Opinion

Stories I’d like to see

A video game called ‘School Shooting,’ backing the video gaming industry, and a qualified lawyer on hold

Steven Brill
Dec 3, 2013 12:30 UTC

1. Is there really a game called “School Shooting”?

Last week, the Connecticut State’s Attorney issued his official report  about the shooting a year ago at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. On page 26 the State’s Attorney noted that among other video games found in the home of murderer Adam Lanza was: “The computer game titled ‘School Shooting’ where the player controls a character who enters a school and shoots at students.”

Is there really such a game? The CBS-owned website Gamespot, which covers news related to video-gaming, reported two days later that, “The ‘School Shooting’ game is somewhat of a mystery. In the 44-page Sandy Hook report released this week, no details are provided regarding who made the game or where it can be purchased or downloaded.”

I hope someone is working on that mystery.

2. “Advocating” for video games?

While trying to learn more about the School Shooting game I came across the website of a trade group called the Entertainment Consumers Association, which represents the video gaming industry. Its “Advocacy” page led last week with the good news that the State’s Attorney’s report did not directly link video games to the Sandy Hook massacre (though the report did spend a lot of space listing all the violent games found in Lanza’s home).

“From both a political and a cultural perspective, these are challenging times for gamers. New issues that concern consumer rights broadly, but effect gamers specifically, have made our work that much more important,” the Advocacy page declares.

Trade associations are usually a good window on the arguments, money and politics associated with controversial issues. So the group that defends the gaming industry, whose revenues are increasingly dependent on products that simulate violence, would seem to be fertile ground for a good story on how the industry seems to have staved off fallout from Sandy Hook and similar tragedies.

Medicare meddling, the guns of Westchester, and Al Gore’s payday

Steven Brill
Jan 8, 2013 13:09 UTC

1)   Fiscal cliff Medicare meddling:

According to this report in the New York Times, last-minute negotiations on the fiscal cliff included new congressionally imposed limits on what Medicare will pay for “nonemergency ambulance transportation of kidney dialysis patients” and “would reduce Medicare payments … for stereotactic radiosurgery, complete course of treatment of cranial lesion(s) consisting of one session that is multi-source Cobalt-60 based.’”

Yes, Congress really does get that far down in the weeds when it comes to dictating how Medicare doles out more than $500 billion a year. This includes, for example, overseeing the payments Medicare allows, by state, for designated categories of ambulance rides (“critical,” “emergency,” “air evacuation,” etc.).

There are two obvious stories here: What scandalous overpayments or abuses in those nonemergency kidney dialysis ambulance trips triggered this intervention, and who in Congress pushed for it? Similarly, what’s the story behind those Cobalt-60 treatments?

The NRA playbook, Obama’s pot dilemma, and HSBC’s money laundering

Steven Brill
Dec 18, 2012 12:41 UTC

1. Getting the NRA’s massacre playbook:

In the wake of the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre, we’ve been reading a lot about school lockdowns and other emergency drills. Here’s an idea for some original reporting about a different kind of emergency drill: Reporters ought to get sources inside the National Rifle Association, or people who deal with the organization, to reveal the playbook the NRA must have developed by now to make sure the group can swing into action whenever there’s an outbreak of mass gun carnage.

Is there an email or phone list in place so that the first crisis team conference call can be convened quickly? Who’s on it in addition to NRA staff? Gun company executives? Lobbyists? Pollsters? PR people?

Is there a set script for the initial comment (such as “Now is not the time to talk politics”) followed by a sequenced set of later responses? How does the response evolve from the first days into the first week and then the second? Who is designated to make decisions about when to start responding to press inquiries and whether to do the Sunday talk shows, who should be the spokespeople and what the talking points should be?

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