The Fake Article that Promises Real Results

It’s not uncommon for advertisers to use fake news articles to lure you into buying something. But so long as you remember that most actual articles aren’t riddled with misspellings, grammatical errors, and phrases like “a deadly combo for getting insanely ripped,” you should be OK


If the intent of a news article is to inform, is the intent of a fake news article to misinform?

Earlier this year, received an email that linked to an apparent news article that touted the incredible fat-burning and muscle-building benefits of two dietary supplements, Xtreme Nitro and Maxx Test 300. Under the guise of an article, the webpage informed visitors of the “clinically proven” capabilities of the two supplements.

But scroll down a bit — well, to the bottom of the page a bit — and a reader would find that there’s nothing newsy about the article at all. In fact, it’s closer to something out of Hollywood. The terms and conditions in the fine print read:

THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT AN ACTUAL NEWS ARTICLE, BLOG, OR CONSUMER PROTECTION UPDATE. [...] This website, and any page on the website, is based loosely off a true story, but has been modified in multiple ways including, but not limited to: the story, the photos, and the comments. Thus, this page, and any page on this website, are not to be taken literally or as a non-fiction story. [...]

Good thing no one takes health advice literally.

Admittedly, there were red flags that pointed to a lack of journalism excellence. Namely, a barrage of spelling and grammatical errors that started with the title on top, “Strenght Muscle,” and continued with this gem: “The two supplemental are clinically proven to flush out all the junks in your body and melt away body fat without harming your immune system.” Is “junks” a scientific term?

It’s not uncommon for advertisers to use fake news articles to lure you into buying something. But so long as you remember that most actual articles aren’t riddled with misspellings, grammatical errors, and phrases like “a deadly combo for getting insanely ripped,” you should be OK.

If you spot a sly terms and conditions policy during your travels online, tell us and we’ll consider featuring it next time in this continuing series, Terms of Surrender.



Ranjit Sinha Is the Symptom
The malaise of corruption and influence-buying is deeply ingrained in the system
Activist and advocate Prashant Bhushan has rendered yeoman service by informing the Supreme Court of India about the goings-on at the residence of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ranjit Sinha. He added substance to his allegation that CBI’s Mr Sinha was going slow on various mega scam investigations by revealing the list of visitors to Mr Sinha’s home; and the list is truly startling. 
Key functionaries of the Anil Ambani group allegedly met Mr Sinha 50 times in 15 months. The accused in every major scam under CBI’s investigation, including controversial meat-exporter and alleged hawala-dealer Moin Akhtar Qureshi, have been frequenting Mr Sinha’s home; some even thrice a day. This is gross impropriety. The Supreme Court has issued a notice to Mr Sinha even as CBI tried to gag the media. 
As an aside, we also discover the CBI chief’s maharaja-like lifestyle. The Economic Times says he has seven cooks, 22 domestic helpers and a cobbler at his disposal, all paid by the exchequer. That the CBI director, who is lower than a joint secretary in the pecking order of government, can live like a king, tells you how our public funds are being misused. 
The sordid episode throws light on the various investigating arms of the government. The CBI director has immense power over the lives and reputations of individuals, companies and institutions in India. He can initiate, or close, investigations at will; arrest people or destroy careers without accountability, to please political masters. The income-tax and enforcement departments and the department of revenue intelligence (DRI) are equally willing handmaidens when it comes to working on political instructions. 
A slow judicial system with its propensity to remain silent about judicial corruption, as has been revealed by Justice Makrandey Katju on his blog, dissuades people from fighting back. The few, who do, often end up broken and frustrated by the system at every turn.
The misuse of government investigation agencies began almost immediately after independence but peaked under United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. We saw a decade when unbridled corruption and mind-boggling scams were allowed to flourish in the name of ‘coalition dharma’. 
The lay public may be shocked at reports about the CBI chief’s visitors, but many of us in the media have been helpless spectators of this gross corruption over the decades. Helpless because those who blithely give out details about corrupt people and practices will do nothing to stop it nor provide proof to allow publication.
• Consider some reactions that I have heard in the week that Mr Sinha was making news.
An IIM professor who conducted a training programme for senior income-tax officers was reportedly told by one attendee “some of us are losing Rs1 crore a day attending this programme.” We frequently hear from government insiders that top income-tax and police appointments, especially in Delhi and Mumbai, are auctioned. How do we prove it, when there are no whistleblowers?
• A senior RBI (Reserve Bank of India) official names a couple of bank chairmen who, he thought, were more likely candidates for CBI’s sting operation on Syndicate Bank and Bhushan Steel. He claims that one chairman was cautioned by RBI after reports about his corrupt ways escalated. He cannot say why no action was initiated against him, instead of issuing a mere word of caution. The rise in corruption at banks is in direct proportion to the ballooning of bad loans even as RBI remains a silent spectator. 
• We have been hearing about a finance ministry bureaucrat who was exceedingly rude and humiliating to bank chairmen. Rampant corruption was also one of his qualities that has attracted the PM’s attention. Is the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) only a bugbear for mid-career bureaucrats? Isn’t it curious that neither CVC nor CBI has such corrupt bureaucrats in its crosshairs?
• The Serious Frauds Office of the United Kingdom brought corruption charges against Alstom (UK) for allegedly paying a bribe of over three million euros to the Delhi Metro Rail officials in 2001 to secure a contract for a train control, signalling and telecommunications system. It reminds us of how the Securities & Exchange Board of India (SEBI) under CB Bhave wound up an investigation into the round-tripping of a massive $250 million into Reliance Communications with a consent order and no admission of guilt. Anil Ambani’s Reliance ADAG paid just Rs50 crore and managed a vague and opaque public disclosure without admission of guilt, even though the Financial Services Authority (FSA) of the UK issued a far more explicit order and also fined the UBS bankers $2 million.  
Can we expect this to change? Prime minister Narendra Modi has made several clear commitments to the people of India. “We have to create systems where there is no injustice against anybody,” he tweeted. More specifically, he promised to act as a ‘chowkidar’ (guard) who would prevent the plunder of national wealth. “I will neither take a bribe not allow anyone else to accept one,” he has said. 
We know this is easier said than done. Other than a rumour about the PM having actually asked the son of a senior leader to return a bribe, we have yet to see any change down the line, especially in regulatory and investigation agencies.  
Conflict of interest often breeds corruption. The government is working on the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, but who really believes it will make a difference? Then there is the lapsed private member’s Bill on conflict of interest introduced in the Rajya Sabha by Dr EMS Natchiappan.  
A multi-disciplinary group of NGOs called the Alliance against Conflict of Interest (AACI) is working to resurrect and improve on it by putting together a detailed note with documented cases of how conflict breeds corruption and skews policy-making and regulation in diverse areas—from education to public health, food, safety, environment or finance. 
Transparency International, a global NGO that tracks corruption, defines ‘conflict of interest’ as “any situation where an individual or an entity, whether a government, business, media outlet or civil society organisation, is confronted with choosing between the duties and demands of their position and their own private interests.” 
In India, every position is influenced by corruption or nepotism and duty is never a consideration. This is at its worst when it comes to public servants and bureaucrats. While politicians face the ballot every five years, corrupt bureaucrats can damage the system for decades, especially when they are due to retire. 
Even the most egregious cases of conflict, where retiring bureaucrats or chairmen of nationalised banks, insurance companies or regulatory bodies have immediately accepted lucrative advisory positions or board directorships with private and foreign companies, are rarely questioned. The mandatory cooling-off period is usually invoked only as an act of revenge rather than regular discipline. 
The AACI points out how policies that decide people’s livelihoods and set standards for their food and health are set by advisory bodies/groups/committees that are riddled with conflict of interest. Powerful corporate influence is visible everywhere. This was legitimised over the past decade under the guise of public-private partnerships, such as the PHFI (Public Health Foundation of India), which also obtained huge tracts of land and funding from Union and state governments. 
Conflict of interest is just as destructive when it works in a covert fashion, where powerful corporate and vested interests influence policy-makers to engage only with NGOs under their control and influence. 
The consequence is bad law, unfair systems, more litigation and, in the worst case, public anger and protests. Suppressing any discussion on these issues in the mainstream media is another manifestation of the conflict-corruption nexus which is even harder to break.



Sankara Narayan

3 years ago

Our corruption cases are brought to light by foreign Govt agencies!e.g Westland helicopter Deals , Delhi Metro....It is not very difficult to make crime does not pay . But how a corrupt machinery will bring about anything like that ? In the not too distant future corrupt ones may form even a trade union as shown in a cartoon some years back !

Maninder Singh

3 years ago

Instead of arranging domestic matter Mr. Modi is busy in building foreign relations. Why CBI is keeping all convicts in custody for years? This shows no sense.


Dayananda Kamath k

In Reply to Maninder Singh 3 years ago

do you mean to say they should be let off free to do further scams. you can not run a country by looking at domestic matter only. congress did it looking at their personal welfare only.

Ramesh Bajaj

3 years ago

The malaise of corruption and influence-buying is deeply ingrained in the system.

It is unbelievable, how an ordinary common man can suffer the injustice because of "use" of influential people.

Here you are writing about people in high places, but I am talking about the common man, like me, who has no influence and does not know influential people .
Ramesh Bajaj

vihari patel

3 years ago

A disturbing article by Sucheta who deserves kudos for her boldness and content with evidence. If Supreme Court appeared to be the last hope, we now find not so? That leaves the current PM only. Yes, let us see if Mr. Modi shows finesse in changing and reigning in the corrupt system, corrupt ministers, corrupt bureaucrats of India.One great example, like sacking the CBI Director, will raise our hopes.


3 years ago


You have rightly hit the bulls eye by pointing what is ailing the system.

The whole system is designed in such a way that those in power are not accountable for their actions while they can make life miserable for ordinary people.

Judiciary which is supposed
to go after the corrupt is
asking the identity of the
messenger instead of finding
about the truth in the message.

When the ruling class appoints
to powerful posts only those who will subserve their
interest, how one can expect any change.

Unless the Prime Minister takes
some drastic action and live
by his promise, nothing will change.


Dayananda Kamath k

In Reply to PRAKASH D N 3 years ago

but media is against modi initiating action about the corrupt practices of previous regime by finding technical points and highlighting inconsequential aspects of the action and trying to show him as authoritarian and hindu fanatic

jaideep shirali

3 years ago

Mr Sinha's attempt at trying to get the whistleblower is ridiculous and the arguments given by his lawyer even worse. It's shocking that the source of evidence is given more prominence than its implication, that too by the SC. Tomorrow, a lawyer will question the evidence given by, say a prostitute, on the grounds that given her 'character', the evidence is questionable,forget whether it nails the accused. As a citizen, I support Prashant Bhushan. There are clerks and other persons in the SC whose connivance can be easily bought to disclose whistle blower identity. In sum, the fact is that across the neta babu spectrum, we need more stringent punishment, mainly confiscation of all assets, because money is the backbone of their arrogance. The moot question is how to expect this class to punish themselves? As a country, we have become so used to corruption, that those who stand against it are termed fools. One can expect nothing from the BJP, there is no difference, no urgency to expedite trials and punish the guilty. We are still in the "setting kar diya" mood.

Uday Sheorey

3 years ago

It is wishful thinking to expect BJP to do anything substantial about this rapidly spreading disease - its just not in their DNA, for example, the speedy transfer of the CVC officer from AIIMS. The only way is for all of us is a) enter adequate details on a websit ( ?) via the web, and b) to wholeheartedly support brave people such as Prashant Bhushan & the AAP.


Dayananda Kamath k

In Reply to Uday Sheorey 3 years ago

they are also selective in their protests and actions. i have mailed to both of them how the country is looted in gold imports through nominated agencies but they do not have any response.

Clue Dance

In Reply to Uday Sheorey 3 years ago

I also agree.
Let us wait and see how many people of our Nation who happen to read this agree also!

sivaraman anant narayan

In Reply to Uday Sheorey 3 years ago

I agree

Dahyabhai S Patel

3 years ago

Corruption could be brought under control if bribe giver is not considered the culprit primarily unless proven otherwise and punished stringently; onus of proving the bribe giving must be put on the government officials/office bearers as they are supposed to get things done for the common people and for that they are handsomely paid with perks!!!!


3 years ago

Why Supreme court is interested in the name of whistle blower but not in the truth of allegations? This says it all


Dayananda Kamath k

In Reply to captainjohann 3 years ago

cvc rajana kumari revealed the name of central bank of india general manager to cvc for being whistle blower and he was harassed by cmd and defend his case bank spent public money of more than 60 lakhs and gm was to be reinstated on his last working day by court order. what action has been initiated against the cvc and cmd who wasted the public money. i my self has sent a complaint to CJI as to how in karnatak high court justice is delayed and denied, and rather legal stamp is being given to illegal intentions of powerful and rich.

Dayananda Kamath k

In Reply to captainjohann 3 years ago

that is the independence of judiciary advocated by CJI

Clue Dance

3 years ago

Dear Sucheta,

Your article "The malaise of corruption and influence-buying is deeply ingrained in the system", I just read. People like me are thankful to you. I haven't read you before. Our system is depressingly corrupt, many people like me have left reading news even, I think. But this is never the answer to corruption, but brave attempts at trying to stop it by people like you, Shanti Bhushan, Arvind Kejriwal and a few others.

I and people like me have now revived hope in recovering our system from corruption, thanks to the AAP's tireless attempts at the same.

I would like your opinion on AK & AAP. Can they do some good?

Thanks and congratulations for your bold and well covering anti corruption article.
Clue Dance


3 years ago

it is the fact that why people choose a GOVERNMENT JOB ? no has to QUESTION , live life KING-SIZE.

Simple Indian

3 years ago

It is amazing that the country's premier investigating agency doesn't have sufficient statutory backing, but instead was setup and exists under a Delhi police Act. When other major institutions like SEBI, RBI, and even SBI can be created & maintained with exclusive Acts of Parliament, why not one for our so-called 'premier' investigating agency ?
Also, CBI must be made accountable to a Parliament Standing Committee to enable it to function free from political interference from the govt of the day. The Director ought to be chosen by a similar committee comprising of PM, CJI, LoP-LS, & Home Minister, with a veto power to each of them (so only consensus can prevail, to avoid the P.J. Thomas as CVC episode). Though politician-bashing for all ills of the country is a fashionable hobby for most people, we forget that it's the highly-qualified and competent civil servants who are equally big crooks, and both netas and babus swindle with each other's connivance. Perhaps, our MPs should visit Singapore and some Scandinavian countries which have excellent governance models, with minimal corruption. But then, those models may suit those countries due to their cultures and their limited population, enabling a more equitable distribution of resources. Gross overpopulation in India has never been taken seriously, but remains our biggest bane, and hurdle towards progress.



In Reply to Simple Indian 3 years ago

Couldnt agree more, especially the last point. Overpopulation is something no one seems to be worried about. We seem smug about our 'demographic dividend'- but what about all the additional houses, clean water, transportation and other resources required?

Dayananda Kamath k

In Reply to Abhishek 3 years ago

we are also increasing demography of regulators. instead of correcting the functioning of existing regulators we are going for super and double super regulators, lokayukta and what not, to regulate the regulators. this is not the solution. more the number of regulators more confusion as everybody want to show it is functioning but not in the interest of public good.

Dayananda Kamath k

3 years ago

it is not symptom it is the legacy of congress. for making such appointments they need leader of opposition post when people have rejected them.

Sudhir Kamath

3 years ago

Eye opener!!! Awesome article... Hats off lady..keep it up.

Praveen Sakhuja

3 years ago

it is rightly said - The malaise of corruption and influence-buying is deeply ingrained in the system. details mentioned and un-covering of past appointments during UPA prove boosting corruption through corrupt appointments of corrupt officials at top levels. Story has a gap which I fill. Director Export Inspection Council appointed in 2009 carries record of those educational qualification declared and taken on records course of which is not run by the university he did the course. AMU debnies of running any such course. Exposure to this plus misuse of power by permitting sub standard rice consignments not meeting the required parameters as laid down y EU countries and GOI plus allowing purchase of aquaculture products from non registered bodies over ruling GOI instruction proves - In India, every position is influenced by corruption or nepotism and duty is never a consideration. It is also rightly said - “any situation where an individual or an entity, whether a government, business, media outlet or civil society organization, is confronted with choosing between the duties and demands of their position and their own private interests.” Concluding PM and team be given time of at least 2 years to take over such positions which have been breading since last more than 50 years. I am sure all mentioned will be taken on records for remedies with others mentioned.

Why Do Democrats Keep Trying to Ban Guns That Look Scary, Not the Guns That Kill the Most People?

On the twentieth anniversary of the assault weapons ban, a look at why politicians and the public support a policy that showed no evidence of saving lives


This story was co-published with the New York Times.

Over the past two decades, the majority of Americans in a country deeply divided over gun control have coalesced behind a single proposition: The sale of assault weapons should be banned.

That idea was one of the pillars of the Obama administration’s plan to curb gun violence, and it remains popular with the public. In a poll last December, 59 percent of likely voters said they favor a ban.

But in the 10 years since the previous ban lapsed, even gun control advocates acknowledge a larger truth: The law that barred the sale of assault weapons from 1994 to 2004 made little difference.

It turns out that big, scary military rifles don’t kill the vast majority of the 11,000 Americans murdered with guns each year. Little handguns do.

In 2012, only 322 people were murdered with any kind of rifle, F.B.I. data shows.
The continuing focus on assault weapons stems from the media’s obsessive focus on mass shootings, which disproportionately involve weapons like the AR–15, a civilian version of the military M16 rifle. This, in turn, obscures some grim truths about who is really dying from gunshots.

Annually, 5,000 to 6,000 black men are murdered with guns. Black men amount to only 6 percent of the population. Yet of the 30 Americans on average shot to death each day, half are black males.

It was much the same in the early 1990s when Democrats created and then banned a category of guns they called “assault weapons.” America was then suffering from a spike in gun crime and it seemed like a problem threatening everyone. Gun murders each year had been climbing: 11,000, then 13,000, then 17,000.

Democrats decided to push for a ban of what seemed like the most dangerous guns in America: assault weapons, which were presented by the media as the gun of choice for drug dealers and criminals, and which many in law enforcement wanted to get off the streets.

This politically defined category of guns — a selection of rifles, shotguns and handguns with “military-style” features — only figured in about 2 percent of gun crimes nationwide before the ban.

Handguns were used in more than 80 percent of murders each year, but gun control advocates had failed to interest enough of the public in a handgun ban. Handguns were the weapons most likely to kill you, but they were associated by the public with self-defense. (In 2008, the Supreme Court said there was a constitutional right to keep a loaded handgun at home for self-defense.)

Banning sales of military-style weapons resonated with both legislators and the public: Civilians did not need to own guns designed for use in war zones.

On Sept. 13, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed an assault weapons ban into law. It barred the manufacture and sale of new guns with military features and magazines holding more than 10 rounds. But the law allowed those who already owned these guns — an estimated 1.5 million of them — to keep their weapons.

The policy proved costly. Mr. Clinton blamed the ban for Democratic losses in 1994. Crime fell, but when the ban expired, a detailed study found no proof that it had contributed to the decline.

The ban did reduce the number of assault weapons recovered by local police, to 1 percent from roughly 2 percent.

“Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement,” a Department of Justice-funded evaluation concluded.

Still, the majority of Americans continued to support a ban on assault weapons.

One reason: The use of these weapons may be rare over all, but they’re used frequently in the gun violence that gets the most media coverage, mass shootings.

The criminologist James Alan Fox at Northeastern University estimates that there have been an average of 100 victims killed each year in mass shootings over the past three decades. That’s less than 1 percent of gun homicide victims.

But these acts of violence in schools and movie theaters have come to define the problem of gun violence in America.

Most Americans do not know that gun homicides have decreased by 49 percent since 1993 as violent crime also fell, though rates of gun homicide in the United States are still much higher than those in other developed nations. A Pew survey conducted after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., found that 56 percent of Americans believed wrongly that the rate of gun crime was higher than it was 20 years ago.

Even as homicide rates have held steady or declined for most Americans over the last decade, for black men the rate has sometimes risen. But it took a handful of mass shootings in 2012 to put gun control back on Congress’s agenda.

After Sandy Hook, President Obama introduced an initiative to reduce gun violence. He laid out a litany of tragedies: the children of Newtown, the moviegoers of Aurora, Colo. But he did not mention gun violence among black men.

To be fair, the president’s first legislative priority after Sandy Hook was universal background checks, a measure that might have shrunk the market for illegal guns used in many urban shootings. But Republicans in Congress killed that effort. The next proposal on his list was reinstating and “strengthening” bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. It also went nowhere.

“We spent a whole bunch of time and a whole bunch of political capital yelling and screaming about assault weapons,” Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu of New Orleans said. He called it a “zero sum political fight about a symbolic weapon.”

Mr. Landrieu and Mayor Michael A. Nutter of Philadelphia are founders of Cities United, a network of mayors trying to prevent the deaths of young black men. “This is not just a gun issue, this is an unemployment issue, it’s a poverty issue, it’s a family issue, it’s a culture of violence issue,” Mr. Landrieu said.

More than 20 years of research funded by the Justice Department has found that programs to target high-risk people or places, rather than targeting certain kinds of guns, can reduce gun violence.

David M. Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, argues that the issue of gun violence can seem enormous and intractable without first addressing poverty or drugs. A closer look at the social networks of neighborhoods most afflicted, he says, often shows that only a small number of men drive most of the violence. Identify them and change their behavior, and it’s possible to have an immediate impact.

Working with Professor Kennedy, and building on successes in other cities, New Orleans is now identifying the young men most at risk and intervening to help them get jobs. How well this strategy will work in the long term remains to be seen.

But it’s an approach based on an honest assessment of the real numbers.

Read ProPublica's previous coverage: Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away from an Assault Weapons Ban

More on guns and data: Why Don't We Know How Many People Are Shot Each Year in America and Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health

And ProPublica's recent collaboration with Essence magazine: The Hidden Cost of Gun Violence: Meet a Mother and Her Seven-Year-Old with PTSD



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