact that the story might “promote an anti-abortion” message than the likelihood that Mrs.Tebow is lying. I know how absurd it sounds, but there are those who did not want Focus on the Family to be allowed to BUY time on the air to tell the story during a commercial break at the Super Bowl because it might “promote an anti-abortion message.”

        Look at one of the e-mails Snopes did confirm as truth:
        http://www.snopes.com/politics/soapbox/stjohns.asp
        and here is another pretty unprovable situation:
        http://www.snopes.com/science/cricket.asp

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      • smijer says:

        “Since none of this is disputed, why would they not accept her word for the remainder of the story”

        My answer is because that is not the function they serve. As you point out, they claim to determine accuracy or inaccuracy, not just “take somoene’s word” about it.

        It doesn’t seem to be merely true that they “did not dispute” (i.e. remained silent about or grudgingly assented to) a number of items in the story – it appears to me that all of the items you mentioned were explicitly related by Snopes. If it is as you say, and they didn’t get a copy of her medical records only because they did not want to confirm her story, then they should not have volunteered to confirm the other details of the story, because that confirmation – as you noted yourself – makes the overall story seem more believable. They should have avoided confirming those details as well.

        Your only circumstantial evidence against Snopes here is that real critics of Pam Tebow’s story fought against having it included in a SuperBowl advertisement. But if this evidence really condemned Snopes, they would not have wanted you to know it either. But, they included that information in their article, too – meaning that at least they didn’t believe that it was evidence against themselves.

        Let me ask you again, since you did not answer before: “Based only on the facts in your possession and your best understanding of cognitive psychology, what probability estimate do you put on the proposition that the story is true exactly in all of its details? How do you arrive at that estimate? What alternative explanations of the facts at hand did you consider?”

        Without answering this, I don’t see how you can begin to present evidence to support your accusation that Snopes deliberately chose not to confirm facts about the story that they could have confirmed. You seem to be employing a very low standard of evidence for this accusation. Is this the same standard of evidence you use for answernig most questions?

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      • smijer says:

        It would seem more likely that the Snopes staff have the same aversion to acknowledging the truth of the story due to the fact that the story might “promote an anti-abortion” message than the likelihood that Mrs.Tebow is lying.

        And again, I can only guess that some sort of cognitive bias is at work, since you seem still to be substituting the thesis that “Mrs. Tebow is lying” for the actual position of Snopes, which is that the truth of her story is unconfirmed.

        I presume that you understand (even though you did not answer the question when I asked “what other possibilities did you consider?”) that the story could be untrue without Mrs. Tebow having lied. And, I presume that you understand that the story could be true without Snopes having been able to determine that fact.

        So, even if you personally believe the story, you surely can distinguish between “status: undetermined” and “Mrs Tebow lied”, right?

        So why do you speak of the possibilities that Snopes acted correctly and that the story is true as mutually exclusive?

        Why do you speak of the alternatives as “Snopes deliberately avoided confirming a story because it could appear to have an anti-abortion message” and “Mrs. Tebow lied” as though they are the only options (or even the most likely options)? Can you justify this presentation? If not, can you find an honest mistake, not rooted in cognitive bias, to explain it?

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      • smijer says:

        Finally, I did review the articles that you mentioned. I cannot find support for you position in either of them. The first was a very simple matter, and easy to confirm with a second source. Furthermore, it was a positive story about George W. Bush who was a noteworthy anti-abortion politician. On your theory, Snopes should have avoided contacting Alexander’s office for confirmation.

        The second, you claim would be difficult to confirm (you substitute the word “prove”, but there’s no need to get into semantic debates… we can stick with the word we started using). I disagree that it would be difficult to confirm, and having seen how Snopes documents their confirmation of it, it did not seem that they had difficulty with it either. What about their method seems difficult to you?

        It seems to me it would be much easier to find out if any scientist had done an experiment about crickets and temperature than to find out if a specific doctor made a specific recommendation to a specific patient, without violating doctor-patient confidentiality.

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      • jlue says:

        To answer both Smijer and dcbentley:

        I certainly understand what “Unconfirmed” means and I also understand what Snopes does, but since some people do not I will try to use this example which makes it rather obvious.

        There is a story that was sent to Snopes for verification of twins who were separated at birth. When the children were ten years of age they supposedly by coincidence met at a park where the parents were camping and had parked next to each other. The mix-up that happened at birth was then discovered. Snopes cites the story as TRUE. Then they write:

        While the story did not play out in real life exactly as lore would now have it, a set of identical twins was indeed once separated when another child was inadvertently switched with one of them. This mix-up resulted in a birth family’s unknowingly raising as their own both their natural son and a child unrelated to them while their boy was adopted into another family. The boys weren’t ten years old when the baby swap was discovered, no camping trip was involved, nor had the mistake taken place hospital where the infants were brought into this world, but the story is essentially true even if the details of its telling have changed.

        You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the same standard was NOT applied in the Tebow case. Had it been applied the story would have been cited as true with a short paragraph explaining how the actual recommendation of a doctor cannot be verified due to doctor/patient confidentiality, however, the Mother’s story having been confirmed, and knowing the usual diagnosis in cases such as this there is every reason to believe the entire story is accurate.

        Snopes would not even have to write something so skeptical as what was written concerning the twins: ie, “but the story is essentially true even if the details of its telling have changed.”

        If those who are so deeply concerned about the accuracy of one short article written here would concern themselves with a full-time entity like SNOPES and hold them to a fair and balanced standard, propaganda mills would have a much harder time bending the minds of those who have difficulty knowing when they are being ‘had’.

        It seems that just the use of the phrase “anti-abortion” message, is a clue to what is going on in the minds of the writer. Isn’t being anti-abortion a good thing even if one claims to be “pro-choice.” Why should that even be brought up in this story? It should be considered a positive story!

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      • smijer says:

        You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand that the same standard was NOT applied in the Tebow case.

        If one could identify a different “standard” being employed here, that still is insufficient evidence of your assertion. Snopes has thousands of articles. It is quite possible that human authors will be less than 100% consistent in applying the standards they use for giving the articles a “status” merely because of human fallibility – without any devious intent whatsoever. In addition, Snopes is over a decade old. The standards themselves may well have been modified over time.

        But, in fact, it isn’t entirely clear that the two stories actually do employ a different standard: The cases are quite an inversion of one another. In the one case, the details of the story could be confirmed, but the central point of the story could not. In the other case, the details of the story could be disconfirmed but the central point of the story could be confirmed. The “Status” at the top of the Snopes pages seems normally to relate to the central points of the story.

        It seems that just the use of the phrase “anti-abortion” message, is a clue to what is going on in the minds of the writer. Isn’t being anti-abortion a good thing even if one claims to be “pro-choice.” Why should that even be brought up in this story? It should be considered a positive story!

        Here, it appears we are writing our conclusion at the bottom of the page and filling in the arguments above it. The terms “anti-abortion” and “pro-life” are both used once in the article, and the term “anti-abortion” is used to explain the doubts of the critic. The very next line reads,”Pam talked about her ‘miracle baby’… without any overtly pro-life message.” If you really must insist that the use of the neutral term, “anti-abortion” is a “clue”, then it is a clue that the article makes an effort to be neutral. And if you really must insist that the use of that term is a “clue”, then the use of “pro-life” in the same paragraph must also be a clue that the article is biased against the legality of abortion, since “pro-life” is a non-neutral term used by opponents of legal abortion. (Of course, the use of neither term is much evidence of anything really. This is just an example of the convoluted knots you get tied in when you start with the conclusion and then start cherry-picking for supporting “facts”.)

        In your post and your comments, I cannot find any evidence that Snopes is making an effort to do anything other than accomplish its mission: to help people research the accuracy of on-line claims. The only evidence you have is the use of both neutral and pro-life language, and a slim possibility of a slight difference in standards between this article and one other. And the fact that “you believe” Mrs. Tebow’s story (which, as the other commenter pointed out, isn’t evidence of anything).

        I cannot find where you answered the salient questions that I asked twice about how you estimate the probability that the story is true, and how you arrived at your probability estimate: answers that would likely help show why your “conclusion” (that you “believe” the story) is different from Snopes (that they “could not confirm the story”).

        I do find that you now admit that the two positions (Snopes could not confirm the story, and the story is true/Mrs. Tebow did not lie) are not mutually exclusive, but I do not see where you provided the explanation I requested for why, knowing that the two were not mutually exclusive, you insisted on repeatedly setting up that false dichotomy between them any way.

        The only evidence I find anywhere in your article and comments is evidence that the Hostile media effect is alive and well, and that partisan politics prevents people from trying to discover the truth: that it forces them to attack facts that are not “on their side” and defend falsehoods that do support “their side”.

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      • jlue says:

        As a matter of fact, I can write my opinion here and if I decide I want to I can be opinionated on every subject.Blog writers have this right given in the first amendment. I do not even have to defend my opinion. Whether or not Snopes is biased and how accurate their analysis is has been and still is a matter that has been questioned and should be questioned since they took on the task of telling setting the records straight concerning e-mail forwards. I did not take on that task, they did. If they expect readers to use their service they should hold to a high standard and be able to stand up under scrutiny. I do not have to do that. I did respond only because I chose to when you came questioned me rather than the writers who should be scrutinized.

        Your latest concerns:

        I cannot find where you answered the salient questions that I asked twice about how you estimate the probability that the story is true, and how you arrived at your probability estimate: answers that would likely help show why your “conclusion” (that you “believe” the story) is different from Snopes (that they “could not confirm the story”).

        I do find that you now admit that the two positions (Snopes could not confirm the story, and the story is true/Mrs. Tebow did not lie) are not mutually exclusive, but I do not see where you provided the explanation I requested for why, knowing that the two were not mutually exclusive, you insisted on repeatedly setting up that false dichotomy between them any way

        Do you wonder why you do not read both views and move on or why you are more concerned with proving Snopes right and me wrong that you spend so much time here? Do you consider why it is of such a concern to yourself that you feel the need to defend Snopes in this matter even when you see that they could have easily acknowledged the story as ‘true’ or even ‘partially confirmed’? Does the fact that you decided “anti-abortion is a neutral term make it so? Why don’t you scrutinize your own need to get so involved and understand why it bothers you so much. I know why it bothers me.

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      • smijer says:

        Does the fact that you decided “anti-abortion is a neutral term make it so?

        The fact that the terms “anti-abortion”, and “pro-abortion-rights”, minimally and accurately reflect the views of people on the two opposing sides, without unnecessarily emotive or value-laden language. They are generally chosen for their neutrality. Other terms are used by the opposing sides to “frame” the debate in terms that boost themselves (appealing to the framing effect, a cognitive bias). For instance:

        Pro-choice:
        1. Says little about the actual position (no mention of abortion)
        2. Attempts to frame by setting the position up as in favor of a good thing: choice.
        3. Does not create a real distinction, since most people are “for choice” regardless of their position on abortion.
        4. Was created by abortion rights supporters.
        Pro-life:
        1. Says little about the actual position (no mention of abortion)
        2. Attempts to frame by setting up the position as in favor of a good thing: life.
        3. Does not create a real distinction, since most people are “for life” regardless of their position on abortion.
        4. Was created by abortion opponents.

        Do you wonder why you do not read both views and move on or why you are more concerned with proving Snopes right and me wrong that you spend so much time here? […] Why don’t you scrutinize your own need to get so involved and understand why it bothers you so much.

        You know WordPress has a setting that allows you to turn off the comment section if you don’t like having your mistakes pointed out, and you don’t like learning about the kinds of cognitive bias that cause those mistakes. If what you want is a platform from which you can launch unjustified accusations against outlets like Snopes without having those attacks answered, then you can have that very easily, just by changing a setting. 🙂

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      • jlue says:

        If “anti-abortion” is fine with “pro-abortion” people, I certainly have no problem with it, however, I have been accosted for using the term “pro-abortion”. Would it have had the same effect if critics had attempted to silence Mrs. Pam Tebow by stating that her message was too “pro-life?” I do not think it would have aroused the same emotional response but I personally do not think the issue should have been voiced at all. I think if her message is pro-life or anti-abortion then so be it. She should still be free to tell her story and not silenced or marginalized.
        As for:

        if you don’t like having your mistakes pointed out, and you don’t like learning about the kinds of cognitive bias that cause those mistakes…

        You need to qualify this with “perceived” mistakes. You have in no way proven a mistake on my part. Snopes did exactly what I have written that they did. The only thing in question is their motive. Your cognitive bias causes you to believe that Snopes had logical reasons for confirming the partially true story of the twins while not confirming the true story of Pam Tebow. Your cognitive bias will not allow you do not see the connection between their use of the media’s term “anti-abortion message” and their failure to confirm the story. Had there been no connection, there would have been no need to report that part of the story.

        For some time I have noticed that Snopes is not entirely neutral in their decisions. Do I still use their service? Sometimes I do, but I also know to read for more information if it is a controversial topic such as this one. I will continue to point out inconsistencies when I feel an injustice has been done as I feel it was to Mrs. Tebow.

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      • smijer says:

        PeeWee Herman’s famous line: “I know you are, but what am I?”

        Okay… I will make one last appeal – if you have a solid case to support your accusations, then it would serve your purpose to present it and show how the evidence really favors your theory. If you have a case, you will find people will respond more if you present it.

        If you do not have a case, and it all really is just innuendo, then I suggest that schoolyard taunts won’t bolster your case. Instead, let me invite you to seriously reflect on the possibility that you have made a mistake along the same lines that most people with strong political opinions make.

        I invite you to consider the hostile media effect as an explanation for your affinity for the anti-Snopes theory you hold despite the absence of evidence for it.

        I invite you to consider whether someone who cares about the truth should treat arguments as soldiers, or whether they should instead invest themselves in the .

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      • jlue says:

        I have no idea how much time you have spent proving Snopes is ‘unbiased’. Have you taken notes and documented your work? If not, feel free to spend your leisure time there and present your findings on this blog when you have done sufficient research from samplings of e-mails that represent views held by differing groups in this country. Please try to cover the social, economic, religious, and political points of view of all parties. Maybe you can prove they are non-biased. Until then, I am satisfied to make mental notes, watch for biased language, consider the evidence, and read for more information when I am not satisfied with what I read on SNOPES.

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      • smijer says:

        That last line of the previous comment should end with “… instead invest themselves in the virtues of rationality.

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      • smijer says:

        I have no idea how much time you have spent proving Snopes is ‘unbiased’. Have you taken notes and documented your work?

        I have not made the claim that Snopes is unbiased. You have made the claim that 1) Snopes has bias, and 2) their bias is the reason for listing the status of the Tebow story as “undetermined” instead of “true”.

        By answer to your claims, I did not make the counter-claim that Snopes is un-biased.

        I only showed that you had no evidence to back up your claims, and that your claims were inconsistent with the available evidence [For instance: a)Snopes made special effort to include information that makes the Tebow story plausible – besides confirming the easily confirmed details, they also answered Tebow’s critics – showing that despite the criminal status of abortion in the Phillipines and the anti-abortion sentiment of the population there, there were several reasons why there was a signficant possibility that the doctor did recommend abortion. b) Snopes uses both neutral language and language framed from the anti-abortion perspective, but never uses the language of abortion rights supporters (“anti-choice”). Snopes provided enough information to allow the reader to evaluate the story well – and for both you and me, that evaluation was in favor of the story, based on the information provided by Snopes). These I have demonstrated. I did not claim that Snopes is never biased, so I have no need to prove it.

        Your unwillingness to assume the burden of proof for your accusations does not shift that burden to me. Neither does my unwillingness to accept the burden of proof for you bolster your argument that you have found a bias.

        Keep your mental notes, but do yourself a favor and put mental asterisks next to the notes that are very dubious, so that later on you will remember that they are based on supposition and innuendo rather than facts.

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  2. smijer says:

    by the way: about this, “Many people will never read past the large font words UNCONFIRMED.” That’s true. Not everyone is as curious as you and I about verification of internet rumors. That’s their right. Not everyone will even bother to check Snopes.

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  3. dcbentley says:

    Snopes concludes: “Ultimately, the issue was a private matter between Pamela Tebow and her doctors which (absent additional information) doesn’t lend itself to independent verification, so we can’t make any definitive statement about what she might or not not have been advised.”
    Unconfirmed does not mean ‘not true’ it means only ‘unconfirmed.’
    Nor does your defense of the article in question add any detail as to the complete truth of the entirety of the article other than ‘I Believe’ which is ‘evidence’ of absolutely nothing. Choosing to believe an article on it’s face because it supports your favored position does not strengthen the truth of the article.
    The original viral tale might indeed be true, and it might not, it is very likely that there is some actual truth mixed with some embellishment, as most stories of this type usually are. All snopes said was they could not find evidence to confirm the entirety of the truth as the discussions between Mrs. Tebow and her doctors were confidential and cannot be confirmed by any other method than what Mrs. Tebow says. They never said she was lying, only that they are unable to validate the statements via other sources.

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  4. Pingback: Pam’s Story and Sanctity of Human Life Sunday | Jlue’s Weblog

  5. puamei says:

    Aloha!

    As we all know, Snopes plays games with the truth. For example, It is widely documented that during his 1999 run for the presidency Gore said, “During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” It was in March, 1999, during an interview with Wolf Blitzer of CNN.

    When you check the ‘facts’ with Snopes, here’s what they say:

    Internet of Lies

    Claim: Vice-President Al Gore claimed that he “invented” the Internet.

    Status: False. http://www.snopes.com/quotes/internet.asp

    In the following justification of their conclusion, Snopes goes to great lengths to mince the words of Al Gore and – using a false premise – comes up with – would you believe? – a false conclusion!

    Mr. Gore said what he said! 99% of most readers would conclude his intention was self aggrandizement via the use of a false claim.

    So much for the factual reporting of Snopes!

    A hui hou, Puamei

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  6. If Snopes took anyone’s word about anything, ALL stories would be TRUE. There would be no point in them being there. They check the facts as best as they can. If you say “It is true”, and they don’t have to go any further what would be the point? Someone is going to believe a story. Also someone is not going to believe it! So what is Snopes to do? Say “True, according to Ms Smith” and also “Not true, according to Mr Brown.” So make up your own mind? I am quite happy with the way they check the stories, I am quite convinced that they do their best with checking all the stories.

    David Liddle.

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  7. jlue says:

    I feel certain they could and would do a much better job if they chose to do so. They have a liberal bias that shows up from time to time to time. Bias detection isn’t difficult.

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    • Rob Rich says:

      Like on this self-serving biased blog?

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      • jlue says:

        Snopes has set themselves up to be the “factual source” that will clear up all uncertainly. As such, they should be held to a higher standard.

        Bias is easy to detect and easy to prove. Bias is reporting what you want someone to know and leaving out what doesn’t serve your purpose and calling it a factual report. Bias is using language that sways your audience inside a news article or inside an article that is intended for the purpose of giving factual information only. Commentary and opinion are expected to be biased. News reporting should not be. When a nation tolerates biased news, freedom is in jeopardy and we should all be concerned and we should certainly become more aware.

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      • Pua says:

        Bravo! Well said!

        My next question is – is there any major news media that does NEWS sans commentary and/or opinion?

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      • jlue says:

        Great question and not easy to answer. Does anyone want to attempt an answer for this one?

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