An essay penned by a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill claiming a course at one of North Carolina’s flagship schools cast a favorable light on the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack has gone viral in the last week.

The freshman journalism student, Alec Dent, claimed in his essay published on the conservative news site College Fix that readings for the optional freshman seminar course “present terrorists in a sympathetic light and American political leaders as greedy, war hungry and corrupt.”

Problem is, as he told WRAL earlier this week, he didn’t actually take the class or read the listed materials.

UNC offers more than 80 seminar courses to its students but “Literature of 9/11” struck a chord with Dent. The course claims to explore a diverse number of themes related to the September 11 attacks, but for Dent it was not diverse enough.

“The class reading list is what first stuck out to me because it really got me thinking, is this a fair and balanced way of looking at the situation,” Dent said.

The freshman journalism major said that he looked at the reading list as well as the class syllabus before writing a piece for an online student publication called “The College Fix.”

Dent admits that he has not taken the class, nor has he read any of the books on the list, but he still felt the course was too one-sided.

“The more research I did into it, the more it seemed like the readings were sympathetic towards terrorism.”

A student who did do the reading and did take the class took issue with Dent’s description, saying that he enjoyed the class taught by Prof. Neel Ahuja, an associate professor in English at UNC, and found it was balanced.

Since Dent’s review was posted a week ago, it’s gone viral in conservative websites and media outlets, with outrage abounding.

Media Matters took a look at a Fox News segment, which had the header “Required Reading: UNC class sympathizes with 9/11 terrorists” and pointed out that the readings were not required, nor were they pushing a single point of view.

“In addition, the full list of assigned readings for the course does in fact contain diverse literature representing the perspectives of Arab-Americans, residents of New York City, members of the U.S. military and their families, survivors of the attacks, non-partisan terrorism researchers, artists, historians, musicians, and the international Muslim community, as well as several texts aimed to honor or memorialize victims of the attacks,” the Media Matters piece states.

Watch the Fox News segment for yourself below.


Tony Tata 2In case you missed it, this morning’s lead editorial in Raleigh’s News & Observer rightfully tells the state’s $136,000 per year Transportation Secretary, Tony Tata, to start focusing on his job and ditch the Obama bashing on Fox News with Sean Hannity.

Here’s the excellent conclusion:

“Why Hannity is turning to Tata for wisdom on the Middle East is baffling. Tata has no special insight into the region. Beyond that, the public learned all it needed to know about Tata’s judgment of military leadership when he publicly declared that Sarah Palin would be a better commander-in-chief than Barack Obama.

Beyond why Hannity would seek Tata’s opinion is the question of why Tata would choose to give it. For a former general, this seems a basic strategic mistake. More than a quarter of North Carolina’s transportation funding comes from the federal government. A state transportation secretary who makes it a practice to go on TV and blast the president for, among other things, endangering the nation, probably is not improving his state’s chances of receiving discretionary federal funding.

Adie Tomer, an associate fellow at Brookings Institute who studies infrastructure funding, said most federal transportation funding is automatic and beyond politics. But there are grants worth many millions of dollars for which states compete. A good relationship with the current administration can help a state gain a winning edge. North Carolina enjoys an edge with former Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx serving as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, but that edge may be dulled by Tata’s abrasiveness.

‘It’s a political town,’ Tomer said of Washington, even in agencies that are not directly political. He added that Tata’s criticism of the administration seems contrary to North Carolina’s requests for funding. ‘I just don’t see what there is to gain from it, especially because it’s not his current job,’ Tomer said. ‘Is that looking out for the best interests of North Carolina? It doesn’t sound like it.’

Apparently Tata’s sees his livelihood as being both a secretary of transportation and a retired general. He’s North Carolina’s own Secretary General.”



Tony Tata 2How does the leader of one of the nation’s largest transportation departments with 14,000 employees and a $4 billion budget find the time to be a prolific author of “thriller” novels and a regular military policy commentator for national media outlets? Are North Carolinians receiving adequate loyalty and dedication to the job for the $136,000 per year they pay him?

Today’s Weekly Briefing explores these questions.

Click here to check it out.

Lunch Links, Uncategorized

Santa Parade

As we wind down the the work week and many head home for an extended holiday break, here’s a few bits of year-end cheer.

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Thankfully, Fox News host Megyn Kelly — who declared that Santa Clause was, in fact, white — has been silenced.  It turns out that the big guy takes on many different colors and ethnicities, not a tough act to pull off when you’re a fictional character. Kelly, by the way, was not the first to land in hot water this past month for casting Santa in a single mold.

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Pope Francis joins in a selfie ( (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)

Pope Francis joins in a selfie ( (AP Photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“Who am I to judge?”  With those five simple words, spoken in response to questions about gay priests, Pope Francis shocked the world and managed to recast Catholicism as a more inclusive, open-minded and compassionate institution.  Here’s why Time magazine named him Person of the Year:

He took the name of a humble saint and then called for a church of healing. The first non-European pope in 1,200 years is poised to transform a place that measures change by the century.

Read more about Pope Francis in this New Yorker profile.

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Jan. 3, 2013. Sydney Festival's the giant Rubber Duck installation, Darling Harbour, Australia. This is the latest incarnation of artist Florentijn Hofman's famous oversized toy which measures 15m high and 18m wide and has been commissioned especially for this year's Sydney Festival. (Photo Damian Shaw—EPA)

Sydney Festival’s the giant Rubber Duck installation, by artist Florentijn Hofman. (Photo Damian Shaw—EPA)

The annual ritual of capturing the past year’s best and worst is well underway. Time magazine selected these photos as the top 10 — a choice that just gets tougher as more of us equipped with cell phones fancy ourselves photographers.

“Dizzying technological advances allow a mind-boggling number of images—half-a-billion a day—to be shot and posted online,” writes David Rohde in this Atlantic piece. Rohde argues that the world still needs professional photographers, though, who capture the moments that change history.

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Speaking of photos, here’s one that’s stirred up a bit of a controversy and raises this important question: Can you be a Springsteen fan and a Carolina fan at the same time?


Springsteen catching a Duke Men’s basketball game last night with his daughter, a Duke senior, at Madison Square Garden. (Twitter)

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Merry Christmas, all!   See you next year . . . . .

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Alex Kotch, who blogs at Progresivo and has offered some contributions here at The Pulse has an amusing take on some recent criticisms leveled at the Moral Mondays protests:

Fox News finally came out with their story on Moral Mondays this week, reporting that protestors “claim” the poor are harmed by legislation passed by conservatives, interviewing state Sen. Thom Goolsby but failing to mention that he called his own constituents “morons,” and giving NC GOP Chairman Claude Pope another chance to put down the protestors, this time comparing them to a losing football team:

“Would the losing team of the Super Bowl go protest the winning team’s locker room because they lost the game and they fumbled the ball? Come on! They are wasting taxpayer resources.”

That’s not the first time a conservative has made an unsavory sports comparison. But let’s clean up that analogy a little bit. Here’s something more accurate: Read More