January 14, 2016 Last Updated 3:14 pm

European markets sink following sharp US declines yesterday; textbook publishers the latest target of James O’Keefe

Morning Brief: Chinese markets, for once, can’t be blamed for the declines on Wall Street, as investors react to falling oil prices and economic data showing slowing economies

The US stock markets are set to open slightly up this morning, to the relief of just about everyone, after markets tumbled hard yesterday. The Dow fell yesterday nearly 365 points, or 2.2 percent, while the NASDAQ was down nearly 160 points, or over 3 percent.

traders-244This time it is the US markets that are leading, as Chinese markets have been fairly stable the last two days. But European markets are reacting today to the Dow’s fall by trading sharply lower today. The German DAX and French CAC 40 are both down over 2 percent today.

What is driving the sharp declines? Mostly energy stocks as oil briefly traded at less than $30 a barrel this week. Also, economies in Asia and Europe appear to be slowing.

“The biggest markets by capitalization are the U.S., the U.K. and Japan, so if oil money is selling, that is where it will come from,” a general manager from a Japanese brokerage house told the NYT. “Sell orders from oil producing countries were front-and-center today.”

It probably also doesn’t help that half of the US political sphere is bad mouthing the US economy, while the other half is saying things are improving.

D.B. Hebbard

The conservative activist James O’Keefe has apparently struck again, O’Keefe, famous for attempting to enter a Senator’s office dressed as telephone repairmen (for which he was convicted of a misdemeanor and given probation) and more recently for his Planned Parenthood videos, has struck again.

This time he may have felt he his a soft target, the highly unpopular common core and the textbook publishing industry. As his latest stunt had resulted in the firing of an employee, he may find himself again the target of a lawsuit. But the real story here is that the conservative muckraker has now gone after a corporation, rather than a non-profit. If (or when) it comes out that he has again selectively edited his videos HMH may think it wise to sic the lawyers after the man.

Here is Nate’s take on the story (slightly edited), originally posted at The Digital Reader:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt fired sales exec Dianne Barrow this week after a video was published that showed Barrow saying that she hates kids, and that for publishers “it’s all about the money”.

You can watch the video below, or read about it in the Washington Post or the New York Business Journal, but before you do I must caution you to take it with a grain of salt. The video was shot undercover style by an activistwho opposes the new Common Core educational standards, and it features many short clips of quotes interspersed with highly stylized graphics.

Speaking as someone who opposes Common Core and dislikes textbook publishers, I do not consider this to be a trustworthy or reliable source. The editing hackjob raises questions about the context and the actual meaning of the quotes. (I will explain further in the text after the video.)

Reached by the Washington Post, Barrow denied the accuracy of the quotes:

She said she had not yet seen the video, but after being told about the statements attributed to her, she said they had been taken out of context. “None of those statements were standalone statements, and they were completely misconstrued,” she said.

Barrow, who said she began her career as a teacher, said she believes that Common Core is a good thing for children because it creates consistent academic expectations across the country. As for the statement about hating kids? “I said that as a joke,” she said. “Who hates kids?”

James O’Keefe, the activist who published the video, has not posted the complete unedited original video, so we cannot tell whether Barrow is right or wrong. But at the very least we need to give her the benefit of the doubt.

As anyone who follows politics can tell you, it is very easy to selectively edit a video to change the message and sometimes even make the subject of a video say the exact opposite of what they meant.

Way back in 2010 Sherrod was suspended and then forced to resign from her position at the USDA after conservative blogger Andrew Brietbart posted a highly edited and misleading video containing parts of a speech which Sherrod gave to the NAACP.

The edited clip made it look like Sherrod was racist against a poor white farmer, while the full video told a very different story (you can find out more on Wikipedia).

Shirley Sherrod was ultimately vindicated when the full video was released, and Barrow deserves the same benefit of the doubt.

Unfortunately, she didn’t get it. HMH has already fired Barrow, and it has distanced itself from her.

“Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is as appalled by these comments as we expect readers will be. These statements in no way reflect the views of HMH and the commitment of our over 4,000 employees who dedicate their lives to serving teachers and students every day,” HMH CEO Linda Zecher said in a statement to the WaPo on Tuesday. “The individual who made these comments is a former employee who was with HMH for less than a year.”

I’m not surprised that they cut ties with Barrow; in the second half of the video she spoke the truth about the textbook industry and expressed regret for the way things are.

Barrow said what everyone is thinking, that textbook publishers are just in it for the money. This makes perfect sense; they are businesses and have a fiduciary responsibility to their stockholders.

But Barrow also said that it should not be the case. “In my opinion, education shouldn’t have a bottom line. I mean seriously it should not be,” she pauses, before adding “It’s the one place that shouldn’t be about the money. It really should about the kids.”

That quote, and the tone of her voice, makes me question the context of the statement that she hates kids.

O’Keefe paints Barrow as a greedy, heartless, kid-hating publishing exec, and yet she expresses regret that the textbook publishers are just in it for the money.

Something does not add up here. There’s more to this story that O’Keefe isn’t telling us, and I for one refuse to draw a conclusion until I get the rest of the story.

Nate Hoffelder

Media app updates:

Readbug: The indy magazine digital newsstand updated its app to fix issues with “loading images and the updating process from older versions.”

BuzzFeed News: Some search tweaks, but also an interesting admission that the developers are experimenting with the app:

We’re really into ~experiments~ on #teamnewsapp. Which means sometimes you’ll see things in your app that others might not. So if you’re one of the few who gets added to a groovy new ~ feed experience ~, a) don’t tell anyone b) kidding, definitely tell us what you think.

FiLMiC Pro: The powerful mobile video app, used by many photojournalists, received a bug fix update to fix some issues following the release of version 5.1:

What’s New in Version 5.1.1
This update resolves two key issues that were identified during the v5.1 rollout:

  • 2k/3k/4K processing issue. Resolves the irregular cropping that was applied for clips when processed for color correction or in saving to the camera roll. Only affected non-16:9 aspect ratios.
  • Green line issues on non-16:9 aspect ratios have been resolved.

Amazon Prime: A minor big fix update

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