Wal-Mart 'edits' a New York Times op-ed

A woman holds up a sign at an anti-Walmart protest. Image copyright Getty Images

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The battle between muckraking columnists and the big corporations they target just took a peculiar turn.

Our story begins with New York Times writer Timothy Egan blasting Wal-Mart for not paying their employees a living wage.

"As long as the Supreme Court says that corporations are citizens, they may as well act like them," he writes. He contends that many Wal-Mart employees receive wages that only barely keep them financially afloat.

"Wal-Mart, the nation's top private employer and the world's largest public corporation, is a big part of the problem," he writes. "Their humiliating wages force thousands of employees to look to food stamps, Medicaid and other forms of welfare... Working at Wal-Mart may not make you poor, but it certainly keeps you poor."

Here's where things get interesting. While some companies would respond with a press release or a strongly worded letter to the editor, Wal-Mart vice president for communications David Tovar took a different approach. His response came by way of an edited version of the New York Times op-ed published on the company's blog, complete with red-ink rebuttals scrawled over the text and in the margins.

Not only did Mr Tovar offer his differing perspective on Egan's argument, he also corrected the numbers and grammar, and even provided alternative sources and a follow-up story idea.

"Better idea for a piece," he comments. "Could focus on bringing back US manufacturing (Wal-Mart is buying $250b [£147b] in US products over 10 years) and expanding education, training and workforce development programmes, ie things that will make a bigger difference, not just focusing on starting wages."

Could this somewhat unusual display of public relations become the norm? Will other subjects of op-eds take on their commentators with red ink?

We eagerly await President Obama marking up the latest George Will piece and the US Chamber of Commerce offering grammar tips to Maureen Dowd.

In the meantime, one thing is clear: a clever response like Wal-Mart's does show that the company is aware of public criticism, even if it doesn't agree.


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Media captionSlaughter: US must prevent 30-year war in Middle East

Rethinking US national security interests - As stability in Iraq continues to break down, the US needs to look closer at its motivations for intervention in Iraq, New America Foundation president Anne-Marie Slaughter told BBC's Katty Kay on World News America on Friday.

"The real question is what are our national security interests," the former Obama administration state department director of policy planning said. "And the president seems to define that only as: 'We need to protect Americans from the threat of terrorism'."

With Iraq sinking deeper into sectarian violence, she suggested that the United States go beyond only focusing on terrorism threats, but more generally, the Obama administration should support policies that "prevent the Middle East from descending into a 30-year war, horrific destabilisation, where effectively countries come apart."

She said the United States cannot act alone, however.

"At some point, we really have to say it is in our national interest to use force enough to force the parties to the table and to work with the rest of the world to get a real solution," she said.


A tempestuous relationship with the West - Why have relations between Russia and the West deteriorated so quickly during the past few months? Although many Russians may blame Europe and the US for the current state of affairs, they have been nothing but supportive, albeit cautious, of Russia in the past, writes Alexei Beyer for the Moscow Times.

"The West did not prevent Russia from achieving a system of free enterprise after the Soviet Union's fall," he writes. "As a matter of fact, the pain that Western sanctions are now causing the Russian economy is the best proof that Nato and the West were not out to bleed Russia after the Soviet Union's fall."

Although the West supported the newly formed state at first, the corruption that followed Russia's post-Soviet privatisation programme provoked caution among their former adversaries, he views.

"The West and Nato were not at war with Russia when it emerged as a democratic nation and, if they were, the landscape would look far different than it does today," Beyer concludes.


Dropping the ball at the World Cup - Brazil President Dilma Roussef has missed an opportunity to showcase her nation's emerging technological industries during the World Cup, writes Andres Oppenheimer for the Miami Herald.

"Rousseff could have used the days before the World Cup to make major technology-related announcements, stage photo opportunities of Brazil's national soccer team in front of the country's technological powerhouses or suggested a more futuristic World Cup logo to stress the country's economic potential," Oppenheimer writes.

Although Brazil may win the World Cup, and images of Brazilians celebrating may further boost the country's tourism industry, "the tragedy is that Brazil has lost a magnificent opportunity to show itself to the world as a country that already can do much more than samba," he concludes.


The erosion of Egypt's press freedom and accountability - Following the sentencing of three Al-Jazeera journalists on terrorism-related charges in Egypt, the country continues to drift further away from democracy, writes international criminal law specialist Toby Cadman for Al Jazeera.

On 23 June, Egypt's judiciary sentenced Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed of Al Jazeera English to seven to 10 years in prison for spreading false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

"The trial and subsequent decision to convict shows just how far along the road to an authoritarian state Egypt has reverted," Cadman writes.

This decision should be a wake-up call to the international community, he says. "One must ask the question as to how the West can support a regime that detains and imprisons journalists for merely reporting on the current situation."

BBC Monitoring's quotes of the day

Middle East commentators continue to view the success of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis, also called Da'ish) militants with concern.

The region cannot handle the establishment of a "Da'ishstan" caliphate along the Syrian-Iraqi border. The world can also not accept the establishment of another Afghanistan in the heart of the Arab world and in an oil-rich area... Da'ish needs to be defeated." - Ghassan Sharbal in pan-Arab Al-Hayat.

"Clearly, Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki is trying to replace the Iraqi army with Shia forces under the leadership of Gen Qasem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, whose troops are currently guarding holy Shia shrines in Najaf and Karbala." - Makram Ahmad in Egypt's Al-Ahram.

"The existence of Baathist forces among Isis clearly shows the nature of this brutal terrorist group. The US and Saudi Arabia should answer for their role in returning Baathist elements to the Iraqi security and intelligence structures." - Ali Reza Sadeqi in Resalat.‎

Have you found an interesting opinion piece about global issues that we missed? Share it with us via email at echochambers (at) bbc.co.uk.

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