Media News 2021

 

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Several major media trends are seriously undermining American democracy and other quality of life issues. Among these developments are:

  • breaking news imgaeGovernment censorship, falsehoods, restrictions of access or covert manipulation;
  • Financial cutbacks in newsrooms eroding professional standards;
  • Slanted or otherwise manipulative "news" techniques;
  • Outright "fake news" that makes scant pretense of honest coverage.

To counter such practices, we link to significant news reports and commentary below. The materials are in reverse chronological order and are drawn primarily from large news organizations and expert commentators.

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

      The Justice Integrity Project's editor (shown above during a 2014 lecture shown on C-SPAN, is a public affairs commentator, author and attorney in the communications field

      Andrew Kreig, the editor of the materials excerpted below, is a former newspaper reporter, magazine editor and columnist. Also, he was the president / CEO (from 1996 to 2008) of the Wireless Communications Association, a Washington, DC-based trade association that advocated for wireless Internet services and advanced applications on behalf of members that included leading communications companies. For years, he edited its daily bulletins and supervised its conventions that gathered prominent government officials, companies, educators and other thought leaders in advanced communications.

      Also, he is the author of two books addressing problems in the news media that harm civic life. Read more.

      Based on such experience, the news excerpts below are chosen to illustrate important news and trends. The excerpts cite language from the outlets except for subheads and an occasionally clearly marked 'Editor's note.'

 2021

Note: This segment of our near-daily summary of Media News encompasses news stories that began in 2021. For previous periods extending back to 2018, kindly visit these links: 2018, 2019 and 2020.

 

December

Dec. 5

 

newspaper daily map washington post penny muse abernathy unc hussman school

Between January 2005 and December 2020, about a quarter of U.S. local print newspapers ceased publishing, according to data that Northwestern professor Penny Muse Abernathy collected while at the University of North Carolina. By 2020, out of the 3,000-plus U.S. counties, half had just one local print newspaper of any kind. Only a third had a daily newspaper. Over 200 counties had no newspaper whatsoever.

washington post logoWashington Post Magazine, Perspective: A Vast Landscape of Lost Newspapers: What happens to society — and our democracy — when community margaret sullivan 2015 photoand regional journalism dries up? Margaret Sullivan, right, Nov. 20, 2021 (Dec. 5 print ed.). Americans must understand the existential threat facing local news outlets.

"It has been our great privilege to bring you news from Stoneham and Woburn over the years,” read the announcement. “We regret to inform you that this will be the final edition of the Sun-Advocate newspaper.” The Massachusetts weekly, as of August, is no more.

It is an increasingly familiar story across the United States. Already in a sharp downward spiral, the local news industry was hit hard by the covid-19 pandemic. The worst blows were taken by newspapers — businesses that, as a group, had never recovered from the digital revolution and the 2008 recession.

Between 2005 and the start of the pandemic, about 2,100 newspapers closed their doors. Since covid struck, at least 80 more papers have gone out of business, as have an undetermined number of other local publications, like the California Sunday Magazine, which folded last fall — and then won a Pulitzer Prize eight months later.

Those papers that survived are still facing difficult straits. Many have laid off scores of reporters and editors — according to Pew Research Center, the newspaper industry lost an astonishing 57 percent of its employees between 2008 and 2020 — making these publications a mere specter of their former selves. They are now “ghost newspapers”: outlets that may bear the proud old name of yore but no longer do the job of thoroughly covering their communities and providing original reporting on matters of public interest.

Dan Kennedy, a Northeastern University journalism professor, describes the loss of the Sun-Advocate in Massachusetts as “a grim picture but not nearly as catastrophic as in some parts of the country.” After all, he told me, there are other news organizations nearby, including the Daily Times Chronicle in Woburn and WickedLocal.com, a digital site run by Gannett that serves swaths of Massachusetts. (Gannett had owned the Sun-Advocate until its closure.)

By contrast, in many regions of the country, there is no local news coverage at all, or next to none. These areas have come to be known as “news deserts” — a term used by academics and researchers to refer to areas where coverage of the community by local news outlets is minimal or nonexistent. It’s in such places that the collapse of local news is being felt most dramatically. Then again, even if you don’t live in a defined news desert, you may have noticed that your regional paper long ago ditched actively covering your community if it is outside the immediate city and first-ring suburbs.

A Vast Landscape of Lost Newspapers

This trend in local news has been life-changing, of course, for the employees who lose their jobs and incomes. But even more concerning is what happens to the communities they used to serve — and, more broadly, what happens to our society and our ability to self-govern when local news dries up.

An extreme case of the withering of local news over the past decade is Youngstown, Ohio, where the beloved 150-year-old daily newspaper, the Vindicator, abruptly went out of business in 2019. The death of “the Vindy” made Youngstown — just minutes from the former General Motors manufacturing plant in Lordstown — the biggest U.S. city without its own daily newspaper. (A neighboring city’s newspaper began putting out a Vindicator edition, plus a small group of former staffers launched a digital news site, Mahoning Matters. But it is not the same as a dedicated newsroom of 40 journalists.)As I researched my 2020 book, Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy, I traveled to Youngstown just after the shocking announcement. Residents had gathered at a quickly called public meeting, and many were in tears as they contemplated the future of their city and region without this institution.

The Lost Local News Issue

Since 2005, about 2,200 local newspapers across America have closed. Here are some of the stories in danger of being lost — as told by local journalists.

I spent some time with Bertram de Souza, the paper’s editorial page editor, who had been at the Vindicator for 40 years. As a reporter, he helped reveal the corruption of James Traficant, who was expelled from Congress and sent to prison in 2002 after being convicted of racketeering, taking bribes and using his staff to do chores at his home and on his houseboat.

Youngstown “is absolutely the kind of place that needs watchdog reporting,” de Souza told me, “and this newspaper was committed to exposing corruption.” The problem, going forward, is that when it comes to revealing malfeasance, you don’t know what you don’t know: If there’s no one to keep public officials honest, citizens might never find out how their faith is being broken and their tax dollars squandered.

Mark Brown, the paper’s general manager and a member of the family that owned it, said something I found poignant as he recalled the Vindy’s heyday, when editors were able to send a reporter or freelancer to all of the municipal board and school board meetings in a three-county area. Public officials knew journalists were present, Brown said, “and they behaved.”

What happened to the Vindicator was a particularly notable version of an oft-repeated story: There just wasn’t enough money anymore to keep the paper afloat and pay the staff. Brown told me that the Vindy had lost money for 20 of the 22 years before its closing because of shrinking circulation, limited advertising revenue and rising costs.

While it was still in business, the Vindicator was relatively lucky because it was owned by a local family for 132 years. Many other newspapers have fallen out of local hands and under the control of large chains, some owned by private equity firms or hedge funds. One of these, Alden Global Capital alden global capital logo(sometimes known as Digital First Media), perhaps the worst of the so-called vulture capitalists, earlier this year snapped up the storied Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and others in the well-regarded Tribune chain.

From a journalism perspective, this was widely — and rightly — regarded as a disaster. “Devastating” is how Ann Marie Lipinski, the Tribune’s former top editor, now curator of Harvard’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism, characterized the development to me in an interview.

And tech journalist Karl Bode commented darkly on Twitter: “we’re slowly replacing a functional press with PR spam, hedge fund dudebros, trolling substack opinion columnists, foreign and domestic disinformation, brand-slathered teen influencers, and hugely consolidated dumpster fires like Sinclair Broadcasting.” (Sinclair Broadcast Group, the second-largest owner of local television stations in the country, has at times required its news anchors to read scripts with a strong conservative bent on the air.)

It’s not just watchdog journalism that suffers when news organizations shrink or die. The decline affects civic engagement and political polarization, too. Studies show that people who live in areas with poor local news coverage are less likely to vote, and when they do, they are more likely to do so strictly along party lines. To put it bluntly, the demise of local news poses the kind of danger to our democracy that should have alarm sirens screeching across the land.

Then there’s the matter of public trust. In general, people trust the mainstream news media — or as I prefer to call it, the reality-based press — far less now than they did several decades ago. Around the time of The Washington Post’s landmark reporting of the Watergate scandal, and the publication of the Pentagon Papers (the secret history of the Vietnam War) by the New York Times and The Post, the vast majority of citizens basically believed what they heard and read in the traditional media. CBS’s Walter Cronkite was known as “the most trusted man in America.”

Most studies show that there is one exception to this steady decline in trust: Americans find their local news sources significantly more credible than national news sources. Yet these are the very same outlets that are rapidly disappearing. That’s especially worrisome at a time when conspiracy theories and misinformation are rampant.

timothy snyderTimothy Snyder, left, a Yale history professor and author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century, has called the loss of local news “the essential problem of our republic.” It is nothing less than a crisis, he says, and a deepening one. “The only way we can talk to other people is with some common understanding of the facts, for example whether or not our water is polluted or whether or not the teachers in our school are on strike,” Snyder told E-International Relations. We don’t have to like what we learn about our communities through local news reporting, he noted, but it benefits us nonetheless. “When local news goes away, then our sense of what is true shifts from what is helpful to us in our daily lives to what makes us ‘feel good,’ which is something entirely different,” Snyder said. And, I would add, something very troubling.

This crisis, to be sure, is not just about newspapers, and certainly not just about newspapers in their printed incarnations. What’s important is the journalism, not the precise form it comes in. Local newspapers have been the center of most regions’ media ecosystems for many years because historically they have employed the most journalists and as a result produced the majority of original news. But they aren’t the only way to provide local news, by any means. Public radio, local television and digital-only news sites — often newly formed nonprofits — are increasingly part of the equation. And if there is a future, it surely is a mostly digital one.

But digital news sites, too, have struggled, and many have closed during the pandemic, including the well-regarded Bklyner, whose Brooklyn-based editor and publisher Liena Zagare wrote a heart-rending note in late August announcing a September end to publication. “Since I never figured out how to get paid regularly for the many hats I still wear … I cannot hire someone to fill in while I take the time off that I need to make sure that I, too, can be sustainable,” she explained. Among her roles: assigning stories, fact-checking, editing, reporting, writing, copy-editing, publishing, social media, tech, subscriptions, ad sales and handling payroll.

All of this leaves many localities — from rural areas to New York City’s most populous borough — struggling for answers. And yet, while the situation is undeniably troubling, some partial solutions are beginning to take shape. Digital news outlets are getting help through organizations such as the American Journalism Project, which raises money to fund and guide nonprofit, nonpartisan newsrooms. Just weeks ago, the group and a coalition of Cleveland-based organizations announced the Ohio Local News Initiative to bolster regional reporting in the state, starting next year with a newsroom in Cleveland. Report for America, based loosely on Teach for America, puts young journalists in underserved communities to shore up the staffs of existing news organizations.

There is no single answer to this crisis. Any solution, if there even is a solution, will require a multifaceted approach. But before local news can be saved, or successfully reinvented, one thing is absolutely necessary: American citizens must understand the existential threat local outlets are facing — and the incalculable value that their journalism brings to our democracy.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Cable news is in freefall, Bocha Blue, Dec. 4, 2021. Cable news is cratering. Per Deadline.com, The ratings for all of the three major cable news networks are dipping lower and lower. This includes Fox Non-news. Fox has seen a dip in its prime time viewership of about 35% lower than last year at this time. They are down 20% for their daytime ratings as well.

MSNBC is also down with a decline of 59% for its prime time viewership.

But CNN is at the top of the list with wildly flailing ratings. CNN’s prime time ratings are down a whopping 77%. In the 25-54 Demographic, CNN’s at a stunning 148,000. None of this should be a surprise, although the numbers are even worse than expected. All three of the stations have major problems.

Although many believe it is a simple issue of Trump not being in office anymore and folks losing interest, I think the problem is more significant than that.

These networks have become frantic in recent months, trying anything and everything in attempts to gin up ratings. Many pundits have become even more vicious and vulgar in their presentation, and it is no wonder people are becoming sick of it.

I believe if the networks would get back to simply reporting the news, the ratings might again begin to climb.

Think about it. Non-stories are becoming all the rage. Allow me to back that up with this beauty from CNN. It is a headline on their website about President Biden. This headline is: “A gravelly voiced President Biden says he has a cold.”

Would you click on that? I have no idea what the story is about, nor do I care. With a headline like that, I have no desire to read it. I imagine others feel the same. The motivation of Fox is obvious. They lost a boatload of viewers who thought they were not “Trumpian enough.”

And these viewers were upset that the network tried to do the right thing for once in their miserable lives and called Arizona for Biden on election night. I hope that Cable News goes back to what they once were, many moons ago. I, however, am not optimistic.

Dec. 3

lara logan anthony fauci The Hill, Fauci calls out Fox News for letting host compare him to Nazi doctor: 'Astounded,' Sarakshi Rai, Dec. 3, 2021. Anthony Fauci on Thursday blasted Fox News and said he was "astounded" that the network did not discipline host Lara Logan for comparing him to the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who worked at Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

"What I find striking is how she gets no discipline whatsoever from the Fox network. How they can let her say that with no comment and no disciplinary action. I’m astounded by that," the chief White House medical adviser said in an appearance on MSNBC.

fox news logo SmallHe said it was an insult to all of the people who suffered and died under the Nazi regime in the concentration camps.

"It's unconscionable what she said. She was being totally slanderous to me and, as usual, had no idea what she was talking about," he said.

Fox News did not immediately respond to The Hill's request for comment.

"What you see on Dr. Fauci, this is what people say to me, that he doesn't represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele ... the Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War and in the concentration camps," Logan said on Monday during "Fox News Primetime."

"And I am talking about people all across the world are saying this. Because the response from COVID, what it has done to countries everywhere, what it has done to civil liberties, the suicide rates, the poverty, it has obliterated economies," she added.

After her comments, Logan was condemned by Jewish organizations — including the Anti-Defamation League and the Auschwitz Memorial.

The American Jewish Committee also tweeted asking "why is Fox News staying silent?" in response to Logan doubling down on her comments. ADL spokesperson Jake Hyman said in a statement to CNN, “Logan and the network seem to be immune to shame and allergic to remorse."

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter’s new CEO unveils big reorganization of social networking company, Will Oremus and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 3, 2021. Twitter's engineering and design leaders are out as Parag Agrawal puts his mark on the company.

Twitter’s new chief executive, Parag Agrawal, announced a major reorganization of the company Friday, putting his stamp on the organization following the sudden departure of co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey earlier this week.

twitter bird CustomThe shake-up, meant to streamline the company’s operations and accelerate its growth, will bring together employees previously divided by job function — such as engineering, design and product development — on teams organized by what they’re working on, such as consumer product, revenue and core tech. Two executives, head of engineering Michael Montano and chief design officer Dantley Davis, will step down as part of the reshuffling and leave the company by year’s end.

In a companywide email obtained by The Washington Post, Agrawal said that he will focus on “clear decision-making, increased accountability, and faster execution,” and said he was “making a number of organizational and leadership changes to best position us to achieve our goals. … We’ve all discussed the critical need for more operational rigor and it must start from the top.”

New CEO Parag Agrawal said he made the changes in the name of “operational rigor” and “faster execution.”

Twitter says it suspended accounts in error following flood of ‘coordinated and malicious’ reports

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus spyware was used recently to hack U.S. diplomats working abroad, Craig Timberg, Drew Harwell and Ellen Nakashima, Dec. 3, 2021. Confirmation of the attacks comes one month after the U.S. blacklisted NSO Group

Apple has alerted 11 U.S. Embassy employees that their iPhones have been hacked in recent months with Pegasus spyware from NSO Group, an Israel-based company that licenses software to government clients in dozens of countries that allows them to secretly steal files, eavesdrop on conversations and track the movements of its targets, according to people familiar with the notifications.

The revelation, the first confirmed cases of Pegasus being used to target American officials, comes a month after U.S. officials blacklisted the NSO Group amid allegations that its foreign government clients had enabled hacking against unspecified embassy employees, political activists, human rights workers and others.

These and other actions come after the July publication of the Pegasus Project, an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 other news organizations into the activities of NSO Group. One of the investigation’s findings was that U.S. diplomats and other embassy employees were at risk from Pegasus, especially when they used phone numbers based overseas.

Dec. 1

 

marcus lamb joni lamb

Daystar founder Marcus Lamb and his wife, Joni Lamb.

washington post logoWashington Post, Marcus Lamb, head of Daystar, a large Christian network that discouraged vaccines, dies after getting covid-19, Michelle Boorstein, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). Lamb’s network during the pandemic has made the virus a huge focus, calling it a satanic attack that should not be treated with vaccines. He was 64 years old.

Daystar is the second-largest Christian network in the world, according to CBN News, a competitor, reaching 2 billion people worldwide. Its brand is a fluid, modern, charismatic faith, more about general good-vs-evil, miraculous healings and religious freedom than any specific denominational theology.

But during the pandemic, Lamb and his network went in big with anti-vaccine conspiracies, hosting daily interviews with skeptics who talked about dangerous, hidden forces pushing vaccines and stealing Christians’ freedoms. “What if the most dangerous thing your child could face in life is the very thing you’re told by your doctor is safe?” is the headline of “A Hidden Crisis," about coronavirus vaccines.

daystar logo“There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a spiritual attack from the enemy," Lamb’s son, Jonathan, said on the network earlier this month about his father’s covid-19 bout, Relevant magazine reported Tuesday. Talking about the alternative, unfounded treatments his parents promoted, Jonathan Lamb said, "there’s no doubt that the enemy is not happy about that. And he’s doing everything he can to take down my Dad.”

Daystar spokesman Arnold Torres declined to comment Tuesday on Lamb’s career or about his views of his illness before he died, or whether he was vaccinated.

“The family asks that their privacy be respected as they grieve this difficult loss. Please continue to lift them up in prayer,” Torres wrote in an email.

On social media, vaccine misinformation mixes with extreme faith

A brief statement said Daystar was launched in 1998 and grew to more than 100 television stations around the world. “[Lamb] will always be remembered for his fierce love of God, people, and his family.”

His wife, Joni, on their daily Ministry Show Tuesday, said her husband was diagnosed with covid-19, “got the covid pneumonia” and also had diabetes.

“We were trying to treat the covid and pneumonia with the different protocols we use, including the ones we talk about on Daystar. We used those — I myself used them and had breezed through covid,” she said on the show. His blood sugar spiked and he needed oxygen, she said. “He 100 percent believed in everything we talk about here on Daystar, things that help so many people around the world with early protocol treatments for covid. We still stand by those obviously.”

White evangelical Christians resist coronavirus vaccines at higher rates than other religious groups in the United States, a phenomenon experts say is bound up in politics, skepticism about government and in their consumption of alternative media and unfounded conspiracy theories about vaccine dangers.

Some Christian nationalists are fueling their movement with opposition to coronavirus vaccines and mask mandates

Lamb, whose network is headquartered in Dallas, was praised by prominent evangelicals Tuesday, who didn’t mention his anti-vaccine activism. Among them were Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia pastor who, with Lamb, was in a small circle of evangelical advisers to then-President Donald Trump, and Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and president of the international relief organization Samaritan’s Purse. Lamb appeared in a 2020 photo with Trump and a group of prominent Christians at an Evangelicals for Trump rally.

ny times logoNew York Times, Those Cute Cats Online? They Help Spread Misinformation, Davey Alba, Dec. 1, 2021. A mainstay of the internet is regularly used to build audiences for people and organizations pushing false and misleading information.

On Oct. 2, New Tang Dynasty Television, a station linked to the Chinese spiritual movement Falun Gong, posted a Facebook video of a woman saving a baby shark stranded on a shore. Next to the video was a link to subscribe to The Epoch Times, a newspaper that is tied to Falun Gong and that spreads epoch timesanti-China and right-wing conspiracies. The post collected 33,000 likes, comments and shares.

The website of Dr. Joseph Mercola, below left, an osteopathic physician who researchers say is a chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online, regularly posts about cute animals that generate tens or even hundreds of thousands of interactions on Facebook. The stories include “Kitten and Chick Nap So Sweetly Together” and “Why Orange Cats May Be Different From Other Cats,” written by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian.

joseph mercolaAnd Western Journal, a right-wing publication that has published unproven claims about the benefits of using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, and spread falsehoods about fraud in the 2020 presidential election, owns Liftable Animals, a popular Facebook page. Liftable Animals posts stories from Western Journal’s main website alongside stories about golden retrievers and giraffes.

Videos and GIFs of cute animals — usually cats — have gone viral online for almost as long as the internet has been around. Many of the animals became famous: There’s Keyboard Cat, Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub and Nyan Cat, just to name a few.

Now, it is becoming increasingly clear how widely the old-school internet trick is being used by people and organizations peddling false information online, misinformation researchers say.

The posts with the animals do not directly spread false information. But they can draw a huge audience that can be redirected to a publication or site spreading false information about election fraud, unproven coronavirus cures and other baseless conspiracy theories entirely unrelated to the videos. Sometimes, following a feed of cute animals on Facebook unknowingly signs users up as subscribers to misleading posts from the same publisher.

Melissa Ryan, chief executive of Card Strategies, a consulting firm that researches disinformation, said this kind of “engagement bait” helped misinformation actors generate clicks on their pages, which can make them more prominent in users’ feeds in the future. That prominence can drive a broader audience to content with inaccurate or misleading information, she said.

“The strategy works because the platforms continue to reward engagement over everything else,” Ms. Ryan said, “even when that engagement comes from” publications that also publish false or misleading content.

Perhaps no organization deploys the tactic as forcefully as Epoch Media, parent company of The Epoch Times. Epoch Media has published videos of cute animals in 12,062 posts on its 103 Facebook pages in the past year, according to an analysis by The New York Times. Those posts, which include links to other Epoch Media websites, racked up nearly four billion views. Trending World, one of Epoch’s Facebook pages, was the 15th most popular page on the platform in the United States between July and September.

One video, posted last month by The Epoch Times’s Taiwan page, shows a close-up of a golden retriever while a woman tries in vain to pry an apple from its mouth. It has over 20,000 likes, shares and comments on Facebook. Another post, on Trending World’s Facebook page, features a seal grinning widely with a family posing for a picture at a Sea World resort. The video has 12 million views.

“Dr. Becker is a veterinarian, her articles are about pets,” said an email from Dr. Mercola’s public relations team. “We reject any New York Times accusations of misleading any visitors, but are not surprised by it.”

The viral animal videos often come from places like Jukin Media and ViralHog. The companies identify extremely shareable videos and reach licensing deals with the people who made them. After securing the rights to the videos, Jukin Media and ViralHog license the clips to other media companies, giving a cut of the profits to the original creator.

Mike Skogmo, Jukin Media’s senior vice president for marketing and communications, said his company had a licensing deal with New Tang Dynasty Television, the station tied to Falun Gong.

“Jukin has licensing deals with hundreds of publishers worldwide, across the political spectrum and with a range of subject matters, under guidelines that protect the creators of the works in our library,” he said in a statement.

Asked whether the company evaluated whether their clips were used as engagement bait for misinformation in striking the license deals, Mr. Skogmo said Jukin had nothing else to add.

“Once someone licenses our raw content, what they do with it is up to them,” said Ryan Bartholomew, founder of ViralHog. “ViralHog is not supporting or opposing any cause or objective — that would be outside of our scope of business.”

facebook logoThe use of animal videos presents a conundrum for the tech platforms like Facebook, because the animal posts themselves do not contain misinformation. Facebook has banned ads from Epoch Media when the network violated its political advertising policy, and it took down several hundred Epoch Media-affiliated accounts last year when it determined that the accounts had violated its “coordinated inauthentic behavior” policies.

“We’ve taken enforcement actions against Epoch Media and related groups several times already,” said Drew Pusateri, a Facebook spokesman. “If we discover that they’re engaging in deceptive actions in the future we will continue enforcing against them.” The company did not comment on the tactic of using cute animals to spread misinformation.

 

chris cuomo cnn

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN suspends Chris Cuomo ‘indefinitely’ after documents detail help he gave his brother, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). The decision follows revelations that he was far more involved in the efforts of former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo than previously known.

CNN has suspended Chris Cuomo, above, one of its biggest stars, a day after the release of documents that detailed his efforts to help his brother, then-New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, fend off allegations of sexual misconduct.

CNNTranscripts from the New York Attorney General’s office on Monday showed that the cable host was far more involved in the governor’s crisis-management efforts than the younger Cuomo had previously acknowledged.

The network and its president, Jeff Zucker, had previously backed Cuomo for months, even as details accumulated about his role advising his brother, who eventually resigned in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations.
Cuomo calls sexual harassment investigation a 'political firecracker' during farewell speech
During his farewell address on Aug. 23, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) derided the investigation into allegations that he sexually harassed 11 women. (The Washington Post)

In May, The Washington Post reported that Cuomo had joined conference calls to discuss how to handle the allegations. At the time, the network said it was “inappropriate” for Cuomo to engage in conversations that included members of the governor’s staff; the host acknowledged his error in doing so and pledged not to do so again.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lara Logan draws outrage for comparing Fauci to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele on Fox News, Jeremy Barr, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.). It’s the latest in a series of inflammatory and conspiracy-tinged comments from the once-lauded former ’60 Minutes’ correspondent.

Lara Logan, right, once a lauded foreign correspondent for CBS News’s “60 Minutes” and now a boundary-pushing Fox News guest commentator and lara logan 2013streaming show host, drew fierce condemnation for on-air comments Monday night comparing the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, Anthony S. Fauci, to Nazi doctor Josef Mengele.

Her comments came during a segment in which Fox host Pete Hegseth, a frequent critic of coronavirus vaccine mandates and masking politics, accused the Biden administration of overhyping the new omicron variant.

Logan’s response, though, went well beyond.

“What you see on Dr. Fauci — this is what people say to me: that he doesn’t represent science to them. He represents Josef Mengele,” she said. “Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War and in the concentration camps. And I am talking about people all across the world are saying this, because the response from covid, what it has done to countries everywhere, what it has done to civil liberties, the suicide rates, the poverty, it has obliterated economies. The level of suffering that has been created because of this disease is now being seen in the cold light of day.”

fox news logo SmallIt was the latest and arguably the most inflammatory in a series of comments from Logan that have stunned viewers who remember her days as an impartial news reporter and star correspondent for the respected newsmagazine show.

But Hegseth, who guest-hosted Fox’s 7 p.m. opinion show Monday, showed little reaction while Logan spoke and did not contradict or push back on her statements. Before going to a commercial break, he promoted Logan’s show on the Fox Nation streaming service. (His other guest, Fox host Will Cain, called Fauci a “would-be authoritarian.”)

Known as “the angel of death,” Mengele performed “a broad range of agonizing and often lethal experiments with Jewish and Roma twins, most of them children,” while serving as a physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Early Tuesday morning, the Auschwitz Museum’s official Twitter account released a statement seeming to condemn Logan’s remarks without naming her. “Exploiting the tragedy of people who became victims of criminal pseudo-medical experiments in Auschwitz in a debate about vaccines, pandemic and people who fight for saving human lives is shameful,” the organization said. “It is disrespectful to victims & a sad symptom of moral and intellectual decline.”

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that works to combat antisemitism, issued a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday saying that “there’s absolutely no comparison between mask mandates, vaccine requirements, and other covid-19 mitigation efforts to what happened to Jews during the Holocaust.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The Facebook executive in charge of the company’s cryptocurrency push just quit, Gerrit De Vynck, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).The top executive overseeing Facebook’s efforts to get into cryptocurrency and international money transfers quit Tuesday, further complicating the company’s efforts to gain a foothold in the fast-growing world of digital currencies and blockchain technology.

facebook logoDavid Marcus’s high-profile departure comes just months after the company began hitting walls in Washington when it relaunched its initiative to use cryptocurrency to allow its users to make payments and send money to each other without transaction fees. The project has faced delays and name changes since it was first announced in 2019, coming under scrutiny from regulators and users, many of whom are already concerned about the social media giant’s power.

“My entrepreneurial DNA has been nudging me for too many mornings in a row to continue ignoring it,” Marcus said in tweets announcing his departure. Stephane Kasriel, a vice president in Facebook’s fintech and crypto division, will take over the job, Marcus said. A spokesperson for Facebook did not return a request for comment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s new CEO is bringing an engineering background to a politics fight, Will Oremus and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 1, 2021. Parag Agrawal, right, was a surprising pick for one of tech’s most fraught positions. Here’s why he got the job.

On Day 1 of Parag Agrawal’s new job as CEO of Twitter, congressional Republicans took a tweet he had posted in 2010 out of context to imply that he’s biased against White people. On Day 2, Twitter unveiled a confusingly worded new policy banning the sharing of “private media,” which drew immediate fire from both left and right.

And that was all before Agrawal was formally introduced as the company’s new CEO at an all-hands meeting Tuesday, following outgoing CEO Jack Dorsey’s surprise resignation tweet on a Monday that was supposed to be a “day of rest” for Twitter’s employees.

Agrawal, who at 37 becomes the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, was chosen unanimously to succeed Dorsey by Twitter’s board of directors, twitter bird Customaccording to an official statement Monday. At Tuesday’s all-hands meeting, according to employees who attended, Dorsey emphasized Agrawal’s engineering background and the fact that he rose through the ranks over a decade at Twitter in touting him as the ideal choice to lead the influential social media firm.

Yet several current and former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said Agrawal was an unexpected choice internally — though not necessarily an unwelcome one — for one of the most fraught leadership roles in Silicon Valley. Having joined Twitter before completing his Ph.D. program at Stanford University in 2011, he spent much of his tenure there with zero direct reports, two of those employees said.

As chief technology officer, he also had limited experience handling the thorny questions of content policy — what people are allowed to post on social media — that make Twitter an influential force in global discourse and a target of criticism and regulation by governments and political actors around the world.

“Agrawal has to sort out how Twitter should respond to a fusillade of bills in Congress seeking to rein in social media companies and a new [Federal Trade Commission] chairwoman who has painted a target on the prominent platforms,” as well as attacks from former president Donald Trump and the right, said Paul Barrett, deputy director of the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, in an email. If Trump runs again, “pressure to reinstate him will be enormous. Impressive engineering chops won’t resolve that problem.”

  • Washington Post, Analysis: In Washington, Jack Dorsey will be remembered for polarizing calls and historic scrutiny, Dec. 1, 2021 (print ed.).

Recent Media Headlines

 

November

Nov. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Chris Cuomo sought ‘intel’ on media coverage about accusations against his brother, text messages show, Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Jeremy Barr, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). CNN anchor Chris Cuomo was more extensively involved in helping to defend his brother, then-New chris cuomo cnnYork Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, against allegations of sexual misconduct than he has previously acknowledged, according to documents released Monday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

Text messages between the CNN journalist and top Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa show that Chris Cuomo, right, offered to draft statements for his brother to use to deny misconduct, demanded more influence over the strategy, and even researched potential news coverage and accusers for the governor’s office.

CNN“Please let me help with the prep,” Cuomo wrote at one point to DeRosa, as the claims against the governor surfaced earlier this year.

On another occasion, the younger Cuomo texted DeRosa that he needed “all the best facts” for “reporters. Who can do it?” Chris Cuomo also appeared to use his journalistic connections to gather information for the governor’s team. He fielded requests from DeRosa for “intel” on a then-unpublished investigative story by New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow and information about a rumor that more accusers were about to come forward on March 7.

“On it,” Cuomo responded to the second request. About 40 minutes later, he wrote back, “No one has heard that yet.”

The messages deepen questions about whether Chris Cuomo, one of CNN’s star anchors, crossed lines in his advocacy for his brother and misused his position as a prominent cable television anchor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). The unexpected news caused Nasdaq to stop trading the company’s stock.

Jack Dorsey, shown at right (photo by Joe Raedel via Getty Images)Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey,, shown at right (photo by Joe Raedel via Getty Images), said he was stepping down from the social media service in a letter posted to Twitter early Monday.

Dorsey, right, who co-founded the company and has been a leader there for the last 18 years, said his departure would be effective immediately, leaving Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal to replace him. Dorsey will remain CEO of payments company Square.

“I want you to know this was my decision and I own it,” Dorsey wrote, saying he was “sad” but also “really happy.” “It was a tough one for me, of course. … There aren’t many companies that get to this level. And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.”

twitter bird CustomThe message was captioned, “not sure if anyone has heard but, I resigned from Twitter.”

The surprise move caused Nasdaq to suspend trading on Twitter’s stock, and left most employees — many of whom were not working because it was an official company “Day of Rest” — in a state of confusion.

Even some senior executives seemed unprepared for the move. Vijaya Gadde, the company’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, tweeted congratulations to Agrawal and gratitude to Dorsey — but said she was “saving my ‘everything I learned from @Jack’ thread for another day.”

Dorsey has been distancing himself from direct leadership for years, according to people familiar with his management style who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Major decisions are generally made by other company leaders, though Dorsey does give a final sign-off. He also rarely tweets about Twitter, focusing most of his public energy promoting blockchain, decentralization, and bitcoin-related projects.

Though Twitter is much smaller than industry rivals Facebook and TikTok, the company punches above its weight because of its use by celebrities, politicians and other influential people. For years, the most influential user on Twitter was former president Donald Trump, who used the platform as a primary means to communicate — often in ways that pushed the boundaries of Twitter’s rules. The company suspended him for comments related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who is Twitter’s new CEO, Parag Agrawal? 5 things to know, Annabelle Timsit, Nov. 30, 2021 (print ed.). When Jack Dorsey stepped down as CEO of Twitter, the company he co-founded, the first question on everyone’s lips was why now? — and the second was who’s next?

Dorsey, who tweeted the news Monday after 15 years in company leadership, said Twitter has outgrown its founders as all companies eventually should, and that the time is right for him to go — in part because he has confidence in his replacement, Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief technology officer.

Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Sun Media proposes moving printing of newspapers to Delaware, laying off 100+ workers, Christopher Dinsmore, Nov. 30, 2021. Baltimore Sun Media is considering a plan to move the printing of its newspapers from Baltimore to a printing plant in Wilmington, Delaware, owned by the newspaper there.

The shift, proposed to occur by the end of January, likely would result in the loss of more than 100 jobs, most of them full-time.

Sun officials met with affected employees Tuesday to inform them of the proposal to shut down the Sun Park printing plant in South Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun opened Sun Park in 1992, but the circulation of the print newspaper has declined in recent years, even as digital subscriptions have grown, and the plant’s size dwarfs The Sun’s needs.

Under the proposal, The News Journal, a Wilmington paper owned by Gannett, would print and insert The Baltimore Sun, The Capital of Annapolis, the Carroll County Times and other affiliated publications.

“This preliminary agreement would reduce expenses related to the print operation and help continue the investment in our digital growth,” said Trif Alatzas, Baltimore Sun Media’s publisher and editor-in-chief, in an email sent to employees Tuesday evening.

Alatzas said the move would offset “ongoing print revenue declines exacerbated by the pandemic.”

The Sun would join a growing list of newspapers that have closed their printing plants and moved printing to other publications’ presses for similar reasons, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Tampa Bay Times and The Kansas City Star, all of which shut down their printing operations in 2021.

Earlier this year, The Sun’s parent company, Chicago-based Tribune Publishing, was acquired by Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund that has been accumulating newspapers for years and has a reputation for cutting its costs to remain profitable.

Alatzas wrote that the proposed changes with printing would not affect The Sun’s journalism or its ability to meet the needs of advertisers. Home delivery and retail sales of the newspapers also would not be affected, he said.

The Sun leases the building at Sun Park, which was purchased by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Development from The Sun’s former parent company in 2014 and rolled into the massive Port Covington mixed-use project.

Parts of the cavernous Sun Park building, which also houses The Sun’s newsroom and business offices, now sit vacant, Alatzas wrote. He did not say in the email what would become of Sun Park.

Nov. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Local News Outlets Could Reap $1.7 Billion in Build Back Better Aid, Marc Tracy, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). A small paper like The Storm Lake Times in Iowa would receive a big tax credit. So would Gannett, the nation’s largest news publisher.

For The Storm Lake Times, a family-run paper in northwestern Iowa, it could mean $200,000 in federal subsidies the first year and nearly $500,000 over the four years after that.

For EO Media, which publishes more than a dozen community newspapers in the Pacific Northwest, it could amount to $1.2 million the first year and $2.9 million over the next four.

gannett logo CustomAnd Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the country, could receive $37.5 million the first year and tens of millions after that.

The relief would come in the form of a payroll tax credit earmarked for local news organizations, a small part of the Build Back Better bill that the House passed on Nov. 19.

“It acknowledges democracy starts at home,” said Penelope Muse Abernathy, a visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School who studies the decline of local journalism.

If the $2.2 trillion social safety net and climate package makes it through the Senate, where it faces a stiff challenge, it will provide $1.67 billion over the next five years for newspapers, websites, radio and TV stations, and other outlets that primarily cover local news. If eligible, they could reap up to $25,000 for each locally focused journalist they employ in the first year and $15,000 in each of the next four.

News outlets across the country have struggled for decades, as the rise of digital media slowed their once-dependable streams of revenue — print ads and classifieds — to a trickle. With few exceptions, those publications have not made up the difference with digital advertising, an industry dominated by Google and Facebook.

Media outlets funded by political action committees would not be eligible. The same holds true for news organizations that do not carry media liability insurance or fail to disclose their owners. News publishers with more than 1,500 employees at a single location also would not qualify, under the terms of the bill. The New York Times would be ineligible for the tax credit, a company spokeswoman said.

Large chains that include publications focused on local coverage would be eligible. One of them, Gannett, borrowed more than $1 billion two years ago gatehouse media logofrom the private equity firm Apollo Global Management as part of its merger with Gatehouse Media.

Other major chains with Wall Street ties could also benefit from the tax credit. Tribune Publishing and MediaNews Group, both owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, appear to be eligible, as does McClatchy, which is owned by the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management.

Maribel Perez Wadsworth, the president of news at Gannett, defended the inclusion of her company, which publishes roughly 250 local newspapers, alden global capital logoincluding The Arizona Republic, The Detroit Free Press and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (as well as USA Today). “Scale allows us to solve for some things,” she said, “but at the end of the day they’re local newsrooms with local reporters and photographers and editors, up against the same headwinds.”

McClatchy declined to comment. A representative for Alden did not respond to a request for comment.

There are now 200 U.S. counties without a newspaper, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina, and more than 2,100 papers have shut down since 2004. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of journalists at newspapers fell to 31,000 last year from 71,000 in 2008.

Supporters of the tax credit note the role that local news outlets play in bringing communities together. Without them, who will chronicle town meetings, hold local official accountable and note births, deaths and weddings?

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Inside the ‘Misinformation’ Wars, Ben Smith, right, Nov. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Journalists and academics are developing a new ben smith twitterlanguage for truth. The results are not always clearer.

On Friday afternoons this fall, top American news executives have dialed into a series of off-the-record Zoom meetings led by Harvard academics whose goal is to “help newsroom leaders fight misinformation and media manipulation.”

Those are hot topics in the news industry right now, and so the program at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy drew an impressive roster of executives at CNN, NBC News, The Associated Press, Axios and other major U.S. outlets.

A couple of them, though, told me they were puzzled by the reading package for the first session.

It consisted of a Harvard case study, which a participant shared with me, examining the coverage of Hunter Biden’s lost laptop in the final days of the harvard logo2020 campaign. The story had been pushed by aides and allies of then-President Donald J. Trump who tried to persuade journalists that the hard drive’s contents would reveal the corruption of the father.

The news media’s handling of that narrative provides “an instructive case study on the power of social media and news organizations to mitigate media manipulation campaigns,” according to the Shorenstein Center summary.

The Hunter Biden laptop saga sure is instructive about something. As you may recall, panicked Trump allies frantically dumped its contents onto the internet and into reporters’ inboxes, a trove that apparently included embarrassing images and emails purportedly from the candidate’s son showing that he had tried to trade on the family name. The big social media platforms, primed for a repeat of the WikiLeaks 2016 election shenanigans, reacted forcefully: Twitter blocked links to a New York Post story that tied Joe Biden to the emails without strong evidence (though Twitter quickly reversed that decision) and Facebook limited the spread of the Post story under its own “misinformation” policy.

hunter biden unshaven newBut as it now appears, the story about the laptop was an old-fashioned, politically motivated dirty tricks campaign, and describing it with the word “misinformation” doesn’t add much to our understanding of what happened. While some of the emails purportedly on the laptop have since been called genuine by at least one recipient, the younger Mr. Biden, right, has said he doesn’t know if the laptop in question was his. And the “media manipulation campaign” was a threadbare, 11th-hour effort to produce a late-campaign scandal, an attempt at an October Surprise that has been part of nearly every presidential campaign I’ve covered.

The Wall Street Journal, as I reported at the time, looked hard at the story. Unable to prove that Joe Biden had tried, as vice president, to change U.S. policy to enrich a family member, The Journal refused to tell it the way the Trump aides wanted, leaving that spin to the right-wing tabloids. What remained was a murky situation that is hard to call “misinformation,” even if some journalists and academics like the clarity of that label. The Journal’s role was, in fact, a pretty standard journalistic exercise, a blend of fact-finding and the sort of news judgment that has fallen a bit out of favor as journalists have found themselves chasing social media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman, The unexpected news caused Nasdaq to stop trading the company’s stock.

jack dorsey small twitterTwitter CEO Jack Dorsey said he was stepping down from the social media service in a letter posted to Twitter early Monday.

Dorsey, right, who co-founded the company and has been a leader there for the last 18 years, said his departure would be effective immediately, leaving Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal to replace him. Dorsey will remain CEO of payments company Square.

“I want you to know this was my decision and I own it,” Dorsey wrote, saying he was “sad” but also “really happy.” “It was a tough one for me, of course. … There aren’t many companies that get to this level. And there aren’t many founders that choose their company over their own ego. I know we’ll prove this was the right move.”

twitter bird CustomThe message was captioned, “not sure if anyone has heard but, I resigned from Twitter.”

The surprise move caused Nasdaq to suspend trading on Twitter’s stock, and left most employees — many of whom were not working because it was an official company “Day of Rest” — in a state of confusion.

Even some senior executives seemed unprepared for the move. Vijaya Gadde, the company’s legal, policy, and trust and safety lead, tweeted congratulations to Agrawal and gratitude to Dorsey — but said she was “saving my ‘everything I learned from @Jack’ thread for another day.”

Dorsey has been distancing himself from direct leadership for years, according to people familiar with his management style who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Major decisions are generally made by other company leaders, though Dorsey does give a final sign-off. He also rarely tweets about Twitter, focusing most of his public energy promoting blockchain, decentralization, and bitcoin-related projects.

Though Twitter is much smaller than industry rivals Facebook and TikTok, the company punches above its weight because of its use by celebrities, politicians and other influential people. For years, the most influential user on Twitter was former president Donald Trump, who used the platform as a primary means to communicate — often in ways that pushed the boundaries of Twitter’s rules. The company suspended him for comments related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Chris Christie’s book crashes and burns, Bocha Blue, Nov. 29, 2021. There was a time, many years ago, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was someone to take seriously. As I said, that was a long time ago. In recent months, the disgraced Governor and former Presidential candidate has attempted to stage a desperate comeback. Christie’s been out of power for a long time, and one can sense his desperation to once again become a part of the pulsating and ever-changing political circus.

bill palmer report logo headerChristie, right, has been aided in his pathetic efforts by many in the media, who have been relentless in featuring Christie, pontificating and bragging as he attempts to create a new image for himself – an image of an honest and courageous bloke.

chris christie april 2015Only sometimes the picture one tries to create is riddled with smears — sloppy in its falsities. And this, in the proper fashion of Karma, is precisely what appears to be happening to Christie.

Christie’s book tour was dismal. Nobody seemed interested in what the man had to say. But now, things have reached red alert levels of alarm for Jersey’s non-finest. Christie’s book is out and — ahem — not too many people seem interested in buying it. Sales have not been good, and his book has failed to make the NYT bestseller list.

Christie is a pretender. This country does not like pretenders. Most can see through them. Christie actually wants people to believe he is strong and courageous — the man who seems terrified of writing or even talking about the lies of Fox News. With his every word, his weakness shines through.

BoingBoing, Analysis: Despite continuous prime-time attention by a fawning media, Chris Christie fails to sell over 2,500 copies of his book, Mark Frauenfelder, Nov. 29, 2021. Ex-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is best known for three things:

  • Closing Island Beach State Park during a government shutdown then taking an expensive taxpayer-funded family holiday there.
  • His disastrous handling of the deadly lane closure of the George Washington Bridge, which he is suspected of ordering to exact revenge on a mayor who didn't support his reelection bid.
  • Running against Trump by declaring him unfit to lead (January 4, 2016: "Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America.") and becoming an embarrassing Trump sycophant after failing in the primary (February 26, 2016: "There is no one better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs both at home and around the world than Donald Trump.").

You'd think Christie would be a pariah, but for some reason the news channels like to bring this unsavory ... character on their shows and act like he's some kind of respected statesman. For the last few weeks it's been impossible to turn on the TV and not see Christie fibbing about, denying, and backpedaling on every terrible thing he's said and done for the last ten years.

But despite the countless hours of free promotion for his new book, he's only managed to sell 2,300 copies in its first week, making it clear that no one but the news netoworks thinks this double-talking know-it-all is worth anything other than making fun of.

From Press Run:

A senior publishing source with access to the industry's BookScan tabulations tells me that Republican Rescue sold just 2,289 copies during its first week in stores, which constitutes a colossal publishing flop. That figure does not include digital copies of the book, but based on industry sales patterns, given Christie's weak showing in stores he likely sold only a few hundred digital ones. (On Sunday, Republican Rescue was ranked 15,545th at Amazon's Kindle Store.)

In comparison to Christie's 2,000 copies debacle, Jonathan Karl's new book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, sold 24,000 hardcover copies the same week as the Christie failure. How Christie was able to sell so few books after lining up so much national media attention during his marketing roll-out — "This Week" and "The View," "Fox & Friends," along with Fox News, Fox Business, the Daily Show, HBO twice, and CNBC — represents an extraordinary disconnect.

 

chris christie republican rescue cover

Insider NJ, Book Review: Chris Christie to the Rescue? Fred Snowflack, Nov. 26, 2021. Chris Christie was all over TV last week hyping his book, Republican Rescue, the cover of which, creatively, shows an elephant holding a rescue tube in its trunk.

As the name implies, the GOP is in danger. If not, why would it need to be rescued? The peril for Republicans is Donald Trump and the wacky conspiracy theories the former president seems to inspire.

That is the essence of the book, but before we get there, Christie spends the first part of the book detailing his personal relationship with Trump. They met years ago when Christie was U.S. Attorney and their friendship blossomed.

When Trump got to the White House, Christie says the now-president offered him many jobs, but not the one he would have taken – Attorney General. So, Christie began spending his post-gubernatorial life at home in Mendham Township.

The anecdotes and observations Christie presents of Trump will shock no one who follows politics closely.

When a very ill Christie was fighting COVID at Morristown Medical Center, he got a call from the president. A heartfelt wish to get well?

Not really. Christie said the president was concerned that he (Christie) would blame him (Trump) for his getting the virus.

Nov. 28

 alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Alex Jones is facing a reckoning. Let it be a warning to other conspiracy theorists, Editorial Board, Nov. 28, 2021. Distortions. Lies. Profiteering off the hurt of others. Those are the signature characteristics that mark the radio work of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones (shown above in a file photo.

So it shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Mr. Jones reacted to a judge’s ruling against him in lawsuits brought by families of those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., with more distortions, more lies and more attempts to raise money.

Connecticut Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis earlier this month found Mr. Jones liable for damages in defamation lawsuits brought by the families of eight people killed in the 2012 school massacre after the Infowars host made repeated claims that the shooting was a giant hoax.

The judge ruled that because Mr. Jones had refused to turn over documents ordered by the court, he was liable by default. A similar determination was made by a Texas court in September in two lawsuits filed by victims’ families. Jury trials will next be held to determine the amount of damages.

After Judge Bellis issued her ruling, Mr. Jones went on air and complained about being deprived of a fair trial and invoked his rights to free speech under the First Amendment. Days later, he released a video pleading for money.

Mr. Jones’s claim about being denied a fair trial is undermined by his own refusal to cooperate with the courts in basic procedures necessary to conduct one. Judge Bellis said years of what she called inappropriate conduct by Mr. Jones’s attorneys regarding depositions and the “callous disregard” for her repeated rulings required the most severe sanction of default, which she called “a last resort.” The judge in the Texas case cited the defendants’ “general bad faith” toward the litigation and Mr. Jones’s “public threats,” as well as his contention that the proceedings were show trials.

Multiple efforts by Mr. Jones to have the cases dismissed on First Amendment grounds have been roundly rejected by the state courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. We are the first to stand up for First Amendment rights, but Mr. Jones’s repeated false claims that the shooting at Sandy Hook in which 26 people were killed was a hoax — “staged,” he said, and “inside job written all over it” — were beyond the pale and outside the Constitution’s protections. Mr. Jones, who has now belatedly acknowledged the reality of Sandy Hook, had no credible evidence for his outrageous claims, and his knowing lies did terrible damage to people who already had suffered the tragic loss of loved ones. One family has had to move nearly 10 times and even now is living in hiding.

The families have yet to specify the amount of damages they are seeking, and there is no amount of money that can make up for what they have suffered and will continue to suffer. Their hope, though, is that they will be able to establish that conspiracy profiteering off the tragedy of others is not an acceptable business model. Let’s hope that others in this age of increasing misinformation get that message.

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Vick found a future on TV, but his past is still chasing, Michael Lee, Nov. 28, 2021. Michael Vick appears in the lobby dressed in all-black sweats, a look that helps one of the NFL’s most famous — and at one point, most infamous — retirees find a seat in the middle of the hotel’s restaurant without notice. He’s lean and fit; the gray hairs on his chin are all that keep you from assuming Vick could still make a pair of defenders comically take out each other in an attempt to tackle him.

Vick was once the future — not the first dual-threat quarterback in NFL history but the reimagined version, the one whose game looked as though it had been created with the assistance of computer-generated imaging. But the future is now the present, and the quarterback position has finally gone where Vick was supposed to take it.

fox news logo SmallVick, settling in for lunch on a fall Saturday, says he “changed the game” but admits that so much was left on the table. He retired without winning an MVP award or a Super Bowl ring, and he knows his trophy mantel would’ve been more crowded, his reputation less tattered, if not for his own hubris and an inability to reject the lures of the Newport News, Va., neighborhood that made him.

“I was a kid from the ghetto,” Vick says. “I never wanted to leave.”

His involvement in a deadly dogfighting ring halted a breathtaking career in its prime. He served his time, but no matter what he has done since — becoming a spokesman for animal rights, regaining all-pro status after his time in prison, and finding a second career in broadcasting — he can’t scramble from the stain. Still, he’s here, trying, with stories to share and a legacy linked to his darkest moment.

“I hate it,” Vick, 41, says between bites of Caesar salad. “I think about that more than all the good years and the good times. S---, it hurt [my chances of] going in the Hall of Fame. It’s going to impact everything. But it was all self-inflicted. I was young. I didn’t have no guidance. I don’t use this as no excuse. I could’ve said, ‘No.’ I could’ve made those right decisions, like, ‘This ain’t for me.’ That’s a blemish that I will never be able to erase.”

Nov. 26

chris christie republican rescue cover

Insider NJ, Book Review: Chris Christie to the Rescue? Fred Snowflack, Nov. 26, 2021. Chris Christie was all over TV last week hyping his book, Republican Rescue, the cover of which, creatively, shows an elephant holding a rescue tube in its trunk.

As the name implies, the GOP is in danger. If not, why would it need to be rescued? The peril for Republicans is Donald Trump and the wacky conspiracy theories the former president seems to inspire.

That is the essence of the book, but before we get there, Christie spends the first part of the book detailing his personal relationship with Trump. They met years ago when Christie was U.S. Attorney and their friendship blossomed.

When Trump got to the White House, Christie says the now-president offered him many jobs, but not the one he would have taken – Attorney General. So, Christie began spending his post-gubernatorial life at home in Mendham Township.

The anecdotes and observations Christie presents of Trump will shock no one who follows politics closely.

When a very ill Christie was fighting COVID at Morristown Medical Center, he got a call from the president. A heartfelt wish to get well?

Not really. Christie said the president was concerned that he (Christie) would blame him (Trump) for his getting the virus.

Nov. 25

 

Travis McMichael, left, Gregory McMichael and neighbor William

Travis McMichael, left, his father Gregory McMichael, center, and neighbor William "Roddie" Bryan Jr. (Ahmaud Arbery trial pool photo via Getty).

washington post logoWashington Post, A shaky video recorded on defendant’s cellphone changed the course of the Arbery murder case, Meryl Kornfield, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). The first news story about the Feb. 23, 2020, shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a mere four paragraphs, offered little detail about what led to the death of the 25-year-old.

In the small coastal Georgia town of Brunswick, rumors swirled about a Black man who was shot while being pursued by two armed White men in a pickup truck, but no one was charged and the case received little attention nationally. It wasn’t until May 5, when a local radio station uploaded graphic footage of the deadly chase, that widespread outrage ensued. Two days later — 74 days after Arbery was killed while on a jog — arrests were made.

The convictions of Travis McMichael, 35, his father, Greg McMichael, 65, and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan, 52, on Wednesday raised recollections of the beginning of the case when police let the men walk free and two prosecutors did not press charges. Yet, after just two days of deliberations, the jury found the three men guilty of murder and other charges for the pursuit and fatal shooting of Arbery.

“We came very close to this crime not being prosecuted at all,” said Clark D. Cunningham, a professor at the Georgia State University College of Law.

After the Brunswick district attorney and Waycross district attorney recused themselves without charging the men, Cunningham noted two aspects of the case that made the arrests — and subsequent convictions — possible: Greg McMichael’s decision to share the video of the slaying with the public and Arbery’s outspoken family receiving national support and attention.

“We shouldn’t count on those kinds of things for justice to be done,” Cunningham said.

ahmaud arbery twitterArbery, above, a former high school football standout and avid runner, was killed weeks before George Floyd. But it wasn’t until the release of the video — showing men chasing him, cornering him and shooting him on a quiet suburban street — that the violence helped amplify the racial justice demonstrations of last year.

In an unlikely turn of events, Greg McMichael, with the help of attorney Alan Tucker, brought Bryan’s unsteady cellphone footage to radio station WGIG with the hope of absolving the men in the court of public opinion, WSB-TV Channel 2 reported.

“There had been very little information provided by the police department or the district attorney’s office, but there was entirely too much speculation, rumor, false narratives, and outright lies surrounding this event,” Tucker told Georgia Public Broadcasting last year. Tucker did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post on Wednesday. The McMichaels’ attorneys did not immediately respond to similar requests Wednesday night.

Instead, the video published online by the radio station surfaced questions nationwide about racial profiling and the lack of criminal charges.

At the time, Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, called it a lynching “before our very eyes.”

Like Cunningham, University of Maryland sociology professor Rashawn Ray said there wouldn’t have been a trial, let alone a conviction, without the video repeatedly aired in court after Greg McMichael made it public.

“Video is an objective observer,” Ray said. “It’s very clear what happened. And I think part of what the McMichaels were trying to leverage was what their defense attorneys were trying to allege: that the mere presence, the mere physical body of Ahmaud Arbery as a Black person just running through the street should pose a big enough threat to justify their use of force.”

But for Larry Hobbs, who wrote that first short news article, doubts about the case were raised at the onset.

Hobbs, one of four reporters at the daily Brunswick News, said police wouldn’t answer his questions or even tell him Arbery’s name, which he discovered by calling the coroner. He published four stories before he obtained the police report, based almost entirely on an interview with Greg McMichael, who said he told his son to grab his gun when he saw a Black man running.

“Red flags start going up,” Hobbs said. “All the things started falling into place that this wasn’t right.”

  • Washington Post, Journalists are reexamining their reliance on a longtime source: The police

Prosecutors were also not forthcoming, he said. Jackie Johnson, the Brunswick district attorney who was later indicted over her handling of the investigation and was voted out of office, gave the case to Waycross District Attorney George Barnhill. Barnhill justified the use of force as a lawful “citizen’s arrest” in a letter to police. Meanwhile, he told Hobbs he was still investigating, Hobbs said.

“The main thing I did was just not let go of it,” Hobbs said. “I didn’t do any great writing. I didn’t do any investigative reporting. I’m a small-town newspaper. We don’t really have time to invest. I come in every day and there’s an empty newspaper I have to do my part to fill up.”

At that time, the New York Times reported on the shooting, bringing national exposure and emerging details of the video that would later be released. Still, Hobbs has been credited for his dogged reporting, as he stayed on the case, covering the trial every day until he wrote Wednesday’s story of the conviction.

“Guilty. Guilty. Guilty,” he wrote.

Leaving the courthouse, Hobbs spoke with Arbery’s father, Marcus, and choked up hearing him say his son just wanted to “run and dream.”

“In times of reckoning, we’ve come up wanting so many times, especially people from my demographic,” Hobbs said. “The South got it right today.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. professor steps down after firestorm over study into adults who are attracted to minors, Nicole Asbury, Nov. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Allyn Walker, an assistant professor of sociology, was previously placed on administrative leave.

Old Dominion University professor Allyn Walker, whose research into adults who are sexually attracted to minors drew protests and threats, has agreed to step down, Walker and the school announced in a joint statement Wednesday.

Walker, an assistant professor of sociology and criminal justice, had been placed on administrative leave Nov. 16. They now will remain on leave until the expiration of their current contract in May.

Walker’s research into “minor-attracted people” and their use of that term had been met with an outcry from students and others online, who claimed that such language destigmatized sex offenders. Walker has maintained that their work was intended to better understand would-be sex offenders and prevent child sexual abuse.

Nov. 24

Harvard Nieman Journalism Lab, Now nonprofit, The Salt Lake Tribune has achieved something rare for a local newspaper: financial sustainability, Sarah Scire, Nov. 24, 2021. The Salt Lake Tribune’s transition to nonprofit status has been closely watched in the news industry. “The opportunity for us to prove that this can work is significant and so is the responsibility.”

The Salt Lake Tribune has plenty to celebrate in 2021. The first (and so far only) major newspaper to become a nonprofit is financially sustainable and, harvard logoafter years of layoffs and cuts, is growing its newsroom. Executive editor Lauren Gustus announced the news in a note to readers in which the relief of escaping hedge fund ownership was palpable.

“We celebrate 150 years this year and we are healthy,” Gustus wrote. “We are sustainable in 2021, and we have no plans to return to a previously precarious position.”

It’s been quite the turnaround. Utah’s largest newspaper escaped the clutches of the hedge fund Alden Global Capital in 2016 only to see its local owner, Paul Huntsman, lay off a third of staff two years later in the face of plunging ad revenue. In 2019, The Tribune made history as the first daily newspaper to become a nonprofit. And then amid the height of the pandemic last year, the Tribune ended a 149-year run of printing a daily newspaper and a 68-year-old joint partnership with the Deseret News.

(The Tribune, which once enjoyed a daily circulation nearing 200,000, had about 36,000 subscribers when the decision to move to a weekly print edition was announced. The Deseret News, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also stopped publishing its daily print edition.)

Gustus pointed out that hundreds of American newspapers are owned by financial institutions with a well-deserved reputation for making every newspaper they touch worse by gutting newsrooms, selling off assets, and jacking up subscription prices for readers. Gustus herself joined the Tribune from McClatchy (owned by a hedge fund) and spent years at Gannett (once managed by one hedge fund, and now deeply in debt to a different one). Her note to readers has “hedge fund” in the headline and URL. Clearly, she has thoughts! When I asked Gustus about leading a news organization that was once owned by Alden and seeing the effect hedge fund ownership has had on other newsrooms, however, she chose her words carefully.

“I believe that there are differences in quality of ownership. Here’s what I will say, with a feeling that it’s really difficult to communicate [this] over the phone or in an interview. The journalists that I worked with in Sacramento or in Fresno, or in Fort Collins or Reno, are no less committed than any of the journalists here at the Tribune,” Gustus said. “That commitment that persists to doing the best that they can for the communities that they serve is real.”

The Salt Lake Tribune’s transition to nonprofit status has been closely watched in the news industry. Does that put additional pressure on Gustus and the rest of the Tribune team? “The opportunity for us to prove that this can work is significant and so is the responsibility,” she said.

The Tribune grew its newsroom 23% in the last year and will add new reporting roles focused on education, business, solutions journalism, food, and culture in 2022. Gustus also expects to follow the Utah News Collaborative (launched in April to make the Tribune’s reporting available to any news organization in the state) with more multi-newsroom projects centered on saving the Great Salt Lake and the centenary of the Colorado River Compact.

Other changes include introducing six weeks of paid parental leave and a 401(k) match for employees. In response to readers who said they missed the “daily drumbeat” amid the weekend edition’s in-depth reporting, the newsroom will publish an e-edition to accompany the Sunday paper. They’re also introducing a second printed edition — delivered by mail, rather than carriers — on Wednesdays at no additional cost to subscribers.

The Salt Lake Tribune draws revenue chiefly from subscriptions, donations, and advertising. (Dissolving that joint operating agreement with the Deseret News has also allowed the Tribune to sell its own ads and print subscriptions.) Subscribers pay for a digital subscription ($80/year), while “supporting subscribers” ($150/year) add a donation on top. In the donations category, members of The First Amendment Society pledge to donate at least $1,000/year for three years while major donors provide one-off gifts and grants.

The Tribune has about 6,500 supporting subscribers, more than 50 members of its First Amendment Society, and dozens of major donors. (In a bid for transparency, The Tribune forbids donations over $5,000 to be anonymous. You can see the full list here.) Gustus stressed that consistency of support is invaluable.

“We are so grateful to them [supporting subscribers] because it enables us to plan for philanthropic commitments. We’re not surprised and we can be more strategic about how we invest those resources,” Gustus said. “The First Amendment Society enables us to do the same thing, which is to plan our coverage and our investments because they have planned theirs. We are consistently engaged in conversations about what the value proposition is for each of those cohorts, and how we can continue to refine it and to continue to deliver for each of those groups.”

Gustus says that being “relatively lean” — the newsroom currently stands around 33 reporters, with a handful of open positions — sometimes lends itself to some unusual experiments. The Salt Lake Tribune’s NBA beat writer, Andy Larsen, told his sizable Twitter following he wanted to get 500 new subscribers for the Tribune by the end of the year.

Associated Press, All 3 men charged in Arbery’s death convicted of murder, Russ Bynums, Nov. 24, 2021. All three white men charged in the death of ap logoAhmaud Arbery were convicted of murder Wednesday in the fatal shooting that became part of a larger national reckoning on racial injustice.

The convictions for Greg McMichael (shown at center above), son Travis McMichael (at left) and neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan (at right above) came after jurors deliberated for about 10 hours. The men face minimum sentences of life in prison. It is up to the judge to decide whether that comes with or without the possibility of parole.

Travis McMichael stood for the verdict, his lawyer’s arm around his shoulder. At one point, McMichael lowered his head to his chest. After the verdicts were read, as he stood to leave, he mouthed “love you” to his mother, who was in the courtroom.

Moments after the verdicts were announced, Arbery’s father, Marcus Arbery Sr., was seen crying and hugging supporters outside the courtroom.

Ahmaud Arbery“He didn’t do nothing,” the father said, “but run and dream.”

The McMichaels grabbed guns and jumped in a pickup truck to pursue the 25-year-old Black man, right, after seeing him running in their neighborhood outside the Georgia port city of Brunswick in February 2020. Bryan joined the pursuit in his own pickup and recorded cellphone video of Travis McMichael fatally shooting Arbery.

CBS News, All three men involved in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery found guilty of murder, Staff Reports, Nov. 24, 2021. A jury in Glynn County, Georgia, found three men – Gregory McMichael, his son Travis McMichael and their neighbor William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. – guilty on multiple counts of murder for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man fatally shot while out for a jog on February 23, 2020.

Travis McMichael, the man who shot Arbery, was found guilty on all of the nine charges he faced. His father, Gregory McMichael, was found guilty on eight of the nine charges he faced. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. was found guilty on six of the nine charges he faced.

Rolling Stone, ‘Bitter,’ ‘Angry,’ ‘Enraged’: Reality Winner Blasts the Intercept After 4 Years in Jail, Tessa Stuart, Nov. 24, 2021. Reality Winner, a former intelligence analyst contracted by the NSA, is serving a home confinement sentencing by the federal courts in Kingsville, Texas on July 3, 2021.

reality winner mug CustomOne of the first things Reality Winner did when she was released from federal prison in June was start building a paddock for a horse named Trouble, and a small shed for her gym equipment beside it.

rolling stone logoWinner, right, a former NSA contractor, was training for a powerlifting competition when she was arrested in June 2017, accused of leaking classified information to The Intercept. When the FBI showed up at her house that day, her main preoccupation was getting her perishable groceries into the fridge and figuring out who would feed her cat and foster dog if she came in for questioning. She hadn’t processed the fact that, not only would she miss the competition, she wouldn’t go home for years.

Inside the shed, where she spends most of her time these days, she’s got three hundred pounds of bumper plates, dumbbells, barbells, a kettlebell, pull-up bars, gymnastics rings, a nine-foot steel rig for doing squats and bench presses, a jump box, a rowing machine and stationary bike, all gifted by friends and supporters ahead of her release. Between reps, she’ll run out and give Trouble a scratch on his nose.

“I built my workout shed right by the side of his pasture, so he’s always creeping by,” Winner says. “It’s one of those moments where it’s, like, I’m doing deadlifts and petting my horse between sets? My life is perfect right now.”

For the next three years, Winner, who had her court-mandated ankle monitor removed on Tuesday, will still be on probation, which means mandatory drug tests every two weeks, a 10 p.m. curfew, and securing permission from her probation officer for any overnight trip she’d like to take.

“It enrages me,” Winner says, comparing the terms of her parole to those of friends she made inside the system.

nsa logo 2Winner was just 25 years old when she printed a single classified document — one that described Russian military efforts to spear-phish dozens of local election officials ahead of the 2016 election — smuggled it out of the NSA facility where she worked and mailed it to The Intercept. (For comparison, Edward Snowden provided at least 10,000 documents to, among others, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who later went on to co-found The Intercept. The NSA has claimed he took more than 1.7 million files.) Winner was ultimately sentenced to sixty-three months in prison for the leak, the longest prison term ever imposed for an unauthorized release of government information to the media.

The Intercept was widely criticized for its handling of the document Winner leaked—in particular, the decision to show the leaked document to the U.S. government.

After her arrest, First Look Media, which owns The Intercept, pledged to support Winner’s legal defense, but Winner says that support stopped shortly after her sentencing in August 2018. Nonetheless, she says, lawyers retained by First Look Media continued to advocate for her, even filing a petition for pierre omidyarcompassionate release “basically pro bono” after billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s nonprofit news outfit “fell behind” on payments to the firm. Omidyar is shown at right in a file photo.

According to Winner, the last time she discussed the matter with her then-legal team, First Look owed the legal team “30 percent of the original agreed cost” of her legal defense. David Bralow, legal director of First Look Media’s Press Freedom Defense Fund, strongly disputed Winner’s characterization.

In 2017, when Winner first came across the document on an internal NSA server, she chose to share it with The Intercept in large part because of her admiration for the disclosures Edward Snowden made with Greenwald and Poitras’ help, but also because of skepticism about Russia’s attempts to influence in the 2016 election.

Today, Winner is wary of what she sees as The Intercept’s contribution to an increasingly polarized media landscape. She has been especially stung by what she sees as Greenwald’s assertions that her own mistakes — including failing to follow guidelines for leakers outlined on The Intercept’s website, like specific advice not to contact the outlet either from work or by email — contributed to her arrest. (Greenwald, who was not involved in reporting the story, resigned from The Intercept in 2020, accusing the outlet of censoring an article critical of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter.)

Like Chelsea Manning, Winner says she’s been surprised by what she views as a cynical change in Greenwald’s public persona. Greenwald, she says, is “addicted to negative press…He’s willing to have whatever message is going to generate the most attention… Glenn isn’t the problem, he’s a symptom, and they’re all going to wind up like him.”

glenn greenwald intercept anniversary poster april 16 2019Reached by email, Greenwald (shown above, second from left, as part of a 2019 promo, said, “The only point I ever made about Reality Winner is that even if The Intercept had acted responsibly, Reality Winner would have been caught anyway — not because she’s ‘stupid’ but because the US government has created such a pervasive surveillance system that it is very difficult for any inside source to evade detection if the government is determined to find them.”

“I wasn’t the first source that they burned and I definitely wasn’t the last — two other people have done prison time [due to] them being extremely sloppy,” Winner says, referring to Daniel Hale, sentenced to 45 months in prison earlier this year after he pled guilty to leaking documents about the U.S. military’s drone program, and Terry Albury, sentenced in 2018 to four years in prison after leaking documents concerning the bureau’s use of informants. “Every time one of their sources goes to prison, that’s another headline for them. That’s how they stay relevant — by burning sources, instead of the journalism that they once believed in.”

In a statement, Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, said, “As we’ve acknowledged before, in preparing the story on Russian election interference in 2017, we made errors in the course of verifying a document that came to us anonymously. We honor her courage and feel awful about what she went through… We have learned from Reality’s case and we work hard to minimize the risks whistleblowers face.” Separately, Reed said she wasn’t aware of any evidence that The Intercept had made missteps in its reporting in either Hale or Albury’s cases.

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ny times logoNew York Times, N.F.L. to Settle Lawsuit Over Rams’ Relocation for $790 Million, Ken Belson, Nov. 24, 2021. Rams owner Stanley Kroenke is expected to pay the entire amount, ending the four-year court battle over the team’s move to Los Angeles in 2016.

The N.F.L. has agreed to pay the city and county of St. Louis $790 million to settle a four-year dispute over whether the league broke its own relocation guidelines to pave the way for the Rams to move to Los Angeles in 2016, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity. A league spokesman confirmed that a settlement had been reached, but declined to confirm the amount.

In a civil suit, a group that included the city, the county and the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority said Rams executives, N.F.L. officials and other teams’ owners had encouraged the group to try to build a new stadium to keep the franchise. Officials in St. Louis spent $17 million on designs and plans for a new stadium, but the league disregarded those efforts without explanation and team owners voted to allow the Rams to move to California, the complaint said.

Rams owner Stanley Kroenke, who in recent weeks tried to narrow the scope of his liability in the case, is expected to pay for the entire settlement.

The payout comes on top of the $550 million relocation fee that Kroenke paid to the N.F.L. for the right to move to Los Angeles. He has also spent roughly $5 billion to build SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., which the Rams share with the Los Angeles Chargers, and which will host the Super Bowl in February.

ny times logoNew York Times, Karim Benzema, French Soccer Star, Is Convicted in Sex Tape Scandal, Aurelien Breeden, Nov. 24, 2021. The Real Madrid striker was found guilty of being part of an attempt to blackmail a fellow player, charges that had led to his being dropped from his national team for more than five years.

Karim Benzema, a star striker for Real Madrid, was found guilty by a French court on Wednesday on charges that he was part of an attempt to blackmail a fellow player in a case involving a sex tape, a scandal that saw Benzema excluded from France’s national soccer team for more than five years.

Benzema, 33, was given a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 75,000 euros, or about $84,000.

He had been accused of helping four other men blackmail Mathieu Valbuena, a teammate in the France squad, over an intimate video that had been taken from Valbuena’s mobile phone.

Benzema has always denied the accusations, and his lawyers quickly announced that he would appeal the verdict. He was preparing for Real Madrid’s Champions League match later on Wednesday against Sheriff Tiraspol and did not attend court for the decision.

Crooks & Liars, Oh, And You Thought It Was Just You Being Seduced By Aliens? Susie Madrak, Nov. 24, 2021. End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, and then it tried to have sex with her, but after she invoked Jesus, it turned out to be a reptile.

Appearing on the Jim Bakker show, End Times preacher Sharon Gilbert says that an alien imitated her husband, tried to have sex with her, then it claimed to be Xerxes, she invoked Jesus, and then the alien revealed itself as a reptile with a gang of gargoyles.

Her husband, Derek P. Gilbert, hosts SkyWatchTV, a Christian television program, and co-hosts weekly video programs SciFriday and Unraveling Revelation with his wife, according to Amazon.

Coincidentally, he's also the co-author with his wife of Giants, Gods & Dragons, a new take on End Times prophecy that puts names to the entities called the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and Veneration, a book on ancient ancestor cults that reveals hidden prophecies of the return of the evil dead at Armageddon. Derek has also co-authored The Day the Earth Stands Still with Josh Peck, which documents the occult origins of “ancient aliens.”

I read something recently that evangelical grifters are really concerned about the possible fallout if the U.S. government, which is following a "drip, drip, drip" strategy, reveals UAPs are of extraterrestrial origin -- and presumably cuts into their cash flow. (Think those private jets are cheap?)

Fortunately, some of these forward-looking folks are already developing alternate theologies, like saying aliens are the old gods, come back to undermine Christianity.

Nov. 23

Missouri Independent, Alden Global Capital moves to buy Lee Enterprises, owner of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Nov. 23, 2021. Alden, which has amassed around 200 publications through a series of acquisitions of large, financially struggling legacy newspaper chains.

Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund that this year became the second largest newspaper publisher in the United States, has made an offer to purchase Lee Enterprises, the media company that owns 75 daily newspapers, including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

alden global capital logoDennis Swibold, a professor of journalism at the University of Montana and author of a book on the history of newspaper ownership in the state, said in Lee, Alden must think it can find some loose change somewhere.

“They see savings,” Swibold said. “They wouldn’t be making this offer if they didn’t see cuts.”

Alden, which has amassed around 200 publications through a series of acquisitions of large, financially struggling legacy newspaper chains, is making an all-cash offer to buy Lee at $24 a share, a healthy premium, for a total of $141 million. Lee stock was trading at around $18.50 by the end of last week, but since climbed to $23.40 a share by Monday afternoon.

“We believe that as a private company and part of our successful nationwide platforms, Lee would be in a stronger position to maximize its resources and realize strategic value that enhances its operations and supports its employees in their important work serving local communities,” Alden wrote to Lee’s board of directors in a letter Monday. “Our interest in Lee is a reaffirmation of our substantial commitment to the newspaper industry and our desire to support local newspapers over the long term.”

missouri mapHowever, Alden’s track record seems to suggest otherwise. The firm has a history of purchasing newspapers to cut costs wherever possible and squeeze whatever profit is left out of a struggling medium in a struggling industry — often, this comes in the form of layoffs, selling off buildings, increased subscription prices and diminished coverage of local stories. It made one of its biggest moves this year, purchasing Tribune Publishing, which operated the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and other large legacy papers.

As recently covered in The Atlantic, whatever profits Alden makes generally aren’t reinvested in news, but are put in other areas. Its purchase of the Chicago Tribune meant buyouts for around a quarter of the newsroom. At the Denver Post, under Alden subsidiary Digital First Media, the editorial staff was reduced by two-thirds and its downtown newsroom leased out. Last year, Alden managing director Heath Freeman told the Washington Post he wanted his firm to be remembered for saving the industry — though the Post reported he “told friends the pragmatic truth is that newspapers need to be cut to be saved.”

It’s likely that Alden, which first bought a six percent stake in Lee last year, is making a similar play here, said Swibold. Alden said it could close a deal in approximately four weeks.

“I remember when they bought almost 6 percent of Lee, this is one of the things that instantly popped on my radar screen as something that could happen,” Swibold said. “Their history is one of ruthless efficiency. They have really taken a lot of the papers they’ve bought and purchased and put them through an incredibly intense stress test to find savings.”

In its letter to Lee’s board, Alden noted that “back office operations and legacy public company functions” in the news business “remain bloated.”

There’s no guarantee that Lee’s stakeholders take the offer, though Alden has proven to be persistent — in 2019, it attempted an (ultimately unsuccessful) hostile takeover of Gannett, itself a newspaper company known for making cuts.

Lee did not return a request for comment.

Swibold acknowledged that Lee has made its fair share of cuts and asset sales, but has generally tried to stay in the black. Still, the news industry has faced significant decline and consolidation, and hedge funds have often come in to fill the void left by collapsing legacy companies.

“It’s really hard for public companies,” he said, “when they’re faced with these kind of offers and their stockholders see a way out.”

For most of its history, the Post-Dispatch was owned by the Pulitzer family. In 2005, Lee purchased Pulitzer Inc. in a cash deal valued at $1.46 billion. The company also owns the Daily Journal in Park Hills, Missouri.

danny fenster deadline detroitDeadline Detroit, Video: Freed Metro Detroit Journalist Danny Fenster on Prison, Hopelessness and His Joyful Flight Home, Allan Lengel, Nov. 23, 2021.  Metro Detroit journalist Danny Fenster, above, was starting to lose hope. He’d already spent about four months in a Myanmar prison, much of it in a 9’-by-7’ cell, waiting to learn more about the case against him. He didn’t know what was being done on the outside to secure his release, but whatever it was, it wasn't working.

"At one point, I thought, I may be here for three years. ... I could never think of more than that at one time."

Weeks later, after being sentenced to 11 years of hard labor for violating laws related to the media and immigration, Fenster was pardoned and released last week.

The 37-year-old recently sat down at his parents' home in Huntington Woods with Deadline Detroit's Allan Lengel and talked in detail about prison life, the food, the guards, being blindfolded after his airport arrest May 24 and the English-speaking inmates he befriended.

Fenster, then-managing editor of the publication, Frontier Mynamer, talked about learning that guitarist Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine and U2’s Bono tweeted about his plight. He also discussed the strange obsession, apparently even in Southeast Asia, with George Soros. Below is the full interview.

Nov. 22

Press Run, Opinion: GOP violence is the most important political story in America, Eric Boehlert, right, Nov. 22, 2021. Ripping at the seams. Democrats never eric.boehlertused their considerable political muscle to try to demolish free and fair elections in America. That’s not true for today’s Republican Party, as it actively mainstreams the looming menace of hostility by fanning the flames of civil unrest, including last week celebrating an underage vigilante killer, Kyle Rittenhouse.

After he was acquitted on murder charges, at least three House Republicans said they wanted the gunman to be their intern, including Rep. Madison Cawthorn who urged his followers to “be armed and dangerous,” while posting a message celebrating Rittenhouse’s acquittal.

“Hard to describe how chilling it is to see members of the GOP and open white supremacists come together to celebrate a vigilante killing two people and getting away with it,” Cassie Miller, an extremism researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center, tweeted.

The flashpoints of Republicans and conservatives promoting political violence have become ceaseless, to the point of frightening normalization. After Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted an anime video altered to show him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and swinging two swords at President Joe Biden, virtually the entire Republican Party rallied to Gosar’s side when he faced a formal House rebuke for his violent, dehumanizing outburst.

Despite the GOP’s nearly universal support, Politico insisted the episode highlighted the “fringe” side of the party, while the Beltway media outlet Punch Bowl reduced the threatening, unnerving Gosar chapter to Democrats and Republicans just not trusting each other.

The violent virus is spreading to the grassroots level. Polls suggest that as many as 21 million Americans think that the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency. In Kansas, anti-vaxxers showed up to municipal meetings wearing yellow stars, suggesting they had equal footing with Jewish victims of the Holocaust. White nationalist members of The Proud Boys are showing up at local school board meetings, to lend a menacing air to the proceedings.

At a conservative rally in western Idaho last month, a young man asked local leaders when he could start killing Democrats. “When do we get to use the guns?” he said as the audience applauded. When Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI) voted in favor of the recent infrastructure bill to help rebuild roads across the country she was inundated with death threats. One man told her, “I pray to God that if you’ve got any children, they die in your face.”

The welcome Times piece last week on GOP violence stood in contrast to a wave of vague, worthless reporting we’ve seen this year about how “Americans” are angry, without pinpointing the obvious source of the unbridled, incoherent wrath.

“Americans are angry about ... everything. Is that bad?” read a recent Christian Science Monitor headline. The piece equated right-wing, anti-mask parents storming local school board meetings and issuing death threats with social justice activists taking to the streets to protest police brutality. Those two things aren’t remotely similar.

 

oliver stone newseum

Filmmaker Oliver Stone poses with a display showing his iconic 1991 film JFK. A sequel, "JFK Revisited," was previewed last summer at the Cannes Film Festival and is being released this month in the United States via Showtime on Nov. 22 (Photo via The Newseum).

Yahoo News, Oliver Stone Yet Again Makes the Case That the CIA Killed JFK, Nick Schager, Nov. 22, 2021. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, has arguably spawned more conspiracy theories than any other incident in American history, and no one has hypothesized about the nefarious forces at play in this homicide more publicly, and feverishly, than Oliver Stone.

The acclaimed director’s star-studded 1991 thriller JFK turned the tragedy into a national guessing game of motives, culprits and covert machinations carried out in the shadows, pointing fingers in so many directions that, today, it feels like a progenitor of our current fake news-addled reality. Depending on who you ask, JFK cemented Stone’s legacy as either a firebrand willing to speak truth to power, or a crackpot lost in a haze of make-believe.

Now, 30 years later, he’s returned to the scene of the crime.

oliver stone jfk revisited posterBased on Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case by James DiEugenio, the doc JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass aims to lay out concrete answers about Kennedy’s murder and, in doing so, to validate Stone’s prior fictionalized take on the subject. Premiering Nov. 19 on Showtime (following its debut at this past July’s Cannes Film Festival), it’s a typical Stone effort, at once comprehensive and overstuffed, compelling and tiresome, sure of its own authoritativeness and yet unwilling (or unable) to provide definitive proof for its claims.

Narrated by Stone, Whoopi Goldberg and Donald Sutherland, the last of whom also co-starred in JFK, as well as occasionally featuring Stone himself on camera, it’s a non-fiction inquiry that’s packed to the gills with names, dates, faces, documents, events, conversations, conjecture and talking-head commentary from a variety of authors and academics. If ever a movie was at once exhaustive and exhausting, this is it.

Even though he hasn’t made a memorable fictional feature in 15 years (that would be World Trade Center), JFK Revisited immediately proves that the director has lost none of his montage-y artistry. In the first few minutes, he splices together a cornucopia of archival clips regarding Kennedy’s assassination that provide a comprehensive contextual foundation for the inquiry to follow. The breadth of information that Stone crams into this opening salvo, and the suspense, terror and heartache he captures, is a marvel to behold. It so ably conveys the primary facets of Kennedy’s execution that the filmmaker is then free to pick apart myriad aspects of the official narrative that would subsequently emerge.

The swiftness with which Stone stages his introduction doesn’t dissipate for the remainder of the proceedings, which is at once a blessing and a curse. Having gotten the basics out of the way, Stone dives headfirst into examining various key details that are open to reinterpretation, thanks to revelations that came to light in the weeks, months and years following Kennedy’s death. First up is the “single bullet theory” promoted by the Warren Commission and, in particular, then-staffer Arlen Specter, which contended that one projectile fired by Lee Harvey Oswald struck Kennedy in the back, exited via his throat, and then hit Texas Governor John Connally, who was seated in front of the president during their motorcade through Dallas’ Dealey Plaza. A collection of speakers poke holes in different aspects of this premise, from discrepancies regarding chain-of-custody reports, to the lack of damage found on the bullet, to the dubiousness of Oswald owning the rifle that wound up in police custody, to autopsy reports (about the gunshot wound location, and weight of Kennedy’s brain) that may have been altered.

showtime logoStone throws all of this up on the screen without allotting a moment for the audience to take a breath and consider what’s being presented, and the effect is akin to being lectured by someone who wants to sway through overwhelming force. Stone may move at this pace so he can fit all of his ideas into a two-hour runtime, but that doesn’t change the fact that JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass strives to persuade through a blitzkrieg-like approach. While Stone’s sheer abundance of data is intended to project a measure of bedrock certainty, the director’s speedy dispensation of his material suggests a lack of absolute confidence, as if he’s afraid that lingering too long on any one item—or allowing contrary voices to be heard—might undercut the entire endeavor.

Thus, the film blazes onward into further realms, including Oswald’s potentially close ties to the CIA, and the CIA’s (and right-wing establishment’s) objection to Kennedy’s progressive ideas and ambitions. The former thread involves rehashing Oswald’s 1959 defection to the Soviet Union, his stint passing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans, and his own slaying on national TV at the hands of Jack Ruby. The latter entails surmising about the CIA’s role in sabotaging the Bay of Pigs, and opposition to Kennedy’s plans to withdraw from Vietnam and his support for civil rights. Much of this has been heard before, from Stone and many others, some of it mildly convincing, some of it… less so.

The overarching argument forwarded by JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass is that the CIA offed Kennedy and then engaged in an elaborate, multi-pronged cover-up via the Warren Commission and multiple operatives who successfully doctored or destroyed records, strong-armed people to lie about what they saw or did, and disseminated falsehoods in order to manipulate public sentiment. Stone’s kitchen-sink investigation does suggest that questions remain about certain elements of this saga, not least of which is Oswald’s relationship with the CIA, since the office of Oswald’s pro-Cuba group was located in the same building as that of a former FBI agent—and, it turns out, was also across the street from the local CIA HQ. Those sorts of coincidences abound, and together, they go some way toward raising suspicions about the Warren Commission’s single-shooter theory.

On the other hand, though, Stone’s tack in making this case—namely, to bombard viewers with “evidence”—frequently sabotages his ultimate point. JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass may contain some truths, but they’re buried beneath so much excitable speculation that it’s impossible to firmly grasp them.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: We’re a Small Arkansas Newspaper. Why Is the State Making Us Sign a Pledge About Israel? Alan Leveritt, Nov. 22, 2021. At The Arkansas Times, a publication I founded 47 years ago, our pages focus on small-scale local issues, like protecting Medicaid expansion from the predations of our state legislature and other elements of Arkansas politics, history and culture.

So I was surprised when in 2018 I received an ultimatum from the University of Arkansas’s Pulaski Technical College, a longtime advertiser: To continue receiving its ad dollars, we would have to certify in writing that our company was not engaged in a boycott of Israel. It was puzzling. Our paper focuses on the virtues of Sims Bar-B-Que down on Broadway — why would we be required to sign a pledge regarding a country in the Middle East?

I understood the context of that email. In 2017, Arkansas pledged to enforce support for Israel by mandating that public agencies not do business with contractors unless those contractors affirm that they do not boycott Israel.

The idea behind the bill goes back 16 years. In 2005, Palestinian civil society launched a campaign calling for “boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.” Around the world, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S., as it became known, gained momentum. In response, Israel and lobbyists have used multiple strategies to quash the movement. In the United States, one such strategy took the form of anti-B.D.S. bills. Currently, more than 30 states have provisions on the books similar to Arkansas’s.

It soon became clear that The Arkansas Times had to answer our advertiser. Though boycotting Israel could not have been further from our minds and though state funding is a significant source of our income, our answer was no. We don’t take political positions in return for advertising. If we signed the pledge, I believe, we’d be signing away our right to freedom of conscience. And as journalists, we would be unworthy of the protections granted us under the First Amendment.

And so, instead of signing, we sued to overturn the law, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, on the grounds that it violates the First and 14th Amendments. We are still fighting it.

The Arkansas legislature is dominated by conservative evangelicals, such as the former Senate majority leader, Bart Hester. He is featured in the new documentary film “Boycott,” directed by Julia Bacha and produced by the group Just Vision.

“Boycott” follows three plaintiffs, including me, challenging their states’ anti-boycott laws. In the film, Senator Hester explains that his religious belief motivates everything he does as a government official, including writing Arkansas’s anti-boycott law. He also explains his eschatological beliefs: “There is going to be certain things that happen in Israel before Christ returns. There will be famines and disease and war. And the Jewish people are going to go back to their homeland. At that point Jesus Christ will come back to the earth.” He added, “Anybody, Jewish or not Jewish, that doesn’t accept Christ, in my opinion, will end up going to hell.” Senator Hester and his coreligionists may see the anti-boycott law as a way to support Israel, whose return to its biblical borders, according to their reading of scripture, is one of the precursors to the Second Coming and Armageddon.

In other words, Senator Hester and other supporters of the law entwine religion and public life in a manner that we believe intrudes on our First Amendment rights.

These types of laws are not restricted to states in which fundamentalist Christians hold sway. In 2016, California passed a law requiring large contractors working with a state agency to certify that they will not discriminate against Israel, and Andrew Cuomo, as governor of New York, signed an executive order that compels state entities to divest money and assets from a list of organizations regarded by the state as participating in the boycott. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York proposed national anti-boycott legislation.

Let’s be clear, states are trading their citizens’ First Amendment rights for what looks like unconditional support for a foreign government.

If we lose in the Eighth Circuit, our last hope is the Supreme Court. Ours isn’t the only case out there. In 2018 and 2019, federal courts in Texas, Arizona and Kansas ruled against their states’ anti-B.D.S. laws. If the Supreme Court rules against us, the other favorable rulings could be in jeopardy. Also concerning is that these states have since amended their anti-boycott laws, narrowing their scope so they apply only to companies with a large number of contractors and to public contracts that are more than $100,000 but without addressing what we see as the laws’ fundamental unconstitutionality.

Although the Arkansas press has covered the case, there has been little editorial support for or comment on our fight beyond that. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette signed the pledge — as did Arkansas Business, our business journal. And yet freedom of expression is a sacred American value and foundational to our democratic ideals.

Alan Leveritt is the founder and publisher of The Arkansas Times. His lawsuit against Arkansas’s anti-boycott law is the subject of Just Vision’s upcoming documentary “Boycott.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Two Fox News Contributors Quit in Protest of Tucker Carlson’s Jan. 6 Special, Ben Smith, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Jonah Goldberg and Stephen Hayes, stars of a brand of conservatism that has fallen out of fashion, decide they’ve had enough, our media columnist writes.

The trailer for Tucker Carlson’s special about the Jan. 6 mob at the Capitol landed online on Oct. 27, and that night Jonah Goldberg sent a text to his business partner, Stephen Hayes: “I’m tempted just to quit Fox over this.”

“I’m game,” Mr. Hayes replied. “Totally outrageous. It will lead to violence. Not sure how we can stay.”

The full special, “Patriot Purge,” appeared on Fox’s online subscription streaming service days later. And last week, the two men, both paid Fox News contributors, finalized their resignations from the network.

fox news logo SmallIn some ways, their departures should not be surprising: It’s simply part of the new right’s mopping up operation in the corners of conservative institutions that still house pockets of resistance to Donald J. Trump’s control of the Republican Party. Mr. Goldberg, a former National Review writer, and Mr. Hayes, a former Weekly Standard writer, were stars of the pre-Trump conservative movement. They clearly staked out their positions in 2019 when they founded The Dispatch, an online publication that they described as “a place that thoughtful readers can come for conservative, fact-based news and commentary.” It now has nearly 30,000 paying subscribers.

Their departures also mark the end of a lingering hope among some at Fox News — strange as this is for outsiders to understand — that the channel would at some point return to a pre-Trump reality that was also often hyperpartisan, but that kept some distance from Republican officials. Fox’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, recently deplored Trumpism while acting as though — as Bloomberg’s Tim O’Brien noted — he didn’t run the company.

The reality of Fox and similar institutions is that many of their leaders feel that the tight bond between Mr. Trump and their audiences or constituents leaves them little choice but to go along, whatever they believe. Fox employees often speak of this in terms of “respecting the audience.” And in a polarized age, the greatest opportunities for ratings, money and attention, as politicians and media outlets left and right have demonstrated, are on the extreme edges of American politics.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook’s race-blind decisions on hate speech came at expense of Black users, documents show, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Nitasha Tiku and Craig Timberg, Nov. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Researchers proposed a fix to the biased algorithm, but one internal document predicted pushback from “conservative partners.”

Last year, researchers at Facebook showed executives an example of the kind of hate speech circulating on the social network: an actual post featuring an image of four female Democratic lawmakers known collectively as “The Squad.”

facebook logoThe poster, whose name was scrubbed out for privacy, referred to the women, two of whom are Muslim, as “swami rag heads.” A comment from another person used even more vulgar language, referring to the four women of color as “black c---s,” according to internal company documents exclusively obtained by The Washington Post.

The post represented the “worst of the worst” language on Facebook — the majority of it directed at minority groups, according to a two-year effort by a large team working across the company, the document said. The researchers urged executives to adopt an aggressive overhaul of its software system that would primarily remove only those hateful posts before any Facebook users could see them.

But Facebook’s leaders balked at the plan. According to two people familiar with the internal debate, top executives including Vice President for Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan feared the new system would tilt the scales by protecting some vulnerable groups over others. A policy executive prepared a document for Kaplan that raised the potential for backlash from “conservative partners,” according to the document. The people spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal matters.

The previously unreported debate is an example of how Facebook’s decisions in the name of being neutral and race-blind in fact come at the expense of minorities and particularly people of color. Far from protecting Black and other minority users, Facebook executives wound up instituting half-measures after the “worst of the worst” project that left minorities more likely to encounter derogatory and racist language on the site, the people said.

Nov. 21kyle rittenhouse closeup safe imagewashington post logoWashington Post, Kyle Rittenhouse attorney says he ‘did not approve’ Tucker Carlson’s film crew following them at trial, Timothy Bella, Nov. 21, 2021. “I did not approve of that,” attorney Mark Richards said of the Fox Nation film crew, hours after his client was acquitted of all charges. “I threw them out of the room several times. I don’t think a film crew is appropriate for something like this.”

fox news logo SmallHours after Kyle Rittenhouse (shown above in a screenshot) was acquitted on all charges Friday, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, below right, tucker carlsonannounced that he would not only interview the teen on Monday, but also had a film crew following the 18-year-old throughout the murder trial as part of an upcoming documentary for Fox Nation.

In a clip that aired Friday night, a smiling Rittenhouse told the film crew he was relieved to be acquitted, more than a year after he fatally shot two people and wounded a third amid unrest over a police shooting in Kenosha, Wis.

“The jury reached the correct verdict,” Rittenhouse said. “Self-defense is not illegal.”

Nov. 19

Press Run, Commentary: Everything the press said about the economy was wrong; It's surging, Eric Boehlert, right, Nov 19, 2021. Want an unvarnished, unfiltered eric.boehlertview of the U.S. economy, the kind that you’re not seeing from the Beltway press today, as they push panicked inflation updates?

It’s simple. Worker wages are up this year as employees enjoy unmatched leverage in the marketplace. Job gains are soaring. And companies are printing profits thanks to sky-high consumer demand —Target’s sales spiked 13 percent in the last quarter and the retail giant expects double-digit gains over the holiday shopping season. That's crucial because consumer spending accounts for two-thirds of the economy. All the while, mortgage interest rates hover around 2.5 percent.

The specifics:

• The government dramatically undercounted the number of new jobs from June through September, so we now know an additional 626,000 jobs were created those months, blowing away the idea of a stymied hiring pattern nationwide. Remember the “disappointing” jobs report from August, with 235,000 jobs? It was actually 483,000 new positions. It turns out there’s been a jobs explosion this entire year, and all indications are the trend will continue into 2022.

• Goldman Sachs predicts by the end of next year the U.S. unemployment rate will drop to a 50-year low, thanks to a "red-hot demand for workers.”

• Retail sales surged 1.7 percent in the month of October, as consumers flocked online and into stores, splurging on electronics and home-improvement projects. American consumers spent $638 billion in October, a 16 percent increase from last year.

• JP Morgan upgraded its growth expectations for the economy, raising its forecast for the U.S. gross domestic product to climb to 5 percent in the fourth quarter.

• Biden’s pandemic stimulus plan has worked: “Households are sitting on a collective $2.5 trillion in savings built up during the pandemic,” the New York Times reports.

Nov. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Rupert Murdoch says Trump should move on: ‘The past is the past,’ Adela Suliman, Nov. 18, 2021. Conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch is publicly rebuking former president Donald Trump — telling him to get over the past and to focus on the future.

rupert murdoch newTrump — who continues to allege that the 2020 election was “rigged” against him, including recently in News Corp’s Wall Street fox news logo SmallJournal — should move on, billionaire Murdoch, 90, right, said Wednesday during News Corp’s annual shareholder meeting.

“The current American political debate is profound, whether about education or welfare or economic opportunity,” said Murdoch, whose family controls Fox News’s parent company, Fox Corp. “It is crucial that conservatives play an active, forceful role in that debate, but that will not happen if President Trump stays focused on the past.”

“The past is the past, and the country is now in a contest to define the future,” Murdoch continued.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Tries to Block New York Times’s Coverage of Project Veritas, Michael M. Grynbaum, Nov. 18, 2021. The state court order, which The Times said it would immediately oppose, raised concerns from First Amendment advocates.

A New York trial court judge ordered The New York Times on Thursday to temporarily refrain from publishing or seeking out certain documents related to the conservative group Project Veritas, an unusual instance of a court blocking coverage by a major news organization.

The order raised immediate concerns among First Amendment advocates, who called it a violation of basic constitutional protections for journalists, a viewpoint echoed by The Times. Project Veritas issued a statement in support of the order, arguing that it did not amount to a significant imposition on the newspaper’s rights.

The judge’s order is part of a pending libel lawsuit filed by Project Veritas against The Times in 2020. That suit accuses the newspaper of defaming Project Veritas in its reporting on a video produced by the group that made unverified claims of voter fraud in Minnesota.

Led by the provocateur James O’Keefe, Project Veritas often conducts sting operations — including the use of fake identities and hidden cameras — aimed at embarrassing Democratic campaigns, labor organizations, news outlets and other entities. It is the subject of a Justice Department investigation into its possible involvement in the reported theft of a diary that apparently belonged to President Biden’s daughter, Ashley.

Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a lawyer who represents media outlets including CNN, called the court’s order “ridiculous.”
Daily business updates The latest coverage of business, markets and the economy, sent by email each weekday. Get it sent to your inbox.

“Even though it’s temporary, the Supreme Court has said even the most modest, minute-by-minute deprivations of these First Amendment rights cannot be tolerated,” Mr. Boutrous said. “To go further and suggest a limit on news gathering, I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

In a Nov. 11 article about the Justice Department investigation, The Times published excerpts from memos prepared by a lawyer for Project Veritas, which elucidated ways for the group to engage in deceptive reporting practices, like creating fake identities, while avoiding any breach of federal law.

The memos predate the libel case against The Times by several years. But on Wednesday, Project Veritas filed a motion arguing that The Times had breached its right to attorney-client privilege by disseminating the memos, and accused the paper of trying to embarrass a litigation opponent. (Along with the written excerpts, images of the memos were briefly posted on Nov. 11 on The Times’s website. A Times spokeswoman said that this was inadvertent, and that the images were removed after editors discovered the mistake.)

On Thursday, the trial court judge, Charles D. Wood of State Supreme Court in Westchester County, ordered that The Times “immediately sequester, protect and refrain” from disseminating any of the materials prepared by the Project Veritas lawyer. Furthermore, Justice Wood instructed The Times to “cease further efforts to solicit or acquire” those materials, effectively preventing the newspaper from reporting on the matter.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Chris Christie’s book tour lands with a thud, James Sullivan, Nov. 18, 2021. There’s not really much to be said about Chris Christie that hasn’t been already. At one point, he was a respected governor of a reliably blue state and seen as a moderate – largely because he wasn’t as openly chris christie press 200corrupt and racist as fellow contemporary Republican governors like Paul LePage or Rick Scott and in less than two years, he became the least popular governor in America over a scandal that his administration didn’t even need to concoct in the first place.

bill palmer report logo headerAfter that, his political career pretty much hit a dead end, as the move that made him popular – an efficient response to Hurricane Sandy – also killed his reputation with Republicans across the country: a photo of him hugging President Obama when the GOP was running on a platform of anti-Obama sentiment.

Somewhere along the line, cable news pundits saw him as a go-to expert on elections – probably in the name of fairness or some other nonsense and CNN decided to do a documentary to whitewash his image in the eyes of national voters. It’s not quite clear why they gave the despised former governor free publicity for his new book – but it ended poorly for them. The ratings for the show cratered – mostly because Christie doesn’t have much mileage beyond the Beltway pundits – and the most memorable thing about this tour is a viral clip of Christie being ripped to pieces by Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC.

There is, however, some good news in this: refusing to tune in when the media is clearly giving puff pieces to awful people is having an effect. If there were a moment to show their desperation for ratings for what it is – this is it. We now need to treat the doomcast pundits accordingly while putting in the work needed to win.

 

djt mike lindell frank tv still

Still from a video published at Frank Speech. (Frank Speech) (FrankSpeech)

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s latest media appearance? A 30-minute chat/pillow ad, Philip Bump, Nov. 18, 2021. So there’s Donald Trump, sitting on an uncomfortable-looking chair in an ornate but empty ballroom, decked out in a tuxedo as a rainstorm battered Mar-a-Lago. And across from him in another uncomfortable-looking chair, the pillow guy, Mike Lindell.

For more than half an hour, the two discussed their shared, wildly incorrect understanding of American politics in a video that Lindell, CEO of MyPillow, later posted to his sort-of social media site Frank Speech. Every so often, a snippet of text would pop up as the men chatted: Use this special promotional code to save on a new MyPillow!

The encounter was not notable because it revealed some new truths. In introducing the discussion, Lindell promised that he would ask a lot of questions that the former president had not previously faced. So, right out of the gates, he dealt Trump a high fastball: “I want to ask you a question that you probably haven’t been asked, and that was: Was running the country what you expected it to be, or was it like when you were running your business?”

Hard as it may be to believe, Trump wriggled out of Lindell’s cunning trap. His response was pretty much what you would have expected it to be: The media was mean, the Democrats were mean, President Biden is terrible. Lindell, sitting giddily on the edge of his chair, interjected to offer agreement and praise.

Lindell was correct when he began the conversation by pointing out that he’s used to being the subject of interviews and not the conductor of them. But that’s changing.

Over the past year, Lindell’s breathless effort to prove his unprovable argument that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump has generated a second career: media magnate.

The fortune he accrued from his pillow sales has been deployed to create not only Frank Speech — a platform dedicated to free speech that hasn’t yet launched and that bans swearing — but a streaming platform called Lindell TV. He’s made various films detailing what he claims to be evidence of rampant fraud in the 2020 election, evidence that was quickly debunked. He has become a one-man conglomerate focused on a single goal: defending the indefensible election claims made by Trump, whom he described in introducing the conversation as “our real president.”

Nov. 17

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Why Doesn’t the CIA Just Destroy Its Secret JFK Records? Jacob G. Hornberger, right, Nov. 17, 2021. With President jacob hornberger newBiden’s order granting the CIA’s request for continued secrecy of its 60-year-old records retailing to the JFK assassination — on grounds of protecting “national security” — the question naturally arises: Why doesn’t the the CIA simply sneak into the National Archives and just destroy its records and be done with it?

By now, it should be obvious to everyone, including the CIA’s assets in the mainstream press, that the CIA’s remaining secret records contain incriminating evidence pointing toward a national-security state regime-change operation against President Kennedy, just as Oliver Stone posited in his movie JFK in 1991. The notion that the release of 60-year-old records will endanger “national security,” no matter what definition is placed on that meaningless, nebulous term, is patently ludicrous on its face.

future of freedom foundation logo squareMind you, I’m not advocating that the CIA do this, of course. I believe those long-secret records should have been disclosed to the American people six decades ago. I’m just asking a question and wondering why the CIA doesn’t do what it has done in the past to prevent the American people from seeing its dark-side activities.

Yes, it know that doing this would be violating the JFK Records Act of 1992. But we all know that nothing would happen to the CIA if it broke the law and destroyed those records. Nobody would get indicted. No one would even lose his job. No one would even get a slap on the wrist. After all, this is the CIA we are talking about.

When the CIA intentionally destroyed its videotapes of its brutal torture sessions with suspected terrorists, nothing happened to the CIA. When the CIA intentionally destroyed its MKULTRA records of its drug experiments on unsuspecting American citizens, again nothing happened.

Moreover, consider what the Secret Service did after the JFK Records Act was enacted. That sordid story is recounted in Douglas Horne’s watershed secret service logo5-volume book Inside the Assassination Records Review Board.

The JFK Records Act mandated that all federal agencies disclose their assassination-related records to the public. To enforce the law, Congress called into existence The Assassination Records Review Board.

After the law was enacted, a letter was sent to the Secret Service and other federal agencies specifically directing them to not destroy any assassination-related records. The Secret Service received the letter and understood the directive.

Nonetheless, the Secret Service intentionally destroyed critically important secret information relating to the assassination.

CIA LogoNo one got indicted for what was obviously a knowing, intentional, and deliberate violation of the law. No one got cited for contempt. No one got fired. The Secret Service got away with it. The American people never got to see those secret assassination-related records.

The Secret Service’s intentional destruction of those records looked especially bad in the context of the Secret Service’s actions prior to and immediately after the assassination.

  1. First, it didn’t seal the windows or the roof of the Texas School Book Depository or other high-rise buildings overlooking Dealey Plaza, where President Kennedy was assassinated,
  2. Second, it prevented agents from stationing themselves on the side and back of the presidential limousine during the motorcade.
  3. Third, it ensured that the motorcycle cops stayed behind the limousine rather than on its sides.
  4. Fourth, the custom was to have the official press corps car in front of the presidential limousine so that the professional photographers could easily take pictures and film during the motorcade. This time, the Secret Service placed the press corps car several cars behind the limousine, which ensured that there were few professional photographers capturing the assassination in photographs or film.
  5. Fifth, when the first shot rang out, the Secret Service agent who was driving the presidential limousine — William Greer — failed to floor the accelerator and immediately escape from the area before a second shot could hit the president.
  6. Sixth, the Secret Service agent in the passenger seat — Roy Kellerman — sat there like a bump on the log after the first shot rang out, even though his duty was to immediately jump in the back seat and cover the president with his own body. That’s what Secret Service agent Clint Hill was trying to do when he ran from his car toward the president’s car.
  7. Seventh, as I detail in my book The Kennedy Autopsy, Kellerman was actually the person who first launched the scheme for a fraudulent autopsy that was conducted later that day at the military’s medical facility at Bethesda National Naval Medical Facility. When Dr. Earl Rose, the Dallas County Medical Examiner, announced his intention to conduct an autopsy on the president’s body in accordance with Texas state criminal law, Kellerman, who was carrying a submachine gun, declared that no such autopsy would be permitted. Stating that he was operating on orders. Kellerman and his team of Secret Service agents, who were themselves brandishing their own guns, forced their way out of Parkland with the president’s body in a very heavy ornate casket. Kellerman and his team then delivered the body to new President Lyndon Johnson. Later that day, Johnson delivered the president’s body to the military, which then conducted a top-secret, classified fraudulent autopsy on Kennedy’s body.

Kennedy’s body was secretly sneaked into the Bethesda morgue in a cheap shipping casket at 6:35 p.m., which was almost 1 1/2 hours before the official entry time of 8 p.m. As I also detailed in The Kennedy Autopsy, Secret Service agents Kellerman and Greer participated in the secret reintroduction of Kennedy’s body into the expensive, heavy ornate Dallas casket, which was then brought into the morgue at the official entry time of 8 p.m.

What was in those top-secret Secret Service records that the Secret Service intentionally destroyed after being specifically told not to destroy them?

I don’t know, but my hunch is that there was a good reason why the Secret Service felt the need to destroy them.

There is obviously a good reason why the CIA doesn’t want its 60-year-old records disclosed to the American people, and I have no doubts that it has nothing to do with protecting “national security.” Which causes me to wonder why the CIA doesn’t do what the Secret Service did and just be done with the entire controversy.

 

norman 3X butler thomas 15X johnson ap

The exoneration of the two men, Muhammad Aziz, left, formerly known as Norman 3X Butler) and the late Khalil Islam (formerly known as Thomas 15X Johnson), represents 'a remarkable acknowledgment of grave errors made in a case of towering importance,' the New York Times reported. Aziz and the estate of Islam were both reprsented by the Innocence Project and attorney David Shanies. Photos by Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Men Convicted of Killing Malcolm X Will Be Exonerated After 55 Years, Ashley Southall and Jonah E. Bromwich, Nov. 17, 2021. Two of the men found guilty of the assassination of Malcolm X are expected to have their convictions thrown out on Thursday, the Manhattan district attorney and lawyers for the two men said, rewriting the official history of one of the most notorious murders of the civil rights era.

The exoneration of the two men, Muhammad A. Aziz and Khalil Islam, represents a remarkable acknowledgment of grave errors made in a case of towering importance: the 1965 murder of one of America’s most influential Black leaders in the fight against racism.

malcolm x stamp black heritageA 22-month investigation conducted jointly by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and lawyers for the two men found that prosecutors and two of the nation’s premier law enforcement agencies — the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department — had withheld key evidence that, had it been turned over, would likely have led to the men’s acquittal.

The two men, known at the time of the killing as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson, spent decades in prison for the murder, which took place on Feb. 21, 1965, when three men opened fire inside a crowded ballroom at the Audubon Ballroom in Manhattan as Malcolm X was starting to speak.

But the case against them was questionable from the outset, and in the decades since, historians and hobbyists have raised doubts about the official story.

The review, which was undertaken as an explosive documentary about the assassination and a new biography renewed interest in the case, did not identify who prosecutors now believe really killed Malcolm X, and those who were previously implicated but never arrested are dead.

Nor did it uncover a police or government conspiracy to murder him. It also left unanswered questions about how and why the police and the federal government failed to prevent the assassination.

But the acknowledgment by Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney who is among the nation’s most prominent local prosecutors, recasts one of the most painful moments in modern American history. New York Times excerpt continued below.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Reactions to the Malcolm X Case, Staff Reports, Nov. 17, 2021. A timeline of major events in the case since Malcolm X’s death:

  • This is who scholars believe really killed Malcolm X.
  • What we know about Malcolm X’s assassination.
  • A new witness supports the original alibi of one of the wrongfully convicted men.
  • Al Sharpton calls exonerations in Malcolm X case a ‘strange and perverted irony.’

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: How Did So Much of the Media Get the Steele Dossier So Wrong? Bill Grueskin (Mr. Grueskin is a professor of professional practice and former academic dean at Columbia Journalism School. He has held senior editing positions at The Wall Street Journal, The Miami Herald and Bloomberg News), Nov. 15, 2021. 

On Jan. 10, 2017, BuzzFeed News published a photo rendition of a 35-page memo titled “U.S. Presidential Election: Republican Candidate Donald Trump’s Activities in Russia and Compromising Relationship With the Kremlin.”

Those who were online that evening remember the jolt. Yes, these were just allegations, but perhaps this was the Rosetta Stone of Trump corruption, touching everything from dodgy real estate negotiations to a sordid hotel-room tryst, all tied together by the president-elect’s obeisance to President Vladimir Putin of Russia.

Sure, the memo provided little hard evidence or specific detail, but, BuzzFeed said, it had “circulated at the highest levels of the U.S. government” and had “acquired a kind of legendary status among journalists, lawmakers and intelligence officials.” This, along with tantalizing tidbits like “Source A confided” or “confirmed by Source E,” gave it a patina of authenticity, especially to those unaware that spycraft often involves chasing unverified information down dead ends. Any caveats — even BuzzFeed’s own opening description of the allegations as “explosive but unverified” — could be dismissed as a kind of obligatory cautiousness.

christopher steele ex MI6 spy express croppedThat memo, soon to become known as the “Steele dossier” when a former British intelligence officer named Christopher Steele was publicly identified as its author, would inspire a slew of juicy, and often thinly sourced, articles and commentaries about Mr. Trump and Russia.

Now it has been largely discredited by two federal investigations and the indictment of a key source, leaving journalists to reckon how, in the heat of competition, so many were taken in so easily because the dossier seemed to confirm what they already suspected.

Many of the dossier’s allegations have turned out to be fictitious or, at best, unprovable. That wasn’t for want of trying by reporters from mainstream and progressive media outlets. Many journalists did show restraint. The New York Times’s Adam Goldman was asked by the Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple about two years ago how reporters should have approached an unverified rumor from the dossier. He responded, “By not publishing.”

 

igor danchenko john durham

Foreign affairs analyst and consultant Igor Danchenko, above left, who's been described as the Steele dossier's primary researcher, was arrested as part of an investigation by John Durham, above right, the special counsel appointed by Trump’s Justice Department to investigate the origins of the Russia probe.

Proof via Twitter, Investigative Commentary: Major media must stop enabling far-right lies about the Steele dossier and the Trump-Russia scandal, Seth seth abramson graphicAbramson, left, Nov. 17, 2021. Both these lies and those enabling them give aid and comfort to a neofascist insurrection. This thread debunks the New York Times oped above, Guest Essay: How Did So Much of the Media Get the Steele Dossier So Wrong?, by former Columbia Journalism School dean Bill Grueskin (30-part Twitter thread):

There's no proof in this article [by Grueskin], nor could there be, of how media "got the Steele dossier so wrong" — as the media never reported that *any* part of the dossier had been conclusively confirmed, never misreported its origins and wrote on the dossier far less than is now claimed.

Indeed, the supposed smoking gun with respect to media reporting on the Steele dossier is that one news outlet received a leak from a source close to the Mueller investigation indicating that Mueller had found *some* evidence that *one* claim in the dossier might be accurate.

It turns out that that leak—not the outlet's reporting that it'd received a leak—was incorrect, and Mueller found no evidence to substantiate that component of the dossier. This component remains neither confirmed nor denied, though Trumpists lie and say it has been disproven.

steele nyt headline

1/ As I know from hard experience, columnists often don't get to write their own headlines. But what this means is that someone at the New York Times either wrote or specifically approved this headline, which is not just a lie but an easily disproven one, at that. And here's why:

2/ There's no proof in this article, nor could there be, of how media "got the Steele dossier so wrong"—as the media never reported that *any* part of the dossier had been conclusively confirmed, never misreported its origins and wrote on the dossier far less than is now claimed.

3/ Indeed, the supposed smoking gun with respect to media reporting on the Steele dossier is that one news outlet received a leak from a source close to the Mueller investigation indicating that Mueller had found *some* evidence that *one* claim in the dossier might be accurate.

4/ It turns out that that leak—not the outlet's reporting that it'd received a leak—was incorrect, and Mueller found no evidence to substantiate that component of the dossier. This component remains neither confirmed nor denied, though Trumpists lie and say it has been disproven.

5/ The same Trumpists who say that this component of the dossier—a claim about Michael Cohen and Prague—has been "disproven," and say so on the basis of Cohen's denials and his alibi for a tiny sliver of the time-period in question, *also* say Cohen is a *liar* and a *scoundrel*.

6/ So what do the journalists that "got the Steele dossier so wrong" say of the Cohen-Prague claim? The truth—no more, no less. Which is that it remains neither proven nor disproven, but that Steele told the FBI his dossier was 30% incorrect, and this *could* be part of that 30%.

7/ The simple fact is this: though media bent over backwards—with the exception of a single outlet, the fringe, left-leaning, non-mainstream Mother Jones—to *not* report on the dossier before the 2016 election, Trumpists are angry that its existence was ever reported on at *all*.

8/ More than that, we *know* what Trumpists wanted media to do: lie to voters about the dossier. How do we know? Because Trumpists *celebrate* a late October 2016 NYT article in which the FBI denies the existence of any evidence in its possession—e.g. the dossier—on Trump-Russia.

9/ So even as media made sure the raw, unconfirmed intel in the Steele dossier would play *no part* in the 2016 election—then reported on the dossier's *existence* without saying any of it had been proven, and reporting on its origins—*critics* wanted a *disinformation campaign*.

10/ Here comes the first twist in this thread: I agree with the NYT headline. I fervently believe major media got Steele's dossier "so wrong." Media got the dossier "so wrong" by refusing to report on how much of it had been confirmed or corroborated and misreporting its origins.

11/ It took a fringe digital rag, The Daily Caller—not major media!—to reveal that the Ritz-Carlton Moscow allegation (the "pee tape" allegation) was fully briefed by Fusion GPS in fall 2015 (not a typo) via funding from *GOP sources* and *before Steele was contracted by Fusion*.

12/ Are you hearing the information I just wrote for the first time? Probably. That's because major media "got the Steele dossier so wrong" by falsely reporting it was the indirectly DNC-funded Orbis that unearthed the "pee tape" issue in 2016, not the GOP-funded Fusion in 2015.

13/ Moreover, Fusion GPS's Glenn Simpson testified under oath—something almost no Trumpist will do (and those who do perjure themselves)—that at the time Fusion contracted with Steele and Orbis in June 2016, Steele *didn't know* who was funding him or who his ultimate client was.

14/ Steele himself has since testified—again (notice a trend?) voluntarily and under oath—that what Simpson testified to was true: Steele didn't know his funder or his client when he took on the work. Yet those who say media "got the Steele dossier so wrong" claim otherwise. Why?

15/ There's never been any evidence Steele or Simpson perjured themselves on this point—yet the very people who claim to be so concerned that media "got the Steele dossier so wrong" routinely say Steele *explicitly agreed with the DNC and Clinton campaign* to find dirt on Trump.

16/ The one group of people *in the world* who under *no circumstances* can get a *single* thing about the Steele dossier wrong are those who say "the media got the Steele dossier so wrong"—and somehow they can't seem to say a *single correct thing* about the Steele dossier. Why?

17 Steele's critics falsely claim that he "worked with Russian agents" on his dossier. Their proof? Their *only* proof? One Steele source, Igor Danchenko, a Russian national, was investigated more than a decade ago as a possible Russian agent. And what did the FBI find? Nothing.

18/ Now guess who hired—as his first NatSec adviser—a man who'd been investigated as a possible Russian agent well after Danchenko; admitted to giving nonpublic energy-sector intel to men he knew were Russian spies; and claimed (*post-FBI probe*) he was still a "Kremlin adviser"?

19/ If you guessed Donald Trump, you're right.

The man he hired? Carter Page.

And unlike Danchenko, the FBI *continued to believe Page was a Russian agent* well into 2017. Why? Because the Steele dossier *correctly reported on all Page's overseas activities with the Russians*.

20/ So how much have you read in the media that "got the Steele dossier so wrong" about Page being investigated as a Russian spy shortly before Trump hired him in January 2016?

Almost nothing? Oh.

How much have you read about the dossier being *dead-on* about Page? Nothing? Oh.

21/ As confirmed by the Mueller and Senate reports, Page traveled to Moscow while on Trump's campaign and met with *exactly the men Steele said* and talked about *exactly what Steele said they talked about* and lied to America about it *exactly as the dossier implied he would*.

22/ The only people who the then-suspected Russian agent *didn't* lie to about his activities in Moscow? How convenient—it was the very people who now say the dossier has been debunked. And did those people reveal what Page told them to the FBI? No they did not! When asked? Nope!

23/ Let's try another one. Steele's critics falsely say that Steele worked with Russian agents—a debunked claim. We know about Page (Trump's first NatSec hire), but what about Trump's *top Russia adviser* during the 2016 presidential campaign? What do we know about him? Anything?

24/ Actually, we know a lot! His name is Dimitri Simes; Putin calls him a "friend"; he was suspected of being a Russian agent long after the FBI found nothing on Danchenko; and after the Mueller probe started he... uh.... fled to Moscow and took a job as a propagandist for Putin.

25/ (Feel free to Google the facts from that last tweet.)

With this preamble out of the way—who has lied about the dossier; who has undersold the dossier; and who has told the truth about the dossier—I'll now *begin* my evisceration of this lie-filled, pile-of-garbage NYT op-ed.

26/ Grueskin begins by saying that the dossier "touch[ed on] everything from dodgy real estate negotiations to a sordid hotel-room tryst."

He's already gotten everything wrong—and I mean *factually* wrong. And it's only the third sentence of an article the NYT agreed to publish.

27/ One of the biggest things the very media Grueskin is criticizing "got so wrong" about the dossier is *exactly* what Grueskin gets so wrong here: the dossier *doesn't* describe Trump having a "tryst" in a Moscow hotel room. It describes him instigating a juvenile, silly prank.

28/ The Steele dossier says that while Trump was hanging out with—*not sleeping with*—Russian escorts, he urged them to urinate on a bed that Obama had once slept in. That's it. That's the allegation. No sex.

The best part? Almost every single part of this intel is corroborated.

29/ I won't delve *too* deep into the facts on this—as I already wrote a NYT bestseller on this episode, the Mueller and Senate reports cover it, I published my book chapter on it below, and the corroboration is so voluminous it'd take 50 tweets by itself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: The Steele dossier: A guide to the latest allegations, Glenn Kessler, Amy B Wang and Marianna Sotomayor, Nov. 17, 2021. On Jan. 10, 2017, BuzzFeed News took the unusual step of publishing what it described as memos containing “specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations of contact between Trump [campaign] aides and Russian operatives.”

This dossier, alleging a “well-developed conspiracy of cooperation” between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, was assembled by a former British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, working under contract for a private investigation firm at the behest of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Many of the memos, which suggested deep sourcing within Russia, had quietly circulated in media and law enforcement circles for months before BuzzFeed made them public.

Two weeks later, on Jan. 24, FBI agents sat down for the first of several interviews with Steele’s “primary sub-source” — the key person who had collected information from contacts supposedly close to the inner circle at the Kremlin. A memo of those conversations, only revealed in 2020 by a U.S. senator, show that this source, Igor Danchenko, was based in Washington, and he said his contacts for information given to Steele were an eclectic mix — including a drinking buddy, a middle school friend working in Cyprus and an anonymous caller. It was not clear whether any of the supposed sources were especially well-connected, and Danchenko said he rarely kept notes of his conversations.

The middle school friend, Olga Galkina, appears to be the person Danchenko identified as a source for a number of discredited claims, such as an alleged trip by Trump fixer Michael Cohen to Prague for clandestine meetings with Kremlin operatives. Cohen has repeatedly denied he went to Prague for any such meetings. Galkina said in a 2021 court filing she had no idea Danchenko had used “private discussions or private communications” as dossier material. “I believe that Mr. Danchenko identified me as Sub-Source 3 to create more authoritativeness for his work.”

A senior FBI official had an even earlier indication that a lot of Steele’s information did not come from sources in Russia. On Dec. 10, 2016, then-Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Ohr met with Glenn Simpson, head of Fusion GPS, the firm that had hired Steele. “Much of the collection about the Trump campaign ties to Russia comes from a former Russian intelligence officer (? not entirely clear) who lives in the U.S.,” Ohr messily scribbled in his notes, obtained by congressional investigators and disclosed by the Hill newspaper. Ohr’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

Yet FBI officials, in testimony before Congress, continued to vouch for Steele’s work as a reliable source of information. FBI officials also continued to cite the dossier in three more renewals of applications for court-approved wiretaps of a former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. “The FBI has cooperated fully with Special Counsel Durham’s review,” the agency said in a statement, referring to special counsel John Durham, who is tasked with investigating whether laws were violated through law enforcement activities during the 2016 campaign.

There is an old saying in journalism: You’re only as good as your sources. Now a Nov. 3 indictment of Danchenko on five counts of lying to the FBI has suggested that Steele’s sources were not very good at all. Danchenko has pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer said the indictment presents “a false narrative designed to humiliate and slander a renowned expert in business intelligence for political gain.”

For readers who are confused about the latest twists and turns in this saga, here’s a guide to bring you up to date.

Nov. 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: In Another Trump Book, a Journalist’s Belated Awareness Steals the Show, Jennifer Szalai, Nov. 16, 2021. By the looks of his formidable résumé, the veteran Beltway journalist Jonathan Karl, right, shouldn’t startle all that easily.

jonathan karl headshot“Karl has covered every major beat in Washington, D.C., including the White House, Capitol Hill, the Pentagon and the State Department,” his author bio notes, “and has reported from the White House under four presidents and 14 press secretaries.” Until recently he was the chief White House correspondent for ABC News — a perch that placed him, as he put it in the title of his previous book, “Front Row at the Trump Show.”

jonathan karl betrayalYet in his new book, Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, Karl comes across as almost poignantly ingenuous and polite to a fault, repeatedly flummoxed by what he saw in the last year of the Trump administration. “Front Row,” which had the unfortunate timing of being published in March 2020, before the consequences of Trump’s governance were fully laid bare, began with a solemn tribute to “objectivity and balance” and a complaint that “the mainstream media coverage of Donald Trump is relentlessly and exhaustively negative.” Just a year-and-a-half later, after 750,000 American Covid deaths and an attack on the Capitol, Karl allows that the “Trump show” may have in fact been more sinister than mere theatrics after all.

“I have never wavered from my belief that journalists are not the opposition party and should not act like we are,” Karl maintains in “Betrayal.” “But the first obligation of a journalist is to pursue truth and accuracy. And the simple truth about the last year of the Trump presidency is that his lies turned deadly and shook the foundations of our democracy.”

“Betrayal” is presented as an inside look at what happened in the last months of the Trump White House, beginning on Feb. 10, 2020. At the time, news about a novel coronavirus in China was percolating throughout the United States, but staffers in the White House seemed more immediately threatened by Johnny McEntee, a 29-year-old former college quarterback who went from carrying President Trump’s bags to becoming the director of the Presidential Personnel Office — “responsible for the hiring and firing of more than 4,000 political appointees across the federal government.”

Nov. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Journalists also have an obligation to fix democracy, Jennifer Rubin (shown at right, with the cover of her book this fall below left), Nov. 15, 2021.jennifer rubin new headshot Looking back on the first 10 months of Joe Biden’s presidency, we see little evidence the media has examined its own role in Republicans’ assault on democracy.

Indeed, one could argue mainstream media outlets have been complicit in the current crisis of democracy. The trivialization of coverage, default to false equivalency, amplification of GOP spin and habitual treatment of Republicans’ conduct as within the normal boundaries of politics have serious implications for a democracy that relies on an informed citizenry.

jennifer rubin book resistanceJournalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen observes that “the incremental coverage, the focus on the inside game, the notion of tactics and strategy, and the joining up of the political class with the information junkies” does little to inform voters about major pieces of legislation. We get nonstop coverage of the “sausage making” but little about the content of bills that cost trillions. We hear incessant chatter about the filibuster but little examination of Senate Democrats’ compromise voting-rights plan, while Republicans are rarely grilled as to the basis for their objections to common-sense measures (e.g. enhancing penalties for threats to election officials, requiring a paper audit trail, limiting wait times to 30 minutes).

This style of political coverage reduces critical issues of the day to sporting events and celebrity gossip.

Republicans are rarely grilled on their tacit approval of violence — from the former president’s rationalization of the “Hang Mike Pence!” chants on Jan. 6 to warnings of “bloodshed” from Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) to violent imagery posted on social media by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.). At best, we get easily sidestepped inquiries “What is your response?”); virtually never are Republicans asked “How can you remain in a party that tolerates violence?” or “How can we entrust power to people who follow the MAGA leader and/or stir violence?”

The press treats leaders of the GOP, who fail to condemn such aberrant conduct, continue to deny their nominee lost in 2020 and still pledge fidelity to the former president who instigated a violent insurrection, as ordinary politicians. Hmm, why has the president “failed” to get Republican support for his initiatives?

 

steve bannon billionaire guo wengui

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Time to extradite Bannon's patron to China, Wayne Madsen, former Navy intelligence officer shown at left and author of the new book shown below left, The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich), Nov. 15, 2021. The method to bring down a massive far-right conspiracy to overthrow the government is to, as the Department of Justice did during Iran-contra, and, to a lesser extent, for Watergate is to "follow the money."

wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallToday, as former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is arraigned in federal court in Washington for two criminal counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to appear before the January 6th special House committee and turn over requested documents, it is an important reminder that Bannon's financial patron is Guo Wengui, a fugitive billionaire Chinese national who resides in the United States. Bannon and Guo are shown above in a file photo.

wayne madesen report logoGuo (shown above in a file photo with Bannon) was granted political asylum by the Trump administration in 2017 as a Priority 1 asylee after Trump was informed that Guo had laid out the required $200,000 in initiation fees and $14,000 in annual dues to wayne madsen fourth reich coverbecome a member of Trump's Mar-a-Lago billionaires' beach club in Palm Beach, Florida. Guo is currently the subject of an Interpol Red Notice arrest warrant issued in April 2017 by China.

Guo is accused of fraud, rape, bribery, money laundering, kidnapping, and other crimes committed in China and abroad before he was granted political asylum in the United States.

Guo has the distinction of being involved in simultaneous attempts to overthrow two governments, that of his asylum-grantor, the United States, and that of China. Guo maintains a Chinese government-in-exile in Manhattan, which he calls the New Federal State of China, which has its own flag and Himalaya Coin cryptocurrency, issues its own "Himalaya" passport, and claims to represent a post-Communist state in China.

Guo's government-in-exile is nothing more than a fraudulent micronation involved in dubious activity and is not much different than the Dominion of Melchizedek and Kingdom of EnenKio, which were the subjects of international criminal investigations for banking and securities fraud.

 

danny fenster bill richardson naypyidaw myanmar nov 15 2021 richardson centerDanny Fenster and former governor Bill Richardson on the tarmac in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on Nov. 15, 2021. (Courtesy of The Richardson Center)

washington post logoWashington Post, American journalist Danny Fenster released from Myanmar jail despite 11 year sentence, Shibani Mahtani, Nov. 15, 2021.  The release was secured by former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson, after almost six months of detention.

American journalist Danny Fenster, held since May in a Myanmar jail, was released Monday and allowed to leave the country en route to rejoin his danny fenster family photo via guardianfamily in the United States, according to his employer and former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson.

In a statement, Richardson (D), the former governor of New Mexico, said he and his center were “thrilled to announce the release of American journalist Danny Fenster from prison in Myanmar.”

Sonny Swe, the publisher of Frontier Myanmar, Fenster’s employer, also confirmed his release in a tweet.

Fenster’s release, Richardson’s center said, was “secured following a private humanitarian visit by Governor Richardson to Myanmar and face-to-face negotiations with General Min Aung Hlaing,” the commander in chief of Myanmar’s military. Fenster will fly from Myanmar to the United States via Qatar, myanmar flagRichardson added.

Min Aung Hlaing took over as Myanmar’s leader after ousting the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup in February.

In a statement, Fenster’s family thanked Richardson and said they were “tremendously grateful” to those who helped secure his release. “We are overjoyed that Danny has been released and is on his way home — we cannot wait to hold him in our arms,” the family said.

Fenster, a 37-year-old Detroit native, was the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine. He was seized in May at Yangon International Airport as he tried to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur and was taken to Insein Prison, the company said in a statement Monday.

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pmAssociated Press via HuffPost, Alex Jones Loses Fourth Lawsuit Over Sandy Hook 'Hoax' Conspiracy, Dave Collins, Nov 15, 2021. A Connecticut judge has found Infowars host Alex Jones (shown above in a screenshot from a program in 2020) liable for damages in lawsuits brought by parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

ap logoInfowars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was found liable Monday for damages in lawsuits brought by parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting over Jones’ claims that the massacre was a hoax.

Judge Barbara Bellis took the rare step of defaulting Jones in the defamation lawsuits for his and his companies’ “failure to produce critical material information that the plaintiffs needed to prove their claims.” The default means the judge found in favor of the parents and will hold a hearing on how much damages he should pay.

Lawyers for the parents claimed Jones and his companies, including Infowars and Free Speech Systems, violated court rules by failing to turn over documents to them, including internal company documents showing how, and if, Jones and Infowars profited from talking about the school shooting and other mass shootings.

“Their pattern of defying and ignoring court orders to produce responsive information is well established,” lawyers for the family wrote in a court brief in July.

Jones’ lawyers have denied violating court rules on document disclosure and have asked that Bellis be removed from the case, alleging she has not been impartial.

A Texas judge recently issued similar rulings against Jones in three defamation lawsuits brought by Sandy Hook families in that state, finding Jones liable for damages after defaulting him and his companies for not turning over documents. Hearings on damages also were ordered.

The 2012 school shooting in Newtown killed 20 first-graders and six educators. Jones has since said that he does not believe the massacre was a hoax.

Families of some of the school shooting victims sued Jones, Infowars and others in courts in Texas and Connecticut over the hoax conspiracy, saying they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers.

 

fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, 3G shutdowns could leave most vulnerable without a connection, Cat Zakrzewski, Nov. 15, 2021 (print ed.). Older phones, emergency alert devices and alarms are set to lose service in 2022 When they were rolled out nearly two decades ago, 3G wireless networks served as the bedrock of an explosion in cell phones and connected devices. Their shutdown, set to begin in February, will leave some of society’s most vulnerable people without critical communications tools, consumer advocates say.

The wireless networks that underpin an assortment of devices, including life-alert alarms, older cellphones and tablets, are about to shut down, an action that consumer advocates say will leave some of society’s most vulnerable people without critical communications tools.

att logoWhen they were rolled out nearly two decades ago, 3G wireless networks served as the bedrock of an explosion in cellphones and connected devices. Many devices have moved to 4G networks and newer phones are now moving onto 5G.

But a motley assortment still relies on the more rudimentary 3G service — ranging from location sensors that track school buses to connected breathalyzers police use to monitor convicted drunk drivers — and consumer advocates are urging the Federal Communications Commission to slow the change, which is set to start in February.

Older and low-income Americans are more likely to be affected by the shift, these advocates say. If they don’t upgrade in time, their phones and life-alert devices won’t be able to call 911 or other emergency services, government regulators warn.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: A Top Christian Editor Who Opposed Trump Resigns, Ben Smith, Nov. 15, 2021 (print ed.). A clash over culture and politics comes to World, a groundbreaking institution that covers evangelical Christians, our media columnist writes.

When Marvin Olasky gets angry emails from readers — more often than not about an exposé of wrongdoing at an evangelical church, or about a story that reflects poorly on Donald Trump — he has a stock reply.

“We think this is useful to the Church,” he tells disgruntled readers, “because we are also sinners.”

As the longtime editor of World, a Christian news organization that has a website, a biweekly magazine and a set of podcasts, Mr. Olasky has delivered a mix of hard news and watchdog articles about the evangelical realm under a journalistic philosophy he calls “biblical objectivity.”

It involves taking strong stands where the Bible is clear, which has led World to oppose abortion rights and support refugees, he says, and to follow reportable facts where the Bible doesn’t provide clear guidance.

The concept served Mr. Olasky well from 1994, when he became the editor of World, until Nov. 1, 2021, when he submitted his resignation.

He had, he said, received an effective “vote of no confidence” from World’s board, which had recently started a section of the website, World Opinions, without fully consulting him. The new section offers opinion essays on religious issues with the kind of commentary on secular topics like mask mandates, inflation, race and President Biden’s spending plans that can be found on any number of other conservative websites.

At one level, Mr. Olasky’s departure is just another example of the American news media sinking deeper into polarization, as one more conservative news outlet, which had almost miraculously retained its independence, is conquered by Mr. Trump.

It also marks the end of a remarkable era at a publication that has shaken evangelical churches and related institutions with its deeply reported articles. The far-right writer Dinesh D’Souza resigned in 2012 as president of the King’s College after World reported that he had attended a Christian conference with “a woman not his wife.” In 2020, World reported that several young women had complained that a North Carolina Republican running for Congress, Madison Cawthorn, had exhibited “sexually or verbally aggressive behavior toward them when they were teenagers.” At a time when hot takes get the clicks, these articles offered something old-fashioned and hard for any community to take: accountability reporting.

“I am not interested in the project of a conservative opinion magazine — there are lots out there already and that’s not my vision of World,” Mr. Olasky, 71, told me Thursday in a telephone interview from his home in Austin, Texas.

Nov. 12Imprisoned journalist Danny Fenster at work (Family photo via Associated Press).

Imprisoned journalist Danny Fenster at work in Myanmar (Family photo via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, American journalist Danny Fenster sentenced to 11 years in Myanmar prison, Shibani Mahtani, Nov. 12, 2021 (print ed.). A Myanmar court on Friday convicted American journalist Danny Fenster of three charges, including immigration violations, and sentenced him to prison for 11 years — the harshest possible sentences for those crimes under the law.

myanmar flagThe punitive treatment of Fenster, a 37-year-old Detroit native (shown below at left via a family photo), has been widely condemned by advocates of press freedom, the U.S. government and the international community, as the Myanmar military continues a campaign of imprisoning journalists and activists after taking power in a February coup.

Fenster is still facing two more serious charges, that of terrorism and sedition, which were just added and have not yet been heard. They carry sentences of up to life in prison.

danny fenster family photo via guardianFenster was seized at Yangon International Airport in May as he tried to board a flight to Kuala Lumpur and was taken to Insein Prison. He was working as the managing editor for Frontier Myanmar, a news outlet focused on Myanmar, at the time.

The prison is notorious for its poor conditions and has been used by Myanmar’s military government to hold scores of political prisoners. Fenster was excluded from an amnesty of more than 5,000 prisoners, including anti-coup protesters, last month.

Two other foreign journalists held in Myanmar in the wake of the February coup, American journalist Nathan Maung and Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi have since been released.

On Friday, after a trial in a court inside Insein Prison that was closed to the public, Fenster was sentenced to 11 years on charges including a violation of the immigration act and the unlawful associations act. During the trial, the prosecution argued that official records did not accurately reflect where he was employed, as the ruling junta seeks to establish that he was working for Myanmar Now, a different outlet that was banned in the country after the coup.

A statement from Frontier Myanmar said the court “disregarded a significant amount of evidence of his employment at Frontier, including tax and social security records and testimony from a Frontier employee.

“There is absolutely no basis to convict Danny of these charges. His legal team clearly demonstrated to the court that he had resigned from Myanmar Now and was working for Frontier from the middle of last year,” said Thomas Kean, Frontier’s editor in chief.

“Everyone at Frontier is disappointed and frustrated at this decision. We just want to see Danny released as soon as possible so he can go home to his family,” Kean said.

myanmar map

Fenster is one of over a hundred journalists who have been detained since the coup. Several dozen remain behind bars, as the ruling Myanmar military seeks to silence all critical voices in the country. Newspaper offices have been raided and journalists have been driven out of the country, many seeking refuge in neighboring Thailand.

SkyHorse Publishing, Coup in Dallas: The Decisive Investigation into Who Killed JFK, H. P. Albarelli Jr. with foreward by Dick Russell, Publication Date: Nov. 16, 2021 (720 Pages). Publisher's Description:

The CIA, Dallas, and the Hard Details of the JFK Assassination: Coup in Dallas leaves speculation and theory aside to give the hard details of who killed hp albarelli jr cover coupPresident John F. Kennedy and how the assassination plot was carried out. Through exhaustive research and newly translated documents, author H. P. Albarelli uncovers and explains the historical roots of state-sponsored assassination, finding disturbing parallels to the assassination of JFK. Albarelli goes beyond conventional JFK assassination theory to piece together the biographies of the lesser-known but instrumental players in the incident, such as Otto Skorzeny, Pierre Lafitte, James Jesus Angleton, Santo Trafficante, and others.

Albarelli provides shocking detail on the crucial role that the city of Dallas and its officials played in the maintenance of Dallas as a major hub of CIA activity, and how it led to JFK’s assassination and its cover-up. Go beyond LBJ, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Jack Ruby, and read the full, definitive account of what happened on November 22, 1963—and how it came to fruition.

Authors: H. P. Albarelli Jr., investigative reporter and author of A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments and A Secret Order: Investigating the High Strangeness and Synchronicity in the JFK Assassination, focused on the foreign and domestic intelligence apparatus, government mind control research projects, biological warfare, and political assassinations. His body of work, including articles published in Huffington Post, Pravda, and CounterPunch, has been cited in leading-edge books and periodicals. Albarelli made his home in Vermont, Florida, and the UK.

Dick Russell is an investigative journalist and bestselling author who has written for such varied publications as Time, Sports Illustrated, and the Village Voice. His books include Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Black Genius, and On the Trail of the JFK Assassins, as well as the New York Times bestsellers American Conspiracies, 63 Documents the Government Doesn’t Want You to Read, and They Killed Our President. He lives in Boston and Hollywood.

Nov. 11

WhoWhatWhy, Opinion: The JFK Assassination and the Conspiracy Theory Experts at the Washington Post, Brian Baccus (a Texas attorney), Nov. 11, 2021. If you haven’t kept up with the latest developments in QAnon world, then you may have been wondering why hundreds of its adherents poured into Dallas last week, packing Dealey Plaza, the infamous site of President John F. Kennedy’s murder.

whowhatwhy logoThey were there harboring the fervent belief they were actually about to see the triumphant return of John F. Kennedy Jr., who was supposed to announce a 2024 vice presidential run with Donald Trump. Some even hoped to see the slain president himself.

Never mind that John Jr. died in a plane crash in 1999 and his father has been dead since 1963.

What has led to the current situation where a fair number of people actually believe that the Kennedys — Senior and Junior — are alive and have been hiding from the deep state all these years, waiting for their chance to come out of the shadows and save democracy?

Although the absurdity of these opinions is easy to laugh off, such beliefs are perhaps not so surprising given the curious reluctance of the federal government to reveal everything it knows about the Kennedy story. When Washington is still actively concealing key documents regarding his murder, which occurred almost 60 years ago, should it shock us that some of our fellow citizens are drawn to fill the vacuum with surreal inventions of their own?

The Gurus

Much has already been written about the perpetually delayed JFK records. But the consequences of such governmental dereliction of duty are perhaps best captured in a recent Washington Post opinion piece by a couple of data gurus, David Byler and Yan Wu. Although little of the subject really requires a data guru’s expertise, Byler in particular appears to be upset about the very concept that conspiracies could sometimes actually exist, and the Post seems to like to give him a platform.

Under the title Will you fall into the conspiracy theory rabbit hole? Take our quiz and find out, the authors cite a recent study by a team of academics who surveyed over 4,000 people in the United States about the degree of credence they give to a variety of so-called conspiracy theories.

A handful of questions from the study are included in the Post’s quiz. The first question asks which of the following four statements is true:

(a) ​​Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire accused of running an elite sex trafficking ring, was murdered to cover up the activities of his criminal network.

(b) President John F. Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy rather than a lone gunman.

(c) The FBI kept tabs on civil rights leaders, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., attempting to find compromising information and damage their reputations.

(d) Regardless of who is officially in charge of the government and other organizations, there is a single group of people who secretly control events and rule the world together.

While you may be wondering why, just for good form, they don’t include an option to declare multiple answers correct, we are told that only one is: (c ), the well-known fact that J. Edgar Hoover had a vendetta against MLK. The authors also provide helpful explanations as to why the other answer choices are wrong.

Not surprisingly, the Post piece chides anyone who answered “yes” to whether JFK was killed by a conspiracy rather than a lone gunman. The authors state emphatically: “The evidence is clear: Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to assassinate President Kennedy.”

The refusal of the media and academia to question the official story of Kennedy’s murder — in spite of the decades of evidence that casts serious doubt on it — is the height of illogical thinking.

Nov. 11

JFKcountercoup, Film Review: Oliver Stone's JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass Previewed, William Kelly Jr., Nov. 11, 2021. Oliver Stone’s JFK Revisited – Through the Looking is a two-hour-long non-fictional documentary that details much, but not all, of the evidence and witness testimony that supports the idea of a conspiracy behind the murder of the President.

It will premier domestically on Showtime and is being packaged as a DVD that will be available sometime early next year.

While Jim diEugenio is given credit as the writer, the original title Destiny Betrayed” has been removed and relegated to the four-hour version of this film that is slated to be released in February. Jim’s book is based mainly on the New Orleans angles to the assassination, and this program only touches on that aspect, focusing mainly on why most people believe Lee Harvey Oswald was not the lone assassin.

oliver stone jfk revisited posterAnd unlike diEugenio’s usual verbose writing style, this show is a tightly packed, finely edited piece of work that Warren Commission defenders will have a hard time finding something to refute.

Nararated by Donald Sutherland and Whoopie Goldberg, neither of whom make a physical presence in the film but rather provide voice over commentary. Goldberg played the wife of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Rob Reiner’s movie “Ghosts of Mississippi” while Sutherland portrayed “Mr. X,” the mysterious character in “JFK” who advises Jim Garrison on the deep state responsible for the murder, said to be based on Air Force Colonel Fletecher Prouty.

The first fifteen minutes of this film is primarily original news reports that Lone Nutters will have a hard time arguing with, and in fact, they will have a hard time finding fault with any particular item other than the entire conspiracy-oriented premesis of the program. Some will say that it is not objective and doesn’t present both sides of the story. But there aren’t two sides to the story when it comes to basic facts of the case.

There is no debate, just as the Warren Report didn’t include evidence and witness testimony that contradicted its findings. Nor does it include any silly conspiracy theories that lone nut defenders can poke holes in.

As the first news reports clearly indicated, the Dallas Police came out and said, “This is the man who killed the President,” and we are supposed to take their word for it?

Walter Cronkite said it best when he asked the questions, “Who actually fired the shots that killed the President, and was there a conspiracy?”

They are the questions this program tries to answer.

Those who do have talking head time are impressive – Brian Edwards keeping track of the trail of evidence and the chain of custody, Dr. David Mantik on how many shots were fired, Dr. Cyril Wecht on the Single Bullet Theory – “Whatever you want, whatever you need, this bullet (#399) will oblige you.”

DPD motorcycle patrolman Marion Baker seeing Oswald in the second floor lunchroom 90 seconds after the last shot, and Barry Ernest on his book “The Girl on the Steps” – Vickie Adams, whose statement that she left the fourth floor within a minute of the last shot and came down the steps not seeing anyone, corroborated by Sandra Styles, who accompanied her and was not called to testify, as well as their supervisor Dorothy Garner, who followed them to the fourth floor landing and stayed there until she saw or heard Baker and Truly come up from the first floor – three witnesses who didn’t see anyone on the stairs. And they don’t bother to mention Dougherty, the TSBD worker who was on the fifth floor landing and didn’t see anyone come down the stairs.

While Warren Commission apologists say it was a matter of moments when these things happened, and it was a Keystone Cops type of situation where they just missed each other, they even timed how long it would take to go from the sixth floor to the second and it could be done in less than 90 seconds. But not mentioned is the fact that patrolman Baker saw Oswald through the window of the closed second floor door that Oswald would have had to go through if he was the sixth floor sniper, but Truly, seconds and a few steps ahead of Baker didn’t see Oswald go through the door as he would have if he did. Oswald entered the lunchroom through the same door he left by, with a coke.

And the only conclusion is the one expressed in this film – Oswald was not even on the sixth floor at the time of the shooting, and was not the man with a rifle in his hand, with a white shirt (Oswald wore brown) and bald spot on the top of his head, an attribute not shared with Oswald.

The parafin test that proves Oswald did not fire a rifle that day is mentioned, and former New York City prosecutor and HSCA attorney Bob Tanenbaum says, “Oswald would not have been convicted on the evidence provided by the Warren Commission.”

There is a short, too short, profile of the basic background of Oswald that jumps quickly to his enlistment in the Marines, Atsugi, U2 base etc., defection, and return home, without a proper debriefing, that former Republican Senator Richard Schweiker says, “Smacks of an intelligence relationship,” and a short note on State Department official Otto Otepka, who kept a list of American defectors, noted the large number of former military personal and asked the CIA which ones were real defectors and which ones fake, including Oswald on his list, before the assassination. He was, as Lisa Pease notes, dismissed November 5, 1963, a few weeks before the assassination.

As Jefferson Morley mentions, “Oswald was of intense interest to high-level CIA officers for years before the assassination, even reading his mother’s mail.” And the man who kept track of Oswald’s file, James Jesus Angleton, was assigned to be liaison between the CIA and the Warren Commission.

There’s very little in regards to Oswald’s 1963 summer in New Orleans other than the fact that he tried to infiltrate the DRE – and then got into a fight with them passing out Fair Play for Cuba Committee leaflets – sparking Sen. Schweiker to say that he was working as a “double-agent, playing both sides of the fence.”

There’s a short interview with CIA agent William Gaudet, who said he saw Oswald and former FBI agent Guy Banister together, but doesn’t bother to fill in the details – Gaudet was editor of the CIA financed Latin America Report publication that was financed by the CIA and was next to Oswald in line getting a visa to Mexico at the same time.

Gaudet’s office was in the Clay Shaw’s World Trade Center, where Oswald handed out leaflets, and Dean Andrews is mentioned as having received a phone call from Clay Bertrand to represent Oswald after his arrest, and the fact that over a dozen witnesses are mentioned in government records as having confirmed that Shaw used the alias Bertand. Then there are the CIA’s reports that indicate Shaw was involed in their QKenchant program, whatever that was.

Jeff Morley describes how the DRE Cubans, who immediately tried to blame Castro for the assassination, were run by CIA official George Joannides, who was later brought out of retirement to serve as CIA liaison to the HSCA. When Morley told this to the second counsel to the HSCA G. Robert Blakey he was astonished, and said, “I’ll never believe the CIA again.”

Federal Judge and former Chairman of the Assassinations Records Review Board (ARRB) John Tunheim is seen saying that he showed one document to a CIA official and asked why it should still be withheld, and he responded, “I know there’s reason but I just don’t remember what it is.”

The Secret Service destroyed advance records of the Presidents intended visits to Chicago and Tampa, Florida, and both cases are reviewed and it is discovered an FBI informant named “Lee” correctly said that four Cubans would be in Chicago, and their landlady dropped a dime on them saying they had high powered rifles and map of the parade route. Two were arrested. And another suspect Thomas A. Valle is mentioned, as well as his background that is very similar to Oswald’s that makes one observer conclude “There’s too many they cannot be considered coincidences.”

Former Secret Service Agent Abe Bolden, who was involved in the Chicago investigation, was “railroaded” for trying to blow the whistle on what was going on. And the Tampa plot is also laid out detailing the proposed fall guy who would have been framed as the patsy if the assassination took place there. I arranged for the NARA to obtain the Tampa advance reports from the agent who wrote them.

The Parkland doctors are mentioned in detail, with Dr. Gary Aguilar discussing what doctors Kenp Clark and Malcolm Perry had to say, and nurse Audrey Bell on how Dr. Perry told her he was being pressured by SS agent Elmer Moore into saying the throat wound could have been an exit wound. Moore later admitted he regretted pressuring Perry and said he was ordered to do so by SS Inspector Kelly. And Perry later told a fellow doctor that he regretted changing his testimony.

ARRB investigator Doug Horne mentions his interviews with Autopsy photographers, how the photos that exist today are not recognized by the Parkland doctors or the photographer who allegedly took them, and how photos of the brain show by its color that it had been in formaldehyde jar for weeks before the assassination and could not be JFK’s brain. Dr. Mantik shows a document that says that JFK’s brain weighted in at what a normal brain would be, when in fact much of it was shattered by a bullet.

Former Warren Commissioner and later President Gerald Ford, who moved the back wound to the throat to fit the Single Bullet Theory, is quoted as telling a French president that “There was a conspiracy but we were never able to determine by who.”

David Talbot is given some time and uses it to say how Allen Dulles was a fraud, and that everyone, then and now knows, “that powerful forces did it.”

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. expresses his father’s first impulses were to blame the CIA and anti-Castro Cubans, and how much JFK is loved around the world.

As Oliver Stone concludes, it is “no longer a conspiracy theory, but conspiracy fact.”

And while the film actually tries to convey those facts, my biggest complaint with it is the failure to emphasize the fact that the JFK Act, which owes so much to Oliver Stone and “JFK,” is not being enforced today.

Just as Stone mentioned that the assassination records were still being withheld at the end of his 1992 movie, that stirred up so much public support for the release of the records, he could have done the same thing here, but doesn’t.

Maybe the four-hour long version will touch on this but I’m not counting on it.

Nov. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 panel can gain access to Trump records, judge rules, Spencer S. Hsu, Nov. 9, 2021. Attorneys for the former president vowed to appeal the decision.

tanya chutkanA federal judge in Washington ruled late Tuesday that hundreds of pages of Trump White House records can be turned over to a congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol despite the former president’s objections.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, right, clears the way for the release of government records requested by Congress, with a deadline of Nov. 12. Attorneys for Trump vowed to immediately appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

U.S. House logo“The court holds that the public interest lies in permitting—not enjoining—the combined will of the legislative and executive branches to study the events that led to and occurred on January 6, and to consider legislation to prevent such events from ever occurring again,” Chutkan wrote in a 39-page opinion.

House Democrats are probing Trump’s communications and activities leading up to and during the mob riot by his supporters that contributed to at least five deaths and forced the evacuation of Congress as it met to confirm the 2020 presidential election results.

In court filings, the House has argued it needs the communications records “of the then-President who helped foment the breakdown in the rule of law” by assembling thousands of supporters in Washington after a months-long effort to falsely brand the 2020 election as stolen.

 kayleigh mcenany djt

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 committee subpoenas more Trump aides, including Miller, McEnany and McEntee, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 9, 2021. The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol issued subpoenas Tuesday to 10 Trump administration officials, including some of former president Donald Trump’s closest advisers who were in the White House that day.

john mcentee CustomThose subpoenaed to provide testimony and documents include John McEntee, right, the former White House personnel director; Ben Williamson, a former deputy assistant to the president and senior adviser to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; and Nicholas Luna, the former president’s personal assistant.

Also on the list of subpoenas that went out Tuesday was Kenneth Klukowski, senior counsel to former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, who is also on the list because of his involvement “in drafting a letter that urged legislatures in certain states to delay certification of the election, according to the report recently released by the Senate Committee on the Judiciary,” the committee said.

Trump loyalists and top advisers including Kayleigh McEnany, above right, the White House press secretary, and Stephen Miller, the senior adviser to the former president, and Cassidy Hutchinson, a special assistant to Trump for legislative affairs, have also been asked to provide depositions and documents.

Others close to the president who were subpoenaed include Molly Michael, the Oval Office operations coordinator to Trump. Michael still works for Trump and was in the White House for much of Jan. 6. McEntee, according to the committee’s statement, was “in the White House on January 6th and was with former President Trump when he traveled to the Ellipse and spoke at the ‘Stop the Steal’ rally.”

McEntee was a key figure in hiring of Trump loyalists across the government during the final stretch of Trump’s presidency.

Luna was “reportedly in the Oval Office the morning of January 6, 2021, when former President Trump was on a phone call to Vice President Pence pressuring him not to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election,” according to the committee.

The committee has sent out subpoenas in recent weeks to aides and allies of the former president as it tries to crack his inner circle as part of its investigation into the attack as well as the former president’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

It remains unclear how many people are cooperating with the probe and, if so, how much information they are providing. Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) has said the panel will aggressively go after anyone who tries to stonewall the investigation.

The House recently voted to hold former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress. But Attorney General Merrick Garland has yet to announce whether his department will prosecute Bannon for failing to cooperate. Members of the select committee have said they view the Justice Department pursuing these charges as key to getting needed information and the department’s decision could impact whether other witnesses will cooperate with the congressional probe.

brian williams

ny times logoNew York Times, Brian Williams Says He’s Leaving NBC News, Michael M. Grynbaum, Nov. 9, 2021. The former anchor of “NBC Nightly News” rehabilitated his tarnished image as the host of a popular 11 p.m. show on MSNBC. Brian Williams, shown above, spent 28 years at NBC News, including more than a decade as the anchor of the main network newscast.

Brian Williams, the square-jawed news anchor laid low by a fabulism scandal who mounted a career comeback with a popular 11 p.m. talk show on MSNBC, announced on Tuesday that he would step down from his program after a five-year run and depart NBC News entirely at the end of the year.

The exit of Mr. Williams, whose contract is set to expire next month, comes amid a ratings decline in the cable news industry and restlessness among some of MSNBC’s star personnel. Rachel Maddow, the network’s top-rated anchor, is expected to refocus soon on projects outside her nightly prime-time show, although she has announced no formal plans.

“Following much reflection, and after 28 years with the company, I have decided to leave NBC upon the completion of my current contract in December,” Mr. Williams wrote in a statement on Tuesday. “I have been truly blessed. I have been allowed to spend almost half of my life with one company. NBC is a part of me and always will be.”

Mr. Williams revealed no immediate plans for a new on-air role. “This is the end of a chapter and the beginning of another,” he wrote. “There are many things I want to do, and I’ll pop up again somewhere.”

usa today logoUSA TODAY, NFL fines Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers for COVID-19 protocol violations, Mike Jones, Nov. 9, 2021. The NFL has fined Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for violating COVID-19 protocols.

Rodgers was fined $14,650 and the Packers were fined $300,000, NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said. Wide receiver Allen Lazard also received a fine of $14,650 for violating protocol.

The NFL conducted a review of Rodgers’ and the Packers' activities related to protocol after the quarterback tested positive for COVID last week, and when it was learned Rodgers wasn’t vaccinated, as he had publicly led people to believe.

The investigation, which included video review, revealed that Rodgers and Lazard were guilty of not consistently wearing masks within the team facility. The two also attended a maskless Halloween party, which violates protocol for unvaccinated players.

Rodgers and Lazard were otherwise found to be in compliance with protocol.

The Packers didn’t sanction the Halloween party, but were aware of it and didn’t discipline either player for the violations. The Packers also were guilty of not requiring Rodgers to wear a mask at press conferences. Unvaccinated players are required to wear masks anytime inside team facilities.

The team was warned that additional violations could result in escalated punishment, including loss of draft picks or change of draft order.

washington post logoWashington Post, Newsmax tries to assuage furor of conservative hosts over vaccine mandate, Jeremy Barr, Nov. 9, 2021. On-air stars at the conservative news outlet went from venting anger at their company’s policy to accusing “fake news” of trying to turn viewers against the channel. Newsmax seemed to have a massive problem on its hands at the end of last week.

Over the past year, the conservative cable news channel has gained a substantial new audience by appealing to Donald Trump supporters who found Fox News insufficiently loyal in its coverage of the 2020 presidential election, more recently attempting to outflank conservative rivals by delivering a heavy dose of on-air skepticism about coronavirus vaccines and other measures to thwart the pandemic. Then, on Friday evening, the news broke that Newsmax would institute a vaccine mandate of its own.

Predictably, all hell broke loose. One prominent Newsmax host quickly told The Washington Post that he would not comply with the mandate. Another that same night delivered an on-air broadside denouncing vaccine mandates for supposedly “purging our society of freedom-loving patriots by scaring them into submission.” Steve Cortes, a former Trump campaign official who co-hosts Newsmax’s 9 p.m. show, went the furthest.

Nov. 8

Press Run, Commentary: A wave of good news for Biden wrecks media's doomsday narrative, Eric Boehlert, right, Nov. 8, 2021. Still obsessing over Va. Less eric.boehlertthan 48 hours after the political press unleashed collective convulsions about the apocalyptic prospects facing the Democratic Party in the wake of two statewide elections last week, a wave of good news has scrambled the media’s preferred storyline.

Addicted to “Biden crisis” reporting since August, and often bending common sense in order to adhere to the Dems in Disarray narrative, the Beltway media now face a conundrum. Do they stick with their GOP-friendly script about an ineffectual president in free fall? Or do they follow the facts and report on Biden’s increasingly impressive list of accomplishments and a runaway U.S. economy that’s flourishing?

Three events unraveled the Biden Doomsday narrative on Friday. A white-hot jobs report not only counted more than 530,000 new jobs created in the month of October, but the Labor Department revised its estimates for September and August and confirmed an additional 235,000 positions were created — or 766,000 U.S. jobs we didn’t know about until Friday. That shocker naturally sent to the Dow Jones upward, ending the day at yet another all-time high under Biden, 36,327. Since he was elected last year, the stock market is up a jaw-dropping 40 percent, and has created $14 trillion in new wealth.

Then as the clock ticked down Friday night, Democrats passed the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, the largest transportation package in U.S. history. The sprawling and historic legislation will produce hundreds of thousands of union jobs, transform the nation’s transportation system and represents the largest passenger rail, roads and bridges investment in 70 years.

All of this while the number of U.S. Covid deaths continue to plummet, the vaccination rate climbs, including among children, and Pfizer just announced a new pill — Paxlovid — that cuts the risk of hospitalization or death for Covid patients by nearly 90 percent. “The end of the pandemic is now in clear view, and secure,” says Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner.

Combined, the three Friday wins produced the type of day most sitting presidents dream about. They also came amidst a premature funeral procession, eagerly sponsored by the media, which featured an avalanche of doomsday pronouncements following disappointing Democratic election showings in Virginia and New Jersey on Tuesday. (See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

How reluctant was the press to sing Biden’s praise on Friday? Both “ABC World News Tonight” and “NBC Nightly News” ignored the stunning October jobs report. “Nightly News” though, did find time to report on Biden’s “plummeting” approval rating Friday night.

Saturday’s front page of the New York Times announced the passage of the infrastructure bill, but stressed in the headline that Democrats were still “haggling” over the Build Back Better social spending bill. Just in case readers didn’t pick up on the pessimistic framing, the Times ran an accompanying report about how America feels “gloomy” under Biden.

The media’s obsession with dinging Biden has produced some truly regrettable journalism. CNN’s infamous milk report last week was among the worst.
Shining a light on the legitimate topic of inflation and how it’s hurting families at the grocery checkout, CNN for some reason decided to feature a very large family with seven children that buys an astonishing 12 gallons of milk a week to highlight how inflation hits the pocketbook.

The piece was clearly framed as a Biden hit job and felt more like GOP propaganda than straight news reporting. When critics pointed out the absurdity of the premise (each family member drinks 1.5 gallons of milk each week?), the CNN reporter who did the piece went on Twitter to denounce “assholes” who questioned it.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) noted that if the family has seven children that means they’re likely receiving $2,100 per-month in child tax credits, which is helping with the milk purchases.

Nov. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, This newspaper is cutting back on print and training readers to use iPads instead. Will it work? Elahe Izadi, Nov. 7, 2021. The strategy underway in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Little Rock highlights the papers’ enduring reliance on older subscribers.

In 2018, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had a big problem. The state’s largest newspaper, based in Little Rock, was projected to lose money for the first time in 25 years.

Publisher and owner Walter Hussman considered his options. “Maybe we ought to cut back from being a statewide newspaper, maybe pull in our horns," he remembered thinking. But he just wasn’t ready to curtail the paper’s journalistic ambitions.

Hussman’s alternative — eliminating the daily print newspaper to save on publishing and delivery costs — is one that an increasing number of local papers have attempted in an era of rapidly declining advertising revenue. But instead of simply telling readers to switch to the paper’s website, the Democrat-Gazette gave every single subscriber an iPad — and then sent out a fleet of tutors to show them, one-on-one, how to use the devices to read a digital replica of the newspaper.

The labor-intensive logistics behind this unusual strategy underscore the challenge facing all news organizations adapting to the digital era — their dependence on a loyal if shrinking customer base that happens to be the demographic most in need of tech support.

Older readers, in other words.

Nov. 4

 

oliver stone newseum

Filmmaker Oliver Stone poses with a display showing his iconic 1991 film JFK. A sequel, "JFK Revisited," was previewed last summer at the Cannes Film Festival and is being released this month in the United States via Showtime on Nov. 22 (Photo via The Newseum).

Collider, Oliver Stone's 'JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass' Doc Lands on Showtime This Month, David McGuire, Nov. 4, 2021. 'JFK Revisited' premiered at Cannes earlier this year.

showtime logoFor the last 58 years, the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy has been the subject of debate and has become enveloped by conspiracy theories. Countless books, TV shows, and movies have been made about that fateful day, none more prolific and swimming in controversy than Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK. 30 years later, Stone is back with a new documentary film, to be released on Showtime, entitled JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass.

oliver stone jfk revisited posterJFK Revisited premiered at Cannes Film Festival earlier this year and presents a fresh look at the recently declassified archive of material that has been re-examined and placed into the public record. The documentary is poised to inform the latest generation and the generation that lived through it that this unsolved murder was not only shocking but, perhaps, calculated.

The film will be narrated by Whoopi Goldberg (The Stand) and Donald Sutherland (Moonfall) and will feature new interviews with historians, witnesses, and other experts on the subject.

The 1991 film made a very similar promise as it focused on the events leading up to the assassination and the alleged cover-up as told through the eyes of New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner).

Based on the book The Plot That Killed Kennedy, by Jim Marrs, the film was immediately embroiled in controversy as it made implications that Kennedy's successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, was part of the coup d'état to assassinate the sitting president. Stone was said to have described the film as a "counter myth" to the Warren Commission's "fictional myth." The film boasted an incredible cast with Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and even the real Jim Garrison as Earl Warren.

JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass is an Ingenious Media production. Written by James DiEugenio, the film is produced by Rob Wilson for Ixtlan and executive produced by Andrea Scarso, Amit Pandya, Peter Touche, Fernando Sulichin, and Angela Ceccio.

JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass will make its linear debut on Showtime on November 22 at 7 p.m. ET/PT, the anniversary of JFK’s death.

[The film is scheduled to be released in the U.K. and Ireland by the U.K.'s Altitude Film Distribution in late 2021.]

Nov. 3

jeanine djt jeanine pirro 2018 book

Fox News personality "Judge" Jeanine Pirro (left) and President Donald Trump (right) promote the host's book in the Oval Office in 2018. Image via Pirro's Twitter.

Raw Story, Fox's Judge Jeanine orchestrated payments for ‘command centers’ that could blow up Trump’s defense, Travis Gettys, Nov. 03, 2021. Fox News host Jeanine Pirro orchestrated campaign payments for 'command centers' at DC hotels that could blow up Donald Trump's executive privilege claims.

Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, right, and the city's former police chief Bernie Kerik had been paying for hotel rooms and travel related to their rudy giuliani recentefforts to overturn Trump's election loss, but the pair grew concerned by early December as the bills piled up, reported the Washington Post.

fox news logo Small"How do I know I'm gonna get my money back?" Kerik thought at the time, as he recently told the newspaper.

Kerik knew that Giuliani hadn't been reimbursed for his expenses or paid for his services, but their friend Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News host beloved by the twice-impeached one-term president, called Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and asked her to help them out.

McDaniel, below at left, spoke to Kerik by phone but refused to give him money, and instead recommended that he ask the Trump campaign to reimburse his expenses, according to the former police chief and a GOP official.

The campaign cut its first check to Kerik in mid-December with Trump's approval, according to a former senior campaign official, and eventually paid more than $225,000 for hotel rooms and suites at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., that served as a "command center" for efforts to overturn the ronna mcdaniel djt Customelection results ahead of Jan. 6 riots.

Those payments, according to legal experts, could undermine Trump's claims of executive privilege over documents and testimony related to the U.S. Capitol riots sought by the House select committee investigating the insurrection.

"[This] further undermines a wildly broad assertion of executive privilege," said Richard Ben-Veniste, a former Watergate prosecutor. "Executive privilege is typically limited to the protection of communications involving a president's official duties — not to those relating to personal or political campaign matters."

Former Justice Department official John Yoo, who advised former vice president Mike Pence's staff that there was no legal basis to deny the certification of Joe Biden's election win, agreed that the payments could upend Trump's defense.

"If he acts as a president, he gets these things we talk about — executive privilege and immunity," Yoo said. "But if he's acting as a candidate, he's deprived of all of those protections."

oan logo

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Smartmatic Sues Newsmax and One America News Network, Claiming Defamation, Jonah E. Bromwich and Michael M. Grynbaum
Nov. 3, 2021. Smartmatic, an election technology company that faced baseless accusations of rigging the 2020 election, has filed a similar lawsuit against Fox News.

The legal battle against disinformation from right-wing media outlets is expanding.

smartmaticSmartmatic, an election technology firm that became a target of pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential race, sued Newsmax and One America News Network on Wednesday for defamation, demanding that the conservative cable networks face jury trials for spreading falsehoods about the company.

fox news logo SmallThe new lawsuits add to a growing suite of litigation by Smartmatic and another election technology provider, Dominion, which found itself mired in the same conspiracy theories. In February, Smartmatic sued Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and several Fox anchors on similar grounds, as well as two of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Sidney Powell and Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“We are holding them accountable for what they tell their audience,” J. Erik Connolly, a lawyer for Smartmatic, said in an interview.

Dominion has sued Fox, Newsmax, One America News, Ms. Powell, Mr. Giuliani, and Mike Lindell, the chief executive of MyPillow.

Smartmatic and Dominion were both accused by pro-Trump forces, without evidence, of rigging vote tallies in key states to swing the election to Joseph dominion voting systemsR. Biden Jr., part of a large-scale effort by Mr. Trump’s allies to cast doubt on the 2020 results. Those conspiracies have only expanded in the year since Mr. Biden won, as leading Republican officials and media personalities have continued to raise doubts about Mr. Trump’s defeat.

The lawsuits are one tactic being used to address an urgent civic matter: how to curb misinformation that has flowed copiously from right-wing news and opinion outlets.

For Newsmax and One America News — relatively fledgling outlets that have nurtured small but devoted followings — the stakes may be existential. Unlike Fox, which is hugely profitable, Newsmax and One America News are poorly positioned to absorb significant financial penalties.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The fall of Andrew Yang just keeps getting uglier, Bill Palmer, Nov. 3, 2021. We all remember Andrew Yang. He was the political bill palmeroutsider who liked to wear “Math” pins while running in the 2020 Democratic primary race for President. His ideas were interesting but unrealistic, and he ended up getting only a tiny percentage of the vote, but he seemed affable enough, right?

Unfortunately, after also flaming out in the Democratic primary race for Mayor of New York City, Andrew Yang decided to go full villain. He announced the launch of a new and (best anyone can tell) imaginary new political party, and he timed it to the release of his new high profile book. And therein lies the trouble.

bill palmer report logo headerWhen Yang, right, launched an imaginary new political party, the media gave him huge free publicity, without ever once calling him out for just trying to create controversy to cash in with his new book. Why did they give him a free pass? Because books are also how the andrew yang twittermajor media pundits cash in.

The dirtiest secret in all of politics these days, whether you’re a politician or a pundit, is that writing a book is how you print money. Someone else usually writes most of it for you. All you have to do is create the right controversy around its launch, you’ll make millions.

Ben Carson, below left, (Republican, 2016) and Marianne Williamson (Democrat, 2020) ran essentially fake campaigns for President, just to bring free publicity to their books – and it worked. We’re going to see more of these phony “book tour” candidacies going forward. It’s just too tempting, because it’s too profitable. You just have to suffer the indignity of losing badly and dropping out, and then you get to wipe your tears with the money you made from book sales along the way.

ben carson officialBut the media never calls this stuff out, because they also have books to sell. The biggest names from MSNBC, CNN, Fox, the New York Times, the biggest online news sites, etc, all publish books that bring them huge paydays. It’s just how it works.

In fact a lot of political journalists see the day to day slog of working in the industry as merely the price they have to pay to build up their brand, so they can then cash in with a book.

Political journalists and pundits at the top of their career write aspirational books that their fans will lap up. Pundits who are at the end of their viability write tell-all books that people love because of the controversy and dirt involved.

Then there are people like Ann Coulter, whose entire business model is based on periodically saying strategically idiotic things, so conservatives will buy her book just to own the libs. We all think of Coulter as a punchline. But she’s the one laughing; she’s made millions by playing the fool.

If major media pundits want to get rich by using their recognizability to sell their books, so be it. It’s not as if there’s something inherently wrong with books; people should be reading more books in general. The problem is that these media hosts and pundits don’t want you, the audience, to see them merely as book salesmen. So they never call anyone else out for merely trying to create controversy to sell books, because then someone might call them out for cashing in with well-timed books of their own.

Nov. 2

Reuters via Yahoo! U.S. Justice Dept files lawsuit seeking to block book publishing tie-up, Diane Bartz and David Shepardson, Nov. 2, 2021.  The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit on Tuesday aimed at stopping Penguin Random House, the world's biggest book publisher, from buying competitor Simon & Schuster, according to a court filing.

In November, German media group Bertelsmann, which owns Penguin Random House, agreed to pay $2.175 billion in cash to buy Simon and Schuster from ViacomCBS, strengthening its presence in the United States.

In its complaint filed in U.S. federal court in Washington, DC, the Justice Department said the deal would give "outsized influence over who and what is published, and how much authors are paid for their work."

The complaint stresses the importance of the companies competing for top-selling books, and the money earned by the people who write them.

"This competition has resulted in authors earning more for their publishing rights in the form of advances (i.e., upfront payments made to authors for the rights to publish their works), and receiving better editorial, marketing, and other services that are critical to the success of their books," the complaint said.

The complaint also said that Simon & Schuster is the fourth biggest U.S. book publisher, and that if combined with Penguin Random House, that their U.S. revenues would be twice of their closest competitor.

washington post logoWashington Post, Breitbart has outsized influence over climate change denial on Facebook, report says, Cat Zakrzewski, Nov. 2, 2021. A new report suggests 10 publishers, including Russia Today and the Federalist Papers, are responsible for nearly 70 percent of interactions with climate change misinformation on the platform.

Breitbart is the most influential producer of climate change denial posts on Facebook, according to a report released Tuesday that suggests a small number of publishers play an outsized role in creating content that undermines climate science.
Complete coverage from the COP26 U.N. climate summit

breitbart logoThe far-right news and commentary site is one of just ten publishers responsible for nearly 70 percent of interactions with climate facebook logochange denial content on Facebook, according to a study by the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), shared exclusively with The Washington Post. This group of publishers, nicknamed the “Toxic Ten” by CCDH, includes organizations with links to foreign governments, such as Russia Today, as well as with ties to fossil fuel giants, such as Media Research Center.

The report includes a broad range of climate disinformation, including articles that undermine the existence or impacts of climate change or misrepresent data in ways that might erode trust in climate science experts.

This includes a Breitbart story published in March that suggested the Green New Deal, proposed legislation to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, would likely result in mass lockdowns if passed into law.

Nov. 1

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Silence of CIA Media Assets on the JFK Cover-Up, Jacob G. Hornberger, Nov. 1, 2021. One of the funniest aspects of President Biden’s decision to continue the CIA’s cover-up of the national-security establishment’s regime-change operation on November 22, 1963, has been the silent reaction of the mainstream media. Ordinarily, the CIA’s journalistic assets would have gone into action by now, jacob hornberger newpublishing editorials and op-eds supporting Biden’s decision to grant the CIA’s demand for continued secrecy on grounds of “national security.”

What’s the reason for the silence? I suspect that despite their extreme loyalty to the CIA, they’re all too embarrassed to make such a ludicrous argument. Better to remain silent and hope the whole controversy just goes away.

By the time of Oliver Stone’s movie JFK in 1991, the CIA and the rest of the U.S. national-security establishment had kept their assassination-related records secret for some 30 years. They said that “national security” required such secrecy, notwithstanding their claim that a lone-nut communist former U.S. Marine had killed President Kennedy.

future of freedom foundation logo squarePeople didn’t buy it. Stone’s movie induced a massive public outcry against continued secrecy. In one of those rare instances in which Congress is forced by public pressure to act against the wishes of the Pentagon and the CIA, Congress enacted the JFK Records Act of 1992, which forced the national-security establishment to disclose their long-secret assassination-related records.

To enforce the law, Congress called the Assassination Records Review Board into existence. From 1993 to 1998, the ARRB forced the release of thousands of long-secret records, oftentimes over the vehement objections of the Pentagon and the CIA.

As a result of those disclosures in the 1990s, the United States did not fall into the ocean. The communists did not take control over the United States. Cuba did not invade Miami. The dominoes did not fall in Southeast Asia.

What did happen, however, is that the ARRB lifted the shroud of secrecy that the national-security establishment had placed over the autopsy that it had conducted on the body of President Kennedy a few hours after the assassination. The records revealed one reason why the military and the CIA had wanted to keep their assassination-related records secret forever: The autopsy they conducted was fraudulent to the core.

As I have repeatedly emphasized, there is no innocent explanation for a fraudulent autopsy, especially given that the scheme was launched at Parkland Hospital immediately after Kennedy was declared dead. See my two books The Kennedy Autopsy and The Kennedy Autopsy 2. Also see Douglas Horne’s excellent video presentation at our conference last spring on the Kennedy assassination as well as his watershed five-volume book Inside the Assassination Records Review Board.

Unfortunately, however, there was a flaw in the law. The law gave the national-security establishment another 25 years of secrecy if the release of certain records posed “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

The ARRB went out of existence in 1998 and, therefore, it wasn’t around to enforce the law when that 25-year deadline materialized in 2017 during the Trump administration. Trump surrendered to the CIA’s demand for continued secrecy and pushed the secrecy deadline into 2021.

Not surprisingly, Biden has also now surrendered to the CIA’s demand for continued secrecy. Like Trump, he says that the release of the records will threaten “national security” by posing “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

Will the remaining records contain a “smoking gun” confession of the national-security establishment’s regime change on November 22, 1963. Of course not. No one would be so stupid as to put such a confession in writing and then turn it over to the National Archives.

But the records undoubtedly contain incriminating pieces of the puzzle that will further fill out the regime-change mosaic, just as the ARRB’s forced disclosure of the medical evidence in the 1990s established the existence of a fraudulent autopsy.

Let me give you another example of this phenomenon. In 2017, a few of the secret records that were released under Trump disclosed a secret memorandum from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that was dated November 24, 1963, the day that Jack Ruby assassinated Lee Harvey Oswald. The memo stated: “The thing I am concerned about, and so is Mr. Katzenbach, is having something issued so we can convince the public that Oswald is the real assassin.”

Oswald was referring to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who himself issued a memorandum to presidential aide Bill Moyers on November 25, 1963, stating, “The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial.”

Three questions naturally arise:

1. How in the world could two of the nation’s top law-enforcement officers be certain that Oswald assassinated the president within just two or three days of the assassination, especially given that Oswald was not only proclaiming his innocence but also claiming he was being framed for the crime?

2. Even if Oswald was involved in the crime, how in the world could anyone be certain that he didn’t have confederates without weeks or even months of investigation, especially since the Dallas treating physicians had said that Kennedy’s throat wound was an entry wound, which necessarily meant a shot having been fired from the president’s front?

3. How would the release of Hoover’s memo back in the 1990s possibly have threatened “national security” or possibly posed “an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or the conduct of foreign relations that is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure”?

It couldn’t have, which meant that the national-security establishment lied to the ARRB when they used that excuse to keep the Hoover memo secret.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court won’t hear case seeking more transparency from secretive surveillance court, Robert Barnes and Spencer S. Hsu, Nov. 1, 2021. The Supreme Court on Monday declined to decide whether the public has at least a limited right to review the decisions of a largely secret federal surveillance court whose influence has been growing.

The justices turned down a request from the American Civil Liberties Union and others to review a ruling that denied access to decisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). That court said it lacked authority even to consider a public claim under the First Amendment to its secret decision-making.

Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Sonia Sotomayor said the case, ACLU v. United States, should have been reviewed.

Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978 to regulate domestic surveillance in national security investigations, such as monitoring suspected spies and terrorists.

Investigators must convince a FISC judge that a target for eavesdropping is probably an agent of a foreign power, but targets can include Americans and any communication in which one party touches U.S. soil.

Groups ask Supreme Court for access to surveillance court’s opinions

Privacy advocates have criticized the court as a rubber stamp, because judges hear only the government’s request. Most subjects never know they are targets or what the government told the judge. In 2019, for instance, judges approved 952 applications in whole or with modifications, while denying 58 in whole or in part.

After leaks from Edward Snowden in 2013 showed widespread, bulk collection of phone calls and emails, Congress in 2015 required the government to review any significant opinions for public release.

But the ACLU argued that such reviews are conducted by executive-branch officials, not a court, and that the government believes release of opinions before June 2015 is not required, although it has released several.

Besides other free-speech advocates, the ACLU’s challenge was supported by news organizations, including The Washington Post, and some former high-level national security experts.

One group included former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., former CIA director John Brennan, and Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who was solicitor general under President Barack Obama.

Their brief said it is not enough for the executive branch to decide which opinions may be released, and that there is no reason the public cannot see properly redacted versions of the court’s actions.

“The basic, longstanding premise of public access to judicial opinions does not cease to apply merely because the judicial opinions of the FISC relate to surveillance, intelligence, and national security,” they wrote.

In a short dissent, Gorsuch said they had a point.

The government makes “the extraordinary claim that this Court is powerless to review the lower court decisions even if they are mistaken,” he wrote in an opinion joined by Sotomayor. “On the government’s view, literally no court in this country has the power to decide whether citizens possess a First Amendment right of access to the work of our national security courts.”

“If these matters are not worthy of our time, what is?” Gorsuch asked.

 

October

Oct. 31

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: VIPs expect special treatment. At Wikipedia, don’t even ask, Noam Cohen (author of The Know-It-Alls: The Rise of Silicon Valley as a Political Powerhouse and Social Wrecking Ball), Oct. 31, 2021 (print ed.). No, John Eastman, you can’t edit your own article here.

In the early afternoon of Jan. 7, only hours after addressing the “Stop the Steal” rally outside the White House that fed into the assault on the Capitol, John C. Eastman began working on the first draft of history: He rewrote his own Wikipedia page.
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wikipedia logoWhere the article said that Eastman, a professor at Chapman Law School at the time, was helping President Donald Trump “to annul the voting processes and, by extension, the electoral college selections” of at least four states, Eastman substituted a less accusatory description. In his version, Trump hadn’t tried to annul the results but had simply “challenged the electoral votes in four states in which elections officials had violated state law (and hence Art II of the U.S. Constitution) in the conduct of the election.”

Eastman was able to move quickly because he already had a Wikipedia account and was familiar with its ways; over the years he had edited his own article, a violation of the rules that was noticed but incompletely acted upon. This time, however, Eastman’s editing drew immediate attention. In barely two hours, all of his changes were made to disappear — “reverted,” in the parlance of Wikipedia — and he was asked to make his case on the Talk page assigned to the article, where editors can debate proposals for improving an entry.

In a world of inequality, we are well accustomed to rich, powerful, connected people getting preferential treatment, whether a good table at a restaurant, admission to a selective college for their offspring or a torn-up speeding ticket. Despite its countercultural tendencies, the digital world has wound up in a quite similar place. On large platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, the most important, newsworthy users are given VIP treatment. Their voices are amplified; their misdeeds are excused; they are, up to a point (see: Trump), freed from the automated policing that the rest of us have to endure. The notable exception is Wikipedia. There, VIPs have been shouting “Do you have any idea who you are dealing with?!” for years, only to be told either, not really, or, don’t care, and then instructed, as Eastman was, to take their objections to a Talk page where the community can weigh in.

On Jan. 9, Eastman indeed returned to Wikipedia with his list of proposed fixes and the sources for those claims. Experienced editors evaluated his suggestions. They approved some uncontroversial requests — a better photo of him was uploaded, too — but when he suggested rewriting the description of his meeting with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the lead-up to the certification vote in Congress, an editor using the name SundayClose rendered a verdict, “Not Done,” trusting an account in the New York Times over Eastman’s own testimony.

“Seriously?,” Eastman replied. “The youtube source I cited was the actual speech in which I specifically stated what was being asked of the Vice President. How is the actual statement not a more reliable source than an anonymous source cited by the NY Times?” SundayClose answered, exasperated: “Yes seriously. This is Wikipedia, not your personal soapbox,” adding, for good measure, “Just because you say it in a speech doesn’t make it true.”

Oct. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Metaverse Is Mark Zuckerberg’s Escape Hatch, Kevin Roose, Oct. 29, 2021. If his new strategy works — a big if — it could help address several of Facebook’s biggest problems, our technology columnist writes.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wWhen Mark Zuckerberg, right, appeared onscreen at Facebook’s virtual Connect conference on Thursday, smiling as he wandered through sterile rooms filled with midcentury modern furniture, he looked like a man unburdened.

Whistle-blower? What whistle-blower? Cascading, yearslong trust crisis that has regulators fuming, employees bailing and lawmakers comparing Facebook to Big Tobacco? Hmm, doesn’t ring a bell.

Instead, Mr. Zuckerberg and his lieutenants cheerfully laid out their vision for the so-called metaverse, the immersive virtual environment that Facebook — which, as of Thursday, has been renamed Meta, although everyone except for a few professionally facebook logoobligated financial journalists will probably keep calling it Facebook — is trying to build.

As with most of Facebook’s strategy announcements, Thursday’s rebranding formalized a shift that has been underway for years. The company already has more than 10,000 people working on augmented and virtual reality projects in its Reality Labs division — roughly twice as many people as are on Twitter’s entire staff — and has said it plans to hire 10,000 more in Europe soon. Earlier this week, the company announced that it would spend about $10 billion on metaverse-related investments this year, and it has been acquiring V.R. start-ups in what could amount to a metaverse land grab.

There are several types of questions one could ask about this metaverse strategy. The first and most basic is: What is a metaverse, and what will Facebook’s version of one look like?

That question was answered, at least partially, by Thursday’s presentation. Mr. Zuckerberg painted a picture of the metaverse as a clean, well-lit virtual world, entered with virtual and augmented reality hardware at first and more advanced body sensors later on, in which people can play virtual games, attend virtual concerts, go shopping for virtual goods, collect virtual art, hang out with each others’ virtual avatars and attend virtual work meetings.

This vision of an immersive digital realm is not new — it was sketched out almost 30 years ago by the science fiction author Neal Stephenson — but Mr. Zuckerberg is staking Facebook’s future on the bet that it will become real, saying that the metaverse will be a “successor to the mobile internet.”

Another obvious question you could ask is “Will this work?” It’s impossible to say for certain, of course, although personally, I’m skeptical that Facebook — a lumbering bureaucracy whose biggest breakthroughs in the past decade have mostly come by buying competing apps or copying their features, rather than developing its own ideas internally — will create an immersive digital universe that people actually want to spend time in.

ny times logoNew York Times, Roger Goodell’s Pay for Two Years Reached Nearly $128 Million, Ken Belson, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The N.F.L. commissioner’s compensation for 2019-20 and 2020-21, bolstered by bonuses for closing labor and media rights deals, was disclosed to team owners in a private meeting.

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s pay for the past two fiscal years totaled almost $128 million, bolstered by bonuses for helping the league’s owners clinch a new 10-year labor deal with the players and secure media contracts worth more than $100 billion over the next decade.

The nine-figure combination of salary, bonuses and other benefits made Goodell one of the highest-paid executives in the country, and the disclosure of the deal comes at a time when he has been criticized for his handling of numerous thorny issues, including the investigation into widespread workplace harassment at the Washington Football Team.

Goodell’s compensation was discussed at a two-day meeting of the league’s owners in Manhattan this week. During a session on Wednesday when only team owners were in attendance, a slide was shown listing the commissioner’s pay: $63,900,050 per year, or just under $128 million for the fiscal years 2019-20 and 2020-21.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s $300 Million SPAC Deal May Have Skirted Securities Laws, Matthew Goldstein, Lauren Hirsch and David Enrich, Oct. 29, 2021. Former President Trump began discussing a deal with a “blank check” company early this year. Investors weren’t told.

Just days after Donald J. Trump left the White House, two former contestants on his reality show, “The Apprentice,” approached him with a pitch. Wes Moss and Andy Litinsky wanted to create a conservative media giant.

Mr. Trump was taken with the idea. But he had to figure out how to pay for it.

This month, the former president found a way. He agreed to merge his social media venture with what’s known as a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The result is that Mr. Trump — largely shut out of the mainstream financial industry because of his history of bankruptcies and loan defaults — secured nearly $300 million in funding for his new business.

To get his deal done, Mr. Trump ventured into an unregulated and sometimes shadowy corner of Wall Street, working with an unlikely cast of characters: the former “Apprentice” contestants, a small Chinese investment firm and a little-known Miami banker named Patrick Orlando.

Mr. Orlando had been discussing a deal with Mr. Trump since at least March, according to people familiar with the talks and a confidential investor presentation reviewed by The New York Times. That was well before his SPAC, Digital World Acquisition, made its debut on the Nasdaq stock exchange last month. In doing so, Mr. Orlando’s SPAC may have skirted securities laws and stock exchange rules, lawyers said.

SPACs sell their shares to investors through an initial public offering and then find a private company with which to merge. Because SPACs are empty vessels, stock exchanges allow them to list their shares without disclosing much financial information. But that creates opportunities for SPACs to serve as backdoor vehicles for companies to go public without receiving the kind of investor scrutiny they would in a traditional listing. To prevent that, SPACs aren’t supposed to have a merger planned at the time of their I.P.O.

securities exchange commission sealLawyers and industry officials said that talks between Mr. Orlando and Mr. Trump or their associates consequently could draw scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Another issue is that Digital World’s securities filings repeatedly stated that the company and its executives had not engaged in any “substantive discussions, directly or indirectly,” with a target company — even though Mr. Orlando had been in discussions with Mr. Trump.

Given the politically fraught nature of a deal with Mr. Trump, securities lawyers said that Digital World’s lack of disclosure about those conversations could be considered an omission of “material information.”

“Financial markets are premised on trust,” said Mike Stegemoller, a finance professor at Baylor University who studies SPACs. “If these disclosures are not true, no one wants to participate in markets that aren’t fair.”

marjorii taylor greene gun

washington post logoWashington Post, Marjorie Taylor Greene buys up to $50,000 worth of Trump SPAC stock during week of wild fluctuation, Bryan Pietsch, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). The stock is down from its high on Friday, when the Republican congresswoman purchased the shares. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), above, purchased as much as $50,000 in stock of the company that plans to merge with former president Donald Trump’s new media firm, the congresswoman disclosed in a filing on Tuesday.

Greene, an ardent Trump supporter, on Friday purchased between $15,001 and $50,000 in shares of Digital World Acquisition Corp. The firm is a SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, created to buy another business and give it a stock-market listing. Digital World trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker “DWAC.”

Digital World’s stock price swung widely on Friday, opening at $118.79 per share and rising as high as $175 per share. At its lowest, a share in Digital World sold for $67.96 that day. It is not clear what price Greene bought the shares at.

On Tuesday, when Greene disclosed the purchase in a congressional filing, the stock closed at $59.07 per share. On Wednesday, it closed at $64.89. The disclosure was first noted by congresstrading.com, which tracks stock purchases by members of Congress.

Since news of Digital World’s proposed combination with Trump’s company, the “meme stock” had been the subject of posts on the Reddit channel WallStreetBets, a forum where day traders have seized on stocks such as GameStop and AMC.

Trump Media and Technology Group said last week that it would merge with Digital World as it announced the development of a new social media platform called Truth Social. Trump said in a statement that the network would “stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech.” The former president was booted from Facebook and Twitter after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

taylor lorenz tucker carlson

ny times logoNew York Times, Geraldo Rivera criticizes his Fox News colleague Tucker Carlson, Michael M. Grynbaum, Oct. 29, 2021 (print ed.). Tucker Carlson, the top-rated Fox News host (shown during one of his attack segments above), faced criticism on Thursday — including from a prominent colleague at his own network — after he announced plans for a documentary series featuring debunked conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 riot at the United States Capitol.

The three-part series, “Patriot Purge,” is set to be broadcast next month on Fox News’s streaming service, Fox Nation. An 84-second trailer that aired on Fox News on Wednesday included the baseless suggestion that the riot was a so-called “false flag” operation created to demonize the political right.

As tense music plays on the soundtrack, Mr. Carlson says in ominous tones that “the helicopters have left Afghanistan and now they’ve landed here at home.” Various speakers convey the false idea that Democrats want to persecute and imprison conservatives.

fox news logo SmallThe trailer evoked a dismayed public response from Geraldo Rivera, the veteran Fox News correspondent, who used a profane term in a Twitter post to dismiss the claim that the Capitol riot was a “false flag” operation. That theory has repeatedly been debunked.

Speaking on Thursday with The New York Times, Mr. Rivera elaborated on his concerns.

“Tucker’s wonderful, he’s provocative, he’s original, but — man oh man,” Mr. Rivera said in a phone interview. “There are some things that you say that are more inflammatory and outrageous and uncorroborated. And I worry that — and I’m probably going to get in trouble for this — but I’m wondering how much is done to provoke, rather than illuminate.”

“Messing around with Jan. 6 stuff … ” Mr. Rivera added, pausing briefly. “The record to me is pretty damn clear, that there was a riot that was incited and encouraged and unleashed by Donald Trump.”

Asked if he would urge his Fox News bosses to reconsider airing Mr. Carlson’s special, Mr. Rivera demurred, saying, “I don’t want to go there, that’s not my job.”

But he added of Mr. Carlson: “He’s my colleague. He’s my family. Sometimes you have to speak out about your family.”

Fox News did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Carlson’s prime-time provocations have helped propel him to the highest ratings in cable news, even as he has used rhetoric sometimes used by white nationalists. He has frequently questioned the coverage of the Jan. 6 attack, asserting that government agents were involved in the events and portraying the rioters as mostly peaceful.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Republican book banning will lead to book burning, Wayne Madsen, left, Oct. 29, 2021. 451 degrees wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallFahrenheit is the temperature at which paper catches fire.

wayne madesen report logoToday, a form of Fahrenheit 451 "firemen" have appeared at school board meetings, the gubernatorial campaigns in Virginia and New Jersey, state legislatures in Texas and Florida, and public libraries.

In 1821, the German author Heinrich Heine wrote in his tragedy, Almansore: "Where they burn books, they also ultimately burn people.”

Oct. 28

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Forbes, Investigation: Trump’s SPAC Is Screwing His Own Supporters While Enriching Wall Street Elites, Dan Alexander, Oct. 28, 2021. Donald Trump set off fireworks on Wall Street the night of October 20, when he announced that a new business, the Trump Media and Technology Group, planned to go public via a special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC). Shares soared 550% in a week.

At one point on Friday, when they hit their peak at $175, a little-known investor who organized the SPAC controlled a stake of more than $1 billion. Hedge funds who got in early were sitting on hundreds of millions in gains, assuming they hadn’t already cashed out. And everyday Trump supporters, betting on the SPAC from their brokerage accounts, were doubling and tripling their money in a matter of hours.

“Holy s-—, I am rich with $DWAC,” a Twitter user named Huy Tran said on Thursday, using the ticker symbol for the SPAC. He wasn’t the only one gloating about his gains. “I knew it was big this morning,” said another person. “Enough to throw $310K at it. Would’ve done more if I had more capital freed up, but damn, that was shocking. Incredible move and probably pushes $100 tomorrow. Best day of my trading career.”

Not everyone is going to make money. In any frenzy, there are suckers and there are sharks. The suckers want to play the game but don’t necessarily understand the rules. In this case, that’s likely the Trump fans and day traders buying up the stock. Some of them will get lucky. But many—especially the true Trump believers, who want to stick with the former president for the long haul—seem destined to lose big.

The sharks, on the other hand, already won the game before anyone else even came to the table. Take the SPAC’s organizer, for example. Or the group that did the underwriting. Or the Wall Street firms that bought in early. The biggest shark, however, seems to be the former president, who will probably make a fortune on the frenzy, even as those who trust in him get crushed.

In order to understand all of this, you need to be familiar with how SPACs actually work. We’ll start at the beginning, with Patrick Orlando. It is Orlando—not Trump—whose firm serves as the so-called sponsor of the SPAC. On Trump’s final day in office, January 20, Orlando’s firm paid $25,000 for what would become 8.6 million shares of a SPAC named Digital World Acquisition Corp., or about three tenths of a penny per share.

At the time, Digital World Acquisition had no assets and no operations. But soon enough, Orlando gathered a small team, including a chief financial officer named Luis Orleans-Braganza, who is a member of Brazil’s National Congress. Orlando’s firm handed Orleans-Braganza 10,000 shares around the time he signed on as CFO.

...

The higher the share price climbs, the more difficult it is to rationalize. At one point on Friday, shares of Digital World Acquisition were trading for $175 apiece. That means investors were paying $175 to buy a $7.62 chunk of a cash pile. Shares closed yesterday, October 27, at a $64.89 apiece. It would be like if a jar with $100 in coins went up for sale, and people were bidding $850 for it because doing so might allow them to invest the coins in a Trump-branded venture.

If this seems absurd, that’s because it is. The investment firms that got in early aren’t complaining, though. Even in a disaster scenario, in which the stock fell more than 90% to $5 per share, wiping out over $1 billion for SPAC investors, the owners of the Trump Media and Technology Group would still be left with shares worth estimated $430 million. And that stock would be more valuable than anything else Donald Trump currently owns.


matthew purse fbi capitol pressThese images, according to law enforcement, show Matthew Purse inside the Capitol building on Jan. 6.

HuffPost, Investigation: He Dressed As Press To Storm The Capitol. Now We Know He Runs A White Nationalist Website, Christopher Mathias, Oct. 28, 2021. Matthew Purse was one of the most malevolent characters in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6. The horrifying extent of his extremism has gone unreported, until now.

huffington post logoOn Jan. 6 Matthew Thomas Purse, a 45-year-old Navy veteran from Irvine, California, arrived at the Capitol with a red patch reading “DON’T SHOOT — PRESS” sewed to the back of his black tactical vest. Big, white letters on his helmet screamed “PRESS,” too. And a press pass declaring his credentials as a member of the media dangled from a lanyard around his neck.

But later that day, as he took hold of a microphone on the steps of the Capitol building, it was clear that Purse was actually a participant at the anti-democratic “Save America” rally — which had just exploded into a deadly attempted insurrection.

Moreover, it was clear that he hated journalists.

“First of all, mission accomplished, Patriots,” Purse said to scattered cheers from the right-wing mob that had just stormed, vandalized and looted the building, disrupting a joint session of Congress, according to a video reviewed by HuffPost. “History has been made here today. Simultaneously you broke in through the front and through the rear! They could not stop you! You occupied the building! You caused them to stop what they were doing! They had to evacuate! They couldn’t complete their session! Mission accomplished! Excellent!”

Before handing off the microphone to a fellow Make America Great Again enthusiast, Purse gestured over to a patch of grass near the Capitol building. “The lying press is hidden over there ... ” he said.

Later, Purse led a group of about 20 supporters of former President Donald Trump to a staging area for media outlets, where he immediately started accosting reporters, at one point targeting an Israeli correspondent with anti-Semitic slurs. Footage from the onslaught went viral and quickly became emblematic of the violent vitriol directed at the “fake news media” on Jan. 6.

Yet months later in July, after being arrested and charged for being part of the horde that invaded the Capitol building, Purse once again tried to pass himself off as a journalist, telling The Associated Press he was in the Capitol as “part of a legitimate news organization,” which he declined to name. “The record will show I was not there in any illegal capacity,” he said.

But HuffPost has learned the name of Purse’s “legitimate news organization.” It’s called Happening Center, and it is an unabashedly white nationalist website which hosts livestreams and a private message forum. It gained thousands of followers throughout the political tumult of 2020. Videos and social media posts produced by Happening Center — archived and preserved by anonymous anti-fascist researchers — show it at times embracing outright neo-Nazism and praising mass murderers.

Of all the characters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, Purse could prove to be one of the most malevolent. The horrifying extent of his extremism has gone unreported, both in the press and in court documents, and is further evidence of the fascist ideology that drove the events of Jan. 6.

His presence also undercuts the revisionist right-wing narrative that the rioters were merely a group of bumbling MAGA tourists, as opposed to what they really were: the vanguard of a dangerous, racist mass movement hellbent on destroying what exists of American democracy.


‘Mr. Extra Creepy’

Television viewers across the world saw Purse’s zealotry that day. On Al Jazeera Balkans, he led a pack of Trump supporters as they charged into the part of the Capitol lawn designated for media, immediately harassing reporters. “This is the lying press!” Purse yelled into the Al Jazeera camera as the correspondent struggled to continue his broadcast.

Purse’s real identity would go unknown for months. He had introduced himself to multiple people on Jan. 6 as “Marc.” A group of anonymous online sleuths dedicated to exposing the Jan. 6 rioters took to calling him “Mr. Extra Creepy” as they dug through photos and video footage looking for clues.

By May, the sleuths had collected evidence showing that “Marc” or “Mr. Extra Creepy” was really Purse, who public records show has mostly resided in Arizona and Florida, but now lives in southern California. He enlisted in the Navy in 1995 and served two years as a Damage Controlman Fireman Apprentice, a Navy spokesperson told HuffPost, receiving the National Defense Service Medal. The Navy spokesperson would not disclose the circumstances of his separation from the military.

In 2009 he was arrested and eventually pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, copyright infringement and forfeiture, according to court records, after he and an accomplice were caught selling $500,000 worth of counterfeit software.

He was arrested again this past July on federal charges related to his joining the mob that invaded the Capitol.

According to an FBI affidavit, surveillance footage showed Purse entering the Capitol at 2:59 p.m. on Jan. 6 through the Columbus Door on the eastern side of the building, clearly identifiable in his “PRESS” helmet and vest, carrying a long black pole with a camera and microphone affixed to the end.

“Purse appeared to be standing off to the side, observing the crowd’s interactions with the law enforcement officers,” the affidavit says. “At approximately 3:03 p.m., as the crowd became more volatile ... Purse crossed the room and exited the Rotunda.”

Court records show Purse’s disguise as a journalist had nearly gotten him off the hook. When the Department of Justice first sought to charge him, a federal magistrate judge declined to sign off on an arrest warrant, arguing prosecutors had failed to prove Purse wasn’t actually a reporter. There are laws in place, after all, the judge argued, that protect journalists from being prosecuted for doing their jobs.

Prosecutors came back a week later and filed an amended affidavit. Purse, the FBI had learned, had not received “any credentials from the Capitol, which allowed members of the news media access to areas inside of the Capitol,” the affidavit stated. He also had no “employment history” related to “any news media organization.” And although “Purse has a website, the website appears to be primarily used for live streaming and does not contain original content. The website also includes a private forum for discussions.”

This time the judge signed off on the arrest warrant.

Purse has since pleaded not guilty to charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly conduct in a Capitol building, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building.
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He was released from jail on the condition that he surrender his passport to authorities; wear a location monitoring device; stay away from Washington, D.C., except for when attending court; and not possess a firearm, destructive device, or other weapon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook is changing its name to Meta as it focuses on the virtual world, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Oct. 28, 2021. The company made the decision amid a wave of criticism following the release of tens of thousands of internal documents. Facebook on Thursday announced it changed its name to Meta, part of a strategic shift to emphasize the development of its virtual world while its main social network business is in crisis.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wFacebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, made the announcement at Connect, the company’s annual hardware event where it talks about products like the Portal video devices and Oculus headsets.

The rebranding — pegged to a virtual world and hardware known as the “metaverse” — comes amid a broader effort to shift attention away from revelations that it knew its platform was causing a litany of social harms. The Facebook social network is not changing its name.

facebook logo“From now on, we’re going to be the metaverse first. Not Facebook first,” Zuckerberg said in his keynote. “Facebook is of for the most used products in the world. But increasingly, it doesn’t encompass everything that we do. Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything we are doing.”

A whistleblower has came forward with tens of thousands of documents demonstrating how the company was aware that it caused polarization in numerous countries, led people down misinformation rabbit holes, and failed to stop a violent network that led to the January 6 insurrection. In response, lawmakers around the world have threatened new regulation for the tech industry, as well as demanding more information from Facebook on what it knew and when.

The documents were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including The Washington Post, and were provided to Congress and the Securities and Exchange Commission in response to a whistleblower lawsuit.

Oct. 27

devin nunes file flagFresno Bee, Devin Nunes’ family ordered to say who’s paying for lawsuit, Joshua Bessex, Updated Oct. 27, 2021. A federal judge this week ordered Rep. Devin Nunes’ family members to disclose how they are paying for their defamation lawsuit against a reporter and magazine publisher over a 2018 story about their Iowa farm.

The judge will review the records detailing who is paying for the litigation behind closed doors before deciding whether to share them with lawyers for the reporter and publisher, meaning that there is a possibility that no one else — including those lawyers and their clients — will get to see the information.

Judge Mark Roberts of Iowa’s Northern District Court wants to know whether the congressman is involved in the family’s case, he wrote in his ruling.

In a court hearing this summer, the congressman’s brother said that he had “no idea” who was paying their lawyers and that the family had only paid one $500 fee.

“Anthony Nunes III’s lack of knowledge about who is paying the attorneys prosecuting this action raises legitimate concern about not only who may be in charge of the lawsuit, but also whether Plaintiffs are the still the real parties in interest,” Roberts wrote in his decision.

Lawyers for the journalist, Ryan Lizza, and the magazine company, Hearst, asked that the Nunes family share who was paying for their legal fees this summer. In their motion, they wrote that the lawsuit might be motivated by someone other than the family. They said this motivation was relevant to the case because it might be fueled by wealthy private donors connected to the congressman as a means to “chill” media coverage. Hearst attorneys wrote that information also could shed light on whether the Nunes family should be considered public figures, which would make it harder for them to win a defamation lawsuit.

Lawyers for the Nunes family objected, questioning relevance to the lawsuit. The family filed the lawsuit against Lizza and Hearst over a story published in its magazine Esquire that suggested the Nunes’ farm, NuStar Farms, employed undocumented immigrants. They are seeking $20 million in damages.

Throughout proceedings, the family has denied coordinating with the congressman, but has not denied receiving financial support for the litigation, Roberts wrote in his decision filed on Tuesday. He said that disclosing who was funding the suit would provide clarity on whether the family has actually coordinated with the congressman. “These circumstances may not ultimately turn out to be ‘untoward,’ but they are certainly unusual,” Roberts wrote.

Oct. 26

 

deborah birx djt white house photo cropped

washington post logoWashington Post, Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Birx tells Congress, Dan Diamond, Oct. 26, 2021. Former White House coronavirus coordinator (shown above in a White House file photo) says more than 130,000 people in the U.S. died unnecessarily.

The Trump administration was “distracted” by last year’s election and ignored recommendations to curb the pandemic, the White House’s former coronavirus response coordinator told congressional investigators this month.
U.S. coronavirus cases tracker and map

President Donald Trump official“I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season,” said Deborah Birx, who former president Donald Trump chose in March 2020 to steer his government’s virus response, according to interview excerpts released by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.

Birx, who sat for interviews with the subcommittee on Oct. 12 and 13, also detailed advice that she said the White House ignored late last year, including more aggressively testing younger Americans, expanding access to virus treatments and better distributing vaccines in long-term care facilities.

More than 130,000 American lives could have been saved with swifter action and better coordinated public health messages after the virus’ first wave, Birx told lawmakers.

“I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30-percent less, to 40-percent less range,” Birx said.

More than 735,000 Americans have died from coronavirus-related complications since the pandemic began, including more than 300,000 since President Biden took office.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking, Mike Isaac, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.

facebook logoIn 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network’s foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram’s youngest users “stress and anxiety,” the researchers found, especially if posts didn’t get enough Likes from friends.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wBut the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers’ social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

Mark Zuckerberg, left, Facebook’s chief executive, and other managers discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents. In the end, a larger test was rolled out in just a limited capacity to “build a positive press narrative” around Instagram.

The research on the Like button was an example of how Facebook has questioned the bedrock features of social networking. As the company has confronted crisis after crisis on misinformation, privacy and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault — essentially, the features that have made Facebook be Facebook.

Apart from the Like button, Facebook has scrutinized its share button, which lets users instantly spread content posted by other people; its groups feature, which is used to form digital communities; and other tools that define how more than 3.5 billion people behave and interact online. The research, laid out in thousands of pages of internal documents, underlines how the company has repeatedly grappled with what it has created.

What researchers found was often far from positive. Time and again, they determined that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

The company documents are part of the Facebook Papers, a cache provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress by a lawyer representing Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has become a whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen earlier gave the documents to The Wall Street Journal. This month, a congressional staff member supplied the redacted disclosures to more than a dozen other news organizations, including The New York Times.

In a statement, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, criticized articles based on the documents, saying that they were built on a “false premise.”

“Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” he said. He said Facebook had invested $13 billion and hired more than 40,000 people to keep people safe, adding that the company has called “for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere.”

 

fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, In bid to head off a GOP takeover at FCC, Biden nominates two, including first woman to lead agency, Taylor Telford, Tony Romm and Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 26, 2021. Acting chair Jessica Rosenworcel is poised to become the first woman to run the Federal Communications Commission.

The White House on Tuesday named Jessica Rosenworcel and Gigi Sohn to top Federal Communications Commission positions in a late bid to stave off a Republican majority over the regulator.

jessica rosenworcel fccIf confirmed, Rosenworcel, right, the FCC’s acting chairwoman, would become the first woman to lead the agency. Sohn, a former FCC official, is a net neutrality advocate.

The FCC has been stymied by vacancies under President Biden’s tenure, as the White House contends with a raging public health crisis, supply chain collapse and a torrent of severe weather disasters. Unless both candidates are approved by the Senate before the end of the year, Rosenworcel’s term will expire and Republicans will claim a majority in January.

Rosenworcel, who had been widely favored to be Biden’s pick, faces a tangled policy landscape that influences how Americans learn, work, shop and communicate. As acting chair, Rosenworcel has tackled robocalls and championed efforts to close the “homework gap,” including $3.2 billion for emergency broadband benefits to help millions of students who lack access, according to the FCC.

While regulators have long cast Internet access as a luxury, the pandemic has crystallized how essential the Web is to modern life. It has illuminated the gulf between those who can seamlessly migrate their lives online and those who must rely on free broadband signals in malls, coffee shops and darkened parking lots. Research has demonstrated that Internet access is tethered to jobs and economic growth.

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Challenges Biden Again With Broad Cybersurveillance Operation, David E. Sanger, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The new campaign came only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of spy operations it had conducted around the world. The Russian agency behind the SolarWinds hacking has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. computer networks, Microsoft officials said.

microsoft logo CustomRussia’s premier intelligence agency has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. government, corporate and think-tank computer networks, Microsoft officials and cybersecurity experts warned on Sunday, only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of sophisticated spy operations it had conducted around the world.

russian flagThe new effort is “very large, and it is ongoing,” Tom Burt, one of Microsoft’s top security officers, said in an interview. Government officials confirmed that the operation, apparently aimed at acquiring data stored in the cloud, seemed to come out of the S.V.R., the Russian intelligence agency that was the first to enter the Democratic National Committee’s networks during the 2016 election.

While Microsoft insisted that the percentage of successful breaches was small, it did not provide enough information to accurately measure the severity of the theft.

Earlier this year, the White House blamed the S.V.R. for the so-called SolarWinds hacking, a highly sophisticated effort to alter software used by government agencies and the nation’s largest companies, giving the Russians broad access to 18,000 users. Mr. Biden said the attack undercut trust in the government’s basic systems and vowed retaliation for both the intrusion and election interference. But when he announced sanctions against Russian financial institutions and technology companies in April, he pared back the penalties.

Recent Top Stories

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why is Anthony Fauci trying to kill my puppy? Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). My family recently got a new puppy, a strong-dana milbank newestwilled and mouthy but ultimately lovable little nipper.

Unfortunately, though, I can’t take Bernie out on walks. Here in the capital, we have a puppy killer on the loose, a murderous psychopath known as Anthony S. Fauci.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci is facing calls from a bipartisan group of legislators to respond to allegations that his National Institutes of Health division provided a grant to a lab in Tunisia to torture and kill dozens of beagle puppies for twisted scientific experiments,” Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post reported Sunday afternoon.

“HORROR ‘EXPERIMENTS’: #ArrestFauci trending after doc ‘funded research that saw beagles eaten alive & stripped of vocal cords in testing’” Murdoch’s Sun reported.

“'Cruel' Fauci is condemned for … experiments which saw beagles ‘de-barked’ and trapped in cages so flies could eat them alive,” added Britain’s Daily Mail, mentioning “a Tunisian research lab where beagle puppies were force-fed a new drug.”

The monster! What next, Fauci? Setting kittens’ tails on fire? Pulling appendages off daddy longlegs while watching cock fights?

Unlikely. As it turns out, the only thing being tortured here is the truth. The episode says more about the right-wing disinformation machine and its crusade against Fauci than it does about research funded by Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

It turns out that this Tunisian study was erroneously attributed to NIAID. NIAID did, however, fund different research in Tunisia — and the beagles weren’t puppies, they weren’t euthanized, they weren’t “de-barked,” and they weren’t “trapped” so “flies could eat them alive.” The dogs were given an experimental vaccine and allowed to roam. There was a very good reason for this: Dogs are the main reservoir host (and flies the main vector) of the disease that was being studied, which affects half a million people a year, particularly children, and has a 6 percent mortality rate in Tunisia.

But right-wing news outlets, through stupidity or malice, conflated separate studies funded by NIAID, using documents provided by the White Coat Waste Project, a watchdog group with an anti-Fauci bent. Over the past couple of months, Gateway Pundit, National Review, Fox News, the Hill and others have picked up elements of this “story,” with varying degrees of accuracy, and lawmakers have written letters to Fauci based on the misinformation. NIAID received hundreds of threatening calls Monday from people inflamed by the misleading reports.

Had right-wing outlets checked with the NIH, they would know that in another study, which didn’t involve Tunisia and didn’t involve flies, NIAID-funded researchers did indeed perform cordectomies on 44 beagle puppies and euthanized them after the study. And here’s why: The Food and Drug Administration requires researchers to experiment on non-rodent mammals for certain classes of HIV-AIDS drugs, and for this study specifically recommended dogs. It is necessary to use young dogs (six to eight months) to assess whether the drugs retard growth. It is mandatory that the dogs be euthanized so researchers can search for damage to organ systems. And it is recommended by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care that the dogs undergo cordectomies to reduce anxiety (in dogs) and hearing loss (in humans) from barking. (Beagles are used because of their uniform size.)

washington post logoWashington Post, TikTok, Snap, YouTube defend how they protect kids in a first-time appearance for two of the social media giants, Rachel Lerman and Cristiano Lima, Oct. 26, 2021. TikTok, Snapchat and YouTube, all social media sites popular with teens and young adults, answered to Congress Tuesday about how well they protect kids online and what needs to change to make things safer.

tiktok logo CustomIt’s the first time testifying before the legislative body for both TikTok and Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, despite their popularity and Congress’s increasing focus on tech industry practices. By contrast, Facebook representatives have testified 30 times in the past four years, and Twitter executives including CEO Jack Dorsey have testified on Capitol Hill 18 times total.

TikTok and Snapchat are testifying for the first time. Their peers are in the double-digits.

Tuesday’s hearing, convened by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in front of the Senate Commerce Committee’s consumer protection panel, drilled into kids’ experiences on social media, how the company’s features and product changes affect their privacy and mental health, and what laws may need to change to protect teens and kids.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: The Trump team and Fox News alleged dead voters. Most cases were either debunked or actually involved Republicans, Aaron Blake, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). A trip down memory lane on the Trump campaign's allegations of dead voters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Assistant director who gave Baldwin prop firearm was fired over gun discharge on 2019 movie set, Sonia Rao, Oct. 26, 2021 (print ed.). The assistant director who handed actor Alec Baldwin a prop firearm that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza on the set of “Rust” last week had been fired from a previous film in 2019 after an unexpected discharge on that set, according to a producer from that film.

Assistant director Dave Halls, who was identified in an affidavit as the person who handed Baldwin the gun, was fired from “Freedom’s Path” in 2019 after a crew member was injured following the unexpected discharge of a firearm, said a producer from “Freedom’s Path,” who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the current investigation.

“Halls was removed from set immediately after the prop gun discharged,” the producer said. “Production did not resume filming until Dave was off-site. An incident report was taken and filed at that time.”

Oct. 25

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Book Launch: The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich: The Era of Trumpism and the New Far-Right, Wayne Madsen, Oct 25, 2021. Today, WMR announces the release of The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich.

wayne madsen fourth reich coverThis book details Donald Trump's serious efforts to bring about a fascist dictatorship in the United States. In addition to emulating Adolf Hitler's "Big Lie" (große Lüge) to the letter, Trump made common cause with the world's other leading fascists in creating a new "Axis" alliance. In fact, the government of the neo-Nazi President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was direcrly involved in the January 6th coup attempt at the U.S. Capitol. It was no less a violation of U.S. national sovereignty than was Nazi Germany's involvement in the attempted July 25, 1934 attempted coup in Austria that saw Nazis, with German support, assassinate Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss.

The Holy Roman Empire was the First Reich. It was followed by Imperial Germany of the Kaisers, the Second Reich. From the ashes of Imperial Germany rose the Third Reich of the National Socialists and Adolf Hitler.

The election of Donald Trump as President of the United States and the return of strongmen leaders around the world -- in Russia, China, India, Brazil, Hungary, Poland, and other nations -- ushered into place the Fourth Reich. No less an observer than the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, commented that the Trump administration and the events of January 6, 2021 were reminiscent of the Nazi Party's burning of the Reichstag in 1933. In the third decade of the 21st century, the signs of fascism were present in Washington, Moscow, Beijing, and even in London -- with the ascendance of the proto-fascist Boris Johnson to the Prime Minister's office. This book describes the re-emergence of fascist rule long after it was believed that World War II ended the threat of this venal system of government forever.

In addition to copying Hitler's strategy of employing the Big Lie, Trump stood to implement other Nazi playbook policies. The Nazis used the outbreak of typhus in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto and forced ghettos in other Polish cities to blame the interned Jews for harboring typhus-causing lice. The same scenario played out during the initial infections of Covid-19 in major U.S. cities, including New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Newark, New Orleans, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC, because these cities had Democratic mayors or were in states with Democratic governors. Trump Covid advisers like Jared Kushner and Peter Navarro decided to withhold federal support support in states with Democratic governors so that voters in those states would blame those governors for the pandemic's rising death rate. It was no more an insidious operation than the Nazis blaming Polish Jews for typhus.

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg had permitted Trump's Big Lies on Covid, police killings of black Americans, and other triggering subjects to martial Trump's increasingly-frenzied political base to threaten to kill Democratic governors in Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, and other states. This propaganda operation ultimately led to January 6th, Trump's version of Hitler's Reichstag Fire of 1933 and the 1934 "Night of the Long Knives."

Trump's version of Joseph Goebbels, Steve Bannon, the aspirant propagandist for a global fascist "Movement," vowed to fight for political control "precinct-by-precinct" in elections around the United States and the world.

This book delineates where the political battlefield's lines at the electoral district level have been drawn -- from Hungary and Poland to Brazil and the states of Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona -- so that the fight can be joined by progressives and democrats everywhere.

 

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

Former Facebook Product Manager Frances Haugen testifying to Congress (Photo by Alex Brandon of the Associated Press on Oct. 10, 2021).

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: How Facebook’s Big Leak Spilled Out, Ben Smith, right, Oct. 25, 2021 (print ed.). Frances Haugen, the former Facebook worker who ben smith twittershared company documents, led a meticulous media rollout, our media columnist Ben Smith writes. In a time of mega-leaks, journalists’ sources have become power players. Frances Haugen, the former Facebook product manager who shared company documents, led a meticulous media rollout.

Frances Haugen first met Jeff Horwitz, a tech-industry reporter for The Wall Street Journal, early last December on a hiking trail near the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland, Calif.

facebook logoShe liked that he seemed thoughtful, and she liked that he’d written about Facebook’s role in transmitting violent Hindu nationalism in India, a particular interest of hers. She also got the impression that he would support her as a person, rather than as a mere source who could supply him with the inside information she had picked up during her nearly two years as a product manager at Facebook.

“I auditioned Jeff for a while,” Ms. Haugen told me in a phone interview from her home in Puerto Rico, “and one of the reasons I went with him is that he was less sensationalistic than other choices I could have made.”

She became one of the greatest sources of the century, turning over the tens of thousands of pages of internal documents she had collected. Starting Sept. 13, The Journal justified her confidence with a meticulous rollout that included 11 major articles by Mr. Horwitz and other reporters cleverly packaged under a catchy rubric, The Facebook Files.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Wrestles With the Features It Used to Define Social Networking, Mike Isaac, Oct. 25, 2021. Likes and shares made the social media site what it is. Now, company documents show, it’s struggling to deal with their effects.

facebook logoIn 2019, Facebook researchers began a new study of one of the social network’s foundational features: the Like button.

They examined what people would do if Facebook removed the distinct thumbs-up icon and other emoji reactions from posts on its photo-sharing app Instagram, according to company documents. The buttons had sometimes caused Instagram’s youngest users “stress and anxiety,” the researchers found, especially if posts didn’t get enough Likes from friends.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wBut the researchers discovered that when the Like button was hidden, users interacted less with posts and ads. At the same time, it did not alleviate teenagers’ social anxiety and young users did not share more photos, as the company thought they might, leading to a mixed bag of results.

Mark Zuckerberg, left, Facebook’s chief executive, and other managers discussed hiding the Like button for more Instagram users, according to the documents. In the end, a larger test was rolled out in just a limited capacity to “build a positive press narrative” around Instagram.

The research on the Like button was an example of how Facebook has questioned the bedrock features of social networking. As the company has confronted crisis after crisis on misinformation, privacy and hate speech, a central issue has been whether the basic way that the platform works has been at fault — essentially, the features that have made Facebook be Facebook.

Apart from the Like button, Facebook has scrutinized its share button, which lets users instantly spread content posted by other people; its groups feature, which is used to form digital communities; and other tools that define how more than 3.5 billion people behave and interact online. The research, laid out in thousands of pages of internal documents, underlines how the company has repeatedly grappled with what it has created.

What researchers found was often far from positive. Time and again, they determined that people misused key features or that those features amplified toxic content, among other effects. In an August 2019 internal memo, several researchers said it was Facebook’s “core product mechanics” — meaning the basics of how the product functioned — that had let misinformation and hate speech flourish on the site.

The company documents are part of the Facebook Papers, a cache provided to the Securities and Exchange Commission and to Congress by a lawyer representing Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee who has become a whistle-blower. Ms. Haugen earlier gave the documents to The Wall Street Journal. This month, a congressional staff member supplied the redacted disclosures to more than a dozen other news organizations, including The New York Times.

In a statement, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, criticized articles based on the documents, saying that they were built on a “false premise.”

“Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or well-being misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie,” he said. He said Facebook had invested $13 billion and hired more than 40,000 people to keep people safe, adding that the company has called “for updated regulations where democratic governments set industry standards to which we can all adhere.”

  • New York Times, The Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen is set to testify in British Parliament today, Oct. 25, 2021.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Inside Amazon’s Worst Human Resources Problem, Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise and Grace Ashford, Updated Oct. 25, 2021. A patchwork system has led the company to fire and underpay workers who sought parental or medical leave, according to records obtained by The Times.

amazon logo smallWorkers across the country facing medical problems and other life crises have been fired when the attendance software mistakenly marked them as no-shows, according to former and current human resources staff members, some of whom would speak only anonymously for fear of retribution. Doctors’ notes vanished into black holes in Amazon’s databases.

Employees struggled to even reach their case managers, wading through automated phone trees that routed their calls to overwhelmed back-office staff in Costa Rica, India and Las Vegas. And the whole leave system was run on a patchwork of programs that often didn’t speak to one another.

 

vaxxers headlights

Logic of the Anti-Vaxxers (illustrated)

Press Run, Opinion: Who cares if anti-vaxxers quit their jobs? Eric Boehlert, right, Oct. 25, 2021. It's not news.  Wringing its hands at the sight of workers walking away eric.boehlertfrom jobs when faced with simple vaccine mandates, the Wall Street Journal over the weekend became the latest national news outlet to shower attention on the topic.

The sympathetic, 2,000-word Journal piece focused on a minuscule portion of the workforce that has irrationally decided not to take a free, safe, and effective vaccine. Instead of presenting these actions as delusional, the press often frames the quitting as being principled or even heroic. (The “resistance” is “unwavering,” the New York Times announced.)

The continued, hand-holding coverage — “brainwashing” is virtually never used — represents the latest example of the press helping to normalize irrational, nihilistic behavior by Trump followers.

As we watch a parade of unreasonable people needlessly blow up their careers and walk away from good paying jobs with excellent benefits, the questions that linger are, should we care, and should this trend be breathlessly treated as Big News by the media? Should we care that a tiny percentage is embracing rabbit-hole conspiracies about a vaccine that nearly 200 million Americans have safely taken? Should we care that they’ve decided to believe non-stop lies to the point where they’ll likely be unemployable for months, and maybe years to come?

It’s true that Covid dead-enders affect us all because epidemiologists estimate that 85 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated before the virus is truly under control.

But the media’s specific fixation on anti-vaxxers quitting their jobs seems misguided and out of place. And the coverage clearly feeds off a lack of context. That Journal’s weekend report looked at anti-vaccine nurses who once worked at Virginia and West Virginia-based Valley Health System. But nearly 6,000 of the company’s 6,200 employees have complied with the vaccine mandate.

The New York Times on Sunday published a long, 2,000-word story about anti-vaxxers quitting their jobs, focusing on public school employees in New York City, where 96 percent of workers have complied with the vaccine mandate. 96 percent — shouldn’t that be the story?

Oct. 24

narendra modi horizontal file

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: How Facebook neglected the rest of the world, fueling hate speech and violence in India, Cat Zakrzewski, Gerrit De Vynck, Niha Masih and Shibani Mahtani, Oct. 24, 2021. A trove of internal documents show Facebook didn’t invest in key safety protocols in the company’s largest market.

facebook logoFor all of Facebook’s troubles in North America, its problems with hate speech and disinformation are dramatically worse in the developing world. Internal company documents made public Saturday reveal that Facebook has meticulously studied its approach abroad — and was well aware that weaker moderation in non-English-speaking countries leaves the platform vulnerable to abuse by bad actors and authoritarian regimes.

In February 2019, not long before India’s general election, a pair of Facebook employees set up a dummy account to better understand the experience of a new user in the company’s largest market. They made a profile of a 21-year-old woman, a resident of North India, and began to india flag maptrack what Facebook showed her.

At first, her feed filled with soft-core porn and other, more harmless, fare. Then violence flared in Kashmir, the site of a long-running territorial dispute between India and Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (shown above), campaigning for reelection as a nationalist strongman, unleashed retaliatory airstrikes that India claimed hit a terrorist training camp.

Soon, without any direction from the user, the Facebook account was flooded with pro-Modi propaganda and anti-Muslim hate speech. “300 dogs died now say long live India, death to Pakistan,” one post said, over a background of laughing emoji faces. “These are pakistani dogs,” said the translated caption of one photo of dead bodies lined-up on stretchers, hosted in the News Feed.

An internal Facebook memo, reviewed by The Washington Post, called the dummy account test an “integrity nightmare” that underscored the vast difference between the experience of Facebook in India and what U.S. users typically encounter. One Facebook worker noted the staggering number of dead bodies.

About the same time, in a dorm room in northern India, 8,000 miles away from the company’s Silicon Valley headquarters, a Kashmiri student named Junaid told The Post he watched as his real Facebook page flooded with hateful messages. One said Kashmiris were “traitors who deserved to be shot.” Some of his classmates used these posts as their profile pictures on Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

Junaid, who spoke on the condition that only his first name be used for fear of retribution, recalled huddling in his room one evening as groups of men marched outside chanting death to Kashmiris. His phone buzzed with news of students from Kashmir being beaten in the streets — along with more violent Facebook messages.

“Hate spreads like wildfire on Facebook,” Junaid said. “None of the hate speech accounts were blocked.”

Oct. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Facebook documents show how platform fueled rage ahead of Jan. 6 attack on Capitol, Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Reed Albergotti, Oct. 23, 2021 (print ed.). Thousands of internal documents turned over to the SEC show what Facebook knew about the growth of the Stop the Steal movement on its platform in the weeks before a pro-Trump mob overran the Capitol — and the anger that many employees felt at their company’s failure to stop the Jan. 6 violence.

Relief flowed through Facebook in the days after the 2020 presidential election. The company had cracked down on misinformation, foreign interference and hate speech — and employees believed they had largely succeeded in limiting problems that, four years earlier, had brought on perhaps the most serious crisis in Facebook’s scandal-plagued history.

facebook logo“It was like we could take a victory lap,” said a former employee, one of many who spoke for this story on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters. “There was a lot of the feeling of high-fiving in the office.”

Many who had worked on the election, exhausted from months of unrelenting toil, took leaves of absence or moved on to other jobs. Facebook rolled back many of the dozens of election-season measures that it had used to suppress hateful, deceptive content. A ban the company had imposed on the original Stop the Steal group stopped short of addressing dozens of look-alikes that popped up in what an internal Facebook after-action report called “coordinated” and “meteoric” growth. Meanwhile, the company’s Civic Integrity team was largely disbanded by a management that had grown weary of the team’s criticisms of the company, according to former employees.

But the high fives, it soon became clear, were premature.

On Jan. 6, Facebook staffers expressed their horror in internal messages as they watched thousands of Trump supporters shouting “stop the steal” and bearing the symbols of QAnon — a violent ideology that had spread widely on Facebook before an eventual crackdown — thronged the U.S. Capitol. Many bashed their way inside and battled to halt the constitutionally mandated certification of President Biden’s election victory.

How one of America’s ugliest days unraveled inside and outside the Capitol
The face of President Donald Trump appears on large screens as supporters participate in a rally in Washington. (John Minchillo/AP)

Measures of online mayhem surged alarmingly on Facebook, with user reports of “false news” hitting nearly 40,000 per hour, an internal report that day showed. On Facebook-owned Instagram, the account reported most often for inciting violence was @realdonaldtrump — the president’s official account, the report showed.

Facebook has never publicly disclosed what it knows about how its platforms, including Instagram and WhatsApp, helped fuel that day’s mayhem. The company rejected its own Oversight Board’s recommendation that it study how its policies contributed to the violence and has yet to fully comply with requests for data from the congressional commission investigating the events.

But thousands of pages of internal company documents disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission by the whistleblower Frances Haugen offer important new evidence of Facebook’s role in the events. This story is based on those documents, as well on others independently obtained by The Washington Post, and on interviews with current and former Facebook employees. The documents include outraged posts on Workplace, an internal message system.

“This is not a new problem,” one unnamed employee fumed on Workplace on Jan. 6. “We have been watching this behavior from politicians like Trump, and the — at best — wishy washy actions of company leadership, for years now. We have been reading the [farewell] posts from trusted, experienced and loved colleagues who write that they simply cannot conscience working for a company that does not do more to mitigate the negative effects on its platform.”

Medium, Personal Communications Commentary: When old friends choose MAGA over morality it’s time to say goodbye, James Stephens, Oct. 23, 2021. Ironically, it was Facebook ( of all places ) that shined the light of truth.

facebook logoI’m not sorry that our Facebook posts about the pandemic ended our friendship.

I grieve, but I’m not sorry.

Your posts are the evidence I didn’t want but needed.

You aren’t the person I thought you were.

donald trump twitterIt turns out much of what I thought we had in common was only superficially true. The ties that bind weren’t holding anything together. It appeared that way because nothing ever tested us — until recently.

Trump and Covid have laid bare the truth.

I see a blessing in that.

God can cause good to spring forth from bad circumstances.

Until the next day, around January 7th of 2021, I thought you were a loyal citizen of the United States of America, even if I didn’t understand your devotion to Donald Trump. I didn’t like it, but I could blame Fox News for your misguided beliefs about MAGA, and Covid, and all the rest. I know you’re a busy person with inadequate time to digest it all. Besides, you’ve always voted for Republicans, and it wasn’t a problem between us.

It appeared that we had religion in common.

For me, aspiring to live the teachings of Jesus is the pinnacle of the virtues I want in a friend. We attended the same kind of evangelical church services, so I assumed we were in one accord in the moral primacy of Christ.

But, the pandemic showed me your true motivation.

The aftermath of the presidential election confirmed my dismay.

I was shocked to find out we worshipped different gods. I am devoted to the God who is Love, and you the god of callous selfishness and fear.

These two cannot co-exist.

Like the Holocaust, there is no other side of this story for future history teachers to balance. All they can do is try to explain how so many Americans became enthralled and bewitched by self-centeredness and racism.

You seem to think Uncle Sam is a sacred being, and that Trump is his prophet.

I can’t go along with that.

“Q” looks like an upside-down noose.

You tell me that I’m a sheep, and I don’t know the real truth. But you keep spreading The Big Lie. You tell me that you won’t live in fear, but you’re terrified by vaccine myths. You tell me that wearing a mask is a sign of capitulation to tyranny, but you are willing to lie, kill, and die for that orange tyrant.

I used to think you meant well.

Things have changed us into obvious enemies.

Oct. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Faces a Huge Test on Libel Law, Floyd Abrams, right, Oct. 22, 2021. Mr. Abrams is a prominent First Amendment lawyer whose many clients have included floyd abramsThe New York Times, which he successfully represented in the Pentagon Papers case. His firm represents The Times on occasion.

Next Friday, the United States Supreme Court is scheduled to meet to consider whether to hear appeals from two libel cases in which the plaintiffs seek to persuade the justices to reconsider the single greatest First Amendment victory for the press in American history.

Two of the court’s justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, already have expressed a readiness to do just that, a disturbing turn that could weaken speech protections and threaten the country’s free and robust press.

Their focus is the court’s unanimous 1964 decision in the case of New York Times v. Sullivan, won by the paper in the midst of the civil rights revolution. The purported libel appeared in a full-page advertisement in The Times titled “Heed Their Rising Voices,” which criticized a “wave of terror” against civil rights demonstrators in the South led by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (shown below left on the cover of one of his books.)

mlk why we cant wait coverMost of the assertions in the advertisement were accurate; a few were not. The police commissioner of Montgomery, Ala., L.B. Sullivan, who was not named in the ad, sued The Times, claiming it had in effect falsely accused him of misconduct. He was awarded $500,000 by an all-white jury, a verdict upheld by Alabama’s highest court.

For news organizations, the threat the case presented was not only sizable if not crippling libel judgments. It was also that such a result would deter reporting critical of government and public officials.

When the case reached the Supreme Court, the justices applied the First Amendment for the first time in a libel case. The core of the court’s ruling in reversing the Alabama judgment was that the First Amendment barred public officials from recovering damages for a “defamatory falsehood relating to his official conduct” in the absence of clear and convincing evidence that the statement was made with what the justices called “‘actual malice”— that it was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

Such sweepingly broad protection was required, the court concluded, because the First Amendment embodied a “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attack on government and public officials.”

“Erroneous statement is inevitable in free debate,” the court added, and “must be protected if the freedoms of expression are to have the ‘breathing space’ that they need to survive.”

Later decisions by the court expanded the “actual malice” standard to apply to public figures outside government.

If Sullivan is overruled, defendants in libel cases will lose constitutional protections they now have, and the United States could well return to a libel regime akin to England’s. A return by the Supreme Court to anything like the English approach could significantly chill speech of the most important sort. That has happened disturbingly often in England.

The stark difference in approach between American and English libel law led Congress to unanimously pass legislation, signed by President Barack Obama in 2010, barring state or federal courts from enforcing foreign libel judgments against U.S. defendants that are not consistent with First Amendment protections as set forth in the Sullivan decision.

That law, the Speech Act, was adopted partly in response to a libel suit brought in London by a Saudi billionaire against an American author, Rachel Ehrenfeld, whose book Funding Evil: How Terrorism Is Financed and How to Stop It alleged that he had funded terrorism.

Ms. Ehrenfeld had credible sources for her assertions. But she declined to appear in court and submit to English jurisdiction, noting, as she later explained, that her book “was neither published nor marketed in Britain.” Libel law in England “chills free speech through the award of disproportionate damages” and leaves defendants with “a lack of viable defenses,” she wrote in The Times.

Should the court agree to hear one or both of the libel cases does not mean, of course, that either or both would be overruled. (The Times joined in an amicus brief in support of the defendant in one of those cases when it was before an appeals court.) But it is troubling that two of the court’s nine justices have criticized Sullivan and seem ready to overrule it. Only four votes are required for the full court to take up cases, and if it does so, a fifth would be needed for any ruling.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s Rule 23 conundrum, Robert Harrington, right, Oct. 22, 2021. The new era of liberty has at last arrived. Finally, a social network where you can say what you like, when robert harrington twitteryou like, about anything you like, and never fear the social media politically correct police. We have our freedom and it comes directly from the hand of Don. Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty. We’re free at last.

Yes, Donald Trump has created the quintessential unfettered social media group called “Truth Social.” According to his shouty son, Don Junior, at Truth Social you will now be “free to exercise your First Amendment rights.”

bill palmer report logo headerExcept for one thing. Rule 23 of the Terms of Service. You are not allowed to “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” In other words, welcome to Taliban Social. The last time we had this kind of “Truth” it was spelled “Pravda.”

Once again we see in microcosm what we have seen all along. When Republicans want freedom what they really want is freedom for them and not for us. Freedom to attack us and we have to sit there and take it. Freedom to Benghazi Investigation us and we can’t Insurrection Hearing them back. The relevant part of rule 23 — Catch-23, if you will — are the words “in our opinion.” Put another way, anything you say that they don’t like can be interpreted as a disparagement against them — in their opinion.

It is the first rule of despotism that you cannot criticize the despot. Republicans simply cannot stop themselves from being despotic. It is so deep in their natures that, for them, the very right to free speech comes with heavily freighted conditions.

But this is all what the British call a storm in a teacup, of course. Trump’s new social media platform is just another joke, and it will remain a joke. No one is going to care about what is being said there. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, those are the social media platforms people are interested in. No one is going to give a crap about some racist rant over on some radical right hangout with the pretentious name of “Truth Social.” You don’t need to be a Wall Street guru or business boffin to predict it. “Truth Social” has got failure written all over it.

Say what you like about Facebook — and I do, all the time. Which is finally the point. While it’s true I have many Facebook friends who’ve done their time in Facebook jail (and for reasons that I honestly don’t understand, I’ve never spent a night there) we can still post memes critical of Mark Zuckerberg with impunity. Such freedom is gone forever — let’s call it what it is — on “Trump Social.” Because nothing good can or ever will come from Trump. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Oct. 21

The Hill, News organizations, journalists ask court to review decision on Nunes lawsuit, Dominick Mastrangelo, Oct. 21, 2021. A group of leading news organizations are throwing their support behind a legal effort to challenge a judge's ruling in favor of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calf.), who is suing reporter Ryan Lizza over a 2018 story in Esquire about Nunes' family farm.

devin nunes screenshotA defamation suit Nunes, left, brought against Lizza was initially tossed out by a judge in August of 2020. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled in September that because Lizza had tweeted out a link to the story in question after the congressman had filed his initial defamation suit, he had essentially "republished" it — reviving the lawmaker's libel claim.

The story, titled "Milking the System," detailed the Republicans' family’s dairy operation in Iowa and alleged his family sold their California farmland in 2006 and “secretly” moved the operation to Sibley, Iowa, a community that frequently relied on labor from undocumented immigrants.

In the brief filed this week, more than two dozen news organizations including Fox News, the New York Times and Vox Media argued the judge's September ruling sets a precedent that "could create havoc for not just news publishers, but all distributors of content."

"The panel’s holding that Nunes could state a claim for defamation based on a tweet that hyperlinked to—but did not repeat the substance of—an allegedly defamatory article threatens to upend long-standing legal principles governing the dissemination of news and information in the Internet age," the news organizations wrote in the brief.

"Hyperlinks are essential to the dissemination of information today," they added, noting journalists on social media "use hyperlinks to direct readers to their published work and the published work of others, and to engage with the public about that reporting."

The group requested a rehearing of Nunes' case against Lizza. Nunes' office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In their opinion last month, the 8th Circuit judges wrote that Nunes' complaint "adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article."

"The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth,'" it added.

In February, a federal judge rejected a libel lawsuit Nunes filed against CNN regarding their reporting on his efforts to dig up dirt on now-President Biden regarding dealings with Ukraine. Late last year, Nunes had a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post thrown out after he sued the Post for reporting intelligence official Shelby Pierson told members of the House Intelligence Committee that Russia had "developed a preference" for former President Trump.

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Takes Advantage of Wall Street Fad to Bankroll New Venture, David Enrich, Matthew Goldstein and Shane Goldmacher, Oct. 21, 2021. A merger with a so-called blank check company is poised to give the former president access to hundreds of millions of dollars.

After decades of bankruptcies, loan defaults, business disputes and commercial failures — not to mention a polarizing presidency that ended with a violent mob storming the Capitol — Donald J. Trump was shunned by much of corporate America.

Now, thanks to one of Wall Street’s hottest fads, the former president has managed to sidestep that tarnished reputation and gain access to hundreds of millions of dollars to launch a social media company.

Riding to his rescue: SPACs.

Special purpose acquisition companies are the reverse of initial public offerings. Sometimes called blank-check companies, SPACs go public first and raise money from investors with the goal of finding a private company to merge with. Those investors have no clue about what that merger partner will turn out to be.

Which led some of the prominent investors in a SPAC called Digital World Acquisition — including the hedge funds D.E. Shaw and Saba Capital — to the surprising realization that they were financially backing Mr. Trump’s latest company.

Mr. Trump’s new company, Trump Media and Technology Group — incorporated in Delaware in February with little fanfare, and with no revenue or tested business plan — reached a deal to merge with Digital World on Wednesday.

Digital World, which was set up shortly after Mr. Trump lost the 2020 election, last month raised nearly $300 million, largely from big investors. Assuming the merger is consummated, that money will soon be bankrolling the Trump media venture, which plans early next year to offer a Twitter-like social media app.

Shares of the newly merged company soared on Thursday, rising more than 300 percent to close at $45.50 a share and partly reflecting expectations that the former president’s media company could be very profitable.

SPACs have long had a dubious reputation because they give struggling or untested companies that would otherwise not find backers a pathway to the public markets. But in recent years, these lightly regulated entities have become all the rage because with interest rates remaining low, investors are eager for new places to put their money to work. In the past two years alone, such companies have raised $190 billion from investors.

But even by Wall Street’s frothy standards, the swiftness with which Digital World reached a deal with Mr. Trump — which many in the former president’s inner circle didn’t know about — was remarkable.

Most blank-check companies take about 17 months to find a target and complete a deal after going public. Digital World gave itself a year, but found its target within a month of going public.

“That is an extraordinary time period,” said Usha Rodrigues, who teaches corporate law at the University of Georgia School of Law and has written about SPACs. “It is far outside the norm.”

deutsche bank logoDigital World’s founder and chief executive is Patrick Orlando, who previously worked for Deutsche Bank and other Wall Street firms. More recently, Mr. Orlando, who is based in Miami and knew Mr. Trump before the deal, according to one of Mr. Orlando’s colleagues, has launched three other blank-check companies. While they have raised money from investors, not one has completed a deal. A plan to merge one of the SPACs, Yunhong International, with Giga Energy recently fell apart.

When Digital World went public on the Nasdaq stock exchange last month, it didn’t have the assistance of a brand-name investment bank. Instead, it turned to a small firm that until recently was called Kingswood Capital Markets.

This summer, Kingswood changed its name to E.F. Hutton, adopting one of Wall Street’s most storied brands, presumably in a bid to improve its marketing cachet. (The original E.F. Hutton was famous for the advertising slogan “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”) Joseph Rallo, E.F. Hutton’s chief executive, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

With the help of bankers at the newly renamed E.F. Hutton, Mr. Orlando and Digital World lined up 11 hedge funds and other institutional investors to serve as so-called anchor investors. They agreed to buy substantial slugs of shares in Digital World’s public stock offering on Sept. 8.

As is standard in “blank check” deals, the investors in some cases ponied up as much as $30 million without much guidance as to how Digital World would spend their money, officials at several of the hedge funds said. All they knew was what Digital World said in its securities filing — that it was looking to invest in “middle-market emerging growth technology-focused companies.” It didn’t give any hint that it was hoping to merge with a social-media company or to work with the former president.

Mr. Trump, for his part, kept much of his inner circle in the dark. His plans had not come up on his political team’s weekly calls, according to participants.

CNNTrump Media and Technology Group, whose website lists Mr. Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago, as its mailing address, has grand ambitions. A slide presentation on the company’s website envisions it competing not only with Twitter and Facebook, but also against companies like Netflix, Disney and CNN. In the “long-term opportunity” category, the company lists Google and Amazon as potential rivals.

Mr. Trump’s yet-to-be-launched app is called Truth Social. Within hours of its announcement, hackers claimed to have created fake accounts on an unreleased test version in the name of Mr. Trump and others.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pranksters have already defaced Trump’s new social network, Drew Harwell, Oct. 21, 2021. Truth Social has some unusual rules for a Trump-run site: It reserves the right to ban users and safeguard itself from lawsuits with Section 230 protections. It also prohibits ‘excessive use of capital letters.’

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

trump truth platformThe site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

Banned by all major social networks after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Trump has for months agitated to regain the online megaphone that once blasted his voice around the world. In a presentation released Wednesday by his new media company, Trump Media & Technology Group, his team hailed the new social network as the first tentpole for a Trump-led media, news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook.

But the site’s early hours revealed lax security, rehashed features and a flurry of bizarre design decisions. An open sign-up page allowed anyone to use the site shortly after it was revealed, sparking the creation of the “donaldjtrump” account and the pig posting. A Washington Post reporter was able to register and post under the account name “mikepence” without any stops in place. New sign-ups were blocked shortly after.

The site looks almost entirely like a Twitter clone: A user can post Truths, which are like tweets, or Re-Truths, which are retweets. There’s also a news feed, called the Truth Feed, a notification system so users can know “who’s interacting with your TRUTH’s,” the social network’s App Store profile states.

trump defecating pigLawyers, Guns, Money, Opinion: Of chumps and pig dumps, Shakezula, Oct. 21, 2021. Is this a picture of a pooping pig or Truth Social?

Former president Donald Trump and his team declared Wednesday night that they would soon launch a “media powerhouse” that would help them triumph in their long-running war against Big Tech. But within hours, pranksters found what appeared to be an unreleased test version and posted a picture of a defecating pig to the “donaldjtrump” account.

The site has since been pulled offline — evidence that Trump is likely to face a daunting challenge in building an Internet business that can stand on its own.

donald trump twitterYeah. No. The evidence it will face daunting challenges is that Orangefinger is involved in it in any way. Merry pranksters are a delightful extra.

The site’s code shows it runs a mostly unmodified version of Mastodon, the free, open-source software launched in 2016 that anyone can use to run a self-made social networking site.

I’m not saying it would be impossible to build a “news and Internet empire that would one day compete with Disney, CNN and Facebook,” on open-source code. I am saying that the klutzes, putzes and yutzes who would be allowed to work for TFG couldn’t do it even if they didn’t have a coke-addled clown giving them new instructions every five seconds.

parler logoThe site is likely to undermine other conservative-friendly social media alternatives, such as Gettr, Gab and Parler, that have sought to win over pro-Trump audiences.

This is an understatement. Being on the original official MAGA platform will be a huge draw for his fans. Plus, the competing sites will be treated to all the venom he’s capable of spraying.

Assuming the platform doesn’t collapse under the combined weight of bots, pranksters, constant format changes, and incompetence. Which it will. So never mind. The next scene will be blaming Big Tech for his failure and demanding money from the rubes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook Oversight Board reprimands company for not being open about exempting VIPs from rules, Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 21, 2021. The reports reveal the board is still negotiating its relationship with the social network and says its credibility depends on Facebook being more forthcoming.

facebook logoFacebook’s Oversight Board issued a strong reprimand against the company in a set of quarterly reports Thursday, accusing it of not being “fully forthcoming” about a key program. The reports highlight the tense negotiations between the two entities, as the board attempts to force greater transparency from the social media giant, despite its limited power.

An experimental panel created by Facebook to oversee its most complicated content decisions, the board said the company “failed to provide relevant information” about the company’s “XCheck” program, which shields VIP users such as politicians and celebrities from its rules. On other occasions, the information Facebook provided to the board was incomplete, the reports said.

It was “not acceptable,” the board wrote, that Facebook didn’t mention the “XCheck” system when it briefed the entity about its enforcement policies on politicians when it was reviewing the company’s decision to ban former president Donald Trump.

Axios, Axel Springer CEO admits "mistake" on Politico paywall, Sara Fischer, Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner told Politico staffers in a company-wide Q&A Thursday that it was "a mistake" to tell The Wall Street Journal last week that he planned to institute a paywall.

axios logomathias döpfnerWhy it matters: Politico staffers have told Axios they feel bait and switched after Döpfner's comments, which were less than two months after he told staffers "We're from Berlin, We don't like the concept of walls."

"They are playing fast and loose with the paywall thing," a staffer told Axios prior to the company-wide call Thursday. Axios has obtained audio from the call.

Details: When asked whether Politico's free website would go behind a paywall Döpfner, right, said, "The answer is no. Absolutely not. No decision has been made. My answer honestly was very unfortunate. It was my mistake."

"The immediate answer — do you implement a paywall? I said no but then I elaborated how important paid content is for us and I believe in that. That is actually politico Customthe main reason we acquired Politico because it was based so much on a subscription model," Döpfner said.

He also noted that we should call it "paid content or subscriptions and never again paywall, because I truly think — apart from the Berlin Wall — it is a negative psychology. Wall excludes people or keeps people imprisoned and that's not what we should do. It's an offering, so in general, something positive."

The big picture: Axel Springer announced it would buy Politico in August, adding to its growing U.S. media investment portfolio, which also includes Insider and Morning Brew.

Oct. 20

Conservative author and radio host Dennis Prager speaks to a Turning Point USA conference in 2020 (Gage Skidmore photo).

Conservative author and radio host Dennis Prager speaks to a Turning Point USA conference in 2020 (Gage Skidmore photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative radio host said he constantly hugged strangers to catch covid: ‘What I hoped for the entire time,’ Julian Mark, Oct. 20, 2021 (print ed.). Early in the pandemic, right-wing radio show host Dennis Prager said he did not mind eating with utensils that had fallen on the ground. Now, after the virus has killed more than 700,000 Americans, Prager has revealed that he’s been actively trying to get a coronavirus infection all along.

On Monday, the 73-year-old host of “The Dennis Prager Show” told his audience that his plan worked. Prager said he tested positive for the coronavirus last week.

“I have engaged with strangers, constantly hugging them, taking photos with them knowing that I was making myself very susceptible to getting covid,” he said. “Which is — indeed, as bizarre as it sounded — what I wanted, in the hope I would achieve natural immunity and be taken care of by therapeutics.”

Contradicting studies and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prager told his audience that natural immunity was more effective than getting the vaccine, saying a covid infection was “what I hoped for the entire time.” The CDC recommends that people get vaccinated even after contracting the virus — officials point to an August study that showed unvaccinated people who already had covid were twice as likely to be reinfected as those who had been fully vaccinated after contracting the virus.

Prager listed off a cocktail of therapeutics he said he had been taking over the course of the pandemic, many of which have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Since contracting the virus, he said, he has also received monoclonal antibodies, a treatment with the FDA’s stamp of approval.

The host said he has been “steadily improving” since his diagnosis. Prager had not hosted his daily talk show since Oct. 12 but said while broadcasting from his home on Monday “at no point was I in danger of hospitalization.”

Prager is one of several conservative radio show hosts to spread misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, including some who later died of the virus.

In the past three months, at least five right-wing radio show hosts, all of whom discouraged their listeners from getting the vaccine, have died of covid-19. The most recent was Bob Enyart, 62, who in the weeks leading to his infection told listeners to boycott the shots while pushing the debunked claim that the coronavirus vaccines are made from aborted fetus cells.

After contracting the virus in July, conservative radio host and vaccine skeptic Phil Valentine said on Facebook he was “going to make it.” About six weeks later, he died at 61. Following Valentine’s death, his family said the radio host had changed his mind about vaccines and would have used his platform to encourage listeners to get vaccinated.

Oct. 19

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Talk-show host Dan Bongino threatens to quit over Cumulus vax mandate, Rodney Ho, Oct 19, 2021. He is vaccinated but said he wants those who want to remain unvaccinated to have that choice.

dan bonginoDan Bongino, right, a rising star in the conservative talk show world on 300 stations nationwide, told his listeners Monday that he is threatening to bolt if his employer, Atlanta-based Cumulus Media, doesn’t change its coronavirus vaccine mandate.

Chief executive Mary Berner gave employees until Sept. 27 to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to the office and wrote in a memo that “it would neither be fair nor do we have the bandwidth to make exceptions based on individual preferences,” according to industry publication Inside Radio. Some employees who can work remotely full-time are exempted.

But Cumulus Media corporate said no to most staff who requested exemptions, including those who applied based on religious beliefs and for medical conditions, Inside Radio said.

cumulus media logoBongino is vaccinated because he has Hodgkin’s lymphoma but is protesting the mandate on behalf of other employees who don’t want to get vaccinated.

“I’m not really happy with the company I work with right here,” Bongino said on the radio Monday. “I believe these vaccine mandates are unethical. I believe they’re immoral. I believe they don’t take into account the science of natural immunity due to a prior infection. I believe they’re broad-based and don’t take into account an individual circumstances of why they may or may not want to take a vaccine. And they’re antithetical to everything I believe in.”

“So, I’ll say again, I’m not going to let this go,” Bongino continued. “Cumulus is going to have to make a decision with me — if they want to continue this partnership or they don’t. But I’m talking to you on their airwaves. They don’t have to let that happen. And I wouldn’t mind if they didn’t. Because it’s really unfortunate that people with a lower profile than me, who don’t have 300-plus stations, have been summarily either shown the door or been put in really untenable circumstances because they simply want to make a medical decision by themselves.”

Bongino is heard locally in Atlanta on 920/The Answer, which is owned by Salem. Cumulus doesn’t have a news/talk station in Atlanta since it sold its talk radio westwood one cumulusstation 106.7 in 2019 to a Christian broadcaster. His radio show also airs on the streaming service Fox Nation and he hosts a weekend show on Fox News.

Westwood One also distributes well-known conservative talk-show hosts such as Mark Levin, Ben Shapiro, and Chris Plante. None of the network’s major hosts have left Cumulus though a few talk-show hosts in specific markets have departed or been let go for not getting vaccinated.

Cumulus, which operates Atlanta-based stations such as New Country 101.5, Rock 100.5, O.G. 97.9, 99X and Q99.7, owns 413 stations nationwide in 86 markets making it the second largest radio company behind only iHeartMedia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook to pay more than $14 million in Justice Dept. settlement over discrimination against American workers, David Nakamura, Oct. 19, 2021. Facebook has agreed to pay penalties totaling more than $14 million under a settlement with the Justice Department over findings that the social media behemoth’s hiring practices intentionally discriminated against Americans in favor of foreign workers, U.S. officials said Tuesday.

facebook logoThe company has also agreed in a settlement with the Labor Department to do more to recruit Americans for technology jobs and be subject to federal scrutiny for up to three years, the officials said.

The agreements came after the Justice Department charged Facebook in a suit in December with failing to properly advertise at least 2,600 jobs — and consider applications from U.S. citizens — before it offered the spots to foreigners whom the company was sponsoring for green cards granting permanent residency in 2018 and 2019.

Oct. 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Axel Springer removes a top editor after a Times report on workplace behavior, Ben Smith, right, and Melissa Eddy, Oct. 18, 2021. The ben smith twitterGerman media giant Axel Springer said on Monday that Julian Reichelt, the editor of Bild, its powerful tabloid, had been removed from his duties after The New York Times reported on allegations that he had behaved inappropriately with women at the publication.

The Times reported on Sunday on details of Mr. Reichelt’s relationship with a trainee, who testified during an investigation sponsored by the company that he had summoned her to a hotel near the office for sex and asked her to keep a payment secret.

bild logoMr. Reichelt had “not clearly separated private and professional matters, even after the compliance proceedings were concluded in spring 2021,” and had misled the company’s executive board on the subject, Axel Springer said in a statement. Mr. Reichelt has denied abusing his authority.

The company’s chairman and chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, praised Mr. Reichelt for his leadership but said retaining him had become impossible. He said his replacement, Johannes Boie, would combine “journalistic excellence with modern leadership.”

Mr. Reichelt, shown at right in a 2018 photo, was also removed from his duties at Bild TV, a television network introduced in August, said julian reichelt 2018Deirdre Latour, a spokeswoman for Axel Springer.

Axel Springer — whose leading publications pride themselves on their ability to dig up exclusive news before others do — also said in its statement that it would take legal action against third parties who it claimed tried to illegally influence the company’s compliance investigation, “apparently with the aim of removing Julian Reichelt from office and damaging Bild and Axel Springer.”

Despite the apparent threat, Ms. Latour said that “they will not go after whistle-blowers or anybody who brings forward complaints.”

Pressure built in Germany after the Ippen media group, a competitor of Bild, decided on Friday to pull its own in-depth investigation into Mr. Reichelt. That revelation stirred outrage among reporters in Berlin, leading one to ask Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman at a news conference on Monday whether that decision had raised concerns in the German government that freedom of the press could be in danger. Ms. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, declined to comment.

Ippen said in a statement on Monday that it had decided not to publish its investigation to avoid the appearance that it wanted to harm a rival publisher. Bild is the flagship publication of Axel Springer, a titan of German media since after World War II. The company is now focusing much of its energy on the United States and digital publishing. In 2015, the company bought Business Insider (now called Insider) for $442 million. This summer, it announced that it had purchased Politico for $1 billion.

ny times logoNew York Times, In-Depth: At Politico’s New Owner, Allegations of Sex, Lies and a Secret Payment, Ben Smith, Oct. 18, 2021. Axel Springer, a German media giant, seems stuck in the past when it comes to the workplace and deal-making, our columnist Ben Smith writes.

A high-level editor at the powerful German tabloid Bild was trying to break things off with a woman who was a junior employee at the paper. He was 36. She was 25.

politico Custom“If they find out that I’m having an affair with a trainee, I’ll lose my job,” the editor, Julian Reichelt, told her in November 2016, according to testimony she later gave investigators from a law firm hired by Bild’s parent company, Axel Springer, to look into the editor’s workplace behavior. I obtained a transcript through someone not directly involved.

bild logoJust before the editor spoke those words, another woman at the paper had lodged a sexual harassment complaint against the publisher of Bild. But Mr. Reichelt’s relationship with the junior employee continued, she testified, and he was promoted to the top newsroom job in 2017.

Mr. Reichelt then gave her a high-profile job, one she felt she wasn’t ready for, and he continued to summon her to hotel rooms near the gleaming Berlin tower occupied by Axel Springer, she said.

“That’s how it always goes at Bild,” she told the investigators. “Those who sleep with the boss get a better job.”

This account is drawn from an interview conducted in the spring by a law firm retained by Axel Springer for an investigation that quickly closed, clearing Mr. Reichelt. A spokeswoman for Axel Springer and Mr. Reichelt, Deirdre Latour, said the woman’s testimony included “some inaccurate facts,” but declined to specify which ones.

Mr. Reichelt did not, as he feared, lose his job when his relationship with the woman, as well his conduct toward other women at Bild, became public. Instead, Mr. Reichelt, who denied abusing his authority, took a brief leave and then was reinstated as perhaps the most powerful newspaper editor in Europe after the mathias döpfnercompany determined that his actions did not warrant a dismissal.

Bild is the flagship publication of Axel Springer, a titan of German media since after World War II. The company is now focusing much of its energy on the United States. American media types may know it mainly for its leader, Mathias Döpfner, right, a charismatic chief executive who moved more swiftly than most traditional publishers to embrace the internet.

In 2015, the company bought Business Insider (now called Insider) for $442 million. This summer, it announced that it had purchased Politico for $1 billion. Axel Springer aims “to become the leading digital publisher in the democratic world,” Mr. Döpfner told me in an emailed statement.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers question whether Amazon misled panel about business practices, Taylor Telford and Cristiano Lima, Oct. 18, 2021. A letter signed by a bipartisan group gives the tech giant two weeks to provide “exculpatory evidence” to corroborate executives’ testimony.

Members of a congressional panel are questioning whether Amazon executives misled them in testimony about their business practices and have given the company two weeks to provide documentation supporting their statements, according to a letter lawmakers sent the tech giant.

amazon logo smallThe letter dated Monday and addressed to chief executive Andy Jassy asked Amazon for “exculpatory evidence” to corroborate testimony its executives, including founder Jeff Bezos, provided to the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel regarding the use of data from third-party sellers. Otherwise, they said, the matter may be referred to the Justice Department for criminal investigation. (Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

“At best, this reporting confirms that Amazon’s representatives misled the Committee,” Reps. Jerrod Nadler (D-N.Y.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in the letter. “At worst, it demonstrates that they may have lied to Congress.”

Last year, House Judiciary leaders questioned whether an Amazon executive misled Congress during a 2019 hearing about how the tech giant uses data it collects from third-party sellers. The session was part of a sweeping investigation into whether Amazon and other digital behemoths are squelching competition online. The standoff arose after the Wall Street Journal reported in April that Amazon employees had used such data to launch competing products, which the company has disputed.

The lawmakers demanded that then-CEO Bezos testify about the issue and threatened to issue a subpoena. He voluntarily testified at a blockbuster hearing alongside the CEOs of Facebook, Google and Apple in July 2020.

When lawmakers pressed Bezos on Amazon’s handling of user data at the hearing, the tech mogul said that while the company does have a policy “against using seller-specific data to aid our private label business,” he couldn’t “guarantee” that it has never been violated. Still, the two sides staved off a major legal confrontation over the matter at the time.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In NFL’s latest crisis of public trust, Roger Goodell is nowhere to be found, Sally Jenkins, right, Oct. 18, 2021. Roger Goodell has a last sally jenkinschance to rescue his reputation as an NFL commissioner, and maybe even become an important one, despite years of artless dodging on issues from domestic violence to Deflategate. The exposure of supremacist, sexist sentiments wriggling like worms in the league’s power center is another loaded problem for Goodell, but it’s also an opportunity. Here is a chance to do something meaningful in his job, to become more than just a careerist shoveler who buries treasure and excrement for pirates.

nfl logoGoodell has long self-righteously insisted that his role as commissioner is to maintain “public confidence” in the game. Well then, for once, do it. Issue a straightforward condemnation of those slurring email exchanges in former Washington executive Bruce Allen’s files, and release a clarifying executive summary of Beth Wilkinson’s investigation into Washington’s rampant workplace abuses, assigning personal responsibility for them.

Instead, so far Goodell has met his latest crisis with his usual careful silence. And that breeds not public “confidence,” but contempt. It breeds a hunch that Goodell’s real job is defined not by public trust but a darkly private principle of mutually assured destruction between him and the owners — whose contempt for the public is so pronounced that four of them have defied a court order by a livid judge in St. Louis to disclose their basic financials. He’s got stuff on them, and they’ve got stuff on him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Allison Williams to leave ESPN over coronavirus vaccine mandate, Andrea Salcedo, Oct. 18, 2021. A week before ESPN’s vaccine mandate goes into effect, veteran reporter Allison Williams announced she is parting ways with the network over her decision not to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

espn logoCiting conversations with her doctor and a fertility specialist, Williams said the vaccine is not in her “best interest” as she and her husband try to conceive a second child.

“I’ve had to really dig deep and analyze my values and my morals — ultimately I need to put them first,” Williams, who joined ESPN in 2011, said in a video posted to her Instagram account on Friday. “Effective next week, I will be separated from the company,” Williams, 37, said. The college sports reporter did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post.

Ars Technica, Analysis: Disinformation guru “Hacker X” names his employer: NaturalNews.com, Nate Anderson, Oct.18, 2021. Rob Willis now says no to a "half-assed whistleblow."

Robert Willis, right, the hacker who helped build a massive, US-based disinformation network and was profiled in a recent Ars Technica feature, has decided to name names. In a blog post today, Willis confirmed he worked for Mike Adams, who goes by "the Health Ranger" at the site NaturalNews.com. This matches the documentation previously seen by Ars Technica in the course of reporting the piece.

robert willisWillis had joined NaturalNews.com in the run-up to the 2016 US presidential election and helped the site build out a network of anonymized websites that looked independent but secretly promoted the "health" information and pro-Trump political writings of Mike Adams and NaturalNews.com.

NaturalNews has long been linked to disinformation. In 2019, The Atlantic named it one of the top producers of anti-vax content on the Internet. The site has touted homeopathy, urged "natural" remedies for things like cancer, and warned about "chemtrails." NaturalNews content has been banned from Facebook, and the site has been called a "powerful conspiracy empire."

In the lengthy post, Willis defended himself against a host of charges, saying that he was not "boasting" about his work, that he had actually made "very little money," and that he did in fact "have remorse for a few reasons."

Perhaps the most interesting—and controversial—claim Willis makes is that he truly did not know what Adams was all about when he first joined his site. NaturalNews articles "were being pushed through Yahoo News not too far before," Willis wrote. "I saw lots of natural health articles. My takeaway was that he was an internet natural health guru looking to use his current viewership to explore other topics outside of natural health—which included stopping Hillary Clinton. There were already random things like ‘chemtrails’ but like I said, I thought it was entertainment."

As for all the pro-Trump, anti-Clinton "fake news" that Willis eventually helped to propagate, he claimed that the reason he "didn’t know it was fake news at the beginning is because the machine needed to be built before it could be used, so I didn’t spend time inside stories outside of overseeing social media and numbers, at which point I did not factor in the aspect of whether the articles were true or not. I was strictly breaking down stories by headlines and breaking it down into numbers. With an occasional crazy headline that seemed harmless."

Willis admitted that he can't prove what was happening inside his head, and judging from reader comments to the initial piece, this claim of total naïveté will be hard to swallow.

Oct. 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple fires employee who raised awareness of workplace misconduct allegations at the company, Reed Albergotti, Oct. 16, 2021 (print ed.).  apple logo rainbowJanneke Parrish said Apple’s global security division informed her she was suspected of leaking details about a meeting. Parrish alleges she was fired in retaliation for her involvement in #AppleToo.

Janneke Parrish, a product manager on Apple Maps who is based in Texas, was involved in #AppleToo, a movement aimed at improving working conditions at the company, particularly for traditionally underrepresented groups. Parrish has been running the #AppleToo digest, a collection of anonymous stories from Apple employees who offered personal stories alleging discrimination and other labor violations at the company.

Parrish said in an interview with The Washington Post that she was under investigation by Apple’s global security division, which told her she was suspected of leaking details about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Sept. 18 virtual Town Hall meeting, where he addressed allegations of workplace misconduct at the company in front of all employees.

Oct. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Microsoft will shut down LinkedIn service in China after facing criticism for censoring posts, Jeanne Whalen, Oct. 15, 2021. Microsoft said it will shut down its LinkedIn site inside China, days after facing public criticism for censoring the posts of several U.S. journalists.

china flag SmallIn announcing the decision Thursday, LinkedIn said it was facing “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.”

The news brings to an end the last major Western social media site operating in China, where the authorities have long blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other apps.

“Increased repression inside China, and greater criticism from Congress of going along with Chinese regulations, have made it unsustainable” for U.S. social media companies, said Adam Segal, an expert on China and technology at the Council on Foreign Relations.

LinkedIn said it will “sunset” its site later this year, but will launch a new site called InJobs that will not include a social media feed or the ability to share posts or articles.

microsoft logo Custom“Our new strategy for China is to put our focus on helping China-based professionals find jobs in China and Chinese companies find quality candidates,” LinkedIn said. It didn’t provide further details.

Chinese-owned social media apps, such as WeChat and Weibo, are heavily censored to delete content that the authorities deem sensitive. And U.S. users of LinkedIn in recent weeks said they have faced similar censorship on their profiles inside China.

Melissa Chan, an American journalist who has reported for Vice and the Atlantic, also disclosed that LinkedIn had blocked her profile in China over “prohibited” content.

“There remains a lot more questions than answers,” Chan said by email on Thursday. “Did some Chinese authority reach out to LinkedIn with a list of people and posts they had a problem with? Or did LinkedIn take the initiative and do it themselves? Knowing what happened matters.”

Los Angeles Times, Opinion: Why journalists are failing the public with ‘both-siderism’ in political coverage, Jackie Calmes, Oct. 15, 2021. American politics has changed dramatically since my post-Watergate generation of journalists began covering the story. Political journalism hasn’t kept up.

For years it was easy to cover “both sides” — Republicans and Democrats — as equally worthy, and blameworthy, partners in democracy. While we reporters had come of age as witnesses to the unprecedented resignation of a Republican president who’d tried to corrupt the institutions of government to affect an election — imagine! — what remained was a Republican Party still capable of a creditable role in a healthy two-party system. After all, Richard M. Nixon was forced to resign when congressional leaders of his party began abandoning him. Again, imagine that, Kevin McCarthy.

Now, when reporters or pundits use the words “both sides” in regard to some political problem, I stop reading or listening.

I started to chafe at false equivalence a quarter-century ago, as a congressional reporter amid Newt Gingrich’s Republican revolution. One party — his — was demonstrably more responsible for the nasty divisiveness, government gridlock and norm-busting, yet journalistic pressure to produce seemingly “balanced” stories — pressure both ingrained and imposed by editors — prevented reporters from sufficiently reflecting the new truth.

By 2012, as President Obama dealt with the willful obstructionists, conspiracists and racists of an increasingly radicalized Republican Party, political scientists and long-respected Washington watchers Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein put the onus for the dysfunction squarely on the GOP in their provocative book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. Significantly, they implicated journalists: “A balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon is a distortion of reality and a disservice to your consumers.”

On Saturday, the Senate’s most senior Republican, Sen. Charles E. Grassley, gleefully accepted Trump’s endorsement for reelection at a rally in Iowa where Trump repeatedly lied that he’d beaten Biden. The next day on “Fox News Sunday,” the second-ranking Republican in the House, Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, repeatedly refused to say that the election was not stolen from Trump.

Oct. 14

tribune publishing logoThe Atlantic, Investigation: Inside Alden Global Capital, McKay Coppins (at The Atlantic and the author of The Wilderness, a book about the battle over the future of the Republican Party), Oct. 14, 2021. A Secretive Hedge Fund Is Gutting Newsrooms.

tribune tower 2013The Tribune Tower (shown at right in 2013) rises above the streets of downtown Chicago in a majestic snarl of Gothic spires and flying buttresses that were designed to exude power and prestige.

atlantic logo horizontalWhen plans for the building were announced in 1922, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime owner of the Chicago Tribune, said he wanted to erect “the world’s most beautiful office building” for his beloved newspaper. The best architects of the era were invited to submit designs; lofty quotes about the Fourth Estate were selected to adorn the lobby.

Prior to the building’s completion, McCormick (below left) directed his foreign correspondents to collect “fragments” of various historical sites—a brick from the Great Wall of China, an emblem from St. Peter’s Basilica—and send them back to be embedded in the tower’s facade. The final product, completed in 1925, was an architectural spectacle unlike anything the city had seen before—“romance in stone and steel,” as one writer described it. A century later, the Tribune Tower has retained its grandeur. It has not, however, retained the robert mccormickChicago Tribune.

To find the paper’s current headquarters one afternoon in late June, I took a cab across town to an industrial block west of the river. After a long walk down a windowless hallway lined with cinder-block walls, I got in an elevator, which deposited me near a modest bank of desks near the printing press. The scene was somehow even grimmer than I’d imagined. Here was one of America’s most storied newspapers—a publication that had endorsed Abraham Lincoln and scooped the Treaty of Versailles, that had toppled political bosses and tangled with crooked mayors and collected dozens of Pulitzer Prizes—reduced to a newsroom the size of a Chipotle.

Spend some time around the shell-shocked journalists at the Tribune these days, and you’ll hear the same question over and over: How did it come to this? On the surface, the answer might seem obvious. Craigslist killed the Classified section, Google and Facebook swallowed up the ad market, and a procession of hapless newspaper owners failed to adapt to the digital-media age, making obsolescence inevitable. This is the story we’ve been telling for decades about the dying local-news industry, and it’s not without truth. But what’s happening in Chicago is different.

In May, the Tribune was acquired by Alden Global Capital, a secretive hedge fund that has quickly, and with remarkable ease, become one of the largest newspaper operators in the country. The new owners did not fly to Chicago to address the staff, nor did they bother with paeans to the vital civic role of journalism. Instead, they gutted the place.

alden global capital logoTwo days after the deal was finalized, Alden announced an aggressive round of buyouts. In the ensuing exodus, the paper lost the Metro columnist who had championed the occupants of a troubled public-housing complex, and the editor who maintained a homicide database that the police couldn’t manipulate, and the photographer who had produced beautiful portraits of the state’s undocumented immigrants, and the investigative reporter who’d helped expose the governor’s offshore shell companies. When it was over, a quarter of the newsroom was gone.

The hollowing-out of the Chicago Tribune was noted in the national press, of course. There were sober op-eds and lamentations on Twitter and expressions of disappointment by professors of journalism. But outside the industry, few seemed to notice. Meanwhile, the Tribune’s remaining staff, which had been spread thin even before Alden came along, struggled to perform the newspaper’s most basic functions. After a powerful Illinois state legislator resigned amid bribery allegations, the paper didn’t have a reporter in Springfield to follow the resulting scandal. And when Chicago suffered a brutal summer crime wave, the paper had no one on the night shift to listen to the police scanner.

As the months passed, things kept getting worse. Morale tanked; reporters burned out. The editor in chief mysteriously resigned, and managers scrambled to deal with the cuts. Some in the city started to wonder if the paper was even worth saving. “It makes me profoundly sad to think about what the Trib was, what it is, and what it’s likely to become,” says David Axelrod, who was a reporter at the paper before becoming an adviser to Barack Obama. Through it all, the owners maintained their ruthless silence—spurning interview requests and declining to articulate their plans for the paper. Longtime Tribune staffers had seen their share of bad corporate overlords, but this felt more calculated, more sinister.

“It’s not as if the Tribune is just withering on the vine despite the best efforts of the gardeners,” Charlie Johnson, a former Metro reporter, told me after the latest round of buyouts this summer. “It’s being snuffed out, quarter after quarter after quarter.” We were sitting in a coffee shop in Logan Square, and he was still struggling to make sense of what had happened. The Tribune had been profitable when Alden took over. The paper had weathered a decade and a half of mismanagement and declining revenues and layoffs, and had finally achieved a kind of stability. Now it might be facing extinction.

  • “They call Alden a vulture hedge fund, and I think that’s honestly a misnomer,” Johnson said. “A vulture doesn’t hold a wounded animal’s head underwater. This is predatory.”

When Alden first started buying newspapers, at the tail end of the Great Recession, the industry responded with cautious optimism. These were not exactly boom times for newspapers, after all—at least someone wanted to buy them. Maybe this obscure hedge fund had a plan. One early article, in the trade publication Poynter, suggested that Alden’s interest in the local-news business could be seen as “flattering” and quoted the owner of The Denver Post as saying he had “enormous respect” for the firm. Reading these stories now has a certain horror-movie quality: You want to somehow warn the unwitting victims of what’s about to happen.

Of course, it’s easy to romanticize past eras of journalism. The families that used to own the bulk of America’s local newspapers—the Bonfilses of Denver, the Chandlers of Los Angeles—were never perfect stewards. They could be vain, bumbling, even corrupt. At their worst, they used their papers to maintain oppressive social hierarchies. But most of them also had a stake in the communities their papers served, which meant that, if nothing else, their egos were wrapped up in putting out a respectable product.

  • The model is simple: gut the staff, sell the real estate, jack up subscription prices, and wring out as much cash as possible.

The 21st century has seen many of these generational owners flee the industry, to devastating effect. In the past 15 years, more than a quarter of American newspapers have gone out of business. Those that have survived are smaller, weaker, and more vulnerable to acquisition. Today, half of all daily newspapers in the U.S. are controlled by financial firms, according to an analysis by the Financial Times, and the number is almost certain to grow.

What threatens local newspapers now is not just digital disruption or abstract market forces. They’re being targeted by investors who have figured out how to get rich by strip-mining local-news outfits. The model is simple: Gut the staff, sell the real estate, jack up subscription prices, and wring as much cash as possible out of the enterprise until eventually enough readers cancel their subscriptions that the paper folds, or is reduced to a desiccated husk of its former self.

  • John Temple: My newspaper died 10 years ago. I’m worried the worst is yet to come.

The men who devised this model are Randall Smith and Heath Freeman, the co-founders of Alden Global Capital. Since they bought their first newspapers a decade ago, no one has been more mercenary or less interested in pretending to care about their publications’ long-term health. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that Alden-owned newspapers have cut their staff at twice the rate of their competitors; not coincidentally, circulation has fallen faster too, according to Ken Doctor, a news-industry analyst who reviewed data from some of the papers. That might sound like a losing formula, but these papers don’t have to become sustainable businesses for Smith and Freeman to make money.

With aggressive cost-cutting, Alden can operate its newspapers at a profit for years while turning out a steadily worse product, indifferent to the subscribers it’s alienating. “It’s the meanness and the elegance of the capitalist marketplace brought to newspapers,” Doctor told me. So far, Alden has limited its closures primarily to weekly newspapers, but Doctor argues it’s only a matter of time before the firm starts shutting down its dailies as well.

This investment strategy does not come without social consequences. When a local newspaper vanishes, research shows, it tends to correspond with lower voter turnout, increased polarization, and a general erosion of civic engagement. Misinformation proliferates. City budgets balloon, along with corruption and dysfunction. The consequences can influence national politics as well; an analysis by Politico found that Donald Trump performed best during the 2016 election in places with limited access to local news.

  • margaret sullivan 2015 photoMargaret Sullivan (right): The Constitution doesn’t work without local news

With its acquisition of Tribune Publishing earlier this year, Alden now controls more than 200 newspapers, including some of the country’s most famous and influential: the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the New York Daily News. It is the nation’s second-largest newspaper owner by circulation. Some in the industry say they wouldn’t be surprised if Smith and Freeman end up becoming the biggest newspaper moguls in U.S. history.

They are also defined by an obsessive secrecy. Alden’s website contains no information beyond the firm’s name, and its list of investors is kept strictly confidential. When lawmakers pressed for details last year on who funds Alden, the company replied that “there may be certain legal entities and organizational structures formed outside of the United States.”

Smith, a reclusive Palm Beach septuagenarian, hasn’t granted a press interview since the 1980s. Freeman, his 41-year-old protégé and the president of the firm, would be unrecognizable in most of the newsrooms he owns. For two men who employ thousands of journalists, remarkably little is known about them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senators aim to block tech giants from prioritizing their products over rivals,’ Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 14, 2021. A bill introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Charles Grassley is widely viewed as a bellwether for the bipartisan efforts to pass legislation regulating Silicon Valley giants.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on facebook logothe Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that they will introduce legislation early next week making it illegal for Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to engage in “self-preferencing,” the tech giants’ practice of giving their own products and services a boost over those of rivals on their platforms.

The bill would effectively outlaw an array of behaviors that lawmakers describe as anticompetitive, like Amazon sucking up data from sellers on its platform to copy the products in-house or Google prioritizing its own services over rivals’ in search results.

Press Run, Commentary: Bah humbug — media blaming Biden for Christmas gift shortage, Eric Boehlert, right, Oct. 14, 2021. Good will towards men. The political press found something new to blame on President Joe Biden. Itching to maintain the Dems in Disarray narrative, being egged on by Fox News, and stretching common sense to the breaking point, the press is claiming the Democrat faces a “Christmas crisis” of confidence over something he has no control — clogged supply chains.

“Holiday delays could prove politically problematic for the president,” ABC News claimed. “With global supply chain bottlenecks threatening the Christmas shopping season, President Joe Biden will…try to stave off the potentially politically explosive headaches Americans may face as delays threaten holiday gift-giving.”

According to ABC News, if Americans encounter gift-giving delays because retailers are not able to supply purchases in time, it’s going to cause “explosive headaches” because, apparently, voters will blame the West Wing if store shelves aren’t stocked with Barbies.

This twisted logic continues to spread. “White House Scrambles to Address Looming Christmas Crisis,” an ominous Politico headline announced. At Wednesday’s White House press briefing, CBS’s Ed O’Keefe demanded to know if the White House could guarantee that holiday packages will arrive on time.

“If you think President Biden's approval ratings are bad now, just watch what happens if Christmas turns out to be a huge national bummer,” warned The Week. Pointing to “supply chain snarls,” the outlet warned that, “If Americans find themselves unable to celebrate the holidays in the manner to which they've become accustomed they're probably going to be angry. And they're probably going to blame the president.”

Talk about torturous logic. If private suppliers cannot produce on-time goods this gift-giving season because of a Covid-fueled shipping backup, Americans are going to blame the president. “That means Biden must do everything in his limited power to save Christmas — if only to save his still-young presidency,” according to The Week. Now Biden’s entire presidency hangs in the balance.

When did the U.S. stop being a capitalist country? When did the press start assuming the White House controls private industries, including the shipping and handling operations for retailers and suppliers?

Oct. 13

The Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinin: Why the Mainstream Media Remains Silent on the JFK Records Deadline, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, Oct. 13, 2021. With the jacob hornberger newOctober 26 deadline only two weeks from now on releasing the 60-year secret records of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination, the silence from the mainstream press is deafening.

The great mainstream defenders of transparency and openness in government, at least when it comes foreign dictatorships, cannot bring themselves to openly advocate for the release of thousands of records relating to the JFK assassination that the CIA still insists on keeping secret.

Why the silence? I will explain the reason, but first please permit me to restate the prediction I have made regarding this matter.

I predict that within the next weeks, President Biden will grant a request by the CIA for continued secrecy of its assassination-related records. I predict that Biden will order the release of some of the records for appearance’s sake, but he will cite “national security” to justify continuing the secrecy of the vast majority of the records.

Why do I make this prediction? Because the reason that the CIA needed to keep these records secret 60 years ago still exists. That same reason was why it it future of freedom foundation logo squareneeded to keep them secret during the 1990s, when the Assassination Records Review Board was enforcing the JFK Records Act of 1992, which mandated the release of all federal records relating to the assassination.

Further, that same reason obviously caused the CIA, despite the law’s mandate, to continue keeping its records secret for another 25 years after the JFK Records Act was enacted. When that deadline came due in 2017, that same reason obviously motivated the CIA to petition President Trump for another extension of time for secrecy, which Trump dutifully granted. That deadline comes due on October 26, 2021 — two weeks from now — and mark my words: The same reason will cause the CIA to request that Biden grant another extension of time for secrecy, which Biden, like Trump, will dutifully grant.

What is the reason that has caused the CIA to want to keep these thousands of records secret from the American people. The reason, I am more convinced than ever, is that the CIA knows that those remaining records constitute more pieces to the overall puzzle of criminal culpability on the part of the CIA in the regime-change operation that took place on November 22,1963.

cia logoAfter all, let’s face it: No matter what definition is put on that nebulous and meaningless term “national security,” there is no possibility that anything bad will happen to the United States if those 60-year-old secret records are released to the American people. The United States will not fall into the ocean. The supposed international communist conspiracy to take over the United States that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia (yes, that Russia!) during the Cold War won’t be reinvigorated. Communist Cuba will not invade the United States. The dominoes near North Vietnam will not fall to the communists. North Korea will not come and get us.

President Biden just ordered the release of President Trump’s secret records relating to the January 6 Capitol protests. Why not the same joe biden resized odecision with respect to those 60-year-old secret records of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination?

Why won’t the mainstream press call on Biden to enforce the JFK Records Act of 1992? They’re scared to do so.

In a remarkably candid and direct statement made to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in 2017, New York Senator Charles Schumer explained why they are scared: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer said to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Schumer was referring to President Trump, but actually the admonition applies to everyone. The CIA, the Pentagon, the NSA, and the FBI — i.e., the entire intelligence community — has “six ways from Sunday at getting back” at anyone who takes it on, including newspaper owners, publishers, and editors.

Most people know about Operation Mockingbird, the top-secret operation of the CIA to acquire assets within the mainstream press to advance the CIA’s propaganda. Does anyone really think that the CIA would stop there in the quest to expand its power and influence?

dwight eisenhower mic speechNot a chance! For example, the entire national-security establishment would concentrate on acquiring, installing, and grooming assets in Congress, which sets the budgets. Does anyone think it’s just a coincidence that Congress gives the national-security establishment whatever it wants plus sometimes even more than what it wants? There is good reason why President Eisenhower planned to use the term “military-industrial-congressional” complex in his Farewell Address (shown at right). No one can reasonably deny that Congress is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the national-security establishment.

But they obviously would not stop there. They would also be acquiring assets within the IRS, one of the most powerful and tyrannical agencies within the federal government. There isn’t anyone, including newspaper owners, publishers, and editors, who isn’t afraid of receiving an audit notice from the IRS.

irs logoAnd if it happens, no one would ever be able to prove that it originated with the CIA or the rest of the national-security establishment. It would just look like it was occurring at random. If any victim of an IRS audit accused the CIA or the rest of the national-security establishment of being behind the audit, they would be ready to hurl the infamous “conspiracy theorist” label at him.

What newspaper owner, publisher, or editor wants to take that chance? They all know that the national-security establishment frowns very seriously on any mainstream media outlet that even remotely suggests that the Kennedy assassination was a regime-change operation, no different in principle from those in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, and Chile both before and after the Kennedy assassination. But they also do not want to take the chance of upsetting the CIA by simply calling on it to release its 60-year-old still-secret records relating to the assassination.

After all, everyone knows that if an entity is powerful enough to regime-change presidents and prime ministers, both foreign and domestic, with impunity, it can easily destroy any mainstream media executive who dares to buck the CIA on the assassination.

It’s just the way life works in a national-security state. It’s why the mainstream media is maintaining strict silence on the upcoming October 26 deadline on the release of those 60-year-old still-secret records of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Andrew Yang destroyed the New York City mayor race, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 13, 2021. Andrew Yang is “quitting” the Democratic Party and bill palmerlaunching some new third party that’ll never gain any traction – but the controversy he’s creating will surely sell some copies of his divisive new book. Given that Yang is now trying to sabotage the Democratic Party on a national level, it’s time to talk about how he already did this same thing in New York.

I’m sure the nation is aware of how badly Andrew Yang destroyed the Democratic primary race for Mayor of New York City this year. His bumbling, no-effort vanity campaign got all the media attention, so qualified candidates got no attention, and corrupt candidates got no vetting. Then at the end Yang imploded in spectacular fashion.

The media deserves blame for sure. But Yang, left, knew what was going on. At some point he pretty clearly decided, consciously or subconsciously, that he andrew yang twitterdidn’t really want to win. But instead of dropping out, he kept hogging the media attention while saying increasingly stupid things that he had to know were going to tank his chances.

By the time everyone figured out Yang wasn’t going to win, it was too late for qualified experienced candidates like Garcia, Stringer, and Wiley to get traction. Contrary to popular belief, they ran solid campaigns, but the New York City media and the national media mostly just ignored them. Then, once Eric Adams pulled into the lead last minute, all kinds of scandals surfaced about him, but there wasn’t time for those to be properly covered or for voters to hear about it all.

eric adamsAnd so Eric Adams, left, accidentally won, even though the vast majority of people voted for someone else, and even a lot of Adams voters came to immediately regret it after hearing about his scandals and of his egregious past positions. He’ll probably be a lousy mayor, and with his scandals, will he even get to finish his term? We’ll see. For the sake of the city, one can only hope he can pull it together.

Right after Yang lost, he came out with a book attacking the Democrats, quitting the party, and starting his own third party. Does this sound like a guy who had any intention of really trying to win a Democratic primary for Mayor? When did he start writing this anti-Democrat book?

Being mayor is hard work, a thankless job, and unprofitable. Publishing a controversial high profile book makes you millions of dollars and you never have to work again. Was Yang’s entire NYC Mayor campaign all about setting up his book, or just the latter parts of it?

Was Andrew Yang always a con artist who was only ever looking to use politics to boost his ego and fortunes? Or did Yang start off meaning well, until he realized he was bad at politics but good for TV ratings, and the media corrupted him at that point? You’ll have to decide.

Either way, the Andrew Yang NYC Mayor debacle stands as Exhibit A of why it’s so dangerous for outsiders who are clueless about politics to just wander in and shit all over the election process, and for the media to see them as an opportunity to boost ratings.

Trump, Yang, Ben Carson, Marianne Williamson, JD Vance. We’re in a crisis where outsiders run stunt political campaigns to boost their wallets while willfully destroying the electoral process. But the media won’t expose this crisis, because the media benefits from this crisis.

What can be done? Stop letting the media feed you fake stunt candidates on a silver platter; change the channel so they’ll have to find some more legitimate way to get ratings. And stop supporting worthless outsider candidates just because you want to stick it to the system.

Also, stop pretending these outsider candidates have good ideas. They don’t. They have theoretical ideas that sound good in a debate soundbite but would never work in practice. Politics and governing are hard, even for qualified people. It’s impossible for unqualified amateurs.

Oct. 11

oan logo

 

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bobb are shown working in a Willard Hotel "War Room" near almost across the street from White House grounds with fellow Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 in a photo by a fellow Trump supporter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Trump’s favorite channel, One America News, was never ‘news’ at all, Margaret Sullivan, right, Oct. 11, 2021 (print ed.). A stunning margaret sullivan 2015 photoReuters exposé demonstrates that for OAN, “it was never, never the full truth” when covering Trump.

The whitewashing and denialism of the Jan. 6 insurrection started at One America News on that very same day.

As President Donald Trump tried to overturn the legitimate results of the presidential election — inciting a deadly riot along the way — the cable robert herring sr croppedchannel’s brass were sending an all-too-clear message to their team about how to cover this horrifying event.

“Please DO NOT say ‘Trump Supporters Storm Capitol. . . .’ Simply call them demonstrators or protestors. . . . DO NOT CALL IT A RIOT!!!” came the impassioned email directive from a news director to the staff.

The next day, OAN’s top boss, founder Robert Herring Sr., left, ordered producers to get in line behind the president, as he floated the conspiracy theory that it wasn’t Trump supporters breaking those windows and storming those barricades — that it was the leftist movement reuters logoantifa instead.

When Reuters, the global news agency, published its two-part investigation last week of OAN, the most startling finding was that AT&T indirectly provided 90 percent of the channel’s revenue, after letting it be known that it was eager to host a new conservative cable network.

att logoYes, the world’s largest communications company played a major role in creating and sustaining the far-right channel that spins wacky ideas, promotes fraudulent covid-19 cures and, in its fervor, makes the pro-Trump market leader, Fox News, look almost reasonable. (AT&T has challenged aspects of Reuters’ reporting and said that the company, through its offshoot, DirecTV, provides “viewpoints across the political spectrum.”)

But just as noteworthy as AT&T’s involvement was the way Reuters’s John Shiffman pulled back the curtain on how the San Diego-based network operates, relying in part on court documents.

Oct. 9

 

maria ressa rappler

ny times logoNew York Times, The 2021 Nobel Prizes: Maria Ressa is only the 18th woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in its 126-year history, Shashank Bengali, Oct. 9, 2021 (print ed.). In receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, the Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (shown via a Rappler file photo) became only the 18th woman to be selected for the award in its 126-year history.

philippines flagWith half the world made up of women, the obvious question arises: Why have so few been granted the committee’s most prestigious prize and, more broadly, been generally underrepresented across the Nobel prizes?

Addressing the criticism, the Nobel committee in 2017 acknowledged its poor track record.

“We are disappointed looking at the larger perspective that more women have not been awarded,” said Göran Hansson, vice chair of the board of directors of the Nobel Foundation.

“Part of it is that we go back in time to identify discoveries,” he said. “We have to wait until they have been verified and validated before we can award the prize. There was an even larger bias against women then. There were far fewer women scientists if you go back 20 or 30 years.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook and its apps suffer another outage, Mike Isaac, Oct. 8, 2021 (print ed.). Facebook and its family of apps were inaccessible for about facebook logotwo hours on Friday afternoon, the second time in a week that the social network experienced widespread problems with its services.

The site DownDetector.com, a service that relies on reports from users to determine whether websites are having problems, showed that all of Facebook’s main products — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and the “big blue app” of Facebook — suffered downtime at around 3 p.m. Eastern time.

Oct. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Will you fall into the conspiracy theory rabbit hole? David Byler and Yan Wu, Oct. 7, 2021 (print ed.). Take our quiz and find out. Who believes in conspiracy theories? Statistically speaking: almost everyone.

A team of researchers recently showed several thousand Americans a list of 20 common conspiracy theories and asked if they believed them. These included false conspiracy theories about the John F. Kennedy assassination, 5G cellular wireless technology, Barack Obama’s birth certificate, covid-19 and climate change. The result: Nine in 10 Americans believed in at least one conspiracy theory.

The study — led by Adam Enders of the University of Louisville and Joseph Uscinski of the University of Miami — surveyed a representative sample of 2,023 Americans in March 2020 and 2,015 more in October 2020. This article uses questions from their surveys to test your knowledge — and your credulity.

JIP Editor's Note: We except this deceptive "quiz" above to illustrate how shoddy academic research parrotted by inexperienced graphic artists can continue reinforcing deceptive conventional wisdom that cannot withstand real reporting on controversial current and recent historical events.

ny times logoNew York Times, Barry Diller’s Dotdash Agrees to Buy Magazine Publisher Meredith, a Magazine Giant, Marc Tracy, Oct. 7, 2021 (print ed.). People, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and more than 40 other magazines would become part of the same company as Serious Eats and Investopedia.

A digital-age magazine giant was born on Wednesday with the announcement that Dotdash, a publishing unit of Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp, had reached an agreement to acquire Meredith, the publisher of People, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and roughly 40 other titles and digital brands.

The purchase price is roughly $2.7 billion, or $42.18 per share, the companies said in a joint announcement. If the deal goes through, the new company will be called Dotdash Meredith, and it will be led by the Dotdash chief executive, Neil Vogel, the companies said.

Joey Levin, IAC’s chief executive, said in a statement that the combination of the two companies would “offer uniquely engaged audiences to advertisers and partners.” Tom Harty, the chief executive of Meredith, said in a statement, “We are thrilled to join forces to accelerate Meredith’s digital future.”

In an investor call on Wednesday, Mr. Vogel said he was not planning on “cost synergy” — that is, layoffs or other cuts as a result of the merger. “Our playbook is going to drive audience, performance, and help the brands maintain their stance in the digital world that they have in the print world,” Mr. Vogel said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Liberal Activist Who Targets Republicans With a MAGA Masquerade, Trip Gabriel, Oct. 7, 2021. Pretending to be like-minded, Lauren Windsor has generated headlines by coaxing conservatives into making revealing statements about their views. Mike Pence told her, “I love your heart.”

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio confided in her that Donald J. Trump would soon announce he was running again for president in 2024.

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, revealed to her that he could not publicly press his anti-abortion agenda for fear of losing independent voters.

All of them made these comments to Lauren Windsor, a liberal activist who has turned a hidden camera, a Tennessee drawl and a knack for disarming her targets with words of sympathetic conservatism into a loaded political weapon.

Posing as a true believer — in Mr. Trump or a stolen 2020 election — Ms. Windsor approaches Republican leaders at party gatherings and tries to coax them into revealing things that they might wish to keep in the G.O.P. family.

Since late last year, as she has traveled widely around the country, several of her recordings have generated headlines.

Her encounter in December 2020 with Tommy Tuberville, then a senator-elect from Alabama, elicited the first real evidence that some Republicans in the Senate would reject the Electoral College votes certifying Mr. Biden’s victory, a move based on groundless claims of fraud. “We’re going to have to do it in the Senate,” Mr. Tuberville told Ms. Windsor after a speech, as an aide hustled him away.

“More Republicans should follow his lead,” Mr. Trump tweeted after the recording was uploaded. Eight G.O.P. senators including Mr. Tuberville ended up voting on Jan. 6 to overturn the election results, even after rioters stormed the Capitol that day.

Ms. Windsor, 40, calls herself an “advocacy journalist,” though her methods fall beyond the pale of mainstream journalism, where reporters generally shy away from assuming false identities and secretly recording conversations.

She says her stings are justified by Republicans’ efforts to spread disinformation about the election and to weaken the nation’s democratic underpinnings through restrictive new voting laws and measures taking greater control over how elections are run.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” she said in an interview. Assuming a false identity, she argued, can produce a truer record of a politician’s views. “Acting like you’re one of them — you’re going to elicit different answers than if you have a reporter in somebody’s face and they know you’re a journalist.”

While Ms. Windsor’s videos are often picked up by left-leaning news outlets, the political impact of them can be limited. Some of her Republican targets dismiss her videos as nothing they haven’t said before, in so many words.

The bait she dangles to draw out a response can be highly tendentious. “This is a Christian state, and Democrats are not Christian,” she told a cowboy-hatted Texas legislator in the Capitol in Austin.

Claiming to have been at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, she challenged Mr. Pence about why he didn’t “stop the election from being stolen.” The former vice president didn’t bite: “Read the Constitution,” he said, before offering parting praise of her “heart.”

A spokesman for Mr. Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, denied he had said anything privately that he had not uttered publicly, even though he told Ms. Windsor that he had to be discreet about his anti-abortion views. “When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense,” he said to her in their encounter. “But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.”

Her practices have drawn inevitable comparisons to the right-wing gotcha squad Project Veritas, but she says there are crucial differences.

While Project Veritas has embedded moles in left-leaning groups and Democratic campaigns, Ms. Windsor says she avoids such methods.

She makes her undercover recordings at public events in brief encounters. She usually uploads the full interaction to her YouTube page, The Undercurrent, or in segments on Twitter (which limits a video’s length).

And while Project Veritas has often targeted unknown junior staff members, Ms. Windsor says she tends to set her sights on senior Republican officials.

Ms. Windsor also has a personal back story with Project Veritas — which is led by the conservative activist James O’Keefe — that hangs over her career.

oan logo

robert herring srReuters, Special Investigative Report: How AT&T helped build far-right One America News, John Schiffman, Oct. 6, 2021 (First of two stories). As it lauded former President Donald Trump and spread his unfounded claims of election fraud, One America News Network saw its viewership jump. Reuters has uncovered how America’s telecom giant nurtured the news channel now at the center of a bitter national divide over politics and truth.

One America News, the far-right network whose fortunes and viewership rose amid the triumph and tumult of the Trump administration, has flourished with support from a surprising source: AT&T Inc, the world's largest communications company.

reuters logoA Reuters review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding OAN, a network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic.

OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr., above, has testified that the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives.

“They told us they wanted a conservative network,” Herring said during a 2019 deposition seen by Reuters. “They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.”

att logoSince then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, court records show. Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV, according to 2020 sworn testimony by an OAN accountant.

Herring has testified he was offered $250 million for OAN in 2019. Without the DirecTV deal, the accountant said under oath, the network’s value “would be zero.”

“They told us they wanted a conservative network. … When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.”
OAN founder Robert Herring Sr. in a 2019 deposition

Dallas-based AT&T, a mobile-phone and Internet provider, also owns entertainment giant Warner Media, which includes CNN and HBO. AT&T acquired DirecTV in 2015 and in August spun off the satellite service, retaining a 70% share in the new, independently managed company. AT&T’s total U.S. television subscriber base, including satellite and streaming services, fell from 26 million in 2015 to 15.4 million as of August.

AT&T spokesman Jim Greer declined to comment on the testimony about OAN’s revenue streams, citing confidentiality agreements. He said that DirecTV broadcasts “many news channels that offer viewpoints across the political spectrum.”

djt maga hat“We have always sought to provide a wide variety of content and programming that would be of interest to customers, and do not dictate or control programming on channels we carry,” Greer said. “Any suggestion otherwise is wrong.”

After this story was published, AT&T issued a statement saying it has “never had a financial interest in OAN's success and does not 'fund' OAN.”

Although the contracts are confidential, in court filings Herring cited monthly fees included in one five-year deal with AT&T. According to an AT&T filing citing Herring’s numbers, those fees would total about $57 million. Greer said that figure is inaccurate, but declined to say how much AT&T has paid to air OAN, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

Herring and his adult sons own and operate OAN, a subsidiary of their closely held San Diego-based Herring Networks. Their AT&T deal includes Herring’s other network, a little-watched lifestyle channel, AWE. The Herrings declined interview requests.

Herring, who just turned 80, is a self-made businessman who amassed a fortune in the circuit board industry, then turned to television and boxing promotion. OAN’s influence rose in late 2015, when it began covering Trump rallies live, at a time when some of the media still saw the New York celebrity businessman as a longshot presidential contender. The network continues to shower Trump with attention and often provides a friendly platform for his Republican allies.

As president, Trump frequently urged supporters to watch OAN. In his final two years in office, Trump touted the network, known as @OANN online, to his 88 million Twitter followers at least 120 times..

“Hope everybody is watching @OANN right now,” Trump tweeted on December 1, citing a dubious report about a truck carrying more than 100,000 fake ballots. “Other media afraid to show.”

The state and federal court documents reviewed by Reuters detail a lucrative relationship for OAN with AT&T, even as the two occasionally tangled in court.

The records include a reported offer by AT&T to acquire a 5% equity stake in OAN and AWE, though the two sides ultimately signed a different deal. The court filings also cite a promise by OAN to “cast a positive light” on AT&T during newscasts.

The confidential OAN financial records are drawn in part from testimony, including by Herring and the accountant, generated during a labor lawsuit brought against OAN by a former employee and unrelated to AT&T. When that case went to trial last year, the network’s lawyer told the jury that AT&T was keeping OAN afloat.

“If Herring Networks, for instance, was to lose or not be renewed on DirecTV, the company would go out of business tomorrow,” OAN lawyer Patrick Nellies told the court, a transcript shows.

Researchers who tracked the rise of conservative media pillars Rush Limbaugh and Fox News see similarities between those pioneers to One America News and other new rightwing networks, particularly during their formative years.

Oct. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Teenage girls say Instagram’s mental health impacts are no surprise, Erin Woo, Oct. 6, 2021 (print ed.). Annie Zhu got an Instagram account during her freshman year of high school. At first, she curated her profile carefully, showing off different outfits and looks. She followed body positivity and body neutrality accounts. But she still sometimes compared herself with others, and “it can make me feel bad,” she said.

instagram logoSo when she recently listened to a podcast revealing how Facebook’s research concluded that Instagram, which it owns, was toxic for teenage girls, she said, the findings “didn’t surprise me at all.”

“In my past experiences, it has been a huge struggle,” Ms. Zhu, an 18-year-old Stanford University freshman, said in an interview.

Among young people, the idea that Instagram can hurt someone’s self-image is widely discussed. Ms. Zhu said she and her friends talked about how social interactions on Instagram felt inauthentic. Some friends have deleted the app because they didn’t think it was contributing positively to their lives, she added. She said she now used Instagram largely as a messaging system and rarely posted on it.

“If you ask a young person, it’s something you deal with on a daily basis,” said Vicki Harrison, who directs the Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing at Stanford. “You don’t need this research to tell you this.”

Facebook has responded that the research did not show a causal link and that a majority of teenage girls experiencing body-image issues reported that Instagram either made their body image better or had no impact.

 

frances haugen robert fortunato cbs

Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, shown above in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview, testified on Tuesday before Congress after being revealed as the source behind tens of thousands of pages of leaked internal company research  (Photo by Robert Fortunato of CBS News 60 Minutes).

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Reports: Facebook whistleblower testifies at Senate hearing on kids’ safety online, Cat Zakrzewski, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Cristiano Lima
and Will Oremus, Oct. 5, 2021. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on Tuesday warned lawmakers that Facebook operates without oversight and issued a call to action from Congress to make social media safer.

The hearing with the Senate Commerce consumer protection, product safety and data security subcommittee marks Haugen’s first public appearance after she revealed herself Sunday evening as the source of thousands of pages of internal company research, leaked to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal. Revelations from the documents have sparked renewed concern on Capitol Hill about Facebook’s influence, particularly on children’s and teens’ mental health. Her testimony will be an opportunity to publicly share her experience of working at Facebook and her vision of how the company might be regulated with lawmakers.

In an interview with The Washington Post Haugen said she was motivated to go public because she views Facebook in its current form as “dangerous.” Even policymakers tasked with regulating Facebook do not have the information they need to oversee the company and address its potential harms, she said.

“A lot of what Facebook is doing isn’t illegal because they hid the information that politicians would have needed to create regulations that addressed it,” she said in a recent interview.

Here’s what you need to know

  • Senators said Tuesday’s hearing is one in a series on child safety, following Haugen’s revelations to the Wall Street Journal that Facebook’s own research shows that Instagram makes teen girls’ body images worse.
  • The findings about Instagram’s impact on children’s and teens’ mental health have attracted the most attention among lawmakers, who last week hosted a hearing with Facebook head of safety Antigone Davis that devolved into heated confrontations.
  • Haugen’s leaks about the companies are wide-ranging, and she raised concerns in a “60 Minutes” interview about Facebook’s decision to disband its civic integrity team in the aftermath of the 2020 election ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. She has also raised concerns about the spread of misinformation on Facebook, particularly in non-English-speaking countries where the company has not invested as much in content moderation.
  • Facebook has sought to downplay the leaked research, saying the “60 Minutes” interview “disregards the significant investments we make to keep people safe on our platform.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have not publicly commented on the revelations, which have plunged the company into public scandal in recent weeks.

ny times logoNew York Times, When Facebook’s Apps Went Down, the World Saw How Much It Runs on Them, Raymond Zhong, Oct. 5, 2021. For more than five hours, facebook logopeople got a taste of life without the social media network, and many discovered how much they depended on it. The outage disrupted the digital lives of small-business owners, politicians, aid workers and more. But for some, it was a welcome reprieve.

For more than five hours on Monday, the world got a taste of life without Facebook and its apps.

People in many places discovered that Facebook and its apps had burrowed their way into nearly every facet of existence.

In Mexico, politicians were cut off from their constituents. In Turkey, shopkeepers couldn’t sell their wares. And in Colombia, a nonprofit organization that uses WhatsApp to connect victims of gender-based violence to lifesaving services found its work impaired.

 

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I told the Trumps my relationship with a White House staffer had turned abusive. They didn’t seem to care, Stephanie Grisham, Oct. 5, 2021. Stephanie Grisham served as chief of staff to the first lady, press secretary and communications director in the Trump White House. Her book “I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House” publishes Tuesday.

stephanie grisham coverAfter being by their sides for almost six years, I knew Donald and Melania Trump about as well as anyone, or so I thought. And they knew me. A hungry gossip, the president showed an ongoing interest in my relationship with my boyfriend, a fellow White House staffer, and asked intimate questions about our relationship.

He and the first lady invited us as a couple to events, with Trump conferring on us his stock compliment, “right out of central casting.” They knew when we got a dog for my birthday. They knew when we broke up.

They also knew when the relationship turned abusive — and they didn’t seem to care.

One day, while meeting with Mrs. Trump alone, she asked how I was holding up after our breakup. My eyes started to well up. I had been holding in the fact that the end of our relationship had become violent, reaching its worst point on the day I left. I told the first lady that he got physical with me.

She asked me if I had called the police and I said no, explaining that this close to the election, it wouldn’t be good to have yet another domestic abuse scandal hanging over the administration. I also had no proof. She nodded and did not push the matter further. As far as I know, she told no one.

A few weeks later, after the first presidential debate, I was with President Trump on Air Force One. Noting that my ex was also in our entourage, the president asked me if it was tough to have seen him at the debate. He then began to tell me how broken up my ex had been about the split and expressed sympathy for him.

CNBC, Dallas Morning News rejects ad hammering AT&T for backing sponsors of Texas abortion bill, Democratic super PAC says, Brian Schwartz, Oct. 5, 2021.  The Dallas Morning News won’t run an ad taking aim at AT&T for backing Texas lawmakers who supported the state’s strict anti-abortion law, according to the Democratic super PAC behind the spot.

cnbc logoThe ad was supposed to run on the paper’s website Tuesday. The newspaper said it had a policy against ads that call out companies by name, according to American Bridge, which paid for the ad. American Bridge said it submitted the spot to the newspaper last week.

The Dallas Morning News’ decision came after CNBC reported Monday that the PAC, which is co-chaired by former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, was aiming to run spots blasting AT&T for supporting lawmakers who co-sponsored the Texas bill, also known as SB 8.

AT&T is headquartered in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News is owned by DallasNews Corporation.

att logoAn American Bridge spokeswoman forwarded to CNBC what she said was text from an email from a Dallas Morning News account representative.

“I just heard back from the ad approval department. I am sorry for the late notice but once it made it to the final approval, it was decided to ask for another revision. There is a history (before me) that The Dallas Morning News will not run advertising calling out specific companies by name,” the text of the Dallas Morning News agent’s email reads.

“I have gone to my President to see if we can change it around to run if we refer to AT&T without actually saying the name. I am so sorry about any and all inconveniences this causes you and your client. Unfortunately, I am not the final say, and am at the mercy of others. I will let you know once I hear back,” the email says.

The PAC’s final submission to the paper, which was reviewed by CNBC, did not include the AT&T logo but did mention the telecommunications giant by name. The PAC representative said they had yet to pay the newspaper for the ad placement. She later noted that “this publisher actually did request that we prepay. We gave them our payment information, but they haven’t processed it so no funds have been released.”

“AT&T helped fund the anti-abortion politicians who wrote the dangerous law,” says a copy of the final digital ad that was intended to be placed within the online version of The Dallas Morning News. A picture of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is depicted on screen.

Oct. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook apps start to come back online after widespread outage, Rachel Lerman, Oct. 4, 2021. Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger also went down. Facebook apps slowly came back online Monday following a prolonged, global outage, one of the largest disruptions to the social facebook logomedia sites’ billions of users in years.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger were unreachable for many users for hours, who instead saw a spinning wheel on their apps that never loaded. The outages caused widespread chaos for those who use it for communication — particularly for WhatsApp users globally instagram logo— as well as companies and people who rely on the sites to conduct business.

“Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are coming back online now,” chief executive Mark Zuckerberg posted late Monday. “Sorry for the disruption today — I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about.”

The hours-long outage again shed light on the company’s huge swaths of power, something regulators and lawmakers are scrutinizing in the wake of new revelations from a whistleblower about the company that she alleges proves it has been negligent in eliminating violence and misinformation from its platform.

washington post logoWashington Post, Zuckerberg apologies have been a staple for Facebook. Now it offers defiance instead, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, Oct. 4, 2021. The company has deployed its executives to mount a public defense while quibbling with the allegations from a whistleblower.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wAfter four years of almost continuous scandal, Facebook is approaching its latest controversy over political polarization and the toxic effects of social media in a more aggressive and defiant way than it has previously, say current and former employees, including executives who helped shape the company’s earlier responses.

Gone is the familiar script in which chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, right, issues a formal apology — sometimes in long blogs on his personal Facebook page or over live-streamed video for a Congressional hearing — then takes responsibility and promises change.

In its place, the company has deployed a slate of executives to mount a public defense while quibbling with the details of allegations from Frances Haugen, the former project manager who left Facebook with tens of thousands of documents detailing the company’s research into how it spreads hate, incites violence, and, through its Instagram subsidiary, contributes to teenage girls’ negative body images and suicidal thoughts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook and All of Its Apps Go Down Simultaneously, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel, Oct. 4, 2021. The outage took out a vital communications platform used by more than three billion people and added heat to a company already under intense scrutiny. Inside Facebook, workers scrambled because their internal systems also stopped functioning. The cause of the issue remained unclear. Here’s the latest.

facebook logoFacebook and its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, went down at the same time on Monday, taking out a vital communications platform used by more than three billion people around the world and adding heat to a company already under intense scrutiny.

Facebook’s apps — which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Oculus — began displaying error messages around 11:40 a.m. Eastern time, users reported. Within five minutes, Facebook had disappeared from the internet. Hours later, the sites were still not functioning, according to Downdetector, which monitors web traffic and site activity.

Technology outages are not uncommon, but to have so many apps go dark from the world’s largest social media company at the same time was highly unusual. Facebook’s last significant outage was in 2019, when a technical error affected its sites for 24 hours, in a reminder that even the most powerful internet companies can still be crippled by a snafu.

This time, the cause of the outage remained unclear. Several hours into the incident, Facebook’s security experts were still trying to identify the root issue, according to an internal memo and employees briefed on the matter. Two members of its security team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said it was unlikely that a cyberattack had taken place because one hack was unlikely to affect so many apps at once.

Security experts said the problem most likely stemmed instead from a misconfiguration of Facebook’s server computers, which were not letting people connect to its sites like Instagram and WhatsApp. When such errors occur, companies frequently roll back to their previous configuration, but Facebook’s problems appeared to be more complex and to require some manual updating.

Los Angeles City News Service, LA actor pleads guilty to running a $650 million Ponzi scheme, Staff Report, Oct. 4, 2021. A Los Angeles actor who appeared in low-budget horror and science-fiction movies pleaded guilty Monday to running a $650 million Ponzi scheme.

Zachary Joseph Horwitz, who used the name Zach Avery in film credits, formally entered his plea to one federal count of securities fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 3. Horwitz, who lives in the Beverlywood area, bilked investors who thought their money would finance distribution rights for movies that would run on HBO and Netflix.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also sued Horwitz and his firm, 1inMM Capital LLC, in civil court over the scam, which involved the sales of film-licensing rights, primarily in Latin American markets. Horwitz, 34, operated 1inMM Capital as a Ponzi scheme, using victims’ money to repay earlier investors and to fund an “opulent” lifestyle, including the purchase of a $6 million Beverlywood home, federal prosecutors said.

The scheme began in October 2014, when investment firms began entering into a series of six- or 12-month promissory notes with 1inMM Capital based on Horwitz’s statements. The funds supplied under each note were supposed to provide money for 1inMM Capital to acquire the rights to a specific film, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Prosecutors said that to persuade investors he was legitimate, Horwitz provided fake license agreements, as well as fake distribution agreements with Netflix and HBO, all of which allegedly contained forged or fictional signatures.

Oct. 3

 

Chris Mora of California sits amid the art installation “In America: Remember,” which features flags representing every death from covid-19 in the United States, on the National Mall on Sept. 24. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)

Chris Mora of California sits amid the art installation “In America: Remember,” which features flags representing every death from covid-19 in the United States, on the National Mall on Sept. 24. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post). The symbolic heart of Washington has been covered by nearly 700,000 white flags, each about a foot tall, representing the American lives lost to covid-19 and holding written memories from loved ones. The flags have been packed tightly into 60-foot-by-60-foot quadrants on 20 acres near the Washington Monument and the National Museum of African and African American History and Culture.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What the 700,000 flags I put on the National Mall really mean, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg (a social practice artist), Oct. 1, 2021. Twenty-five years of hospice volunteering has taught me that the most important thing we can afford people is their dignity.

That lesson formed the backbone of “In America: Remember,” my art installation that for the past three weeks blanketed Washington’s National Mall with 700,000 fluttering white flags, each one representing an American lost to the coronavirus pandemic. The art is an effort to reclaim the dignity of 700,000 people who have become reduced to a single number, a number too large to fathom.

My project began with outrage. I was outraged we had elected officials who would devalue the lives of the elderly, the poor and people of color in their approach to managing the pandemic. I was outraged we had allowed the death toll here in the United States to become so large as to be incomprehensible.

But the deeper meaning came when I heard the stories. In person, they poured out. Many visitors used the Sharpies we offered them to write their own dedications directly onto the flags. With each of their stories, my anger gave way to their outcries of grief.

 

vaxxers headlights

Logic of the Anti-Vaxxers (illustrated).

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Covid Death Toll Surpasses 700,000 Despite Wide Availability of Vaccines, Julie Bosman and Lauren Leatherby, Oct. 3, 2021 (featured electronically). An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months were unvaccinated, with the latest Covid-19 deaths concentrated in the South. The new and alarming surge of deaths this summer means that the coronavirus pandemic has become the deadliest in American history.

The United States surpassed 700,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, a milestone that few experts had anticipated months ago when vaccines became widely available to the American public.

An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months, a period in which the country has offered broad access to shots, were unvaccinated. The United States has had one of the highest recent death rates of any country with an ample supply of vaccines.

The new and alarming surge of deaths this summer means that the coronavirus pandemic has become the deadliest in American history, overtaking the toll from the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which killed about 675,000 people.

“This Delta wave just rips through the unvaccinated,” said Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan. The deaths that have followed the wide availability of vaccines, he added, are “absolutely needless.”

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: This site has been tracking U.S. and global death totals on a daily basis for more than a year, with the U.S. death total surpassing 700,000 a week ago, according to the Worldometer calculations that we cite below in our ongoing "Virus Victims, Responses" segment. Researchers in such statistics have long noted that precise daily totals vary somewhat between research organizations but that trends and major landmarks, such as the 700,000 U.S. death figure cited above, are nonetheless worth highlighting as important news.

 

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

I’LL TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS NOW: What I Saw at the Trump White House
By Stephanie Grisham. Harper. 329 pp. $28.99

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: An aide dishes on the Trump White House. But what does she say for herself? Carlos Lozada, Oct. 3, 2021 (print ed.). One of the saddest and cringiest moments — out of many — in Stephanie Grisham’s memoir of her years in the Trump White House occurs at Mar-a-Lago, in the middle of the Stormy Daniels scandal. Grisham, then communications director for first lady Melania Trump, felt sorry for her boss and proposed that the two take a stephanie grisham coverwalk along the beach. Grisham hoped to “comfort her as a friend,” she writes, to “hang out woman to woman,” to give Melania a chance to unburden herself.

“And there will be photographers?” the first lady asked. Melania, Grisham realized, assumed it was just another press event that her aide was setting up. She did not acknowledge, or even recognize, the overture of friendship. “I felt like such an ass to have offered,” Grisham admits.

In that exchange, Grisham committed a mistake that so many Trump acolytes make, and one she would repeat in her years working for the first lady and the president. She thought she belonged. “Everyone just loves you,” Donald Trump assured Grisham when he named her White House press secretary. She came to believe that she was “a trusted and valued member of Trump World.” Right up until she wasn’t.

It’s not easy writing a White House tell-all when it feels like so much about this White House has already been told. The substantive revelations in Grisham’s “I’ll Take Your Questions Now” are matters of detail, coloring in a picture whose contours have long been clear.

Oct. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Whistle-Blower to Accuse Facebook of Contributing to Jan. 6 Riot, Memo Says. Mike Isaac, Oct. 2, 2021. In an internal memo, Facebook defended itself and said that social media was not a primary cause of polarization.

Facebook, which has been under fire from a former employee who has revealed that the social network knew of many of the harms it was causing, was bracing for new accusations over the weekend from the whistle-blower and said in a memo that it was preparing to mount a vigorous defense.

facebook logoThe whistle-blower, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, planned to accuse the company of relaxing its security safeguards for the 2020 election too soon after Election Day, which then led it to be used in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the internal memo obtained by The New York Times. The whistle-blower planned to discuss the allegations on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, the memo said, and was also set to say that Facebook had contributed to political polarization in the United States.

The 1,500-word memo, written by Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs, was sent on Friday to employees to pre-empt the whistle-blower’s interview. Mr. Clegg pushed back strongly on what he said were the coming accusations, calling them “misleading.” “60 Minutes” published a teaser of the interview in advance of its segment on Sunday.

“Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out,” he wrote. “But what evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the primary cause of polarization.”

Facebook has been in an uproar for weeks because of the whistle-blower, who has shared thousands of pages of company documents with lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal. The Journal has published a series of articles based on the documents, which show that Facebook knew how its apps and services could cause harm, including worsening body image issues among teenage girls using Instagram.

Facebook has since scrambled to contain the fallout, as lawmakers, regulators and the public have said the company needs to account for the revelations. On Monday, Facebook paused the development of an Instagram service for children ages 13 and under. Its global head of safety, Antigone Davis, also testified on Thursday as irate lawmakers questioned her about the effects of Facebook and Instagram on young users.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for “60 Minutes” did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Inside Facebook, executives including Mr. Clegg and the “Strategic Response” teams have called a series of emergency meetings to try to extinguish some of the outrage. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, have been briefed on the responses and have approved them, but have remained behind the scenes to distance themselves from the negative press, people with knowledge of the company have said.

The firestorm is far from over. Facebook anticipated more allegations during the whistle-blower’s “60 Minutes” interview, according to the memo. The whistle-blower, who plans to reveal her identity during the interview, was set to say that Facebook had turned off some of its safety measures around the election — such as limits on live video — too soon after Election Day, the memo said. That allowed for misinformation to flood the platform and for groups to congregate online and plan the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol building.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump asks court to force Twitter to reinstate his account, Adela Suliman, Oct. 2, 2021. The former president seeks a preliminary injunction while his lawsuit against the social media giant proceeds.

Former president Donald Trump has asked a court to mandate that Twitter restore his social media account.

donald trump twitterIn a filing late Friday, Trump asked a federal district judge for a preliminary injunction enabling his return to Twitter while his lawsuit against the social media giant continues.

“Plaintiff Donald J. Trump respectfully moves for a preliminary injunction directing, inter alia, Defendant Twitter, Inc. and all persons acting in concert with Defendant, to reinstate Plaintiff’s access to Defendant’s social media platform(s),” the filing said.

twitter bird CustomIt argued that Twitter was “censoring” Trump by indefinitely banning him from the platform, adding that the company “exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate.”

The filing also argued that Twitter had suspended Trump’s account after being “coerced” by his political rivals in Congress.

Twitter banned Trump from its platform on Jan. 8, stating that two of his tweets had violated the company’s policies and citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” The unprecedented move came after the riot on Jan. 6 in which hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attack that resulted in five deaths and left about 140 police officers injured.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: An Erotica Pioneer Goes From Hero to Villain for Dozens of Authors, Alexandra Alter, Oct. 2, 2021. In the constantly evolving romance landscape, Blushing Books has long occupied a specific niche: spanking erotica. Now some of its most successful writers just want their books back.

Anne Wills was a mother of four who doted on her children, was an active volunteer with a youth swim team, loved animals and was known to those around her as a generous, nurturing, motherly figure in her small town in rural Virginia.

When that life felt too tame for her, she became Bethany Burke, a bawdy, kink-loving erotica author who also made low-budget spanking films. She wrote them and occasionally even directed them.

She was an early online erotica entrepreneur with her subscription spanking site, Bethany’s Woodshed, and a hero and mentor to dozens of authors, most of them women, whom she published for the first time through Blushing Books, the company that grew out of her original site. Some of those authors started earning tens of thousands of dollars a year from what they had thought of as a secret hobby, not a profession.

Now, to many of those same writers, she is a villain.

“She has you, she owns you,” said Barbara Carey LaPointe, a retired social worker in Camden, N.Y., who writes romance under the pen name Stevie MacFarlane and who, like dozens of other authors, is fighting Ms. Wills to reclaim the rights to the stories she created.

In interviews with The New York Times, a dozen Blushing authors and seven former employees described a haphazardly run business that frequently failed to pay authors on time, and threatened them with lower royalties and defamation lawsuits if they defected. Some writers who spoke to The Times discovered they were not being paid for books that Blushing was selling through certain online vendors or in audio format. Others were locked into contracts that gave Blushing “permanent and exclusive” rights to their books and pen names, which publishing experts called onerous and outside of industry standards.

When asked by authors about the missing payments, Ms. Wills, 63, the chief executive, often called it an oversight or a glitch in the system. But several former employees said that delayed payments to authors were a result of Blushing’s routine mismanagement of finances.

In December 2020, the Romance Writers of America, a trade group, announced that, following an ethics investigation, it had suspended the publisher’s membership for three years and barred Blushing from attending its conferences. The Authors Guild, an advocacy group, is representing 30 writers seeking to reclaim rights to their work from Blushing. So far, one of those authors has stopped Blushing from selling her books after filing copyright-infringement notices with retailers, showing that Blushing did not hold contracts for them. Umair Kazi, director of policy and advocacy at the Authors Guild, said that some of Blushing’s contract provisions and its treatment of some authors go against industry standards and raise “many red flags.”

In a statement to The Times, Ms. Wills declined to address specific allegations from authors, and said that her company’s policy was not to speak publicly about any “author’s contractual obligation with Blushing.” She also noted that Blushing had paid “millions of dollars in royalties just in the past five years.”

The enormous appetite for erotica, a nearly $1.5 billion industry, has stoked a feeding frenzy among publishers for new content. Romance sales exploded in the past 15 years, following the rise of e-books and self-publishing, and the commercial and cultural juggernaut “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which brought hard-core erotica from the fringes into the mainstream. Romance readers — a majority of them women — tend to be voracious consumers who buy dozens of books a year. Romance accounts for nearly 20 percent of the overall adult fiction market, drawing the largest audience of any genre, according to NPD BookScan. Around 60,000 romance and erotica books were published in 2020, up from nearly 35,000 a decade earlier, according to data from Bowker, which tracks publishing trends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ozy Media, Once a Darling of Investors, Shuts Down in Swift Unraveling, Ben Smith and Katie Robertson, Oct. 1, 2021. The digital media start-up had come under scrutiny for its business practices after articles in The Times.

The abrupt collapse riveted media observers not because Ozy had a large number of loyal readers — that, in the end, was the problem — but because many had wondered how the company had managed to survive. The answer had to do with a charismatic and relentless founder, a great story and a slick brand that was perfectly tuned to appeal to noted Silicon Valley investors and powerful advertising executives.

Its founder, Mr. Watson, was an investment banker who dreamed of having his own talk show. When that eluded him, after a brief stint in 2009 as a host on MSNBC, he built a media company in his own image as a politically moderate, upwardly mobile son of teachers, one who had gotten degrees at Harvard and Stanford and worked at Goldman Sachs.

Mr. Watson and his partner, another Goldman alumnus, Samir Rao, raised more than $80 million from some of the biggest names in finance. The company debuted in 2013, backed by investors including Emerson Collective, the organization run by the billionaire philanthropist and media entrepreneur Laurene Powell Jobs, and Marc Lasry, a hedge fund manager and a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise.

Ozy, whose motto was “the new and the next,” had its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., not far from the start-ups that had built themselves into multibillion-dollar giants. It employed roughly 75 people to create articles, videos, podcasts and newsletters on a range of topics, from espionage to the appeal of Grandma’s kitchen. Many of the videos and television shows that Ozy also sold starred Mr. Watson in conversation with politicians and pop culture celebrities, a group that included Joseph R. Biden Jr., Hillary Clinton and John Legend.

While the Times article was being reported, Emerson Collective distanced itself from the company, saying it “did not participate in Ozy’s latest investment round and has not served on its board since 2019.” (Emerson Collective added in a statement on Friday morning that it was “troubled” by the allegations concerning Ozy.)

On Tuesday, the Ozy board said it had hired the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison to investigate the company’s “business activities” and leadership team.

On Thursday, another shoe dropped: Mr. Lasry resigned as the chairman of the Ozy board, saying in a statement, “I believe that going forward Ozy requires experience in areas like crisis management and investigations, where I do not have particular expertise.” Another sign of the end came when Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley investor and an early Ozy backer, said this week that he had returned his shares to the company.

 

September

Sept. 30

Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A Trump lawyer wrote an instruction manual for a coup. Why haven’t you seen it on the news? Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 30, 2021 (print ed.). margaret sullivan 2015 photoIn a normal world, the “Eastman memo” would be infamous by now, the way “Access Hollywood” became the popular shorthand in 2016 for the damning recording of Donald Trump’s bragging about groping women.

But it’s a good bet that most people have never even heard of the Eastman memo.

That says something troubling about how blasé the mainstream press has become about the attempted coup in the aftermath of the 2020 election — and how easily a coup could succeed next time.

The memo, unearthed in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, is a stunner. Written by Trump legal adviser John Eastman — a serious Establishment Type with Federalist Society cred and a law school deanship under his belt — it offered Mike Pence, then in his final days as vice president, a detailed plan to declare the 2020 election invalid and give the presidency to Trump.

In other words, how to run a coup in six easy steps.

Pretty huge stuff, right? You’d think so, but the mainstream press has largely looked the other way. Immediately after the memo was revealed, according to a study by left-leaning Media Matters for America, there was no on-air news coverage — literally zero on the three major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC and CBS. Not on the evening newscasts watched by more than 20 million Americans, far greater than the audience for cable news. Not on the morning shows the next day. And when Sunday rolled around, NBC’s “Meet the Press” was the only broadcast network show that bothered to mention it. (Some late-night hosts did manage to play it for laughs.)

The Washington Post reviewed the memo that was obtained for the Woodward-Costa book and wrote about it in a broader news story about the book’s revelations and in a news analysis. CNN got a copy, too, and more than most, gave it its due.

But largely, it fell upon a handful of opinion writers to provide the appropriate outrage.

“The Horrifying Legal Blueprint for Trump’s War on Democracy” read the headline on Jonathan Chait’s piece in New York magazine’s Intelligencer section. And in the New York Times, columnist Jamelle Bouie took it on with “Trump Had a Mob. He Also Had a Plan.” The Post’s Greg Sargent hammered away at it.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

Alex Jones, host and founder of the Texas-based Infowars show (file photo).

huffington post logoHuffPost, Alex Jones Just Lost 2 Sandy Hook Cases, Sebastian Murdock, Sept. 30, 2021. A judge issued default judgments — a rarity in the legal world — against Jones and Infowars after the conspiracy theorist failed to produce discovery records.

Infowars host Alex Jones has lost two of several lawsuits filed against him by relatives of Sandy Hook victims after he routinely failed to comply with requests to produce documents related to his involvement in spreading lies about the deadly shooting.

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble on Monday issued her ruling for default judgments against Jones in two different cases, which means he and the conspiracy-theory-spewing outlet Infowars have been found liable for all damages and a jury will now be convened to determine how much he will owe the plaintiffs. The new rulings became public Thursday.

In the filings, Gamble eviscerated Jones and reasoned that default judgments should be ordered because “an escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties, and non-dispositive sanctions have all been ineffective at deterring the abuse,” caused by Jones’ unwillingness to turn over documents related to the cases, the Texas judge ruled.

The ruling — which is often referred to in Texas as a “death penalty sanction” for a party unwilling to comply with court orders — is a rarity in the legal world. Jones, who is now on his seventh lawyer in these cases, had years to provide documentation requested by the court, including internal company emails.

HuffPost was the first to report the start of Jones’ Sandy Hook legal woes in 2018 when parents Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa filed a defamation lawsuit related to Jones’ continued lies that the 2012 school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead was a “false flag” hoax filled with “crisis actors.”

Pozner and De La Rosa’s 6-year-old son, Noah, was killed in the shooting. In the years since, the parents have dealt with continued harassment from those who followed Jones’ lead and claimed the shooting was faked.
Alex Jones has lost two court cases against Sandy Hook parents.

They’re not the only ones. In total, nine families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook shooting have leveled lawsuits against Jones and Infowars for the damage he and his outlet caused. Since then, Jones has lost multiple legal battles in his many lawsuits and was ordered to pay nearly $150,000 in legal fees in 2020 for failing to provide discovery documents for the plaintiffs.

It was Jones’ continued refusal to hand over discovery documents that led to Monday’s rulings against him in a lawsuit brought on by Pozner and a separate lawsuit by parent Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was also killed in the shooting. Pozner, De La Rosa, and Lewis are being represented by Texas law firm Farrar & Ball, who told HuffPost that they are “not surprised by the Court’s decision.”

Jones’ most recent lawyer, Brad Reeves, told the Austin-American Statesman earlier this month that a default judgment against Jones would be a “hugely excessive” response to his discovery failures. Judge Gamble felt otherwise:

“Furthermore, in considering whether lesser remedies would be effective, this Court has also considered Defendants’ general bad faith approach to litigation, Mr. Jones’ public threats, and Mr. Jones’ professed belief that these proceedings are ‘show trials’,” the court rulings read.

Sept. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube is banning prominent anti-vaccine activists and blocking all anti-vaccine content, Gerrit De Vynck, Sept. 29, 2021. The Google-owned video site previously only banned misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. Facebook made the same change months ago.

YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., below right, who experts say are partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country.

youtube logo CustomAs part of a new set of policies aimed at cutting down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines like those for measles or chickenpox.

robert f kennedy jr gage skidmoreMisinformation researchers have for years said the popularity of anti-vaccine content on YouTube was contributing to growing skepticism of lifesaving vaccines in the United States and around the world. Vaccination rates have slowed and about 56 percent of the U.S. population has had two shots, compared with 71 percent in Canada and 67 percent in the United Kingdom. In July, President Biden said social media companies were partially responsible for spreading misinformation about the vaccines, and need to do more to address the issue.

Analysis: ‘YouTube magic dust’: How America’s second-largest social platform ducks controversies

The change marks a shift for the social media giant, which streams more than 1 billion hours’ worth of content every day. Like its peers Facebook and Twitter, the company has long resisted policing content too heavily, arguing maintaining an open platform is critical to free speech. But as the companies increasingly come under fire from regulators, lawmakers and regular users for contributing to social ills — including vaccine skepticism — YouTube is again changing policies that it has held onto for months.

YouTube didn’t act sooner because it was focusing on misinformation specifically about coronavirus vaccines, said Matt Halprin, YouTube’s vice president of global trust and safety. When it noticed that incorrect claims about other vaccines were contributing to fears about the coronavirus vaccines, it expanded the ban.

“Developing robust policies takes time,” Halprin said. “We wanted to launch a policy that is comprehensive, enforceable with consistency and adequately addresses the challenge.”

Facebook and YouTube spent a year fighting covid misinformation. It’s still spreading.

joseph mercolaMercola, an alternative medicine entrepreneur, and Kennedy, a lawyer and the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy who has been a face of the anti-vaccine movement for years, have both said in the past that they are not automatically against all vaccines, but believe information about the risks of vaccines is being suppressed.

facebook logoFacebook banned misinformation on all vaccines seven months ago, though the pages of both Mercola and Kennedy remain up on the social media site. Their Twitter accounts are active, too.

In an email, Mercola said he was being censored and said, without presenting evidence, that vaccines had killed many people. A spokesperson for Kennedy did not return a request for comment.

More than a third of the world’s population has been vaccinated and the vaccines have been proven to be overwhelmingly safe.

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all banned misinformation about the coronavirus early on in the pandemic. But false claims continue to run rampant across all three of the platforms. The social networks are also tightly connected, with YouTube often serving as a library of videos that go viral on Twitter or Facebook. YouTube has removed over 133,000 videos for broadcasting coronavirus misinformation, Halprin said.

The companies have hired thousands of moderators and used high-tech image- and text-recognition algorithms to try to police misinformation. There are also millions of people with legitimate concerns about the medical system, and social media is a place where they go to ask real questions and express their concerns and fears, something the companies don’t want to squelch.

Washington Post, A major founder of the anti-vaccine movement has made millions selling natural health products

In the past, the company’s leaders have focused on trying to remove what they call “borderline” videos from its recommendation algorithms, allowing people to find them with specific searches but not necessarily promoting them into new people’s feeds. It’s also worked to push more authoritative health videos, like those made by hospitals and medical schools, to the top of search results for health-care topics.

Sept. 28

 

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump played tough with Putin in front of cameras, while Putin toyed with his insecurities, says book by Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Jada Yuan and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 28, 2021. Little is known about what happened in the 90-minute conversation between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Osaka, Japan, two years ago. But as journalists were quickly ushered out of the room at the 2019 Group of 20 Summit, Stephanie Grisham once again found herself with a close-up view of the action.

She saw Trump lean toward Putin that day and tell him: “Okay, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.”

stephanie grisham coverIt’s just one of many telling interactions detailed by Grisham in her new book, titled, I’ll Take Your Questions Now. One of the most senior and longest-serving Trump advisers, she worked as the president’s third press secretary and as first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and communications director before she resigned on Jan. 6 during the Capitol riot.

Her 352-page book — obtained by The Washington Post — alleges a litany of misdeeds by the 45th president: from ogling a young female staffer, to orchestrating lies for the public, to attempting to ban the news media from the White House compound. It also gives a rare firsthand look at Melania Trump, who craved her privacy, and a blow-by-blow of how she wound up wearing that “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket.

Grisham even claims to know dirt on Trump’s hair, which she says he cuts himself with “a huge pair of scissors that could probably cut a ribbon at an opening of one of his properties.”

“The intent behind this book is obvious,” Melania Trump’s office said in a statement after a passage leaked comparing the former first lady to Marie Antoinette. “It is an attempt to redeem herself after a poor performance as press secretary, failed personal relationships, and unprofessional behavior in the White House. Through mistruth and betrayal, she seeks to gain relevance and money at the expense of Mrs. Trump.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Stephanie Grisham’s Book Details Trump’s ‘Terrifying’ Temper, Katie Rogers, Sept. 28, 2021. The former press secretary is reflective in her tell-all: “I should have spoken up more.” Stephanie Grisham’s book was kept a secret from her closest allies in the White House.

President Donald Trump officialStephanie Grisham, the former Trump White House press secretary perhaps best known for never holding a televised briefing with reporters, plans to release a tell-all book next week that accuses President Donald J. Trump of abusing his staff, placating dictators like Vladimir Putin of Russia, and making sexual comments about a young White House aide.

In her book, titled I’ll Take Your Questions Now, Ms. Grisham recalls her time working for a president she said constantly berated her and made outlandish requests, including a demand that she appear before the press corps and re-enact a certain call with the Ukrainian president that led to Mr. Trump’s (first) impeachment, an assignment she managed to avoid.

“I knew that sooner or later the president would want me to tell the public something that was not true or that would make me sound like a lunatic,” Ms. Grisham writes, offering a reason for why she never held a briefing.

After serving as press secretary, Ms. Grisham worked in Melania Trump’s office. She resigned on Jan. 6 as a horde of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. Her book was kept a secret from her closest allies in the White House, though by the time she departed Washington that number had dwindled. (She writes that, months before the election, she had moved to Kansas.) Her publisher, HarperCollins, calls the book “The most frank and intimate portrait of the Trump White House yet.”

omarosa manigault newman unhinged Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Loses N.D.A. Case Against Omarosa Manigault Newman, Maggie Haberman, Sept. 28, 2021. Donald Trump had filed the case against Ms. Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and “Apprentice” star, after she wrote a tell-all book (shown above) about serving in his administration.

Former President Donald J. Trump has lost an effort to enforce a nondisclosure agreement against Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and a star on “The Apprentice” who wrote a tell-all book about serving in his administration.

The decision in the case, which Mr. Trump’s campaign filed in August 2018 with the American Arbitration Association in New York, comes as the former president is enmeshed in a number of investigations and legal cases related to his private company.

“Donald has used this type of vexatious litigation to intimidate, harass and bully for years,” Ms. Manigault Newman said in a statement. “Finally the bully has met his match!”

The decision, dated on Friday and handed down on Monday, calls for her to collect legal fees from the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump’s campaign filed the case shortly after Ms. Manigault Newman published her book, Unhinged. It claimed that she violated a nondisclosure agreement she had signed during the 2016 campaign stipulating that she would not reveal private or confidential information about his family, business or personal life.

djt ivanka trump jared palmer CustomThe book paints a picture of an out-of-control president who is in a state of mental decline and is prone to racist and misogynistic behavior. Ms. Manigault Newman’s book also casts the former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner (shown at left in a file photo), in a negative light. When Trump advisers tried to cast doubt on Ms. Manigault Newman’s accounts, she released audio recordings that backed up several of her claims.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said nothing about the arbitration case, and instead attacked Ms. Manigault Newman in personal terms.

The media- and image-obsessed Mr. Trump has for years used nondisclosure agreements as a way to prevent staff members from speaking about him publicly, and to deter them from making disparaging comments or writing books like Ms. Manigault Newman’s.

The arbitration is confidential, meaning that only the parties involved can release information about the case. In papers made available by Ms. Manigault Newman’s lawyer, John Phillips, the arbitrator, Andrew Brown, said that the definition of the type of comment protected by the nondisclosure agreement was so vague that it had been rendered meaningless. What was more, he wrote, the statements Ms. Manigault Newman had made hardly included privileged information.

“The statements do not disclose hard data such as internal polling results or donor financial information,” Mr. Brown wrote. “Rather, they are for the most part simply expressions of unflattering opinions, which are deemed ‘confidential information’ based solely upon the designation of Mr. Trump. This is exactly the kind of indefiniteness which New York courts do not allow to form the terms of a binding contract.”
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At another point, Mr. Brown wrote that the agreement “effectively imposes on Respondent an obligation to never say anything remotely critical of Mr. Trump, his family or his or his family members’ businesses for the rest of her life.”

The arbitrator added, “Such a burden is certainly unreasonable.”

Mr. Phillips, who is based in Florida, said the lawsuit had been an abuse of power by a sitting president. “It’s over,” he said. “We’ve won in Donald Trump and the Trump campaign’s chosen forum.”

Arbitration decisions do not create a precedent, according to Shira A. Scheindlin, a retired Federal District Court judge for the Southern District of New York. That means that there is no potential impact from the Manigault Newman case on ones filed against other Trump employees.

However, a ruling in one case “may be persuasive” in another, said Cliff Palefsky, a lawyer in San Francisco who is an expert in the arbitration process. In the decision in Ms. Manigault Newman’s case, the arbitrator referred to a ruling in a class-action suit filed in New York by a former Trump campaign aide, Jessica Denson. In that case, a judge ruled that the Trump campaign’s nondisclosure agreements were not enforceable.

Charles Harder, the defamation lawyer who had represented the Trumps over the years and who was handling Ms. Manigault Newman’s arbitration case, parted ways with the Trumps before the decision was issued.

Press Run, Commentary: Headlines you won’t see: “GOP votes to derail U.S. economy,” Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 28, 2021. Embracing their ever-expanding nihilist streak, eric.boehlertRepublicans remain committed to forcing the U.S. government to default on key payments by refusing to join with Democrats in lifting the debt ceiling this week.

Walking away from what had been a long-standing tradition of bipartisan votes in order to ensure a functioning government, regardless of which party was in power, the GOP is purposely creating a looming economic crisis for the Biden administration, and for America.

And the press, led by the New York Times, is helping the GOP get away with it.

The party’s unanimous vote on Monday against raising the ceiling signaled its obstructionist strategy. The government’s funding is now set to expire 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

The United States could plunge into an immediate recession thanks to Republicans’ refusal, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, who warns that 6 million jobs could be wiped out, sending the unemployment rate surging to 9 percent.

If the limit is not raised the government won’t be able to borrow more money, forcing officials to choose between missing payments on military salaries for more than one million troops, Social Security benefits for 50 million recipients, and the interest it owes to investors. (Trump’s massive 2017 tax cut means the government has fewer funds today, and therefore needs to borrow more.)

kevin cramerRepublicans also filibustered the debt ceiling vote, which meant Democrats needed to meet a 60-vote threshold. “It’s sort of fun to watch their chaos,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), left, said of the Democrats.

Starting from the assumption that of course the party out of power is in favor of creating K2 financial collapse, the press continues to normalize radical, internal attacks on U.S. security.

“Mainstream media outlets have been treating the potential U.S. debt default as “good news” or an “opportunity” for the very Republicans who are provoking the fight — or chalking it up to “congressional dysfunction” and a problem for the Biden administration to solve,” Media Matters recently noted.

Retreating to its preferred "Both Sides" starting point, the Beltway press coverage often makes sure not to single out the GOP and its radical behavior. Refusing to publish accurate headlines such as, “Republicans Vote to Derail U.S. Economy,” news outlets prefer to dance around the disturbing truth by spreading the blame around and claiming the looming debt crisis is really “legislative gamesmanship,” as the New York Times recently stressed.

That newspaper has also covered the crisis as simply “a stalemate,” suggesting that “Congress” needs to act. The paper even claimed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has been “thrust into a political role,” when she, along with business leaders, have simply beseeched Republicans not to create an unnecessary crisis this week. The whole spectacle was, “a standoff between Democrats and Republicans,” the Times assured readers, while uncritically quoting Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who claimed Democrats were the ones “playing a dangerous political game with our economy and it’s absolutely unnecessary.”

Sept. 28

R. Kelly during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on September 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois (Pool photo by Antonio Perez via Getty Images).

R. Kelly during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on September 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois (Pool photo by Antonio Perez via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Black Women Around R. Kelly’s Case Feel About His Conviction, Troy Closson, Sept. 28, 2021. The case could represent a turning point for the Me Too movement, which some women felt had not focused much attention on crimes against people of color.

When the singer Sparkle testified in a Chicago courtroom 13 years ago, she offered jurors a jarring account of sexual abuse: A man seen in a video urinating on and having sex with her teenage niece was R. Kelly, one of the biggest names in R&B music.

But even after others shared similar stories during Mr. Kelly’s first criminal trial, in Chicago in 2008, jurors acquitted him of the child pornography charges against him.

And so, a decade later, when the Me Too movement’s reckoning around sexual misconduct swept the country, Sparkle said she did not feel that it represented her experience. That changed on Monday, when Mr. Kelly, on trial in New York, was convicted of all nine counts against him.

“I didn’t even know that the Me Too movement was for us, Black women,” Sparkle, whose real name is Stephanie Edwards, said in an interview after the singer’s conviction. “Back then — and still today — Black women aren’t really cared about.”

Mr. Kelly’s case has been widely viewed as a crucial moment for Me Too, serving as the first high-profile trial since the movement took hold to feature an accuser whose victims were primarily Black women.

In the days and weeks that preceded the jury’s verdict, many observers said they feared the stories from a group of Black accusers, no matter how harrowing, might be dismissed.

Instead, Mr. Kelly’s conviction on Monday was viewed by many as a powerful validation of the accounts of both those who took the stand against him and others whose stories have never been made public.

But whether Mr. Kelly’s conviction represents a broader shift toward better treatment of Black victims of sexual abuse is still unknown.

“This moment will go one of two ways,” said Mikki Kendall, an author from Chicago who has written about feminism and intersectionality. “Either we will finally say that Black women and girls deserve to be protected. Or we’re going to say again, as we have, this idea that Black girls are ‘unrapeable’ because of their skin color.”

When Tarana Burke, a Black woman, started the original iteration of “Me Too” around 2007, she hoped to use the phrase to raise awareness of sexual assault and connect victims to resources.

Sept. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden Versus the Rip Van Winkle Caucus, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 27, 2021. Political reporting often portrays progressives as paul krugmanimpractical and intransigent, unwilling to make the compromises needed to get things done, while centrists are realistic pragmatists. What’s happening in Congress right now, however, is just the opposite.

The Democratic Party’s left wing is advancing sensible, popular policies like negotiating on drug prices and cracking down on wealthy tax cheats, and has shown itself willing to make major compromises to advance President Biden’s agenda. In particular, the $3.5 trillion in spending Biden is asking for over the next decade is much less than progressives originally wanted. The party’s conservative wing, however, seems willing to risk blowing up its own president’s prospects rather than give an inch.

What’s going on? Contrary to legend, many of the balking Democrats don’t come from swing districts; anyway, the Biden economic agenda is popular almost everywhere. For example, its main elements command overwhelming support in West Virginia. Furthermore, does anyone really imagine that the outcome of the midterm elections will depend on whether the eventual package, if there is one, is $3.5 trillion or $1.5 trillion?

We can, of course, invoke the usual suspects: Corporate money and wealthy donors are surely having an impact. But I was struck by something Eric Levitz of New York magazine said in a recent article on this subject, which helped clarify a point I’ve been groping toward. Namely, some Democrats seem to have formed their perceptions about both economics and politics during the Clinton years and haven’t updated their views since.

That is, it makes a lot of sense to see Biden’s problems getting his plans across the finish line as being caused by the Rip Van Winkle caucus, Democrats who checked out intellectually a couple of decades ago and haven’t caught up with America as it now is.

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Red Covid, David Leonhardt, Sept. 27, 2021. Covid’s partisan pattern is growing more extreme. During the early months of Covid-19 vaccinations, several major demographic groups lagged in receiving shots, including Black Americans, Latino Americans and Republican voters. More recently, the racial gaps — while still existing — have narrowed. The partisan gap, however, continues to be enormous. A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 86 percent of Democratic voters had received at least one shot, compared with 60 percent of Republican voters.

The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state. Because the vaccines are so effective at preventing serious illness, Covid deaths are also showing a partisan pattern. Covid is still a national crisis, but the worst forms of it are increasingly concentrated in red America.

It’s worth remembering that Covid followed a different pattern for more than a year after its arrival in the U.S. Despite widespread differences in mask wearing — and scientific research suggesting that masks reduce the virus’s spread — the pandemic was if anything worse in blue regions. Masks evidently were not powerful enough to overcome other regional differences, like the amount of international travel that flows through major metro areas, which tend to be politically liberal.

Vaccination has changed the situation. The vaccines are powerful enough to overwhelm other differences between blue and red areas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kyrie Irving wants to leave a legacy. With his stance on vaccination, he just might, Sally Jenkins, right, Sept. 27, 2021. The Nets’ Kyrie sally jenkinsIrving wants to keep his vaccination status “private,” he said Monday. Kyrie Irving is too smart for you. He’s so smart, he can outwit germs and governments. He’s so smart, you can’t understand a word he’s saying. That’s how smart he is. His genius is utterly indecipherable to you and me, and while you may wish for some insight into the exquisite, diamond-chip workings of his multifaceted mind, you are not entitled to them because he prefers to keep them “private.”

Irving is so smart that everything he says sounds like a mystery unless it’s a contradiction. “I’m a human being first,” he said in refusing to share whether he is vaccinated against the coronavirus or to comment on whether he is anti-vaccine, as has been reported, a stance that could imperil other human beings because the vaccines reduce the chance of spread.

Given that New York City requires vaccination for indoor events, including sports arenas, will Irving be vaccinated for the opening of the season? “There’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie, but I would like to keep that private,” Irving responded with a sense of his own unique and unquestionable importance. His remarks came via Zoom at the Brooklyn Nets’ media event Monday, presumably because he is unvaccinated and thus by law could not join the proceedings.

“Obviously I’m not able to be present there today,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m putting any limits on the future on my being able to join the team. And I just want to keep it that way.”

I’m sorry — keep it which way? Present or non-present?

 

 Federal prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes points to R. Kelly during closing arguments in the trial in a courtroom sketch, Sept. 22, 2021 (Jane Rosenberg for Reuters).

Federal prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes points to R. Kelly during closing arguments in the trial in a courtroom sketch, Sept. 22, 2021 (Jane Rosenberg for Reuters).

Huff Post, R. Kelly Found Guilty On All Counts In Sexual Abuse Trial, Alanna Vagianos and Taryn Finley, Sept. 27, 2021. This is the first time the R&B singer has been convicted for sex crimes against minors and young women.

r kelly twitterR. Kelly, right, the R&B singer who rose to fame in the 1990s, has been found guilty on all counts by a jury in the Brooklyn federal case against him for racketeering and charges relating to sex trafficking.

After nine hours of deliberation, a jury of seven men and five women found Kelly guilty on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting individuals across state lines for the purpose of prostitution. The verdict came in around 3:15 p.m. Eastern on Monday afternoon during the seventh week of the trial.

The sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Eastern on May 4, 2021.

The trial, which began mid-August, lasted six weeks. The jury heard testimony from 50 witnesses; 45 were called by the prosecution and only five were called by the defense. Out of the 45 witnesses who testified for the prosecution, 11 were accusers, six of whom testified they were underage at the time of their alleged sexual encounter with Kelly. Witnesses for the defense included a former security guard, Kelly’s accountant and an up-and-coming artist who says he worked with Kelly for over a decade.

The testimonies of the eight Jane Does and two John Does were the most memorable parts of the trial. Nearly all of the accusers described a terrifying environment of control and fear when they were in a sexual relationship with the R&B singer. Several testified that Kelly implemented strict rules that included calling him “Daddy,” subjected them to physical beatings, and controlled the clothes they wore, what they ate and where they were allowed to travel. One Jane Doe said Kelly punished her by making her smear her own feces on her face and in her mouth as he recorded her.

“He could put the fear of God in me very quickly,” one victim said of Kelly during her testimony.

Sept. 24

 

john_f_kennedy_smiling

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Biden Will Continue the JFK Cover-Up, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, (foundation founder, author, book publisher and attorney), Sept. 24, 2021. On October 26, the deadline for the public Jacob Hornbergerdisclosure of the CIA’s still-secret records relating to the Kennedy assassination comes due. At that point, the issue will be: Will President Biden order the National Archives to release the CIA’s long-secret records or will he continue the U.S. national-security establishment’s almost 60-year-old cover up of its regime-change operation in Dallas on November 26, 1963?

Make no mistake about it: Biden, like his predecessor President Donald Trump, will continue the cover-up. That’s because the CIA will demand it.

future of freedom foundation logo squareMind you, this is just my prediction. I don’t know as a fact that the CIA has even asked Biden to continue shielding its long-secret records from the American people. When I asked the National Archives to identify any agencies that have expressed an interest in another extension of time for secrecy, they refused to provide an answer to my question.

But consider this: Whatever reason that the CIA had for requesting Trump to continue the secrecy, that reason would continue through today. If they were scared to have the American people see those records 60 years ago, and then again 30 years ago during the ARRB years, and then 5 years ago, I will guarantee you that they are just as scared today.

Let’s get one thing clear: Whatever definition one wants to put on that nebulous and meaningless two-word term “national security,” there is no possibility that the release of 60-year-old records is going to threaten “national security.” In other words, if the CIA’s records are disclosed, the United States won’t fall into the ocean. The Reds won’t succeed in taking over America’s public schools. The Russians won’t come and get us. Cuba won’t invade and conquer the United joe biden resized oStates. Vietnam won’t start the dominoes falling.

The only thing that would happen is that more pieces to the assassination puzzle will be filled in, most likely relating to Lee Harvey Oswald’s purported trip to Mexico City, a part of the assassination scheme that clearly went awry.

Both the CIA and the Pentagon know what happened after the ARRB strictly enforced the JFK Records Act in the 1990s. Having been released from vows of secrecy that the military had imposed on them, people started talking, big time.

No, they didn’t start talking about the assassination. When people engage in murder, they don’t often talk freely about it. When the CIA and the Mafia engage in murder, they are very good about keeping secrets. We still don’t know, for example, who killed Jimmy Hoffa and Johnny Roselli, who was the liaison in the CIA-CIA LogoMafia partnership to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Where people started talking was with respect to the autopsy that the U.S. military conducted on President Kennedy’s body on the very evening of the assassination. Released from vows of secrecy that the military had forced them to sign, several enlisted personnel disclosed a mountain of evidence establishing a fraudulent autopsy.

Why is that important? One big reason: There is no innocent explanation for a fraudulent autopsy. None. No one has ever come up with one. No one ever will. The fraudulent autopsy is inextricably bound up with the assassination itself.

For example, as I pointed out in my recent article “The Kennedy Autopsy Selected for Amazon’s Prime Reading Program,” several enlisted personnel came forward in the 1990s and established that the national-security establishment sneaked President Kennedy’s body into the Bethesda morgue at 6:35 p.m., almost 1 1/2 hours before the official entry time of 8 p.m. Their statements were corroborated by a memorandum from Gawler’s Funeral Home, which conducted Kennedy’s funeral. They were further corroborated by statements made by Col. Pierre Finck, one of the three pathologists.

Whatever they were doing in that hour-and-half had to be rotten to the core. Otherwise, why the secrecy, the skullduggery, the deception, and the lies? If it hadn’t been for the ARRB, we would most likely never have known they had done that.

Unfortunately, the JFK Records Act permitted these people to keep many of their assassination-related records secret for another 25 years, long after the law forced the ARRB to go out of existence. The CIA took advantage of that loophole. Then when the deadline arrived under the Trump administration, Trump unfortunately granted their request for additional time for secrecy.

Given that Trump surrendered to the CIA in its demand for further secrecy, one thing is certain: Biden will do so as well. That’s my prediction. While Trump continually deferred to the national-security establishment, in my opinion Biden is effectively owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by the national-security establishment. That means he, like Trump, will do as they say.

Oh, they’ll release some of the records in the hope of skating by without much notice from the mainstream press. But I predict that the most incriminating evidence will continue to be shielded from public view — on grounds of “national security” of course.

anita hill 2013 documentary poster

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford have a lot to talk about. A new podcast lets us listen in, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 24, 2021. margaret sullivan 2015 photoTheirs is a club of two. A club that neither of them ever would have asked to join.

Thirty years ago next month, Anita Hill (shown above in a poster for a 2013 documentary) testified before the all-White, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her when he was her boss in two federal workplaces.

Twenty-seven years later, Christine Blasey Ford, below left, testified before the committee that another Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

christine blasey ford oath uncreditedIn both cases, the testimony riveted the nation. Hill’s was televised and seen by a huge audience. Ford’s, taking place in a thoroughly transformed media environment, was the focus of nonstop cable TV and social media coverage and partisan commentary that was as immediate as it was intense. Both Thomas and Kavanaugh denied the women’s statements, and Thomas called the committee proceedings “a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks.”

During a recent conversation recorded for a new podcast, Hill, now 65 and a Brandeis law professor, told Ford, 54 and a psychology scholar at Stanford and Palo Alto University, that she felt a sense of overwhelming kinship as she watched the 2018 testimony — a feeling that she knew was shared by a large community of like-minded women.

“A spiritual solidarity,” Hill called it.

Their conversation is a high point in “Because of Anita,” a new four-part podcast series that debuts in October. I listened to a segment of it Thursday and found it moving, instructive and — as podcasts sometimes can be — surprisingly intimate. The two had met and spoken before but not, until now, for the public to hear.

The conversation took place on Zoom in late August with Hill and Ford in their home offices in Massachusetts and California. The podcast hosts — activist and scholar Salamishah Tillet and journalist Cindi Leive, longtime editor of Glamour magazine — were in San Diego and Brooklyn.

Hill and Ford discussed the intensity of their experiences, and how it lingered far beyond their moments in the harsh spotlight — moments remembered by many Americans as a still image of each woman with her right hand raised.

They also agreed on their motivation: that it was not, at heart, to persuade those who would vote for or against the nominees but rather, a desire to be clear and honest about their experiences — to simply say what they knew and not to be attached to the outcome.

The most obvious outcomes, of course, were similar. Thomas and Kavanaugh both were confirmed by narrowly divided Senate votes: 52 to 48, and 50 to 48, respectively.

But both Hill and Ford sound as if they have made their peace with that — and say they would do it again, though they acknowledge how much the searing experiences have changed their lives.

Sept. 23

 

steve bannon billionaire guo wenguiWayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The billionaire wanted by China who funded insurrection propaganda and a near Sino-U.S. nuclear war, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, Sept. 23, 2021. Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire wanted by the government of China for bribery, kidnapping, money laundering, fraud and rape, sits comfortably in New York City in his penthouse in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel overlooking Central Park, sipping $1 million-a-kilogram rare tea, all the while under the umbrella of U.S. political asylum protection status.

Meanwhile, through his GTV Media Group conglomerate, Guo is simultaneously funding propaganda supporting the January 6th insurrection in Washington and wayne madesen report logothe overthrow of the government giving him political asylum. Specifically, Guo funds, through his Guo Media company, Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast and "Real America's Voice" Internet television broadcast. The two are shown above in a file photo.

In a recent Real America's Voice segment, Bannon claimed that on the night of January 5, 2021, he, Rudolph Giuliani, and senior members of the Trump administration plotted from the Willard Hotel in Washington the January 6th attempted coup d'état to "kill the Biden presidency in the crib." Moreover, Guo's media influence operations in calling for the overthrow of the government of China -- words heeded by then-President Donald Trump -- almost ended up in a nuclear war between the U.S. and China.

Why are two Green Card holders from China permitted to wage a war of insurrection and sedition against the United States from New York City? More importantly, why is Bannon permitted to reprise the wartime treasonous roles of Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, Lord Haw-Haw, Seoul City Sue, and Sister Mary in sowing sedition, insurrection, and treason?

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is shown encouraging insurrectionists outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 before they invaded the Capitol as senators were seeking to certify the U.S. 2020 presidential election vote (Photo by Francis Chung).

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is shown encouraging insurrectionists outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 before they invaded the Capitol as senators were seeking to certify the U.S. 2020 presidential election vote (Photo by Francis Chung).

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson is taking aim at his own book publisher, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The Fox News host has been calling out Simon & Schuster, which published his most recent book, to anyone who will listen.

tucker carlsonCarlson, right, called Simon & Schuster’s president a “cartoonish corporate censor” and used the introduction to attack the company for canceling a book deal with one of his regular guests: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). In a promotional interview this month, where another author might have thanked his publisher, Carlson called it “a disgusting company run by disgusting people.”

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly’s Trial Is Captivating a Black Audience Online. Here’s Why, Troy Closson, Sept. 23, 2021. On the internet, both supporters and detractors of the singer have shown intense interest in the criminal trial in Brooklyn.

The trial of the R&B superstar R. Kelly, right, has featured some 50 witnesses across more than a month of testimony — a blizzard of sordid and sometimes grotesque r kelly twitteraccusations and counterclaims.

For help making sense of it all, hundreds of thousands of viewers have turned to YouTube, where a host who posts videos as thePLAINESTjane offers near-daily recaps that sometimes stretch 90 minutes long and include the same images and documents seen in the courtroom.

“Come on in, have a seat on my bus,” the presenter said at the outset of one recent video, sitting next to a house plant, a collage featuring a courtroom sketch of Mr. Kelly superimposed over her shoulder. “I’m going to pick you up and give you the rundown.”

The channel is just one cog in an expansive online ecosystem that has grown around Mr. Kelly as the accusations against him gained intense public attention in recent years. Now, his criminal trial in Brooklyn is at the center of a swirling social media world centered in Black communities where fierce critics of Mr. Kelly squabble with steadfast supporters, digging into details from the courtroom.

Thousand-member Facebook groups dissect PDF transcriptions of each individual witness’s testimony; accounts on Instagram post updates on the court day against colorful backgrounds; TikTok users break down the legal underpinnings of the racketeering charge against Mr. Kelly.

The online interest in Mr. Kelly’s trial stands apart from earlier high-profile cases involving rich and famous men accused of sexual misconduct and underscores the unique racial and generational dynamics at the center of the case.

The singer’s smooth melodies and charismatic persona captivated many Black households from the mid-1990s to early 2000s. And the majority of Mr. Kelly’s accusers are Black women — many of whom were adolescents or young adults when they say Mr. Kelly abused them.

“R. Kelly had a particular talent to make songs that resonated with Black audiences,” said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of Black popular culture at Duke University. “When you think about a song like ‘Step in the Name of Love,’ that’s something you were apt to hear at a 5-year-old’s birthday party and also a 50th wedding anniversary party.”

He added: “Many Black folks grew up in a context where R. Kelly was literally the soundtrack of their lives.”

In previous high-profile Me Too cases — the downfall of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which helped ignite a national reckoning, and the conviction of the comedian Bill Cosby that unfolded in its aftermath — most of the accusers were white women.

ny times logoNew York Times, Melvin Van Peebles, Champion of New Black Cinema, Dies at 89, Sept. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The filmmaker was praised as the godfather of modern Black cinema and a trailblazer in American independent movies. A fertile creative force, he wrote fiction and musicals but is best known for a breakthrough movie that heralded the genre known as blaxploitation.

Melvin Van Peebles, the filmmaker praised as the godfather of modern Black cinema and a trailblazer in American independent movies, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 89.

A Renaissance man whose work spanned books, theater and music, Mr. Van Peebles is best known for his third feature film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, which drew mixed reviews when it was released in 1971, ignited intense debate and became a national hit. The hero, Sweetback, starred in a sex show at a brothel, and the movie sizzled with explosive violence, explicit sex and righteous antagonism toward the white power structure. It was dedicated to “all the Black brothers and sisters who have had enough of The Man.”

Mr. Van Peebles’s fiercely independent legacy can be seen in some of the most notable Black films of the past half-century, from Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (1986) to Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight (2016). His death arrives at a moment when Black storytelling has belatedly become ascendant in Hollywood.

Sept. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, No More Apologies: Inside Facebook’s Push to Defend Its Image, Ryan Mac and Sheera Frenkel, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, has signed off on an effort to show users pro-Facebook stories and to distance himself from scandals.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, signed off last month on a new initiative code-named Project Amplify.

The effort, which was hatched at an internal meeting in January, had a specific purpose: to use Facebook’s News Feed, the site’s most important digital real estate, to show people positive stories about the social network.

facebook logoThe idea was that pushing pro-Facebook news items — some of them written by the company — would improve its image in the eyes of its users, three people with knowledge of the effort said. But the move was sensitive because Facebook had not previously positioned the News Feed as a place where it burnished its own reputation. Several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal, one attendee said.

Project Amplify punctuated a series of decisions that Facebook has made this year to aggressively reshape its image. Since that January meeting, the company has begun a multipronged effort to change its narrative by distancing Mr. Zuckerberg from scandals, reducing outsiders’ access to internal data, burying a potentially negative report about its content and increasing its own advertising to showcase its brand.

The moves amount to a broad shift in strategy. For years, Facebook confronted crisis after crisis over privacy, misinformation and hate speech on its platform by publicly apologizing. Mr. Zuckerberg personally took responsibility for Russian interference on the site during the 2016 presidential election and has loudly stood up for free speech online. Facebook also promised transparency into the way that it operated.

But the drumbeat of criticism on issues as varied as racist speech and vaccine misinformation has not relented. Disgruntled Facebook employees have added to the furor by speaking out against their employer and leaking internal documents. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published articles based on such documents that showed Facebook knew about many of the harms it was causing.

So Facebook executives, concluding that their methods had done little to quell criticism or win supporters, decided early this year to go on the offensive, said six current and former employees, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Those Fancy Cars He Flaunted on YouTube? A $30 Million Fraud Scheme Paid for Them, U.S. Says, Michael Levenson, Sept. 22, 2021. A flamboyant YouTuber known as Omi in a Hellcat was charged with illegally selling copyrighted TV shows and movies through an online service, prosecutors said.

On YouTube, he was known as Omi in a Hellcat, a flamboyant business mogul in diamond-studded jewelry who commanded a fleet of luxury cars including Lamborghinis and ran his own clothing line and restaurant.

But even as he lounged in his sprawling suburban home and showed off his rotating collection of high-end sports cars, he acknowledged that the federal government was closing in.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors said that they had charged Omi, whose real name is Bill Omar Carrasquillo, and two of his associates, in a scheme that involved illegally selling copyrighted video content to thousands of subscribers on Mr. Carrasquillo’s own online service, which was called, at various times, Reboot, Gears TV, Reloaded and Gears Reloaded.

The scheme netted Mr. Carrasquillo and his associates more than $30 million from about March 2016 until at least November 2019, according to prosecutors. Mr. Carrasquillo, 35, of Swedesboro, N.J., used the money to buy houses and dozens of cars, including the ones that he regularly flaunted on his YouTube channel, prosecutors said.

Digital piracy schemes have proliferated in recent years, and a 2019 report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that they cost the American economy at least $29.2 billion a year.

Donte Mills, Mr. Carrasquillo’s lawyer, said his client denied the charges.

“Mr. Carrasquillo tapped into a brand-new, unregulated industry and was very successful,” Mr. Mills said in a statement. “Most people are called pioneers when they do that; Omar is called a criminal."

Sept. 21

megyn kelly fox newsPalmer Report, Commentary: Megyn Kelly flips out, Bocha Blue, Sept. 21, 2021. I want to start this article with a quote: “O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face! Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave?” This is a quote from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. There are many quotes that hold so much meaning within the sparse but poetic words. This is one such quote. There seem to be certain people whose serpent hearts have indeed been hidden away, but one cannot ignore their manifestations now. One such person is Megyn Kelly.

bill palmer report logo headerI have written about her before and that is because her behavior must be called out. She is doing much to divide us, just like her former coworkers at FOX are. Kelly went off the rails this week. Declaring that most News Networks are not to be trusted, Kelly launched a series of vile attacks on several anchors. They include Joy Reid, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon. Notice how two of the three are people of color.

I believe it is jealousy that is playing a huge role in the cancelled Kelly’s anger. Obviously, she cannot find a respectable job. Who would have her? But I also want to tell you about a beautiful article I once read. It was actually all about Lemon.

It was written by a good friend of Lemon’s, and one of its quotes is this: “We were destined to like each other.” It was a lovely article. You know who wrote it? Megyn Kelly. That’s right. The two were good friends. But now Kelly is out of the mainstream news. When people get bitter that is often when the serpent rears its ugly head. And each time it does, it’s essential that the hissing serpent gets called out.

Sept. 20

Palmer Report, Opinion: The part everybody got wrong about the California recall race, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 20, 2021. Sometimes all you can do is chuckle at the bill palmerpredictability of it all. If Gavin Newsom had lost the California recall race, or if he had even come remotely close to losing, every major media outlet would have run headlines about how it spelled doom for the Democrats in the 2022 midterms. But with Newsom having won by about twenty-seven points, the mainstream media was quick to stress that this didn’t mean anything positive for the Democrats in 2022.

bill palmer report logo headerWe see these kinds of slanted headlines time and again from the media, nearly always insisting that every new development is somehow bad for the Democrats. Even when the Democrats score an obvious victory, the media nearly always downplays it. There’s a reason for this, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the media favoring the Republicans.

danny fenster

ny times logoNew York Times, An American Journalist Sits in Prison as Myanmar Suppresses Dissent, Richard C. Paddock, Sept. 20, 2021. Danny Fenster, an American journalist who was arrested in May as he prepared to leave Myanmar, was ordered Monday to remain in prison as police investigate a vague accusation that he disseminated information that could be harmful to the military.

The court hearing marked his 120th day in custody. Mr. Fenster, shown above in a file photo, is the only American known to be under arrest in Myanmar, and has become an international symbol of the military junta’s crackdown on free expression.

No formal charge has been filed against the Detroit native. No evidence has been presented against him at any of his eight court appearances, which are conducted by video and last only a few minutes. He is not permitted to speak or ask questions and has rarely met with his attorney since his arrest on May 24.

Mr. Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, is accused of disseminating information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties, a charge often brought against journalists in the Southeast Asian nation. He faces three years in prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos pledges $1 billion to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea, Jay Greene and Steven Mufson, Sept. 20, 2021.Bezos’s large donations are transforming climate philanthropy — even as Amazon’s cloud-computing business and shipping operations have a significant carbon footprint.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos earmarked $1 billion of his $10 billion environmental philanthropy to conservation efforts Monday afternoon, aiming to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030 in an effort to prevent mass extinctions.

amazon logo smallThe Bezos Earth Fund, which he formed in 2020, did not identify any of the groups or initiatives it intends to back with the new donations. It said, in a news release, only that it will prioritize “areas that are important for biodiversity and carbon stocks and will give emphasis to the central role of local communities and Indigenous peoples in conservation efforts.” It added that the philanthropy will focus on the Congo Basin, the tropical Andes and the tropical Pacific Ocean.

“By coming together with the right focus and ingenuity, we can have both the benefits of our modern lives and a thriving natural world,” Bezos said in a statement. “I hope this commitment inspires others to make their own pledges to protect and conserve nature and help in the fight against climate change. A job this big needs many allies.”

Sept. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Facebook, Google and Twitter are the new ‘oligarchy of speech,’ George F. Will, right, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As the price of something george f willprecious, the dissemination of speech, declines steeply, society is facing some disquieting consequences of the cheap speech that the Internet enables. Among the anomalous responses are conservatives demanding new government regulations of privately owned but liberal-leaning businesses (Facebook, Google, Twitter). And liberals, who excoriated the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that corporations and unions have a constitutional right to fund speech about political candidates (independent of the candidates’ campaigns), are defending the freedom of some enormous corporations to influence political speech.

Such oddities are explored by Eugene Volokh in “What Cheap Speech Has Done: (Greater) Equality and Its Discontents” in the UC Davis Law Review. Volokh, law professor at UCLA, notes that the Internet, by making it possible for almost anyone to speak to many others, has radically reduced the importance of the “oligarchy of speech” that existed when large media entities acted as gatekeepers to the public forum.

Says Volokh, “Oligarchy, how quickly many have come to miss you!” Here are some reasons why.

facebook logoWhile the “old expensive-speech system” may have seemed “undemocratic,” at least the media owners were disciplined by market forces (loss of their audience’s confidence could be costly), they valued their reputations, and because they had financial assets, they were disciplined by the risk of liability for, say, libel. The democratic and egalitarian Internet has, Volokh says, “the vices of those virtues.” The mainstream media had defects, but, says Volokh, they “didn’t offer much of a voice to people obsessed with private grievances, or to outright kooks, or to the overly credulous spreaders of conspiracy theories.”

Many people who spread hoaxes and “fake news” with a few clicks have no significant assets, financial or reputational, that are risked by issuing, say, defamatory falsehoods. The First Amendment generally protects reckless speech by the credulous or malicious from criminalization. And a controversial 1996 statute stipulates that Internet content and service providers do not have the legal status of publishers or speakers of material posted by others.

Hence, says Volokh, “for much online material, there is no potential institutional defendant who might be held accountable.” Thus there is no “incentive to police speech.”

So, “courts have shifted to a remedy that had long been seen as categorically forbidden — injunctions against libel,” whereby continuing to libel someone becomes criminal contempt. Although modern laws against “criminal harassment” and “cyberstalking” were written to prohibit unwanted speech to a person (e.g., telephone harassment), some courts have used them — this is constitutionally problematic — against speech about a person.

Laws also can protect against invasions of privacy. North Dakota criminalizes intentionally or recklessly engaging in “harassing conduct by means of intrusive or unwanted … words” that annoy or alarm a person by affecting his or her privacy. Minnesota lets judges enjoin “repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted” words intended to adversely affect a person’s privacy. Volokh says “the era of ‘cheap speech’ has pushed courts and legislatures to criminalization — either through specific statutes or through the use of injunctions backed by the threat of criminal contempt — in order to deal with the danger posed by judgment-proof speakers,” of whom “there are millions.”

Newspapers, which cost money to publish and make money from advertisers and subscribers, are accountable in multiple ways. But because Internet users can speak cheaply and without persuading “any intermediary about the worth of their speech, judges are likely to see much more speech that seems pointless and ill-motivated.” Volokh is rightly uneasy about courts enforcing such judgments. Today, however, three non-government intermediaries — Facebook, Google, Twitter — mean that control “is more oligarchical than ever.”

Sept. 16

microsoft logo Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Microsoft is going password-free for consumer accounts, Sept. 16, 2021. You’ve got a lot of passwords to keep track of for your online bank account, insurance company, social media profiles and even your kid’s school software. But starting today, your Microsoft account doesn’t have to be one of them.

The company said Wednesday that it is officially retiring written passwords for personal accounts, including Outlook, OneDrive and Family Safety. Corporate accounts have been eligible for password-free sign-on since March.

The change comes as the entire IT industry rethinks its decades-long reliance on “shared secret” passwords — or the kind you have to remember. People have a tendency to lose and forget them, creating extra costs and headaches for companies and customers alike.

“We know people hate passwords,” Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of security, compliance and identity, said in an emailed statement. “Thirty percent of people said they just have stopped using an account or service they were trying to log into rather than deal with a password reset. I’ve even done that. Imagine the shopping carts, memberships or accounts that have been abandoned because of password issues.”

pennsylvania map major cities

washington post logoWashington Post, Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers approve wide-ranging subpoenas for personal information of 2020 voters, Elise Viebeck and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania on Wednesday approved subpoenas for a wide range of data and personal information on voters, advancing a probe of the 2020 election in a key battleground state former president Donald Trump has repeatedly targeted with baseless claims of fraud.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted and said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called Wednesday’s vote “merely another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections and to capitulate to Donald tom wolf o CustomTrump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.”

Wolf, right, added in a statement, “Election security is not a game and should not be treated with such carelessness. Senate Republican[s] should be ashamed of their latest attempt to destabilize our election system through a sham investigation that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

But Sen. Cris Dush, the Republican chairman of the committee that approved the subpoena, argued during the hearing that the information is needed because “there have been questions regarding the validity of people who have voted — whether or not they exist.”

“Again, we are not responding to proven allegations. We are investigating the allegations to determine whether or not they are factual,” he said, adding that the vetting process for outside vendors will be “rigorous.”

Judges, including on the Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Courts, have denied bids by Trump and his allies to overturn President Biden’s win in the state or invalidate millions of ballots.

Yet in Pennsylvania and other battleground states, Republican legislators have bowed to pressure from Trump and his base to investigate the results, despite a consensus among judges, election officials and experts that there was no widespread fraud in the election.

In Wisconsin, protesters gathered at the state Capitol last week to call for a ballot review like the one conducted in Arizona and push for an examination of voting machines. As of late last month, multiple reviews were ongoing in the state — including one by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and one led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman, whose approach recently raised fresh concerns with some election clerks.

In Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Wednesday, the Intergovernmental Operations Committee voted 7 to 4 to subpoena Wolf’s administration after a testy debate. In addition to voters’ records, the subpoenas for the Pennsylvania Department of State also request all guidance issued to counties, as well as communications between the Department of State and county election officials, for the period covering the two votes.

Wednesday’s party-line vote advanced the GOP probe, which state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) has promised will be a “full forensic investigation” of the 2020 election.

After the vote, Corman sought to allay fears that Pennsylvania voter information could be vulnerable if obtained by the committee.

“Every necessary step will be taken to ensure this information is secure, including making any vendor personnel sign non-disclosure agreements to make sure the data are protected under penalty of law,” he said in a statement.

Republicans also emphasized that the subpoena would not seek information about voters’ party affiliation. But Dush declined to answer further questions from Democrats, including about the outside vendors he is considering to handle the data.

“What you’re now describing sounds very much to me like a partisan investigation,” said state Sen. Steven Santarsiero (D), noting that the subpoenas could cover information for “nearly 7 million Pennsylvanians.”

That hearing’s only witness — Stuart Ulsh, chairman of the county commission in rural Fulton County where Trump’s margin of victory was larger than anywhere else in the state — testified that people in his community had vowed never to vote again because of what they had heard about the 2020 election.

Neither Ulsh nor the committee’s Republican senators acknowledged that Trump has been responsible for spreading misinformation about the election or that many previous reviews of Pennsylvania’s results have confirmed Biden’s victory.

In an interview, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) called the hearing “a dud.” Shapiro said his office would carefully review any election-related subpoenas issued by the legislature, particularly any that sought tabulating machines or ballots. “I would expect a subpoena like that to face litigation,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle That Is Reshaping the Internet, Brian X. Chen, Sept. 16, 2021. As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the implications, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul. Apple introduced a pop-up window for iPhones in April that asks people for their permission to be tracked by different apps.

twitter bird CustomGoogle recently outlined plans to disable a tracking technology in its Chrome web browser.

And Facebook said last month that hundreds of its engineers were working on a new method of showing ads without relying on people’s personal data.

The developments may seem like technical tinkering, but they were connected to something bigger: an intensifying battle over the future of the internet. The struggle has entangled tech titans, upended Madison Avenue and disrupted small businesses. And it heralds a profound shift in how people’s personal information may be used online, with sweeping implications for the ways that businesses make money digitally.

facebook logoAt the center of the tussle is what has been the internet’s lifeblood: advertising.

More than 20 years ago, the internet drove an upheaval in the advertising industry. It eviscerated newspapers and magazines that had relied on selling classified and print ads, and threatened to dethrone television advertising as the prime way for marketers to reach large audiences.

google logo customInstead, brands splashed their ads across websites, with their promotions often tailored to people’s specific interests. Those digital ads powered the growth of Facebook, Google and Twitter, which offered their search and social networking services to people without charge. But in exchange, people were tracked from site to site by technologies such as “cookies,” and their personal data was used to target them with relevant marketing.

Now that system, which ballooned into a $350 billion digital ad industry, is being dismantled. Driven by online privacy fears, Apple and Google have started revamping the rules around online data collection. Apple, citing the mantra of privacy, has rolled out tools that block marketers from tracking people. apple logo rainbowGoogle, which depends on digital ads, is trying to have it both ways by reinventing the system so it can continue aiming ads at people without exploiting access to their personal data.

If personal information is no longer the currency that people give for online content and services, something else must take its place. Media publishers, app makers and e-commerce shops are now exploring different paths to surviving a privacy-conscious internet, in some cases overturning their business models. Many are choosing to make people pay for what they get online by levying subscription fees and other charges instead of using their personal data.

djt evander holyfield vitor belfortMediaite, Trump-Announced Evander Holyfield Boxing Match Reportedly a Box Office Dud, Nets a Paltry 150k Pay-Per-View Buys, Brandon Contes, Sept. 16, 2021. Former US President Donald Trump poses for a photo prior to the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

In a fight that never should have happened, Evander Holyfield was embarrassed in his return to the ring last week against Vitor Belfort, getting KO’d in the first round. But the real loser might be Triller Fight Club.

According to boxing journalist Dan Rafael, sources say the fight generated around 150,000 PPV buys. If that number holds, it will represent a massive fail for Triller, who promoted and sold the PPV event for $49.99.

Per sources, #HolyfieldBelfort event totaled about 150k PPV buys between linear & digital platforms, which would make it a massive $ loser for Triller. At 150k it would gross about $7.5M from ppv, not remotely close to covering even the purses, not to mention rest of expenses.

— Dan Rafael (@DanRafael1) September 16, 2021

In comparison, Mike Tyson’s return to the ring against Roy Jones Jr. last year surpassed a reported 1.6 million PPV buys, or more than 10 times the reported amount of Triller’s Holyfield bout.

Triller brought former president Donald Trump on board last week, in a desperate attempt to add juice to the fight and provide alternate commentary of the event. The former president’s boxing prowess dates back decades, having welcomed some of the world’s best fighters to Trump Plaza in Atlantic City long before the dying venue imploded earlier this year.

But even Trump, who loves to falsely criticize other sports for their dwindling popularity by invoking the “go woke, go broke” narrative, wasn’t enough of a draw to help this dud of a boxing match. While the NBA and NFL watch their TV ratings start to bounce back from a deplorable 2020, the Triller-Trump partnership just oversaw an epic fail for boxing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Donald Trump’s boxing match stunt was a money losing disaster for everyone involved, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. Given Donald Trump’s treasonous acts against the United States, anyone who even tries to do business with him should be financially shunned by every mainstream American on principle alone. Even as we continue working toward that goal, it turns out Trump’s own inherent toxicity and crappiness is working to make sure his financial partners end up punished.

bill palmer report logo headerTake for instance, the disgusting decision to allow career criminal Donald Trump to provide pay per view commentary for a boxing match this past week. Mediaite is reporting that just a relative handful of people paid to tune in for Trump’s incoherent commentary, and the whole thing has apparently turned into a major financial loss for the promoters. In other words, the promoters got exactly what they deserved.

Hopefully this will send a message to anyone else who thinks about partnering with anti-American traitor Donald Trump going forward. His base is comparatively small, and even they seem increasingly uninterested in his ramblings. And the vast majority of the country wants nothing to do with Trump, or with anyone disgusting enough to partner with Trump. The traitor is a terrible financial bet. Then again, he always has been.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘CUT HIM OFF NOW!’ Newsmax Host Short-Circuits After Guest Commits Unforgivable Sin of Criticizing Trump, Ken Meyer, Sept. 16, 2021. Newsmax’s Grant Stinchfield had a major-league meltdown where he screamed and cut off a guest on his show for mildly criticizing Donald Trump over the former president’s approach to Afghanistan.

Stinchfield spoke on Wednesday night with Joe Saboe, an Iraq War veteran who recently made headlines for his efforts to help people flee Afghanistan in light of the Taliban’s national takeover.

During the interview, Stinchfield and Saboe had a dispute about whether the current state of affairs in Afghanistan is a “hostage situation,” and the Newsmax host eventually made the argument that Trump would’ve never let this happen.

I can tell you, this didn’t happen under President Trump, and I know there’s a lot of people on the Left that want to try to blame President Trump. He wanted out of Afghanistan real bad. He was real frustrated, not being able to get out, but he didn’t pull out because he knew this would happen. In fact, we all did.

Stinchfield moved to dismiss Saboe from the show, but before he could, Saboe offered a counterpoint by saying “we followed this closely from multiple administrations. We know that Trump’s administration’s efforts here were fairly weak, that they were trying to limit the number of people that would get out…”

At that moment, Stinchfield claimed he was “low on time” and once again moved to terminate the segment. Saboe kept on speaking though, which caused Stinchfield to repeatedly shout “Cut him off now!”

“You’re not gonna blame this on President Trump on my show!” He exclaimed. “Don’t come on this program and take the talking points of the left and blame President Trump! That’s not helping anybody!”

Stinchfield concluded by shouting that “the Biden administration screwed this up from the very start,” and he also took some parting shots at Saboe for disagreeing with his “hostage situation” commentary.

Daily Beast, Facebook Boots Anti-Vax Group With New 'Social Harm' Rules, Adam Rawnsley, Sept. 16, 2021. Facebook’s “Coordinated Social Harm” policy ratchets up the pressure on some of the most extreme, anti-vax, hate speech, and election misinformation groups.

daily beast logoIn a move that will crack down on some of the most extreme and well-organized extremist groups, Facebook’s security team said Thursday that it will more aggressively go after groups that engage in “Coordinated Social Harm”—a term aimed at online clubs that are evading the company’s existing rules while engaged in threatening offline behavior.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, outlined a three-part test in a phone call with reporters to define what qualifies as coordinated social harm under the new enforcement regimen. First, groups must “have a systemic history of violations on our platform,” are “tightly coordinated on our platform working together to either evade our enforcement or maintain their persistence on our platform,” and are contributing to or driving significant social harm.”

facebook logoExamples of the kinds of “significant social harm” that could violate the policy, according to Gleicher, include “accelerating violence or undermining trust in critical medical understanding or could include presenting violence as a legitimate response to address government programs.”

While the new policy applies to a range of groups involved in offending behaviors, anti-vax activists served as the first case for enforcement under the new policy.

A case in point is the German group “Querdenken,” a conspiracy movement that protested lockdown rules and vaccines, and is known for organizing protests which frequently turn violent and attract members of the country’s far-right and QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Querdenken served as the first case for the rollout of the new policy, Gleicher said. And while the definition of coordinated social harm is broad enough to encompass groups involved in a range of activities, the new policy is likely to cause problems for the most severe anti-vaccine groups, many of which have already repeatedly tangled with the company’s moderation and security teams.

Gleicher said Querdenken activists “typically portrayed violence as the way to overturn the pandemic-related government measures limiting personal freedoms” and “engaged in physical violence against journalists, police, and medical practitioners in Germany.”

Sept. 15

Politico, Court reinstates Nunes suit over reporter's tweet, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 15, 2021. 8th Circuit says journalist Ryan Lizza republished story about lawmaker's family by highlighting it on social media.

A federal appeals court has rejected Rep. Devin Nunes' defamation suit over a magazine story about his relatives in Iowa, but the court revived the lawmaker's claim that he was libeled when a reporter linked to the story in a tweet more than a year after it was first published.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a lower court judge correctly sided with reporter Ryan Lizza over the 2018 Esquire article, "Milking the System," about how members of Nunes' family quietly moved their farming operations to Iowa. However, the three-judge panel said that when Lizza tweeted out a link to the story late the following year, he essentially republished the story after Nunes (R-Calif.) had filed suit over it, rejecting what he said was an implication that the Iowa farm employed undocumented immigrants.

"The complaint here adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article," Judge Steven Colloton wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Lavenski Smith and Ralph Erickson. "Lizza tweeted the article in November 2019 after Nunes filed this lawsuit and denied the article’s implication. The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth.'"

Colloton acknowledged that other courts have ruled that merely posting a new link to an old story doesn't necessarily constitute republishing it, but he said those decisions didn't foreclose the possibility it could sometimes be a republication.

Nunes' suit against Lizza and Esquire's publisher, Hearst Magazine Media, was one of a flurry of defamation cases he filed in 2019 against reporters, media entities and others, arguing that he was being trashed because of his support for President Donald Trump in ongoing investigations of Trump's ties to Russia. Many of the cases have been dropped or dismissed.

Lizza, who joined POLITICO as chief Washington correspondent in August 2019, declined to comment. Attorneys for Hearst who have represented Lizza in the suit did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Nunes' attorney, Steven Biss of Charlottesville, Va., did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the decision.

One First Amendment expert expressed concern about the decision and said the case would merit review by the full bench of the 8th Circuit.

"It’s certainly a novel application of a couple of important libel doctrines, and a potentially troublesome one if the 8th Circuit’s ruling is allowed to stand," said Chip Stewart, a professor at Texas Christian University. "It’s an odd kind of bootstrapping argument. Nunes claims the underlying article is false. He sues over it. Lizza tweets the exact same story after the lawsuit is filed. And what was originally not actual malice now all of a sudden is, at least plausibly enough for a lawsuit to advance to further costly litigation. All over a tweet that changed nothing about the original story."

One curious aspect of the ruling is that it appears to open the door to lawsuits against anyone who tweeted or retweeted the original story with knowledge of Nunes' lawsuit, and to similar claims over members of the public or those with significant social media followings tweeting or retweeting stories after learning that the subject of the story is disputing it in some way.

If the decision stands, the suit would be returned to a district court judge for further proceedings. The appeals court decision did not find Lizza or Hearst liable for the retweet but left those issues for the district judge to revisit.

Stewart said the appeals court's ruling is also disturbing because it allows Nunes, a sitting member of Congress, to press on with his legal campaign against his critics.

Colloton and Smith are appointees of former President George W. Bush. Erickson was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Sept. 14djt melania trump filePalmer Report, Opinion: Melania Trump just got sold out, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 14, 2021. It’s exceedingly rare that I write about Melania Trump these days because, well, bill palmerwhy would I write about her? She’s simply no longer relevant in almost anything she says or does. But there was one development yesterday that’s notable not so much because it involves Melania, but because it’s yet another example of what happens to rats on a sinking ship.

If you’re not exactly sure what Stephanie Grisham did in the Trump White House, that’s because she never really did whatever it was she was supposed to be doing. For instance, she was White House Press Secretary for a good amount of time, but never held a single press briefing. Mostly she worked for Melania Trump, doing everything she could to cover for Melania’s inherent crappiness.

bill palmer report logo headerSo you’d expect Grisham to remain personally loyal to Melania to the end, right? After all, her entire Trump White House career was based on her personal loyalty to Melania. But no, that’s not how anything works when it comes to terrible people.

With Donald and Melania Trump now both out of a job, it seems Stephanie Grisham has also found that her career viability in politics is at an end. So she’s doing what crappy political figures do when their viability is over: they cash out with a lucrative book deal. And in Grisham’s case, she’s cashing out at Melania’s expense.

stephanie grisham unsourced CustomIn her upcoming book, Stephanie Grisham (shown at right in a file photo) reportedly says that when the January 6th Capitol attack was happening, she texted Melania and asked her if she wanted to put out a statement condemning the criminality and violence. Melania’s response: “No.”

Why should we care about this? It serves to underscore what a terrible and pathetic person Melania Trump is – but we already knew that. The real story here is that yet another Trump underling is selfishly selling out the Trumps, now that it’s obvious to everyone involved that Team Trump has no future anyway. The ship is sinking, and the rats are eating each other.

Sept. 13

nso group logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw, Nicole Perlroth, Sept. 13, 2021. Apple issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.

Apple’s security team had worked around the clock to develop a fix since Tuesday, after researchers at Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto, discovered that a Saudi activist’s iPhone had been infected with an advanced form of spyware from NSO.

The spyware, called Pegasus, used a novel method to invisibly infect Apple devices without victims’ knowledge. Known as a “zero click remote exploit,” it is apple logo rainbowconsidered the Holy Grail of surveillance because it allows governments, mercenaries and criminals to secretly break into someone’s device without tipping the victim off.

Using the zero-click infection method, Pegasus can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send them back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.

“This spyware can do everything an iPhone user can do on their device and more,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who teamed up israel flagwith Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, on the finding.

The discovery means that more than 1.65 billion Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable to NSO’s spyware since at least March. It signals a serious escalation in the cybersecurity arms race, with governments willing to pay whatever it takes to spy on digital communications en masse, and with tech companies, human rights activists and others racing to uncover and fix the latest vulnerabilities that enable such surveillance.

 

george soros uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, The Great Read, George Soros Is Making Changes at His Foundation While He Still Can, Nicholas Kulish, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The result at his left-leaning foundation is a painful restructuring to focus on the fight against rising authoritarianism around the world.

The mass email that went out to Open Society Foundations’ grant recipients in the United States in March began with an upbeat note about “how resistance is translating into real progress.”

The bad news was buried farther down. The left-leaning foundation — started by the billionaire investor George Soros (above) and today the second-largest private charitable foundation in the United States — was beginning a transformation, as officials there refer to their restructuring plan. So, the email said, “the nature of many partnerships will shift.”

What that actually meant in practice only became clear amid a flurry of phone calls between concerned nonprofit leaders and foundation staff in the days that followed. Many of the nonprofit groups that relied on support from Open Society were getting what were called “tie-off grants,” a final year or so of funding to ease the blow of getting cut off. The foundation set aside an enormous $400 million for what amounted to severance payments to organizations around the world, and more than 150 foundation employees took buyouts as part of the restructuring.

Grant recipients in public health said they were stunned to be told during a global pandemic that they would be losing funding. Others supporting refugees were similarly surprised given the worldwide needs of the refugee population and the fact that Mr. Soros himself was a refugee from communism.

For years, Mr. Soros watched the world march in fits and starts toward the vision of open, pluralistic democracy that he has embraced since he was a young Hungarian Holocaust survivor studying philosophy.

The changes at the Open Society Foundations are a painful but necessary adjustment, its leaders say, because that march has halted. Now, with its founder in his 90s, the foundation — and the world — confronts rising authoritarianism and deeply divided civil societies. In the United States, that means that Mr. Soros’s work on progressive causes has made him a target of right-wing conspiracy theories.

fec logo black background Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, The F.E.C. dismisses claims that Twitter illegally blocked a Hunter Biden article, Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 13, 2021. The commission’s ruling provides further flexibility to social media giants to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed Republican accusations that Twitter violated election laws in October by blocking people from posting links to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden, in a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns.

The F.E.C. determined that Twitter’s actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable, according to a document outlining the decision obtained by The New York Times.

twitter bird CustomThe commission’s ruling, which was made last month behind closed doors and is set to become public soon, provides further flexibility to social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The suppression of the article about Hunter Biden caused an avalanche of conservative criticism in October and prompted accusations that the tech company was improperly aiding the Biden presidential campaign, including a formal complaint by the Republican National Committee that said Twitter’s actions amounted to an “illegal in-kind contribution” to the campaign.

But the F.E.C. disagreed. The commission said Twitter had “credibly explained” that blocking the article’s distribution was a commercial decision and that the move followed existing policies related to hacked materials, according to the “factual and legal analysis” provided to the parties involved in the complaint.

Twitter actually reversed course within a day of its decision to block distribution of the Hunter Biden article, and its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has called the initial move a “mistake.”

The F.E.C.’s official vote on the case — the commission is split equally between three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans — is not yet public, nor are any additional statements written by commissioners. Such statements often accompany the closure of cases and can provide further insight into the commission’s reasoning.

 

Best-selling author Michael Wolff's two 2021 books:

Best-selling author Michael Wolff's two 2021 books: "Landslide" and "Too Famous."

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Why Our Monsters Talk to Michael Wolff, Ben Smith, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). In his new book, the author of “Fire and Fury” continues his specialty: teasing out stories from men in power, our media columnist Ben Smith writes.

It’s early 2019, a few months before Jeffrey Epstein will be arrested on sex charges, and he is sitting in the vast study of his New York mansion with a camera pointed at him as he practices for a big “60 Minutes” interview that would never take place.

The media trainer is a familiar figure: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s campaign guru and onetime White House adviser. Mr. Bannon is both conducting the interview and coaching Mr. Epstein on the little things, telling him he will come across as stupid if he doesn’t look directly into the camera now and then, and advising him not to share his racist theories on how Black people learn. Mainly, Mr. Bannon tells Mr. Epstein, he should stick to his message, which is that he is not a pedophile. By the end, Mr. Bannon seems impressed.

“You’re engaging, you’re not threatening, you’re natural, you’re friendly, you don’t look at all creepy, you’re a sympathetic figure,” he says.

This explosive, previously unreported episode, linking a leader of the right with the now-dead disgraced financier, is tucked away at the end of a new book by Michael Wolff, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Damned. Mr. Bannon confirmed in a statement that he encouraged Mr. Epstein to speak to “60 Minutes” and said that he had recorded more than 15 hours of interviews with him.

michael wolff folded armsMr. Wolff, 68, left, has been at this since before I had a byline, infuriating his rivals by the access he gets, the stories he tells and the gleeful way he tells them. And he has been the subject of pieces like this one — scolding profiles of the journalist enfant terrible and New York media scenester — for decades.

He has managed to stay at the top of his game because of his undying interest and expertise in a particular subject: big, bad men. What Oprah Winfrey is to tearful celebrities and earnest royals, Mr. Wolff is to louche power players. The litany is astounding: Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Harvey Weinstein, Boris Johnson, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Trump. All appear in his new book, a collection of profiles, some previously published, some not.

Magnates seem to think Mr. Wolff gives them their best shot at a sympathetic portrait. He writes, in “Too Famous,” that Mr. Weinstein called him during his 2020 rape trial to propose a biography. “This book is worth millions,” Mr. Weinstein told him, according to Mr. Wolff. “You keep domestic, I’ll take foreign.” As for Mr. Epstein? “He wanted me to write something about him — a kind of a book — it wasn’t clear why,” Mr. Wolff told me.

Few women appear in “Too Famous.” Tina Brown, Arianna Huffington and Hillary Clinton are the exceptions. “These are the women, and there are not too many, who have done exactly what men would do,” he said. And Democrats rarely talk to him. “They don’t have a sense of play,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news networks started the ‘crawl’ on 9/11 to feed us constant information. It never went away, Paul Farhi, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Even after the news cycle slowed down, the constant scroll of headlines stokes a perpetual sense of potential crisis.

Fox News was the first that day. Some 50 minutes after the first tower collapsed, it cranked up a whizzing scroll of text across the bottom of the screen, fox news logo Smallsummarizing the horror of the morning for those still catching up.

A day of terror in the United States … it began. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York … WTC towers collapsed … Manhattan is sealed off …

CNN and MSNBC launched their crawls minutes later. NBC and CBS jumped in briefly. Local stations did so, too.

“It was an overwhelming story and people were desperate to know more,” said Jonathan Glenn, a vice president at Fox News who oversees the network’s news writing.

CNNFaced with a traumatized public that sought news and community in the hours and days after the attacks, the national broadcast and cable news networks dispensed with commercials and reported round-the clock for days on end. The crawls were an improvisational addition.

The crawl introduced viewers to a new, busier visual landscape long before there were smartphones, Twitter and Facebook and “second screens” to distract from the first screen. Bewildering as 9/11 was, TV news became even more frenetic and cluttered in its wake.

In the years after the terrorist attacks, the crawls remained, becoming little conveyor belts of doom and dread: Airstrikes resume Wednesday in Afghanistan … Two Washington postal workers die of anthrax … Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody … Washington area on edge as sniper manhunt continues …

Sept. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A make-or-break moment for our democracy, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Sept. 12, 2021. It’s a habit of journalism to declare nearly every ej dionne w open neckimpending period as a turning point, a “defining moment” that will set a nation or even the world on a course for years or decades to come.

The routinization of the momentous is mostly harmless, but over time it has a cost. Declaring too many junctures as decisive can lead us to overlook the ones that genuinely are.

Thus the importance of recognizing that the next month is make-or-break not only for President Biden and the future of American social policy but also for the right to vote and our democracy itself.

Failing to enact Democrats’ social policy plan would be a big problem. Failing to protect democratic rule would be catastrophic.

 

djt evander holyfield vitor belfort

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Talked as Holyfield Got Pummeled. Just Another Day in Boxing’s Absurd Summer, Kevin Draper, Sept. 12, 2021. Of course it was a circus (shown in a promotional ad above) — the kind that makes sense in boxing these days.

In a single zany sentence, this is how the once-promising summer of boxing ended: Triller, a social video app that is a much less popular version of TikTok, put on a pay-per-view fight between a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield (who hasn’t fought in a decade) and a 44-year-old mixed martial artist, Vitor Belfort — and paid former President Donald J. Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to serve as live commentators, all on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The result of the (legally) professional fight is mostly beside the point — Belfort won by a technical knockout in the first round, after the referee stopped the bout because of how clear it was that Holyfield never should have been allowed into the ring — but it served to underscore what could have been.

Earlier this year, Triller won the right to promote Teófimo López’s lightweight title defense against George Kambosos Jr. The app paid more than $6 million for the privilege, after the fight went to an open bid because López and his promoter, Top Rank, could not agree on a deal.

Triller had burst onto the boxing scene last winter, with an exhibition fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. The internet celebrity Jake Paul knocked out a former N.B.A. player, Nate Robinson, on the undercard, and the rappers Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and French Montana all performed between fights.

An optimist could see an evolution in how boxing was being presented: a brash entrant aiming to attract a new type — and a new generation — of fans to a sport that has been the subject of a thousand obituaries.

The López-Kambosos fight, then, was Triller’s chance to show that it was serious. That its foray into boxing was not just an expensive, attention-grabbing marketing strategy for its app — though it was definitely that — and that its flashy presentation would work for real fights, too, and that it had figured out something that traditional promoters like Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions had not.

As if to punctuate its seriousness, on June 1, Triller announced that it had hired the Boxing Hall of Fame announcer Jim Lampley to call the fight. Cast aspersions on Triller all you want, but Lampley calling a López title bout is a strong way to present a legitimate draw.

Alas, that announcement would be the high point.

The fight, scheduled for June 19, was pushed back to August after López tested positive for the coronavirus. It was moved again, to September, onto the same card featuring Oscar De La Hoya — who has not fought since George W. Bush was president — fighting Belfort. But that date did not work out — in theory, López will now fight in October — and then, last week, De La Hoya was hospitalized with the coronavirus, in what he said was a breakthrough infection.

On a week’s notice, Holyfield stepped in to fight Belfort instead. The bout, originally to take place in Los Angeles, was moved across the country to Florida after the California State Athletic Commission refused to sanction it — even as an exhibition. (In Florida, it counted as a pro fight.)

But we are not done yet. On Tuesday, Triller announced that Trump and Trump Jr. would commentate the fight. The next day, Lampley, objecting to the presence of the Trumps even though they were to be on a separate commentating stream, pulled out.

That is how Triller’s big summer showcase, to be voiced by Lampley, became three hours of Trump recalling different boxers he’d known and been friends with, before two depressing top bouts, both over in the first round, each of which featured one washed-up fighter beating another.

“They say there is a lot of people watching,” the former president said with a smile between fights. “I can’t imagine why.” The night was one of Trump’s highest-profile, and lengthiest, public appearances since leaving office, and a fairly rare event in light of his suspension from a number of social media sites.

 

evander holyfield vitor belfort cbs boxingCBS Boxing, Analysis: Holyfield vs. Belfort fight results: Ex-MMA star knocks out Evander Holyfield, while Anderson Silva shines, Brian Campbell, Sept. 12, 2021. The two quick fights headlined an event that will also be remembered for some odd moments.

Well, the good news is that no one got seriously injured. That's about the best thing one can say about Saturday's Triller Fight Club pay-per-view card from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.

MMA legend Vitor Belfort, above right, knocked out 58-year-old former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, left, in the main event and Anderson Silva continued to raise his stock on the boxing side of his post-UFC combat career in one of the most bizarre fight cards in recent memory.

Let's take a closer look at what we learned following this circus from south Florida.

  1. Triller is the bottom of the combat sports food chain
  2. Let's be happy for Holyfield it wasn't much worse
  3. Consider Anderson Silva the new face of the celebrity boxing era

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news networks started the ‘crawl’ on 9/11 to feed us constant information. It never went away, Paul Farhi, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Even after the news cycle slowed down, the constant scroll of headlines stokes a perpetual sense of potential crisis.

Fox News was the first that day. Some 50 minutes after the first tower collapsed, it cranked up a whizzing scroll of text across the bottom of the screen, summarizing the horror of the morning for those still catching up.

A day of terror in the United States … it began. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York … WTC towers collapsed … Manhattan is sealed off …

CNN and MSNBC launched their crawls minutes later. NBC and CBS jumped in briefly. Local stations did so, too.

“It was an overwhelming story and people were desperate to know more,” said Jonathan Glenn, a vice president at Fox News who oversees the network’s news writing.

Faced with a traumatized public that sought news and community in the hours and days after the attacks, the national broadcast and cable news networks dispensed with commercials and reported round-the clock for days on end. The crawls were an improvisational addition.

The crawl introduced viewers to a new, busier visual landscape long before there were smartphones, Twitter and Facebook and “second screens” to distract from the first screen. Bewildering as 9/11 was, TV news became even more frenetic and cluttered in its wake.

In the years after the terrorist attacks, the crawls remained, becoming little conveyor belts of doom and dread: Airstrikes resume Wednesday in Afghanistan … Two Washington postal workers die of anthrax … Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody … Washington area on edge as sniper manhunt continues …

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, center, performing in Accra.Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, center, performing in Accra.

The Guardian, Louis Armstrong and the spy: how the CIA used him as a ‘trojan horse’ in Congo, Jason Burke, Sept. 12, 2021. Book reveals how the jazz musician unwittingly became party to secret cold war manoeuvres by the US in Africa.

It was a memorable evening: Louis Armstrong, his wife and a diplomat from the US embassy were out for dinner in a restaurant in what was still Léopoldville, capital of the newly independent Congo.

The trumpeter, singer and band leader, nicknamed Satchmo as a child, was in the middle of a tour of Africa that would stretch over months, organised and sponsored by the State Department in a bid to improve the image of the US in dozens of countries which had just won freedom from colonial regimes.

CIA LogoWhat Armstrong did not know was that his host that night in November 1960 was not the political attaché as described, but the head of the CIA in Congo. He was also totally unaware of how his fame had allowed the spy who was making small talk across the starters to gain crucial information that would facilitate some of the most controversial operations of the entire cold war.

“Armstrong was basically a Trojan horse for the CIA. It’s genuinely heartbreaking. He was brought in to serve an interest that was completely contrary to his own sense of what was right or wrong. He would have been horrified,” said Susan Williams, a research fellow at London University’s School of Advanced Study and author of White Malice, a new book which exposes the astonishing extent of the CIA’s activities across central and west Africa in the 1950s and early 60s.

Documents found by Williams in the archives of the UN during five years of research strongly suggest that the Armstrongs’ host, CIA station chief Larry Devlin, and other US intelligence officers posted to Congo used the cover of the musicians’s visit to get access to the strategically important and very wealthy province of Katanga, which had recently seceded. The US, though sympathetic to the agenda of the province’s leader, had not officially recognised the self-declared government there.

There was much of interest to the CIA in Katanga, ranging from senior officials with whom they could not otherwise meet to crucial mining infrastructure, with 1,500 tons of uranium and vast potential to procure more. Armstrong’s tour to Katanga was the perfect opportunity, so Devlin and others flew down from the capital with the musician and his famous band. “They needed a cover and this gave them one,” said Williams.

There was something else that Armstrong, who had pulled out of a similar tour to the Soviet Union three years earlier in protest at racism in the US, did not know. The CIA in the Congo, led by Devlin, was trying to kill the Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister, 35-year-old Patrice Lumumba, fearful that he would lead the country into the Soviet camp. Historians now believe the nationalist leader wanted his country to remain neutral in the cold war.

patrice lumumba raising arms 1960Just a mile or so from where Armstrong and Devlin had dined, the charismatic Lumumba was being held prisoner in his official residence by soldiers loyal to Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, the young military chief with a close working relationship with the CIA, who had effectively seized power some weeks earlier.

Within two months of Armstrong’s tour, Lumumba (shown at left in a 1960 file photo) was murdered in Katanga by officials of the breakaway province and police officers from Belgium. Mobutu would later consolidate his hold on Congo, and become a loyal US client.

Devlin later claimed that the CIA was responsible, telling a US Congressional investigation “that the coup of Mobutu … was arranged and supported, and indeed, managed, by the CIA”.

Daily Beast, Pranksters Dupe Newsmax Into Interviewing Fake Paul Wolfowitz—Twice, Justin Baragona, Updated Sept. 12, 2021. Three weeks after falling for an obvious prank, right-wing cable news outlet Newsmax was embarrassingly duped by the same trick when they interviewed someone they believed was former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz—who promptly called the conservative network “a much bigger threat to America than the hijackers of 9/11.”

Following the fall of Kabul and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, cable news has been flooded with commentary from the original architects of the War on Terror. In that same vein, on August 21, Newsmax sought out an interview with Wolfowitz to discuss the end of the war in Afghanistan, only to get in touch with a group of pranksters known as The Yes Men.

daily beast logoAs first reported by Mediaite, according to the pranksters, Newsmax anchor Tom Basile and his producers ended up chatting online with Yes Men member Andy Bichlbaum, whose original plan was to pose as a “colleague” of Wolfowitz’s from the American Enterprise Institute. (Wolfowitz is a senior fellow at the think tank.)

Citing “internet trouble” as the reason the ex-Bush administration official supposedly couldn’t take part in the interview, Bichlbaum attempted to convince Basile’s team to interview him as Wolfowitz’s fake colleague instead. The producers, however, declined that offer and “suggested just patching Wolfowitz through on the phone.” What resulted was an 11-minute on-air interview with Basile, with Bichlbaum impersonating Wolfowitz.

Basile, who claims he knows Wolfowitz personally, never noticed or acknowledged that Bichlbaum’s voice didn’t sound anything like his supposed friend’s. On top of that, the fake Wolfowitz was purposely pushing a new “conservative angle,” as Bichlbaum later described it, throughout the entire conversation.

Claiming that Americans had “nothing else to be proud of” due to the end of the 20-year-war, the Wolfowitz impersonator then suggested that the next time the United States thinks of spending $2 trillion on fighting overseas it instead invests that money into domestic infrastructure and health care. Despite these positions being completely contradictory to Wolfowitz’s actual views, Basile ate it all up and never caught on that he was speaking to a phony.

Fast forward three weeks and Newsmax decided to once again call up “Wolfowitz,” this time to talk about the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Even though The Yes Men had immediately publicized their Aug. 21 prank after it occurred, and the real Wolfowitz has recently granted interviews to other networks, the network apparently contacted the group to patch in Wolfowitz to take part in their special coverage.

“This time we were determined to stop them from calling again,” the pranksters wrote on their website shortly after the Saturday interview.

Wasting no time once he was on air, Bichlbaum warned the network’s viewers that there’s a “different kind of terrorism, much worse than 9/11,” adding that the “new master terrorists” make the 9/11 hijackers look like “rank amateurs.”

Bichlbaum then called for the Newsmax panel—which included Basile—“to make an ‘X’ over your head with your hands,” resulting in at least one panelist actually doing so.

“Great. You’re under arrest. As a friend of this station I’ve got to tell you, Newsmax is a much bigger threat to America than the hijackers of 9/11,” the imposter Wolfowitz said, prompting the hosts to cut the interview short.

“Thank you for your service—what was that?!” Basile exclaimed after they dropped the prankster, seemingly still unaware that “Wolfowitz” wasn’t the real deal.

Fellow anchors Heather Childers and Rob Schmitt, meanwhile, lamented over his “embarrassing” remarks, chastising him for sowing division on a day that was about “unity and bringing people together.” Childers also grumbled that the “former Deputy Secretary of Defense” didn’t want to “share some real thought” with the panel.

“He was at the Pentagon that day and you would think that he wouldn’t choose this moment to be, frankly, hateful and intolerant,” Basile added.

Childers would also declare that “Wolfowitz” had “dishonored” the memory of late Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with his comments while Schmitt claimed the former Bush administration official was just looking for a “viral moment” [because] he’s “probably not very important anymore.”

A day after being duped for the second time by The Yes Men, Newsmax provided the following statement to The Daily Beast over the prank.

“While we were covering special 9/11 remembrances and honoring those who had lost their lives, including heroic police officers and firefighters, horribly there were others whose only goal is to lie, deceive, and destroy,” the network said. “They dishonored the memories of true heroes.”

Sept. 10

 

supreme court resized 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Breyer’s airbrushed portrayal of the judicial process, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 10, 2021. Could the timing of Supreme Court Justice ruth marcus twitter CustomStephen G. Breyer’s new book be any worse? It’s hard to imagine.

Breyer’s latest — an earnest testament to the nonpartisanship and professionalism of his conservative colleagues — comes on the heels of the decision by five of them to let a blatantly unconstitutional Texas abortion law take effect.

Breyer dissented from that move, saying it undermined “the ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury.”

He dissented a few weeks earlier, when a six-justice majority rejected the Biden administration’s bid to extend the eviction moratorium. And again, a few days before that, when the same six justices rejected the Biden administration’s effort to undo the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Breyer’s book, loftily titled The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, is an earnest plea to preserve the former and avoid the latter, a paean to the rule of law and a warning against precipitous steps — such as expanding the size of the court — that might undermine its legitimacy.

“Under the law, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; and the same is true of the public’s willingness to accept judicial decisions with which it disagrees,” Breyer writes. “The rule of law is not a meal that can be ordered à la carte.”

Except that the goose and gander seem to be treated awfully differently these days. Conservative justices insist on strict adherence to statutory text, except when they don’t: See the court’s evisceration of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Conservative justices lunge to prevent the perceived infringement of some constitutional rights — stepping in to block pandemic restrictions that limit religious observance — while insisting that procedural hurdles make it impossible to halt the Texas abortion law. They praise the importance of precedent, then casually toss it aside.

And the conservative justices are increasingly ordering off-menu, using their “shadow docket” to make decisions without the fig leaf of full briefing and oral argument. When the conservative justices leap to employ their power to issue emergency orders at the behest of the Trump administration but then act differently when the Biden administration comes calling, that sauce has a bitter aftertaste.

When it comes to politics, Breyer sees plenty of blame to go around — just not among his colleagues. Journalists, for one, who routinely identify the political party of the president appointing the justices when reporting on the court, a change from decades past. “Going further, they systematically label judges as conservative or liberal,” Breyer laments.

Guilty as charged — and it’s because times, and the court, have changed. To take one salient example: Four of the seven justices in the majority in Roe v. Wade were named by a Republican president; one of the two dissenters was nominated by a Democrat. Today, except in unusual and increasingly infrequent circumstances, the justices’ votes can be reliably predicted by looking at party affiliation. The labels are accurate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Describes Life Inside R. Kelly’s Orbit of Live-in Girlfriends, Troy Closson, Emily Palmer and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). The second woman to testify on Thursday said Mr. Kelly was violent and possessive, following a witness who described being raped by the singer. These are the key moments from the 13th day of testimony:

r kelly twitterOne woman accused R. Kelly, right, of locking her in his Chicago studio in 2003 and raping her while she was unconscious, and a second woman described the strictures and abuse she endured as one of the singer’s live-in girlfriends, as Mr. Kelly’s racketeering trial continued Thursday in Brooklyn.

The two women were the eighth and ninth accusers to take the stand against the R&B singer, who prosecutors say used his fame to build and operate a criminal organization of associates and employees to prey on women and girls. And while accusations of sexual misconduct have long trailed Mr. Kelly, witnesses at the trial have described sexual and physical abuse beyond what has previously been made public.

Mr. Kelly has denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which include a single count of racketeering and eight counts of violating an interstate anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act.

The first witness Thursday, who testified using only the name Sonja, said she was about 21 years old and an intern at a radio station in Utah when she was given a chance to interview Mr. Kelly, then an R&B superstar. She told jurors that she had hoped to “kick-start” her career, but was instead imprisoned in his home for days and assaulted.

And the second witness, who testified as Anna, described a budding relationship with Mr. Kelly that turned abusive, as the singer slapped and humiliated her if she failed to adhere to his strict rules for the women in his orbit.

R. Kelly was so jealous and controlling that he smacked a girlfriend in the face when she happened to glance in the direction of other men, the woman testified on Thursday.

Anna — who testified in a voice sometimes so soft the judge had to ask her to speak up — said she met Mr. Kelly at a concert in South Carolina in 2016, when she was 19 or 20 years old. They exchanged numbers and met up a few months later in Atlanta, she said.

Within weeks, Anna said, she had moved in with the R&B singer and was traveling with him to concerts across the country.

“It was cool,” she testified. “We would always go out and have a good time. It was always fun in the beginning.”

 

jacob chansley shaman costume and mugJacob Chansley is seen at the U.S. Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021 (Getty Images photo). He is also seen in a Feb. 4, 2021 mugshot released by the Alexandria, Va. Detention Center.

Law&Crime, Judge Refuses to Let Jacob Chansley Out of Jail Ahead of Sentencing, Calls Him a ‘Mascot’ for QAnon and ‘Hopes’ He’s Really Had a Change of Heart, Matt Naham, Sept. 10, 2021. The federal judge who has presided over Jacob Chansley’s criminal case doesn’t appear to be entirely convinced that the so-called “QAnon Shaman” of Jan. 6 has had a change of heart and renounced the sprawling conspiracy theory for which he is a “mascot.”

Senior Judge Royce Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, said in a memorandum opinion and order unsealed Friday that Chansley will not be allowed to get out of jail ahead of sentencing for obstruction of an official proceeding.

“Upon consideration of the parties’ briefs, the arguments offered at the hearing, and the record herein, the Court will DENY Chansley’s motion for release from custody pending sentencing,” Lamberth wrote.

Just one week ago, Chansley, perhaps the most unique Jan. 6 defendant out of the hundreds of people charged, pleaded guilty in Lamberth’s court.

Defense lawyer Albert Watkins has gone out of his way to argue that his client has repudiated QAnon.

“Mr. Chansley, a long-avowed and practicing Shaman, has repudiated the ‘Q’ previously assigned to him and requests future references to him be devoid of use of the letter ‘Q’,” Watkins recently wrote in a statement.

But Judge Lamberth said Friday that he hasn’t heard that from Chansley’s own mouth.

“Chansley is a mascot of ‘QAnon,’ an active conspiracy group,” wrote Lamberth, before tacking on the footnote (citation to NY Times removed) pointing out that Chansley’s plea hearing was interrupted by random people screaming “Freedom”:

Chansley’s counsel said in a statement that Chansley “repudiated” QAnon. Chansley has not personally indicated as such to this Court. Still, regardless of any potential repudiation, there is no doubt that he is a mascot for the QAnon movement. Hundreds of attendees joined Chansley’s September 3, 2021 plea-agreement hearing on the public access line, and at least once this Court’s proceedings were interrupted with shouts of “Freedom!”

Lamberth said that Chansley has ultimately “failed” to persuade the court with “clear and convincing evidence” that he is not a flight risk. The judge also expressed skepticism about whether Chansley has really had a change of heart.

Chansley memo

Again, the judge tacked on a footnote pointing out that his “hopes” for Capitol siege defendants who pleaded guilty in his courtroom have been “dashed” before. Though he did not name Anna Morgan-Lloyd, Lamberth was clearly referring to the Fox News interview she did after she was sentenced to probation. During that appearance, Morgan-Lloyd downplayed her actions.

Lamberth on Anna Morgan-Lloyd

Lamberth took Morgan-Lloyd’s words as being in direct conflict with the “contrite statements she made to the undersigned.”

As for Chansley, the judge had twice denied already his requests for release from jail. Because the third time was not the charm, Chansley will have to remain jailed ahead of his Nov. 17 sentencing.

The government has said that Chansley’s sentencing range has been calculated between 41 and 51 months in prison. The judge can go higher or lower, so Chansley’s behavior between now and Nov. 17 could prove crucial.

Sept. 9

ed henry former chief white house correspondent

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Ex-Fox News Anchor Ed Henry Must Face Sex Trafficking Suit, as Judge Advances Multiple Claims Against Him and Network, Adam Klasfeld, Sept. 9, 2021. Ex-Fox News anchor Ed Henry (shown above in a file photo) cannot dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of sex trafficking, as a federal judge advanced several claims against him and the network in a ruling on Thursday.

The developments came in a lawsuit filed by ex-associate producer Jennifer Eckhart roughly a year ago, which opened with a “Trigger Warning” cautioning readers with blaring red text in block capital letters that the complaint contained “Highly Graphic Information of a Sexual Nature, Including Sexual Assault.”

“She asserts that [Henry] is liable for sex trafficking because she says he used empty promises of career advancement to defraud her into coming to his hotel room, then used force to cause her to have sexual intercourse with him,” U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams summarized in a 52-page opinion and order.

The judge, who is the sister of Law&Crime’s founder Dan Abrams, noted that Eckhart’s allegations are not what traditionally comes to mind when the public thinks of the statute.

fox news logo Small“To be sure, this is not a conventional claim of sex trafficking,” the judge wrote. “Eckhart has not alleged, for example, that Henry forced her into prostitution or sexual slavery.”

During oral arguments in July, Eckhart’s lawyer Michael John Willemin described Henry’s conduct as “Weinstein-esque, but worse.”

“He hit her,” Willemin said, referring to Henry and his client. “He handcuffed her. He bruised her up. He called her a ‘whore.’ He told her she doesn’t have a choice.”

Ultimately, Judge Abrams found that Eckhart’s allegation fell under the “relatively broad language of the applicable statute,” classifying sex trafficking as the use of “force” or “fraud” to cause a person to “engage in a sex act” for a “thing of value.”

The judge also advanced multiple harassment-related counts against Fox News, though not the sex-trafficking one.

“At this juncture, the Court concludes that Eckhart has plausibly alleged that the network knew or should have known about Henry’s sexually harassing behavior but not necessarily the specific conduct that amounts to sex trafficking,” Judge Abrams found.

Eckhart’s lawyer said he and his client are “very pleased with the Court’s decision.”

“Neither Fox News nor Ed Henry succeeded in their early attempts to escape liability as to Ms. Eckhart’s allegations of rape, sexual assault and unlawful termination,” Willemin told Law&Crime in an email.

Sept. 8

Press Run Podcast, Opinion: Sorry Chuck Todd, America is not hopelessly “divided” over Covid, Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 8, 2020. Both Sides nonsense. Delivering this eric.boehlertSunday’s morning update like a disappointed dad, Meet the Press’ (MTP) Chuck Todd conveyed distressing news about how America is split down the middle over Covid, causing cultural and political fissures.

“The U.S. enters this Labor Day weekend suffering from two viruses: Covid and polarization,” the host lamented. “Covid has become an MRI of America's soul. Who would have imagined that masks -- wearing or refusing them -- would become such a political statement?”

This week’s MTP episode was built around the “divided” theme, with Covid being a prism used to view it. “It is not an exaggeration to say that we are more divided than at any time perhaps since the 1960s, and frankly, maybe since the Civil War,” Todd announced.

Except that premise is false and it reflects a misguided brand of Both Sides journalism. Instead of the country being “divided” over Covid, including whether to get vaccinated and wear masks, 75 percent of eligible Americans have received at least one shot, and 70 percent support mask mandates in schools. Just “17 percent of adults say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated,” according to a recent ABC-Washington Post survey.

Meanwhile, a strong majority of Americans support requiring proof of vaccination to travel by airplane, according to Gallup. (39 percent oppose.) And the percentage of parents who plan on vaccinating their kids has climbed to nearly 70 percent.

We’re only truly “divided” when it comes to the Covid carnage in this country. In blue states in the Northeast the pandemic remains essentially over. That’s where low case, death, and hospitalization numbers remain the norm. In Florida and Texas, the virus is claiming victims at will, as Republican governors do everything in their power to put citizens at risk. Soon, the number of Covid deaths in both Florida and Texas could surpass the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.

The press ought to focus on that divide, and detail how the Republican Party and its leaders have made a conscious decision to prolong a deadly pandemic, even though a free and effective vaccine is available to stop it. It represents a stunning chapter in American history. Instead of focusing its attention on a conservative movement that is quite clearly killing its own, the press wallows in the shallow confines of its Divided narrative.

The Intercept, Press Freedom Bill Would Protect Journalists Facing Persecution — but Not Julian Assange, Rose Adams, Sept. 8 2021. Senators say they want to protect foreign journalists from government aggression. But what happens when the U.S. is the aggressor?

Earlier this year, just days before World Press Freedom Day, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined forces to introduce the International Press Freedom Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill to protect at-risk journalists working in highly censored countries. The legislation is predicated on the idea that the United States is a uniquely safe place for journalists — but that notion doesn’t always hold up under scrutiny.

Introduced on April 29, the International Press Freedom Act is one of at least three press freedom bills that Congress has considered since Saudi authorities killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

But while other bills have proposed piecemeal protections — such as sanctions on restrictive governments or a government office for threatened journalists — Kaine and Graham’s bill takes a more comprehensive approach. In addition to directing State Department funds toward investigating and prosecuting crimes against journalists abroad, the law would create a new visa category for threatened reporters and open a State Department office with a $30 million annual fund to help journalists report safely or relocate.

Press advocacy groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have praised Kaine and Graham’s bill, claiming that the legislation would “bolster U.S. foreign diplomacy on global press freedom.” In a statement, Kaine emphasized the U.S.’s responsibility to spread its free speech ethos.

“Enshrined in both our Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, press freedom is a core American value that we must constantly promote around the globe,” he said in a press release. “With this bill, our country will let journalists know that we will protect their right to report and offer safe harbor when they are threatened.”

But that safe harbor doesn’t seem to apply to foreign journalists the U.S. government itself has threatened. For years, the Justice Department has worked to extradite and prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing Army war logs provided by Chelsea Manning in 2010, and increased the pressure following his 2016 publication leaked Democratic Party emails that the Justice Department said were hacked by Russia. And though the government’s extradition efforts are inching closer to fruition amid several U.S. appeals, Kaine and Graham have remained silent.

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the U.K. but was arrested in 2019 on an extradition warrant under charges related to his 2010 publication of military documents. Assange’s charges — which include one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 17 counts under the Espionage Act for exposing national defense information — could land him in prison for a maximum of 175 years.

Of Assange’s many critics, Kaine and Graham have been some of the loudest. In the years since the publication of the military war logs and the Democratic National Committee’s emails, the senators have taken to cable news to air their contempt. “[WikiLeaks] released classified information between our government and foreign leaders that embarrassed foreign leaders and our government,” Graham said on CNN in 2017, after former President Donald Trump tweeted support for Assange. “So Mr. Assange is a fugitive from the law hiding in an embassy who has a history of undermining American interests.”

Kaine, whose vice presidential hopes may have been hampered by the 2016 email leak, celebrated Assange’s arrest in 2019. “It’s something that we expected, we knew the day would come, and justice has to be done,” he told CNN anchors in 2019. “The thing that I’m most interested in is, when you get to the bottom of this story, how do we learn enough to protect sensitive information from vandals like Julian Assange?” (Graham, meanwhile, tweeted his approval of the arrest.)

Over a year after Assange’s detainment, England’s High Court held a series of hearings about his case, which culminated in a January 2021 ruling that blocked Assange’s extradition. But in August, the court expanded the grounds on which the U.S. could appeal the decision, flooding the court with a wave of appeals. (The U.K.’s extradition procedure requires British prosecutors to represent the U.S. in court, meaning that U.K. taxpayers are footing the prosecution’s bill.)

“It’s fine to offer visas to persecuted journalists, but … it’s immensely hypocritical for the U.S. to do this at the same time it is seeking to extradite Julian Assange.”

“It’s clear they’re out to get him,” said Chip Gibbons, policy director for Defending Rights & Dissent, who has covered Assange’s case for Jacobin. “It’s fine to offer visas to persecuted journalists, but … it’s immensely hypocritical for the U.S. to do this at the same time it is seeking to extradite Julian Assange.”

Assange isn’t the only publisher or whistleblower the bill sponsors have targeted. Graham, one of loudest critics of government leakers in Congress, championed the imprisonment of Edward Snowden and slammed Obama for commuting Manning’s prison sentence in 2017. Kaine has occasionally taken a softer stance, although he also opposed Manning’s commutation and said that Reality Winner “has got to suffer the consequences” for leaking a classified document pertaining to the 2016 election. Still, the senators bemoaned the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide in the press release for their bill.

A spokesperson for Kaine said that he introduced the International Press Freedom Act because of his “long-standing support for human rights inspired by Kaine’s long-standing support for human rights … and in particular his outrage over the death of Jamal Khashoggi” but did not answer questions about Assange’s extradition. Representatives for Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a co-sponsor of the bill who has also voiced support for Assange’s extradition, did not respond to requests for comment.

And press freedom advocates, while supportive of the press freedom bill, said that the legislation would yield the biggest impact if the U.S. followed its own policies.

“Anytime we, or the U.S. government, or members of Congress are talking about press freedom internationally, it’s, in my mind, a good thing,” said Trevor Timm, co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “But for any of that advocacy to be remotely effective, it’s important for the U.S. to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”

Sept. 7

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion:The hypnotic effects of news intros have lulled us into wars, complacency, and worse, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 7, 2021. For the last 30 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallor so years, it has not mattered whether you tune into the televised news in Kansas City or Khartoum or Denver or Dar es Salaam. A few seconds of viewing and hearing news introductions have had the same effect: you are mesmerized by techniques developed by psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychological warfare experts to keep your attention and lure you into the trance-like state.

wayne madesen report logoOnce you are hypnotized, you will have the tendency to believe whatever is being transmitted to you by news readers who are merely following what they are seeing on teleprompters.

fox news logo SmallFox News was the first major network to rely on such psychological gimmickry, in its coverage of Desert Storm, the first Gulf War.

Below are compilations of news intros from around the world.

 fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Where are President Biden’s telecom picks? Cristiano Lima with Aaron Schaffer, Sept. 7, 2021. President Biden has been historically slow to appoint officials to the federal government’s top telecommunications agencies, and advocacy groups say the vacancies are preventing the administration from carrying out key agenda items, such as reinstating net neutrality rules killed during the Trump administration.

Nearly eight months into his presidency, Biden has yet to pick permanent leaders for the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which together oversee and set policy for the broadcast and Internet service industries.

For the FCC, that’s slower than any president since Jimmy Carter in 1977 — just by a few days — and for NTIA, it’s the longest ever since the agency’s founding in 1978.

The picks have seemingly taken a back seat to other items on Biden’s agenda, from dealing with the coronavirus pandemic to handling the military withdrawal from Afghanistan to grappling with competition concerns in the tech sector.

Only two other presidents, Carter and Richard M. Nixon, went this deep into their first full term without naming or having a permanent chair at the FCC since its founding in 1934. (Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, who took over the presidency midterm after their predecessors' deaths, kept their FCC chairs after winning full terms, while Gerald Ford never won one.)

That means the agencies are being steered by acting chiefs who experts say aren’t empowered to fully implement long-term policies due to the interim nature of their gigs.

“At the FCC, the chair really has the predominant role in setting the agenda, setting priorities, and while an acting chair can do that to some degree, over the long term, you don't know the priorities of whoever the permanent chair is going to be,” said Samir Jain, director of policy at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).
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The vacancies are likely to hamper the agencies as they prepare to disburse funding aimed at boosting Internet connectivity nationwide that is expected to come from the bipartisan infrastructure package making its way through Congress. And they could bog down initiatives to make broadband more affordable and expand subsidies, at a time when the pandemic has laid bare the U.S.'s connectivity gaps.

Pivotally, Biden has yet to nominate a fifth commissioner at the FCC, a set that would give Democrats a 3-2 majority on the five-seat commission and enable them to advance more controversial items with a party-line vote. That includes a surefire Democratic effort to reinstate the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which dictate that Internet providers should treat all Web traffic equally.

The delay is a win for the telecom industry and for Republicans, who have long opposed the net neutrality rules, arguing that such heavy-handed regulation harms innovation and the economy.

“The commission can't really move forward on that until it gets the fifth Commissioner in place,” said Jain, whose group sued the Trump-era FCC — then controlled by a Republican majority — over its plan to repeal the Internet protections.
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More than 50 groups including CDT and Public Knowledge wrote to Biden in June urging him to appoint a fifth FCC commissioner, citing “growing urgency” and a need to “ensure a fully functional Federal Communications Commission.”

Nearly three months later, those groups are still waiting for Biden to announce his picks, and some of them said the absence is becoming more glaring.

“We've had a lost year in policymaking because of the slowness of the Biden administration to name a full FCC,” said Christopher Lewis, president and CEO of consumer group Public Knowledge, which backs reinstating the Obama-era net neutrality rules. “It's probably the biggest missed opportunity we have had in communications policy this year.”

After taking office in January, Biden swiftly designated then-FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chair of the agency. Evelyn Remaley, who was first named acting administrator of NTIA in January 2020 during the Trump administration, has remained in the role under Biden.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s fake 2024 candidacy lurches forward, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 7, 2021. If Donald Trump were actually looking to become President bill palmeragain in 2024, he wouldn’t be selling off the lease and naming rights to his DC hotel. He’s only looking at pretending to be a 2024 candidate in 2021, so he can raise campaign funds and use them to service his debts.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump wants everyone to buy into the false premise that he’s actually going to be a candidate in 2024. If you go the route of “we must take him seriously and cower to him or we’re not being vigilant enough,” then you’re gullibly playing right into his hands.

Our job is to make sure everyone knows that, no matter what Trump claims in 2021, he won’t really be a candidate in 2024. He’ll be in a New York prison, or too senile to leave the house, or deceased from his worsening health ailments.

Trump is a washed up joke who is barely able to appear in public, can’t afford to keep his name on his properties, and has an approval rating too low to compete in any election. He’s only leaning toward “running” because he’s broke, and perhaps because he mistakenly thinks it’ll somehow magically keep him from being indicted in New York (it won’t). Our job is to make sure everyone knows he’s a washed up joke, and that’s he’s not really running; rather he’s just screwing with us.

Most or all of the media will try to play the ratings game by pretending that Trump’s obviously fake 2024 campaign is real, and is a threat, and he’ll magically win. Our job is to not give into that. In fact our job is to loudly push back against the media for peddling this crap. Don’t let the media give Trump what he wants, which is legitimacy for his fake candidacy.

Sept. 6

 

brett kavanaugh confirmation

Press Run, Commentary: We still don’t know who paid Kavanaugh’s $92,000 country club fee, Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 6, 2021. An incurious press. By joining his fellow eric.boehlertconservatives on the Supreme Court in declining to block one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, a Texas statute that bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, Justice Brett Kavanaugh (shown above during his Senate confirmation hearing) made good on his unspoken pledge to demolish Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh’s actions could change the fabric of this country for decades, and empower radicals within the Republican Party to strip away more rights of Americans.

Against that dystopian backdrop let’s not forget two crucial historic facts. Kavanaugh lied his way through his confirmation hearings. Facing multiple and credible allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh lied about witnesses; he lied about corroboration; he lied about friendships; he lied about parties. He also lied about an array of other topics, including state drinking ages, vomiting, his yearbook, and his accusers. Kavanaugh lied about his grandfather, federal judges, warrantless wiretaps, and stolen emails.

Second, some deep-pocketed patron, or patrons, over the years have clearly covered Kavanaugh’s personal finances. Someone erased all of the many financial pitfalls he faced, including tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, while setting up him for a luxurious lifestyle well beyond what he could afford on the salary of a federal judge. We still don’t know which benefactors paid for Kavanaugh’s $92,000 country club initiation fee in 2016 for the Chevy Chase Club while he was making $225,000 a year, had two children in private school, and was saddled with the most debt of his life, approximately $100,000.

The staggering country club fee, which Kavanaugh plainly could not cover himself, represented the most egregious hole in Kavanaugh’s make-no-sense financial disclosure made during his nomination. For instance, in 2006, he bought a $1.2 million home in a tony suburb of Washington, D.C. and made tens of thousands of dollars of upgrades while earning $175,000 and sitting on a modest savings account.

The disclosures should have been a huge red flag for the press. “The personal finances of Supreme Court nominees regularly come under scrutiny during the congressional vetting process,” the Washington Post reported in 2018. And Kavanaugh’s finances were by far the most befuddling of any Supreme Court nominee in modern history. But the press mostly yawned through the story.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rupert Murdoch’s Australia News Outlets to Ease Their Climate Denial, Damien Cave, Sept. 6, 2021. The campaign, if sustained, could put pressure on Fox News, though critics were skeptical that a sea change was in store.

After years of casting doubt on climate change and attacking politicians who favored corrective action, Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets in his native Australia are planning an editorial campaign next month advocating a carbon-neutral future.

Depending on its content, the project, described by executives at Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp on Monday, could be a breakthrough that provides political cover for Australia’s conservative government to end its refusal to set ambitious emission targets. If sustained, it could also put pressure on Fox News and other Murdoch-owned outlets in the United States and Britain that have been hostile to climate science.

But critics, including scientists who have been a target of News Corp’s climate combat, warned that the effort could be little more than window dressing that leaves decades of damage intact.

“Color me skeptical,” said Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “Until Rupert Murdoch and News Corp call off their attack dogs at Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, who continue to promote climate change disinformation on a daily basis, these are hollow promises that should be viewed as a desperate ploy to rehabilitate the public image of a leading climate villain.”

As broadly outlined by News Corp executives, the project will include features and editorials across the company’s influential newspapers, along with Sky News, its 24-hour news channel. They will explore a path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 — a target, set by dozens of countries, that scientific studies show is crucial to averting some of the most disastrous effects of global warming.

ny times logoNew York Times, TV Commentary: Is 9/11 a Day, or Is It an Era? James Poniewozik, Sept. 6, 2021 (print ed.). After 20 years, it’s time for TV to treat Sept. 11 as serious, even divisive history, not just dutiful remembrance.

The TV specials for the Sept. 11 anniversary offer any number of ways to return to hell. There are wrenching interviews with survivors and with those whose loved ones died; uplifting stories of rescues and agonizing stories of those who perished in the attempt; footage of the conflagration, chaos and shock, as seen on morning newscasts and in the ash-blanketed streets; images of the first responders and volunteers digging through wreckage.

In documentary after documentary, on cable, streaming and broadcast, you can hear, over and over, the air-traffic-control distress calls. You can see, again and again, the stunning footage of an airliner slamming into the north tower of the World Trade Center, captured by a documentary filmmaker accompanying firefighters on a routine call. You can be reminded, time after heartbreaking time, what a beautiful, blue-sky September morning it was.

The interview subjects have aged. Time has passed. The children who fled schools or lost parents that morning are now grown adults. (Two different documentaries, on the History Channel and Discovery+, focus on them.) But the story, as told, is mostly the same.

Twenty years later, is there anything still to say about Sept. 11? Of course; it would be unimaginable to simply ignore it. A tougher question is: Is there anything more to say than there was five, 10, 15 years ago?

There is. But actually saying it can be riskier.

TV’s treatment of Sept. 11 has changed over the years, in bits and pieces. The adrenaline rush of “24” gave way to the moral grayscale of “Homeland.” MSNBC finally ended its grim tradition of replaying the live coverage of the attacks. But the general approach of the memorial specials, tightly focused on honoring the loss and sacrifice of one discrete day, has kept a kind of ritual familiarity.

For 20 years, the refrain has been: Remember, remember, remember. Memory is so ingrained in the language of Sept. 11 — “Never forget” — as to imply that it is obligatory, and sufficient, for future generations merely to remember by revisiting the narrative and imagery of one terrible day, rather than to connect it to the years of history that followed.

But is Sept. 11 simply a day, or is it an era? Was it the beginning of something or a continuation? You can divide most of the anniversary specials between those that focus closely on the day that the towers fell and those that pull back, way back, to look at what emerged from the dust.

Sept. 11 is not only in the past, as you can see in the bloody news from Afghanistan. For viewers who want to unpack how the attacks led to two decades of military entanglements, there’s Netflix’s five-part “Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror,” which looks unsparingly at the intelligence failures before Sept. 11 and the mission creep through multiple administrations. Enlighteningly, it includes the voices of Afghan leaders and civilians. Sept. 11, as an epoch, meant upheaval for more than one nation.

But the history of Sept. 11 goes far beyond war and foreign policy. It affected domestic politics, domestic enmities and even American culture.

That last is the subject of the smart and surprisingly cathartic “Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11,” premiering Wednesday on Vice. The attacks have lately breached the tragedy-plus-time barrier on sitcoms — this year, both “Dave” and “Girls5Eva” featured jokes about album releases poorly timed around Sept. 11 — but “Too Soon” digs into comics’ early attempts to engage the shock of the moment and the divisiveness of the war on terror. Its voices include Gilbert Gottfried, who famously stunned his audience with a 9/11 joke at the 2001 roast of Hugh Hefner, taped only a few weeks after the attacks. “Comedy and tragedy are roommates,” he says.

And two of the anniversary’s most striking documentaries present Sept. 11 as an event that struck at America’s democracy and even its soul.

The “Frontline” special “America After 9/11,” premiering Tuesday on PBS, is driven by a striking video juxtaposition. First, on the Capitol steps the day of the attacks, a chorus of members of Congress, Republican and Democratic, senators and representatives, join to sing “God Bless America.” Two decades later, on the same site, a mob besieges Congress in an attempt to overturn the results of an election.

It’s a provocative connection, but the filmmaker Michael Kirk lays it out economically: The attacks set off a chain of action and changes — military quagmires, suspicion and racism at home, the loss of trust in institutions — that demagogues used to undermine democracy, and that fulfilled Osama bin Laden’s goal of dividing and weakening America.

From the beginning, the special argues, America’s response was driven by paradox: the moral rhetoric of President George W. Bush and the strategies of his vice president, Dick Cheney, who said that America would need to work with “the dark side” to survive.

The dark side won, “America After 9/11” argues. It won when specious claims of weapons of mass destruction rationalized war in Iraq; when images of torture emerged from Abu Ghraib prison; when illustrations of Barack Obama as bin Laden circulated; when the media fed hysteria about terror threats; and when the 2016 election was won by a candidate who said, “I think Islam hates us” and used similar rhetoric for people he labeled domestic enemies.

In this light, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — with its racist language and its fantasy of reclaiming America from a shadowy existential threat — was, says the former Obama aide Ben Rhodes, “the logical endpoint” of the 9/11 era.

But the most sweeping — and, I expect, ultimately the most memorable — of this year’s documentaries is Spike Lee’s elegiac, messy and feisty “NYC Epicenters: 9/11-2021½,” airing in four parts on HBO.

As the title suggests, “Epicenters” is only partly about 9/11, and it makes a strong case that the 9/11 era can only be captured with the widest lens. It works backward, starting from the Covid-19 pandemic and moving — through Black Lives Matter, the 2016 and 2020 elections and more — to its starting point. In Lee’s telling, Sept. 11 is not just a matter of terrorism but also the opening act to decades of calamity and uproar.

If it seems like a stretch, “Epicenters” soon makes it difficult to see the subject otherwise, drawing connection after connection across the years. There is Rudy Giuliani, “America’s Mayor” in the days after the towers fell, spouting election-hoax fan fiction at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. There is the rash of Islamophobic attacks after Sept. 11, echoing in the xenophobia of the Trump era. There are emergency medical workers suffering from 9/11-related illnesses that loom as pre-existing conditions during the pandemic.

spike lee imdbSept. 11, in Lee’s telling, is itself a pre-existing condition. It is not a one-time injury but a chronic affliction, and other, pre-pre-existing conditions express themselves through it as well. New York came back from it, and, “Epicenters” insists, it will come back from Covid. But in his crowning image, Lee, right, likens that comeback to Marlon Brando’s bloodied stagger at the end of “On the Waterfront.” Each blow leaves a mark.

“Epicenters” uses clips from a lot of films to evoke the city, from “On the Town” to the 1976 remake of “King Kong” to Lee’s own work. Lee’s memory of New York, like many people’s, is a blend of lived experience and fantasy. And sometimes the exaggerated language of film is the only thing that can capture larger-than-life experience; as the series notes, people describe Sept. 11, over and over, as being “like a movie.”

Lee’s interviews — with hundreds of people, from high elected officials to heavy-equipment operators at ground zero — are warm, emotional, sometimes sparring. He ribs every Red Sox fan he talks to; when his subjects need time to collect themselves, he lets the moments play out. For politicians, he lets the raspberries fly freely (the captions refer to Donald J. Trump, in the words of the rapper Busta Rhymes, as “President Agent Orange”).

One could argue over which director is most essentially New York. But Lee’s passionate heckler’s breed of New York-ness may be the best suited to this subject. He is loving and critical, impulses that New Yorkers know as synonyms. And his focus on diversity and race helps him find less-heard voices in a much-told story, like those of the Vulcan Society for Black firefighters, or of the Black flight attendant who guiltily recalls “racially profiling” a Saudi passenger after Sept. 11.

Unfortunately, “Epicenters” has made the most news for what you won’t see in it: an extended, bizarre section in the original final episode that gave credence to the conspiracists who theorize that the towers were brought down by a controlled explosion. Lee snipped the entire section, and despite the blunt edit, the shorter final cut, which premieres on Sept. 11, actually flows better.

I could imagine a version of “Epicenters” that still covered the conspiracy theories, not to legitimize them but as an example of the paranoia that thrives in a country lacking social trust — which Lee rightly deplores when it comes to anti-vaccine theories and the election hoaxes that drove some of the Capitol assailants.

There’s a sobering meta-lesson in the fact that the most artful of this season’s Sept. 11 documentaries became an example of one of the very problems it diagnosed. But at least the resolution shows that criticism can make a difference, and that it’s not too late to look at history seriously and make a change.

Sept. 5

ny times logohong kong flagNew York Times, Hong Kong Media Company That Criticized China Moves to Close, Austin Ramzy, Sept. 5, 2021. Next Digital, which has published criticism of China for decades, said a crackdown had left it with no way to operate. Its main newspaper, Apple Daily, closed in June.

Sept. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden signs executive order requiring review, release of some classified 9/11 documents, Amy B Wang and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 4, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Friday signed an executive order that would require the review, declassification and release of classified government documents related to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In doing so, Biden said he was fulfilling a promise he had made while campaigning for president, in which he had vowed, if elected, to direct the U.S. Attorney General to “personally examine the merits of all cases” where the government had invoked state secrets privilege and “to err on the side of disclosure in cases where, as here, the events in question occurred two decades or longer ago.”

“When I ran for president, I made a commitment to ensuring transparency regarding the declassification of documents on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “As we approach the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, I am honoring that commitment.”

Justice Department log circularThe executive order directs the Justice Department and other relevant agencies to oversee a declassification review of documents related to the FBI’s Sept. 11 investigations. The order also requires the U.S. Attorney General to release the declassified documents publicly over the next six months, Biden said.

Families of hundreds of 9/11 victims had told Biden last month that he would not be welcome at this year’s memorial events marking the 20th anniversary of the attacks unless he declassified government evidence beforehand that could link Saudi Arabia to the attack, according to a letter sent to the White House in August.

Shortly afterward, the Justice Department pledged to review evidence related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a move that an advocate for some of the families criticized as insufficient. In a court filing last month, the Justice Department already had said the FBI was reviewing the materials for possible public disclosure.

But Biden’s executive order imposes new conditions and timetables on that process, commanding the bureau to review some materials by Sept. 11 and others on staggered deadlines over the next 180 days.

Biden also seemed to direct the bureau to favor disclosure in questionable calls, writing that material should not stay secret if there was “significant doubt” about the need for it to remain classified, and that the attorney general and others should determine “whether the public interest in disclosure of the information outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.”

The FBI said in a statement reacting to the order: “The FBI will continue to work in coordination with the Department of Justice and other agencies to declassify and release documents related to the 9/11 investigation.” The Justice Department declined to comment to The Washington Post.

In the shadow of the towers: Five lives and a world transformed

Some 9/11 families immediately praised the executive order Friday. One group, 9/11 Families United, which represents more than 10,000 people affected by the attacks, said in a statement that Biden’s order “looks like a true turning point.”

“We have been fighting the FBI and intelligence community for too long,” said Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom, was killed in the World Trade Center. “There is much more work to be done to secure justice for our murdered loved ones and to rectify the immense damage the 20-year shroud of secrecy has caused, but we now are optimistic that President Biden will be helping us achieve those goals.”

Brett Eagleson, who lost his father, Bruce Eagleson, in the 9/11 attacks, commended Biden for signing the executive order, calling it “a critical first step” to a full accounting.

“We will closely watch this process to ensure the Justice Department and FBI follow through, act in good faith, and help our families uncover the truth in our pursuit of justice against the Saudi government,” Brett Eagleson said in a statement. “The first test will be on 9/11, and the world will be watching.”

Several members of Congress, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said they supported Biden’s decision to order the declassification review of 9/11 documents. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday the committee would closely oversee the review process “to ensure that all agencies adhere to the president’s guidance to apply the maximum degree of transparency allowed by law when conducting the review.”

Biden has not yet made public his plans for the 20th anniversary of the attacks. Last year, while campaigning for president, he attended Sept. 11 memorial events in Lower Manhattan and Shanksville, Pa.

“My heart continues to be with the 9/11 families who are suffering, and my Administration will continue to engage respectfully with members of this community,” Biden said Friday. “I welcome their voices and insight as we chart a way forward.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why is the media ignoring the fact that a Texas Judge has already blocked key aspects of the anti-abortion law? Bill Palmer, Sept. 4, 2021.  The Texas anti-abortion law is an abomination. It’s a stunning attack on women’s rights, the rule of law, and democracy itself. If you’re fired up about it, you should be. And the media is right for giving the story a ton of attention these past few days. But here’s the thing.

A Texas Judge has already stepped in and temporarily blocked any lawsuits from being filed under the new law, pending a hearing. In other words, this judge basically did what the Supreme Court refused to do, and as of now, the anti-abortion law is not actually up and running. Curiously, this development has received almost no media coverage at all.

In fact, when we ran an article about it yesterday, someone replied by asking “Why is it that I have not read about this anywhere except the Palmer Report?” That’s a really good question. Some local Texas news outlets have covered it, as has The Hill. But beyond that, the media is treating this judge’s ruling as if it didn’t exist. Why is that? Planned Parenthood even put out a statement praising the ruling, yet the media has still largely decided that this judge’s ruling didn’t really happen.

This gets into one of the mainstream media’s most disturbing habits. The media is right to sound the alarm about this Texas anti-abortion law, and the Supreme Court’s refusal (thus far) to block it. We should all be talking about this. We should be marching in the streets. This should be the focus of the 2022 midterms.

But let’s be real here: the media is hyping this story because it’s scary enough to keep people tuned in, which means it’s good for ratings. If the media were to acknowledge that a judge has in fact already put key parts of the law on hold pending a hearing later this month, some folks might tune out until the hearing happens. And the media can’t have that, now can it?

Again, we should all be focused on this Texas anti-abortion law. It should be our rallying cry. It should be the reason we fight. But in order to win these kinds of battles, we need to start with an accurate understanding of what’s actually going on. The public deserves to know that Texas courts are already clamping down on this law. It helps demonstrate that this is a winnable battle.

And on a more basic level, you don’t leave out a key piece of the story like this just because it doesn’t fit the ratings-friendly narrative you’re chasing. The mainstream media owes us the entire story on these things, not just the most doomsday way they can spin it. We need to hold the media accountable on these things, so the media will do better.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation on Facebook got 6 times as many clicks as factual news during election, study says, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Sept. 3, 2021. facebook logoRight-leaning pages also produce more misinformation, the forthcoming study found.

The new study of user behavior is likely to bolster arguments that the company’s algorithms fuel the spread of misinformation.

fcc logo

huffington post logoHuffPost, The FCC Commissioner Echoing Kevin McCarthy Is Married To McCarthy’s Counsel, Jennifer Bendery, Sept. 4, 2021. Brendan Carr didn’t mention this as he defended the GOP leader’s dubious claim that it would be illegal for telecom companies to preserve call records.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) threatened this week to retaliate against telecom and tech companies that comply with a House committee’s request to preserve call records for certain people connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. McCarthy also warned ― incorrectly, according to legal experts ― that preserving such records would be illegal.

One of the few voices publicly defending McCarthy’s dubious claim is Federal Communications Commission member Brendan Carr, who has oversight over telecom companies.

kevin mccarthyBut neither Carr nor McCarthy, right, have mentioned their clear conflict of interest as they echo each other’s arguments: Carr is married to McCarthy’s general counsel, Machalagh Carr.

She has been McCarthy’s general counsel since March 2019, per her account on Legistorm, a database of biographical information on Capitol Hill staffers. And as the GOP leader’s counsel, she almost certainly had a hand in crafting a statement by McCarthy on Tuesday claiming that the telecom companies would be engaging in illegal behavior ― the same claim her husband has echoed in his capacity as an FCC commissioner.

Companies that comply with the House committee’s request “are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy tweeted Tuesday. “If companies still choose to violate a federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law,” he threatened.

McCarthy didn’t cite any statute supporting his contention that this is illegal. In fact, several experts have said it is perfectly legal for Congress to ask companies to preserve records of calls and that they don’t know what McCarthy is talking about. The House committee didn’t ask for call logs to be turned over, either; it asked companies to avoid destroying records in the event there are future subpoenas for them.

Still, on Thursday, McCarthy pressed on with his legal claim. He retweeted a Wall Street Journal editorial board piece featuring comments from Brendan Carr backing up his argument.

Sept. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Rogan has covid-19, is taking unproven deworming medicine, Elahe Izadi and Emily Yahr, Sept. 1, 2021. Joe Rogan, host of a wildly popular podcast who has downplayed the need for coronavirus vaccines, announced Wednesday he tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a brief video, Rogan told his 13.1 million Instagram followers that he returned home from the road Saturday night — he’s currently on tour and just performed a series of comedy shows in Florida — feeling weary with a headache.

“Just to be cautious, I separated from my family, slept in a different part of the house, and throughout the night I got fevers and sweats. And I knew what was going on,” Rogan said. “So I got up in the morning, got tested — and turns out I got covid.”

joe rogan twitterRogan, right, said he was now feeling “great” after “one bad day” on Sunday. After his diagnosis, he said he “immediately threw the kitchen sink” at the virus, and listed a litany of therapeutics and treatments he tried, including ivermectin, a medicine used to kill parasites in animals and humans but best known as a horse dewormer.

The treatment is one that has been promoted by conservative media figures, politicians and some doctors, but also carries a warning from the Food and Drug Administration, which has advised against using it as a treatment for covid-19. Poison control centers have reported huge spikes of calls about ivermectin exposure.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted last month amid an increase of people getting sick from the medicine.

Doctors dismayed by patients who fear coronavirus vaccines but clamor for unproven ivermectin

“The Joe Rogan Experience” is the most popular podcast in the country, according to tracking firm Edison Research. In 2020, Spotify acquired Rogan’s podcast library in a reported $100 million deal and now exclusively licenses the series. Before he moved to Spotify, Rogan’s show had about 190 million monthly downloads.

Rogan, a stand-up comedian, is a lightning rod with a huge following. He’s hosted controversial figures on his show, including Alex Jones, who has pushed the false theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

 

marc bernier

washington post logoWashington Post, Four conservative radio talk-show hosts bashed coronavirus vaccines. Then they got sick, Paul Farhi, Sept. 1, 2021. All four died over the past month, highlighting talk radio’s often overlooked role as a vector of coronavirus misinformation.

Marc Bernier was adamant: He was not going to get a coronavirus vaccination.

“I’m Mr. Anti-Vax,” he told listeners of his talk-radio program in Daytona Beach, Fla., after the federal government provisionally approved the first vaccines in December. He later declared that the government was “acting like Nazis” in urging people to get vaccinated.

But in early August, WNDB AM-FM, Bernier’s radio home for more than 30 years, announced that the 65-year-old host was being treated in a hospital for covid-19. On Saturday, the station said that Bernier had died.

Bernier was at least the fourth talk-radio host who had espoused anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments to succumb to the virus in August. There was also Phil Valentine, 61, a popular host in Tennessee; Jimmy DeYoung, 81, a nationally syndicated Christian preacher also based in Tennessee; and Dick Farrel, 65, who had worked for stations in Miami and Palm Beach, Fla., as well as for the conservative Newsmax TV channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Facts are finally starting to penetrate bad Afghanistan punditry, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 1, 2021. Media coverage of the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan has been characterized by hyperbolic commentary and conjecture — driven in part by former officials for the quagmire who were jennifer rubin newest circularquick to weigh in on the matter in interviews. One day, some in the pack would holler for the administration to extend the withdrawal day beyond Aug. 31; the next day, others would demand the United States leave before any more service members died.

One of the constant themes of coverage was scorn, bordering on contempt, for the notion that the Taliban might cooperate with the U.S. government in the evacuation. No matter how many times press secretaries for the Pentagon, White House and State Department explained that the administration was in constant conversation to “deconflict” with the Taliban, and no matter how many thousands of evacuees went through Taliban checkpoints, reporters sneered. Why are we trusting the Taliban? Who decided to outsource our protection to the Taliban?

Certainly, the Taliban has been a vicious group trying to enforce religious fanaticism by force. But it now also has to fight off Islamic State-Khorasan and figure out how to run a fractured country. Measured voices — including Aaron David Miller, former Middle East negotiator for the State Department — patiently explained that no one really knows if we are dealing with Taliban “1.0, 2.0 or 3.0.” Wait, facts should inform our opinions and decisions? What a concept.
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Press secretaries, generals, the national security adviser and others explained again and again that the administration doesn’t trust the Taliban, but that the United States and the Taliban have a mutual interest in a successful withdrawal. Despite obvious evidence of cooperation, former administration officials denounced the suggestion that practical self-interest (getting the United States out) could trump ideology. H.R. McMaster, retired Army lieutenant general and national security adviser to President Biden’s predecessor, scorned the idea.

In fact, the commentary was off-base. Now actual reporting is filling in the gaps to provide a fuller picture of the Taliban’s actions. CNN reported, “The U.S. military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in members of the militant group escorting clusters of Americans to the gates of the Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, two defense officials told CNN.” The report continued: “The officials said Americans were notified to gather at preset ‘muster points’ close to the airport where the Taliban would check their credentials and take them a short distance to a gate manned by American forces who were standing by to let them inside amid huge crowds of Afghans seeking to flee.” No wonder military officials described the Taliban’s conduct as “professional.”

Press Run, Commentary: Why Politico's about to get worse, Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 1, 2021. New conservative owners. The influential bible for savvy-obsessed Beltway eric.boehlertinsiders, Politico already has a strong tendency to disappoint by viewing the world through a Republican prism. Eagerly propping up Dems in Disarray storylines, Politico remains committed to portraying Republicans as being forever shrewd, and stands at the ready to amplify whatever phony outrage the GOP is pushing.

Politico’s hallmark, clickbait failures are likely to become more pronounced because the publication was just sold for $1 billion to an openly conservative media giant based in Germany, Axel Springer. Named after the company’s founder who has been referred to as Germany’s Rupert Murdoch, all Springer employees must pledge their allegiance to the company’s “Essentials”:

1. We stand up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy and a united Europe.

2. We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.

3. We advocate the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe.

4. We uphold the principles of a free market economy and its social responsibility.

5. We reject political and religious extremism and all forms of racism and sexual discrimination.

Politico employees will not have to sign the pledge, according to the New York Times. Still, they will understand what the clear political leanings of their German owners are and that they demand fealty, which could lead American journalists to pander to their bosses. (News reporters signing any kind of worldview “pledge” is a bad idea.)

In a strange, collective oversight though, virtually none of the mainstream media coverage about the blockbuster, $1 billion deal has mentioned the proud conservative preferences of Politico’s new owner. That salient fact regarding the purchase of a powerful political media outlet in Washington, D.C., has been conveniently ignored. Reuters, CNN, CNBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all covered the Politico sale without mentioning the buyer’s politics.

If an unabashedly liberal, international publisher that demanded its employees sign an oath supporting socialism had swooped in to buy a mainstay of American political journalism, do you think its partisan DNA would be mentioned in the news coverage? I certainly do. In fact, it would be mentioned in every headline.

In 1952, Springer founded Bild, a national tabloid daily that soon became the most-read newspaper in Europe, with a circulation that peaked at 6 million. Der Spiegel once characterized the paper as “serv[ing] up tripe, trash, tits and, almost as an afterthought, a healthy dose of hard news seven days a week.” It added that Bild, “has taken on the role of a right-wing populist party, which does not yet exist in Germany."

 

August

Aug. 31

robert david steele collageRobert David Steele, who recently led a nationwide tour that generated $1.2 million for his anti-mask, anti-vaxx messaging, is shown in a promotional photo at left and at right in a Florida hospital shortly before his deatho on Sunday from Covid-19. Although the news report below, like most, assumes the truth of Steele's claim that he had been a "CIA officer" earlier in his career, the Justice Integrity Project we has received information from a trusted source that he had been a contractor for the agency, not an officer. His claim was part of a pattern of absurd drama he used for fund-raising and ego-centric politicking, such as his repeated allegation that sex traffickers were keeping children as sex slaves on the planet Mars.

New York Daily News, ‘Hoax’ kills Covid-denying anti-vaxxer who worked for the CIA: report, Brian Niemietz, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). A former CIA agent (shown above who bought into QAnon conspiracy culture has seemingly died from Covid.

The death of Robert David Steele, a guest on the far right-wing program “Infowars,” was confirmed by a friend of his on social media Sunday. Steele prided himself as one of the first people to identify COVID — which Vice reports caused his death — as a “hoax.”

The 69-year-old ex-marine was reportedly hospitalized in Florida earlier this month, but remained skeptical about the virus that was killing him until his dying breath.

“I will not take the vaccination, though I did test positive for whatever they’re calling ‘COVID’ today,” he blogged on Aug. 17. “The bottom line is that my lungs are not functioning. The good news is that I will survive with a few days off.”

Steele optimistically called his fatal illness a “near death experience” that mirrored what he thought was happening in the United States. He believed he’d pull through, thanks to a sound network of friends.

“We will never be the same because now we know that we’ve all been lied to about everything,” he claimed. “But, now we also know that we can trust each other.”

Fellow conspiracy theorist Mark Tassi confirmed his pal’s death on Sunday, claiming Steele was fine until he was treated with an antiviral medication. Tassi claims Steele’s family gave into “shaming” and put the former Marine on a ventilator. According to Tassi, ventilators kill people.

“They are trying to make Florida look bad, why?” he asked rhetorically. “Why? Because (Ron) DeSantis is not going along with agenda so they are targeting Florida. Open your eyes. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research as I have done.”

While DeSantis’ plan to push through the pandemic without locking down Florida was initially praised, the conservative leader has come under fire since COVID infection rates in the Sunshine State began skyrocketing in recent weeks.

Tassi said Steele was touring the country to push claims that Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 presidential election when he got sick. Steele had allegedly spent all his money promoting that narrative.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Snake Oil Theory of the Modern Right, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Right-wing extremists, and to some extent paul krugmaneven more mainstream conservative media, rely on financial support from companies selling nutritional supplements and miracle cures — and that financial support is arguably a significant factor pushing the right to become more extreme.

Indeed, right-wing extremism isn’t just an ideological movement that happens to get a lot of money from sellers of snake oil; some of its extremism can probably be seen not as a reflection of deep conviction, but as a way of promoting snake oil.

Consider where we are right now in the fight against Covid-19. A few months ago it seemed likely that the development of effective vaccines would soon bring the pandemic to an end. Instead, it goes on, with hospitalizations closing in on their peak from last winter. This is partly due to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, but it also crucially reflects the refusal of many Americans to take the vaccines.

And much of this refusal is political. True, many people who are refusing to get vaccinated aren’t Trumpists, but there’s a strong negative correlation between Donald Trump’s share of a county’s vote and vaccinations. As of July, 86 percent of self-identified Democrats said they had had a vaccine shot, but only 54 percent of Republicans did.

But vaccine refusers aren’t just rejecting lifesaving vaccines, they’re also turning to life-threatening alternatives. We’re seeing a surge in sales of — and poisoning by — ivermectin, which is usually used to deworm livestock but has recently been touted on social media and Fox News as a Covid cure.

As the historian Rick Perlstein has pointed out, there’s a long association between peddlers of quack medicine and right-wing extremists. They cater to more or less the same audience.

That is, Americans willing to believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that Italian satellites were used to switch votes to Joe Biden are also the kind of people willing to believe that medical elites are lying to them and that they can solve their health problems by ignoring professional advice and buying patent medicines instead.

Once you’re sensitized to the link between snake oil and right-wing politics, you realize that it’s pervasive.

This is clearly true in the right’s fever swamps. Alex Jones of Infowars has built a following by pushing conspiracy theories, but he makes money by selling nutritional supplements.

It’s also true, however, for more mainstream, establishment parts of the right. For example, Ben Shapiro, considered an intellectual on the right, hawks supplements.

Put it this way: There are big financial rewards to extremism, because extreme politics sells patent medicine, and patent medicine is highly profitable. (In 2014 Alex Jones’s operations were bringing in more than $20 million a year in revenue, mainly from supplement sales.) Do these financial rewards induce pundits to be more extreme?

The extremism of media figures radicalizes their audience, giving politicians an incentive to become more extreme.

None of this would be happening if there weren’t a climate of anger and distrust for unscrupulous pundits and politicians to exploit. But the fact that extremism sells patent medicine creates a financial incentive to get more extreme.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Rand Paul clown show crashes and burns, Bocha Blue, Aug. 31, 2021. What is going on with Rand and Ron? I refer to a couple of our nation’s worst “leaders.” There is number one — Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. And number two — Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

rand paul presser 6 2 15Apparently, R&R are fiercely fighting for the right of humans everywhere to take horse dewormer. I suppose it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. After all, Republicans have politicized everything else — why not animal medication?

bill palmer report logo headerRand Paul (shown in a file photo) is now saying that “hatred of” the former guy is to blame for the lack of studies of Ivermectin. No, it’s not Rand. The fact is the FDA had to put out a statement TELLING people they’re not horses and cows. Perhaps you think you are?

Don’t get me started on Ron Johnson, who has latched into so many conspiracy theories. I would not be surprised if he announced little aliens were living behind his ears. This would explain so much.

The fact is this drug should not be taken for COVID, and anyone who says otherwise is either delusional or lying to you.

So far, the right to consume horse dewormers hasn’t spread to many other republicans, but I predict that will change.

Why? Because the GOP isn’t a party anymore — it’s a cult, and no doubt if the former guy tells them to talk about Ivermectin, they will. In the meantime, sane people like us will continue to at least try to make people aware that they are indeed human, and horse and cow anti-parasite medication is not meant for them.

ny times logoNew York Times, First Male Accuser at Trial Says R. Kelly Promised Fame for Sex, Troy Closson, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Ex-Assistant Describes R. Kelly’s Anger When His Strict Rules Were Broken.

r kelly twitterFive accusers — four women and one man — have now testified that the singer (shown in his Twitter photo) had sexual contact with them when they were underage, including a woman who described being raped.

One of R. Kelly’s former assistants described the singer’s system of strict rules for the women in his orbit — and the anger he displayed when those rules were broken — as his racketeering trial resumed Tuesday in Brooklyn.

The new testimony came a day after Mr. Kelly’s first male accuser testified that the R&B star offered help with his music career in exchange for sexual favors. The man, who testified under the pseudonym Louis, told jurors that he was 17 when Mr. Kelly began making sexual advances toward him.

Four women have also testified that they were underage when their encounters with Mr. Kelly began, including a woman identified only as Addie who on Monday described being raped by the singer in a dressing room after a concert.

Mr. Kelly has denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to a racketeering charge and eight counts of violating an interstate anti-sex trafficking law.

Prosecutors have accused Mr. Kelly, 54, of running a decades-long criminal plot to prey on women and girls for sex with the help of a network of associates and employees.

Mr. Kelly is not charged with rape or sexual assault, and many of the specific accusations against him fall outside the statute of limitations for those crimes. But a racketeering charge allows prosecutors to present evidence of any related potential crimes.

 mike richards

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Richards out as ‘Jeopardy!’ executive producer after podcast controversy, Emily Yahr, Aug. 31, 2021. Mike Richards, above, is no longer the executive producer of “Jeopardy!" and “Wheel of Fortune,” Sony Pictures Television announced on Tuesday. The announcement comes less than two weeks after Richards stepped down as the new “Jeopardy!” host following the revelation of his many offensive comments on his former podcast.

Aug. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis The false claim that the fully-approved Pfizer vaccine lacks liability protection, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.).

“The little trick that they have done here: They have issued two separate letters for two separate vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine which is currently available is still under emergency use authorization and it still has the liability shield … The product that’s licensed … it’s called Comirnaty. … that’s the one that liability waiver will no longer apply to.”

Robert Malone, interview on Bannons War Room, Aug. 24

Malone, a physician who bills himself as having played a key role in creation of mRNA vaccines, is a prominent skeptic of the coronavirus vaccines that have been crafted using the technology. Shortly after the Food and Drug Administration fully authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he appeared on a program hosted by Stephen K. Bannon, a one-time adviser to former president Donald Trump, and claimed that the full authorization was a bait-and-switch game played by the FDA.

“One again the mainstream media has lied to you,” he said. “Sorry to say that. I know it’s a shock to this viewership.”

In essence, his argument was that the approved vaccine would no longer have liability protections so Pfizer would simply keep distributing in the United States the product that had been authorized for emergency use.

A similar claim was made by Robert F. Kennedy, a leading anti-vaccine campaigner.

“Licensed adult vaccines, including the new Comirnaty, do not enjoy any liability shield,” Kennedy wrote with a co-author in an Aug. 24 post. “Just as with Ford’s exploding Pinto, or Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, people injured by the Comirnaty vaccine could sue for damages. And because adults injured by the vaccine will be able to show that the manufacturer knew of the problems with the product, jury awards could be astronomical. Pfizer is therefore unlikely to allow any American to take a Comirnaty vaccine until it can somehow arrange immunity for this product.”

These claims are false, based on a misunderstanding of the law, as Malone acknowledged after we contacted him.

Malone quickly conceded his statement on the Bannon show was wrong. “When one is doing rapid analysis on the fly, one does not always get everything right,” he told The Fact Checker. “On this particular legal liability issue I did not hunt down the details myself, and relied on comments from a third party lawyer which were not fully correct.” He said the statements we received from Pfizer and HHS “are consistent with my current understanding.”

As regular readers know, we generally do not award Pinocchios when a person admits error. Otherwise, this would be a Four-Pinocchio claim. Malone was too quick to embrace false information (while bashing the mainstream media at the same time). The liability protection for Comirnaty is the same as the vaccine that was previously approved under emergency authorization, so that is not a bar to distributing the fully-approved vaccine in the United States.

 

marc bernierPalmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, right, Aug. 30, 2021. He’s the guy who calls himself “Mr. Anti-vax.” He tweeted a prediction that four robert harringtnn portraitmonths after the 2020 election people would be saying, “Coronavirus, what’s that?” In his most recent tweet to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who likened getting vaccinated against coronavirus to fighting the Nazis only much, much easier, Mr Anti-vax said, “Should say, ‘Now the US Government is acting like Nazi’s[sic]. Get the shot.’”

bill palmer report logo headerMeet Marc Bernier, above, another Florida “radio personality” who thinks you’re stupid for wearing a mask, who thinks it’s anti-American to get vaccinated, who has been an anti-vaxxer and Pro-Trumper and spreader of the Big Lie from the very first. He’s interested in your civil rights and he wants to make sure that America remains free from all this scientific coronavirus nonsense.

I would love to debate Mr. Bernier on these issues on Twitter but unfortunately I can’t. It’s not because his Twitter account has been taken down, not because he said something that violated Twitter’s terms of service (though he probably has), but because Marc Bernier died this weekend. On Saturday to be precise. Of coronavirus.

I’m afraid I played a little joke on you, brothers, and sisters. In my first two paragraphs I spoke of Bernier in the present tense — as a sort of polemical “Weekend at Bernier’s,” if you will. I did it because I wanted to illustrate in a shocking way how quickly coronavirus kills people.

Yes, the self-styled “Mr Anti-vax” has gone to that great lib-owning radio show in the sky. He took Patrick Henry’s thundering admonition, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” to its ultimate conclusion. You might say he owned himself in the most humiliating way possible. He became the ultimate rube cliche, the guy whose famous last words were, “Hey everybody, watch this!”

This is how stupid people die. This is what Drs Dunning and Kruger meant when they said the dumber some people are the more confident they become in their own beliefs. This is the price of ignoring science and believing your own thin, easily refuted propaganda. This is why wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and getting vaccinated isn’t a political issue, it isn’t open for debate, it isn’t a martyr’s hill to die on, it’s a scientific fact and a matter of life and death.

If it was just people like Mr. Bernier who died from their own stupidity then I couldn’t care less. Like the guy who killed himself in a homemade rocket to “prove” the earth was flat. But unfortunately people like Mr. Bernier take innocent people with them, innocent bystanders who become infected because some moron without a mask infected them. They are provoking anger in some people where no anger would have existed at all had they been left alone to decide for themselves. They are turning a health issue into a political one. It’s not.

Coronavirus isn’t a member of any party. It will kill you, your children, your friends and neighbors and it doesn’t give a crap what you think or what you believe. It behaves exactly like scientific truth, like the law of gravity, and all the propaganda and lies and government decrees on earth won’t change it one little bit. And it’s getting nastier, more virulent, more deadly every day.

Marc Bernier’s state (excuse me, former state) of Florida leads the nation in hospitalizations, with more than 16,000 Floridians hospitalized. Ninety five percent of the state’s ICU beds are now filled. For the 3rd straight week in a row Florida has had more than 150,000 new cases of coronavirus, including 26,000 children under twelve years of age.

There have been a total of more than 43,000 deaths in the state. Marc Bernier’s death is another one, but it’s far, far from the last. Despite the evidence of their own eyes, with people dropping dead right in front of them, the literally terminally stupid will continue to spread this anti-science excrement until millions have died. When they finally wake up to scientific reality it will be too late.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Inside Politico’s Billion-Dollar Drama, Ben Smith, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). A mogul in his own right: Robert Allbritton just became the unlikeliest winner of the new media sweepstakes, our media columnist, Ben Smith, writes.

The Washington heir, whose Georgetown existence and mild affect put him at a considerable distance from the larger-than-life characters in the red-hot center of digital media, has scored the kind of deal his counterparts in New York and Los Angeles only dream about: a billion-dollar sale.

politico CustomOn Thursday he reached an agreement to sell Politico (the “the” got dropped early on) for a billion dollars in cash to the German media company Axel Springer, meaning that he had pulled off what is probably the most successful exit in its generation of new media, in pure business terms. Mr. Allbritton, who had sunk more than $50 million of family money into Politico by 2018, is now among the most successful media investors of the century — although Politico, which never entered the buzzy venture capital fray, had rarely been mentioned among hot media start-ups.

“We kind of disadvantaged ourselves by not taking V.C. money because we just weren’t part of the conversation,” Mr. Albritton said.

Now, he added, he’s pleased to be handing his company over to Axel Springer, a swashbuckling outfit whose Berlin tower long stood as a gleaming middle finger to the Communist East.

“In some ways, they’re more American than most Americans are these days,” he said. “They’re about freedom of the press, they’re about freedom of thought, they are blatantly pro-Translantic alliance.”

Axel Springer publishes the confrontational German tabloid Bild, but its chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, told me the Politico deal cemented the company’s American future. Mr. Allbritton noted that the Politico staff will not be subject to one notable feature of the German company — a mission statement employees are required to sign in support of the trans-Atlantic alliance and Israel, among other favored values.

I spoke to Mr. Allbritton, 52, by phone for about 90 minutes Saturday. I’d been promised his first interview since the sale became public, and I should admit I came for the drama. His story had long intrigued me. When he started Politico, he was known as the scion of an upstart D.C. dynasty that had been gunning for the more patrician Graham family, which owned The Washington Post. His father, Joe, was a television mogul from Houston who bought The Washington Star in 1975, hoping to make it into a feisty, right-leaning competitor to the main paper in town.

ed asner mtm lou grant

washington post logoWashington Post, Ed Asner 1929–2021: Actor who twice had the role of a lifetime as newsman Lou Grant dies at 91, Emily Langer, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Asner starred on the TV comedy “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (shown in a scene above) and later on the spin-off series “Lou Grant.”

Ed Asner, an actor and liberal activist who twice had the role of a lifetime in the character of Lou Grant, the irascible newsman he played first on the hit 1970s sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and then on an acclaimed spinoff series, died Aug. 29 at his home in Tarzana, Calif. He was 91.

The son of an immigrant junk dealer, Mr. Asner had a fireplug build, jowly countenance and workingman’s appearance that are not traditionally considered the raw materials of stardom. Those attributes were perfect, however, for the gruff, middle-aged news director of WJM-TV, the fictional Minneapolis television station at the center of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Widely regarded as one of the finest sitcoms in TV history, the program aired on CBS from 1970 to 1977 and starred Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, an earnest assistant producer who became a generational ideal of the single working woman. Mr. Asner, then in his 40s, played Mary’s crusty boss and was catapulted to fame in the midst of a decades-long acting career that would include hundreds of TV and movie credits.

Besides Mr. Asner and Moore, the cast included a host of first-rate character actors: Gavin Mac­Leod as Murray Slaughter, the long-suffering news writer; Ted Knight as Ted Baxter, the pompous anchor; Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, hostess of the TV station’s “Happy Homemaker” program; and Valerie Harper as Mary’s self-deprecating neighbor and friend Rhoda Morgenstern.

Between its original broadcast and reruns, the show endeared itself to millions and ended with a plotline in which new management fires the newsroom crew, with the ludicrous exception of Ted. After a tearful speech by Lou — “I treasure you people” — the staff shuffles in a group hug to a box of Kleenex and then files out, with Mary left to turn off the lights.

When “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended in 1977, Mr. Asner’s character was reimagined as a hard-charging Los Angeles newspaper editor in“Lou Grant,” a CBS drama that addressed issues such as overseas dictatorship, nuclear power and the mental health of Vietnam War veterans. Nancy Marchand played a fictional publisher modeled in part on Katharine Graham of The Washington Post.

Mr. Asner’s comedic role turned into one with serious themes and dramatic nuance. He received five Primetime Emmy Awards as Lou Grant — three for supporting actor in a comedy and two for lead actor in a drama.

CBS canceled “Lou Grant” in 1982, citing declining ratings. Many observers, including Mr. Asner, suspected that the true cause was his real-world political activism.

ed asner smileMr. Asner, left, was prominently involved in the Screen Actors Guild strike over wages and profit-sharing in 1980 and was SAG president from 1981 to 1985. During that time, he criticized President Ronald Reagan for sending military aid to the right-wing government in El Salvador and helped raise funds for medical supplies for leftist rebels there.

Those activities, Newsweek magazine reported in 1982, “stirred up the hottest Hollywood political dispute since Jane Fonda’s wartime visit to North Vietnam.”

Reagan, a former actor and head of SAG, said that he was “very disturbed” by Mr. Asner’s work. Another erstwhile SAG chief, the actor and future National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston, accused Mr. Asner of injecting politics into the union and using it “like some Mafia don.”

Mr. Asner helped raise money to support the high-profile legal defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 of killing a Philadelphia police officer. He later questioned widely accepted explanations of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and appeared in advertisements by the liberal group ­MoveOn.org targeting then-President George W. Bush.

In a foreword to a book about “Lou Grant” by author Douglass K. Daniel, Mr. Asner wrote that the drama was one of his proudest accomplishments as an actor.

“I knew, at the time, that we were doing exceptional and important work that had the power to make changes in our world. That may sound egotistical; it was, after all, just a television show,” he wrote.

“Consider, though, that a prime-time show reaches 40 million homes,” he continued. “ ‘Lou Grant’ has been seen in 72 countries; in many of them, the very idea of freedom of the press is amazing. That kind of power gives my industry an obligation to be responsible for what we produce, and, in that regard, ‘Lou Grant’ was exemplary.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, right, Aug. 30, 2021. He’s the guy who calls himself “Mr. Anti-vax.” He tweeted a prediction that four robert harringtnn portraitmonths after the 2020 election people would be saying, “Coronavirus, what’s that?” In his most recent tweet to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who likened getting vaccinated against coronavirus to fighting the Nazis only much, much easier, Mr Anti-vax said, “Should say, ‘Now the US Government is acting like Nazi’s[sic]. Get the shot.’”

bill palmer report logo headerMeet Marc Bernier, another Florida “radio personality” who thinks you’re stupid for wearing a mask, who thinks it’s anti-American to get vaccinated, who has been an anti-vaxxer and Pro-Trumper and spreader of the Big Lie from the very first. He’s interested in your civil rights and he wants to make sure that America remains free from all this scientific coronavirus nonsense.

I would love to debate Mr. Bernier on these issues on Twitter but unfortunately I can’t. It’s not because his Twitter account has been taken down, not because he said something that violated Twitter’s terms of service (though he probably has), but because Marc Bernier died this weekend. On Saturday to be precise. Of coronavirus.

I’m afraid I played a little joke on you, brothers, and sisters. In my first two paragraphs I spoke of Bernier in the present tense — as a sort of polemical “Weekend at Bernier’s,” if you will. I did it because I wanted to illustrate in a shocking way how quickly coronavirus kills people.

Yes, the self-styled “Mr Anti-vax” has gone to that great lib-owning radio show in the sky. He took Patrick Henry’s thundering admonition, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” to its ultimate conclusion. You might say he owned himself in the most humiliating way possible. He became the ultimate rube cliche, the guy whose famous last words were, “Hey everybody, watch this!”

This is how stupid people die. This is what Drs Dunning and Kruger meant when they said the dumber some people are the more confident they become in their own beliefs. This is the price of ignoring science and believing your own thin, easily refuted propaganda. This is why wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and getting vaccinated isn’t a political issue, it isn’t open for debate, it isn’t a martyr’s hill to die on, it’s a scientific fact and a matter of life and death.

If it was just people like Mr. Bernier who died from their own stupidity then I couldn’t care less. Like the guy who killed himself in a homemade rocket to “prove” the earth was flat. But unfortunately people like Mr. Bernier take innocent people with them, innocent bystanders who become infected because some moron without a mask infected them. They are provoking anger in some people where no anger would have existed at all had they been left alone to decide for themselves. They are turning a health issue into a political one. It’s not.

Coronavirus isn’t a member of any party. It will kill you, your children, your friends and neighbors and it doesn’t give a crap what you think or what you believe. It behaves exactly like scientific truth, like the law of gravity, and all the propaganda and lies and government decrees on earth won’t change it one little bit. And it’s getting nastier, more virulent, more deadly every day.

Marc Bernier’s state (excuse me, former state) of Florida leads the nation in hospitalizations, with more than 16,000 Floridians hospitalized. Ninety five percent of the state’s ICU beds are now filled. For the 3rd straight week in a row Florida has had more than 150,000 new cases of coronavirus, including 26,000 children under twelve years of age.

There have been a total of more than 43,000 deaths in the state. Marc Bernier’s death is another one, but it’s far, far from the last. Despite the evidence of their own eyes, with people dropping dead right in front of them, the literally terminally stupid will continue to spread this anti-science excrement until millions have died. When they finally wake up to scientific reality it will be too late. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Aug. 28

President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after being asked about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints.

President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after a Fox News reporter asking about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints declined to respond with specifics to Biden's question to the reporter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden escalates his efforts to puncture the Fox News bubble, Philip Bump Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). The network's Peter Doocy gave the president an opportunity to make a broader point.

In a sense, Peter Doocy’s arrival in the White House press briefing room has been to his employer’s detriment. It used to be that Fox News could spend days condemning Democratic presidents for not responding to whatever controversy its hosts had been tumbling around in their rhetorical rock polishers. Now, though, there’s Doocy, who is regularly selected by White House press secretary Jen Psaki to ask questions probably in part so that the familiar process can be beheaded early. Her exchanges with Doocy drop into the political conversation like bang snaps, crackling with life for an instant before being forgotten, the gotcha almost always redirected to the junkyard.

That’s at least in part because the questions often reflect a network or right-wing consensus that hasn’t been exposed to any significant scrutiny. Little grains of ice snowball into scandals, with Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino and whoever else packing on more and more — and then they get removed from the cooler and placed on the sidewalk. It often doesn’t take long for it to melt.

fox news logo SmallAt other times, the inflection of Doocy’s question itself gets at the point. As was the case Thursday evening, when President Biden called on Doocy after brief remarks about the suicide bombing outside the airport in Kabul.

“Let me take the one question,” Biden said, “from the most interesting guy that I know in the press.”

This was not really meant as a compliment.

“Mr. President, there had not been a U.S. service member killed in combat in Afghanistan since February of 2020,” Doocy said. “You set a deadline. You pulled troops out. You sent troops back in. And now 12 Marines are dead. You said the buck stops with you. Do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks?”

When Donald Trump was asked a similar question in March 2020 about the failure of coronavirus testing, he answered like Donald Trump: “No, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a — a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.” Rejection of the idea that he deserved blame and a pivot to his predecessor.

Biden's been doing this longer, so he accepted blame — and then pivoted to his predecessor.

“I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that’s happened of late,” Biden said. “But here’s the deal: You know — I wish you’d one day say these things — you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban that he would get all American forces out of Afghanistan by May 1. In return, the commitment was made — and that was a year before — in return, he was given a commitment that the Taliban would continue to attack others, but would not attack any American forces.”

This is a fair description. A deal struck between the U.S. government and the Taliban in February 2020 included the trade-off outlined by Biden.

At that point, though, Biden went in a different direction: He challenged Doocy to admit that he knew that his own framing of the question was unsound.

“Remember that? I’m being serious,” Biden said to Doocy.

Doocy tried to interject that Trump was no longer the president, but Biden kept at it.

“Now wait a minute,” he said. “I’m asking you a question. Is that — is that accurate, to the best of your knowledge?”

“I know what you’re talking about,” Doocy conceded, before then trying to get Biden to opine on why Americans might be frustrated with the situation in the country. Biden, after resting his head on his hands in apparent frustration, replied that Americans “have an issue that people are likely to get hurt” as they had that day.

He then returned to the prior point: that U.S. forces had avoided attack thanks to the deal made by Trump that had included a withdrawal pledge. This was the case, he said, “whether my friend will acknowledge it” or not — his friend being Doocy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon Web Services disables ISIS propaganda website it had hosted since April, Craig Timberg and Jay Greene, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). AWS took the action after The Post reported that the site relied on Amazon's cloud services.

amazon logo smallAmazon late Friday disabled a website used by a propaganda arm of the Islamic State that celebrated the suicide bombing that killed at least 170 people in Kabul on Thursday after The Washington Post reported the extremists relied on the company’s technology to promote extremism.

Nida-e-Haqq, an Islamic State media group that distributes Islamist content in the Urdu language, had been using the company’s dominant cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services, to host its content, despite company policies against working with terror groups.

Some of that content included messages about the Islamic State-Khorasan offshoot that claimed responsibility for the lethal attack, said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism and discovered the link with Amazon Web Services. Urdu is widely spoken in neighboring Pakistan and occasionally in Afghanistan itself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Settlement in Apple developers’ court case won’t stop the push for App Store deregulation, Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Critics deride the deal as a publicity stunt. ‘It’s not real change,’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

apple logo rainbowApple’s olive branch to small developers, announced late Thursday night as a proposed lawsuit settlement, is unlikely to shield it from the growing regulatory heat in Washington and around the world, interviews indicated on Friday.

Democrats who have proposed a bill to regulate both Apple and Google’s app stores say the company’s proposed changes — which must still be approved by the federal judge hearing the case — are insufficient, and they still want to push ahead with legislation to ensure there’s fair competition on smartphones.

European regulators who announced antitrust action against Apple for its alleged stifling of competition in the music streaming business said it will assess Apple’s announcement with that in mind. That comes amid broader regulatory efforts abroad, as legislators in South Korea recently advanced a bill that would prohibit Apple and Google from forcing developers to pay commissions on in-app purchases.

Associated Press via Detroit News, Reporter punched in face while covering anti-mask event near Traverse City, Staff Report, Aug. 28, 2021. A newspaper reporter said he was punched in the face while covering an anti-mask event near Traverse City. The Grand Traverse County sheriff’s office is investigating.

“I know the concern you have,” Sheriff Tom Bensley told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “There are some people out there that are not happy with the news outlets. We’ve had two incidents in a short period of time.”

Record-Eagle reporter Brendan Quealy went to Silver Lake Recreation Area to check an event organized by a group called Citizens Liberating Michigan and promoted by local allies on a Facebook page.

Heather Cerone introduced herself to a crowd of 80 to 100 people Thursday and said there would be no recording of the event.

“There’s no reporting, Brendan,” Cerone said. “We don’t authorize that. So, you guys feel like standing in front of him?”

Quealy said two men confronted him and one of them shoved him into a fence and punched him in the face with both fists.

Cerone claimed the event was private because the pavilion had been rented. But prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said the area around the pavilion is “open to anyone.”

“My job is to chase the news, to accurately report it and that’s what I was doing,” Quealy said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer for Afghan girls’ robotics team tells Oklahoma woman to stop taking credit for rescue, Sarah Ellison and Elahe Izadi, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Several media outlets covered Allyson Reneau’s efforts to “save” the girls.

A lawyer for the famed all-girls Afghan robotics team has sent a cease-and-desist letter to an Oklahoma woman, telling her to stop taking credit for the girls’ escape from Kabul and warning that her numerous media appearances endanger their organization’s remaining members in Afghanistan.

The woman, Allyson Reneau, spoke last week to Today.com and then to several other media outlets, telling a story of her supposed involvement in the evacuation of several members of the robotics team, known internationally as the “Afghan Dreamers.” These outlets reported that she had “saved” the girls from probable oppression under the Taliban.

But a lawyer for the team’s parent organization, the Digital Citizen Fund, said that Reneau has overstated her role and has, in fact, put the girls and their families at risk because her repeated claims are undermining ongoing rescue efforts in the country.

“Continuingly recycling old pictures with the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, many of whom are minors, as validation that you had anything to do with their immensely stressful and dangerous escape not only impacts the safety of the girls but it also significantly affects the safety of the members of the team who still remain in Afghanistan,” wrote Kim Motley, a lawyer for the group and a Digital Citizen Fund board member, in a letter sent to Reneau just after midnight Wednesday. “It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain.”

A spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, which helped evacuate many Afghans, including the robotics team members, also accused Reneau of taking credit for a rescue she had little to do with — and lambasted the U.S. media for making her a “White savior.”

Reneau denied that she has done anything but tell the truth. “‘I’m above board, and if you don’t tell the truth, then you have nothing else to show for it,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview Wednesday. She said she was perplexed but undeterred by the “blowback” against her efforts.

ny times logoNew York Times, The 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Spike Lee Removes Conspiracists From HBO 9/11 Series After Criticism, Julia Jacobs and Reggie Ugwu, Aug. 28, 2021. The filmmaker edited his documentary after critics said it provided a platform for discredited theories purporting that the towers had been secretly blown up.

Quickly responding to criticism that an episode of his HBO documentary series on the Sept. 11 attacks gave credence to conspiracy theories, the filmmaker spike lee imdbSpike Lee, right, on Thursday released to the media a new final cut that removes all interviews about what caused the World Trade Center buildings to collapse.

Mr. Lee’s series, “NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½,” explores how the city weathered both the terrorist attacks and the coronavirus pandemic through interviews with New Yorkers and footage from the crises. The first part of the four-episode eight-hour series debuted on Sunday. The final segment — which was the subject of the criticism — is scheduled to air on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

The episode, which was cut down from two hours to 90 minutes, had prominently featured interviews with members of the conspiracy group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth — who push the debunked view that the buildings were brought down by a controlled demolition, not by terror attacks. Arguments from the conspiracy group had been juxtaposed with interviews of experts who had studied the collapse as part of a government inquiry, including S. Shyam Sunder, who led a yearslong investigation into the disaster for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the new edit, the entire 30-minute discussion is removed.

After The New York Times published an interview with Mr. Lee in which he defended the episode, he and HBO were denounced online by journalists who criticized them for appearing to give equal voice to both sides.

On Wednesday, Mr. Lee said he had gone back to the editing room, and the episode was removed from an HBO platform that is used to stream previews for members of the news media. HBO did not provide a rationale for the new edit. A representative for Mr. Lee declined to comment.

Ronald Hamburger, who investigated the collapse of the towers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and also appeared in the original cut of the episode, said in an interview on Thursday that Mr. Lee interviewed him for the series about two months ago. The interview, which Mr. Hamburger said lasted about 10 minutes, revolved around the conspiracy theories about controlled demolition.

Mr. Hamburger, who no longer appears in the episode, said he explained to Mr. Lee that based on his work at the site and hundreds of hours of analysis, he had concluded that the cause was not controlled demolition.

“I did get the understanding in my discussions with him that he wanted to give them credence,” Mr. Hamburger said of the conspiracy theories.

In his earlier interview with The New York Times, Mr. Lee seemed to cast doubt on the official explanation of the collapse of the buildings, including 7 World Trade Center, which investigators determined had been brought down by fire. They concluded that heat from the fire caused girders in the steel floor to expand, and steel beams underneath the floors that provided lateral support for the tower’s structural columns began to buckle or put pressure against the vertical structural columns.

“The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached,” Mr. Lee told The Times, alluding to a popular conspiracy theory. “And then the juxtaposition of the way Building 7 fell to the ground — when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it’s like you’re looking at the same thing. But people going to make up their own mind.”

Aug. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Spike Lee reediting 9/11 docuseries after backlash for including conspiracy theorists, Sonia Rao, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Spike Lee's HBO docuseries “NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” was criticized for featuring debunked theories about why the twin towers collapsed.

Spike Lee announced he would be reediting an episode of his new HBO documentary series about New York City amid criticism over his decision to feature 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

“I’m Back In The Editing Room And Looking At The Eighth And Final Chapter Of NYC EPICENTERS 9/11➔2021½,” he wrote in a statement shared Wednesday afternoon with members of the media. “I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgement Until You See The FINAL CUT.”

spike lee imdb“NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” premiered Sunday and will air two episodes each week until its finale on Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Produced and directed by one of the city’s most prolific filmmakers, the series explores the resilience of New Yorkers and how they have grappled over the past two decades with the effects of landmark events like 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic.

In the original cut, Lee, right, reportedly allotted a significant portion of the eighth episode to interrogating why the twin towers collapsed as they did — even interviewing members of the conspiracy-theorist group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, including founder Richard Gage. Asked about his decision to include these theories in the series, Lee told the New York Times, “I mean, I got questions.”

“And I hope that maybe the legacy of this documentary is that Congress holds a hearing, a congressional hearing about 9/11,” he said.

Pushed to expand upon whether that meant the filmmaker didn’t accept the official explanation for the collapse — which a years-long investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology attributed to fires weakening the floors and already impacted steel support columns — Lee said, “The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached.”

“And then the juxtaposition of the way Building 7 fell to the ground — when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it’s like you’re looking at the same thing,” he continued. “But people going to make up their own mind. My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves. I respect the intelligence of the audience.”

Lee’s comments sparked backlash as they circulated online this week, given that, as Variety’s Caroline Framke wrote of the series, he seemed to be “in clear agreement with the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth calling for a new investigation.” Although the original cut of the episode also included an interview with Shyam Sunder, who led 200 technical experts in conducting the NIST investigation over a three-year period, some critics argued Lee’s approach seemed to grant equal weight to the conspiracy theorists’ perspectives.

“Lee and HBO are offering Gage and his conspiracy theories the biggest and most mainstream platform they’ve ever had, pointing their viewers directly toward a bog of heinously dangerous ideas,” wrote Slate’s Jeremy Stahl. “Like other conspiracy theorists, Gage doesn’t just stick to 9/11, and if Lee’s viewers follow Gage down the rabbit hole, they likely won’t, either.”

This isn’t the first time Lee has nodded toward a conspiracy claim. In a 2005 interview with CNN, ahead of his HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lee said: “I don’t put anything past the United States government. I don’t find it too far-fetched that they tried to displace all the Black people out of New Orleans.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sexual assault lawsuit against former ABC News producer prompts call for probe of company culture, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The network, which largely avoided the scrutiny placed on other media organizations during the MeToo movement, now finds itself under the microscope. The president of ABC News told staffers Thursday that she has requested an independent investigation into how the network responded to allegations of sexual assault and harassment by a prominent former producer, placing the network’s culture and treatment of women under scrutiny it had largely avoided until now.

The announcement comes a day after news of a bombshell lawsuit filed against ABC and Michael Corn, the former executive producer of “Good Morning America” who left the network abruptly in April with no explanation from ABC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple loosens rules for developers in major concession amid antitrust pressure, Rachel Lerman, Cat Zakrzewski and Heather Kelly, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Apple has faced accusations that it has monopoly powers through its App Store.

Apple announced it would make major changes to its App Store as part of a proposed lawsuit settlement with developers, following years of mounting regulatory scrutiny and legal challenges.

apple logo rainbowThe company will let developers tell its iPhone and iPad customers about ways to pay outside the official App Store, it said in a news release late Thursday. It also expands the types of prices that developers can offer for subscriptions, in-app purchases and paid apps, among other initiatives. The settlement still needs to be approved by the court.

The change is in response to a suit brought by small app developers, in which they alleged Apple’s pricing tiers and lack of outside purchasing options were monopolistic. Apple is also expecting an imminent judgment in a suit by Epic Games over similar allegations in front of the same judge in federal court in the Northern District of California.

jeopardy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Is Mayim Bialik’s dubious science going to be ‘Jeopardy!’s’ next big headache? Emily Yahr, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). This past October, actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik released a YouTube video in which she told viewers that she was going to do something she hadn’t done in 30 years: Get a vaccine. Specifically, vaccines for the coronavirus and flu.

“Now you might be saying, ‘Hey wait a second, Dr. Mayim Bialik, you don’t believe in vaccines. You’re one of those anti-vaxxers! I know it because I read it online,’ ” Bialik said in a jovial tone, waving her hand dismissively. “Well folks, let’s finally talk about it.”

mayim bialik twitterBialik, right, was referring to the many headlines that have appeared since her 2012 parenting book revealed her two sons were not on the “typical” vaccine schedule — and when she has offered quotes such as one to People magazine in 2009, saying “we are a non-vaccinating family.” While Bialik has long fought back against the anti-vaccine label, this video was the most in-depth defense yet. “I have never once said that vaccines are not valuable, not useful or not necessary — because they are,” she said, adding her children did receive some vaccinations, which she delayed for reasons she doesn’t want to share publicly.

But her comments are making the rounds once again as Bialik is suddenly in a bigger spotlight in 2021 than anyone could have predicted. Bialik, who drew rave reviews when she guest-hosted “Jeopardy!” earlier this year, was tapped on Aug. 11 as the host for the show’s prime-time specials and spinoffs alongside executive producer Mike Richards as the daily syndicated host. When Richards was forced to step down days later after the revelation of his offensive comments on his former podcast, Sony Pictures Television announced that Bialik would fill in and film 15 episodes this week as executives continue their search for a permanent host.

Now that Bialik is officially embedded in a legendary television institution, “Jeopardy!” fans and social media users are digging into her past: Her 2017 New York Times op-ed about disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that was criticized for victim-blaming, or her book that promoted the hotly debated attachment parenting philosophy (“Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way”).

Aug. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, New York’s Legendary Literary Hangouts, Tina Jordan, Aug. 26, 2021 (Interactive). You might think of them as solitary creatures, furiously scribbling or typing alone, but as long as there have been writers in New York City, they have socialized together in an assortment of bars, restaurants, apartments and clubs.

The Times began writing about these places in its very first issues. In 1910, it published an article lamenting “the passing of the literary haunts of New York,” noting that many once-famous gathering spots were being razed as the city grew and modernized.

“Number 19 West 24th is gone,” the piece began. “At least the old 19 is gone, and … no account has been made of the fact that it at one time housed the Author’s Club, and that its rakish stairs were somewhat worn away by the feet of Matthew Arnold, Whittier, Lowell and Field.” The article went on to list more than a dozen locations that were no more, including Pfaff’s beer cellar, where Walt Whitman liked to drink, an unnamed restaurant at 5 Barclay Street where Edgar Allan Poe ate with fellow writers and The Den, where James Fenimore Cooper and friends gathered.

Pfaff’s, The Den and the rest may be long gone, but over the decades, dozens, if not hundreds, of other establishments popped up to take their places. Here, we celebrate a few of the most memorable ones.

Aug. 24

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

Alex Jones, host and founder of the Texas-based Infowars show (file photo).

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Is Qanon driven by military-grade PSYOPs subliminal programming? Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), Aug. 24, 2021. There remains an wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalluncomfortable fact with Qanon. The amorphous freewheeling cult is not losing adherents but, in fact, gaining them as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Qanon might be dismissed if its only followers were uneducated individuals prone to believing whatever nonsense was slickly-presented to them by conniving masters of deception -- those like the charlatans who sell "prosperity gospel" religion and miracle "medical" cures. But that is not the case. Qanon believers include those with college educations, including people with advanced degrees, military and intelligence community veterans, and, yes and very wayne madesen report logounfortunately, journalists.

There are some indications that Qanon is the product of those who have expertise in military psychological warfare operations (psyops) and that large masses of people around the world are being manipulated and coerced for some end game. What is the goal?

Judging from the effects this potential psyop is having on political stability, the ultimate target may be democratic governance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Study finds sites that mislead, not flat-out lie, attract record share of Facebook interactions, Cristiano Lima, Aug. 24, 2021. As overall engagement on Facebook dropped this year, sites that share news misleadingly are attracting a record-level share of the platform’s audience, according to a study shared exclusively with The Technology 202.

More than 1 in 5 interactions — such as shares, likes or comments — with U.S. sites from April to June happened on “outlets that gather and present breitbart logoinformation irresponsibly,” according to a report by the German Marshall Fund.

This includes outlets such as the Daily Wire, TMZ, the Epoch Times and Breitbart that researchers say “distort or misrepresent information to make an argument or report on a subject,” a metric determined by NewsGuard, a website cited in the study that rates the credibility of news sources. Researchers say these epoch timessources, which they argue spread subtler but still harmful forms of misinformation, are decidedly different from sites that publish overtly false news.

“These are the kinds of sites that will cherry pick anecdotes and are giving rise to vaccine hesitancy and other kinds of conspiracy theories,” said Karen Kornbluh, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative, a public policy think tank.

Researchers highlighted articles that they say “disproportionately amplify vaccine-hesitant voices over experts” and “fail to mention risks of not being vaccinated against covid-19,” such as a June story on football, titled, “NFL Wide Receiver Refuses Vaccine, Wants To ‘Represent’ Other Silent Players.”

While platforms have cracked down on black-and-white cases of fiction masquerading as fact, they are still grappling with how to handle murky yet wide-reaching cases that stop short of falsehood.

Larry Elder Screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, How Did Elder Become a Front-Runner in California’s Governor Race? Shawn Hubler, Aug. 24, 2021. Larry Elder, a conservative radio host who paints himself as the native son of a safer California, has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

For a generation, Larry Elder, right, has been an AM radio fixture for millions of Californians, the voice they could count on when they were fed up with liberal Democratic politics. Undocumented immigrants? Deport them. Affirmative action? End it. Equal pay? The glass ceiling doesn’t exist.

Now Mr. Elder, a Los Angeles Republican who bills himself as “the sage from South Central,” could end up as the next governor of the nation’s most populous state. As the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom has become a dead heat among likely voters, Mr. Elder has emerged almost overnight as the front-runner in the campaign to replace him.

Fueled by a combination of arcane recall rules, name recognition and partisan desperation, his rise to the top of a pack of some four dozen challengers has stunned and unnerved many in both parties.

Democrats call him the agent of a far-right power grab. Republican rivals say he is an inexperienced, debate-dodging opportunist. Orrin Heatlie, the retired sheriff’s sergeant who is the recall’s lead proponent, said he and his fellow activists were voting for someone else.

This month, The Sacramento Bee and two Republican candidates — Kevin Faulconer, the former San Diego mayor, and Caitlyn Jenner, the television personality and former Olympian — demanded that Mr. Elder drop out of the race after an ex-girlfriend of his said he brandished a gun at her while high on marijuana during a 2015 breakup.

“We were having a conversation and he walked to the drawer and took out a .45 and checked to see that it was loaded,” Alexandra Datig, 51, said in an interview. Ms. Datig, who worked as an escort in the 1990s and now runs Front Page Index, a conservative website, said: “He wanted me to know he was ready to be very threatening to me. He’s a talented entertainer, but he shouldn’t be governor.”

Mr. Elder, 69, did not respond to requests for comment about Ms. Datig’s claims, but he did tweet that he has “never brandished a gun at anyone,” adding, “I am not going to dignify this with a response.”

The onslaught has come as a Sept. 14 election deadline nears. Ballots have been mailed to all active registered voters, asking whether the governor should be replaced, and, if so, by whom.

Constitutional scholars say Mr. Elder’s sudden ascent is an example of all that is wrong with the recall process, which requires a majority to oust a governor but only a plurality to replace one. Polls show a rout by Mr. Newsom among all Californians but a far tighter race among likely voters. Mr. Elder leads 46 challengers on the ballot with about 20 percent of the likely vote.

Mr. Newsom, whose fate rides on turnout, has made a foil of Mr. Elder, a “small-l libertarian” who reliably agitates the governor’s base with claims, for instance, that the minimum wage should be zero, the “war on oil” should be ended and racial preferences are destructive.

“The leading candidate thinks climate change is a hoax, believes we need more offshore oil drilling, more fracking, does not believe a woman has the right to choose, actually came out against Roe v. Wade, does not believe in a minimum wage,” Mr. Newsom has told supporters.

“Don’t paint me as some wild-eyed radical,” Mr. Elder said in a recent interview. “I’m running because of crime, homelessness, the rising cost of living and the outrageous decisions made during Covid that shut down the state.”

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, center, with businessman Lev Parnas, above right, and their colleague Ignor Fruman, with Parnas and Fruman arrested while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles Airport.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is what you’ve been waiting for, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 24, 2021. During a stretch of just a few hours yesterday, several big names in Trump bill palmerworld suddenly decided to loudly turn against several other big names in Trump world. It might have caught you off guard if you haven’t been paying attention these past few months. But in reality, everything we saw yesterday was the direct or indirect result of the incremental collapse of Trump world that we’ve been seeing throughout 2021.

bill palmer report logo headerYesterday it was revealed in court filings that Igor Fruman has decided to plead guilty, meaning he’s very likely going to cooperate in the prosecution of Rudy Giuliani. This didn’t come out of nowhere. Last week we brought you the news that the court-appointed special master phase of the criminal case against Giuliani was nearing completion, meaning his arrest could come within weeks. This meant that if Fruman was ever going to get a favorable deal, he’d have to do it now – and so he’s apparently doing just that.

Yesterday we also saw Alex Jones suddenly lash out at his hero Donald Trump, calling him a “dumbass.” Jones claimed it was in reference to Trump’s recent decision to finally recommend the COVID vaccine to his supporters. But given the timing, this is more likely about the fact that Jones’ top lieutenant Owen Shroyer was indicted over the weekend for his role in the insurrection that Trump incited. Now that Jones has to worry he’s about to be the next to get indicted for Trump’s insurrection, suddenly he’s lashing out at Trump in frustration. In other words, these past months of the Feds bringing January 6th-related charges against people incrementally further up the chain is finally prompting movement at the top.

Yesterday we also saw Roger Stone suddenly decide to reignite his long standing feud with Steve Bannon. But this probably didn’t just come out of nowhere, either. Stone now has to worry about Shroyer flipping on him, or Shroyer flipping on Jones who in turn could flip on Stone. And so now Stone is trying to change the subject by calling for Bannon’s arrest. Or just maybe this is Stone’s way of offering himself up as a witness against Bannon, in case Stone ends up needing to curry favor with prosecutors.

The thing is, the big movement we saw yesterday – the kind of stuff you’ve been waiting for – wasn’t spontaneous. It wasn’t as if these ongoing criminal cases and investigations were sitting dormant until they suddenly came to life yesterday. Rather, the details we’ve been steadily bringing you about these probes all year are what led to yesterday’s big fireworks. Even as the defeatists insist on referring to incremental progress as “nothing being done,” the reality is that Trump world is now eating itself alive, as a direct result of everything that has been done thus far in 2021.

Poynter Institute, CNN is hiring 200 journalists for CNN+. Here’s what the network is looking for, Al Tompkins, Aug. 24, 2021. The hiring surge for CNN’s new streaming subscription service is the largest since CNN began in 1980.

“We are trying to hire 200 journalists,” he told me. “We need everything, from top management to executive producers, producers, editors, reporters, you name it.”

cnn logoRamon is the senior vice president for talent recruitment and development at CNN. What he was describing to me is the largest hiring surge since CNN began in 1980. CNN is launching CNN+, a subscription streaming service for news that it says “will exist side by side with CNN’s existing television networks and will feature eight to twelve hours of live programming a day.”

CNN says the project launches in the first quarter of 2022 and, in addition to journalists, the network will hire hundreds of specialists in production, engineering, technology, marketing and analytics.

The CNN+ effort follows others — including NBC and Fox — but none of them is even close in scope to CNN’s. Cord-cutting has cost cable networks access to millions of potential viewers as they are replaced by services like Netflix that put the user in control of content.

CNN is handcuffed by agreements with cable companies so it cannot just stream its current offerings to people who do not have cable. Instead, it had to create a totally new product. According to CNN, people who have cable or satellite service will also get expanded news coverage through CNN+. All of these subscription services have to take care not to undercut the legacy over-the-air or cable operations that are their foundations.

CNN+ will be headed by chief digital officer Andrew Morse who said, in addition to about a half days’ worth of live programming, CNN+ will offer a range of special programs focused on topics featured in recent special reports: climate change, Middle East politics, the Jan. 6 insurrection and race relations. CNN said it is producing a two-hour documentary on the transition of power in Afghanistan, another example of the kind of in-depth programming that CNN+ will offer.

Morse also envisions something he calls an “interactive community” that will give subscribers the ability “to engage directly with our talent and experts about the issues that matter most to them.”

CNN has experimented with the concept in town halls with candidates and political leaders. But Escobar said CNN+ will go beyond the town hall concept.

“Imagine that we have someone representing the Afghan government. We see an opportunity to directly connect the newsmakers to the audience. It is like a town meeting but in a streaming setting. If you are a subscriber of CNN+, you could participate in what could be an interaction with the ambassador to the UN about Afghanistan,” he said. “Everyone in the news industry has streaming, but this is more than that. It is interaction.”

Escobar insisted that the innovations ahead will not be about technology, but will instead focus more on content creation and interactivity that could attract new, nontraditional news audiences, especially those that do not have cable TV.

Variety reported that insiders are speculating that “there’s a strong probability that CNN Plus would be bundled in some fashion with HBO Max and Discovery+” once the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery is completed next year.

Escobar said the people he is helping to recruit will work in New York, Washington, D.C., and other spots, depending on the job. He is scouting for talent in local and network TV but also has a history of hiring former print and online journalists. Some of his most fertile scouting groups are CNN journalism workshops at major journalism conferences, including the National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association and NLGJA, the Association of LGBTQ Journalists.

“In the last nine years, we have hired more than 50 people that we came to know through those workshops,” he said. (I have been a volunteer teacher in those sessions every year.)

CNN+ will launch in the U.S. and later expand to global markets. “Our efforts will be to make sure the workforce reflects the world that it is going to service. We are a global news organization and CNN+ will look global,” Escobar said.

Variety reported that the subscription news service business is getting crowded. CNN is just the latest in a long string of big plans from the biggest players:

CBS News, which got in early to the game with CBSN, has been combined with its parent company’s local TV stations, and the combined entity has already begun producing special reports led by local-news anchors on the ground at events of great interest, like the collapse of the Surfside condominium in Florida.
MSNBC is developing programs from top anchors like Mika Brzezinski and Nicolle Wallace for its parent company’s Peacock outlet.

ABC News has broken down walls between streaming and linear programming, enlisting producers from its streaming efforts for its “GMA3” on ABC and elevating streaming anchor Linsey Davis to anchor a weekend broadcast of “World News Tonight.”

Fox News continues to bolster its Fox Nation streaming outlet with additional content — and in May announced it would make its linear primetime opinion broadcasts available on the service the day after they air.

CNN+ announced its first big-name hire in Kasie Hunt, a veteran of NBC News, who will be a CNN+ anchor and national affairs analyst. Hunt left MSNBC last month. The network is posting other jobs now on its employment website.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge wants Justice Dept. to detail decision on charging Infowars host accused in Jan. 6 riot, Rachel Weiner, Aug. 24, 2021. Prosecutors say guidelines involving the media were followed in charging Jonathan Owen Shroyer.

A federal judge wants prosecutors to explain whether they considered a correspondent for the right-wing website Infowars a member of the media when charging him with participating in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui said in an order Tuesday that he is not questioning the decision to prosecute Jonathan Owen Shroyer, only whether the Justice Department followed its own protocols in doing so.

“The events of January 6 were an attack on the foundation of our democracy,” Faruqui wrote. “But this does not relieve the Department of Justice from following its own guidelines, written to preserve the very same democracy.”

Shroyer was arrested this week on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. Shroyer, prosecutors say, violated an agreement not to engage in such behavior that he signed after being removed from a 2019 impeachment hearing for heckling a Democratic lawmaker.

On the day of the riots, he marched with a crowd toward the Capitol shouting, “We aren’t going to accept it!” and later appeared on the building’s steps, prosecutors allege in court records.

Several people charged in the Capitol riot have described themselves as members of the press, but prosecutors have argued in the past that there is no evidence those defendants engaged in journalism. The government did not explain whether it concluded that Shroyer was not a member of the media.

Shroyer hosts a talk show on Infowars, which is banned by major social media platforms for promoting conspiracy theories. Like founder Alex Jones, he has falsely accused a pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington of harboring pedophiles and the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting of lying.

Justice Department guidelines require approval from the attorney general to investigate or charge a member of the news media with a crime, to ensure that law enforcement does not impinge upon freedom of the press. Those guidelines were recently strengthened after the Justice Department revealed that under President Donald Trump, records were secretly subpoenaed from several news organizations.

In a letter to the court, prosecutors say guidelines protecting the media have been “scrupulously followed.” But the government said the Justice Department is not required to detail that process for the court.

“Such inquiries could risk impeding frank and thoughtful internal deliberations within the Department about how best to ensure compliance with these enhanced protections for Members of the News Media,” wrote John Crabb, who leads the Criminal Division of the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, He Was the ‘Perfect Villain’ for Voting Conspiracists, Susan Dominus, Aug. 24, 2021. Eric Coomer had an election-security job at Dominion Voting Systems. He also had posted anti-Trump messages on Facebook. What happened next ruined his life.

dominion voting systemsThe Trump campaign and its allies have introduced more than 60 lawsuits claiming election fraud in this country, but no court has found persuasive evidence to support the idea that Coomer, Dominion or anyone else involved in vote-counting changed the election results.

Bipartisan audits of paper ballots in closely contested states such as Georgia and Arizona confirmed Biden’s victory; and prominent Republicans, including Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump’s official in charge of election cybersecurity, have reaffirmed the basic facts of the election: Over all, the results were accurate, the election process was secure and no widespread fraud capable of changing the outcome has been uncovered.

Joe.My.God, FCC Fines Jacob Wohl And Jack Burkman $5.1 Million, Joe MG, Aug. 24, 2021. First, a reminder about the case:

jacob wohl aug 2020Jacob Wohl, left, a conservative activist known for his largely bumbling attempts to stage political scandals, has been charged with running a robocalling scheme to spread false election information. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed four felony charges today against Wohl and his partner Jack Burkmanjack burkman w. They’re accused of targeting Detroit residents with calls that discouraged voting, including false claims that mail-in ballots would let health agencies “track people for mandatory vaccines.”

Wohl and Burkman allegedly targeted voters in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, making a total of around 85,000 calls in August. The calls claimed to come from a group called “Project 1599, a civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl,” and they were aimed at areas with large Black populations, urging them to not “be finessed into giving your private information to the man.”

And today, this.

‼️ Whoa! The FCC just announced a massive $5 million fine for illegal robocalling against conspiracy theorists John Burkman and Jacob Wohl pic.twitter.com/6ZPgpV0tLu

— Cristiano Lima (@viaCristiano) August 24, 2021

The pair are also facing a $2.75 million lawsuit from the NY AG https://t.co/IXQZydavHt

— Tonya Riley (@TonyaJoRiley) August 24, 2021

Aug. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative Bill Kristol endorses McAuliffe in race for Virginia governor, Laura Vozzella, Aug. 23, 2021. The longtime commentator and Trump critic calls Republican Glenn Youngkin too “Trumpy.”

Bill Kristol is just like all the other disaffected Virginia Republicans whom gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin needs to win over, only famous.

The longtime conservative commentator, who settled in Northern Virginia three decades ago to join the Reagan administration, split with the GOP over President Donald Trump. With Trump out of the White House, Kristol says he’s ready to support “non-Trump Republicans.” But Kristol does not put Youngkin, a former terry mcauliffe oCarlyle Group executive, in that category. On Tuesday, he will formally endorse Democrat Terry McAuliffe, right, a former governor seeking a comeback.

“He’s a moderate Democrat, and he’s not going to shut down Virginia’s business success, economic success and so forth. He’s the kind of Democrat I’m comfortable supporting,” Kristol said in an interview Monday, when he criticized Youngkin’s “reckless” public health and tax policies as much as his embrace of Trump.

Kristol is one of 17 Republicans who endorsed McAuliffe on Tuesday in a coordinated rollout that the campaign bills as a sign of the former governor’s bipartisan appeal.

“I am proud to be building an unmatched, broad coalition of leaders who share my vision to move Virginia forward,” McAuliffe, who held the office from 2014 to 2018, said in a written statement.

Youngkin’s campaign was dismissive of Kristol’s endorsement. “A 43-year political boss like Terry McAuliffe trotting out the endorsements of fellow political grifters is neither impressive nor surprising,” Youngkin spokesman Matt Wolking said in a statement. “It exemplifies McAuliffe’s old and tired way of doing things that has failed Virginia.” Wolking said Youngkin has “tremendous support from Republicans AND Democrats, along with 16 different coalitions including Latinos, Blacks, Farmers, Firefighters, and Students.”

Youngkin has found himself in a corner when it comes to Trump, who lost the state by 10 points but remains highly popular with the GOP base. Trump endorsed Youngkin after he won the Republican nomination in May and followed up with two statements lauding him. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, headlined a fundraiser for Youngkin in Virginia Beach last week.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ron DeSantis goes Lord of the Flies, Bocha Blue, Aug. 23, 2021. Have you seen the excellent film, Lord of the Flies? Or perhaps you’ve read the book of the same title. No book or film does it better in showing the horrific consequences of groupthink (although another film, The River’s Edge, is also quite powerful on the subject.)

bill palmer report logo headerGroupthink can and is often deadly. All we have to do is look back in time to see that. We saw it in Germany with Hitler. We saw it in Salem, Massachusetts, with the witch trials. I could go on. But now we see it in the form of loathsome politicians who seem to be spreading their angry and destructive rhetoric to others, and nobody is safe from it. Just ask America’s worst Governor, Mr. Ron DeSantis.

twitter bird CustomDeSantis (incompetent, insurrection party, Florida) is all over the news and not in any good way. But now, his press secretary is making her own news, proving the unique and evil power of groupthink once again.

Christine Pushaw is the bombastic Governor’s press secretary. And right now, she is in a bit of trouble. An AP reporter had written a story on Regeneron that apparently irked the DeSantis crowd. So Pushaw, proving what an idiot she is, promptly tweeted to her supporters about AP and told them to “light them up.”

Of course, the reporter started receiving threats from Pushaw’s good little foot soldiers. Pushaw did eventually delete the tweet, but it was too late. The damage had been done. Twitter got involved and suspended the vile woman. Good for them!

Of course, expulsion would have been better, but at least there were some consequences.

Aug. 22

phil valentine

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Phil Valentine, a radio host who scoffed at Covid then urged his followers to get vaccinated, has died, Traci Carl, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Phil Valentine, a prominent conservative radio host in Tennessee who refused to get vaccinated, then urged his followers to get a shot after being hospitalized with Covid-19, has died, his station said on Saturday.

Mr. Valentine scoffed at the need for vaccines, writing on his blog that his chances of dying from the virus, should he become infected, were “way less than one percent.”

He announced his Covid-19 diagnosis on July 11 and pledged to return to his show within a day or two.

“Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it,” he wrote. “Interesting experience. I’ll have to fill you in when I come back on the air. I’m hoping that will be tomorrow, but I may take a day off just as a precaution.”

Less than two weeks later, his radio station, 99.7 WTN, announced that the Nashville host was hospitalized “in very serious condition, suffering from Covid pneumonia.” The statement said Mr. Valentine had had a change of heart and urged others to get a vaccine.

“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘pro-vaccine,’ and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” the station said.

Some people responded to the announcement with words of support for Mr. Valentine, while others said he deserved to get sick.

On Saturday, the station announced on Twitter that Mr. Valentine had died, urging followers to “keep the Valentine family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, Aug. 22, 2021. Conservative talk radio show host Phil Valentine certainly stood his ground. After he announced testing positive for Covid-19 on July 11th he said he was “doing my patriotic duty for natural herd immunity.” Phil’s idea was that he was going to acquire natural immunity by acquiring antibodies the old-fashioned way. Once he had the disease, his theory went, his body would create its own vaccine. He taught his listeners to mistrust the “artificial” vaccines and follow his “patriotic” example.

Phil died on Saturday of Covid-19, aged 61. Valentine, whose nationally syndicated “Phil Valentine Show” aired on 100 stations from 2007 to 2019, recently questioned the efficacy of vaccines on his Nashville, Tennessee show aired on SuperTalk 99.7 WTN and online, where he mocked America’s inoculation campaign in the song “Vaxman,” a parody of the Beatles’ “Taxman.” “I certainly am not getting the vax now,” he replied to a commenter on Facebook on July 14th. “I have full immunity.” And it worked, too, except the part about being dead, of course.

bill palmer report logo headerPhil encouraged treatment over prevention. “You need to have a plan in case you get COVID,” Valentine wrote. “Make SURE you get your vitamin D3 level checked … And then have a doctor on speed dial who will write you a prescription for ivermectin.” How exactly some of his poorer Tennessee listeners who didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford to “have a doctor on speed dial” were supposed to do this Valentine didn’t say. As in the other 49 states, on the other hand, the Covid-19 vaccine is free and readily available in Tennessee.

“[Phil] wishes he could do it over,” Valentine’s brother Mark told Nashville public radio station WPLN in a late July interview. “His regret [was] ‘I made the decision [not to get vaccinated] based on my situation, but I know now that a lot of people didn’t get the vaccine because I didn’t get the vaccine. And that is what I would like to correct.’”

It is doubtful Phil’s too-little-too-late message will carry much weight. For some reason victims of the anti-vaxxer movement have to find out for themselves how bad Covid is before they change their minds about the vaccine, if they do at all. By that time many of them have “infected” other people with their ignorant opinions. By that time many of them are dead.

So why are many conservatives so slow to learn from the experiences of others? Lack of empathy. Just as the “[expletive] your feelings” crowd sees no irony in their over-the-top emotional response to Donald Trump losing the 2020 election, many are incapable of understanding what’s so bad about Covid-19. Until they get it themselves, of course.

How many times have we seen Republican politicians take inflexible stands against the rights of the LGBT community until they find out their son is gay or their granddaughter is trans? How many times have we seen Republicans, who arrogantly make decisions about a woman’s right to choose, become all about “my body my choice” when told they must wear a mask?

Until an issue becomes important to them personally Republicans cannot see past their own selfish little universe. So the Phil Valentines of the world will continue to have little impact on them. They must get sick and die first, or someone close to them must get sick and die and take others with them, before any lesson is learned. And by then, of course, it’s too late.

The tide is turning, however, and more and more Republicans are finally coming around to understanding the dangers of the Covid threat and the efficacy of the vaccine. But the delay comes at a price so terrible that their final surrender to the inexorable logic of science may be too late and make no difference at all. Thanks to them and their ignorance, it’s now become a possibility that the pandemic will never end. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Aug. 20

Proof via Substack, Investigation: New Pre-Insurrection Strategy Meetings #1: Reps. Mo Brooks and Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Donald Trump, and 50 seth abramson graphicHouse Republicans, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 19-20, 2021. In this new entry in a Proof series focused on lightly or non-reported pre-insurrection meetings involving insurrectionist kingpins, we discuss a secretive GOP-caucus call no one seems to be aware of.

Introduction: Most Americans don’t yet realize how much planning Congressional Republicans did prior to January 6 to ensure that that seth abramson proof logoterrible day would be as chaotic as possible.

The lightly and in some cases unreported meetings that top Washington Republicans held between January 2 and January 5—including White House meetings—explain why the Republican Party writ large can under no circumstances cooperate with the new House January 6 Committee. It is now a certainty that if that committee conducts a comprehensive review of top Republicans’ movements in the 120 hours preceding the January 6 attack on the Capitol, it will discover an institutionalized insurrectionist conspiracy the GOP must hide from voters if it is to take back the House in late 2022.

Proof previously began the process of reporting on largely or entirely unreported pre-insurrection strategy sessions with this article, among whose stunning revelations was a national conference call held by Donald Trump with state GOP officials on January 2. That call, which included nearly 300 such officials and was both highly irregular and conducted on a weekend, would have been more than enough covert insurrectionist business for a President of the United States to conduct a single day. But it turns out that it wasn’t the only major pre-insurrection meeting Donald Trump chaired that day.

This article is about a second such meeting.

Read more at the Proof site to see the revelations....

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

owen shroyerPalmer Report, Opinion: Alex Jones’ top sidekick has just been criminally indicted in January 6th Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 20, 2021. Earlier today Reuters bill palmerpublished a bizarre report – complete with suspect sourcing and misleading article construction – which essentially claimed that Roger Stone and Alex Jones were in the clear when it came to the January 6th Capitol attack. Not only did Palmer Report pick it apart in detail, we asked why allies of Stone and Jones were choosing now to call in whatever favors necessary to get such an article published. Now we’re apparently getting our answer.

InfoWars host Owen Shroyer, above, a sidekick of Alex Jones (and a host of "Warroom" on the Jones InforWars show, has just been criminally charged for his actions in the January 6th attack, according to multiple major news outlets including the Washington Post. So this explains the timing of the misleading article that was planted in Reuters early today.

bill palmer report logo headerBy getting the Reuters article planted this morning, allies of Stone and Jones managed to lay the groundwork such that some observers will mistakenly view this evening’s indictment of Jones sidekick Shroyer as a standalone thing that Jones and Stone are insulated from. We say “mistakenly” because, now that the Feds are going as far as arresting Shroyer, it’s obvious that they intend to do the same to Jones. In fact they’ll surely push Shroyer hard to flip on Jones.

Now we know a few things. First, those who took the Reuters report at face value, and began calling for the resignation of the Director of the FBI, once again jumped the gun. Second, these kinds of complex multi-layered investigations really do take time to work their way toward the top. Third, it’s now clear that the probe is indeed getting close to to the top; if the flipping is successful, Shroyer gets you to Alex Jones, who gets you to Roger Stone, who gets you to Donald Trump. Finally, Reuters sure has a lot of explaining to do.

 

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Akbar Alexander, center, with his hand in the air, and Infowars host and Trump ally Alex Jones standing next to him.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Something doesn’t add up about this report that Roger Stone and Alex Jones are off the hook for January 6th, Bill Palmer,  right, Aug. 20, bill palmer2021. We’ve all spent months watching the FBI indict and arrest several Roger Stone and Alex Jones associates on charges of conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Some of the arrestees were even Stone’s personal hired help on that day. It’s fairly obvious that these types are being squeezed to flip on bigger fish, so conspiracy charges can be brought against those bigger fish.

Yet today we all woke up to “exclusive” reporting from Reuters, claiming that the FBI has found little to no evidence that the Capitol attack was in any way coordinated, and implying that the likes of Stone and Jones are simply off the hook. When an “inside sourced” article like this seems to be at odds with everything else we know about a story, and something seems, well, wrong, it usually means there is something wrong. So let’s dive in and see if we can figure out what’s wrong here.

bill palmer report logo headerFor starters, the Reuters article is sourced to “four current and former law enforcement officials.” Well there’s a red flag. How many of these law enforcement officials are current, and how many of them are former? This phrasing suggests that all but one of them are former.

And why cite any former officials at all? They’re not involved in the probe, and therefore don’t officially know anything. The only way former officials could have inside knowledge of this case would be if a current official improperly gave them details of the case, which they then improperly gave to Reuters.

In other words, it feels like the “sourcing” here is just one current law enforcement official, and the only reason Reuters included the former officials is so that it could avoid presenting this article as a single-sourced story. So it’s not off to a great start. But this alone doesn’t prove that the article is illegitimate.

Of course the real problem is this. It’s not uncommon for investigators or prosecutors to strategically leak details to the media about how ugly the evidence is, or about how indictments are coming, to try to scare the suspect into cooperating. But there’s no strategic reason for officials to leak that an investigation isn’t going anywhere, or that the targets are off the hook. This kind of leak only makes the FBI’s job harder.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Would-be terrorist at the Library of Congress not to be taken lightly, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 20, 2021. Floyd Ray Roseberry of North wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallCarolina may appear to be a character out of television's fictional Mayberry, but the aspirational bomber of the Library of Congress's Jefferson Building and surrounding structures, including the Supreme Court, is but one of many foot soldiers willing to die for Donald Trump.

Most of the major media, including Facebook and YouTube, have refused to publish or air Roseberry's sometimes incoherent and meandering verbal manifesto, orated over a five-hour period via a Facebook live stream on August 19 as he drove through Virginia and later sat in his pickup truck parked outside the Library of Congress.

wayne madesen report logoPerhaps Roseberry is not the most articulate of Trump supporters willing to die for their political führer -- few of them are -- but his intentions in wanting to decimate several city blocks in Washington, DC should be taken seriously. Many of these far-right seditionists see January 6 insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt as their Horst Wessel-like martyr, someone whose death must be avenged.

The lackluster and mealy-mouthed Attorney General, Merrick Garland, left, should be immediately replaced by someone like former federal prosecutor Glenn merrick garlandKirschner, who has called for Trump to be prosecuted for, among other things, his repeated calls for insurrection. The next time, it may not be some deluded cosplaying redneck from North Carolina who decides to kill a bunch people in downtown DC, but the real thing.

A rough and incomplete transcript of Roseberry's five-hour Facebook broadcast follows:

"I've cleared my conscience with God. I just love America, boy. I have no fear. None. The cracking you hear in my voice is passion for the land that I love. Somebody needs to tell Joe Biden. We're here. The fuckin' revolution starts today Joe Biden. And before you go crackin' any pops on me, you better get your military experts out and ask them motherfuckers what a seven-pound keg of gunpowder will with two-and-a-half pound of tannerite motherfucker!"

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Apple delays office return until at least 2022, as delta scrambles employers’ plans, Adela Suliman and Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 20, 2021 (print ed.).

Tech giant Apple will delay the planned return of its employees to its offices until January 2022 at the earliest, The Washington Post has confirmed.

The iPhone maker was due to welcome staff back into offices by early September, which was pushed to mid-October, before the delay to next year due to concerns over rising coronavirus cases and the delta variant, Bloomberg News reported. It’s the latest move that could signal a more complex return-to-work plan for major U.S. companies.

Tech giants were some of the first companies to send workers home at the start of the pandemic in early March 2020, and they remain divided on how and when to bring back employees. Unlike Google and Facebook, Apple does not yet have a coronavirus vaccine mandate in place for its staff. Amazon and Facebook are also delaying plans to return staff to offices to early 2022.

 

mike richards

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Richards steps down as ‘Jeopardy!’ host in wake of resurfaced offensive comments, Emily Yahr, Aug. 20, 2021. Mike Richards is stepping down as host of “Jeopardy!” effective immediately, he confirmed Friday morning.

Richards, above, the show’s executive producer who was just named as Alex Trebek’s replacement on the iconic game show, came under fire after the Ringer published an in-depth report that revealed he made disparaging remarks about women, Jewish people and Haiti.

“I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role” Richards wrote in a note to his staff Friday. “However, over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.”

Aug. 19

lina khan resized ftc

washington post logoWashington Post, FTC refiles antitrust case against Facebook, says no other social network comes close to its scale, Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 19, 2021. Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan, above, was given a Thursday deadline to refile the lawsuit. The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday refiled a bolstered version of its antitrust case against Facebook in a last-ditch effort to save what has been described as its most important competition lawsuit in decades.

ftc logofacebook logoSeeking to overcome a judge’s stunning dismissal of its original lawsuit because the FTC had not presented ample evidence that Facebook is a monopoly, the FTC argues in its new filing that Facebook is in a class of its own and shouldn’t be compared to popular apps such as TikTok, Twitter and Pinterest, which attract a public-facing audience. The complaint argues that Snapchat, with tens of millions fewer monthly users than either Facebook or Instagram, is the company’s next-closest competitor.

“Without meaningful competition, Facebook has been able to provide lower levels of service quality on privacy and data protection than it would have to provide in a competitive market,” the FTC said in the complaint.

  • Washington Post, Only Facebook knows the extent of its misinformation problem. And it’s not sharing, even with the White House, Aug. 19, 2021.

jeopardy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, New ‘Jeopardy!’ host made disparaging comments about women, Jewish people and Haiti on podcast, report says, Julian Mark, Aug. 19, 2021. Even years before Mike Richards was named the new host of “Jeopardy!”, he was the host of another program, a podcast called “The Randumb Show.”

In one episode that aired on Sept. 4, 2014, after an iCloud hack led to intimate images of female celebrities being disseminated online, Richards asked his co-host if she had ever taken nude photos of herself, according to an in-depth report published in the Ringer, which included audio clips.

Richards frequently made such inappropriate comments about women and their bodies, as well as disparaging remarks about Jewish people and poor people, on the podcast that he hosted between 2013 and 2014, according to a review of all 41 episodes by the Ringer’s Claire McNear.

The release of the podcast clips comes only a week after “Jeopardy!” announced that Richards, who became the show’s executive producer in May 2020, will succeed Alex Trebek, the trivia show’s longtime host who died in November.

Richards’s coronation as “Jeopardy!” host, along with actor Mayim Bialik for prime-time specials, followed a lengthy tryout period that saw guest hosts including NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton and former “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings vie for the coveted role.

Because he was the executive producer of the show, Richards’s appointment raised questions about the role he played in the selection process, such as his ability to influence which appearances by each guest host were sent to focus groups that weighed in on the decision, the New York Times reported.

Aug. 18

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Covering the Taliban just prior to 9/11 -- A retrospect, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 18, 2021. This editor was interviewed for a wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallprogram about Afghanistan and its women a week prior to the 9/11 attack. Eerily, the program aired on many National Pubic Radio stations on September 12, 2001.

The interview follows: "Beyond the Burqa: The Taliban, Women and the C.I.A."

Stephanie Welch: The information provided in this edition of Making Contact is relevant to current allegations against Osama bin Laden, and discussions about Afghanistan. This program's guests were interviewed, and the show was produced before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

This week on Making Contact.... Afghanistan is a country devastated by many years of war, a serious drought, and the dictatorial rule of the Taliban, a group that claims to be bringing the country back to the purity of Islam. Women are suffering most as a result. On this program we take a look at U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and at how Afghan women are dealing with rule under the Taliban.

I'm Stephanie Welch -- your host this week on a special Women's Desk edition of Making Contact -- an international radio program seeking to create connections between people, vital ideas and important information...

During the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency ran covert operations in countries all over the world -- operations that involved assassinations, arms deals and drug-running. The C.I.A. also trained mercenary armies to overthrow governments it deemed unfriendly to U.S. corporate and military interests. One of the largest and most expensive covert operations involved Afghanistan.

Like many countries, Afghanistan was a battleground in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Bordering the USSR as well as Iran and Pakistan, it was an important area of conflict between the two superpowers. The Soviet Union feared the growing influence of what it viewed as anti-Communist Islamic Fundamentalism, which was spreading to Afghanistan from Pakistan. To stamp out this threat, the USSR used its troops to overthrow Afghan president Hafizullah Amin, who they charged was a C.I.A. agent.

Wayne Madsen is a senior fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., and deals with intelligence and military issues. He says the C.I.A. was involved months before the Soviet occupation, training Islamic fundamentalist Afghan exiles at the southern border, in Pakistan....

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan reporter makes heartfelt plea during exchange with NATO chief: ‘Please don’t recognize the Taliban,’ Julian Mark, Aug. 18, 2021. During a news conference with NATO’s top leader on Tuesday, Afghan journalist Lailuma Sadid broke down in tears.

She questioned NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the coalition’s rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years, which allowed the Taliban to seize control of the country in a matter of days.

“Thousands of women already don’t know … wha

t is going on and what should happen for them, and they are always asking, ‘What does it mean?’ ” she said in impassioned comments that were also posed as questions. After 20 years, she added, “we are going back [to Taliban rule] again?”

Appearing to sympathize, Stoltenberg told Sadid it was an “extremely difficult” decision to make.

“And it was difficult because I share your pain, I understand your frustration,” he said.

Sadid pleaded with Stoltenberg: “Please don’t recognize the Taliban and don’t put us again in the same situation.”

 

New York Observer Editor Ken Kurson, left, is joined by the newspaper's owner, Jared Kushner, son-in-law to Donald Trump at a 2015 book launch for Kurson (Photo by J. Grassi / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images).

New York Observer Editor Ken Kurson, left, is joined by the newspaper's owner, Jared Kushner, son-in-law to Donald Trump at a 2015 book launch for Kurson (Photo by J. Grassi / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Kushner friend Ken Kurson charged in N.Y. eavesdropping case after Trump pardon, Shayna Jacobs, Aug. 18, 2021. Ken Kurson, a close friend of former president Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was charged Wednesday in a state eavesdropping and computer-trespass case months after receiving a federal pardon while facing similar harassment allegations.

The former New York Observer editor’s arrest marks what is likely the first instance of a local prosecutor pursuing state-level charges against a person after that individual was given a pass by Trump for the same alleged conduct that federal authorities had pursued. A president’s clemency grants apply only in federal cases.

“We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in announcing Kurson’s arrest.

Vance’s office is investigating the Trump Organization and its executives. The former president’s company and its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg have been indicted in a wide-ranging tax fraud scheme. Kurson’s case is unrelated to that matter.

Kurson, 52, appeared briefly before a Manhattan judge Wednesday. He was handcuffed during the arraignment and later released without bail.

Kurson was ordered to return to court Sept. 28. He and his attorney, Marc Mukasey, declined to speak to the media as they left the courthouse.

At the time of his first arrest by federal authorities in Brooklyn, Mukasey called his client “an honorable man” and said the case was “hardly the stuff of a federal criminal prosecution.”

A political consultant who co-authored a book with Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, Kurson made headlines in October when he was accused of stalking his wife years prior while the couple was going through a divorce.

Prosecutors handling the state case described a new narrative Wednesday in which Kurson allegedly used spyware between September 2015 and March 2016 to monitor his then-wife, obtaining her passwords so he could access her Gmail and Facebook accounts. His former wife, to whom he was still married at the time, told police in South Orange, N.J., that Kurson “terrorized her through email and social media causing her problems at work and in her social life,” according to his criminal complaint.

Kurson is accused of spying on her computer from the Observer Media Group’s office in Manhattan while serving as editor of the publication, which was formerly owned by Kushner, according to court papers.

Using tracking software called WebWatcher, Kurson allegedly monitored keystrokes and then private communications, including between his wife and a friend who worked with her at a summer camp, authorities contend. Transcripts of their Facebook chats were sent to the camp’s director, according to the complaint, which does not disclose the nature of the conversations.

Kurson also is accused of trying to cover his tracks by contacting customer support at WebWatcher to evaluate how he could delete the software undetected. “I need to uninstall it PERFECTLY,” he wrote to the company on Oct. 17, 2015, court documents say. “So that not even an expert can detect that it had been there.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York indicts and arrests Jared Kushner associate, Bill Palmer, Aug. 18, 2021. Earlier this week we reminded everyone that just because the public isn’t aware of the ongoing developments behind the scenes in any given criminal case, it doesn’t mean that case isn’t progressing. In a timely example of how true this is, New York just arrested a guy named Ken Kurson on state level cyberstalking charges – and this is notable in Trump world for a few reasons.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, Kurson was previously pardoned by Donald Trump on federal charges. But because presidential pardons don’t apply to state charges, the Manhattan District Attorney was able to indict and arrest Kurson today in spite of his pardon. It’s a reminder that no one pardoned by Trump is necessarily safe from criminal prosecution. It’s also a reminder of why Trump didn’t even bother trying to preemptively pardon himself, his family, or some of his associates.

jared kushner Custom CustomSecond, Kurson is a close associate and former employee of Jared Kushner, right. He also did work for Rudy Giuliani. If Kurson ends up having to cut a plea deal on the cyberstalking charges, his only way out will be to flip on the bigger fish around him. So if Kurson happens to have dirt on Kushner, Giuliani, or anyone else in Trump world, those people should be sleeping rather poorly tonight.

Third, it turns out the criminal investigation into Ken Kurson only began when Donald Trump nominated him for the National Endowment for the Humanities. This triggered a criminal background check, which ultimately led to his arrest today. Trump was presumably attempting to reward Kurson. But as so often tends to be the case, Kurson’s downfall will end up being because he got too close to Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, R. Kelly’s trial begins today. He faces sex trafficking and racketeering charges, Sonia Rao, Aug. 18, 2021. Opening statements and testimony begin Wednesday in the federal trial of R. Kelly, the disgraced R&B singer facing sex trafficking and racketeering charges in New York. If convicted, Kelly, 54, is looking at decades in prison.

r kelly twitterIn addition to the New York charges, Kelly (shown in a Twitter photo) faces numerous counts of sexual assault and abuse in Illinois. Both sets of legal proceedings were sparked by two decades’ worth of sexual misconduct allegations against Kelly, who was previously acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

Here’s what to know about the case. (This post will be updated as the trial progresses.)

Aug. 17

News and Guts, One America News Owes Rachel Maddow $250,000, Edited by Dan Rather, Aug. 17, 2021. Well, that backfired. In 2019, One America News sued MSNBC and star anchor Rachel Maddow for defamation, seeking $10 million after she called the right-wing outlet “paid Russian propaganda.” She explained why: the network employed a journalist, Kristian Rouz, who was simultaneously on the payroll of Sputnik, a media outlet owned by the Kremlin.

OAN’s suit was subsequently dismissed. On Tuesday, an appeals court reaffirmed that earlier ruling and said OAN has to cover at least $247,000 of the legal bills incurred by Maddow and MSNBC.

The amount of legal fees is actually going to be more than $250,000. That was the amount set by the lower court, but the appeal dragged out the process. Adam has more info, and a link to the decision.https://t.co/6H1UBUMLyc
— Jan Wolfe (@JanNWolfe) August 17, 2021

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr ruled that the Maddow statement in question was “an obvious exaggeration, cushioned within an undisputed news story.”

“The statement could not reasonably be understood to imply an assertion of objective fact, and therefore, did not amount to defamation,” the judge wrote in his opinion.

OAN did not deny that they shared a reporter with a well-known peddler of Russian disinformation.

The Hill explains Maddow’s defense:

Ted Boutrous, who represented Maddow, NBCUniversal, MSNBC and other defendants in the case, said in an appeals hearing late last month that OAN parent company Herring Networks improperly isolated a few words of Maddow’s commentary about OAN, adding that restrictions on words “stripped out of context” would “destroy the breathing space for lively and informative debate about public issues that the First Amendment protects.”

“We can’t have speech police parsing the words they way Herring is doing,” the attorney continued. “It would really chill valuable speech.”

The Daily Beast, which Maddow cited in her report on Rouz, provides more details on OAN’s legal woes:

This is not the only bad legal news OAN has received in recent days. Dominion Voting Systems recently filed a $1.3 billion defamation suit, alleging the network has purposely peddled false claims that the company’s voting machines rigged the election against Donald Trump. The network has recently doubled down on pushing election fraud conspiracies, promoting and giving uninterrupted live coverage to the “cyber symposium” hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell—who is also being sued by Dominion.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Afghans scramble to escape the Taliban, Fox News hosts lean into anti-refugee rhetoric, Katie Shepherd, Aug. 17, 2021. On his Monday tucker carlsonevening show, Tucker Carlson, right, went so far as to compare Afghan refugees, who aided U.S. military troops and now face grave risk from the Taliban, to an invading force.

“If history is any guide, and it’s always a guide, we will see many refugees from Afghanistan resettle in our country, and over the next decade, that number may swell to the millions,” Carlson said. “So first we invade, and then we are invaded.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Theater Director With Exaggerated Résumé Quits, Citing Mental Illness, Rebecca J. Ritzel, Updated Aug. 17, 2021. Christopher Massimine found success as a theater executive in New York and Utah, but resigned after facing questions about errors on his résumé, saying he had mental illness. Massimine announced his resignation shortly after The New York Times published an article about his career, and the discrepancies and errors on the résumé that had helped him win the position at the Pioneer, the largest professional theater company in Salt Lake City.

“Despite many good things that have happened over the last two years under my direction, effective Aug. 20, 2021, I will resign my position at Pioneer Theater Company in order to address issues in my personal and professional life, stemming from untreated and at times an incorrectly treated mental health condition,” he said in a statement.

Massimine, who said that he had battled with mental illness for his entire life, and that most of his friends and colleagues had not known of his condition, had come to the Pioneer Theater from the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene in New York.

Working from public records and tips, Salt Lake City’s Fox affiliate KSTU-TV reported earlier this year that Massimine did not have a master’s degree from New York University, as asserted on his résumé. The station said his claims to have helped develop popular video games and some major advertising campaigns did not check out.

And, though he said he had received a national arts advocacy award — and released a picture of himself wearing the medal — the bestowing organization does not appear to exist.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hachette to Buy Workman for $240 Million as Publishing Continues Consolidation, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, Aug. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Hachette Book Group said on Monday that it had agreed to buy Workman Publishing, an independent company known for titles like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and the “Brain Quest” workbooks, the latest expected acquisition in an industry whose power is increasingly concentrated in a handful of major companies. The cost of the deal was $240 million.

Workman is one of the largest independent publishers in the United States and is appealing to its new parent for, among other reasons, its lucrative backlist. Backlists include books published years ago that continue to sell — as opposed to the front list of new titles — and at Workman, they are a major focus and a steady stream of reliable income. Michael Pietsch, the chief executive of the Hachette Book Group, said that three-quarters of Workman’s revenue comes from those older titles.

mike lindell screengrab

Right Wing Watch, Mike Lindell Accuses TruNews of Being a ‘Fake News’ Front Established by Media Matters, Kyle Mantyla, Aug. 17, 2021. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell (shown above in a file photo) hosted a three-day “cyber symposium” in South Dakota last week that he claimed would provide irrefutable proof that the 2020 presidential election was hacked by foreign actors and stolen from former President Donald Trump. Lindell was so confident that he boldly offered $5 million to anyone who could disprove the legitimacy of the data he presented while predicting that the evidence would be so overwhelming that Trump would be restored to office by August 13.

Needless to say, none of that happened, as Lindell’s symposium was such an utter debacle that even his own experts were forced to admit that they had no proof of anything that Lindell had been claiming.

Predictably, Lindell reacted to the fiasco by spreading new conspiracy theories alleging that left-wing reporters worked with “antifa” activists to sabotage his event, going so far as to accuse the far-right outlet TruNews of being an “antifa” front group funded by Media Matters.

TruNews—an anti-vaccine, anti-semitic, End Times conspiracy theory network—was among the media organizations granted credentials to cover Lindell’s event. TruNews was so sympathetic to Lindell’s claims of massive voter fraud that the network sent two correspondents to broadcast from the symposium and streamed the entire event live on its website for three days.

None of that seemed to matter to Lindell. Broadcasting on his Frank Speech platform Monday, Lindell took aim at TruNews.

“I have a report from from our counter-intelligence on the people that were there,” Lindell said. “Antifa individuals were working with TruNews, which is a fake news site established by Media Matters for America.”

TruNews played Lindell’s comments on its program Monday night, and the hosts were understandably mystified by Lindell’s allegations, declaring that if he can be this wrong about them, then nobody should believe anything that he says about any subject.

“It really is sad,” said TruNews founder Rick Wiles. “Somebody is feeding Mr. Lindell a lot of bad information, and I think he should wise up and take a look at who he has surrounded himself with and whether somebody has gotten inside his group and they are now turning him into a clown. They’re destroying his credibility.”

“If his sources of information are so faulty that he accuses TruNews of being a Media Matters puppet and that we smuggle antifa terrorists into meetings, if his information is that faulty, then I can’t trust anything Mike Lindell says,” Wiles added. “I’ve been one guy here through this whole thing that has said, ‘Let’s hear him out. Let’s not attack him. Let’s give the man a fair chance to present his information.’ That’s why we sent Edward [Szall] and Lauren [Witzke], but now I wouldn’t waste a dime on anything Mike Lindell says.”

Aug. 16afghanistan trump troops 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN and MSNBC are failing us today, Bill Palmer, Aug. 16, 2021. Today is not exactly a banner day for the media. MSNBC’s Mika msnbc logo CustomBrzezinski and CNN’s Jake Tapper have spent the day inaccurately trying to put all the blame on President Biden for the Afghanistan debacle, while essentially pretending that Bush, Cheney, and Trump didn’t set up this outcome long ago. Meanwhile NPR is giving airtime to John Bolton, the last guy who should be given a voice when it comes to Middle East war fallout.

bill palmer report logo headerToday is a sad reminder that while Fox News and other right wing propaganda outlets are by far the most egregious about it, mainstream media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are also TV ratings factories that are at times willing to push dishonest or even false narratives in the CNNhope of hitting their ratings marks for the day.

We urge the media to do better. Of course better journalism often doesn’t translate to better ratings, so it makes for a conundrum. Keep in mind that you, the audience, have the final vote: your remote control. If you simply turn off any coverage that you know is dishonest, it’ll hit the media in the ratings department, and they’ll be forced to adjust accordingly.

 

bob dylan recent uncredited showbiz411Showbiz411, Opinion: Bob Dylan Hit With Bogus Lawsuit Claiming Molestation in NYC April-May 1965: Not Possible, He Wasn’t There, Roger Friedman, Aug.t 16, 2021. “Swanky room at the Chelsea Hotel? Bob couldn’t afford a room at the Chelsea Hotel!”

TMZ described the legal papers filed by “JC” below and said it happened in Dylan’s “swanky hotel room.” A friend of Dylan (shown above) from that time was who around 24/7 laughed when he heard this. He also reminded me to look at the calendar and schedule of Dylan shows. Bob and Joan Baez, who were a couple, were on the road together for all of the time “JC” says she was with Dylan at the Chelsea. This fellow was with him the whole time.

I told JC’s lawyer, Daniel Isaacs, about the schedule and asked to respond. I’m waiting for an answer.

EARLIER: On April 26, 1965 Bob Dylan arrived in London. He didn’t return to the United States until June 2nd. In April. he was mostly on the West Coast. All of this is recorded in calendars tracking Dylan’s whereabouts because he was a young superstar.

Yet this afternoon comes news of a complaint filed by a 68-year-old woman who says Dylan groomed and molested her in New York at the Chelsea Hotel in April and May 1965 when she was 12 years old. TMZ called it his “ritzy apartment” at the Chelsea, a notably run down place even in 1965.

But the calendars speak for themselves. And in London, Dylan was filmed on tour by DA Pennebaker for the famous documentary, “Don’t Look Back.”

So the lawsuit or complaint or whatever it is is bogus. But this is the environment we’ve created, where accusations fly and celebrities are dubbed guilty before anyone checks the facts.

Despite the travel schedule being easily available, the “victim” — who calls herself “JC” — says she was “groomed” by Dylan in April and May 1965 at the Hotel Chelsea.The complaint states: “between April and May of 1965 the defendant, Dylan, exploited his status as a musician by grooming J.C. to gain her trust and to obtain control over her as part of his plan to sexually molest and abuse J.C.”

Um, not possible if Dylan wasn’t even there. He was singing “It Ain’t Me, Babe” in London.

Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. He wrote the Intelligencer column for NY Magazine in the mid 90s, reporting on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as for the real Parade magazine (when it was owned by Conde Nast), and has written for the New York Observer, Details, Vogue, Spin, the New York Times, NY Post, Washington Post, and NY Daily News among many publications. He is the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Aug. 15

Unz Review, Opinion: The Covid Debate: to Vaxx or Not to Vaxx, Ron Unz (Founder, Publisher and Editor), Aug. 15, 2021. Beginning late last year, several of our regular columnists became vocal anti-vaxxers with regard to the new Covid vaccines, and as a result our website was swarmed by their zealous adherents, who soon began pushing their determined message on entirely unrelated threads. This greatly irritated me, and I made increasing efforts to drive them away. This is not an anti-vaxx webzine, and I was concerned that it might become perceived as such.

I didn’t know or care anything about the vaxx issue one way or the other, and was disturbed that so many seemingly rational people had suddenly become obsessed by that topic. Eventually I agreed to do a lengthy Q&A with longtime columnist Mike Whitney, one of our strongest anti-vaxx voices, which ran 9,000 words and was published two weeks ago:

• Unz Review, Opinion-Debate: Are the Opponents of the Covid Injections "Anti-Vaxx Crackpots"? Vaccine skeptic Mike Whitney interviews Unz Review publisher and vaccine proponent Ron Unz, Aug. 1, 2021 (9,000 Words).

The piece proved extremely popular, not only generating strong traffic, but quickly accumulating a huge number of comments. Many of the anti-vaxxers naturally didn’t appreciate my position and why I’d published such a long and harsh critique of their views, so I tried to explain my motives in one of my comments:

Hordes of anti-vaxxers had begun descending upon this website a few months ago, probably because some of my regular columnists had begun running anti-vaxx articles. As a result, those same anti-vaxxers began cluttering up the comment-threads of other articles, including my own, that had absolutely no connection to vaxxing. So I told them to get lost and had their off-topic comments trashed to drive them away, telling them they were all a bunch of nuts, and saying the same thing, somewhat more politely, to my anti-vaxx columnists.

Mike Whitney, who’s very strongly in the anti-vaxx camp, was disturbed at my views and suggested he do a Q&A with me to thrash things out, and I said I’d be glad to do that.

When I write my own articles, especially the long ones that run 9,000 words or more, they require an enormous amount of reading and thought, and usually take weeks of sustained effort. But with the Q&A I didn’t bother with any of that, but just replied straight away to his questions. The whole thing only took me a few hours, and now gives me a perfect excuse to henceforth trash all the off-topic anti-vaxx comments everywhere else.

Although I’d viewed the article and its accompanying discussion as a long-term holding-pen for the anti-vaxxers, their energetic response soon overwhelmed my plans, with nearly 1,700 comments and over 280,000 words making the thread so huge and sluggish that I had to close it down a couple of days ago. This partially defeated my original purpose, and while awaiting some new article on their favored topic, the agitated anti-vaxxers have once again begun spilling over into other, mostly unrelated threads, including those of my own articles.

I also finally had a chance to take a closer look at more of the original thread, and although a large fraction of the material appeared as worthless as I’d expected, some of it seemed much more reasonable. In particular, the discussion had attracted the focused attention of a very erudite moderate anti-vaxxer calling himself “Raches,” who personally contributed dozens of rather long comments, totaling a remarkable 23,000 words. Much of his effort was soon directed towards rebuking and debunking the more extreme, ignorant, and conspiratorial anti-vaxxers, and he seemed to establish amicable relations with several well-informed and moderate pro-vaxxers.

Early on, he urged me to allow our publication to become an important resources in the vaxxing controversy, allowing an informed debate between the more reasonable pro- and anti-vaxxers:

In both the pro-vaxx and anti-vaxx camps, there are those who are most interested in leveraging the vaccine issue to grind a political axe, or in winning a debate at all costs. In both camps, there are also those who are sincerely interested in factually correct information, in objective, dispassionate science, and in protecting their and their families’ health. If you cut diagonally across both camps, then you can draw together the latter, and knock the fulcrum out from beneath the political lever being exercised by the former.

So, depoliticize the Covid vaccine debate. Run a series of feature articles from level-headed authors summarizing the best scientific arguments from both sides, at a level that is accessible to intelligent people who are neither medical experts nor biological researchers—with suitably cited references for those who wish to seek more in-depth information. You do need to bring out the best: I think that persons who are capable of comprehending a myriad-word American Pravda article can probably see through the old propaganda trick of pitting the best from one side against mediocre strawmen on the other.

In the ensuing discussions, impose a moderation policy that excludes empty invective and ad hominem fallacies—while recognizing that cogently presented ad hominem arguments are not always fallacious.

At the time, I summarily rejected the proposal, since my original intent had been to drive away the anti-vaxxers, or at least confine them to a sharply restricted area:

Absolutely not. The last thing I want is to attract more crazy anti-vaxxers to this website. Frankly, I wish they’d all go away to LifesiteNews or wherever. The main reason I agreed to this Q&A was that the anti-vaxxers were angry that their off-topic nonsense was getting trashed on other threads, so I thought it only fair to occasionally given them a thread where they could rant and rave a little.

But in reading through portions of the very long thread, I also noticed his appraisal of other issues of much greater interest to me, which I’ll admit I found both quite acute and obviously rather gratifying.

And after thinking things over a bit, I decided that perhaps the suggestion would be the best approach after all, just as long as the number of vaxxing threads remains sufficiently small as to not overshadow the main issues covered by the website. Such articles would also make it much easier to reasonably restrict discussions of the vaxxing topic to these particular locations, preventing them from creeping into other, unrelated topics.

Moreover, since I personally don’t know or care much about the topic, I won’t be contributing much myself, and can just allow the various flavors of vaxxers and anti-vaxxers to try to settle their own differences, in effect making this a dedicated open thread.

So those interested in arguing about vaxxing should feel free to congregate here and debate the topic to their heart’s content, or at least until the thread becomes so extremely long and sluggish I have to close it down in turn. However, please be warned that the ensuing discussion will be moderated much more strictly than usual, with crude insults, totally ignorant nonsense, or crazy remarks considerably less likely to be published.

tucker carlson gage skidmorePalmer Report, Opinion: This alone should get Tucker Carlson canceled, Bocha Blue, Aug. 15, 2021. I have seen, from Palmer report readers, a sort of frustration that the GOP does not hold their own accountable. I believe they used to. But things have changed, and denials and smug non-apologies seem to be the way of the world for most Republicans. It is getting worse in that regard.

bill palmer report logo headerThe latest GOP member I am about to call out isn’t in Congress. His psychotic mug is featured on television nightly, where he sneers, makes faces, and does everything humanly possible to show the world what an asshole he is.

Tucker Carlson (shown above in a Gage Skidmore photo) is his name. I have been saying for quite a while that the horrible little man will at some point be canceled. I still believe that, but I must admit that what he did this week should have been enough to happen.

It was barely even talked about, which gave me an odious feeling because the last thing we want is to normalize this jerk.

alexandra ocasio cortes instagram attack croppedWhen the American terrorists stormed the Capitol on January 6th, it left many with severe PTSD. And even now, many are struggling. One of those people is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

In an interview with Dana Bash of CNN, AOC (shown in an Instagram photo soon after the Jan. 6 attack) admitted that she feared sexual assault from the terrorists.

For some reason, this interview drove Tucker crazy. Because on his show the other night, he proceeded to mock her mercilessly.

Referring to her as “Sandy” and dripping contempt, Carlson proceeded to say this:

fox news logo Small“Get a therapist, honey. This is crazy.”

“Sexualizing the violence? I was going to be raped by Ashli Babbit?” Tucker laughed.

It made me sick, and the fact that this is not part of the top two or three stories all over television is also bothering me.

I do believe Tucker has stepped over the line with these comments. I have a goal for 2021: to do everything humanly possible to get this cretin off the air. Tucker is a money-making machine for the heartless corporation, but he can be canceled with enough outcry. But people have to be aware of the stories before they can act in any way.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Backlash to Racial Reckoning, Conservative Publishers See Gold, Elizabeth A. Harris, Aug. 15, 2021. Books on race and antiracism have sold well over the past year. Now, titles like “I Can’t Breathe: How a Racial Hoax Is Killing America” are coming.

Aug. 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Snopes Retracts 60 Articles Plagiarized by Co-Founder: ‘Our Staff Are Gutted,’ Heather Murphy, Aug. 13, 2021. The fact-checking site has banned David Mikkelson, who owns half the company, from writing articles after a BuzzFeed News investigation prompted an internal review.

Snopes, which has long presented itself as the internet’s premier fact-checking resource, has retracted 60 articles after a BuzzFeed News investigation found that the site’s co-founder plagiarized from news outlets as part of a strategy intended to scoop up web traffic.

“As you can imagine, our staff are gutted and appalled by this,” Vinny Green, the Snopes chief operating officer, said on Friday. He said the Snopes editorial team was conducting a review to understand just how many articles written by David Mikkelson, the site’s co-founder and chief executive, featured content plagiarized from other news sites.

As of Friday afternoon, the team had found 60, he said. By Friday morning, dozens of articles had been removed from the site, with pages that formerly featured those articles now showing the word “retracted” and an explanation that “some or all of its content was taken from other sources without proper attribution.” Ads have been removed from these articles, according to Mr. Green.

Mr. Mikkelson, who owns 50 percent of Snopes Media Group, will continue to be Snopes’s chief executive, but his ability to publish articles has been revoked, Mr. Green said.

In a statement, Mr. Mikkelson acknowledged he had engaged in “multiple serious copyright violations of content that Snopes didn’t have rights to use” and praised the work of the 20 or so “dedicated, professional journalists” employed by Snopes.

“There is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgment,” he wrote, adding, “I want to express how sorry I am to those whose copyright I violated, to our staff, and to our readers.”

Doreen Marchionni, the managing editor, has been given “full authority” to address these issues, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, What Rosen told U.S. senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election, Ann E. Marimow and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump’s last attorney general has told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the jeffrey rosenJustice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

In closed-door testimony Saturday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer.

According to a person familiar with the testimony, Rosen’s opening statement also characterized as “inexplicable” the actions of his Justice Department colleague, Jeffrey Clark, who was willing to push Trump’s false claims of election fraud and whom Trump considered installing as acting attorney general to replace Rosen.

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis alleged 2020 election fraud during a post-election hearing before Michigan's legislature.

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis alleged 2020 election fraud during a post-election hearing before Michigan's legislature.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani told agents it was okay to ‘throw a fake’ during political campaign, Devlin Barrett, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Rudolph W. Giuliani’s promise of a “big surprise” to help Donald Trump’s election in October 2016 led to Democratic accusations the FBI was feeding him secrets about an investigation of Hillary Clinton.

But a newly obtained transcript shows the former New York mayor, right, told federal agents it was okay to “throw a fake” when campaigning, to which his then-law partner added, “there’s no obligation to tell the truth.”

rudy giuliani recentGiuliani’s comments came in a 2018 interview with agents for the Justice Department inspector general, conducted in a room at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington. The Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, sued for a copy of the interview transcript and provided it to The Washington Post on Wednesday.

djt maga hatGiuliani’s private defense of his actions has come to light as he and other Trump lawyers face discipline and possible court sanctions for their unfounded statements surrounding the 2020 election, raising questions about lawyers’ integrity in a democracy.

During the February 2018 interview to try to determine if FBI agents had leaked him sensitive information, Giuliani’s then-law partner and counselor, Marc Mukasey, opined that the standards for truth-telling are different in electoral politics than in legal matters.

“In the heat of a political campaign, on television, I’m not saying Rudy necessarily, but everybody embellishes everything,” Mukasey said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The spectacular implosion of Mike Lindell, Aaron Blake, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). On Tuesday, my colleague Philip Bump wrote about the three-day symposium being put on by stolen-election fantasist and Trump ally Mike Lindell, with the apt headline, “The con is winding down.”

It might now be more apt to say the con has imploded spectacularly.

Lindell has pushed many false, baseless and crazy theories about voter fraud, but the symposium was billed as focusing on one in particular: “irrefutable” proof that hackers backed by China stole the election for Joe Biden. Lindell had the data, and he was going to show it to you over 72 hours. What’s more, his website promised to give $5 million to anybody who could “prove that Mike’s cyber data … is not valid.”

Well, someone has stepped forward to debunk the data — or at least the claims Lindell is making about it. And it’s none other than the cyberexpert Lindell himself hired.

Josh Merritt, also known as “Spider” or “Spyder” and who was hired by Lindell for his “red team,” told the Washington Times on Wednesday at the symposium that, effectively, Lindell has sold his adherents a bill of goods. Lindell claimed that intercepted network data obtained by other hackers, also known as “packet captures,” could be unencrypted to reveal evidence of vote-switching by the Chinese-backed hackers.

But Merritt has now said that’s just not true.

  • Washington Post, Election officials fear for their safety amid false claims on voting, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Amy Gardner, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.).
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: This is just ugly for Rudy Giuliani, Bocha Blue

washington post logoWashington Post, The Afghanistan Papers Book Excerpt: The grand illusion: Hiding the truth about Afghanistan war’s ‘conclusion,’ Craig Whitlock, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The Obama administration declared an end to combat in 2014, but U.S. troops kept fighting and dying, as detailed in this excerpt from Craig Whitlock’s afghanistan papers craig whitlock coverbookThe Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, right, (Excerpt Part Two).

President Barack Obama had promised to end the war, so on Dec. 28, 2014, U.S. and NATO officials held a ceremony at their headquarters in Kabul to mark the occasion. A multinational color guard paraded around. Music played. A four-star general gave a speech and solemnly furled the green flag of the U.S.-led international force that had flown since the beginning of the conflict.

In a statement, Obama called the day “a milestone for our country” and said the United States was safer and more secure after 13 years of war. “Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” he declared. Army Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, also hailed the purported end of the “combat mission” and embellished some of its achievements. Since the start of the war, he asserted falsely, life expectancy for the average Afghan had increased by 21 years.

“You times that by about 35 million Afghans represented here in the country, that gives you 741 million years of life,” he added, crediting U.S., NATO and Afghan forces for what sounded like a remarkable improvement. (A federal audit later discredited the figures as based on spurious data; life expectancy for Afghans had actually increased by about seven years, not 21).

But for such a historical day, the military ceremony seemed strange and underwhelming. Obama issued his statement from Hawaii while he relaxed on vacation. The event took place in a gymnasium, where several dozen people sat on folding chairs. There was little mention of the enemy, let alone an instrument of surrender. Nobody cheered.

In fact, the war was nowhere near a conclusion, “responsible” or otherwise, and U.S. troops would fight and die in combat in Afghanistan for many years to come. The baldfaced claims to the contrary ranked among the most egregious deceptions and lies that U.S. leaders spread during two decades of warfare.

  • Part 1 of The Afghanistan Papers: U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan

Obama had scaled back military operations over the previous three years, but he failed to pull the United States out of the quagmire. At the time of the ceremony, about 10,800 U.S. troops remained, a decrease of almost 90 percent from the surge of forces that he had sent to Afghanistan in his first term. Obama promised to withdraw the rest of the troops by the end of 2016, coinciding with the end of his term in office, save for a residual force at the U.S. Embassy.

He knew most Americans had lost patience. Only 38 percent of the public said the war had been worth fighting, according to a December 2014 Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Yet the president faced countervailing pressures to stay put from the Pentagon and hawks in Congress. Obama had tried a similar staged approach to end the war in Iraq, where the U.S. military ceased combat operations in 2010 and exited entirely a year later. But those moves soon backfired.

In the absence of U.S. troops, the Islamic State — an al-Qaeda offshoot — swept through the country and seized several major cities as the U.S.-trained Iraqi army put up scant resistance.

Obama wanted to avoid the same fate in Afghanistan, but he needed to buy more time for U.S. forces to build up the shaky Afghan army so it would not afghanistan papers lenny frank 2010collapse like the Iraqi forces had. He also wanted to create leverage for the government in Kabul to persuade the Taliban to negotiate an end to the conflict.

To make it all work, Obama conjured up an illusion. He and his administration unveiled a messaging campaign to make Americans think that U.S. troops still in Afghanistan would stay out of the fight, with duties that relegated them to the sidelines.

_____

This account is adapted from The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, a Washington Post book, which will be published Aug. 31 by Simon & Schuster. A narrative history of what went wrong in Afghanistan, the book is based on interviews with more than 1,000 people who played direct roles in the war, as well as thousands of pages of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. It is a different book than one with a similar title, The Afghanistan Papers, shown above right that was edited by Lenny Frank and published in 2010.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Lawyer's Deathbed Confession About a Sensational 1975 Kidnapping, Alex Traub, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Samuel Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune, was abducted by two men who confessed to the crime. But then their story evolved wildly, and the jury believed it. Was it all a lie?

Before dawn on Aug. 17, 1975, about 60 police officers and F.B.I. agents charged into the Brooklyn apartment of a fireman named Mel Patrick Lynch. The living room was dimly lit; its blinds were drawn. Mr. Lynch sat on the couch next to the unshaven, foul-smelling, bound and blindfolded 21-year-old scion of one of America’s richest families, Samuel Bronfman II, who had been missing for nine days.

The authorities arrested Mr. Lynch and an accomplice, Dominic Byrne. The men confessed to abducting Mr. Bronfman, describing the planning and execution of the crime and identifying the hiding spot of two garbage bags containing a $2.3 million ransom.

That seemed like the end of the drama. Actually, it was only a first act. The kidnapping trial turned out to have more narrative twists than the crime itself. Mr. Lynch and Mr. Byrne would be convicted of an extortion charge, but incredibly, after it seemed they had been caught red-handed, a jury pronounced them not guilty of kidnapping, a charge that could have put them in prison for life. They and their defense lawyers managed to convince jurors that there was, in fact, no kidnapping.

This miracle was pulled off in large part by Mr. Byrne’s attorney, Peter DeBlasio, who called the case “the greatest trial victory of my career.”

The Bronfman kidnapping is one of the stranger tales of New York’s criminal history, but over the following decades, hardly anyone had reason to recall the intricacies and mysteries — except Mr. DeBlasio. Even as he reveled in his triumph, he worried until the end of his life about what he had done to secure it.

Mr. DeBlasio’s mix of pride and unease combusted in July 2020, when he self-published a memoir, Let Justice Be Done. His book, which went largely unnoticed, reveals what he long told his two daughters was the secret of the Bronfman trial.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Another Republican pol charged with underage sex trafficking, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 13, 2021. A top wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallRepublican Party donor, Fox News and RT (Russia Today) pundit, and political strategist was arrested by the FBI in Minneapolis on August 12 and charged with "recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts."

tony lazarro mike penceThe arrest and indictment of Anton ("Tony") Lazarro on federal charges comes on the heels of federal investigators obtaining "years of Venmo and Cash App transactions and thousands of photos and videos, as well as access to personal social media accounts" from former Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel Greenberg as part of his cooperation agreement in the investigation for underage sex trafficking of Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Lazzaro's website has photos of him with Donald Trump, Mike Pence (right), Tucker Carlson, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee.

Aug. 12

 

jeopardy logoMother Jones, Commentary: Who Is Mayim Bialik? A Terrible Choice for Jeopardy Host, Kiera Butler, Aug. 12, 2021. Bialik hawks nootropics, questions vaccines, and dabbles in warning the pill is dangerous.

Yesterday, the producers of the long-running gameshow "Jeopardy!" announced two new co-hosts to replace the late Alex Trebek: the show’s executive producer Mike Richards and actress Mayim Bialik.

mayim bialik twitterI’ll focus on Bialik, right. On paper, she seems like a great choice for a show that celebrates the human intellect: Most famous for her starring roles in the TV sitcoms Blossom and The Big Bang Theory, she also has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Yet despite her scientific bonafides, Bialik has dabbled in realms that are distinctly anti-science.

Let’s take a look at her track record.

First, there’s Bialik’s mixed messages on vaccines. Back in 2009, she told People magazine that her family was “non-vaccinating.”

Bialik is also a longstanding proponent of the pseudoscientific field of naturopathy. She has hawked a questionable supplement that claims to enhance brain function, including in an ad that’s on air right now, and in which she leverages her degrees.

But wait, there’s more: Abundant research shows that birth control pills and devices are safe and effective. Still, Bialik has joined forces with actress Ricki Lake on her crusade against hormonal contraception.

It’s incredibly depressing that someone as accomplished as Bialik promotes medical and scientific misinformation. But it’s beyond disappointing that Jeopardy! — a show that is literally about facts — would choose her to be its public face. I’ll take “someone else, please” for $1,000.

 

Matthew taylor coleman

washington post logoWashington Post, A QAnon-obsessed father thought his kids would destroy the world, so he killed them with a spear gun, FBI says, Jonathan Edwards, Aug. 12, 2021. Matthew Coleman, above, was supposed to go on a camping trip with his wife and their two young children last weekend. But evil was in his midst and threatened to bring about the end of the world, he told investigators.

He had to do something.

So, with sunrise still an hour away on Saturday morning, Coleman loaded his two children — a 2-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter — into a Mercedes Sprinter camper van, an FBI agent said in court documents filed Wednesday. Coleman didn’t have a car seat for his daughter, so he put her in a box.

From his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., investigators say Coleman drove south.

Coleman said he had been enlightened by QAnon and the Illuminati, both baseless theories that claim secret elites are maliciously controlling national and world affairs from the shadows. He had received visions and signs revealing his wife “possessed serpent DNA,” which she passed on to their children, according to the affidavit.

By killing them, he allegedly said, “he was saving the world from monsters.”

Instead of the family camping trip he had planned, Coleman took his children some 250 miles to Rosarito, a resort city on the Pacific coast in Mexico, just south of the U.S. border, FBI agent Jennifer Bannon said in a nine-page sworn affidavit. Then, he shot each of them in the chest with a spearfishing gun, the agent said.

On Wednesday, federal authorities charged Coleman, 40, with the foreign murder of U.S. nationals. Court records did not list an attorney for Coleman.

Daily Beast, Commentary: MAGA Fraudster Smears Dems Using Decoy TMZ, Roger Sollenberger, Aug. 12, 2021. "That is not our site nor part of the TMZ brand and they are not authorized to use our name or logo. We have sent a cease and desist letter to the website," a TMZ spokesperson.

daily beast logoSerial MAGA fraudster Jack Burkman, shown at right in a 2020 photo via Flckr from a press conference, has embarked on a new political venture: a website styled after celebrity gossip outlet TMZ — right down to the trademarked logo — that is smearing Democratic Reps. Conor Lamb and Eric Swalwell.

jack burkman wFlyers posted Thursday around Capitol Hill and the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., offer a $10,000 reward for information about an unsubstantiated affair between Swalwell and Lamb’s wife. (Swalwell and Lamb both emphatically deny the allegation.)

A photo of one of the flyers was tweeted Thursday morning by right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. The notice directs prospective tipsters to a hotline with a D.C. area code, as well as a website called “TMZ-DC dot com.”

djt maga hatThe site, which according to webpage metadata appears to have been created on Tuesday, bears the TMZ media group’s trademarked logo and bills itself as “a news and gossip site specifically for Washington DC.”

“From Capitol Hill office drama, to meaningful developments taking place deep within the annals of the Executive Branch, TMZ-DC.com relies on the most well-placed sources to deliver information to the public,” the site says.

After The Daily Beast inquired with TMZ, a spokesperson disavowed the TMZ-DC site. “That is not our site nor part of the TMZ brand and they are not authorized to use our name or logo. We have sent a cease and desist letter to the website,” the spokesperson said.

 washington post logoWashington Post, NSA quietly awards $10 billion cloud contract to Amazon, drawing protest from Microsoft, Aaron Gregg, Aug. 12, 2021. The National Security Agency has quietly awarded a contract worth up to $10 billion to Amazon Web Services, setting off another high-stakes fight among rival tech giants over national security contract dollars.

nsa logo 2On July 21 the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft filed a formal bid protest with the Government Accountability Office, an independent federal agency that handles contract disputes, after Microsoft applied for the opportunity and was rejected. A decision is expected by Oct. 29.

amazon logo smallThe contract award comes on the heels of a protracted and bitter dispute over a Pentagon contract, also worth up to $10 billion, which was given to Microsoft before getting bogged down in lawsuits and ultimately scrapped. If the NSA can fight through an often bruising bid protest process, the new contract could extend Amazon’s lead in the fast-growing cloud computing market where rivals are gaining on it.

The NSA has offered few details about the purpose of the contract. An NSA spokesman said the agency had awarded a contract for “cloud computing support services,” but declined to elaborate or specify who won it. “The agency will respond to the protest in accordance with appropriate federal regulations,” the spokesman said.

 

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Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Emergency Alert test had mixed results, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 12, 2021. If 2:20 pm Eastern Daylight Time passed you by on wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAugust 11 without you realizing anything special was taking place, you were not alone.

At that time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conducted national simultaneous tests of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the first since Covid-19 hit the United States, and the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). EAS broadcasts an emergency tone over the nation's television, radio, and cable stations. For those with smartphones who have opted into the system, they should have received the following WEA text message: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

wayne madesen report logoInitial results are that many Americans did not even realize there was a national test of the emergency warning system taking place. Not tested was the Presidential Alert system, which sends a text message to every cell phone in the nation. Users do not have the choice of opting out of the Presidential Alert system. FEMA's system for transmission of emergency alerts is known as the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS).

FEMA, the FCC, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), all of which suffered in terms of readiness and accountability during the disastrous Trump administration, clearly must improve their emergency notification systems.

While there me be some reticence by some in the administration against conducting a full national emergency test, including the Presidential Alert system, such concerns over alarming a public -- some 30 percent of which believe in Qanon conspiracy nonsense -- pale in comparison to the twin global emergencies now faced by the entire planet. One is the ever-mutating Covid-19 virus and the other is a recently released United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the planet already going past the tipping point of irreversible damage to the climate.

In terms of impending disaster, this is the movie "Contagion" meeting "The Day After Tomorrow." An ever-mutating virus coupled with extreme disastrous weather conditions around the world is no longer a future scenario but is happening right this very minute.

As a result of the lackluster performance of the national emergency alert systems, the Biden administration should not hesitate to use the full testing capability of such alerts, including Presidential Alerts, in view of the ongoing worldwide epidemiological and meteorological disasters.

 liz willner lea suzuki san francisco chronicle via getty images facebook

Liz Willner runs OpenVAERS, a huge anti-vax website based in Piedmont, California. (Photos by LEA SUZUKI/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images and Facebook)

VICE,