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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.'

March 2019

March 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: National Enquirer sells out Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, March 21, 2019. The National Enquirer, its parent company AMI, and its boss David Pecker just keep finding their way in and out of legal trouble in relation to Donald Trump’s scandals. Now the Enquirer gang has decided to sell Trump out in the hope of keeping itself out of even more legal trouble.

bill palmer report logo headerWe already saw Pecker and the National Enquirer sell Donald Trump and Michael Cohen out to the SDNY in return for immunity. But then Pecker blew his immunity when he got caught trying to blackmail Trump’s longtime nemesis Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and now Pecker is in real danger of facing serious criminal charges. So he’s selling Trump out yet again.

Pecker and AMI have agreed to turn over Trump-related documents to the House Judiciary Committee, according to CBS News. Based on the nature of the document request, these are ostensibly the same documents that they’ve already turned over to the SDNY. So this won’t necessarily further incriminate Trump, but it will serve to publicly incriminate Trump, as the committee will turn around and use these documents as part of its public hearings on Trump’s crimes.

twitter bird CustomConsortium News, After Pressure on Twitter, Christine Assange’s Account is Restored, Joe Lauria, March 21, 2019. The Twitter account of Julian Assange’s mother was restored on Wednesday night after her supporters sent a flood of messages to Twitter.

March 20

U.S. Restrictions On Press

Reporters Without Borders, US – State Department bars press corps from Pompeo briefing, Staff report, March 20, 2019. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned that the US State Department only allowed “faith-based” media to attend a press briefing with state dept map logo Smallthe Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, excluding mainstream press and from the meeting in an unusual move. State Department activities are of immense public interest, and press corps access to those activities must not be restricted.

The State Department allowed only faith-based media to report on a March 18 press call with Pompeo, excluding the mainstream press and wire services. Ahead of Secretary Pompeo’s trip to the Middle East, the briefing call was planned to discuss international religious freedom. Only one member of the State Department’s press corps was invited to join the call, only to be uninvited after attempting to mike pompeo portraitRSVP. The State Department did not release the list of press attendees or publish a transcript of the briefing as it typically would.

“This denial of access is one of a number of moves by government officials that restrict the public’s right to know the actions of its government,” said Sabine Dolan, Interim Executive Director for RSF’s North America bureau. “Ensuring that faith-based media are present for such conversations should not come at the expense of traditional media. RSF calls on the State Department, and all government agencies, to ensure that a diverse range of media can cover their activities.”

The United States ranks 45th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

Other Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook agrees to overhaul targeted advertising system for job, housing and loan ads after discrimination complaints, Tracy Jan and Elizabeth Dwoskin, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). Facebook on Tuesday agreed to overhaul its facebook logolucrative targeted advertising system to settle accusations that landlords, lenders and employers use the platform to discriminate, a significant shift for a company that built a business empire on selling personal data.

The settlement compels Facebook to withhold a wide array of detailed demographic information — including gender, age and Zip codes, which are often used as indicators of race — from advertisers when they market housing, credit and job opportunities.

washington post logogoogle logo customWashington Post, Google fined nearly $1.7 billion for violating European antitrust laws, Tony Romm​, March 20, 2019. The fine marks the third time in as many years that European watchdogs have penalized the U.S. tech giant for harming competition and consumers.

Consortium News, Twitter Restricts Account of Julian Assange’s Mother, Joe Lauria, March 19, 2019. The social media giant has given no reason to Christine Assange who had turned to Twitter to campaign for the liberty of her son.

twitter bird CustomThe Twitter account of Christine Assange, the mother of the arbitrarily detained founder of WikiLeaks, has been restricted, she told Consortium News on Tuesday.

In the past ten days, Ms. Assange tweeted direct replies to Hillary Clinton and John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser. Bolton had tweeted on March 9: “US military should use #Wikileaks for cyber warfare target practice. Take down their capabilities & prevent further harm to nat’l security.”

Twitter uses algorithms unknown to the public to remove, block, suspend or restrict accounts of its users. Like other social media companies, Twitter has come under intense U.S. congressional pressure to censor accounts deemed hostile to U.S. interests.

ny times logoNew York Times, Giant Military Contract Has a Hitch: A Little-Known Entrepreneur, Karen Weise and Thomas Kaplan, March 20, 2019. Deap Ubhi is a restless guy. At 26, he quit his job in private equity in Northern California, where he had grown up and gone to college, and then moved to India to found Burrp!, a local search site similar to Yelp. He sold the company in 2009 and along with other alums became what they called the Burrp! mafia, seeding and growing other start-ups in India.

amazon logo small

After returning to the West Coast, he joined Amazon in 2014 to encourage start-ups to adopt the company’s cloud-computing products. But in less than two years, Mr. Ubhi left to start a company that provided technology to restaurants, inspired by his family’s experience running an Indian-Jamaican-Mexican fusion joint.

He then shifted his career in a new direction, taking his Silicon Valley mentality to the heart of the Washington bureaucracy. .

But that circuitous career has landed Mr. Ubhi, now 39, in the center of a Washington drama. The question of what roles he played inside the Pentagon, and when, is holding up one of the largest federal information technology contracts in history. It is a scuffle with an unusual mixture of tech industry rivalries, national politics and the obscure world of government procurement.

dod sealThe project, a $10 billion deal to bring modern cloud computing to the Pentagon’s arsenal, drew the attention of the biggest tech companies from the moment it was announced in 2017. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle all wanted the prize.

But it had a hitch: The contract would go to only one cloud vendor, even though many big companies prefer to work with multiple cloud providers. Amazon, the runaway leader in cloud computing, appeared to be perhaps the only company capable of fulfilling the Pentagon’s huge demands. And that is where Mr. Ubhi’s connections to the company, where he now works again, have thrown a wrench into the process.

The software giant Oracle, which is widely considered ill equipped to land the deal, has aggressively criticized the one-vendor approach. As part of its opposition, the company is arguing in federal court that Mr. Ubhi’s ties to Amazon shaped the contract in the company’s favor.

Media / Politics / Defamation

washington post logodevin nunes grimacingWashington Post, Analysis: Devin Nunes is suing Twitter and a satirical cow over mean tweets. Does he have a case? Deanna Paul, March 20, 2019 (print ed.). At least one expert believes the California congressman, right, could be laying the groundwork for the Supreme Court to reconsider defamation of public officials and overturn a statute passed by Congress.

March 17

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lashes out after Fox News bumps ‘Judge Jeanine’ following remarks on Muslim congresswoman, Reis Thebault​, March 17, 2019. The network publicly condemned host Jeanine Pirro’s on-air suggestion that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) did not support the U.S. Constitution because she is Muslim and wears a hijab.

jeanine pirro twitter photoTrump accused Pirro’s critics of waging “all out campaigns” against Pirro (shown in her Twitter photo) and fellow Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who was widely rebuked after decade-old racist, misogynistic and homophobic comments resurfaced last week. Both of their comments prompted some advertisers to boycott the shows.

“Stop working soooo hard on being politically correct, which will only bring you down,” Trump said in another tweet, before issuing a curiously dire warning to “Be strong & prosper, be weak & die!”

fcc logoIn yet another post, Trump urged his 59 million followers to “Keep fighting for Tucker, and fight hard for @JudgeJeanine."

Trump mounted his defense hours after he threatened “Saturday Night Live” and other late-night comedy shows that have made the president a frequent punchline. On Twitter, he asked whether the Federal Communications Commission and, for some reason, the Federal Election Commission should “look into” the programs for “knocking the same person (me), over & over, without so much of a mention of ‘the other side.’ ”

March 16

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Donald Trump from a publicity photo for his TV show "The Apprentice" (NBC TV).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘The President … Is Not Above the Law,’ Editorial Board, March 16, 2019. A New York court rules that the Constitution does not shield President Trump from allegations of misconduct before he took office. The legal travails of President Bill Clinton may soon haunt President Trump. A New York appeals court on Thursday ruled that Mr. Trump, like Mr. Clinton before him, is not protected by the presidency from answering civil charges.

The five-judge panel in Manhattan said that the Constitution’s supremacy clause does not bar state courts from hearing claims over “alleged unofficial misconduct” — that is, claims of improper or illegal action before a president took office.

The decision expands on the precedent set in Clinton v. Jones, in which a unanimous Supreme Court in 1997 ruled that a federal court had jurisdiction over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, a former low-level Arkansas state employee, against Mr. Clinton.

Yes, the presidency is important and its occupant may have important duties to attend to other than to produce documents or sit for depositions in a civil suit alleging sexual misconduct and defamation, the court explained, but “the President is still a person, and he is not summer zervosabove the law.”

Two judges dissented, observing that the threat of contempt, should Mr. Trump resist the legal process, would put a state court in “direct control” over the president.

A former contestant on Mr. Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice,” Summer Zervos (shown at right) went public during the 2016 campaign with accusations that Mr. Trump kissed and groped her without her consent. She is suing the president for defaming her shortly after she came forward, calling her charges a “hoax.” She filed her suit days before Mr. Trump took the oath of office.

fox news logo SmallPalmer Report, Opinion: Fox News pulls Judge Jeanine Pirro off the air after racist tirade, Bill Palmer, March 16, 2019. Last week “Judge” Jeanine Pirro launched into such a stunningly racist attack against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar in particular, and against Muslim Americans in bill palmer report logo headergeneral, it was jarring even by Fox News standards. Fox quickly released a statement distancing itself from Pirro’s tirade. Now she’s gone missing from the air altogether.

Jeanine Pirro’s show has been pulled off the air tonight, in favor of a rerun of some other Fox News program. The decision was apparently made at the last minute, as Variety managed to suss out that Fox had been running advertisements for a new Pirro episode as recently as a few days ago. So what’s really going on here?

March 15

Los Angeles Times, Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money, Stacy Perman, March 15, 2019 fox news logo Small(print ed.). Congress requests former Fox News reporter’s notebooks regarding Trump’s hush money.Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, chairman of the Congressional Committee on Oversight and Reform, on Wednesday requested former Fox News reporter Diana Falzone turn over all documents relating to her reporting on President Trump’s “debts and payments to silence women alleging extramarital affairs with him prior to the 2016 presidential election.”

djt stormy daniels 2006The request comes a week after the New Yorker published an investigation on Fox News that disclosed Falzone had reported an article about Trump making hush payments to porn star Stormy Daniels (shown with Trump) prior to the 2016 presidential election in order to keep her quiet about their alleged affair. According to the New Yorker, Fox killed the story because Rupert Murdoch, chairman of Twenty-First Century Fox, wanted Trump to win the election.

Ken LaCorte, Falzone’s editor at Fox, published a response in Mediate disputing her version of events, saying the piece didn’t meet journalistic standards and was not killed because of any political agenda.

Falzone, who has since left Fox, sued the company for gender and disability discrimination in May 2017. However, as part of her settlement, she signed a nondisclosure agreement and has not been able to rebut LaCorte’s claims or any matter arising out of her time at Fox.

March 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson says he’s the victim of a powerful bully. Meet the 24-year-old who found the tapes, Eli Rosenberg​, March 14, 2019. In reality, credit goes to Madeline Peltz, a 20-something in her first adult job who lives in the basement of a D.C. house she rents fox news logo Smallwith five other people, a few cats and a dog named Noodles.

Madeline Peltz works the night shift at the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America. Given the timing of that particular shift, one of her main responsibilities is watching Tucker Carlson’s 8 p.m. show on Fox News.

And she’s watched a lot of Tucker Carlson (shown at left in file photos with President Trump).

tucker carlson djtCarlson has been in the public eye for some 20 years — first as a print journalist, then a television commentator, founder of the conservative site the Daily Caller, and now, Fox News host, with a prime-time slot and a salary in the millions. But people have been confused by Carlson’s tone on Fox since he took over for Bill O’Reilly in 2018, noting concern about diversity and demographics in his show.

After many Carlson-watching hours, the 24-year-old researcher developed a working theory, which she outlined on the nonprofit’s website: that Carlson is using his platform on Fox News to introduce white-nationalist ideas to the mainstream, making him a uniquely prominent “mouthpiece for white supremacy.”

Critics Of Mueller, Defenders of Assange

Consortium News, Opinion: VIPS: Mueller’s Forensics-Free Findings, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), March 13, 2019. The final Mueller report should be graded “incomplete,” says VIPS, whose forensic work proves the speciousness of the story that DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking.

We veteran intelligence professionals have done enough detailed forensic work to prove the speciousness of the prevailing story that the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks came from Russian hacking. Given the paucity of evidence to support that story, we believe Mueller may choose to finesse this key issue and leave everyone hanging. That would help sustain the widespread belief that Trump owes his victory to President Vladimir Putin, and strengthen the hand of those who pay little heed to the unpredictable consequences of an increase in tensions with nuclear-armed Russia.

There is an overabundance of “assessments” but a lack of hard evidence to support that prevailing narrative. We believe that there are enough people of integrity in the Department of Justice to prevent the outright manufacture or distortion of “evidence,” particularly if they become aware that experienced scientists have completed independent forensic study that yield very different conclusions. We know only too well — and did our best to expose — how our former colleagues in the intelligence community manufactured fraudulent “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

We have scrutinized publicly available physical data — the “trail” that every cyber operation leaves behind. And we have had support from highly experienced independent forensic investigators who, like us, have no axes to grind. We can prove that the conventional-wisdom story about Russian-hacking-DNC-emails-for-WikiLeaks is false. Drawing largely on the unique expertise of two VIPS scientists who worked for a combined total of 70 years at the National Security Agency and became Technical Directors there, we have regularly published our findings. But we have been deprived of a hearing in mainstream media — an experience painfully reminiscent of what we had to endure when we exposed the corruption of intelligence before the attack on Iraq 16 years ago.

This time, with the principles of physics and forensic science to rely on, we are able to adduce solid evidence exposing mistakes and distortions in the dominant story. We offer you below — as a kind of aide-memoire— a discussion of some of the key factors related to what has become known as “Russia-gate.” And we include our most recent findings drawn from forensic work on data associated with WikiLeaks’ publication of the DNC emails.

We do not claim our conclusions are “irrefutable and undeniable,” a la Colin Powell at the UN before the Iraq war. Our judgments, however, are based on the scientific method — not “assessments.” We decided to put this memorandum together in hopes of ensuring that you hear that directly from us.

If the Mueller team remains reluctant to review our work — or even to interview willing witnesses with direct knowledge, like WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and former UK Ambassador Craig Murray, we fear that many of those yearning earnestly for the truth on Russia-gate will come to the corrosive conclusion that the Mueller investigation was a sham.

In sum, we are concerned that, at this point, an incomplete Mueller report will fall far short of the commitment made by then Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “to ensure a full and thorough investigation,” when he appointed Mueller in May 2017. Again, we are at your disposal.

Discussion

The centerpiece accusation of Kremlin “interference” in the 2016 presidential election was the charge that Russia hacked Democratic National Committee emails and gave them to WikiLeaks to embarrass Secretary Hillary Clinton and help Mr. Trump win. The weeks following the election witnessed multiple leak-based media allegations to that effect. These culminated on January 6, 2017 in an evidence-light, rump report misleadingly labeled “Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA).” Prepared by “handpicked analysts” from only three of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies (CIA, FBI, and NSA), the assessment expressed “high confidence” in the Russia-hacking-to-WikiLeaks story, but lacked so much as a hint that the authors had sought access to independent forensics to support their “assessment.”

Given the stakes involved in the Russia-gate investigation – including a possible impeachment battle and greatly increased tension between Russia and the U.S. — it is difficult to understand why Comey did not move quickly to seize the computer hardware so the FBI could perform an independent examination of what quickly became the major predicate for investigating election interference by Russia. Fortunately, enough data remain on the forensic “trail” to arrive at evidence-anchored conclusions. The work we have done shows the prevailing narrative to be false. We have been suggesting this for over two years. Recent forensic work significantly strengthens that conclusion.

March 12

ny times logofox news logo SmallNew York Times, Fox News, After Rebuking Jeanine Pirro, Faces Another Uproar Over Tucker Carlson, Michael M. Grynbaum, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The network condemned Ms. Pirro for suggesting that a Muslim lawmaker’s religious beliefs were anti-American. Mr. Carlson, another Fox host, is also under fire after the surfacing of offensive comments.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Deportation Looms for Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum, Celia Wexler, March 12, 2019. Over the past 11 years, Emilio Gutierrez has been on a roller coaster — detained two times and threatened with deportation, then given reprieves.

Mueller Report

ny times logoNew York Times, Mueller Report Has Washington Spinning (and It’s Not Even Filed), Staff report, March 12, 2019 (print ed.). The capital is jittery and full of rumor as it awaits the report of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, on Russian interference and President Trump.  It may or may not be the report of the century, it may or may not be ready soon, and it may be only a few pages. But it is definitely highly anticipated.

March 10

Associated Press via OregonLive.com, Cutbacks in local news leave some communities in the dark, March 10, 2019. With the 2018 shutdown of ap logothe Daily Guide in St. Robert, Mo., the area in central Missouri's Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities across the United States to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University North Carolina.

Waynesville, Mo. — Five minutes late, Darrell Todd Maurina sweeps into a meeting room and plugs in his laptop computer. He places a Wi-Fi hotspot on the table and turns on a digital recorder. The earplug in his left ear is attached to a police scanner in his pants pocket.

He wears a tie; Maurina insists upon professionalism. He is the press — in its entirety.

Maurina, who posts his work to Facebook, is the only person who has come to the Pulaski County courthouse to tell residents what their commissioners are up to, the only one who will report on their deliberations — specifically, their discussions about how to satisfy the Federal Emergency Management Agency so it will pay to repair a road inundated during a 2013 flood.

Last September, Waynesville became a statistic. With the shutdown of its newspaper, the Daily Guide, this town of 5,200 people in central Missouri's Ozark hills joined more than 1,400 other cities and towns across the U.S. to lose a newspaper over the past 15 years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by the University of North Carolina.

Blame revenue siphoned by online competition, cost-cutting ownership, a death spiral in quality, sheer disinterest among readers or reasons peculiar to given locales for that development. While national outlets worry about a president who calls the press an enemy of the people, many Americans no longer have someone watching the city council for them, chronicling the soccer exploits of their children or reporting on the kindly neighbor who died of cancer.

Local journalism is dying in plain sight.

ny times logoNew York Times, Footage Contradicts U.S. Claim That Maduro Burned Aid Convoy, Nicholas Casey, Christoph Koettl and Deborah Acosta, March 10, 2019. Unpublished footage obtained by The Times and previously released tapes allowed for a reconstruction of the incident. It suggests that a Molotov cocktail thrown by an antigovernment protester was the most likely trigger for the blaze.

nicolas maduro customThe narrative seemed to fit Venezuela’s authoritarian rule: Security forces, on the order of President Nicolás Maduro, right, had torched a convoy of humanitarian aid as millions in his country were suffering from illness and hunger.

Vice President Mike Pence wrote that “the tyrant in Caracas danced” as his henchmen “burned food & medicine.” The State Department released a video saying Mr. Maduro had ordered the trucks burned. And Venezuela’s opposition held up the images of the burning aid, reproduced on dozens of news sites and television screens throughout Latin America, as evidence of Mr. Maduro’s cruelty.

But there is a problem: The opposition itself, not Mr. Maduro’s men, appears to have set the cargo alight accidentally.

March 9

washington post logoWashington Post, sarah isgur graphicA controversial CNN hire has a change of heart; she’ll be an analyst, not a politics editor, Paul Farhi, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). Sarah Isgur, right, a prominent conservative with ties to the Trump administration, was all set to become one of the cable network’s political editors, a job in which she would help direct coverage of the Democratic primaries and Trump’s reelection campaign.

But CNN and Isgur appear to have had a slight change of plans. Isgur, until recently the chief spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, cnn logoannounced Friday on Twitter that she would still be joining CNN, but that she won’t be doing so as a political editor. She’ll be a political analyst only, offering commentary but having no direct role in coverage decisions.

Isgur’s hiring touched off criticism inside and outside CNN when it was announced three weeks ago. The decision was rnc logounusual for several reasons: Isgur has no journalism experience as well as none managing a TV news operation. She has instead spent much of her professional life as a Republican advocate; her résumé includes stints working on behalf of such candidates as Mitt Romney, Ted Cruz and Carly Fiorina, and for the Republican National Committee.

She also reportedly pledged her loyalty to President Trump to land her job in his administration as a spokeswoman for attorney general Jeff Sessions, whom Trump forced to resign in November.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It’s time — high time — to take Fox News’s destructive role in America seriously, Margaret Sullivan, March 9, margaret sullivan 2015 photo2019 (print ed.). Chris Wallace is an exceptional interviewer, and Shepard Smith and Bret Baier are reality-based news anchors.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about the overall problem of Fox News, which started out with bad intentions in 1996 and has swiftly devolved into what often amounts to a propaganda network for a dishonest president and his allies.

fox news logo SmallThe network, which attracts more viewers than its two major competitors, specializes in fearmongering and unrelenting alarmism. Remember “the caravan”?

At crucial times, it does not observe basic standards of journalistic practice: as with its eventually retracted, false reporting in 2017 on Seth Rich, which fueled conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton had the former Democratic National Committee staffer killed because he was a source of campaign leaks.

ny times logoNew York Times, On CBS, R. Kelly Was Trapped in the Camera Eye, James Poniewozik, March 9, 2019 (print ed.). Gayle King’s explosive r kelly twitterinterview with the R&B singer (shown on his Twitter feed), accused of preying on women and girls, pitted fire against ice cool, our critic writes.

“Is this camera on me?” R. Kelly’s line, in the midst of his 80-minute interview with CBS’s Gayle King about his charges of sexual abuse, was the opening lyric of one of the most bizarre and unhinged performances of the R&B singer’s career.

He shrieked into the camera: “You’re killing me, man!” He smacked his fist into his palm. He beat his chest. He paced gayle king 2010 time 100 shankbone wand stabbed the air and seemed as if he might lose physical control. (Ms. King (shown in a file photo) later said that she didn’t worry that the singer would harm her, but she thought that “I might get accidentally clobbered.”)

The obvious question, after Mr. Kelly’s Tuesday meltdown replayed for days, finally becoming a CBS prime time special Friday night, was: Why would he agree to this? How could he imagine this might possibly help him?

Earlier this year, the Lifetime docu-series “Surviving R. Kelly,” which laid out an extensive case that Mr. Kelly preyed upon women and underage girls, showed how he used the intimate investment of fandom to escape consequences. (Mr. Kelly has denied all sexual abuse allegations.)

But a network-TV interview while you’re facing criminal charges is not the same as performing a tribute ballad at Whitney Houston’s funeral. (Last month in Chicago Mr. Kelly was charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse; he has pleaded not guilty.)

The raging, self-pitying R. Kelly on this stage only recalled the threatening, controlling R. Kelly described in “Surviving,” which CBS’s special drew heavily on (including an interview with its producer Dream Hampton).

Palmer Report, Fact Check: Why is Amazon already selling the Robert Mueller report? Bill Palmer, March 9, 2019. This month two different books amazon logo smallcalled “The Mueller Report” have become available for preorder on the Amazon.com website. One is being offered by the Washington Post, and the other claims to be from Robert Mueller while boasting of an introduction from Alan Dershowitz. Both books claim a release date of March 26th, 2019. Meanwhile, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has made no indication of when or how his report will be released. So what’s really going on here?

bill palmer report logo headerHere are the facts. No one, outside of Robert Mueller and his team, has any specific knowledge about when his report will be issued. These two “books” are merely empty templates that have been put up for preorder, with best guesses for release dates. They each plan to take the publicly available version of Mueller’s report that you’ll be able to get anywhere else for free, stuff it into a book, add some custom material, and charge you money.

The version being offered by the Washington Post says it’ll include “related materials” from the newspaper. Fair enough; you’re paying to get the Post’s analysis of the Mueller report, once the report surfaces. Considering the solid investigative research that the Post has done into Donald Trump’s various criminal scandals over the past few years, this analysis could prove to be useful.

alan dershowitz2The other version misleadingly lists “Robert S. Mueller III” as the author but is actually being offered by Skyhorse publishing, which has previously published pro-Trump books from Alan Dershowitz, including The Case Against Impeaching Trump. For this new book, the “introduction” from Dershowitz (right) will likely be something more akin to a rebuttal of the Mueller report. Unless you’re a Trump supporter and you want to read Dershowitz defending his ally Trump while attacking Mueller, ordering this version would be a complete waste of money.

In any case, neither of these books has any actual connection to Robert Mueller.

March 8

Daily Beast, Bill Shine Lasted Only 8 Months as Trump’s Comms Czar, Asawin Suebsaeng, Andrew Kirell and Audrey McNamara, March 8, 2019. Despite daily beast logoamicable statements, sources told The Daily Beast that Trump was unhappy with Shine’s work; and Shine was unhappy with the stress of trying to please Trump. White House communications chief Bill Shine resigned from his position Thursday, after only eight months, and will serve as a “senior adviser” on President Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign.

bill shine“Serving President Trump and this country has been the most rewarding experience of my entire life,” Shine said in a statement. “To be a small part of all this president has done for the American people has truly been an honor. I’m looking forward to working on President Trump’s re-election campaign and spending more time with my family.” Trump echoed Shine’s comments in his own statement.

But behind the amicable statements, sources said, there lies the usual discontent between both parties.

One former Fox executive told The Daily Beast that Trump had complained in recent months about Shine’s seeming inability to get more positive press coverage for his administration. “Trump loves a yes-man,” the source said, “but he loves good press more.”

The former exec added: “He feels he was sold a bill of goods by Hannity,” referring to how Shine was introduced to the president via the Fox News primetime star who has long acted as an unofficial Trump adviser. “But Trump needs Hannity and so he will never attack him publicly.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Senator Elizabeth Warren is set to announce a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up tech giants, Astead W. Herndon, March 8, 2019. Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who is bidding to be the policy pacesetter in the Democratic presidential primary, announced elizabeth warren cfpbanother expansive idea on Friday: a regulatory plan aimed at breaking up some of America’s largest tech companies, including Amazon, Google Apple, and Facebook.

The proposal — which comes on the same day Ms. Warren (right) will hold a rally in Long Island City, the Queens neighborhood that was to be home to a major new Amazon campus — calls for the appointment of regulators who would “unwind tech mergers that illegally undermine competition,” as well as legislation that would prohibit platforms from both offering a marketplace for commerce and participating in that marketplace.

March 6

fox news logo Smallwashington post logoWashington Post, DNC rejects Fox News for debates, cites report suggesting network is ‘propaganda’ for Trump, Paul Farhi, March 6, 2019. The Democratic National Committee said an article in the New Yorker showed an “inappropriate relationship” between President Trump and the network.

washington post logoWashington Post, With public trust at record lows, Facebook seeks to shift to private communications, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, facebook logoMarch 6, 2019. The new focus on encryption could cause an upheaval in Facebook’s business model of mining people’s information to show them ads.

The firm’s focus will shift from a social network in which people broadcast information to large groups of people to one in which people communicate with smaller groups and their content disappears after a short period.

The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) DC is joining organizations across the country in marking Sunshine Week, an annual initiative to promote the importance of open government and access to public information. Sunshine Week 2019  is March 10-16 and we encourage you to participate in any of these free programs, to which our chapter has been invited:

-- Tuesday, March 12: Open Government Summit https://www.dcogc.org/content/dc-open-government-summit-march-12, led by the D.C. Open Government Coalition; 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. American Bar Association, 1050 Connecticut Ave. NW, 5th floor, Washington, D.C.

The summit will feature a panel of D.C. teachers who are leading the movement for access to records in charter schools, and a panel of Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners who will discuss the importance of using DC FOIA to uncover information valuable to their decision-making.

Please register by MARCH 7 for this free of charge event to be allowed in. Click to email Saideh Ezzatebaghani here

-- Tuesday, March 12: Assaults on Science in the Trump Era, co-sponsored by the Government Accountability Project, the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Sunlight Foundation; 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., OpenGov Hub, 1100 Vermont Ave. NW., Suite 500, Washington, D.C.

Featured speakers include Lisa Friedman, climate change and energy reporter, The New York Times, and Emily Holden, environment reporter, The Guardian.

Dana Gold, senior counsel and director of education for the Government Accountability Project, will discuss the role of science whistleblowers in transparency and accountability efforts. Rachel Bergman, Web Integrity Project director at the Sunlight Foundation, will discuss a new Website Tracker Tool used to help track shifts in public information.

It's free of charge. To register for this event, click here.

** HURRY, this Sunshine Week preview event is Friday morning, March 8: **

Sunshine Week Preview this week:

-- Friday, March 8: National Freedom of Information Day Conference; 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.

Keynote speaker is Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who is chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

To register for the free event, click here. Registration is required.

OTHER EVENTS NEXT WEEK

-- Monday, March 11: Department of Justice Sunshine Week Kickoff Event from the Office of Information Policy. 10 a.m. to noon, Great Hall, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. Keynote address by the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General of the United States, as well as the Department’s annual Sunshine Week FOIA Awards Ceremony to honor and celebrate the work of dedicated FOIA professionals across the government.

-- Monday, March 11: National Press Club panel on How to Find and Use Climate Data That Readers Can Trust; 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., 529 14th Street NW (13th floor, Murrow Room). The event, sponsored by the NPC's Freedom of the Press Committee and the National Press Club Journalism Institute, features a panel of climate science journalists and climate policy researchers.
Learn:

• What quality government/academic/privately produced data sets are available to reporters and how to access the data
• How to interrogate scientific data sets, particularly what to look for and red flags if you don't have a data journalism background
• How to evaluate the independence of the scientists/experts they are interviewing and learn who provides their funding
To register, follow instructions after you click here.

March 5.

Justice Integrity Project, U.S. Mainstream Media Propagandize Venezuelan Rebellion, Andrew Kreig, March 5, 2019. News coverage of current political strife in Venezuela serves as a fresh reminder that U.S. mainstream newspapers and broadcasters too often deliver remarkably biased “news” reports on sensitive global topics.

The extreme bias in U.S. reports about Venezuela frequently appears also in coverage of such other topics as Syria, Palestine and Russia – regardless of repeated reassurances to audiences by the relevant outlets that they are committed to professional standards of fairness, accuracy and unbiased coverage.Clearly, that’s not the case on certain topics.

The corporate media — including the prestigious newspaper outlets like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post — consistently portray leaders of Venezuela, Syria and Russia as bloodthirsty dictators with no semblance of popular appeal. That's despite independent evidence that they have won elections (unlike some tyrants counted as strong U.S. allies) and probably could continue to do so in fair elections, according to independent popularity polls and other evidence.

Details here.

March 4

Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Trump has made 9,014 false or misleading claims in 773 days, Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly, March 4, 2019. In the first two months of 2019, the president averaged nearly 22 suspect claims a day. In his two-hour CPAC speech, he made more than 100.

jane mayer cspanThe New Yorker, Analysis: The Making of the Fox News White House, Jane Mayer (right), March 11, 2019. Fox News has always been partisan. But has it become propaganda?

As the President has been beset by scandals, congressional hearings, and even talk of impeachment, Fox has been both his shield and his sword. The White House and Fox interact so seamlessly that it can be hard to determine, during a particular news cycle, which one is following the other’s lead. All day long, Trump retweets claims made on the network; his press secretary, Sarah Sanders, has largely stopped holding press conferences, but she has made some thirty appearances on such fox news logo Smallshows as “Fox & Friends” and “Hannity.”

Bill Kristol, who was a paid contributor to Fox News until 2012 and is a prominent Never Trumper, said of the network, “It’s changed a lot. Before, it was conservative, but it wasn’t crazy. Now it’s just propaganda.”

Nothing has formalized the partnership between Fox and Trump more than the appointment, in July, 2018, of Bill Shine, the former co-president of Fox News, as director of communications and deputy chief of staff at the White House.

Shine led Fox News’ programming division for a dozen years, overseeing the morning and evening opinion shows, which collectively get the biggest ratings and define the network’s conservative brand. Straight news was not within his purview.

djt stormy daniels 2006The Daily Beast, Fox News Got Stormy Daniels Story Before Trump’s Election, Spiked It: Report, Barbie Latza Nadeau, Jared talks to Murdoch ‘like, every day.’ Trump may have had Megyn Kelly’s debate question early — and ordered a hit on AT&T’s merger. A fast look at the new New Yorker bombshell (excerpted above).

seth rich

Rolling Stone, Pro-Trump Conspiracy Peddler Jerome Corsi Apologizes to Seth Rich’s Family, Andy Kroll, March 4, 2019. Corsi retracted a column parroting the baseless conspiracy that Rich (shown above) and his brother hacked the DNC in 2016. The family of Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer whose unsolved murder in 2016 spawned a wave of conspiracy theories, has notched another legal victory against the proponents of baseless theories about Rich.

On Monday, pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi (left, in a screen grab) retracted a nearly year-old column published on the website Infowars, run by another notorious conspiracy peddler, Alex Jones, that promoted the unfounded claim that jerome corsi screenshot 2018 09 06Rich and his brother participated in the hack of the DNC and leaked documents to WikiLeaks. In addition to the retraction, Corsi apologized to the Rich family. Around midday Monday, Infowars formally retracted the column and published an apology that mirrored Corsi’s.

Corsi’s March 5th, 2018, story was an attempt to defend Roger Stone, the now-indicted former Trump adviser, against allegations that he had advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ plans to release thousands of emails stolen from the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election. Last week, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, stoked the controversy around Stone’s ties to WikiLeaks after Cohen testified that Stone told Trump in the summer of 2016 that he had spoken to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange about an upcoming dump of thousands of hacked emails. (Stone and Wikileaks denied Cohen’s claim.)

In his column, Corsi promoted a theory that the DNC hack — a crime for which Special Counsel Robert Mueller later indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers — was an “inside job” by Rich. Corsi cited a Washington Times op-ed that said Seth Rich and his older brother, Aaron, had carried out the DNC hack, quoting one passage directly from the op-ed, which was written by a retired Navy admiral: “Interestingly, it is well known in the intelligence circles that Seth Rich and his brother, Aaron Rich, downloaded the DNC emails and was paid by Wikileaks for that information.”

In a statement posted Monday morning on corsination.com and on Twitter, Corsi now says his Infowars column was “not based upon any independent factual knowledge regarding Seth or Aaron Rich.” He says he relied “primarily” on the Washington Times op-ed, which was retracted last September after Aaron Rich sued the newspaper for defamation. Corsi’s apology and retraction came after a series of negotiations between lawyers for Corsi and Aaron Rich as the one-year statute of limitations for a potential defamation lawsuit approached, a source familiar with the talks tells Rolling Stone.

The Washington Times‘ apology was the first since the Rich family filed lawsuits against various individuals and media companies, including Fox, for spreading unfounded claims about the brothers. Fox has yet to apologize to the Rich family; some of the network’s hosts, such as Sean Hannity, are among the loudest proponents of the Seth Rich conspiracies.

Roger Stone Gag Order

TPM, Roger Stone’s Request About His Book That Ticked Off His Judge, Tierney Sneed, March 4, 2019. Roger Stone wants to know if a book he wrote, which has recently been retitled ““The Myth of Russian Collusion,” will get him in trouble under the gag order in his case, a court filing posted Monday revealed.

roger stone who framed roger stone coverThe filing is the redacted version of a request Stone previously made under seal in his case, in which he asked U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson how the book, which was re-published under the new title last month, squares with the gag order she imposed in the case.

In a new introduction to the book, Stone suggested that special counsel Robert Mueller was going to “frame” him on “bogus” charges in order to “silence me or induce me to testify against the president.” He also accuses the Obama administration of spying on and infiltrating the Trump campaign and then fabricating the “Russian collusion myth” to distract from their own misdeeds.

The judge has already signaled her annoyance at Stone for not raising this issue sooner. On Friday, while the original request was still under seal, she issued an order demanding that he explain why he didn’t bring the book to her attention at the hearing where she imposed the gag order banning him from commenting on his case or on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation more broadly.

According Stone’s filing, the book was re-released on Feb. 19, after Stone had the month prior apparently submitted an updated introduction to be included in the new edition. Mentions of the introduction appear to be redacted in Stone’s filing. However, prosecutors on Monday filed their own notice that said an “updated Introduction” was what was referenced in Stone’s request.

The explanation the judge demanded from Stone is expected to be filed on Monday as well.

The judge, as part of Stone’s conditions of release, banned him from commenting about his case after he posted an inflammatory photo and caption about her on his Instagram. The image included a cross-hairs sign over her shoulder.

When Berman Jackson announced the gag order she went through several examples of public commentary Stone would no longer be allowed make, carving out exceptions only for the promotion of his legal defense fund and for declarations of his innocence.

Minutes after the Stone filing was posted publicly to the docket Monday, prosecutors filed a notice of their own that included under seal screenshots of an online preview of the book that include the updated introduction. The prosecutors also filed under seal a screenshot from an image posted to Roger Stone’s Instagram account (and later taken down) with his photo under the banner “who framed Roger Stone.”

Variety, Prosecutors Alert Judge of Roger Stone Instagram Post Amid Gag Order, Ted Johnson, March 4, 2019. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s legal team alerted Judge Amy Berman Jackson of an image briefly posted to Roger Stone’s Instagram with the title “who framed Roger Stone.”

Under the terms of a gag order put in place last month, Stone and his associates are prohibited from talking about the case and Mueller’s Russia investigation.

In a filing on Monday, prosecutors cited a report from CNBC that was part of a multi-image post. The “who framed Roger Stone” title, a play on the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” was then deleted. The posts were designed to help Stone raise money for his legal defense fund.

Jackson has yet to weigh in on the image. She imposed the gag order after Stone posted an image of her on his Instagram page. In the background was a symbol that looked like a rifle scope.

March 2

Love, Money & Scandal

lauren sanchez jeff bezos david pecker ap via fox news

Lauren Sanchez, Jeffrey Bezos and David Pecker (left to right, Associated Press via Fox News photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, How Jeff Bezos Went to Hollywood and Lost Control, Amy Chozick, March 2, 2019. The Amazon founder built the world’s largest fortune with an iron discipline. Now, a wild cast of only-in-L.A. characters have seized his narrative.

Jeff Bezos amassed the world’s greatest fortune by relying on what he has called a “regret minimization framework.” He built an $800 billion company with 14 codified principles and a brutally exacting culture. His annual salary of $81,840 has not budged since 1998.

But then Mr. Bezos went to Hollywood.

In the weeks since the Amazon founder tweeted that he and his wife of 25 years were divorcing, he has gone to war with a grocery store tabloid and escalated a conflict with the president of the United States.

Amazon executives were blindsided by a sequence of events that began in early January: the announcement by Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos of their divorce; the 11-page National Enquirer exposé that Mr. Bezos was romantically involved with Lauren Sanchez, a former Los Angeles TV anchor; a sensational blog post by Mr. Bezos accusing the head of the tabloid, an ally of President Trump, of attempting to extort him over a “below-the-belt selfie” and other sexts.

March 1

Reporting On Venezuela

juan guaido nicolas maduro

Washington Babylon, First Person Report: Caracas Chronicles, Part I of an Ongoing Series, Ken Silverstein, March 1, 2019. I just got back from Venezuela and I’ll be writing a lot about the country next week. Virtually everything you read or see about it in the U.S. media is a lie. And to be clear, I don’t mean skewed or misleading or incomplete, I mean a lie.

For example, people in Venezuela are not starving — at least very few are, if any — nor is the country a dictatorship. But that’s exactly what you would believe from reading the likes of the atrocious Hannah Dreier, who failed upward from the Associated Press to ProPublica, that beacon of investigative reporting, and who has been a chief propagandist for the rancid old oligarchy.

I was all over the barrios of Caracas, especially San Augustin.

In another, La Vega, I had a meal at the home of a resident. She cooked me blood sausage, Pasta Bolognese and rice and chicken liver.

People live humbly but they have food — especially because the government distributes a monthly food package, for the equivalent of a few pennies — to everyone who needs it and even some who don’t. Furthermore, food — fruits, vegetable, meat, bread, for example — is available everywhere. You have to be a blind liar like Dreier to miss it since street markets overflow with abundance. It’s not cheap but it’s available.

Furthermore, President Nicolas Maduro (above at right), who I personally dislike, is corrupt and repressive, but he is not a dictator. There are anti-government slogans painted all over Caracas and people spoke openly about wanting him gone, from the barrios to barbershops to markets. I had an intense argument with many people close to the government while I was in Venezuela, yet continued to wander the streets and dive bars of the city until the wee hours. No one, neither government security forces nor crack heads, of which there are a few, bothered me.

Maduro does not appear to be widely liked, but he is certainly more popular than the reviled and mocked Juan Guiado (above at left), President Donald Trump’s toy poodle. This clown was formerly an electronics trafficker, for Fuck’s sake. (Note: I got the picture below from a security guard who used to work in the area where Guiado street hustled, before he became the Trump administration’s full time brothel whore.)

Investigative Leads From Cohen

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing, Caroline Fredrickson (president of the American Constitution Society), March 1, 2019 (print edition). Too many representatives chose to bloviate instead of interrogate — except for one.

alexandria ocasio cortez officialConsider the line of questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York (shown at left). She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. “To your knowledge,” she asked, “did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” He had.

These questions were not random, but, rather, well thought out. Like a good prosecutor, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was establishing the factual basis for further committee investigation. She asked one question at a time, avoided long-winded speeches on why she was asking the question, and listened carefully to his answer, which gave her the basis for a follow-up inquiry.

As a result, Mr. Cohen gave specific answers about Mr. Trump’s shady practices, along with a road map for how to find out more. Mr. Cohen began his testimony calling Mr. Trump a “con man and a cheat;” In just five minutes, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually helped him lay out the facts to substantiate those charges.

Unfortunately, too few of her colleagues followed suit. In his testimony, Mr. Cohen claimed numerous ethical breaches and criminal acts on the part of the president, many for which Mr. Cohen himself apparently served as main actor.

All of these areas offered fruitful avenues for exploration. But instead of asking probing questions and eliciting damning evidence from Mr. Cohen, too many committee members chose to make a speech.

 

February 2019

Feb. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Bars 4 U.S. Journalists From Trump’s Dinner With Kim in Hanoi, Michael M. Grynbaum and Katie Rogers, Feb. 27, 2019. The White House on Wednesday barred four American journalists from covering President Trump’s dinner with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, in Hanoi, Vietnam, after two of the reporters called out questions to Mr. Trump at an earlier appearance.

It is highly unusual for a presidential administration to retaliate against reporters by restricting their access, particularly at a closely scrutinized foreign summit meeting. Given the backdrop — a United States president meeting with the totalitarian leader of a country with no independent media — the move sent a starkly different message from those delivered in such settings by Mr. Trump’s predecessors, who often sought to encourage expressions of press freedom when meeting with representatives of autocratic regimes.

Shortly before the dinner was to start, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, informed the group of journalists traveling with Mr. Trump that only photographers and television-camera operators would be allowed to attend the event, excluding reporters for several print and radio news outlets.

Ms. Sanders cited the “sensitivities” of the meeting and “shouting” by reporters at a previous appearance by Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim, during which a reporter for The Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, asked the president to comment on the congressional testimony of Mr. Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

 Feb. 26

 washington post logoNorth Korean flagWashington Post, In Hanoi, Kim Jong Un and a culture clash with the White House press corps, David Nakamura and John Hudson, Feb. 26, 2019. American reporters were forced to vacate a hotel work space after the authoritarian ruler of North Korea checked in ahead of his summit with President Trump.

Feb. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Five myths about journalism, Jeremy Littau, Feb. 24, 2019 (print edition). Jeremy Littau is an associate professor of journalism and communication at Lehigh University. These are tough times for journalism. Falling revenue for newspapers and magazines has led to layoffs since 2005, including four major announcements already this year. But the current crisis in the news business is also haunted by misconceptions about the industry and its history. Here are five of the most common.

Myth No. 1: Newspapers collapsed after they offered stories for free.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Analysis: Monopolistic Internet Market Causing America to Fall Behind, Kirsty Vitarelli, Feb. 23, 2019. One of the promises then-candidate Trump made on the fcc logocampaign trail was a big infrastructure spending package. This initiative is something he is still pursuing, but it is uncertain what it may include, and whether an extremely important infrastructure puzzle-piece — a high-speed fiber optic internet for all — will be included.

This is one area where the US is not keeping up with the rest of the world. Unless this shortfall in internet access is remedied, it could seriously impede the nation’s ability to compete in the international marketplace.

Feb. 22

Palmer Report, Commentary: Yet another top Donald Trump adviser is in trouble, James Sullivan, Feb. 22, 2019. There is another unlikely character who may want to tread carefully: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who became a household name in 2017 after moving to repeal net neutrality protections.

bill palmer report logo headerShortly before the FCC announced it would roll back protections that treat all transmission of data equally, the FCC received a litany of suspicious user comments supporting Pai’s controversial decision, which caused the system to crash. Rather than the usual dissent you would find on an online forum, many of the comments repeated key phrases, and had email addresses that were fraudulent, thought to be obtained through identity theft.

ajit pai headshot customPai (right) blamed the attack on fans of comedian John Oliver, one of the few media personalities to talk about net neutrality at length, and said that the public comments were not credible. At about the same time, an anonymous robocall campaign targeted seniors – warning that cell phone rates would climb if net neutrality rules were not repealed.

Poring over the data, Dell Cameron at Gizmodo found connections to an anti-net neutrality campaign called Free Our Internet, run by Christie-Lee McNally, who ran Trump’s campaign in Maine, and was promoted by Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi. The New York Attorney General’s office identified more than two million fraudulent comments on the page, and pushed to delay the vote to repeal.

Since then, more than twenty states have joined a lawsuit against the FCC, and The New York Times sued the FCC last fall demanding that they turn over evidence that could indicate interference from Russian trolls during the comment period.

Feb. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: CNN’s hiring of a GOP operative as political editor is even worse than it looks, Margaret Sullivan, right, Feb. 20, 2019.margaret sullivan 2015 photo  A few months before the 2016 presidential election, Sarah Isgur tweeted some advice to Donald Trump: “The only 3 words that should be coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth this week are: ‘Clinton’ ‘foundation’ ‘emails.’ ”

But that kind of helpful counsel wasn’t enough.

cnn logoIn early 2017, Isgur was summoned to meet with President Trump in the Oval Office, where she needed to pledge her loyalty to be named the Justice Department’s spokeswoman by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Now CNN has hired Isgur — who has no journalism experience and once slammed her new employer as the “Clinton News Network” — as a political editor.

The network, under heavy fire for the move, was insisting by Tuesday night that she wouldn’t be directing political coverage, although that surely is what a political editor might be expected to do.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Washington Post sued by family of Covington Catholic teenager, Paul Farhi, Feb. 20, 2019. The family of the Kentucky teen who was involved in an encounter with a Native American advocate at the Lincoln Memorial last month filed a defamation lawsuit against The Washington Post on Tuesday, seeking $250 million in damages for its coverage of the incident.

The suit alleges that The Post “targeted and bullied” 16-year-old Nicholas Sandmann in order to embarrass President Trump. Sandmann was one of a number of students from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky who were wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats during a trip to the Mall when they encountered Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist.

News accounts, including in The Post, and videos of their encounter sparked a heated national debate over the behavior of the participants.

Feb. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Clarence Thomas Calls for Reconsideration of Landmark Libel Ruling, Adam Liptak, Feb. 19, 2019. Justice Clarence Thomas on Tuesday called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling interpreting the First Amendment to make it hard for public officials to prevail in libel suits. He clarence thomas w new officialsaid the decision had no basis in the Constitution as it was understood by the people who drafted and ratified it.

New York Times and the court’s decisions extending it were policy-driven decisions masquerading as constitutional law,” Justice Thomas wrote.

Justice Thomas, writing only for himself, made his statement in a concurring opinion agreeing that the court had correctly turned down an appeal from Kathrine McKee, who has accused Bill Cosby of sexual assault. She sued Mr. Cosby for libel after his lawyer said she had been dishonest.

An appeals court ruled against Ms. McKee, saying that her activities had made her a public figure and that she could not prove, as required by the Sullivan decision, that the lawyer had knowingly or recklessly said something false. Ms. McKee asked the Supreme Court to review the appeals court’s determination that she was a public figure.

Vox, CNN hires GOP operative with no journalism experience to run its 2020 coverage, Aaron Rupar, Feb. 19, 2019. Sarah Isgur once referred to her new employer as the “Clinton News Network.” CNN announced on Tuesday it has hired longtime Republican operative Sarah Isgur as political editor, charged with shaping its 2020 campaign coverage.

cnn logoAccording to a CNN spokesperson, Isgur, who most recently worked as the Department of Justice’s main spokesperson under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, will coordinate the network’s political coverage for the 2020 election cycle on TV and on CNN’s website. Isgur starts work next month, and will not be involved in coverage of DOJ. She will occasionally appear on TV.

Isgur’s LinkedIn page indicates she has no journalism experience. She has, however, worked for a variety of right-wing organizations and campaigns, including the Carly Fiorina and Mitt Romney presidential bids, the Republican National Committee, and a Ted Cruz US Senate campaign.

Coming as it does in the wake of a presidential cycle in which the mainstream media’s fixation on Hillary Clinton’s emails (among other issues) was widely criticized, news of Isgur’s hiring sparked concerns about the direction CNN is taking heading into 2020.

AL.com, Who is Goodloe Sutton? Alabama newspaper publisher stripped of journalism honors over KKK editorial, Leada Gore, Feb. 19, 2019. Goodloe Sutton has been removed from the University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism’s Hall of Fame, the school confirmed in a statement. The move comes after Sutton, publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, called for the return of the KKK to handle matters in Washington, D.C.

The following is a statement from USM:

"Within the last few hours, the School of Communication at the University of Southern Mississippi learned of Mr. Goodloe Sutton’s call for violence and the return of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Sutton’s subsequent rebuttals and attempts at clarification only reaffirm the misguided and dangerous nature of his comments.

The School of Communication strongly condemns Mr. Sutton’s remarks as they are antithetical to all that we value as scholars of journalism, the media, and human communication. Our University’s values of social responsibility and citizenship, inclusion and diversity, and integrity and civility are the foundation upon which we have built our School and its programs.

Mr. Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the School of Mass Communication & Journalism, the predecessor to the School of Communication, in 2007 based on his anti-corruption articles and editorials in the 1990s that earned him and his wife Jean numerous national and international journalism awards.

Alternative Media / Wacko Theories?

ny times logoNew York Times, YouTube Unleashed a Conspiracy Theory Boom. Can It Be Contained? Kevin Roose, Feb. 19, 2019. What if stemming the tide of misinformation on YouTube means punishing some of its biggest stars? Last month, the YouTube star Shane Dawson uploaded his new project: a 104-minute documentary, “Conspiracy Theories With Shane Dawson.”

In the video, set to a spooky instrumental soundtrack, Mr. Dawson unspooled a series of far-fetched hypotheses. Among them: that iPhones secretly record their owners’ every utterance; that popular children’s TV shows contain subliminal messages urging children to commit suicide; that the recent string of deadly wildfires in California was set on purpose, either by homeowners looking to collect insurance money or by the military using a type of high-powered laser called a “directed energy weapon.”

youtube logo CustomNone of this was fact-based, of course, and some of the theories seemed more like jokey urban legends than serious accusations. Still, his fans ate it up. The video has gotten more than 30 million views, a hit even by Mr. Dawson’s standards. A follow-up has drawn more than 20 million views and started a public feud with Chuck E. Cheese’s, the restaurant chain, which was forced to deny claims that it recycles customers’ uneaten pizza slices into new pizzas.

Mr. Dawson’s conspiracy series arrived at a particularly awkward moment for YouTube, which has been reckoning with the vast troves of misinformation and extreme content on its platform.

In late January, the company announced that it was changing its recommendations algorithm to reduce the spread of “borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways.” It cited, as examples, “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”

Mr. Dawson, whose real name is Shane Lee Yaw, has more than 20 million subscribers and a devoted teenage fan base. He has built his lucrative career by, among other talents, understanding what kinds of content plays well on YouTube.

Feb. 18

ISIS Propagandist Speaks

ny times logoNew York Times, The English Voice of ISIS Comes Out of the Shadows, Rukmini Callimachi, Feb. 18, 2019 (print edition). More than four years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation appealed to the public to help identify the narrator in one of the Islamic State’s best-known videos, showing captured Syrian soldiers digging their own graves and then being shot in the head.

Speaking fluent English with a North American accent, the man would go on to narrate countless other videos and radio broadcasts by the Islamic State, serving as the terrorist group’s faceless evangelist to Americans and other English speakers seeking to learn about its toxic ideology.

Now a 35-year-old Canadian citizen, who studied at a college in Toronto and once worked in information technology at a company contracted by IBM, says he is the anonymous narrator.

That man, Mohammed Khalifa captured in Syria last month by an American-backed militia, spoke in his first interview about being the voice of the 2014 video, known as “Flames of War.” He described himself as a rank-and-file employee of the Islamic State’s Ministry of Media, the unit responsible for publicizing such brutal footage as the beheading of the American journalist James Foley and the burning of a Jordanian pilot.

Feb. 17

U.S. Politics / Pop Culture

alec baldwin snl feb 16 2019Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has berserk Alec Baldwin meltdown, Bill Palmer, Feb. 17, 2019.  Alec Baldwin returned to Saturday Night Live last night to lampoon Donald Trump’s increasingly absurd behavior. No one would expect Trump to like Baldwin’s savage send-up. But Trump seems to think he can find a way to prevent Baldwin from doing it at all – namely, by accusing him of collusion. No, really.

Trump posted this bizarre tweet this morning: “Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake News NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!” Then he added “THE RIGGED AND CORRUPT MEDIA IS THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”

washington post logoWashington Post, Alec Baldwin’s Trump declares a national emergency in SNL’s cold open: ‘We need wall,’ Bethonie Butler, Feb. 17, 2019. “Saturday Night Live,” not surprisingly, took on President Trump’s meandering news conference declaring a national emergency at the southern border of the United States. “Wall works, wall makes safe,” Alec Baldwin’s Trump said. “You don’t have to be smart to understand that — in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

SNL kicked off its version of the news conference with Trump embellishing the results of his recent physical: “I’m still standing 6′7, 185 pounds — shredded,” Baldwin deadpanned before making the case for a wall along the southern border.

“We need wall, okay. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border — or the brown line, as many people have asked me not to call it."

“You all see why I gotta fake this emergency, right? I have to because I want to,” he added. “It’s really simple. We have a problem. Drugs are coming into this country through no wall.”

“I’m basically taking military money so I can has wall,” he explained before offering a breathless vision of what might happen as the result of his national emergency declaration:

“I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy [Brett] Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, At least 40 newspapers cancel 'Non Sequitur' comic strip over profane message, Maria Sciullo, Feb 17, 2019. One week after artist Wiley Miller slipped in a profane message to Donald A. Trump in “Non Sequitur,” many newspapers around the country have canceled the comic strip and others are still weighing what action to take. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is one of more than 700 media outlets carrying the strip, which runs daily as a single-panel and on Sundays in multiple panels. Because the Post-Gazette prints the Sunday comics two weeks in advance at its production facility in Clinton, “Non Sequitur” was distributed in Sunday’s editions. A decision will be forthcoming from editors on whether the newspaper will keep it.

In Mr. Miller’s strip published Feb. 10, a coloring book parody featuring a character named Leonardo BearVinci included tiny scribbles of text throughout the drawings. In one corner of the middle panel was the almost illegible “We fondly say … go [expletive] yourself.”

At least 40 newspapers — first was the family-owned Butler Eagle, followed by the Atlanta Constitution, Boston Globe, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, Dallas Morning News and others — have canceled “Non Sequitur.” They took this action not because the strip was aimed at a conservative target, but said it was due to a “lack of trust” that Mr. Wiley might do something like it again.

Feb. 16

jill abramsonNational Press Club, Former NYT editor Abramson describes effects of digital disruption to news media, Kristina Groennings, Feb. 16, 2019. Jill Abramson (right), former executive editor of The New York Times, addressed the opportunities and challenges faced by news organizations in the digital era and her book Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts, in a discussion with Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak last Thursday.

Abramson focused on four news organizations; upstart digital companies, BuzzFeed and Vice Media, and legacy organizations, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Feb. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, The U.S. government and Facebook are negotiating a record, multi-billion dollar fine for the company’s privacy lapses, Tony Romm​, Feb. 14, 2019. The facebook logoFederal Trade Commission and Facebook are negotiating over a multi-billion dollar fine that would settle the agency’s investigation into the social media giant’s privacy practices, according to two people familiar with the probe.

The fine would be the largest the agency has ever imposed on a technology company, but the two sides have not yet agreed on an exact amount. Facebook has expressed initial concern with the FTC’s demands, one of the people said. If talks break down, the FTC could take the matter to court in what would likely be a bruising legal fight.

washington post logomonica witt militaryWashington Post, Ex-Air Force specialist charged with conspiring to reveal classified information to Iran, Matt Zapotosky, Feb. 14, 2019 (print edition). ​Monica Elfriede Witt, 39,(shown in an Air Force file photo) spent more than a decade working in sensitive jobs for the U.S. government. She defected to Iran in 2013.

 washington post logoWashington Post, A potential witness in Monica Witt’s defection case grew up in New Orleans. Now she defends the Iranian Revolution, Antonia Noori Farzan, Feb. 14, 2019. On Jan. 23, protesters gathered outside the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to demand the release of Marzieh Hashemi, a longtime television anchor in Iran. The 59-year-old had been picked up by FBI agents at St. Louis Lambert International Airport and detained for 10 days without being charged with a crime. Outrage had mounted after unconfirmed reports from her employer, Press TV, alleged that she had been brutally shackled and had her hijab ripped off, and that she had been denied halal food in jail.

marzieh hashemi headshotLater that day, Hashemi (shown at left) was released from federal custody. Upon her return to Iran, she was greeted by cheering crowds who handed her flowers and held up their phones to snap photographs. But the reason for her confinement remained a mystery. Court documents indicated only that Hashemi, who was born in the United States, had been held on a rare material-witness warrant, indicating that prosecutors needed her testimony for a grand jury investigation and believed that she was likely to flee.

monica witt headscarfOne possible explanation emerged on Wednesday, when authorities revealed that a grand jury had brought espionage charges against Monica Elfriede Witt, a former Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran in 2013. Witt, a native of Texas, had been trained in Farsi after joining the Air Force in 1997, and quickly rose to a position that gave her access to some of the military’s most tightly-guarded secrets. At some point, her loyalties shifted. The newly unsealed indictment alleges that the 39-year-old shared highly classified information with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and helped Iranian hackers to carry out spearfishing attacks that targeted her former colleagues.

The indictment details Witt’s frequent communications with Individual A, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen who allegedly was assisting Iranian intelligence services. Prosecutors allege that in June 2012, Individual A hired Witt to work as her assistant on an anti-American propaganda film that later aired in Iran.

Officials declined to say whether Hashemi was the dual national described in the indictment as Individual A, but the two women’s stories have a strikingly similar trajectory: Both grew up in the United States, then later made the unusual choice to shift their allegiances to Iran’s repressive government.

National Press Club, Club calls for charges against journalist Maria Ressa to be dropped, Kathy Kiely, Feb. 14, 2019. The National Press Club and its nonprofit Journalism Institute are calling on the Philippine government to end its intimidation campaign against Maria Ressa, a journalist targeted for her investigations of official corruption in her home country.

Ressa, whose work has been widely honored by fellow journalists and press freedom organizations, was arrested earlier this week in the newsroom of Rappler, the online news site that she founded. The site is known for its critical coverage of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Ressa reportedly spent the night in custody before her lawyers were able to post bail Thursday.

“This represents the latest escalation of Duterte’s efforts to stifle legitimate scrutiny of his government,” said NPC President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak. “We stand with Maria Ressa and our Philippine colleagues.”

Feb. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, A hedge fund’s ‘mercenary’ strategy: Buy newspapers, slash jobs, sell the buildings, Jonathan O'Connell and Emma Brown, Feb. 12, 2019 (print edition). Alden Global Capital says it is saving newspapers. Records show its subsidiaries are profiting from the remnants of their demise.

gannett logo CustomWhen the building housing the downtown Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper sold last April, the name of the buyer — Twenty Lake Holdings LLC — seemed of little consequence. The paper would be moving from its longtime home amid declining circulation and a shrinking staff under its owner, Gannett. The old newsroom was little more than an afterthought.

But Twenty Lake Holdings is not just another commercial real estate investor. It is a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital, the New York City hedge fund that backed the purchase of and dramatic cost-cutting at more than 100 newspapers — causing more than 1,000 lost jobs.

For Alden and its subsidiary, the Gannett empire’s newspapers are clearly an attractive feature. But by purchasing the Memphis building and others like it, Alden has already begun coming for what it may consider a bigger prize: Gannett’s real estate.

The hedge fund’s newspaper business, Digital First Media, is bidding to buy Gannett, operator of the nation’s largest chain of daily newspapers by circulation, including USA Today — as well as its $900 million in remaining property and equipment — for more than $1.3 billion.

The tactics employed by Alden and Digital First Media are well-chronicled: They buy newspapers already in financial distress, including big-city dailies such as the San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post, reap the cash flow and lay off editors, reporters and photographers to boost profits.

Media News

National Press Club, Panel calls sanctions an effective tool to protect press, but only if actually used, Justin Duckham, Feb. 12, 2019. The assassination of The Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi sparked outrage on Capitol Hill,prompting a bipartisan collection of Senators to trigger an investigation under the Global Magnitsky Act a panel of human rights experts told a National Press Club audience Monday. The Act is a 2016 law that sets the stage for levying sanctions against individuals responsible for human rights violations.

The threat of such sanctions could be an important tool to protect journalists across the globe, the panel said. That is, they emphasized, if the U.S. is actually willing to take action, something that has appeared increasingly unlikely in the Khashoggi case.

Media stories have reported that Khashoggi was murdered last October after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. As details continue to emerge, suspicions have grown that Saudi Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud played a key role in the journalist’s death.

“Could a future administration bolster the deterrent effect by making clear publicly and in advance that those responsible for gross violations of human rights targeting members of the press … could face consequences for their actions? Yes, that’s conceivable,” Rob Berschinski, the senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First, said.

Although, Berschinski noted, there is little reason to be optimistic.

The panel discussion, centered on the use of sanctions to protect reporters and moderated Congressional Quarterly foreign policy reporter Rachel Oswald, came just days after the White House signaled it is unwilling to confront Saudi leadership, members said.

Under the terms of the Senate-mandated investigation, the Trump administration had 120 days to compile a report on who was responsible for Khashoggi’s death, but the deadline arrived on Friday and the administration offered few answers, the panel noted.

The White House issued a statement that President Donald Trump “maintains his discretion to decline to act on congressional committee requests when appropriate.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a letter to the Senate detailing sanctions the administration had previously taken against 17 Saudi nationals implicated in the journalist’s murder, but declined to address Mohammad Bin Salman’s involvement.

The responses stand in stark contrast to an assessment from the U.S. intelligence community reportedly concluding that the Saudi prince likely ordered Khashoggi to be killed, the panel said. They do, however, echo Trump’s public warnings that harsh action against the Saudi government could hobble the U.S. economy,

Courtney Radsch, the Committee to Protect Journalists’ advocacy director, said the administration’s reaction poses immediate concerns, but leaves an opening for lawmakers to pick up the slack.

“The fact that the Trump administration decided not to reply with any meaningful information on Friday sends a very dangerous and negative signal,” Radsch said. “I think we’re going to hear from Congress and I’d be interested to know what the next steps from Congress are to hold Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the mastermind accountable.”

tom malinowski oRep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), right, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, concurred, adding that it appears the White House may have broken the law by ignoring Congress’ request.

“This is, in my opinion as a member of Congress, an example of the executive branch defying the law. They would rather defy the law than offend Saudi Arabia,” Malinowski said.

Now, he added, Congress may be motivated to pass legislation that would require sanctions rather than leaving the decision in the hands of the president.

While the panel acknowledged that consistently enforced U.S. sanctions would be effective, they also agreed that more can certainly be done, especially on the world stage.

In some cases, Berschinski, said, that effort is already well underway, including related laws in Canada, the United Kingdom and some Baltic states.

Considering Europe’s proximity to dictatorial regimes, Radsch pointed out that the European Union passing a law similar to the Magnitsky Act could be particularly beneficial.

“If we’re talking about protecting journalists in countries that lack any sort of protection for journalists, lack due process and lack any sort of respect for press freedom, I think we’re going to have to look externally,” Radsch said.

Feb.11

WNPR, 'Hartford Courant' Journalists Petition To Unionize, Avie Schneider, Feb. 11, 2019. Members of the Hartford Courant newsroom are moving to form a union, NPR has learned. It's the latest Tribune Publishing newspaper where journalists have been pushing to organize. Journalists at the Hartford, Conn., paper said Monday they have filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board while also asking Tribune Publishing to voluntarily recognize the union. Nearly 80 percent of eligible staffers signed union cards saying they want to be represented by the Providence Newspaper Guild, a local chapter of The NewsGuild-CWA, the organizers said.

The move at the Courant follows similar successful efforts at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the combined newsrooms of The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., and the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. (The parent company, previously named Tronc, subsequently sold the LA Times to a billionaire investor.)

The union would cover about 60 reporters, editors and photographers at the Courant.

"In my short time in the newsroom, I've seen our staff decimated and demoralized by buyouts and layoffs," said Kathleen McWilliams, who has been a Courant reporter since 2015. "I've watched our workloads increase without commensurate compensation and I've grown deeply concerned as my colleagues and I struggle to maintain the quality of our publication while corporate managers take home $5 million bonuses."

Dominic Amore, a Courant reporter for more than three decades, said: "We hope to move forward with a relationship based on mutual trust and respect and to secure the necessary tools to succeed."

The unionization drive comes amid continued turmoil at Tribune Publishing, which has been the focus of sale and merger talks. Last month, the newspaper chain announced the departures of its CEO and the two top officials of its digital arm.

Feb. 9

npc press freedom journalist sanctions header

National Press Club, Using Sanctions to Protect Journalists, Staff report, Feb. 9, 2019. Lawmakers, former senior State Department officials and journalists will gather at the National Press Club on Feb. 11 for a discussion about the growing use of human rights sanctions to protect journalists around the world. The panel discussion “Using Sanctions to Protect Journalists” will take place from 1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. in the club's Murrow Room. The event is open to the public. Registration is required and can be completed below.

Confirmed panelists at the event, sponsored by the National Press Club Journalism Institute and Club's Freedom of the Press Committee, include:

tom malinowski oRep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J. (right), House Foreign Affairs member and former assistant secretary of State for human rights, democracy and labor
● Rob Berschinski, senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First and former deputy assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor
● Courtney Radsch, advocacy director at the Committee to Protect Journalists
● Rachel Oswald, CQ foreign policy reporter and Press Freedom vice chair (moderator)

Named after the deceased anti-corruption Russian lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, the first human rights sanction laws were passed in 2012 and 2016. The U.S. has imposed sanctions for human rights violations before (such as on Saddam Hussein for his use of chemical weapons) but Magnitsky appears to be the first law to include journalists as a protected class of workers that human rights sanctions can be imposed upon if they are targeted for their work.

Since it passed, the law has gained popularity, with Canada, the United Kingdom, and Estonia passing similar laws. Last October, Congress explicitly invoked the press freedom component of the sanctions for the first time when it triggered a Magnitsky investigation into the assassination of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post. President Trump has until Feb. 8 to determine whether Khashoggi’s killing was a human rights violation

The panel will examine the use of Magnitsky sanctions, including:

● Next steps following the end of the U.S. government's mandatory four-month investigation into the Khashoggi murder
● Responses from foreign governments and individuals threatened with press freedom sanctions
● The strategy behind press freedom sanctions: punishment, deterrent, both?
● Lessons learned for other countries considering their own Magnitsky laws

Feb. 8

Bezos Claims Enquirer Extortion

david pecker cnn screenshot

Trump family friend David Pecker, chairman of American Media, Inc. (AMI), parent company of the National Enquirer (screenshot from CNN)

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer’s parent of ‘extortion’ over ‘intimate’ photos, Paul Farhi​, Feb. 8, 2019 (print edition). Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the blackmail threat was made after he began looking into how the Enquirer acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with a former TV anchor.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos (left) said Thursday that he was the target of an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn’t halt his investigation into how the tabloid obtained private texts and photos between him and his mistress.

Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the Enquirer made the blackmail threat after he began looking into how the tabloid acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor.

In a rare and revealing statement posted to the online publishing platform Medium, Bezos said the National Enquirer wanted him to make a false public statement to the news media that he and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage [of the affair] was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” (AMI is American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer.)

djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

 washington post logoWashington Post, National Enquirer’s parent says it will ‘thoroughly investigate’ extortion claims made by Bezos, Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Paul Farhi, Sarah Ellison and Devlin Barrett​, Feb. 8, 2019. American Media Inc. said it believes the tabloid acted lawfully in its reporting on Jeffrey P. Bezos, the Amazon chief executive and owner of The Post.

lauren sanchez jeff bezos david pecker ap via fox news

Lauren Sanchez, Jeffrey Bezos and David Pecker (left to right, Associated Press via Fox News photos)

Background: Daily Beast, Bezos’ Investigators Question the Brother of His Mistress, Lauren Sanchez, in National Enquirer Leak Probe, Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng, Jan. 31, 2019. Michael Sanchez is an outspoken Trump supporter with ties to Roger Stone and Carter Page. Jeff Bezos’ top personal security consultant has questioned his mistress’ brother as part of the probe into how the couple’s text messages wound up in the hands of the National Enquirer.

Gavin de Becker, the Amazon chief’s longtime personal security consultant and the point person for the investigation, confirmed to The Daily Beast on Wednesday that his probe has scrutinized Michael Sanchez, the brother of Bezos mistress Lauren Sanchez and a personal and business associate of Trumpworld figures including Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Scottie Nell Hughes.

On Wednesday, The Daily Beast first reported the existence of that investigation, which is taking place independent of Amazon and being funded by Bezos personally. Three sources familiar with the inquiry said it was increasingly probable that whoever leaked the text messages to the Enquirer, which ran a conspicuously large 12-page spread on Bezos’ affair, harbored political animosity towards Bezos, the owner of the Washington Post.

Michael Sanchez’s name bubbled up on the British celebrity news and gossip website Popbitch last week in the context of the Enquirer story. Stone also mentioned Sanchez in an interview with conspiracy theory site Infowars on Wednesday that sought to preempt The Daily Beast’s reporting by falsely claiming that it would accuse him of conspiring with the Trump administration to hack Bezos’ phone.

More Evidence On Saudi Murder?

ny times logoNew York Times, Year Before Killing, Saudi Prince Told Aide He Would Use ‘a Bullet’ on Jamal Khashoggi, Mark Mazzetti, Feb. 8, 2019 (print edition). Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia told a top aide in a conversation in 2017 that he would use “a bullet” on Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed in October, if Mr. Khashoggi did not return to the kingdom and end his criticism of the Saudi government, according to current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of intelligence reports.

jamal khashoggi western suitThe conversation, intercepted by American intelligence agencies, is the most detailed evidence to date that the crown prince considered killing Mr. Khashoggi (right) long before a team of Saudi operatives strangled him inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and dismembered his body using a bone saw. Mr. Khashoggi’s murder prompted weeks of outrage around the world and among both parties in Washington, where senior lawmakers called for an investigation into who was responsible.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe Saudi government has denied that the young crown prince played any role in the killing, and President Trump has publicly shown little interest in trying to get the facts about who was responsible. Prince Mohammed, left, the next in line to the Saudi throne behind his ailing father, King Salman, has become the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and a close ally of the Trump White House — especially Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

The conversation appears to have been recently transcribed and analyzed as part of an effort by intelligence agencies to find proof of who was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death. The National Security Agency and other American spy agencies are now sifting through years of the crown prince’s voice and text communications that the N.S.A. routinely intercepted and stored, much as the agency has long done for other top foreign officials, including close allies of the United States.

Media: More Scandal Claims

ronan farrowHuffpost, Ronan Farrow Says Jeff Bezos Isn’t The Only One AMI Tried To Blackmail, Liza Hearon, Feb. 8, 2019. Ronan Farrow’s allegation comes after the Amazon CEO accused tabloid publisher American Media Inc. of blackmail and extortion. Journalist Ronan Farrow (shown in a file photo) said tabloid publisher American Media Inc. sent him blackmail threats over his reporting on President Donald Trump and the National Enquirer.

Farrow tweeted about the “stop digging or we’ll ruin you” efforts shortly after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, in a bombshell blog post on Medium, said AMI CEO David Pecker threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn’t stop investigating the company.

Political Wire, Jerome Corsi Sues Roger Stone for Defamation, Taegan Goddard, Feb. 8, 2019. Jerome Corsi, who is listed as “Person 1” in the indictment of Roger Stone, is suing Stone, accusing him of defamation for repeatedly saying that Corsi lied.

Feb. 7

World's Richest Man Claims Extortion

Medium, Opinion: No thank you, Mr. Pecker, Jeff Bezos, Feb. 7, 2019. Something unusual happened to me yesterday. Actually, for me it wasn’t just unusual — it was a first. I was made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Or at least that’s what the top people at the National Enquirer thought. I’m glad they thought that, because it emboldened them to put it all in writing. Rather than capitulate to extortion and blackmail, I’ve decided to publish exactly what they sent me, despite the personal cost and embarrassment they threaten.

AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, led by David Pecker, recently entered into an immunity deal with the Department of Justice related to their role in the so-called “Catch and Kill” process on behalf of President Trump and his election campaign. Mr. Pecker and his company have also been investigated for various actions they’ve taken on behalf of the Saudi Government.

And sometimes Mr. Pecker mixes it all together:

“After Mr. Trump became president, he rewarded Mr. Pecker’s loyalty with a White House dinner to which the media executive brought a guest with important ties to the royals in Saudi Arabia. At the time, Mr. Pecker was pursuing business there while also hunting for financing for acquisitions…”

Palmer Report, Opinion: The sheer genius of what Jeff Bezos just did to Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, Feb. 7, 2019. Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos found himself in the ultimate no-win situation. National Enquirer and its boss David Pecker had already exposed his affair and ruined his marriage. Bezos tried to investigate whether his enemy and Pecker’s friend Donald Trump was behind the whole thing.

bill palmer report logo headerSo what did Jeff Bezos do in response to this no-win situation? He screamed as loudly as possible, for all to hear, that the National Enquirer had compromising photos of him.

By going public about the whole thing, Jeff Bezos has ensured that David Pecker will go to prison for a long time because this extortion attempt will blow up his immunity plea deal with the SDNY. Further, Pecker’s lawyers are surely explaining to him right now that if he does sell or publish these pictures, it’ll ensure that Pecker will go to prison for even longer.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos accuses National Enquirer’s parent of ‘extortion’ over ‘intimate’ photos, Paul Farhi​, Feb. 7, 2019. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the blackmail threat was made after he began looking into how the Enquirer acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with a former TV anchor.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos (left) said Thursday that he was the target of an extortion attempt by the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish embarrassing photos of him if he didn’t halt his investigation into how the tabloid obtained private texts and photos between him and his mistress.

Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, said the Enquirer made the blackmail threat after he began looking into how the tabloid acquired text messages that revealed his relationship with Lauren Sanchez, a former TV anchor.

In a rare and revealing statement posted to the online publishing platform Medium, Bezos said the National Enquirer wanted him to make a false public statement to the news media that he and his security consultant, Gavin de Becker, “have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI’s coverage [of the affair] was politically motivated or influenced by political forces.” (AMI is American Media, the parent company of the National Enquirer.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Jill Abramson, former New York Times executive editor accused of plagiarism, defends her book, Annie Linskey and Amy Gardner, Feb. 7, 2019 (print edition). Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson denied allegations Wednesday that she plagiarized portions of her new book, “Merchants of Truth: The Business of News and the Fight for Facts.”

Abramson was confronted about the allegations — which are outlined in a Twitter thread by Vice News’s Michael Moynihan — during an appearance on Fox News. When asked by anchor Martha MacCallum if she had any comment on the numerous similarities detailed by Moynihan, Abramson replied, “I really don’t.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Sandy Hook Victims’ Families Gain Ground in Alex Jones Suits, Elizabeth Williamson, Feb. 7, 2019. As defamation cases inch toward trial, the conspiracy theorist faces the possibility that he will have to be deposed and provide business records.

Families of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims have won a series of victories in their defamation suits against the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones that would open Mr. Jones’s business records to them and compel him to speak under oath.

alex jones headshotTen families are pursuing lawsuits against Mr. Jones (right) over his role in spreading bogus claims about the shooting, including that the victims’ families were actors in a plot to confiscate firearms from Americans. The families have endured death threats, stalking and online abuse.

Mr. Jones, a far-right provocateur and the owner of Infowars, a radio show and website on which he sells diet supplements, survivalist gear and gun paraphernalia, has come under growing scrutiny over the past year and has lost access to much of his online audience. Facebook, Twitter, Apple and YouTube have all banned him, and a recent deal for his show to stream on Roku was revoked last month after public outrage.

The suits by the Sandy Hook families have advanced on several fronts in recent weeks.

A Texas judge on Jan. 25 ordered Mr. Jones and representatives of his company to submit to questioning by lawyers for Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis, one of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. The Texas judge also granted access to Mr. Jones’s relevant business records, and denied his lawyer’s motion to keep the records sealed.

In Connecticut, a judge ordered Infowars representatives and business partners to testify, and a ruling is expected as soon as mid-February on the families’ request to depose Mr. Jones, and several Infowars “reporters” and associates.

They include Wolfgang Halbig, a former school administrator and Infowars contributor who for years has deluged Newtown officials with open records requests, demanding, among other things, records from the cleanup of “bodily fluids, brain matter, skull fragments and around 45-60 gallons of blood.”

Some families of the victims have been subjected to years of harassment from people who have embraced the bogus crisis-actor theory promoted by Mr. Jones.

Feb. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Was tabloid exposé about Bezos’s affair just juicy gossip or a political hit job? Marc Fisher, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Sarah Ellison, Feb. 5, 2019. Dueling investigations seek to learn how the National Enquirer obtained text messages sent by Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos, the owner of The Washington Post.

jeffrey bezos washington postWhen the National Enquirer published explicit text messages between Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos (shown in a file photo) and the woman he was having an affair with, the world’s richest man made clear he wanted to find out how the tabloid got hold of his private communications.

Bezos commissioned an investigation into the Enquirer’s investigation of his love life, thereby leaping into a roiling mix of political attacks and conspiracy theories featuring the president of the United States, key figures in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election, minor Hollywood celebrities and the owner of The Washington Post, Bezos himself.

Depending on whom you believe, the Enquirer’s exposé on Bezos’s affair was a political hit inspired by President Trump’s allies, an inside job by people seeking to protect Bezos’s marriage, or no conspiracy at all, simply a juicy gossip story.

Feb. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How the media can cover Trump without being manipulated, Jill Abramson (shown at right, journalist and author of the new book Merchants of Truth”), Feb. 4, 2019 (print edition. The news media’s collective shock that Donald Trump won in 2016 was evidence of how out of touch most reporters were jill abramsonwith the less affluent, less educated, rural parts of the country, where white voter rage galvanized into votes that made him the 45th president.

I was powerfully moved by a recent article in the New Yorker about journalism by LBJ biographer Robert Caro. He described how he couldn’t really understand President Lyndon B. Johnson’s native Texas Hill Country until he and his wife actually moved there from New York City for three years. The locals had a derisive name for the reporters who parachuted in and out: “portable journalists.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Va. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax denies sex assault allegation from 2004, Theresa Vargas, Feb. 4, 2019. Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax issued a statement early Monday denying a sexual assault allegation that appeared on the same conservative website that posted a racist photograph from Gov. Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook page.

“Lt. Governor Fairfax has an outstanding and well-earned reputation for treating people with dignity and respect,” read the statement from his chief of staff and communications director. “He has never assaulted anyone — ever — in any way, shape or form.”

The statement came after the online publication Big League Politics ran a story under the headline: “UPDATE: Stanford Fellow Hints At Possible Justin Fairfax Sex Assault.”

The story was based on a private Facebook post from the woman, which the publication said it had obtained from a friend of hers who had permission to share it.

martin baron at 2018 pulitzers wikimedia commonsFairfax and the woman told different versions of what happened in the hotel room with no one else present. The Washington Post could not find anyone who could corroborate either version. The Post did not find “significant red flags and inconsistencies within the allegations,” as the Fairfax statement incorrectly said.

Martin Baron (shown in a photo at the 2018 Pulitzer Prize awards ceremony distributed via WikiMedia), executive editor of The Post, said the news organization had an obligation to publish.

“Lt. Gov. Fairfax is a public official who may well rise to the position of governor,” Baron said in a statement. “He began the morning by issuing a statement regarding allegations against him, making specific representations about Post reporting that had not resulted in publication. We then had an obligation to clarify the nature of both the allegations and our reporting. “

Feb. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: The sad, inspiring state of modern news, Ann Marie Lipinski, Jan. 31, 2019 (Feb. 3 print edition). Jill Abramson owes two debts to David Halberstam and The Powers That Be, the late writer’s epic 1979 examination of four powerful news companies. The first is her career. Reading it inspired her to become a journalist, a path that led to the executive editorship of the New York Times.

Three years into that post, Abramson was fired, and Halberstam’s book inspired her anew. Surveying a battlefield on which she had become a casualty, jill abramson merchants of truthshe saw a contested future for quality news. What Halberstam had done for a Golden Age in media, Abramson wanted to do for journalism’s Age of Anxiety.

Following the Halberstam template, Abramson studies the fortunes of four companies struggling, as she puts it, “to keep honest news alive.” Her book, Merchants of Truth is a reported meditation on journalism’s last decade, told through the experiences of BuzzFeed, the New York Times, Vice and The Washington Post. Like Halberstam’s chosen four (Time, The Post, CBS and the Los Angeles Times), Abramson saw at each news organization good and important work. “And all four are endangered,” she asserts.

Ann Marie Lipinski directs the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. She is the former editor of the Chicago Tribune, where she received a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tip from ‘concerned citizen’ exposed racist photo in Va. governor’s yearbook, Paul Farhi, Feb. 3, 2019. Patrick Howley, editor in chief of the website Big League Politics, first reported the existence of a photo on Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s page of his 1984 medical-school yearbook depicting a figure in blackface standing next to another person in a Ku Klux Klan hood.

The Intercept, Commentary: NBC News, to Claim Russia Supports Tulsi Gabbard, Relies on Firm Just Caught Fabricating Russia Data for the Democratic Party, Glenn Greenwald, Feb. 3 2019. NBC News published a predictably viral story Friday, claiming that “experts who track websites and social media linked to Russia have seen stirrings of a possible campaign of support for Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.”

tulsi gabbardBut the whole story was a sham: The only “expert” cited by NBC in support of its key claim was the firm New Knowledge, which just got caught by the New York Times fabricating Russian troll accounts on behalf of the Democratic Party in the Alabama Senate race to manufacture false accusations that the Kremlin was interfering in that election.

To justify its claim that Gabbard is the Kremlin’s candidate, NBC stated, “analysts at New Knowledge, the company the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track Russian activities in the 2016 election, told NBC News they’ve spotted ‘chatter’ related to Gabbard in anonymous online message boards, including those known for fomenting right-wing troll campaigns.”

nbc news logoWhat NBC — amazingly — concealed is a fact that reveals its article to be a journalistic fraud: That same firm, New Knowledge, was caught just six weeks ago engaging in a massive scam to create fictitious Russian troll accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to claim that the Kremlin was working to defeat Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones in Alabama. The New York Times, when exposing the scam, quoted a New Knowledge report that boasted of its fabrications: “We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the [Roy] Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.'”

Feb. 1

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Discusses Claims of ‘Fake News’ With Times’s Publisher, Michael M. Grynbaum, Feb. 1, 2019. A.G. Sulzberger asked the president to curb his anti-press rhetoric. Mr. Trump replied with a request for “a great story, just one” from The Times.

January 2019

Jan. 28

Tabloid Formulas For Fakery

 ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: The Tabloid Myths of Jennifer Aniston and Donald Trump, Jim Rutenberg, Jan. 28, 2019 (print edition).  In a depressing news cycle, the cover of In Touch Weekly’s Jan. 21 issue was a beautiful sight. It was a blast from a less complicated past, with brad pitt jennifer aniston baby birl jan 21 2019 in touch Custom 2its vintage photograph of a beaming Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt staring out at readers from above the bold headline: “We’re Having a Girl!”

Going by the tabloid reports, I found that Ms. Aniston should have given birth to some two dozen babies in the last few years. According to OK! alone, she has acquired up to 15 kids since 2013, having been pregnant nine times — twice with twins! — while also adopting a third set of twins.

It’s no mystery why In Touch and OK! keep printing these false stories. At a time when gossip magazines are suffering right along with more serious publications and digital outlets, they no longer have the reporting ranks they once relied on to dig up real celebrity scoops.

Whether the subject is celebrities or politics, readers can be easy marks for comforting tales. Tabloid publishers know this. So do online trolls and click-hungry websites.

Investigative Reporting

The New Yorker, The Secrets of Lyndon Johnson’s Archives, Robert A. Caro (shown at right), Jan.28, 2019 Issue. On a Presidential paper robert caro 2012new yorker logotrail. There are certain moments in your life when you suddenly understand something about yourself. I loved going through those files, making them yield their secrets to me....

Alan [Hathaway, an early editor of the author] looked at me for what I remember as a very long time. “Just remember,” he said. “Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page.”

There were about forty thousand boxes [of Lyndon Johnson records], the archivist told me; each had a capacity of eight hundred pages, but, she said, not all of them were completely filled, and some were overfilled. There were thirty-two million pages in all. I had known that doing research on a President would be a lot different from doing it on Robert lyndon johnson points fingerMoses, the subject of my previous book, “The Power Broker,” but I hadn’t expected anything like this. I had a bad feeling: during all the years since Alan Hathway had given me that first piece of advice—“Turn every page. Never assume anything. Turn every goddam page”—I had never forgotten it; it was engraved in my mind. There would be no turning every page here.

But what pages to turn?

I said to [Caro's wife] Ina, “I’m not understanding these people and therefore I’m not understanding Lyndon Johnson [shown at left]. We’re going to have to move to the Hill Country and live there.”

We rented a house on the edge of the Hill Country, where we lived for much of the next three years.

That changed everything. As soon as we moved there, as soon as the people of the Hill Country realized we were there to stay, their attitude toward us softened; they started to talk to me in a different way.

I began to hear the details they had not included in the anecdotes they had previously told me, and they told me anecdotes and stories that no one had even mentioned to me before — stories about a Lyndon Johnson very different from the young man who had previously been portrayed: about a very unusual young man, a very brilliant young man, a very ambitious, unscrupulous, and quite ruthless person, disliked and even despised, and, by people who knew him especially well, even beginning to be feared.

Jan. 27

Media Criticism: Venezuela

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: These Media Claims About Venezuela Are Lies Or Misconceptions, b, Jan. 27, 2019.The U.S. mainstream media is suddenly discovering Venezuela. Without having any actual knowledge of the country, all dirt the writers can think of is thrown against its government. Don't expect to get any facts from them. Most is just propaganda in a media buildup for a war.

nicolas maduro customIn this NPR report for example, Amid Chaos Venezuelans Struggle To Find The Truth, Online, the first line is already an outrageous lie: "In Venezuela, where media is controlled by the government, figuring out what is truth, rumor or propaganda has always been difficult."

No. The media in Venezuela is NOT controlled by the government. There are many privately owned newspapers and TV stations. Many of them oppose the government. They have a larger viewership than the government controlled ones. While there are, as elsewhere, laws that allow for some censorship, their actual use is not common.

venezuela flag waving customOne claim, repeated yesterday by the British ambassador at the UN, is that Nicholas Maduro (above right) won the presidential election by "stuffing the ballot boxes." Venezuela doesn't have ballot boxes. It uses an electronic system developed by a British company that is highly praised:

In September 2012, former US President Jimmy Carter said "the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world." The voters identify with a voter ID and a finger print and vote on a touch screen. Maduro was duly elected as president. Twice.

Some, not all opposition parties and candidates, boycotted the last election which led to a lower than usual turnout. Not taking part is a right the opposition can use. It is not the fault of the government.

Some media claim that the "international community" accepted the U.S. sponsored dude's presidential claim. That is a lie. The U.S. tried to find allies for its onslaught on Venezuela but failed to get international support except from a few of its poodles. Yesterday the UN security council did not take up a resolution against Venezuela because it was obvious that it would fail. Even at the Organisation of American States (OAS) U.S. attempts to push for a resolution against Maduro failed to gain a simple majority.

All 'western' media repeat the claim that the U.S. sponsored dude claimed the presidency based on article 233 of the constitution. But none of them refute that obviously false claim. Article 233 of the constitution (pdf) of Venezuela details the procedures for the case that the president "becomes permanently unavailable" which Nicolas Maduro is obviously not. Moreover the next in place if the president becomes unavailable is the vice president, not the leader of the National Assembly. The dude has no legal basis to claim the presidency.

News: Melania Wins Apology

washington post logoWashington Post, British newspaper apologizes, agrees to pay damages for ‘false statements’ about Melania Trump, Kristine Phillips, Jan. 27, 2019 (print edition). This is not the first time the first lady has received an apology and damages from publications over stories about her modeling career. A British newspaper apologized to first lady Melania Trump and agreed to pay “substantial damages” after publishing a story that it says made false statements about her family and modeling career.

Melania Trump Twitter photoIn a three-paragraph apology Saturday, the Telegraph retracted several claims that were printed last week in the paper’s magazine publication. “The mystery of Melania,” which is no longer online, reported that Trump was struggling in her modeling career before she met her future husband, Donald Trump, and that her career advanced only after his assistance. That was false, the paper said.

“We accept that Mrs. Trump was a successful professional model in her own right before she met her husband and obtained her own modeling work without his assistance,” the paper said, adding later: “We apologise unreservedly to The First Lady and her family for any embarrassment caused by our publication of these allegations.”

The Washington Post reported last year that Trump was a “working model” who was initially not widely known in the highly competitive New York fashion world and that her association with Donald Trump, whom she began dating in 1998, raised her profile.

melania trump i really dont care jacket twitterThe Telegraph’s magazine cover story, which was published on Jan. 19, was an excerpt from the book “The Golden Handcuffs: The Secret History of Trump’s Women,” by journalist Nina Burleigh. It was published in October. Burleigh didn’t respond to a request for comment from The Post on Saturday.

In a comment to the Daily Beast, Burleigh suggested that the retraction was over fears of “Gawker slayer Charles Harder,” the California lawyer who represented the first lady in a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Mail, another British publication, and is representing the president in lawsuits against adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. Harder is best known for helping a Silicon Valley billionaire successfully sue the gossip website Gawker, leading to its demise.

“The book has been out since October, and excerpted widely by various U.S. publications without a peep of objection. I stand by my reporting,” Burleigh told the Daily Beast.

This is not the first time the first lady has received an apology and damages from publications over stories about her career.

In April 2017, the British tabloid the Daily Mail apologized for an article that alleged “she provided services beyond simply modeling,” according to a statement released at that time. Melania Trump filed and later settled defamation lawsuits, with the Daily Mail agreeing to pay an unspecified amount of damages.

The first lady also sued a Maryland blogger who reported about unfounded rumors that she once worked as a high-end escort. Trump settled in February 2017, and the blogger, Webster Tarpley, agreed to apologize and pay her a “substantial sum.”

Local Newspapers' Decline

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Local newspapers have already been gutted. There’s nothing left to cut, Steve Cavendish, Jan. 27, 2019 (print edition). The ugly future of corporate news

Wednesday was a bloodbath for journalists. BuzzFeed said it would lay off 15 percent of its employees, and Verizon Media announced it would cut 7 percent from its newsrooms at HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo.

gannett logo CustomWorst of all, a wave of layoffs tore through Gannett newsrooms across the country that day, hitting staffs that had already been thinned by years of nearly annual cuts.

In December, Gannett’s USA Today Network president, Maribel Wadsworth, told her employees that the nation’s largest-circulation newspaper chain “will be a smaller company” in the future and, well, the future is now. Wadsworth is facing a lot of pressures: Print revenue is down, digital and mobile revenue aren’t nearly enough, and now a hedge fund promising even deeper cuts wants to acquire the company.

If the future of corporate news operations looks bleak, that’s because it is.

In Tennessee, we’ve been watching the slow-motion destruction of our news institutions under Gannett for a few decades now, and the idea that things are about to get even worse is appalling. As badly as the country needs strong coverage of national news these days, the local news landscape is important, too. And what happened here mirrors what’s already happened in city after city.

The Nashville I grew up in was a two-newspaper town, home to a daily slugfest between the scrappy afternoon Nashville Banner and the larger morning Tennessean. For 91 years, the papers dueled with talented staffs that featured heavyweights like John Seigenthaler, Fred Russell and David Halberstam, and owners who loved sending those reporters to brawl over their favorite politicians and causes.

Both papers had their problems as well as successes, but the competition was healthy for a growing region. The papers fought for scoops, launched deep investigations into corruption, covered the institutions the city was built on and told the stories of its citizens. They gave readers a choice.

Steve Cavendish, a former editor of the Nashville Scene and Washington City Paper who started his career at the Nashville Banner, is president of Nashville Public Media, a nonprofit news start-up.

Jan. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Johns Hopkins to buy Newseum building in D.C. as journalism museum plans to relocate, Nick Anderson and Peggy McGlone, Jan. 26, 2019 (print edition).  The $372.5 million deal will give the university a prime Pennsylvania Avenue address for graduate programs.

Jan. 25

Newseum Sold, To Close At Year-End

newseum ennead architects Small

Newseum, Freedom Forum Announces Sale of 555 Pennsylvania Avenue to Johns Hopkins University, Staff report, Jan. 25, 2019. Today, the Freedom Forum — the creator and primary funder of the Newseum — is announcing the sale of the building in which the Newseum (shown above in an architect's graphic) is located to Johns Hopkins University, a premier academic institution. The University will use the building as a new consolidated center for its DC-based graduate programs.

The deal remains subject to all necessary regulatory approvals, and the Newseum will remain open to the public through 2019.

The sale comes at the conclusion of a 16-month strategic review, announced in August 2017, of the Freedom Forum’s funding priorities, including an assessment of the Newseum’s unsustainable operating costs. The purpose of the review was to identify financially responsible solutions for the building through creative partnerships, a partial sale, leaseback scenarios, or other joint ventures. Despite those efforts, the Freedom Forum review made clear that a sale of the facility was the best path forward to enable the organization and its affiliates to continue their First Amendment-based mission. Johns Hopkins will acquire the property for $372.5 million.

Since its opening in 2008, the Freedom Forum has committed more than $600 million to build and fund the Newseum, one of the largest gifts to any museum anywhere in the world.

“This was a difficult decision, but it was the responsible one,” said Jan Neuharth, chair and CEO of the Freedom Forum. “We remain committed to continuing our programs – in a financially sustainable way – to champion the five freedoms of the First Amendment and to increase public awareness about the importance of a free and fair press. With today’s announcement, we can begin to explore all options to find a new home in the Washington, DC area.”

“The Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue has delighted millions with its entertaining and educational exhibits, garnering five-star reviews from critics and visitors alike,” said Peter Prichard, chair of the Newseum board of trustees. “Our patrons learned about the joys, the duties, and even the dangers journalists experience in their work, and why a free and fair press is so important to a well-functioning democracy.

Breakthrough JFK, MLK, RFK, Malcolm X Coverage

kennedys and king logo

Assassinated 1960s civil rights leaders, from left: President John F. Kennedy, Attorney Gen. Robert F. Kennedy (JFK's brother), the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and preacher and activist Malcolm X (photo graphic from the site Kennedys and King)

washington post logotom jackmanWashington Post, Kennedy, King, Malcolm X relatives and scholars seek new assassination probes, Tom Jackman (right), Jan. 25, 2019. Their letter calls for a Truth and Reconciliation Committee on the JFK, RFK, MLK and Malcolm X slayings. Joined by relatives of Robert F. Kennedy, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, a group of more than 60 authors and investigators have called for a new congressional investigation into the assassinations of the three men and President John F. Kennedy, saying that the four slayings were not resolved and “had a disastrous impact on the course of American history.”

In a public statement, they demanded a public tribunal modeled on South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” process to persuade either Congress or the Justice Department to revisit all four assassinations.

Guardian, YouTube vows to recommend fewer conspiracy theory videos, Julia Carrie Wong and Sam Levin, Jan. 25, 2019. Site’s move comes amid continuing pressure over its role as a platform for misinformation and extremism. YouTube did not provide a clear definition of what it considers to be harmful misinformation.

YouTube will recommend fewer videos that “could misinform users in harmful ways”, the company announced on Friday, in a shift for a platform that has faced criticism for amplifying conspiracy theories and extremism.

The change concerns YouTube’s recommendations feature, which automatically creates a playlist of videos for users to watch next. The recommendations are the result of complex and opaque algorithms designed to capture a user’s interest, but they have become a locus of criticism when YouTube directs people to potentially harmful and false content that they would not have otherwise sought out.

The company did not provide a clear definition of what it considers to be harmful misinformation, but said that some examples were “videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the Earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11”.

The changes will also affect “borderline content”, or videos that come close to violating the company’s rules for content without technically crossing the line.

Jan. 24

The Guardian, Trapped in a hoax: survivors of conspiracy theories speak out, Ed Pilkington, Jan. 24, 2019.  According to a recent study, half of the American public endorses at least one conspiracy theory. What happens to those caught up in the toxic lies of conspiracy theorists? The Guardian spoke to five victims whose lives were wrecked by falsehoods.

Conspiracy theories used to be seen as bizarre expressions of harmless eccentrics. Not any more. Gone are the days of outlandish theories about Roswell’s UFOs, the “hoax” moon landings or grassy knolls. Instead, today’s iterations have morphed into political weapons. Turbocharged by social media, they spread with astonishing speed, using death threats as currency.

Together with their first cousins, fake news, they are challenging society’s trust in facts. At its most toxic, this contagion poses a profound threat to democracy by damaging its bedrock: a shared commitment to truth.

Their growing reach and scale is astonishing. A University of Chicago study estimated in 2014 that half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory. When they repeated the survey last November, the proportion had risen to 61%. The startling finding was echoed by a recent study from the University of Cambridge that found 60% of Britons are wedded to a false narrative.

The trend began on obscure online forums such as the alt-right playground 4chan. Soon, media entrepreneurs realized there was money to be made – most notoriously Alex Jones, whose site Infowars feeds its millions of readers a potent diet of lurid lies (9/11 was a government hit job; the feds manipulate the weather.) How rightwing conspiracy theorists attacked Christine Blasey Ford's testimony.

Now the conspiracy theorist-in-chief sits in the White House. Donald Trump cut his political teeth on the “birther” lie that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, and went on to embrace climate change denial, rampant voter fraud and the discredited belief that childhood vaccines may cause autism.

Amid this explosive growth, one aspect has been underappreciated: the human cost. What is the toll paid by those caught up in these falsehoods? And how are they fighting back?

      • Marcel Fontaine: Falsely accused of being the Parkland shooter
      • Lenny Pozner: Targeted after he lost his child at Sandy Hook
      • Paul Offit: Harassed by anti-vaccine activists
      • Brianna Wu: Attacked by #gamergate trolls
      • James Alefantis: Falsely accused of running a paedophile ring

washington post logoWashington Post, BuzzFeed, HuffPost owner are the latest to feel the pinch in a faltering digital news economy, Paul Farhi, Jan. 24, 2019. BuzzFeed announced it would lay off about 15 percent of its staff, while Verizon Media Group — the owner of HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo — announced its own round of layoffs of about 7 percent of its staff. Traditional media organizations, such as newspaper and TV stations, have been buffeted for years by the transition to a digital economy, with some of their readers and advertising base siphoned away by the likes of BuzzFeed, Vice and HuffPost.

But over the past several months, digital companies have faced some of the same issues, as profits have proved elusive in an advertising market dominated by two giants — Google and Facebook.

Vice has instituted a hiring freeze and is seeking to cut its workforce by about 10 to 15 percent this year, primarily through attrition. Verizon Media Group, the owner of HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo, announced its own round of layoffs of about 7 percent on Wednesday.

 U.S. Frees Iranian Journalist

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Releases American Journalist Who Works for Iranian TV After Testimony, Rick Gladstone, Jan. 24, 2019 (print edition). An American journalist for Iran’s Press TV was freed in Washington by federal law enforcement officials on Wednesday, her son said, ending a detention that began on Jan. 13 when the F.B.I. took her into custody as a material witness.

The arrest of the journalist, Marzieh Hashemi, 59, had become a flash point of tension between Iran and the United States for more than a week.

marzieh hashemi headshotMs. Hashemi, left, had been ordered to appear before a grand jury in Washington but was not charged with a crime. Her family and Iranian leaders accused American officials of disrespecting her Muslim faith while she was under arrest, forcing her to remove her hijab, or head scarf, and offering her only non-halal food.

The F.B.I. has declined to talk about Ms. Hashemi or the grand jury case in which she had been required to testify.

Ms. Hashemi was arrested in St. Louis while on a trip to the United States to visit relatives, and was transferred by the F.B.I. to Washington. Officials later disclosed she was a material witness in an unspecified criminal case.

Under American law, witnesses can be arrested if the government can show that their testimony is “material in a criminal proceeding” and that they might flee from the authorities. The law generally requires the release of such witnesses after their testimony is completed.

Ms. Hashemi, who was born Melanie Franklin in Louisiana, converted to Islam after the 1979 Iranian revolution and moved to Iran more than a decade ago, but she has periodically returned to visit family. She is well known in Iran as an anchorwoman on Press TV’s English service. Her son, Hossein Hashemi-Niasari, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, confirmed in a text message the accuracy of a Press TV report that she had been released after providing a third round of testimony to the grand jury on Wednesday afternoon.

Jan. 23

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Baby Boomers Are the Biggest Suckers for Fake News, Spencer Feingold, Jan. 23, 2019. Facebook users 65 and older shared the majority of fake news during the 2016 election, a new study found. The results were consistent for all baby boomers regardless of political ideology.

Jan. 21

washington post logogoogle logo customWashington Post, France fines Google nearly $57 million for first major violation of Europe’s tough privacy rules, Tony Romm​, Jan. 21, 2019. The country's top data privacy agency said that Google failed to fully disclose to users how their personal information is collected and what happens to it. The Silicon Valley giant also did not properly obtain users’ consent for the purpose of showing them personalized ads, the watchdog agency said.

Jan. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. jails journalist who works for news outlet overseen by Iranian government, Tom Jackman and Spencer S. Hsu, Jan. 19, 2019. The U.S. government confirmed that since Sunday it has been holding Marzieh Hashemi, an American-born journalist who works in Iran. Hashemi is a “material witness” in a federal case and will be released after she testifies before a grand jury, the government said.

The U.S. government confirmed Friday that it has been holding an American-born journalist, who works in Iran, in jail since Sunday as a “material witness” in a case in federal court in Washington and that she will be released after she testifies before a grand jury.

No date was given for the testimony and no information about the nature of the case was revealed in a two-page court filing unsealed Friday.

marzieh hashemi headshotMarzieh Hashemi, left, 59, has been a producer and on-air presenter for Press TV in Iran for 25 years. She is an American citizen, her family said. Press TV is an English language network based in Tehran and overseen by the Iranian government.

Hashemi returns periodically to the United States to visit her family. She had been working on a documentary about Black Lives Matter in St. Louis, her family said, and was arrested on a material witness warrant by the FBI when she arrived at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis before a flight to Denver to visit her adult children. She was then transported to Washington and apparently is being held in the D.C. Jail, her family said.

The FBI had declined to acknowledge the arrest until Friday and her court case is sealed. An unsealed court order Friday said Hashemi, who also is referred to in the filing by her birth name of Melanie Franklin, has not been accused of any crime.

Material witness warrants are rare. Hashemi’s case is the first such filed in federal court in Washington this year, and the court’s electronic docketing system indicates only two such cases were filed last year. Both are still under seal.

Hossein Hashemi, son of Marizeh Hashemi, leaves federal court in Washington on Friday. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Her son Hossein Hashemi, a research fellow at the University of Colorado, told The Washington Post Friday that he, his mother and two of his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear at U.S. District Court in Washington, but said he did not know the subject matter. He said that neither his mother nor any of his family had testified and that “we don’t anticipate her getting out today.”

Jan. 16

 ny times logoNew York Times, Veterans of the News Business Are Now Fighting Fakes, Edmund Lee, Jan. 16, 2019. After raising $6 million, the start-up NewsGuard, co-founded by Steve Brill, has signed Microsoft as its first major client. The main goal: to combat the spread of false stories on the internet.

On the internet, conspiracy theories, propaganda and plain old inaccuracies can stump even the most thoughtful readers, spreading faster than you can say “fake news.”

A small start-up, NewsGuard, says it may have a solution. The effort is led by a pair of veteran news executives — Steven Brill, an author and the founder of the magazine The American Lawyer, and Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal. On Wednesday the company announced that it had signed Microsoft as its first major client.

NewsGuard has created the equivalent of nutrition labels for news organizations, rating more than 2,000 news and information sites with tags: red for unreliable, green for trustworthy. A team of roughly 50 journalists and analysts is making the evaluations.

NewsGuard has given its stamp of approval to established publications like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, as well as later entrants like BuzzFeed and Newsmax. FoxNews.com, The Hill, The Daily Beast and HuffPost have also gotten green lights.
Sites to watch out for, according to NewsGuard, include Infowars and Breitbart on the right, and Daily Kos on the left. Media Matters, a left-leaning advocacy organization with a prolific media-watchdog blog, has received a green rating, but scores negatively on four of the nine criteria used by NewsGuard.

The service, free to readers, offers a browser extension that shows a news operation’s rating when a reader lands on its site. The NewsGuard tag also appears in search results next to article links for those who have the extension.

Jan. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Hedge Fund Called ‘Destroyer of Newspapers’ Bids for USA Today Owner Gannett, Edmund Lee and Tiffany Hsu, Jan. 14, 2019. A New York hedge fund known for gutting newsrooms is backing a hostile takeover bid for Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and 100 other newspapers. The unsolicited offer, worth over $1.3 billion, would create the largest newspaper company in the United States and further consolidate a struggling industry.

usa today logoIn an open letter to the Gannett board, MNG Enterprises, which is owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, offered on Monday to pay $12 cash per Gannett share, a 23 percent premium on the company’s closing price on Friday. Gannett shares were trading about 19 percent higher around midday.

MNG said in its letter that Gannett, which owns The Detroit Free Press, The Tennessean in Nashville and other newspapers in nearly three dozen states, had “suffered from a series of value-destroying decisions made by an unfocused leadership team.”

Operating under the name Digital First Media, MNG owns around 200 publications, including The Denver Post and The San Jose Mercury News in California. It said it was Gannett’s largest shareholder, with a 7.5 percent stake.

Jan. 11

Genocide / Press Freedom

myanmar map

kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

Imprisoned Reuters journalists Kyaw Soe Oo, left, and Wa Lone last year (Reuters photo by Jorge Silva).

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Opinion: Myanmar court confirms seven-year jail terms for Reuters journalists, Staff report, Jan. 11, 2019. RSF is appalled to learn that Myanmar’s high court today upheld the seven-year jail sentences of Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo on appeal. RSF now urges the country’s highest authorities to end their nightmare.

myanmar flagIn a shocking decision handed down this morning in Yangon, the high court also upheld their convictions on charges of violating the Official Secrets Act. It concluded the utterly iniquitous judicial process to which these two journalists have been subjected ever since their arrest in a trap set by the police in December 2017.

“Everything about this case, both the substance and its conduct, called for their convictions to be overturned, but Myanmar’s justice system has shown its determination until the very end to punish Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo although they just did their job as reporters,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk.

win myint myanmar 2018 president“This decision constitutes yet further evidence, if any were needed, of the judicial system’s unacceptable manipulation by the executive and dramatically signifies the end of Myanmar’s democratic transition. We now call on its highest political officials to pardon these journalists as quickly as possible so that they can be reunited with their families.”

President Win Myint (left), who is an ally of government leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has the power to issue pardons, which are traditionally given at the time of the Burmese New Year in April. Regardless of the final outcome, the authorities have already sent a chilling message to Myanmar’s journalists: that this is the price you will pay if you dare to investigate subjects that are off limits.

myanmar execution reuters photo

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo did some remarkable investigative reporting on a massacre of Rohingya civilians by soldiers in Inn Din, a village in the north of Rakhine state, that that was widely seen as an act of genocide or ethnic cleansing. Their arrest was regarded as a punishment orchestrated by the security forces.

The region where the massacre took place, the traditional home of Myanmar’s Rohingya community, continues to be completely inaccessible to journalists aside from those who have been taken there on pathetic propaganda visits that are tightly controlled by the authorities.

Jan. 10

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s address was a pure propaganda opportunity. Networks shouldn’t allow it again, Margaret Sullivan​ (right), Jan. 10, 2019 (print edition). The speech had high-drama quotes. But there wasn’t anything of substance that we haven’t heard many times before.

Jan. 7

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Why Isn’t Radio Marti Shut Down During the Shutdown? by Jacob G. Hornberger (right, a Libertarian non-profit executive, attorney, author and book publisher), Jan. 7, 2019. When it comes to nonessential federal jacob hornberger headshotprograms, Radio Marti has to rank near the top of the list.

Radio Marti uses Channel 153 on Sirius XM to broadcast its official anti-communist propaganda. During the past three weeks of Trump’s shutdown, Radio Marti has continued propagandizing listeners of Channel 153 on SiriusXM.

The larger question, of course, is why Radio Marti wasn’t shut down permanently a long time ago. Established during the conservative reign of President Ronald Reagan in 1983, the mission of Radio Marti has always been to meddle in the internal affairs of Cuba by targeting the Cuban people with pro-U.S., anti-communist propaganda.

Needless to say, Radio Marti’s propaganda has had the same effect on the Cuban communist regime as the decades-old U.S. economic embargo has had, which is none. One reason for that is that the communist government has always done its best to block Radio Marti’s broadcasts and also made it a criminal offense for Cubans to listen to it.

cuba flag saving CustomBut one thing is certain: the Cold War ostensibly ended in 1989. Therefore, why wasn’t Radio Marti shut down 30 years ago?

Equally important, if not more so, why is Radio Marti broadcasting its propaganda on Sirius XM, a privately owned U.S. company whose customer base consists primarily of American citizens? I thought that the position of the United States has always been that it’s wrong for governments to propagandize their own citizens? Didn’t U.S. officials rail against the Nazi regime’s use of propaganda to mold the minds of the German people? Don’t they also rail against the Cuban communist regime’s use of propaganda to mold the minds of the Cuban people?

Then why in the world is the U.S. government using Radio Marti to propagandize the American listeners of SiriusXM? And why is SiriusXM permitting Radio Marti to use SiriusXM to broadcast its propaganda?

Here’s another problem, at least from the standpoint of the First Amendment. Every Sunday morning at 7 a.m., Radio Marti broadcasts a Catholic mass on SiriusXM. What business does the federal government have targeting people with religious propaganda, whether its target is Cuban citizens or American citizens?

Why should American taxpayers, many whom aren’t even Catholic, be forced to underwrite that sort of religious propaganda? What business does a private company like SiriusXM have in participating in such a scheme?

ny times logoNew York Times, Posing as Prohibitionists, 2nd Effort Used Online Fakery in Alabama Race, Scott Shane and Alan Blinder, Jan. 7, 2019. The “Dry Alabama” Facebook page, illustrated with stark images of car wrecks and videos of families ruined by drink, had a blunt message: Alcohol is the devil’s work, and the state should ban it entirely.

Along with a companion Twitter feed, the Facebook page appeared to be the work of Baptist teetotalers who supported the Republican, Roy S. Moore, in the 2017 Alabama Senate race. “Pray for Roy Moore,” one tweet exhorted.

In fact, the Dry Alabama campaign, not previously reported, was the stealth creation of progressive Democrats who were out to defeat Mr. Moore — the second such secret effort to be unmasked. In a political bank shot made in the last two weeks of the campaign, they thought associating Mr. Moore with calls for a statewide alcohol ban would hurt him with moderate, business-oriented Republicans and assist the Democrat, Doug Jones, who won the special election by a hair-thin margin.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Fake News Reports Blamed Cuba, Russia And China Of 'Sonic Attack' On U.S. Diplomats -- The Culprits Were Crickets, b, Jan. 7, 2019. In the autumn of 2016 U.S. diplomats stationed in Cuba started to complain about being affected by some mysterious noise. Twenty four embassy staff and family claimed a bizarre list of symptoms - from headaches, dizziness and sleeping difficulties to problems with balance, vision and hearing. Doctors were not sure what affected these people. There were all kinds of speculations about a mysterious 'sonic weapons' with which the diplomats were 'attacked', but no convincing evidence was found.

Cuba fully cooperated with an FBI investigation into the mystery. Scientist dispelled the idea of a 'sonic weapon' attack. The medical evidence turned out to be dubious. Nevertheless anti-Cuban politicians in the U.S. successfully used the issue to pressure the White House to penalize the country. The Trump administration recalled 60% of its embassy personal in Havana and expelled Cuban diplomats from the embassy in Washington. It issued a travel warning for its citizens going to Cuba and stopped issuing visas for Cubans in Havana.

Last Friday the New York Times reported that U.S. scientists found that the mysterious noise identified by the diplomats was indeed from crickets: "Alexander Stubbs of the University of California, Berkeley, and Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln in England studied a recording of the sounds made by diplomats and published by The Associated Press."

Diplomatic relations with Cuba are still reduced. The State Department still has a travel warning for Cuba "due to attacks targeting U.S. Embassy Havana employees". In the public record Russia is still accused of causing this non-issue in which it was never involved.

Not one of the 'journalists' involved in the fear campaign will be punished for ignoring the earlier AP report of the Cuban finding. None of the media that smeared Russia over the issue will retract those reports or expose the officials who initiated them.

Jan. 3

Media Commentary

william arkin nbc screenshot

Medium, Opinion: Full email from William Arkin, leaving NBC and MSNBC, William Arkin (shown above), Jan. 3, 2018. January 4 is my last day at NBC News nbc news logoand I’d like to say goodbye to my friends, hopefully not for good. This isn’t the first time I’ve left NBC, but this time the parting is more bittersweet, the world and the state of journalism in tandem crisis. My expertise, though seeming to be all the more central to the challenges and dangers we face, also seems to be less valued at the moment. And I find myself completely out of synch with the network, being neither a day-to-day reporter nor interested in the Trump circus.

I first started my association with NBC 30 years ago, feeding Cold War stories to Bob Windrem and Fred Francis at the Pentagon. I became an on-air analyst during the 1999 Kosovo War, continuing to work thereafter with Nightly News, delighting and oftentimes annoying in my peculiar position of being a mere civilian amongst THE GENERALS and former government msnbc logo Customofficials. A scholar at heart, I also found myself an often lone voice that was anti-nuclear and even anti-military, anti-military for me meaning opinionated but also highly knowledgeable, somewhat akin to a movie critic, loving my subject but also not shy about making judgements regarding the flops and the losers.

Somewhere in all of that, and particularly as the social media wave began, it was clear that NBC (like the rest of the news media) could no longer keep up with the world. Added to that was the intellectual challenge of how to report our new kind of wars when there were no real fronts and no actual measures of success.

david petraeus wTo me there is also a larger problem: though they produce nothing that resembles actual safety and security, the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested. Despite being at “war,” no great wartime leaders or visionaries are emerging. There is not a soul in Washington who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the Petraeus’ [left] and Wes Clarks’, james mattisor the so-called warrior monks like Mattis and [below left] McMaster, we’ve had more than a generation of national security leaders who sadly and fraudulently have done little of consequence.

And yet we (and others) embrace them, even the highly partisan formers who masquerade as “analysts”. We do so ignoring the empirical truth of what they have wrought: There is not one county in the Middle East that is safer today than it was 18 years ago. Indeed the world becomes ever more polarized and dangerous.

As perpetual war has become accepted as a given in our lives, I’m proud to say that I’ve never deviated in my argument at NBC (or at my newspaper gigs) that terrorists will never bedefeated until we better understand why they are driven to fighting. And I have maintained my central view that airpower (in its broadest sense including space and cyber) is not just the future but the enabler and the tool of war today.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chinese censors go old school to clamp down on Twitter: A knock on the door, Gerry Shih, Jan. 4, 2019. Twitter is officially banned in China. But only recently china flag Smallhave Chinese authorities started to worry about the power of tweets.

In Beijing and other cities across China, prominent Twitter users confirmed in interviews to The Washington Post that authorities are sharply escalating the Twitter crackdown. It suggests a wave of new and more aggressive tactics by state censors and cyber-watchers trying to control the Internet.

twitter bird CustomTwitter is banned in China — as are other non-Chinese sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. But they are accessed by workarounds such as a virtual private network, or VPN, which is software that bypasses state-imposed firewalls.

While Chinese authorities block almost all foreign social media sites, they rarely have taken direct action against citizens who use them, preferring instead to quietly monitor what the Chinese are saying.

But recently, Internet monitors and activists have tallied at least 40 cases of Chinese authorities pressuring users to delete tweets through a decidedly low-tech method: showing up at their doorsteps.

Jan. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Beyond ‘no comment’: The White House has no response — at all — to many media questions, Paul Farhi, Jan. 2, 2019 (print edition). The New York Times published a powerful story last week about President Trump’s growing isolation in the White House, with colorful details such as Trump’s tendency to interrupt advisers during meetings to call them “freaking idiots” (except he doesn’t use the word “freaking”).

Asked to comment by the Times’s reporters about this, the White House said nothing. It did not respond. Similarly, it offered no response when The Washington Post asked the White House about Trump’s false claim during a post-Christmas Day visit to U.S. troops in Iraq that he boosted military pay by 10 percent.

Reporters are used to officials who respond to their inquiries with a terse “no comment.” This was typically the practice in prior presidential administrations when officials saw no strategic value in rebutting an unflattering story.

But as in so many things, the Trump administration is different. Instead of “no comment,” Trump’s press representatives often don’t bother saying anything at all.

“This is the least responsive White House press operation I’ve ever dealt with by far,” said Peter Baker, a veteran White House reporter for the New York Times and one of the co-authors of the story about Trump’s isolation. “There are certainly individuals there who are professional and try to be helpful when they can, and I appreciate their efforts, I really do. But as a whole, I’ve learned not to expect answers even to basic questions.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What connects Trumpish figures around the world? The Internet is the best answer, Megan McArdle, Jan. 2, 2019 (print edition). The Internet is disrupting politics the way it has disrupted everything else.

Jan. 1

Guardian, 'It's astonishing': The demise of the daily White House press briefing, David Smith, Jan. 1, 2019. The press briefing has become a monthly event in the era of Trump, and concerns are that it may soon disappear altogether.

sarah huckabee sanders 2017 05 05Then a voice on the public-address system: “The press briefing will begin at 1.20pm. Thank you.” The hundred-or-so journalists crammed into the seats and aisles erupt in knowing laughs and groans. Sarah Huckabee Sanders [shown in a file photo] eventually enters at 1.35 pm. It will be the White House press secretary’s sole briefing in the whole of November – a paltry total she will match in December.

The question-and-answer session was described as must-see television in the early months of the Trump administration, gripping millions of viewers and earning the accolade of parody on the TV variety show Saturday Night Live. But now the daily press briefing is no more. It has effectively become a monthly press briefing, raising concerns that it might soon disappear altogether.

That would be a tragedy and a campaign point in 2020,” said Anthony Scaramucci, who served as White House communications director for 11 days in 2017. “I pray that that does not happen. For the president to be successful, you don’t want that to be a campaign talking point in 2020. The American people intuitively know that there needs to be an open communication between the White House and the free press.”

The first official White House press secretary was George Akerson under President Herbert Hoover in 1929. In recent decades the position became best known to the outside world for the briefing, in which the press secretary stands at a podium and fields questions from reporters in a briefing room (formerly a swimming pool) in the west wing.

December 2018

Dec. 31

harveysilverglate 136Boston Globe, Opinion: National Enquirer didn’t commit a crime by killing Trump affair stories, Harvey Silverglate (right), Dec. 31, 2018 (print edition).  In saner times, the announcement of a plea deal between The National Enquirer and federal prosecutors stemming from the tabloid’s supposed campaign finance violations would elicit healthy skepticism, rather than cheers, at America’s media institutions. Lost in the fury of progressive — and some conservative — resistance to President Trump is the fact that the Enquirer did not commit a crime: Its conduct is protected by the First Amendment.

The long-understood dishonesty and unfairness that characterize the federal criminal justice system, which in normal times furnish fodder for the Fourth Estate’s skepticism, now are the subject of breathless page-one reporting of prosecutorial triumphs. The coverage of the National Enquirer case is a perfect example.

david pecker croppedIt is now known that David J. Pecker (left), chairman and CEO of American Media, publisher of the National Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids, was a longtime friend of Trump. As such, during the 2016 election, Pecker, in concert with Trump’s personal attorney Michael D. Cohen, engaged in the practice known as “catch and kill,” in which the tabloid would buy stories on an exclusive basis from women who credibly claimed to have had affairs with Trump. Their undisclosed purpose was to bury, not publish, the scandalous stories.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan deemed these payoffs campaign finance law violations, since they exceeded federal campaign contribution limits and their alleged purpose was to protect candidate Trump’s electoral prospects, rather than the alternative motive of hiding the infidelity from Trump’s wife. michael cohen ap file croppedBoth Cohen (right) and Pecker, when caught and offered a plea bargain, purported to buy into the prosecutors’ interpretation of the purpose of the scheme. Cohen pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years imprisonment for this and other confessed Trump-related crimes, while Pecker and his company entered into a favorable nonprosecution deal, as the Times put it, “in exchange for its cooperation.”

Such deals are notorious among prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers, and even among the federal judges who routinely accept and bless them from the bench. It’s an open secret that those who are by these means “turned” into government witnesses adopt prosecutors’ favored scenarios as part of what Alan Dershowitz has aptly named agreements to “sing and compose.”

It is the composing aspect of the system, which should (but does not) bother all ethical lawyers and judges, that seems to elude the reporters and editorialists covering these events, who doubtless would be bothered by the tactic if the targets were more sympathetic. It is understandable why lawyers like Cohen and publishers like Pecker engage in such deals, even if they have to align their stories with interpretations of the law that turn them into confessed criminals (Cohen) or violators spared only by virtue of their cooperation (Pecker).

A US Attorney says the National Enquirer’s parent company won’t be prosecuted over efforts to protect Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense and civil liberties lawyer and writer, is the author, most recently, of “Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.”

Dec. 27

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, This Is What Happens When a Court Decides Whether You Get Justice or Get Destroyed, Ted Rall (below right), Dec. 27, 2018. More care goes into the making of a sandwich. That's what I was thinking last Thursday as I watched oral arguments in the California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles.

ted rallCase after case came before a three-judge panel. They concerned a variety of matters.

And there was me, former editorial cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, defending myself from an "anti-SLAPP" motion that, if successful, would end my lawsuit before it began and bankrupt me with a court order for methe victimto pay the Times hundreds of thousands of dollars for their legal fees.

It ought to be illegal for a police department to own a newspaper. But it's not. In 2015 the LAPD pension fund was a major tribune publishing logoshareholder of Tribune Publishing, owner of the Times. Annoyed at my cartoons about him, then-LAPD Chief Charlie Beck asked the Times then-publisher Austin Beutner, now LA schools superintendent, to fire me as a political favor. He did. Beck also wanted my reputation destroyed so I could never work again, in order to send a message to journalists: don't mess with the LAPD.

Beutner (shown below at right via his Twitter photo), Beck's political ally and a man with ambitions to become mayor or governor, complied by ordering that the paper publish two libelous articles about me portraying me as a liar.

austin beutner twitterThe second one was published after I proved I had told the truth. I sued for defamation and wrongful termination in 2016.

Since then Times attorney Kelli Sager, who also represents the National Enquirer in its smear of gay icon Richard Simmons, has waged a scorched-earth litigation campaign designed to intimidate, harass and delay my quest to clear my name.

Sager filed the anti-SLAPP, a law designed to be used by individuals to defend themselves against powerful corporate entities, against me. She convinced the court to force me to pay $75,000 just to be able to continue my case for something called a "Section 1030"a law whose intent is to discriminate against out-of-state plaintiffs (I live in New York.) Last week, during oral arguments in open court, she compared me to a "pedophile."

Last summer the lower court in L.A. ruled against me on the anti-SLAPP, saying that even though I showed that I was truthful and the Times was not, I must pay $330,000 (as of then) in legal fees to the Times. I appealed, which is why I was in court last Thursday.

We knew it was going to be tough. Shortly beforehand the court issued a "tentative opinion" that indicated the Court of Appeals planned to buy Sager's arguments lock, stock and barrel. Those arguments were lengthy and complicated but they could be summarized as: the First Amendment allows newspapers to publish anything they want, the truth doesn't much matter and if you slap a veneer of officialdom on libel  in this case, the Times claimed, it was merely reporting on what the LAPD said about meit becomes "privileged," i.e. inactionable.

Dec. 26

Trump & Media

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Stupid Questions,’ Rarer Briefings, No Holiday Party: Trump’s Year With the Press, Michael M. Grynbaum, Dec. 26, 2018. The rituals of reporting on the White House, and the place of journalism in American life, continued to shift in 2018 under President Trump.

Presidents usually hold a holiday reception for the Washington press corps (even Mr. Trump acquiesced to one in 2017); this year’s edition was canceled. Presidents usually avoid criticizing American journalists on foreign soil; visiting Britain, Mr. Trump called NBC News “dishonest” and refused to take a question from Jim Acosta of CNN. (“Music to the ears of dictators and authoritarian leaders,” said an official at the Committee to Protect Journalists.)

Mr. Trump is reinventing relations between the president and the press. Next year may reveal if the changes are a blip, or permanent.
On Twitter, President Trump has used the term “Fake News” 174 times in 2018. It can be easy to forget that, two years ago, the White House press briefing took place nearly every day. The president refrained from insulting reporters on live television. And correspondents did not lose their access for showing insufficient “respect.”That’s the thing about traditions — they tend to be sacrosanct until they aren’t.

ny times logoNew York Times, LinkedIn Co-Founder Apologizes for Deception in Alabama Senate Race, Scott Shane, Dec. 26, 2018. Reid Hoffman, the tech billionaire whose money was spent on Russian-style social media deception in a Senate race last year, apologized on Wednesday, saying in a statement that he had not approved the operation and did not support such tactics in American politics.

Mr. Hoffman said he had no idea that political operatives whose work he had financed had used fakery on Facebook and Twitter in the special Senate election a year ago in Alabama. But he had an obligation to track how his money was spent, he said, and he promised to exercise more care in the future.

The New York Times and The Washington Post reported last week that $100,000 from Mr. Hoffman was spent on a deceptive social media campaign to aid Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, who barely defeated the Republican, Roy Moore. The money went to a small group of social media experts that included Jonathon Morgan, the chief executive of New Knowledge, a cybersecurity firm.

They created a Facebook page intended to look like the work of conservative Alabamians, and used it to try to split Republicans and promote a conservative write-in candidate to take votes from Mr. Moore.

They also used thousands of Twitter accounts to make it appear as if automated Russian bot accounts were following and supporting Mr. Moore, according to an internal report on the project. The apparent Russian support for Mr. Moore drew broad news media coverage.

Democratic political strategists say the small Alabama operation — which accounts for a minuscule share of the $51 million spent in the contest — was carried out as a debate about tactics intensified within the party.

The Alabama operation is among the first examples to come to light of such underhanded methods on social media in American politics. But because such efforts are generally very easy to hide and very difficult to trace, it is possible that other instances have gone undetected.

In 2017, through a fund called Investing in Us, Mr. Hoffman gave money to a small company, American Engagement Technologies. The company’s leader, Mikey Dickerson, is a former Google employee who founded the United States Digital Service during the Obama administration to try to upgrade the federal government’s use of technology.

Dec. 20

German Fake News Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, After German Journalism Scandal, Critics Are ‘Popping the Corks,’ Katrin Bennhold, Dec. 20, 2018. He told the story of a Syrian boy who believed he had helped start the country’s civil war with a prank. He profiled an American woman who traveled around the United States to watch executions. He brought to life, in astoundingly granular detail, the anguish of a would-be suicide bomber in Iraq.

Claas Relotius, a star writer at Der Spiegel, Germany’s most respected newsmagazine, won many awards for his reporting on the most important stories of the day.

Except, it turns out, much of it was invented.

claas relotius portrat cropDer Spiegel fired Mr. Relotius (left) and published a lengthy apology to its readers this week. But the failure of a magazine long considered the leader in Germany for hard-hitting investigations could have cascading consequences for the news media, analysts and senior journalists said.

“Spiegelgate,” as it has been dubbed on social media, is one of Germany’s biggest postwar journalism scandals, potentially spanning seven years and many dozens of articles. Coming at a moment when public trust in journalism is already low, it could hardly have arrived at a worse time.

Untruths and half-truths circulate liberally on social media platforms, and populists on both sides of the Atlantic have been aggressively trying to discredit and intimidate the mainstream media.

President Trump routinely accuses the media of producing “fake news.” In Germany, members of the far-right Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, describe mainstream outlets as the “Lügenpresse,” or “lying press,” a term used by the Nazis in the 1920s before they rose to power.

Media / Suspected Trafficking

sacha baron cohen as gio monaldo in who is america

Sacha Baron Cohen in character as Gio Monaldo (Showtime)

Newsweek, Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Who Is America?’ deleted scene may have exposed elite, Andrew Whalen, Dec. 20, 2018. In Sacha Baron newsweek logoCohen’s latest series, Who Is America?, the character comedian and provocateur nudged former and current Republican members of Congress into endorsing armed kindergartners, revealed anti-Muslim racism and got Dick Cheney to autograph a waterboarding kit. But there was one scene the Showtime series captured on camera that was too dark and extreme, even for Baron Cohen.

In a new interview with Deadline, Baron Cohen describes how the election of Donald Trump inspired him to get back into costume (“I realized, I have to do something else to deal with this kind of anger and total disgust at what was going on”) and explained the agonizing detail that went into fictional characters like former Mossad agent Erran Morad and far-right conspiracy theorist Billy Wayne Ruddick.

Along the way, Baron Cohen was astounded by the increase in open American racism. “When we were shooting Borat, if somebody said something anti-Semitic or homophobic, we were surprised and we knew that it would make the cut,” Baron Cohen told Deadline. “Now, going out all these years later, you realize that the political dialogue that’s come from the top has made an extremely negative impact on other politicians and to the populace. People are saying things that they never would have dreamed of saying publicly, prior to Trump.”

The interview also gives some new insight into how Baron Cohen gained Cheney’s confidence. “I think he felt happy and almost excited to sit in a room next to my character, because I had done the one thing that he hadn’t actually done. He’d ordered people to be killed but he never actually killed someone with his bare hands,” Baron Cohen said. “It’s a bit like a virgin sitting next to a womanizer and being enamored by them.”

But more than Cheney or the man he convinced to “murder” three people at the Women’s March (the interview subject triggered a fictional bomb), Baron Cohen’s most shocking encounter came when, in character as Italian playboy Gio Monaldo, he convinced a concierge to help him find an underaged boy to molest.

“We wanted to investigate how does someone like Harvey Weinstein gets away with doing what…get away with criminality, essentially. And the network that surrounds him. We decided that Gio would interview a concierge in Las Vegas,” Baron Cohen describes.

During the interview, believing the admission would drive the concierge from the room, Baron Cohen, as Gio, reveals that he’s molested an eight-year-old boy.

“This guy starts advising Gio how to get rid of this issue. We even at one point talk about murdering the boy, and the concierge is just saying, ‘well, listen, I’m really sorry. In this country, we can’t just drown the boy. This is America we don’t do that,’” Baron Cohen describes.

After the concierge offers to put Gio in touch with a lawyer who can help “silence the boy,” Baron Cohen asked for his help securing a date for the night.

“He says, ‘what do you mean, a date?’ I go, you know, like a young man. He says, ‘well, what kind of age?’ I say, lower than Bar Mitzvah but older than eight. And he says, ‘yeah, I can put you in touch with somebody who can get you some boys like that.’”

Rather than airing the segment, Baron Cohen and his production team turned the footage over to the FBI, “because we thought, perhaps alexander acosta labor othere’s a pedophile ring in Las Vegas that’s operating for these very wealthy men. And this concierge had said that he’d worked for politicians and various billionaires.”

While Baron Cohen judged the interview too “dark” and “extreme” to be included in the show, it’s a revealing look at how the powerful can get away with decades-long sexual abuse, including pedophile sexual abuse, such as in the massive cover-up of the crimes of Jeffrey Epstein, orchestrated by President Trump’s Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, right.

Dec. 19

More Facebook Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Facebook Gave Tech Giants More Intrusive Data Access Than It Disclosed, Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia and Nicholas Confessore, Dec. 18, 2018. Internal records show that the social network had arrangements with Microsoft, Amazon and others, effectively exempting some partners from its usual privacy rules. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is shown in a file photo.

facebook logoFor years, Facebook gave some of the world’s largest technology companies more intrusive access to users’ personal data than it has disclosed, effectively exempting those business partners from its usual privacy rules, according to internal records and interviews.

The special arrangements are detailed in hundreds of pages of Facebook documents obtained by The New York Times. The records, generated in 2017 by the company’s internal system for tracking partnerships, provide the most complete picture yet mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wof the social network’s data-sharing practices. They also underscore how personal data has become the most prized commodity of the digital age, traded on a vast scale by some of the most powerful companies in Silicon Valley and beyond.

The exchange was intended to benefit everyone. Pushing for explosive growth, Facebook got more users, lifting its advertising revenue. Partner companies acquired features to make their products more attractive. Facebook users connected with friends across different devices and websites. But Facebook also assumed extraordinary power over the personal information of its 2.2 billion users — control it has wielded with little transparency or outside oversight.

Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent, the records show, and gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.

Dec. 18

9/11 Truth Analyzed On Radio

steve bhaerman wiki politiki

Wiki Politiki, The Latest REAL News on the 9/11 Attacks and Finding Truth in a Sea of Lies, Steve Bhaerman, 5 p.m., Dec. 18, 2018. An Interview with Andrew Kreig, Author, Attorney, Broadcaster and Founder of the Justice Integrity Project. Did you know that In a letter dated November 7, 2018, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York notified the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry that he would comply with the provisions of 18 U.S.C. § 3332 requiring him to present to a special grand jury the Lawyers’ Committee’s reports filed earlier this year of unprosecuted federal crimes at the World Trade Center?

You didn’t? That’s because mainstream media makes it its business to insure that anything that points to the nefarious doings of the real deep state is “none of its business.” The misinformation, disinformation and missing information that pollute corporate news have created the perfect field for “real” fake news to flourish.

Which is why this latest development might be a genuine breakthrough. It means a 23-member grand jury, vested with subpoena power and the authority to take sworn testimony, will hear the voluminous evidence of the World Trade Center’s demolition and will have the ability to conduct a thorough investigation that could result in indictments against suspected individuals — in other words, what the 9/11 Truth Movement has been working toward for 17 years.

Our guest this week on Wiki Politiki, journalist and author Andrew Kreig (pronounced “Craig”) will discuss his own involvement with the Lawyers Committee, as well as his work through his own organization, the Justice Integrity Project.

Visit Justice Integrity, and you will find a refreshingly broad, transpartisan and bluntly truthful site that isn’t afraid to take on both the deep state and the Trumpist disinfo machine. Their mission is “to report misconduct, primarily in the justice and political systems, that harms individuals, communities and democratic values. The project is non-partisan and supported by advertising revenue and paid subscriptions.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, More companies pull ads from Tucker Carlson’s show in growing backlash over immigrant comment, Deanna Paul and Alex Horton, Dec. 18, 2018. Fox News advertisers face pressure to quit. Again. Fox News host Tucker Carlson lost yet another advertiser after suggesting that immigrants make the U.S. “dirtier” on Dec. 13.

tucker carlson djtThe growing backlash against Tucker Carlson’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has prompted multiple companies to pull advertisements from the air during his prime-time Fox News show, including IHOP and Ancestry.com. During his Thursday evening opening monologue, the host (shown in a file photo with one of President Trump adjoining) suggested that immigrants make the United States “poorer and dirtier.”

“Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this,” Carlson said, as he name-checked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and ran footage of trash along the border purportedly from caravans of Central fox news logo SmallAmerican migrants. “We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement.”

On Tuesday, more companies took a position, even as Fox reported that no revenue has been lost. A count by The Hollywood Reporter reached 16 companies as of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, with TD Ameritrade, Just For Men and the United Explorer credit card joining the ranks of companies who had previously announced their intentions.

Dec. 17

Russian Cyber-Attack Reports robert mueller screenshot washington post

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III, the former FBI director appointed by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama (file photo)

Washington Post, Russians targeted Mueller on social media, says report prepared for Senate, Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 17, 2018. Having worked to help get President Trump into the White House, Russian operatives turned their efforts to neutralizing the biggest threat to his staying there, according to a new report, and unloaded on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III via fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and beyond.

Months after President Trump took office, Russia’s disinformation teams trained their sites on a new target: special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. Having worked to help get Trump into the White House, they now worked to neutralize the biggest threat to his staying there.

The Russian operatives unloaded on Mueller through fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter and beyond, falsely claiming that the former FBI director was corrupt and that the allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election were crackpot conspiracies. One post on Instagram — which emerged as an especially potent weapon in the Russian social media arsenal — claimed that Mueller had worked in the past with “radical Islamic groups.”

Such tactics exemplified how Russian teams ranged nimbly across social media platforms in a shrewd online influence operation aimed squarely at American voters. The effort started earlier than commonly understood and lasted longer while relying on the strengths of different sites to manipulate distinct slices of the electorate, according to a pair of comprehensive new reports prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee and released Monday.

One of the reports, authored by Oxford University’s Computational Propaganda Project and network analysis firm Graphika, became public when The Washington Post obtained it and published its highlights Sunday. The other report was by social media research firm New Knowledge, Columbia University and Canfield Research.

 ny times logoNew York Times, CBS Says Les Moonves Will Not Receive $120 Million Severance, Edmund Lee and Rachel Abrams, Dec. 17, 2018. The CBS Corporation, battered by cbs logoscandal and facing a leadership vacuum, said its former chief executive, Leslie Moonves, misled the company about multiple allegations of sexual misconduct and tried to hide evidence as he made a frenzied attempt to save his legacy and reap a lucrative severance. As a result, the company said Mr. Moonves would not receive his $120 million exit payout.

Dec. 16

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, FCC Blasted for Opening the Door to Text Message Censorship, Austen Erblat, Dec. 16, 2018. The FCC voted to allow cellular carriers to block text messages at their discretion. In a move that Democrats and electronic-rights groups worry could lead to censorship of political messages, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted this week to allow wireless carriers to block unwanted or spam text messages. The vote was split along party lines in the commission, with the three Republicans supporting and the lone Democrat opposing.

fcc logoRepublicans said the move reaffirms a tradition of allowing wireless carriers to block spam or scam text messages before they get to consumers’ phones, but Democrats and electronic- rights activists say this allows carriers to censor or block text messages, removing consumers’ right to decide for themselves.

ajit pai headshot custom“The FCC shouldn’t make it easier for spammers and scammers to bombard consumers with unwanted texts,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, left, said in a statement. “And we shouldn’t allow unwanted messages to plague wireless messaging services in the same way that unwanted robocalls flood voice services.”

But who decides what is “unwanted?”

The lone Democrat on the commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, said the decision means consumers “no longer have the final say on where your text messages go and what they said. That means your carrier now has the legal right to block your text messages and censor the very content of your messages.”

Electronic-rights groups claim the decision will continue to allow carriers to block fundraising campaign text messages and political messages, preempting consumers’ ability to decide whether they want to receive the messages.

“This decision does nothing to curb spam, and is not needed to curb spam,” Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, said in a statement.

“It is simply the latest example of Chairman Pai’s radical agenda that puts companies ahead of consumers.”

Dec. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, The Weekly Standard, influential conservative magazine, will shutter, Paul Farhi​, Dec. 14, 2018. After 23 years the Washington-based magazine will come to an end, with 35 staff members losing their jobs.

The Weekly Standard, the conservative political and cultural magazine, will shut down after its last issue appears on Monday, the chief executive of its parent company said Friday. The Washington-based magazine’s 35-member editorial staff will be laid off as a result, said Ryan McKibben, the head of Clarity Media Group, the Colorado company that owns the Standard and its sister publication, the Washington Examiner newspaper.

The Standard was founded in 1995 by three journalists, Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz, with funding from conservative media mogul Rupert Murdoch. Murdoch sold his interest to billionaire Philip Anschutz in 2009.

At its peak, the magazine’s circulation topped 100,000. But it has been in steady decline in recent years, losing about half it circulation and revenue since Clarity, owned by Anschutz, took it over, McKibben said.·​

Dec.13

washington post logoWashington Post, Probe of U.S.-funded broadcaster that denounced George Soros finds additional offensive content about Muslims, Aaron C. Davis, Dec. 13, 2018 (print edition). The federal agency that oversees Radio and Television Martí also is examining how the news network came to publish a story that included anti-Semitic language about Soros, a U.S. citizen and Democratic megadonor, as well as an anti-Muslim piece.

Dec. 11

journalists as time magazine person of year

Time magazine's Person of the Year honorees. This combination photo provided by Time Magazine shows one of four covers for the "Person of the Year," announced Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018. The cover includesJamal Khashoggi, top left, members of the Capital Gazette newspaper, of Annapolis, Md., top right. (Time Magazine photos

ap logoAssociated Press via Chicago Tribune, Time magazine's 2018 person of the year are 4 journalists and a newspaper, David Bauder, Dec. 11, 2018. Time magazine has chosen "The Guardians and the War on Truth" as its Person of the Year honorees (Time) Time magazine on Tuesday recognized journalists, including the slain Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, as its 2018 Person of the Year in what it said was an effort to emphasize the importance of reporters' work in an increasingly hostile world.

The designation wasn't intended as a specific message to the magazine's runner-up choice, President Donald Trump, who has denounced "fake news" and called some reporters enemies of the people, said Ben Goldberger, executive editor. Time cited four figures it called "the guardians." Besides Khashoggi, they are the staff of the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, where five people were shot to death in June; Philippine journalist Maria Ressa; and Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who have been jailed in Myanmar for a year.

It's the first time since the magazine began the end-of-year tradition in 1927 that Time has featured a journalist or recognized someone posthumously.

Time said that 2018 has been marked by manipulation and abuse of information, along with efforts by governments to foment mistrust of the facts.

Goldberger said the magazine hopes the choice reminds people outside of journalism about the importance of the work. Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said he sees this message already starting to get through — sadly, in part because of the attention paid to Khashoggi's killing. Khashoggi is one of at least 52 journalists murdered so far this year, the committee said.

"In some ways, I feel we're at a turning point," Simon said.

Khashoggi was killed two months ago when The Washington Post columnist, who had lived in the U.S., visited Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey for paperwork so he could get married. He had been critical of the Saudi regime.

The Washington Post applauded Time for its message of support for journalists.

"We hope this recognition will prompt our nation's leaders to stand up for America's values and hold accountable those who attempt to silence journalists who cover our communities or in Jamal's case, an oppressive authoritarian government," said Fred Ryan, the Post's publisher and CEO.

Dec. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, At NPR, an army of temps faces a workplace of anxiety and insecurity, Paul Farhi, Dec. 9, 2018. For decades, the public broadcaster has relied on a cadre of temporary journalists to produce its hourly newscasts and popular news programs. Without temporary workers — who are subject to termination without cause — NPR would probably be unable to be NPR.

npr logoTemps do almost every important job in NPR’s newsroom: they pitch ideas, assign stories, edit them, report and produce them. Temps not only book the guests heard in interviews, they often write the questions the hosts ask the guests.

And there are a lot of them. According to union representatives, between 20 and 22 percent of NPR’s 483 union-covered newsroom workforce — or one in five people — are temps. The number varies week to week, as temps come and go.

washington post logo

Bush Legacy

 whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Opinion: Fawning Coverage of Bush 41 Discredits the Media, Russ Baker (founder of WhoWhatWhy, author of Family of Secrets and frequent contributor to the Columbia Journalism Review), Dec. 9, 2018. Yes, we all know you’re not supposed to speak ill of the recently departed. But seriously, the recent Bush coverage by so-called russ baker cover Customprofessional journalists has been ridiculously obsequious.

George W. Bush delivered a eulogy for his father, the 41st president of the United States, George H. W. Bush. OK, not unusual. But someone else did too: Jon Meacham, the former editor of Newsweek, a major US news organization. That’s more unusual.

Meacham, who at one point ran an ostensibly hard-hitting magazine, went on to write a biography of the elder Bush so fawning and uncritical that he became like family for the Bushes. And then he delivered the tribute.

Yet hardly any media —none?— even noted the conflict of interest. And why should they? The vast majority of news organizations abdicated their roles as honest brokers for “Bush Week,” rushing to outdo each other in gushing with exaggerated and ill-founded praise for a former president once criticized for a broad range of transgressions — legal, moral, and otherwise.

Dec. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump called journalists ‘THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!’ A Capital Gazette photographer had a powerful rebuttal, Tim Elfrink, Dec. 7, 2018. Photographer Joshua McKerrow spent Thursday at the Maryland governor’s mansion, where he’s traveled annually for years to cover the holiday decorations with Capital Gazette reporter Wendi Winters. But this year, Winters was absent — one of the five victims killed in a mass shooting in the paper’s Annapolis newsroom in June. So McKerrow was already emotional when he saw President Trump’s latest all-caps broadside against journalists.

“FAKE NEWS - THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Trump tweeted Thursday night amid a flurry of outbursts about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.

McKerrow responded eloquently in a thread that is equal parts memorial to Winters and rebuttal of the president’s attacks on journalists at a time when global violence against reporters is spiking.

“Wendi was no ones enemy,” McKerrow wrote in a series retweeted more than 12,000 times as of early Friday.

cnn logoPalmer Report, Analysis, CNN evacuated over bomb threat right after Donald Trump posts incendiary tweet, Bill Palmer, Dec. 7, 2018. Remember back when a guy in a Donald Trump van was sending bombs in the mail to everyone that Donald Trump was attacking during his Twitter meltdowns? That guy is now in jail where he belongs, but it turns out Trump – predictably – hasn’t learned anything from the experience.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Donald Trump was having a rabid multi-tweet meltdown on Twitter tonight about various topics, he threw in this all-caps proclamation: “FAKE NEWS – THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Just about half an hour later, CNN announced that it was evacuating its headquarters in the Time Warner building in New York City because someone had sent in a bomb threat.

Could this have been a coincidence? Sure, anything is possible. The last time Donald Trump started going off on CNN in such vicious fashion, one of his supporters tried to murder everyone at CNN. Trump’s tweet tonight was another de facto attack on CNN, and everyone knows it, because he directs these phrases at CNN the most often. When the President of the United States declares that CNN is the “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE” and someone threatens to blow up CNN just minutes later, we have a real problem here.

Dec. 6

syria comic

SouthFront, DC Comics Got New Superhero From Douma. His Sister Was “Gassed” By “Russians’ Puppet” Assad, Staff report, Dec. 6, 2018. DC Comics, or the company that is behind all Batman and Superman comics and movies, as well as all other characters in their universe, took part in Washington’s Syrian propaganda narrative.

The twitter account “Stranf of the web of life,” published a crop of a page (shown above) that shows the origin story of Sandstorm, a Syrian superhero, who was part of the Global Guardians.

Dec. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, The Guardian offered a bombshell about Paul Manafort. It still hasn’t detonated, Paul Farhi​​, Dec. 4, 2018. The Guardian newspaper reported last week that Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign manager, had met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange several times, including during a critical period in March 2016.

The story suggested that the meeting in London could be a key link in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of the Trump campaign. If such a meeting occurred, it would establish the first direct contact between one of the president’s associates and WikiLeaks, which began releasing emails hacked from the Democratic National Committee in summer 2016. The emails, stolen by Russian agents and passed to WikiLeaks, proved damaging to Trump’s opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Manafort and WikiLeaks have blasted the Guardian’s reporting. Manafort — who was convicted in August on eight counts of bank- and tax-fraud charges arising from his decades-long business and political activities in Ukraine — has called the article “totally false and deliberately libelous.” He said in a statement last week that he’s never met Assange.

 

November

Nov. 30

The Unz Review, Major Progress Amid Media Purges, Ron Unz, Nov. 30, 2018. As many reader may already be aware, I originally launched this small webzine five years ago in the wake of my sudden and unexpected purge after eight years as publisher of The American Conservative: "Why The American Conservative [TAC] Purged Its Own Publisher," Ron Unz, May 29, 2018).

Since TAC had been the primary venue for my own writings, I was faced with a major challenge, but a sudden insight changed this picture.

I realized that many other writers and columnists had also been purged from mainstream publications, and that these prominent victims could constitute the core contributors of an entirely new publication. Hence was born The Unz Review, entitled “An Alternative Media Selection” and bearing the descriptive subtitle “A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media.”

Obviously alternative media websites had existed on the Internet from its earliest days, but nearly all of these had always been centered upon a particular ideological or political orientation. But The Unz Review was intended to include most of these frequently contradictory perspectives, hosting material both Left and Right, conspiratorial and racialist, fascistic and anarchistic, with very lightly moderated comment-threads.

Although many doubted that a webzine providing such varied and conflicting viewpoints would ever attract any significant audience, I do think that we have. Our steadily rising readership reached nearly three million monthly pageviews and 45,000 monthly comments in September and October. Moreover, this strong and steady growth has come despite our suffering some of the same “soft censorship,” especially upon Social Media, that has been inflicted upon most other alternative media websites, whether Left or Right, especially in the wake of Donald Trump’s unexpected election victory.

According to the Alexa.com estimates, many of these other popular webzines have lost or more of their traffic-rankings since the January 2017 crackdown, while ours has increased by almost 50% during that same period. And according to Alexa, our daily traffic surpassed that of TAC about one year ago, and has remained significantly ahead every month since that time. Here’s a comparison table of UNZ.com over the last couple of years with roughly forty mid-size mostly alternative websites.

Less than two years ago, we were towards the lower end of the traffic rankings of these dozens of webzines, and now we are near the very top. For example, during this period our relative traffic ranking has grown by 229% over that of Counterpunch and 34% over that of TAC. Even more remarkably, our traffic was improved by 133% over the venerable and very mainstream New Republic, placing us at roughly two-thirds of the readership of that century-old publication.

Our stated role as a refuge for the purged and the persecuted has become an increasingly important one as other publications have become conforming to the ruling dictates of the Corporate Media, perhaps for fear that they would be branded “Russian Fake News.”

Just as my own 2013 purge launched this webzine, ongoing purges in the media are spurring its expansion, even into new forms of content.

For 17 years, Bonnie Faulkner’s hour-long Guns & Butter was one of the most popular and controversial shows airing on the leftwing Pacifica radio network, headquartered in Berkeley, California. And then just a few months ago, the show was suddenly cancelled and its complete archives scrubbed from the KPFA website, allegedly for its “controversial” content (though I suspect that Pacifica‘s severe financial problemsmay have allowed outside donors the necessary leverage to finally remove a long-standing thorn in their side).

Regardless, KPFA’s loss is our gain, and I’m very pleased to announce that Guns & Butter has now joined The Unz Review as our first podcast, with the website software having been extended to handle that additional form of content. This includes the hundreds of Guns & Butter shows aired since 2001, with hopes that some additional past shows will soon be located and added.

Nov. 29

glenn greenwald cnnThe Intercept, CNN Submits to Right-Wing Outrage Mob, Fires Marc Lamont Hill Due to his “Offensive” Defense of Palestinians at the UN, Glenn Greenwald (shown at right in a screenshot from a previous CNN appearance), Nov. 29 2018. CNN on Thursday afternoon fired its commentator, Temple University Professor Marc Lamont Hill, after right-wing defenders of Israel objected to a speech Professor Hill gave at the U.N. on Wednesday in defense of Palestinian rights. CNN announced the firing just twenty-four hours after Hill delivered his speech.

Hill’s firing from CNN is a major victory for the growing so-called “online call-out culture” in which people who express controversial political views are not merely critiqued but demonized online and then formally and institutionally punished after a mob consolidates in outrage, often targeting their employes with demands that they be terminated. Hill’s firing, conversely, is a major defeat for the right to advocate for Palestinian rights, to freely critique the Israeli government, and for the ability of journalism and public discourse in the U.S. generally to accommodate dissent.

cnn logoConservatives claimed to be offended, traumatized and hurt by Hill’s political views on Israel and Palestine, which they somehow construed as being anti-semitic, and demanded that CNN fire him as punishment for the expression of those opinions. CNN honored the demands of those claiming to be victimized by exposure to Hill’s viewpoints by firing him as a political analyst.

On Wednesday, Hill appeared at an event of the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. During his speech, he accused the Israeli Government of practicing “settler colonialism” and apartheid, supported the international boycott movement against Israel (modeled on the one that ended South African apartheid in the 1980s), and called for a “free Palestine from the river to the sea.”

The right-wing outrage machine sprung into immediate action. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein accused Hill of a “long history of anti-Semitism,” adding: “The phrase ‘from the river to the sea’ has been a rallying cry for Hamas and other terrorist groups seeking the elimination of Israel, as a Palestinian state stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea would mean that Israel would be wiped off the map.”

Some on the pro-Israel right who agitated for Hill’s firing have previously mocked what they call “outrage culture,” in which people are fired for controversial comments. The Washington Examiner’s Executive Editor and fanatical Israel defender, Seth Mandel, has long denounced and ridiculed such “mobs,” angrily objecting, for instance, when Disney recently fired director James Gunn for provocative Twitter remarks about pedophilia. Mandel used similarly derisive language (“internet outrage machine”) to denounce the removal by Business Insider of a column by Daniella Greenbaum that many found to be hurtful and traumatizing because it was, they insisted, transphobic.

Yet the very same Seth Mandel who finds “outrage mobs” so offensive when they target people who have similar political views to his own helped lead his own “internet outrage mob” to have Hill fired. This Stalwart Champion of Free Expression posted a series of tweets directed at CNN claiming that Hill was an anti-Jewish bigot and an advocate of genocide, and then posted multiple childish tweets with gifs celebrating Hill’s firing.

Our discourse, our newsrooms, and our academic institutions are now drowning with people who demand that any speech be banned and suppressed that they regard as “hurtful,” “offensive,” “traumatizing,” or fostering a feeling of being “unsafe.” But what they really mean is that they want speech suppressed that they and those who agree with them find “hurtful” and “traumatizing.” Speech that makes their political enemies feel offended, uncomfortable or unsafe is heralded as brave and provocative.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: This Intentional Guardian Fake News Story Proves That The Media Can't Be Trusted, b, Nov. 29, 2018. In 2015, the British Guardian appointed Katherine Viner as editor in chief. Under her lead, the paper took a new direction. While it earlier made attempts to balance its shoddier side with some interesting reporting, it is now solidly main stream in the worst sense. It promotes neo-liberalism and a delves into cranky identity grievances stories. It also became a main outlet for manipulative propaganda peddled by the British secret services.

Its recent fake news story about Paul Manafort, Wikileaks and Julian Assange aptly demonstrates this.

On November 27 the Guardian prepared to publish a story which asserted that Paula Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, had met Julian Assange, the publisher of Wikileaks, in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on at least three occasions. Some two hours before the story went public it contacted Manafort and Assange's lawyers to get their comments.

The piece did not include the public denial Wikileaks issued to its 5.4 million followers one and a half hour before it was published.

The Guardian piece came at a critical moment. Currently the U.K. and Ecuador conspire to deliver Julian Assange to U.S. authorities. On Monday special counsel Robert Mueller said Manafort lied to investigators, violating his recent plea deal.

The new sensational claim was immediately picked up by prominent reporters and major mainstream outlets. It is likely that millions of people took note of it. But many people who had followed Russiagate fairytale and the Mueller investigation were immediately suspicious of the Guardian claim.

The story was weakly sourced and included some details that seemed unlikely to be true. Glenn Greenwald noted that the Ecuadorian embassy is under heavy CCTV surveillance. There are several guards, and visitors have to provide their identity to enter it. Every visit is logged. If Manaford had really visited Assange, it would have long been known.

Julian Assange instructed his lawyers to sue the Guardian for libel. Wikileaks opened a fund to support the lawsuit.

A day after the Guardian smear piece, the Washington Times reported that Manafort's passports, entered into evidence by the Muller prosecution, show that he did not visit London in any of the years the Guardian claimed he was there to visit Assange.

The story was completely false and the Guardian knew it was. It disregarded and left out the denials the subjects of the story had issued before it was published. Within hours of being published the Guardian piece was debunked as fake news. That did not hinder other outlets to add to its smear.

natasha bertrand

Nov. 27

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Fox & Friends’ Fed Interview Script to Trump’s EPA Chief, Emails Show, Maxwell Tani, Nov. 27, 2018.The president’s favorite cable-news show shared its interview scripts and its oh-so-hard-hitting questions in advance with an embattled Trump official.

scott pruitt epaFormer Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, left, was clearly taken aback last year when occasional Fox & Friends fill-in host Ed Henry grilled him about a number of ethical scandals facing his administration.

And Pruitt had a good reason to be surprised. In past interviews with President Trump’s favorite cable-news show, the then-EPA chief’s team chose the topics for interviews, and knew the questions in advance.

In one instance, according to emails revealed in a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Sierra Club and reviewed by The Daily Beast, Pruitt’s team even approved part of the show’s script.

fox news logo SmallFox & Friends has long been a friendly venue for Trump and his allies, but the emails demonstrate how the show has pushed standard cable-news practices to the extreme in order to make interviews a comfortable, non-confrontational experience for favored government officials. “Every American journalist knows that to provide scripts or articles to the government for review before publication or broadcast is a cardinal sin. It’s Journalism 101,” said David Hawkins, a CBS News and CNN veteran who teaches journalism at Fordham University. “This is worse than that. It would and should get you fired from any news organization with integrity.”

“I can’t imagine why a high-level newsmaker—like a White House official—would ever receive a formal pre-interview,” added Sid Bedingfield, a former CNN executive who now teaches journalism at the University of Minnesota.

Reuters, Former Pennsylvania attorney general may soon begin jail sentence, Jonathan Allen, Nov. 27, 2018. Pennsylvania’s former top prosecutor Kathleen Kane could soon begin serving her jail sentence for perjury after the state’s Supreme Court denied her appeal, with prosecutors asking a judge on Tuesday to revoke bail.

kathleen kane headA jury convicted Kane, shown in a file photo, in 2016 of leaking secret grand jury information to the press to embarrass a former state prosecutor, and then lying about it to investigators. She was sentenced to serve 10 to 23 months in county jail. Kane was the first woman and the first Democrat to be elected as Pennsylvania’s attorney general, a role that first became an elected office in 1980. She resigned two days after the conviction and was released on bail pending her appeal.

Kane was accused of giving information from a grand jury proceeding in 2013 to a Philadelphia Daily News reporter to retaliate against a former state prosecutor, Frank Fina. She believed Fina had told the Philadelphia Inquirer about her decision to drop prosecution of a case that Fina had developed against six black Democratic legislators in Philadelphia. Grand jury information is bound by secrecy. Kane’s lawyers argued that Kane had intended only to legally leak information, and was unaware her aides would also include grand jury material.

New York Post, Potential bidders for Tribune Publishing will team up, Keith J. Kelly, Nov. 27, 2018. Two of the potential bidders for Tribune Publishing are joining forces. Will Wyatt, the former Starboard hedge fund manager who formed the Donerail Group, is teaming up with AIM Media, headed by former Chicago Sun-Times and Dallas Morning News executive Jeremy Halbreich.

tribune publishing logoThey’re now jointly pursuing Tribune Publishing, formerly know as Tronc, which counts the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel and the struggling New York Daily News among its holdings.

H. Ross Perot, a billionaire and an independent presidential candidate in the ’90s, is among the backers of that bid, my colleague Josh Kosman learned. Perot teamed up earlier with Halbreich and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as they expanded AIM Media to include newspapers in Texas, Ohio and West Virginia. Neither Halbreich nor Wyatt could be reached for comment.

They are squaring off against the only other suitor still in the hunt, the McClatchy Co., owner of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star, Sacramento Bee and other newspapers.

Los Angeles Times owner Patrick Soon Shiong still controls about 25 percent of the stock of Tribune Publishing and originally talked with the Donerail Group about a joint bid. He then talked to McClatchy but now is said to be on the sidelines, aligned with neither. He is said to be facing new problems with a declining print and digital audience in LA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribune_Publishing

daily beast logojulian assange indicter imageDaily Beast, Unkempt, Heavily Bearded Julian Assange No Longer Has Embassy Cat For Company, Barbie Latza Nadeau, Nov. 27, 2018. WikiLeaks founder (shown in a photo by The Indicter human rights journal) is living in isolation with limited human contact. Even his cat found it too lonely.

It has been six long years since Australian secret-spiller Julian Assange jumped bail and sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape an international arrest warrant for alleged sex abuse and rape in Sweden. During that time, he has gained Ecuadorian citizenship and the Swedish charges have been dropped, but if he leaves the embassy, he risks arrest for breaching bail and the possibility of extradition to the United States, where federal charges appear to have been filed against him in secret.

The Ecuadorian embassy staff have apparently grown tired of hosting their global persona non grata, and are essentially trying to squeeze him out by forcing him into what amounts to isolation. They’ve cut off his internet—his lifeline, and won’t let most visitors in to see him. Those who try to leave messages, like Trump presidential adviser Roger Stone, who left his card earlier this year, are apparently turned away. Not even former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, his ardent supporter https://www.thedailybeast.com/pamela-anderson-my-open-letter-to-australian-pm-scott-morrison-on-julian-assangewho was a frequent guest and suspected paramour, can get past the guards.

But last week, journalists from the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, who have visited Assange annually for the last six years, were able to once again gain access — on the condition that they do not print an interview that might provoke even more pressure on Ecuador to kick him out.

What they found was a depleted man on the verge of going mad.

“As soon as we saw him, we realized he has lost a lot of weight,” the La Repubblica reporters write. “He is so skinny. Not even his winter sweater can hide his skinny shoulders. His nice-looking face, captured by photographers all around the world, is very tense. His long hair and beard make him look like a hermit, though not a nutter: As we exchange greetings, he seems very lucid and rational.”

They say Assange’s cramped quarters at the embassy do not allow him access to the garden, which means he does not go outside—something even prisoners serving life sentences in isolation are afforded. He only speaks to his lawyer and the security guards, he has limited phone service, and his mail is strictly monitored. Even the cat that once kept him company and “diffused tension” is gone, according to La Repubblica.

“Assange preferred to spare the cat an isolation which has become unbearable and allow it a healthier life.”

He is suspected of acting on behalf of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency to distribute emails and hacked documents belonging to the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 presidential election. In April 2017, CIA Director Mike Pompeo called Assange’s web-based agency WikiLeaks a “a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”

Nov. 24

Moon of Alabama, Investigative commentary: British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns, b, Nov. 24, 2018. In 2015 the government of Britain launched a secret United Kingdom flagoperation to insert anti-Russia propaganda into the western media stream. We have already seen many consequences of this and similar programs which are designed to smear anyone who does not follow the anti-Russian government lines. The 'Russian collusion' smear campaign against Donald Trump based on the Steele dossier was also a largely British operation but seems to be part of a different project.

The 'Integrity Initiative' builds 'cluster' or contact groups of trusted journalists, military personal, academics and lobbyists within foreign countries. These people get alerts via social media to take action when the British center perceives a need.

On June 7 it took the the Spanish cluster only a few hours to derail the appointment of Perto Banos as the Director of the National Security Department in Spain. The cluster determined that he had a too-positive view of Russia and launched a coordinated social media smear campaign (pdf) against him.

The Initiative and its operations were unveiled when someone liberated some of its documents, including its budget applications to the British Foreign Office, and posted them under the 'Anonymous' label at cyberguerrilla.org.

The Initiative is nominally run under the (government financed) non-government-organisation The Institute For Statecraft. Its internal handbook (pdf) describes its purpose:

The Integrity Initiative was set up in autumn 2015 by The Institute for Statecraft in cooperation with the Free University of Brussels (VUB) to bring to the attention of politicians, atlantic council logopolicy-makers, opinion leaders and other interested parties the threat posed by Russia to democratic institutions in the United Kingdom, across Europe and North America.

It lists Bellingcat and the Atlantic Council as "partner organisations" and promises that:

"Cluster members will be sent to educational sessions abroad to improve the technical competence of the cluster to deal with disinformation and strengthen bonds in the cluster community. [...] (Events with DFR Digital Sherlocks, Bellingcat, EuVsDisinfo, Buzzfeed, Irex, Detector Media, Stopfake, LT MOD Stratcom – add more names and propose cluster participants as you desire)."

The Initiatives Orwellian slogan is 'Defending Democracy Against Disinformation'. It covers European countries, the UK, the U.S. and Canada and seems to want to expand to the Middle East.

NATOOn its About page it claims: "We are not a government body but we do work with government departments and agencies who share our aims." The now published budget plans show that more than 95% of the Initiative's funding is coming directly from the British government, NATO and the U.S. State Department. All the 'contact persons' for creating 'clusters' in foreign countries are British embassy officers. It amounts to a foreign influence campaign by the British government that hides behind a 'civil society' NGO.

The organisation is led by one Chris N. Donnelly (shown in a Euromaidanpress photo) who receives £8,100 per month for creating the smear campaign chris donnelly via euromaidanpressnetwork.

The Initiative has a black-and-white view that is based on a "we are the good ones" illusion. When "we" 'educate the public' it is legitimate work. When others do similar, it its disinformation. That is of course not the reality. The Initiative's existence itself, created to secretly manipulate the public, is proof that such a view is wrong.

If its work were as legit as it wants to be seen, why would the Foreign Office run it from behind the curtain as an NGO? The Initiative is not the only such operation.

A look at the 'clusters' set up in U.S. and UK shows some prominent names. Members of the Atlantic Council, which has a contract to censor Facebook posts, appear on several cluster lists. The UK core cluster also includes some prominent names like tax fraudster William Browder, the daft Atlantic Council shill Ben Nimmo and the neo-conservative Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum.

state dept map logo SmallOne person of interest is Andrew Wood who handed the Steele 'dirty dossier' to Senator John McCain to smear Donald Trump over alleged relations with Russia. A separate subcluster of so-called journalists names Deborah Haynes, David Aaronovitch of the London Times, Neil Buckley from the FT and Jonathan Marcus of the BBC. The programme is proposed to run until at least March 2019, to ensure that the clusters established in each country have sufficient time to take root, find funding, and demonstrate their effectiveness. FCO funding for Phase 2 will enable the activities to be expanded in scale, reach and scope.

The budget plan includes a section that describes 'Risks' to the initiative. These include hacking of the Initiatives IT as well as: "Adverse publicity generated by Russia or by supporters of Russia in target countries, or by political and interest groups affected by the work of the programme, aimed at discrediting the programme or its participants, or to create political embarrassment."

We hope that this piece contributes to such embarrassment.

Nov. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, A reporter unwittingly left a voice mail for a GOP candidate. She was fired for what she said, Alex Horton, Nov. 20, 2018. Brenda Battel, a staff writer for the Huron Daily Tribune in rural Michigan, was seeking a chance to speak with Republican Senate candidate John James on Wednesday after the election.

Battel left a voice-mail message with the James campaign, and alerted it to a potential follow-up email to further discuss his campaign against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D). Then Battel hung up the phone — or so she believed, she later said.

“Man, if he beats her … Jesus! F---ing John James. That would suck!” Battel is heard saying in a voice mail released by the James campaign. “I don’t think it’s going to happen though.”

The incident prompted the Daily Tribune to fire Battel later Monday after less than three years on staff. Battel responded Wednesday in a statement.

Nov. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Leading conservative lawyers criticized Mr. Trump’s attacks on the justice system and the news media, Adam Liptak, Nov. 14, 2018. The annual convention of the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, has long been a glittering and bustling affair. In the Trump era, though, the group has become more powerful than ever, supplying intellectual energy and judicial candidates to an assertive administration eager to reshape the legal landscape.

But as the group prepares to gather on Thursday for the start of this year’s convention, more than a dozen prominent conservative lawyers have joined together to sound a note of caution. They are urging their fellow conservatives to speak up about what they say are the Trump administration’s betrayals of bedrock legal norms.

The group, called Checks and Balances, was organized by George T. Conway III, a conservative lawyer and the husband of President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway. In recent opinion articles, Mr. Conway has criticized Mr. Trump’s statements on birthright citizenship and argued that his appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general violated the Constitution.

The new group also includes Tom Ridge, a former governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security in the Bush administration; Peter D. Keisler, a former acting attorney general in the Bush administration; two prominent conservative law professors, Jonathan H. Adler and Orin S. Kerr; and Lori S. Meyer, a lawyer who is married to Eugene B. Meyer, the president of the Federalist Society.

ny times logoNew York Times, Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leaders Fought Through Crisis, Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia Kang, Matthew Rosenberg and Jack Nicas, Nov. 14, 2018. In just over a decade, Facebook has connected more than 2.2 billion people, a global nation unto itself that reshaped political campaigns, the advertising business and daily life around the world. Along the way, Facebook accumulated one of the largest-ever repositories of personal data, a treasure trove of photos, messages and likes facebook logothat propelled the company into the Fortune 500.

But as evidence accumulated that Facebook’s power could also be exploited to disrupt elections, broadcast viral propaganda and inspire deadly campaigns of hate around the globe, Mr. Zuckerberg and Ms. Sandberg stumbled. Bent on growth, the pair ignored warning signs and then sought to conceal them from public view. At critical moments over the last three years, they were distracted by personal projects, and passed off security and policy decisions to subordinates, according to current and former executives.

Nov. 13

Saudi Dissident's Murder

ny times logomohammed bin salman al saudNew York Times, Tell Your Boss’: Recording Is Seen to Link Saudi Crown Prince to Khashoggi Killing, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and David D. Kirkpatrick, Nov. 13, 2018 (print edition). Shortly after the journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed last month at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, a member of the kill team made a call to a superior. The recording is seen by intelligence officials as some of the strongest evidence connecting the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, right, to Mr. Khashoggi’s death.

More On Press Freedom

washington post logojim acosta gage skidmore croppedWashington Post, CNN sues White House to regain access for reporter Jim Acosta, Paul Farhi​, Nov. 13, 2018. The unusual lawsuit comes after the president banished Acosta from the White House grounds after a testy exchange last week.

CNN sued the Trump Administration on behalf of reporter Jim Acosta (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore photo) on Tuesday, asking a court to restore Acosta’s White House press pass after President Trump suspended it last week.

The unusual lawsuit, an escalation of Trump’s longrunning war of words with CNN, seeks a judge’s intervention after Trump banished Acosta from the White House grounds for an indefinite period after a brief altercation between Acosta and a White House press aide.

cnn logoAfter a testy exchange between the president and the reporter, the unidentified press aide went up to Acosta to take a microphone out of his hands. As a result, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced a few hours later that the White House had revoked Acosta’s “hard pass,” which enables reporters to enter and leave the grounds each day.

CNN filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington. “We have asked this court for an immediate restraining order requiring the pass be returned to Jim, and will seek permanent relief as part of this process,” the network said in a statement released Tuesday morning.

Mediaite, Bob Woodward Criticizes CNN Lawsuit Against White House: We’re Taking Trump’s ‘Bait,’ Joe DePaolo, Nov. 13, 2018. One of the preeminent figures in American journalism is coming out against the rare lawsuit filed by a news organization against the White House.

bob woodwardIn comments reported by Dylan Byers of NBC News, Bob Woodward — speaking at the Global Financial Leadership Conference in Naples, FL — came out against CNN’s White House lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday morning. The network is suing to have access restored for its chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta.

But Woodward, shown in a file photo, believes CNN is just taking the “bait” being dangled by President Donald Trump. “This is a negative,” Woodward said. He added, “Trump is sitting around saying, ‘This is great.’ …When we engage in [Trump’s strategy] we’re taking his bait.”

The longtime Washington Post journalist added, “The remedy [isn’t a lawsuit], it’s more serious reporting about what he’s doing.”

Nov. 8

Investigator's Report Announced

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: General release of Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map, Wayne Madsen (syndicated columnist, author of 16 books and former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 8, 2018 (Whereas most WMR columns are subscription only this article is available to the general public.)

Since WMR began developing and maintaining the "Trump-Mafia collusion Road Map" in 2017, it has been WMR's intention to release it to the general public the moment Donald Trump made a hostile move on the Department of Justice and specifically, Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Sessions — who was recused from overseeing the collusion investigation of Trump's and his family's criminal foreign entanglements — Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are all being targeted by Trump and his criminal associates in an attempt to hide the Trump Organization's close connections to and involvement with major international criminal networks.

The Trump-Mafia Road Map illustrates the myriad nature of Trump's criminal enterprises. Due to its size and compression, the .PDF file [download here] must be expanded by at least 400 times, using a .PDF viewer, for proper reading and scrolling.

On November 7, Trump fired Sessions, removed Rosenstein from overseeing Mueller's investigation, and named, as acting Attorney General, the Attorney General's chief of staff Matt Whitaker, a GOP operative from Iowa and a close friend and political associate of Sam Clovis, a Trump campaign official and a witness called before a grand jury empaneled by Mueller. This "Wednesday afternoon massacre" was the first step toward Trump's shutting down the important work of Mueller and his team of investigators.

There is an inter-active version of the Road Map. It contains side notes and other relevant information. It can be accessed by clicking here. If you choose this viewing method, be prepared for very long load times. This is a massive document. Your device may freeze during accessing. We are, therefore, recommending only downloading the PDF document.

White House Press Dispute

 

sarah huckabee sandersThe Hill, Reporters accuse Sarah Sanders of sharing edited video of The Hill, Avery Anapol, Nov. 8, 2018. Trump to Acosta: CNN should be 'ashamed' of employing you. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo) is facing accusations that she shared an edited video of the exchange between CNN correspondent Jim Acosta and an administration aide at President Trump's post-midterm news conference on Wednesday.

Sanders shared the video on her official Twitter account to justify the White House's decision to revoke Acosta’s press credentials after his tense exchange with Trump:

We stand by our decision to revoke this individual’s hard pass. We will not tolerate the inappropriate behavior clearly documented in this video.— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) 10:33 PM - Nov 7, 2018

Sanders cited Acosta’s interaction with the press aide as reason for suspending his “hard pass.”

During the press conference, the aide attempted to take a microphone away from Acosta as he questioned Trump, but he refused to let go. Video shows his arm brushing hers in the process.

But dozens of social media users, including several reporters and political analysts, said that the video Sanders shared zooms in on the moment of contact, and appears to have been sped up to make the moment appear more aggressive.

cnn logoMatt Dornic, CNN’s vice president of communications and digital partnerships, said it was “absolutely shameful” for Sanders to share the video. “History will not be kind to you,” Dornic tweeted. "Absolutely shameful, @PressSec. You released a doctored video - actual fake news. History will not be kind to you."

Sample comments:

      • This is a video that Infowars made. They sped it up so that it seems more violent than it is.— Nicole Goodkind (@NicoleGoodkind) 11:42 PM - Nov 7, 2018
      • Took @PressSec Sarah Sanders' video of briefing2) Tinted red and made transparent over CSPAN video3) Red motion is when they doctored video speed4) Sped up to make Jim Acosta's motion look like a chop5) I've edited video for 15+ years6) The White House doctored it— Rafael Shimunov (@rafaelshimunov) 3:34 AM - Nov 8, 2018

Terror Threat Against CNN

benjamin craig matthews baxter countyArkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansan charged in threats to CNN, Baxter County man accused of 40 calls. Bill Bowden, Nov. 8, 2018. A Mountain Home man was arrested Tuesday, accused of making threatening telephone calls to CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Benjamin Craig Matthews, 39, made more than 40 threatening calls to CNN from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in Baxter County Circuit Court.

cnn logoIn several calls, Matthews threatened a CNN journalist described in court documents as DL. In one call, according to the affidavit, Matthews asked the CNN switchboard operator, "Could I be directed to DL's dead body hanging from a tree?" In another call, Matthews spoke of "bloody pictures of DL cut up in small pieces, like the movie Saw," according to the affidavit from Sgt. Brad Hurst with the Baxter County sheriff's office.

CNN has been a consistent target of President Donald Trump.

Matthews' telephone records indicate that he had also made calls to MSNBC; U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.; U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.; attorney Michael Avenatti; Washington Speakers Bureau; and Planned Parenthood, "suggesting a pattern of harassment towards certain political affiliations," according to the affidavit.

Matthews has been charged with five counts of felony terroristic threatening, four counts of misdemeanor terroristic threatening and nine counts of harassing communications, which is a misdemeanor.

Verge, China’s state-run press agency has created an ‘AI anchor’ to read the news, James Vincent, Nov. 8, 2018. But the agency’s new host isn’t any more sophisticated than a CGI puppet. Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, has unveiled new “AI anchors” — digital composites created from footage of human hosts that read the news using synthesized voices.

It’s not clear exactly what technology has been used to create the anchors, but they’re in line with the most recent machine learning research. It seems that Xinhua has used footage of human anchors as a base layer, and then animated parts of the mouth and face to turn the speaker into a virtual puppet. By combining this with a synthesized voice, Xinhua can program the digital anchors to read the news, far quicker than using traditional CGI. (We’ve reached out to AI experts in the field to see what their analysis is.)

"Xinhua says ‘AI anchors’ can work 24 hours a day on multiple platforms"

According to reports from Xinhua and the South China Morning Post, two anchors (one for English broadcasts and one for Chinese) were created in collaboration with local search engine company Sogou. Xinhua says the anchors have “endless prospects” and can be used to cheaply generate news reports for the agency’s TV, web, and mobile output.

Each anchor can “work 24 hours a day on its official website and various social media platforms, reducing news production costs and improving efficiency,” says Xinhua.

This will strike many as a disturbing prospect, especially as the technology is being deployed in China. There, the press is constantly censored, and it is nearly impossible to get clear reports of even widespread events like the country’s suppression of the Muslim Uighur community. Creating fake anchors to read propaganda sounds chilling.

But what the actual effect on society may be if such anchors become widespread is hard to judge. If Xinhua wants someone to read the news without questioning it they don’t need AI to make that happen. Meanwhile, synthetic characters are slowly finding their way into mainstream culture, with figures like virtual pop star Hatsune Miku and CGI Instagram models familiarizing the public with this sort of creation.

But while these examples fall clearly into the world of entertainment, having AI anchors read the news suggests the technology could become more than a novelty.

Nov. 7

amazon logo smallny times logoNew York Times, After Protest, Booksellers Are Victorious Against Amazon Subsidiary, David Streitfeld, Nov. 7, 2018. A worldwide strike by antiquarian booksellers against an Amazon subsidiary proved successful after two days, with the retailer apologizing and saying it would cancel the actions that prompted the protest.

It was a rare concerted uprising against any part of Amazon by any of its millions of suppliers, leading to an even rarer capitulation. Even the book dealers said they were surprised at the sudden reversal by AbeBooks, the company’s secondhand and rare bookselling network.

The uprising, which involved nearly 600 booksellers in 27 countries removing about four million books, was set off by the retailer’s decision to cut off stores in five countries: the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, South Korea and Russia. AbeBooks never explained its actions beyond saying it was related to payment processing.

“AbeBooks was saying entire countries were expendable to its plans,” said Scott Brown, a Eureka, Calif., bookseller who was an organizer of the strike. “Booksellers everywhere felt they might be next.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump calls CNN reporter 'rude, terrible person,' 'enemy of the people,' Lindsey Bever, Nov. 7, 2018. President Trump lashed out at journalists during an afternoon press briefing, calling some of them “hostile,” instructing them to sit down and telling a CNN reporter, “You are a rude, terrible person.”

cnn logoThe heated exchange occurred Wednesday when CNN reporter Jim Acosta continued to question Trump after the president dismissed him during a news conference about the 2018 midterm elections. Acosta had brought up the Central American migrant caravan, asking the president why he characterized it as "an invasion.”

“I think you should let me run the country, you run CNN and if you did it well, your ratings would be much better,” Trump told Acosta.

Then when Acosta tried to question Trump about the Russia investigation, the president shouted: “That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough. That’s enough," telling him to “put down the mic.”

Trump then told the reporter: “CNN should be ashamed of itself having you working for them. You are a rude, terrible person. You shouldn’t be working for CNN. ... You’re a very rude person. The way you treat Sarah Huckabee is horrible. And the way you treat other people are horrible. You shouldn’t treat people that way.”

As The Washington Post’s Elise Viebeck reported, Trump snapped at yet another reporter later in the press conference after she noted that the president had once called himself a “nationalist" and asked him whether his embrace of “nationalism” is supporting white nationalists.

"I don’t know why you’d say that — that’s such a racist question,” Trump told PBS Newshour’s White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor, who is black.

cnn logoCNN, White House pulls CNN correspondent Jim Acosta's pass after contentious news conference, Brian Stelter, Nov. 7, 2018. In a stunning break with protocol, the White House said Wednesday night that it's suspending the press pass of CNN's Jim Acosta "until further notice."

The move came just hours after Acosta, CNN's chief White House correspondent, drew the ire of President Donald Trump and his allies by asking multiple questions at a post-midterms news conference. Trump insulted Acosta and called him a "terrible" person.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced in a statement that Acosta would be stripped of what's known as a "hard pass," which gives him access to the White House grounds.

CNN said in a statement that Acosta has the network's full support.

The revocation of his pass "was done in retaliation for his challenging questions at today's press conference," the statement said. "In an explanation, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders lied. She provided fraudulent accusations and cited an incident that never happened. This unprecedented decision is a threat to our democracy and the country deserves better. Jim Acosta has our full support."

Nov. 4

Booksellers Boycott Against Amazon.com

ny times logoNew York Times, Sellers Unite to Pull Books Off Amazon-Owned Site in Protest, David Streitfeld, Nov. 4, 2018. More than 250 antiquarian book dealers in 24 countries say they are pulling over a million books off an Amazon-owned site for a week, an impromptu protest after the site abruptly moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike against the site, AbeBooks, which is due to begin Monday, is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers for much of its merchandise and revenue. The protest arrives as increasing attention is being paid to the extensive power that Amazon wields as a retailer — a power that is greatest in books.

amazon logo smallThe stores are calling their action Banned Booksellers Week. The protest got its start after AbeBooks sent emails last month to booksellers in countries including South Korea, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia to say that it would no longer “support” them. “We apologize for this inconvenience,” the company said.

As the news spread, even unaffected dealers were surprised and angered. AbeBooks, together with Amazon itself, is by far the biggest international marketplace for secondhand and rare books.

AbeBooks lists millions of books and manages the payments. The booksellers mail the books directly from their shops. The platform was founded in 1995 and was bought by Amazon in 2008. It continues to operate independently, and many of its customers never even realize who the owner is. AbeBooks is based in Victoria, British Columbia, where it started.

The Amazon subsidiary told the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers that it was scaling back because “it is no longer viable for us to operate in these countries due to increasing costs and complexities.”

Peter Harrington, a leading London antiquarian dealer, said AbeBooks’ “high-handed manner” was at the root of the protest, with the platform taking the affected booksellers and “destroying their livelihoods in just a couple of impersonal sentences.”

Dealers in 24 countries say they are removing over a million books from AbeBooks for a week after the site moved to ban sellers from several nations.

The flash strike is a rare concerted action by vendors against any part of Amazon, which depends on third-party sellers.

Nov. 1

Propaganda 'News'

Dealbreaker.com, Opinion: We Went To Jacob Wohl’s Most Important Press Conference Ever And It Was Everything We’d Hoped It Would Be, Thornton McEnery, Nov. 1, 2018. When we left our quiet, comfortable home in the pre-dawn darkness to drive alone to Washington DC this morning, we did so with the solitary hope the eventual reward would warrant our sacrifice.

Oh, how it did.

Awaiting us hours down I-95 was the promise of a press conference being hosted by our old pal Jacob Wohl and some MAGA DC lawyer that he’d pulled into his latest venture: becoming a global private eye hellbent on destroying prosecutor Robert Mueller. According to Jacob’s pre-sale, he was going to present a victim of sexual assault who would claim that her abuser was none other than Mueller himself. Our boy Jacob was going to show her off to the assembled press at a Holiday Inn in Arlington, VA and end the long investigation into his adopted daddy, President Donald Trump.

We had spent the previous day watching Jacob’s whole plan unravel in the most JacobWohlian way possible. The investigation firm that he claimed had contacted him turned out to be yet another of his adorable shell companies with a web registration bearing his email and a phone number that rang back to his mom’s cell. He had also apparently forgotten to update the photo template on the website he fabricated, leaving up bio headshots of famous actors and models, stock photo faces, and of course, his own head. The whole thing was very cute and dumb and totally what we’ve come to expect from Jacob over the years.

What we didn’t expect though was just how utterly fucking shambolic the whole presser would be once we finally arrived at the Rosslyn Holiday Inn....

 

October

Oct. 30

GOP Voter Suppression: Newsworthy?

ny times logoNew York Times, In North Dakota, Native Americans Try to Turn an ID Law to Their Advantage, Maggie Astor, Oct. 30, 2018. Nobody in the squat yellow house serving as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s get-out-the-vote headquarters knew its address. It was on Red Tail Hawk Avenue; they knew that much. But the number was anyone’s guess. Phyllis Young, a longtime tribal activist leading the voter-outreach effort, said it had fallen off the side of the house at some point. Her own home has a number only because she added one with permanent marker.

This is normal on Native American reservations. Buildings lack numbers; streets lack signs. Even when a house has an address in official records, residents don’t necessarily know what it is.

Yet under a law the Supreme Court allowed to take effect this month, North Dakotans cannot vote without a residential address. Post office boxes, which many Native Americans rely on, aren’t enough anymore.

The Republican-controlled state legislature began debating this requirement just a few months after Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, won a Senate seat in 2012 with strong support from Native Americans. That race was decided by fewer than 3,000 votes. Ms. Heitkamp is now seeking re-election in one of the nation’s most aggressively contested elections, and she is trailing her Republican opponent, Representative Kevin Cramer, in the polls. And once again, she is looking to Native Americans for a strong vote: there are at least 30,000 of them in North Dakota.

Supporters of the address requirement say it is needed to prevent voter fraud and has nothing to do with Ms. Heitkamp. Native Americans, noting that state officials have not confirmed any pattern of fraud, see it as an attempt at voter suppression.

But in these final days before the election, their tribal governments are working feverishly to provide the necessary identification, and some Native Americans believe their anger could actually fuel higher turnout.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Voter suppression is a crucial story in America, but broadcast news mostly shrugs, Margaret Sullivan, Oct. 30, 2018 (print edition). With the midterm elections a week away, and tensions building daily, a bipartisan rallying cry grows louder: People must get out and vote.

But how possible is that, exactly, for some Americans? In North Dakota, thousands of Native American voters may be prevented from voting next week in a key Senate race because of an ugly technicality that amounts to targeted voter suppression.

In Georgia, hundreds of thousands of citizens were “purged” from the voting rolls in what election-law experts have called the worst disenfranchisement of voters in modern American history.

Yes, voter suppression is alive and well in the United States. But Americans who rely on the broadcast news networks for their information, and they still number in the millions every night, probably don’t know about it.

cbs news logoObsessed with all things Trump — caravan invasion, anyone? — and occupied with breaking news about hurricanes and mass shootings, the networks have almost ignored voter suppression.

With the consequential midterm elections only a week away, the near silence is deafening.

nbc news logo“What is happening to voting rights is fundamental to how we function as a country,” says Robert Greenwald, an independent filmmaker who is trying to fill the gap with a video that explores the problem. “There has been nowhere near enough media attention,” he told me.

Andrew Tyndall, who closely tracks network news for his well-respected Tyndall Report newsletter and website, has a plausible theory about why.

“The network news divisions have not worked out how to cover politics without following the agenda set by President Trump,” he told me by email. “That’s not to say their coverage is pro-Trump, since they will use his agenda to present him in both a positive and negative light. But it does mean that they find it difficult to present politics as being abc news logoabout anything except him.”

Since Labor Day, Tyndall told me last week, the three broadcast networks (CBS, NBC and ABC) together had done only a handful of stories — fewer than 10, all told — on threats to voting rights.

Oct. 28

chuck todd meet the press logo

Meet the Press host Chuck Todd is shown in a promotional graphic for the long-running NBC News show

Media Matters, Commentary: Chuck Todd and Meet The Press sanitize Erick Erickson's garbage, John Whitehouse, Oct. 28, 2018. Meet the Press runs with garbage, pro-Trump media push conspiracy theories about the MAGA bomber, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories spread.

Meet the Press hosted radio host Erick Erickson to talk about civility and the need for conservatives to believe in facts. This is like asking a wolf about how to keep sheep alive.Erickson has repeatedly pushed conspiracy theories. Erickson also goes to absurd lengths to protect conservatives in the face of reported facts. He endorsed reported pedophile Roy Moore for a Senate seat until the very end, on the basis that Moore was "the only one standing" against "the left." He dismissed concerns about one of President Donald Trump’s cabinet members flying in private jets because he "needs to be protected." When Erickson is on Fox or on the radio, he's more than happy to defend Trump's behavior toward the mainstream press.

And then there's just the ugly. He wrote a book warning of a "leftist-homosexual mafia" and argued in 2017 that gay men in bars who wear certain clothing are asking to be assaulted. Erickson has also endorsed the horrific practice of anti-LGBTQ "conversion therapy," a practice more akin to torture than therapy. He also compared members of the LGBTQ community to terrorists.

Erickson is an unrepentant sexist. He said of the Women’s March, "I feel sorry for all the ham and cheese that won't get made into sandwiches while all those women are marching." He's argued that "the male typically is the dominant role" and that women should stay home while men bring " home the bacon."

He called Trump's Muslim ban "brilliant politics." Erickson shot up a copy of The New York Times when the paper published an editorial on gun violence, and he blamed Obama for mass shootings. When Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was briefly jailed for contempt of court for not issuing same-sex marriage licenses, Erickson warned of a civil war. In 2009, Erickson asked at what point people in Washington state might "beat [their state representative] to a bloody pulp for being an idiot."

Needless to say, none of this came up on Meet The Press, with host Chuck Todd only offering a brief nod to “some people” who say Erickson pushes conspiracy theories. Instead, Erickson was portrayed as a reasonable conservative interested in the facts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Trump’s Attacks on the News Media Are Working, Jim Rutenberg, Oct. 28, 2018. He was at it again. At 3:14 a.m. on Friday, President Trump was awake and tweeting.

“Funny how lowly rated CNN, and others, can criticize me at will, even blaming me for the current spate of Bombs and ridiculously comparing this to September 11th and the Oklahoma City bombing,” he wrote, “yet when I criticize them they go wild and scream, ‘it’s just not Presidential!’”

He tapped that one out as federal authorities were investigating the 12 pipe bombs mailed to the billionaire George Soros, Democratic politicians, Robert De Niro and CNN. Hours later, Mr. Trump’s tweet was national news.

“President Blames Media For Attempted Bombs,” read the onscreen chyron on “Good Morning America” as an ABC News correspondent, Jonathan Karl, briefed the anchor George Stephanopoulos on the president’s latest digital sortie from the still-dark White House lawn.

So began Day 645 of a presidency that has made denigrating the news media one of its identifying features.

More Media News

cenk uygur andrea edney noel st john

Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks, talks with Club President Andrea Edney (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John).

National Press Club, Host and founder of The Young Turks blasts mainstream media, touts role of digital media in progressive movement, Kristina S. Groenning, Oct. 28, 2018. Cenk Uygur, host and founder of progressive digital news outlet The Young Turks, delivered a blistering attack on the mainstream media Friday at the National Press Club.

Uygur railed against what he described as a mainstream media beholden by corporate money to the status quo, in contrast to digital media outlets.

“I don’t think it has a liberal bias, I don’t think it has a conservative bias, I think it has an establishment bias,” Uygur said of the mainstream media. Referring to CNN, he said, “Why are they in favor of the status quo? They don’t want to rock the boat. It’s their boat. If you’re a multibillion dollar corporation you do not want change. You just don’t want it.”

Specifically calling out Wolf Blitzer, Uygur said, “His problem is he does have a perspective and he might not even know it. His perspective is the status quo is awesome - so Hillary Clinton is acceptable, Jeb Bush is acceptable, Bernie Sanders is not acceptable, Donald Trump is not acceptable - it oozes out of every broadcast.”

Uygur claims that the mainstream media’s establishment bias has led to inadequate and unfair coverage of progressives. “Progressives – they’re either to be dismissed and ignored or derided – Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, almost all of them,” he said. Yet establishment candidates “already have coverage. They already have power. You don’t need to shower them with more. But you do,” Uygur added.

If the media wants to be more fair and accurate in its coverage, Uygur believes it should place greater emphasis on candidates with large numbers of small non-corporate donors and volunteers. “If you saw how many volunteers Ocasio-Cortez had, if you saw how many small donors she had, you would’ve had a pretty good idea that she was gonna win. That’s how we knew. She got almost no coverage in the mainstream press. We had done thirty-four videos about her - before the election.”

Uygur also faults traditional media for sacrificing truth at the expense of maintaining neutrality, stating “[n]eutrality is not objectivity. It is the wrong standard. If you call everything 50/50, you will equate the lies and truth, and that gives lies an enormous advantage.”

He specifically recalled coverage by The New York Times of Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes that failed to cite any of his calls for violence, instead meagerly asserting that McInnes had a “nerd aesthetic.”

“To soften right wing fascists like that is despicable,” Uyger proclaimed. “You [the media] are not anywhere near liberal. You’re not anywhere near objective. All you want is neutrality at the expense of the truth,” he added.

By contrast, Uygur contends that digital media platforms like The Young Turks are “in the business of truth.” One example is its lack of hesitancy to report right wing conspiracy theories as lunacy, he said, adding “[w]e’re not worried about, hey are my ratings gonna go down if I insult or offend Republicans.”

Uygur noted that The Young Turks is free of corporate influence, because it is funded by its audience - “they’re our boss, instead of giant sponsors or donors.”

Midst unleashing his assault on the mainstream media, Uygur made a point of interjecting that “[w]e’re not the right wing. We don’t call you the enemy of the people. We want you to do a better job. We want you to get to the truth.”

Wrapping up the event, Andrea Edney, Club President and journalist of nearly twenty-five years, came to the defense of her colleagues in the mainstream media, stating “[a]ll of the reporters and editors I know work so hard to get it right. Objectivity is incredibly important. It is incredibly important to have a fair and unbiased standard of reporting. I just want to recognize here, that the reporters and editors working for newspapers and TV work really hard to get it right.”

fdr npc 1933 president raymond brandt right former pres theodore tiller

FDR receives his Club membership card from President Raymond Brandt prior to the black-tie dinner in 1933. Former Club President Theodore Tiller of The Washington Times is on the left.

National Press Club, NPC in History: FDR gets his Club membership card, Gilbert Klein, Oct. 28, 2018. For its 25th anniversary bash on May 29, 1933 – the Silver Jubilee – the Club invited President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to be the guest of honor at the black-tie event less than three months after he was inaugurated.

As was customary, the Club wanted to present the new president with his membership card. Every president since Woodrow Wilson had been a Club member – and they all paid their dues, like any other member (a tradition that lasted through President Kennedy).

As you can see from the accompanying photo, Roosevelt accepted the special silver-engraved membership card while standing up, something painful for him to do as he tried to hide his disability. The braces on his legs are clearly visible at his shoes, and he seems to have a firm grip on the arm of Club President Raymond Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Roosevelt was still standing, supporting himself on the back of a heavy chair, when a short British Pathe news clip recorded his quips.

“One of the speakers mentioned he was only a partway member because he wasn’t sure whether the check he drew was good or not,” Roosevelt said in his famously patrician voice. “I am not that far advanced in membership as that because the only complaint I have against the new secretary of the treasury is that I have had no salary to date and have drawn no checks.”

According to The Washington Post story the next morning, as part of the membership ceremony, FDR was “assigned” by Frank B. Lloyd, who was what we now call the membership secretary, to “cover” the White House.

The president was described as “the most promising cub reporter that ever came out of Hyde Park.” He was charged with the duty of being extremely courteous to his fellow newspapermen, “to report not only on the detailed doings of the President, but also to provide his fellow correspondents with carbon copies of every presidential pronouncement, and to be fully and frankly responsive to their inquiries.”

“The pass word of the tribe, Mr. President,” Mr. Lord told him, “is ‘whatduyeno?’ and the response is ‘nuthin, whatduyeno?’”

This is another in a series provided by Club historian Gil Klein. Dig down anywhere in the Club’s 110-year history, and you will find some kind of significant event in the history of the world, the nation, Washington, journalism and the Club itself. Many of these events were caught in illustrations that tell the stories. The video of Roosevelt speaking that evening can be found here.

Oct. 26

Overseas Press Club, Experts Discuss Current Risks and Rewards of Video Journalism, Chad Bouchard, Oct. 26, 2018. Over the last two decades, newspapers and other traditional print media have been under increasing pressure to provide video and multimedia content. But in today’s era of ubiquitous cell phone cameras, viral distribution, and manipulated content, video storytelling comes with many pitfalls. On Oct. 18, a panel of experts gathered for a panel to present a “Video 101” seminar on perils and best practices of using video footage.

“Video is an essential part of storytelling, and of any news organization’s content mix,” said OPC Secretary Paula Dwyer of Bloomberg News, who moderated the panel. But she added that print journalists who are expected to shoot video now have to learn new skills because “the technology differs, the way you tell the story is different, ethics involved are different, the framing of the story is different.”

Oct. 24

jumpei yasuda japanese reporter

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), RSF relieved by Japanese reporter’s release after three years as hostage in Syria, Staff report, Oct. 24, 2018. RSF is relieved to learn that Japanese freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda, shown above, has been released after being held hostage by an armed group in Syria for more than three years.

Yasuda began covering the Middle East in 2003 and was kidnapped for the first time in Iraq in 2004 when he was held hostage for three days. An armed Islamist group kidnapped him in Syria in June 2015, when he was investigating fellow Japanese journalist Kenji Goto’s murder by Islamic State.

CraigMurray.com via Southfront: Commentary: Khashoggi, Erdogan and the Truth, Craig Murray (shown at left, author, broadcaster and former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan craig murray new2002-2004), Oct. 24, 2018. The Turkish account of the murder of Khashoggi given by President Erdogan is true, in every detail. Audio and video evidence exists and has been widely shared with world intelligence agencies, including the US, UK, Russia and Germany, and others which have a relationship with Turkey or are seen as influential.

That is why, despite their desperate desire to do so, no Western country has been able to maintain support for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, right. I have not seen the mohammed bin salman al saudvideo from inside the consulate, but have been shown stills which may be from a video. The most important thing to say is that they are not from a fixed position camera and appear at first sight consistent with the idea they are taken by a device brought in by the victim.

There are many things to learn from the gruesome murder other than the justified outrage at the event itself. It opens a window on the truly horrible world of the extremely powerful and wealthy.

The first thing to say is that the current Saudi explanation, that this was an intended interrogation and abduction gone wrong, though untrue, does have one thing going for it. It is their regular practice.

bbc news logo2The Saudis have for years been abducting dissidents abroad and returning them to the Kingdom to be secretly killed. The BBC World Service often contains little pockets of decent journalism not reflected in its main news outlets, and here from August 2017 is a little noticed piece on the abduction and “disappearance” of three other senior Saudis between 2015-17. Interestingly, while the piece was updated this month, it was not to include the obvious link to the Khashoggi case.

The key point is that European authorities turned a completely blind eye to the abductions in that BBC report, even when performed on European soil and involving physical force. The Saudi regime was really doing very little different in the Khashoggi case.

jamal kahshoggiIn fact, inside Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi (right) was a less senior and important figure than those other three abducted then killed, about whom nobody kicked up any fuss, even though the truth was readily available. Mohammed Bin Salman appears to have made two important miscalculations: he misread Erdogan and he underestimated the difference which Khashoggi’s position as a Washington Post journalist made to political pressure on Western governments.

Oct. 23

Saudi Murder Most Foul

saudi consular service cropped

washington post logojamal khashoggi western suitWashington Post, Erdogan: Saudi team planned ‘brutal’ killing of Khashoggi, Kareem Fahim, Oct. 23, 2018. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, right, was a “planned” and “brutal” murder and called on Saudi Arabia to extradite 18 suspects to Turkey to face justice for the crime.

Erdogan’s highly anticipated comments, during a speech to his ruling party in Ankara, the Turkish capital, contradicted Saudi accounts that Khashoggi was killed when an argument inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul escalated into a fistfight.

recep tayyip erdogan mohommed bin salban july 2017 presidency press service pool via apThe Turkish leader, shown at right with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year in a government photo, did not directly accuse the Saudi leadership of involvement in the killing but strongly indicated that the Saudi investigation, which has resulted in the arrests of 18 people so far, had not reached high enough into the kingdom’s ruling circles.

Erdogan did not address the most explosive allegations that have surfaced during the investigation — notably that Khashoggi was dismembered after he was killed. And he did not turkey flagpresent any of the evidence Turkey had gathered so far, including audio recordings investigators are said to possess that captured the moments when Khashoggi was killed.

But the president provided the most detailed timeline yet of the days and hours leading up the murder on Oct. 2. He said a team of Saudi agents who were dispatched to Istanbul had carefully prepared for Khashoggi’s death.

washington post logoWashington Post, Journalist’s slaying forces Saudi allies to take a more critical look at crown prince’s record, Kevin Sullivan, Oct. 23, 2018. The Khashoggi case has brought new attention to Mohammed bin Salman’s record of crushing dissent.

Other Threatened Journalists

National Press Club, Award-Winning Journalist To Judge Who Denied Him Asylum: "I Must Implore You For My Life," Lindsay Underwood, Oct. 23, 2018. After eight hours of waiting outside an immigration courtroom, journalist Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto on Monday had an opportunity to make a personal appeal to the judge who last year ordered him deported to the country where he has been threatened with death. The hearing was delayed when Gutiérrez's attorney discovered that the judge had not read or seen crucial evidence on the journalist's behalf.

"I must implore you for my life," Gutiérrez told Judge Robert Hough, adding that he was also appealing for his son, Oscar, who fled to the United States as a teenager with his father after the veteran Mexican journalist's exposés of military corruption made him the target of death threats.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Brazil: Newspaper attacked after reporting illegal funding that benefited presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, Staff report, Oct. 23, 2018.  One of jair bolsonaro brazilBrazil’s leading dailies, the Folha de São Paulo, has been under heavy attack since reporting on October 18 that far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro benefited from illegal funding. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) regards the attacks as a serious press freedom violation and deplores the toxic climate for Brazil’s journalists since the election campaign began.

The October 18 article in the Folha de São Paulo claimed that businessmen have been illegally funding a WhatsApp disinformation campaign designed to get Brazilians to vote for Bolsonaro, right, in the presidential election, the second round of which is to be held on October 28.

According to the report, WhatsApp has been used to bombard voters with millions of automated messages, most of them smearing the Workers’ Party and its candidate, Fernando Haddad. Such private sector funding of an election campaign is illegal in Brazil and the country’s electoral tribunal, the TSE, has opened an investigation.

WhatsApp, which had already used spam detection software to delete thousands of accounts suspected of spreading false information during the campaign, announced that it had launched an internal investigation and was ready to take “all necessary legal measures” to prevent the automated spread of misinformation.Dubbed “Bolsonaro’s No. 2 account,” the affair has had a big impact in Brazil, angering Bolsonaro and his supporters. “The Folha de São Paulois Brazil’s biggest fake news source,” the candidate said in a video sent to his supporters on October 22. Addressing the newspaper, he added: “You won’t get any more government advertising if I’m elected (...) Venal press, my condolences.”

Patrícia Campos Mello, the veteran Folha de São Paulo reporter who wrote the story, has been attacked and threatened on social networks by Bolsonaro’s supporters and forced to block public access to her Twitter account. She also received anonymous calls threatening her and her family.

Press Freedom / Libel Law

ny times logomichelle goldberg thumbNew York Times, Opinion: Revenge of the Right-Wing Snowflakes, Michelle Goldberg, Oct. 22, 2018. Angry men go to court to silence their critics.One minor sordid subplot of the Trump era has been the ugly custody battle between Jason Miller, senior communications adviser on Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, and A.J. Delgado, a former Trump campaign surrogate.

Miller and Delgado started an affair during the presidential race; Delgado became pregnant while Miller’s wife was pregnant as well. Now Miller and Delgado are involved in a vicious custody battle over their son, which Delgado chronicles on her Twitter feed.

For all its squalor, this is a story of public interest. It’s reportedly the reason Miller didn’t become White House communications director, instead signing on to defend Trump as a CNN contributor.

So it was news when Delgado claimed, in a court filing, that Miller had made a previous girlfriend pregnant and then put abortion-inducing medication in her smoothie. In September the website Splinter, part of Gizmodo Media, reported on the filing, noting that Miller denied the allegations.

In response, Miller made an aggressive legal move that’s becoming more common on the right, suing the report’s author, Katherine Krueger, and Gizmodo Media for $100 million. When Krueger’s boyfriend, a co-host of the cult left-wing podcast Chapo Trap House, called Miller a “rat-faced baby killer” in a tweet, Miller added him to the suit.

There is an air of dark absurdity about this saga. Miller is unlikely to prevail, because there are broad protections for journalists to report on claims made in legal filings, whether or not they are true. But it’s still worth taking seriously, because it’s part of a mounting conservative assault on free speech.

Oct. 22

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Khashoggi Drama - A Deal Is No Longer Possible -- Erdogan Demands That MbS Goes, Staff report, Oct. 22, 2018. The Khashoggi saga continues to influence Middle East policies. On Friday, the Saudi regime admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its consulate in Istanbul. Since then they have changed their story twice.

Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi clown prince and effective ruler, does not seem to have any good media advisors. By not sticking to one story, all further Saudi accounts will immediately come into doubt.

jamal khashoggi mustafa al madani

The Saudis originally claimed that Khashoggi had left the consulate. We now know why they felt safe to make that claim. CNN has a new Turkish story of a decoy which was send out to make it look as if Khashoggi left. They provide pictures to prove it. While Khashoggi was half bald, the decoy in Khashoggi's cloth[ing] seems to have full hair.

Khashoggi was a personal friend of Erdogan. He was a columnist at the Washington Post, the CIA's most favored news outlet. Mohammad bin Salman is an enemy of both. Neither the neocon opinion editor of the Post, Fred Hiatt, nor Erdogan have any love for the Saudi clown prince. They would of course raise a ruckus when given such a chance.

They will pile on and air the Saudi's dirty linen until MbS is gone. Years of lobbying and tens of millions of dollars to push pro-Saudi propaganda have now gone to waste.

The affair is damaging to Trump. He built his Middle East policy on his relations with Saudi Arabia. But he can not avoid the issue and has to call out MbS over the killing.

Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed is Mohammad bin Salman's mentor and partner in crime in Yemen. MbZ is smarter than MbS -- and will be more difficult to dislodge.

The Riyadh administration must dethrone Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at once. It has no other choice. Otherwise, it is going to pay very heavy prices. If they fail to quash the trap set up targeting Saudi Arabia through bin Zayed, they will be victims of Trump’s “You won’t last two weeks” statement, and the process is going to start to work in that direction.    ...    This duo must be taken out of the entire region and neutralized. Otherwise they are going to throw the region in fire.

Oct. 20

The Atlantic, Letter to the Editor Opinion: Gary Hart Was Not Set Up, James Savage, Oct. 20, 2018. A journalist who reported on Gary Hart’s downfall in 1987 pushes back on the notion that the candidate’s Monkey Business incident may have been staged.

I was the Miami Herald’s investigations editor who helped report and edit the 1987 stories that uncovered Gary Hart’s relationship with Donna Rice and prompted him to quit his presidential campaign.

I believe from my personal knowledge of the facts that The Atlantic’s article contains serious factual errors.

The article’s conspiracy theory suggests that William Broadhurst deliberately maneuvered Hart into potentially damaging press exposure by arranging for him to spend time on the yacht Monkey Business and have his picture taken with Donna Rice sitting on his lap.

The truth is the late Mr. Broadhurst did everything short of violence trying to prevent the Herald’s investigations team from publishing the first story about the scandal.

I believe the Atlantic story also implies that Donna Rice was somehow involved in a conspiracy to embarrass Hart. I am convinced from my firsthand knowledge of how the Herald learned about Hart’s plan to meet with Ms. Rice that she did not have any involvement in any plan to embarrass Hart.

Atlantic author James Fallows replies: The details of the Miami Herald’s handling of the Gary Hart–Donna Rice case were explicitly not the topic of my article.

donna rice hughes The literature on the topic is too vast and contradictory to set out, even in a magazine article many times longer than the one I wrote.....what the Herald did was not the topic I was discussing.

The news my article conveyed is what might have happened before anyone at any newspaper got involved.

Oct. 16

gary hart donna rice monkey business

Model Donna Rice and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart, a Colorado senator taknig a cruise on a yahct named Monkey Business, in a photo taken during the campaign by Rice's friend Lynn Armandt and provided to news media

The Atlantic, Was Gary Hart Set Up? James Fallows, Oct. 16, 2018. November 2018 issue, What are we to make of the deathbed confession of the political operative Lee Atwater, newly revealed, that he staged the events that brought down the Democratic candidate in 1987?

lee atwater headshotIn the spring of 1990, after he had helped the first George Bush reach the presidency, the political consultant Lee Atwater learned that he was dying. Atwater, right, who had just turned 39 and was the head of the Republican National Committee, had suffered a seizure while at a political fund-raising breakfast and had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. In a year he was dead.

Atwater put some of that year to use making amends. Throughout his meteoric political rise he had been known for both his effectiveness and his brutality. And in a private act of repentance that has remained private for nearly three decades, he told Raymond Strother that he was sorry for how he had torpedoed Gary Hart’s chances of becoming president.

“There were a lot of people on the dock, people getting off their boats and wandering up and down on the wharf,” [Gary] Hart told me. “While I was waiting for Broadhurst and whatever he was working out with the customs people, I sat on this little piling on the pier.” Hart said that Donna Rice’s friend and companion on the boat, Lynn Armandt, was standing a short distance away. “Miss Armandt made a gesture to Miss Rice, and she immediately came over and sat on my lap. Miss Armandt took the picture. The whole thing took less than five seconds, with lots of other people around. It was clearly staged, but it was used after the fact to prove that some intimacy existed.”

What are we to make of Strother’s late-in-life revelation of Atwater’s deathbed confession?

Oct. 18

terry albury gofundme photo

Former FBI special agent Terry Albury, sentenced to four years in prison on espionage charges after what he describes as whistleblowing (personal photo via GoFundMe campaign)

The Intercept, As FBI Whistleblower Terry Albury Faces Sentencing, His Lawyers Say He Was Motivated by Racism and Abuses at the Bureau, Alice Speri, Oct. 18, 2018. On Thursday, Judge Wilhelmina Wright sentenced Terry Albury to 48 months in prison, telling him that his disclosure “put our country at risk.” Albury pleaded guilty to unlawful transmission and unlawful retention of national defense information, which under the Espionage Act could earn him 10 years in prison each.

Albury was specifically charged with leaking two documents to the media — one that highlighted FBI methods for recruiting informants and another that was about threats from an unspecified Middle Eastern country — and retaining another. In a search warrant affidavit released at the time of his plea, the government said that Albury had also accessed other documents published by the news outlet.

In January 2017, Albury was assigned by the FBI to be an airport liaison, working to recruit informants at the border. According to the government sentencing memo, he continued to take FBI documents home from the airport — though he never shared them with anyone. When law enforcement raided his home, in August 2017, they found the documents on a storage device in a shirt pocket in his closet, wrapped in a note with a reporter’s phone number of it.

Prosecutors wrote that Albury acted with “clear disrespect for the law and his profession” and that his actions “put us all at risk.”

While they maintained that “motive is irrelevant to the offenses,” they called into question whether Albury was driven by “social conscience,” and said that he was no whistleblower because, in their view, the matters he exposed don’t constitute abuse. “Were the defendant truly troubled or disturbed or at odds with FBI policies or practices, he could have walked away,” they wrote. “Ultimately, he chose instead to engage in criminal conduct for 18 months rather than engage any process to remedy the ills he perceived against others or felt against himself.

That argument was supported by an amicus brief filed by 17 First Amendment scholars. The group wrote that between 2 to 3 million U.S. officials have the authority to classify information, and that last year, they made more than 49.5 million classification decisions — a 10 percent increase over 2016. Reviews of classification practices have regularly concluded that the procedure is widely abused, that classifying information is too easy, and that there is no consequence for misclassification. A former director of the Information Security Oversight Office cited in the scholars’ brief reported that information “published in third-grade textbooks” is classified. Further revealing just how arbitrary the process can be, fired FBI Director James Comey’s memos of his meetings with President Donald Trump, which were leaked to the media earlier this year, opened with his assessment of the level of classification they should hold. “I am not sure of the proper classification here so have chosen SECRET,” Comey wrote. “Please let me know of [sic] it should be higher or lower than that.”

“Overclassification is rampant,” the scholars concluded. “A great deal of nonsensitive information is classified simply because disclosure would embarrass powerful officials or expose government misconduct.”

Perhaps the most famous example of the arbitrary and unequal nature of leak prosecutions is that of former CIA Director David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor — and served no jail time — for sharing his highly classified journals with his biographer and lover, and then lying to the FBI about it.

“All administrations leak profusely from the top, meaning that they leak politically convenient information,” Heidi Kitrosser, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and one of the authors of the amicus brief, told The Intercept. “When that is coupled with a historically unparalleled use of the Espionage Act to go after lower-level employees for leaking classified information, it becomes a powerful weapon for the government to pick and choose what they want the people to know.”

In their amicus brief, the group of legal scholars recalled a 2011 exchange between an intelligence official and the then-executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, about the subpoena of New York Times reporter James Risen, who is now at The Intercept.

That subpoena to force a reporter to disclose his source — which Risen refused to do — would be “one of the last you’ll see,” the official said at the time. “We don’t need to ask who you’re talking to. We know.”

In fact, the scholars argue, First Amendment protections extended to reporters have become all but useless now that officials can easily track their sources without them. “Given technological advances, the administration simply no longer needs to rely on subpoenaing reporters the way they used to,” Kitrosser told The Intercept. “They have surveillance cameras, call logs, third-party subpoenas, and many other means less available to them in the past to track down sources without having to go to the reporter. This poses a new and very scary threat to the ability of the press to cover information of great public importance.”

The prosecution of leakers has already significantly chilled sources’ willingness to risk their jobs and freedom, several reporters have said, with devastating impact on public discourse. In punishing Albury, the legal scholars pleaded, the court should consider “the benefits to the public and to democratic deliberation” that resulted from his disclosure, “as well as the damage that a severe sentence would inflict on the constitutionally-protected interest in the flow of information to the citizenry on matters of public importance.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Ex-Minneapolis F.B.I. Agent Is Sentenced to 4 Years in Leak Case, Charlie Savage and Mitch Smith, Oct. 18, 2018. By the time Terry J. Albury arrived in Minneapolis in 2012, about 11 years after he went to work for the F.B.I., he had grown increasingly convinced that agents were abusing their powers and discriminating against racial and religious minorities as they hunted for potential terrorists.

The son of an Ethiopian political refugee, Mr. Albury was the only African-American field agent assigned to a counterterrorism squad that scrutinized Minnesota’s Somali-American community. There, according to his lawyer, he became disillusioned about “widespread racist and xenophobic sentiments” in the bureau and “discriminatory practices and policies he observed and implemented.”

In 2016, Mr. Albury began photographing secret documents that described F.B.I. powers to recruit potential informants and identify potential extremists. On Thursday, he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty last year to unauthorized disclosures of national security secrets for sending several of the documents to The Intercept, which published the files with a series titled “The F.B.I.’s Secret Rules.”

Before Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright announced the sentence, Mr. Albury spoke haltingly in her courtroom in downtown St. Paul, pausing to wipe his face and breathe deeply. He apologized to his former F.B.I. colleagues and said he had been motivated to act by perceived injustices. In hindsight, he said, he wished he had voiced his concerns through official channels and not the news media.

“I truly wanted to make a difference and never intended to put anyone in danger,” Mr. Albury said.

The sentencing — which also included three years of supervised release after Mr. Albury gets out of prison — brought to a close the second leak case charged under the Espionage Act during the Trump administration after Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s vow last year to crack down on unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

jeff sessions ag oOn Thursday, Mr. Sessions, left, was triumphant, saying in a statement that the department was “conducting perhaps the most aggressive campaign against leaks” in its history.

“Today’s sentence should be a warning to every would-be leaker in the federal government that if they disclose classified information, they will pay a high price,” he said.

The first leak case came to a close in August when Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor, was sentenced to more than five years in prison after she pleaded guilty to leaking a classified document about Russian efforts to hack state elections systems. Like Mr. Albury, Ms. Winter had sent her document to The Intercept.

Betsy Reed, the editor in chief of The Intercept, which published a lengthy profile of Mr. Albury on Thursday, said in an email that it was getting easier for the government to hunt down journalists’ sources using surveillance and internal monitoring systems. She warned of a growing chill for investigative journalism.

Oct. 17

Brookings Institution, Book Launch: "Enemy of the people:" A book discussion with Marvin Kalb and Dan Rather, Oct. 17, 2018. The American press has long been an institution seeking to uphold the integrity of our democracy. Past presidential administrations may have criticized the media at times, but the Trump administration has elevated such attacks to unprecedented levels, declaring the press as being an “enemy of the American people.”

As President Trump fuels the “fake news” fire and a general distrust of journalists, the power of the press is weakening in some segments of society. In his new book, “Enemy of the People,” award-winning journalist and warns that this trend poses serious threats to the health of our democracy.

On Wednesday, Oct. 17, Kalb debuted his book at Brookings and was joined by veteran journalist Dan Rather for a discussion about its main themes. The two journalists explored how Trump has delegitimized the American press and why we should fear for the future of American democracy.

Editor's Note: Audience member Karl Golovin, a retired special agent of the U.S. Customs Service and 9/11 responder in 2001, asked Kalb and Rather during Q&A to address the lack of news coverage regarding how World Trade Center Building 7 could possibly have collapsed at near free-fall speeds more than seven hours after two other Trade Center buildings had collapsed and without being hit by an airplane. They ducked his question, which he he posed during a segment beginning at the 30:57 minute-mark on the video here.

Oct.11

ny times logoNew York Times, Newsweek’s Former Owner Faces Fraud Charges, William K. Rashbaum and Patricia Cohen, Oct. 11, 2018 (print edition). Newsweek magazine, the onetime media powerhouse, was at the center of a multimillion-dollar fraud and money-laundering conspiracy, according to an indictment by Manhattan prosecutors that was unsealed Wednesday.

newsweek logoTwo publishing companies, IBT Media, which owned the magazine, and Christian Media, a faith-based online publisher in Washington, were charged with trying to defraud lenders by pretending to borrow money for sophisticated computing services.

Instead, most of the money was funneled back to accounts controlled by the two media companies and their principals — Etienne Uzac, a co-founder of IBT, and William Anderson, Christian Media’s former chief executive and publisher — and unnamed co-conspirators, the indictment said. It said some of the money had been used to cover the magazine’s operating expenses.

The men were charged with misrepresenting Newsweek’s financial health and creating a fictitious accounting firm, Karen Smith L.L.P., along with a series of fake financial statements to dupe lenders into putting up millions of dollars in 2015 and 2016.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office brought the charges after an extended investigation into the companies’ financial dealings that included a raid of IBT’s Manhattan offices in January. Top editors and reporters at Newsweek were fired after they, too, started delving into the company’s accounts and the owners’ connections to Olivet University, an evangelical Christian college in New York. Several other magazine employees soon resigned.

cyrus vance jrMr. Uzac defended himself on Wednesday on IBT’s website, accusing the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., left, of retaliating against his news organization for reporting last fall on a campaign contribution to Mr. Vance from the lawyer for Harvey Weinstein, the powerful film producer

The Manhattan district attorney’s office brought the charges after an extended investigation into the companies’ financial dealings that included a raid of IBT’s Manhattan offices in January. Top editors and reporters at Newsweek were fired after they, too, started delving into the company’s accounts and the owners’ connections to Olivet University, an evangelical Christian college in New York. Several other magazine employees soon resigned.

Mr. Uzac defended himself on Wednesday on IBT’s website, accusing the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., of retaliating against his news organization for reporting last fall on a campaign contribution to Mr. Vance from the lawyer for Harvey Weinstein, the powerful film producer.

More background: New York Observer, Moonies, Messiahs and Media: Who Really Owns Newsweek? Peter Sterne, Aug. 4, 2013. Is it controlled by a controversial Christian preacher?

Oct. 9

Vanity Fair, “She Gets to Move to L.A.”: The Backstory of Hope Hicks’s Bolt to Fox on the West Coast, Gabriel Sherman, Oct. 9, 2018. Trump and Jared Kushner lobbied Rupert Murdoch to hire Hicks as chief communications officer—a big job, but still in the family.

hope hicks strategic communications directorIn the American mind, California has been a place of fresh starts and re-invention. So it makes sense that Hope Hicks, left, is heading west to serve as chief communications officer for “New Fox,” the parent company of Fox News, based in Los Angeles. Hicks, a 29-year-old former P.R. flack, had experienced a difficult time in New York after exiting Donald Trump’s White House at the end of March.

rnc logoShe was hounded by paparazzi, who photographed her jogging in Central Park with Rob Porter, her West Wing office romance, who left the White House after allegations of spousal abuse surfaced (Porter denied it). And she’s also had to spend time and six figures on legal fees, (apparently funded by the Republican National Committee), dealing with Robert Mueller’s investigation. The opportunity to work for the Murdochs on another coast would be a chance for a reset.

It’s unclear what this means for her relationship with Porter, who’s so far been unable to find a job, a former West Wing colleague told me. “It’s a big job. Plus she gets to move to L.A.,” a friend said. Although, of course, since she’s working for Fox, which often works for Trump, it’s in another sense not a fresh start at all.

Oct. 8

Protests Grow Over Saudi Dissident

Saudi Arabian flag

washington post logojamal kahshoggiWashington Post, Opinion: Jamal Khashoggi chose to tell the truth. It’s part of the reason he’s beloved, David Ignatius, Oct. 8, 2018 (print edition). In his work, he has always had the same insistent passion for honesty about his country. I have known Khashoggi, right, for about 15 years and want to share here some of the reasons he is beloved in our profession and the news of his disappearance has been such a shock.

washington post logoWashington Post, Disappearance and alleged killing of Saudi journalist could complicate relations with U.S., Karen DeYoung, Oct. 8, 2018 (print edition). The Trump administration has said little publicly about the fate of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Post, but officials are frustrated with the lack of a Saudi response to its queries.

JIP Editor's Note: An example of Khashoggi's commentary was in Middle East Monitor, Khashoggi: the deal of the century will disappear, Staff report, Feb. 21, 2018:

The well-known Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince has started a relationship with Israel and tried to pressure the Palestinians to accept the so-called “deal of the century.”

However, this approach has floundered. Khashoggi [shown at right in a Facebook photo] was speaking during a seminar in Istanbul hosted by the “Riwaq Istanbul” [Istanbul gallery].

jamal khashoggi western suit“The Crown Prince’s promise was that he will manage to pressure the Palestinians to accept the “Deal of the Century” in return for the Americans and Israelis expulsion of Iranians from Syria and Lebanon. But in reality this cannot be realized,” Khashoggi told The New Khaleeji.

According to Khashoggi, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would not agree to consider the town of Abu Dis (adjacent to Jerusalem) as the capital of Palestine. Khashoggi also added that Jordan’s King Abdullah II l has ignored all Saudi pressures.

He said “The crown prince discovered that he does not have a ‘Palestine card’ to play. The American president, Donald Trump, cannot do anything about the Iranians. The man is paralyzed and sending US troops to get the Iranians out of Aleppo and Damascus is but a dream.”

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Mainstream Journos Pissed As Saudi Clown Prince Nabs One Of Their Own, Staff report, Oct. 8, 2018. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is pissed that the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman ordered the kidnapping of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

mohammad bin salman cropped fileKhashoggi, who comes from a very rich family, has long served the Saudi regime in editorial positions and was the media adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal during his tenure as ambassador in London and Washington. He left Saudi Arabia last year out of fear of being targeted in the ongoing crackdown by clown prince Mohammad bin Salman (shown at right). He ended up writing mildly critical columns for the Washington Post.

Khashoggi is no liberal but a staunch supporter of Saudi system and its brutality. He had praised the beheading of Syrian soldiers by ISIS as an "effective psychological military tactic" and supported the abhorrent Saudi war on Yemen.

The mainstream journos who are now up in arms over Khashoggi are mostly embarrassed about their earlier adoration of Mohammad bin Salman. But even more important to them is that Khashoggi is one of their class. They think of themselves as entitled aristocrats who do not deserve such a fate. That is reserved for the deplorable plebs below them.

Just consider this amoral passage in Friedman's whining column about the Khashoggi case:

If Jamal has been abducted or murdered by agents of the Saudi government, it will be a disaster for M.B.S. and a tragedy for Saudi Arabia and all the Arab Gulf countries. It would be an unfathomable violation of norms of human decency, worse not in numbers but in principle than even the Yemen war.

Every ten minutes a child in Yemen starves because of the famine caused by the Saudi, UAE, U.S. and UK war on the country. The renewed attack on the harbor of Hodeidah and hyperinflation over the recent months have doubled the prices of food and gas Most people in Yemen no longer have the income to pay for the needed food. Tens of thousands were already silently starved, millions will likely follow. By what humanitarian 'principle' would the potential death of one bootlicking columnist be worse than that?

Investigator Murdered

SouthFront, Bulgarian Journalist Found Raped, Murdered; She Was Covering Investigation of Financial Frauds of EU Politicians, Businessmen, Staff report, Oct. 8, 2018. On October 6, a Bulgarian journalist, Viktoria Marinova, was found brutally raped and murdered in Bulgaria’s northern town of Ruse.

viktoria marinova tvn bulgaria via reuters scanpix leta cropThe body of the 30-year-old woman (shown at left in a TVN photo) was found by a passerby in bushes near the pier on the Danube river, according to Ruse regional prosecutor Georgy Georgiev. “Her mobile phone, car keys, glasses and part of her clothes were missing,” he said.

Prior to the murder, Marinova was also raped. She was disfigured due to blows to the head and suffocated to death. Prime Minister Boyko Borisov expressed hope that the investigation would succeed because of the “work that has been done.”

She was a TV host, and her last aired show happened on September 30th when she interviewed investigative journalists Dimitar Stoyanov from the Bivol.bg website and Attila Biro from the Romanian Rise Project about an investigation of alleged fraud with EU funds linked to big businessmen and politicians.

Her colleagues from TVN were staggered by the event. “We are in shock. In no way, under any form, never have we received any threats – aimed at her or the television,” a journalist from TVN told AFP under a condition of anonymity, adding that he and his colleagues feared for their safety.

Bulgarian media reports said that over the last year Marinova had reported on an ongoing investigation into alleged corruption involving European Union funds for the broadcaster TVN. She also worked on a program focusing on social issues and was involved with charity work.

Oct. 5

Media News: Kidnapped Reporter?

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Post prints empty column for Saudi writer missing in Turkey, Ayse Wieting and Jon Gambrell, Oct. 5, 2018. The Washington Post printed a blank column in its newspaper Friday in solidarity with a Saudi contributor who went missing while on a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, raising concerns about his safety.

Separately, the Post’s editorial board called on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to ensure writer Jamal Khashoggi “is free and able to continue his work,” which included writing columns critical of the upstart royal and the kingdom’s policies.

“His criticism, voiced over the past year, most surely rankles Mohammed bin Salman, who was elevated to crown prince last year and has carried out a wide-ranging campaign to silence dissent while trying to modernize the kingdom,” the Post editorial read. “Among those in his prisons for political speech are clerics, bloggers, journalists and activists. He imprisoned women who agitated for the right to drive, a right that was granted even as they were punished.”

The Post’s empty column in Friday’s edition bore Khashoggi’s byline and the headline: “A missing voice.”

jamal khashoggi western suitKhashoggi, right, a 59-year-old veteran journalist who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. since Prince Mohammed’s rise to power, disappeared Tuesday while on a visit to the consulate to get paperwork done to be married to his Turkish fiancée. The Saudi Consulate insists Khashoggi left its building, contradicting Turkish officials who say they believe he is still there. Turkey summoned the Saudi ambassador Thursday over the writer’s disappearance.

Supporters held a small rally Friday outside of the consulate.

Khashoggi’s disappearance threatens to further harm relations between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, which are on opposite sides of an ongoing four-nation boycott of Qatar and other regional crises.

Oct. 1

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion: Sex, Lies, and Hypocrisy: Kavanaugh's Glass House, Carl Petersen, Oct. 1, 2018. Much like Dr. Christine Ford, Monica Lewinsky's life was turned upside down by the glare of someone else's spotlight.

While Brett Kavanaugh asserted that engaging in sexual relations with Bill Clinton turned "her life into a shambles," from Lewinsky's point of view it was his boss, Kenneth Starr, "who turned [her] 24-year-old life into a living hell."

Looking back on the 1990s with the experience of the #MeToo era, there are questions that should have been asked about the most powerful man in the world having sexual relations with an employee.

monica lewinsky may 1967Lewinsky, left, has always maintained that the relationship was consensual, but "power imbalances -- and the ability to abuse them -- do exist even when the sex has been consensual." As a society, have we established where the lines are?

Unfortunately, Kavanaugh (shown below right during his snarling Senate confirmation testimony Thursday)did not seem interested in this line of questioning. Instead, he was infatuated with the most unimportant part of the story - the details of the sex acts.

brett kavanaugh nbc cropped sept 27 2018Given this history, one has to wonder what Lindsey Graham was thinking as he bloviated that if Kavanaugh was looking "for a fair process, [then] he came to the wrong town at the wrong time." When does he think that this poisoned, political atmosphere began?

bill clinton wIf the nominee thinks that the "confirmation process has become a national disgrace," how does he feel today about what he put Lewinsky through and what it did to her and her family? If "the idea of going easy on [Clinton, left] at the questioning [was] abhorrent to [him]," his current outrage should be directed at the Republican majority in the Senate.

By not investigating all of the accusations, they are the ones who are avoiding the responsibility of providing informed consent to his lifetime nomination to the highest court in the land.

Of course, this ignores the important distinction between Kavanaugh's apparent obsession with Clinton's sex life and the charges that may derail his assertion to the Supreme Court; if Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is telling the truth, then Kavanaugh acted without consent. This alleged attempted rape represents "callous and disgusting behavior that has somehow gotten lost in the shuffle."

cbs logo

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Opinion:How the American Media Was Destroyed, Paul Craig Roberts, Oct. 1, 2018. In my September 24 column, "Truth Is Evaporating Before Our Eyes," I used the destruction of the CBS news team that broke the Abu Ghraib story and the story of President George W. Bush's non-performance of his Texas Air Force National Guard duties to demonstrate how accusations alone could destroy a Peabody Award-winning, 26-year veteran producer of CBS News, Mary Mapes, and the established news dan rather new portraitanchor Dan Rather, right.

Until I read Mary Mapes's book, Truth and Duty (St. Martin's Press, 2005), I was unaware of how this monopolization of the media in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and American tradition had proceeded to destroy honest reporting.

Here is what happened.

The Texas Air National Guard was a place the elite placed their sons to avoid the Vietnam War draft. Copies of documents written by Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian describing George W. Bush's ability to jump the large waiting list hoping to avoid the war, Bush's non-compliance with National Guard requirements and Bush's unauthorized departure to another state were given to CBS.

The CBS team worked for many months to confirm or discredit the documents. The information in the documents proved to be consistent with the interviews of people acquainted with George W. Bush's time in the Texas National Guard. It was a carefully prepared story, not a rushed one, and it fits all the information we now have of Bush's non-performance.

george w. bush wThe problem for the CBS news team, which might not have been realized at the time, was that the documents were copies, not originals that experts could authenticate as real beyond question. Therefore, although the documents were consistent with the testimony of others, no expert could validate the documents as they could originals.

The Republicans seized on this chink in the armor to turn the issue away from the truthfulness of the CBS 60 Minutes report to whether or not the copies were fakes.

CBS had two other problems. One was that Viacom, its owner, was not in the news business, but in the lobbying business in Washington -- wanting to enrich the company with legislative perks and regulatory permissions. Truthful news from CBS, exposing US torture in the face of the Bush regime's denials and showing that Bush (shown above at left) was too privileged to be held accountable by the Texas National Guard, was damaging Viacom's highly paid lobbying effort.

les moonvesTruth in America is being exterminated, and the destruction of CBS news was the starting point. As Mary Mapes reports in her book, as soon as Viacom was entirely rid of 60 Minutes with the firing of the entire staff, on the very next day Viacom held a triumphant annual investor meeting. Chairman Sumner Redstone was awarded a $56 million paycheck for 2004. Chief operating officers, Les Moonves, right, and Tom Freston "each pocketed a whoopping fifty-two million for the year."

Mapes writes: "Just a few years ago, this kind of corporate executive largesse was unherd of. Now, these media Masters of the Universe have taken over the public airwares and they have one obligation: making a profit." Ever a larger one, which requires protecting the government and the corporate advertisers from investigative reporting. The consequence today is that the American media is totally unreliable.

bob woodward fear trump in the white house

Midnight Writer News, Investigative Commentary: Bob Woodward, Al Haig, and the Confirmation of Deep History, S.T. Patrick, Oct. 1, 2018. Bob Woodward’s newest book, Fear: Trump in the White House, stands atop the New York Times Bestseller list for Hardcover Non-Fiction.

Woodward skeptics and Watergate revisionists still question Woodward’s monarchical hold on modern journalism and publishing. In this issue, contributing editor S.T. Patrick continues a series that will spotlight the questionable tactics and little-known fallacies of Bob Woodward’s journalistic career. This is part two in the series.

* * * * *

On March 6, 1989, would-be authors Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin sat with The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward in preparation for what would be their upcoming book Silent Coup: The Removal of a President (1991). Woodward and co-author Carl Bernstein had written what establishment historians and educators considered the two books of record on the end of Richard Nixon’s presidency: All the President’s Men (1974) and The Final Days (1976). Both would be made into films.

On this day, however, Colodny and Gettlin had confirmed information that would turn the Watergate story – and Woodward’s role in it – on its head.

len colodny silent coup coverWoodward verified that he had worked at the Pentagon as a communications officer. This was already in contrast with the book and film notion of Woodward as a bottom-rung hoofer who was fighting his way up the journalistic ladder at The Post. The film created the legend that all Woodward had done was to write about the lack of cleanliness in local restaurants. When the editors debated the oncoming storm of Watergate reporting, it was in an effort to decide if Woodward was even qualified to write such a consequential story. In reality, he was, and the editors knew it.

Woodward denied to Gettlin that he had any other function at the Pentagon beyond once being a communications watch officer. Gettlin then asked if Woodward had ever done “any briefings of people”?

“Never! … And I defy you to produce somebody who says I did a briefing. It’s just… it’s not true,” Woodward responded.

alexander haig generalThe conversation turned to Gen. Alexander Haig, who had become Nixon’s chief of staff upon the urged resignation of H.R. Haldeman.

Tim Weiner, upon Haig’s death in 2010, wrote in The New York Times that Haig, right, had been the “acting president” while Nixon was pre-occupied with Watergate.

Haig biographer Roger Morris wrote that President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon was also a de facto pardon of Haig, as well. Haig had played an important role in the transition from Nixon to Ford, and had even been one of the most instrumental voices privately encouraging Nixon’s resignation.

The conversation turned to Gen. Alexander Haig, who had become Nixon’s chief of staff upon the urged resignation of H.R. Haldeman.

Tim Weiner, upon Haig’s death in 2010, wrote in The New York Times that Haig, right, had been the “acting president” while Nixon was pre-occupied with Watergate.

Haig biographer Roger Morris wrote that President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Nixon was also a de facto pardon of Haig, as well. Haig had played an important role in the transition from Nixon to Ford, and had even been one of the most instrumental voices privately encouraging Nixon’s resignation.

alexander haig portraitIf Haig (shown also in his portrait as Secretary of State in the early 1980s) had a previous working relationship with Woodward, and if Woodward’s stories were contradictory to the Nixon administration’s best interests, then the relationship and roles of both Woodward and Haig in relation to Nixon’s fall demanded examination.

“I never met or talked to Haig until some time in the spring of ’73,” Woodward responded. That Woodward had never done briefings, had never been a briefing officer, and had never met Haig until 1973 were ideas that sources “in a position to know,” as Gettlin called them in the interview, contradicted.

Lest someone assume that Colodny and Gettlin’s sources on Woodward were journalistic rivals or disenfranchised victims made unemployable by Watergate’s political aftermath, they were not. And unlike Woodward’s most notable sources, they were not kept hidden under “deep background.”

Colodny and Gettlin’s confirmation came from Adm. Thomas H. Moorer, Melvin Laird, and Jerry Friedheim, all of who can be read and heard on “Watergate.com.”

September

Sept. 29

Information Clearing House, Analysis: Facebook’s New Propaganda Partners, Alan MacLeod, Sept. 29, 2018. Media giant Facebook recently announced (Reuters, 9/19/18) it would combat “fake news” by partnering with two propaganda organizations founded and funded by the US government: the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI). The social media platform was already working closely with the NATO-sponsored Atlantic Council think tank (FAIR.org, 5/21/18).

facebook logoIn a previous FAIR article (8/22/18), I noted that the “fake news” issue was being used as a pretext to attack the left and progressive news sites. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm have reduced traffic significantly for progressive outlets like Common Dreams (5/3/18), while the pages of Venezuelan government–backed TeleSur English and the independent Venezuelanalysis were shut down without warning, and only reinstated after a public outcry.

madeleine.albrightThe Washington, DC–based NDI and IRI are staffed with senior Democratic and Republican politicians; the NDI is chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, left, while the late Sen. John McCain was the longtime IRI chair.

Both groups were created in 1983 as arms of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a Cold War enterprise backed by then–CIA director William Casey (Jacobin, 3/7/18). That these two US government creations, along with a NATO offshoot like the Atlantic Council, are used by Facebook to distinguish real from fake news is effectively state censorship.

Facebook’s collaboration with the NED organizations is particularly troubling, as both have aggressively pursued regime change against leftist governments overseas. The NDI undermined the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s, and continues to do so to this day, while the IRI claimed a key role in the 2002 coup against leftist President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, announcing that it had

"served as a bridge between the nation’s political parties and all civil society groups to help Venezuelans forge a new democratic future…. We stand ready to continue our partnership with the courageous Venezuelan people."

brazil flag wavingThe Reuters report (9/19/18) mentioned that Facebook was anxious to better curate what Brazilians saw on their feeds in the run-up to their presidential elections, which pits far-right Jair Bolsonaro against leftist Fernando Haddad. The US government has a long history of undermining democracy in Brazil, from supporting a coup in 1964 against the progressive Goulart administration to continually spying on leftist President Dilma Rousseff (BBC, 7/4/15) in the run-up to the parliamentary coup against her in 2016 (CounterSpin, 6/2/17).

Sept. 27

kirsten powers michael caputo cnn sept.26 2018

CNN guest commentators Kirsten Powers and Michael Caputo, right, squared off on the show of Anderson Cooper, left.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I called out his victim blaming and he lost it,’ says Kirsten Powers after Michael Caputo’s CNN meltdown, Allyson Chiu, Sept. 27, 2018. Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign aide turned political strategist and conservative pundit, was thrust into the spotlight after having what many are calling a “meltdown” during a heated panel discussion about the controversial allegations against Kavanaugh on Anderson Cooper’s “AC360” Wednesday night.

Sept. 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: Washington Post exposes New York Times story on Rod Rosenstein for being bullshit, Bill Palmer, Sept. 21, 2018. “No, that could never happen, major newspapers have better standards than that.” This is the reflexive response I’ve been getting from some observers in the two hours since I called bullshit on the New York Times story about Rod Rosenstein wanting to wear a wire and wanting to invoke the 25th Amendment.

Unfortunately, the reality is that major media outlets do often walk into traps set by inside sources with an axe to grind. It’s pretty clearly what just happened here – and it’s yet another reminder that if Donald Trump knows how to do one thing well, it’s to take advantage of the mainstream media’s willingness to play the role of braindead stenographer.

ny times logoThe New York Times story in question is already being exposed a work of fiction.

For instance the Washington Post just reported, from another source who was in the meeting in question, that Rosenstein’s remark about wearing a wire “was said in a moment of sarcasm, and that the 25th amendment was not discussed.” If you make an obviously sarcastic remark in order to demonstrate that a certain scenario isn’t realistic, and someone writes a story claiming that you offered up that scenario as a realistic option, that’s a fake story – period.

Sadly, none of this should come as a surprise. We spent the entire 2016 election cycle seeing that major news outlets often give us dubious and even false stories based on inside sources they know are biased and/or unreliable.

Most major newspapers think “journalism” equals printing anything that’s been given to them by multiple inside sources, even if those sources aligned with each other, and even if those sources are biased to the point that their claims about their adversaries shouldn’t be believed. Most cable news hosts think “journalism” equals quoting major newspapers as if they were the word of God, and then offering doomsday speculation about it to keep you tuned in.

But anyone with their thinking cap on today knows that this story is sourced to Team Trump, and that it’s a dishonest attempt at setting the groundwork for ousting Rosenstein, and that it’s a direct response to this morning’s failure of Trump’s declassification gambit, which was also an attempt at ousting Rosenstein.

This Rosenstein story is quickly being exposed as a wildly out of context work of fiction from sources with an axe to grind – just like all the false reporting on Hillary’s emails.

Today is a good day to take a look around at the various political reporters and pundits, and to see who has the guts to state the obvious. In this industry, you take a lot of heat for pointing out that someone as big as the New York Times has run an obviously bullshit story.

Lazy thinkers out there don’t want to hear it from you, because it’s easier for them to just pretend every word they hear from the Times is fact. And competing pundits (on both sides) then use it as an opportunity to paint you as some kind of conspiracy theorist for going against the Times. It’s so much easier on days like this to just go with the flow.

So let’s see who in this industry has the guts and integrity today to speak the truth about this story.

Media News: Sinclair Promos For Kavanaugh?

djt boris epshteyn sinclair kavanaugh sept 21 2018 Custom 2

President Trump sat down for an interview with Sinclair’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn, who has never disagreed with the president in his commentary (screenshot).

sinclair broadcast logo custom

Media Matters, Opinion: In an interview with Sinclair, Trump touts Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record” and says he thinks he will be confirmed, Pam Vogel, Sept. 21, 2018. Media Matters is a left-leaning advocacy group founded by author and former right-leaning advocate David Brock.

Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest owner and operator of local TV stations in the country, regularly broadcasts pro-Trump propaganda segments created by an ex-Trump staffer into the homes of millions of Americans. And now those segments include an interview with President Donald Trump himself, in which he was given a friendly platform to discuss his continued support of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh despite a report that he committed sexual assault.

The media company’s chief political analyst, Boris Epshteyn, has been producing regular commentary segments, called “Bottom Line With Boris,” for Sinclair for more than a year. Epshteyn had previously worked in the Trump White House on the communications team, after doing stints on the Trump inaugural committee and on the Trump campaign. Epshteyn also served as a Trump media surrogate throughout the campaign and first days of the Trump presidency. Epshteyn is personal friends with the president’s sons Eric and Donald Jr., and he has been spotted at Trump International Hotel multiple times, including with Don Jr. in June. He also may or may not have signed a nondisparagement agreement while he was working on the campaign, which could legally prevent him from criticizing Trump.

For a chief political analyst, Epshteyn offers takes that are notably unoriginal. At best, he regurgitates Trump talking points or touts some vague, imaginary bipartisan ideals that involve being nicer to Trump. At worst, he defends the most upsetting, racist things Trump does. In fact, in a recent interview on a National Review podcast, Epshteyn could not think of a single issue about which he had disagreed with the Trump administration in any of his commentary segments. What’s more: These segments ultimately air on an estimated 100 TV news stations under Sinclair’s control, exploiting the trust people have in their local news.

Given the president’s penchant for granting interviews to sycophants, it was only a matter of time before Trump himself made an appearance on "Bottom Line with Boris."

On September 21, Epshteyn shared the first of what will likely be several must-run segments featuring excerpts from his sit-down with the president. This one is focused on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and professor Christine Blasey Ford’s account of sexual assault by Kavanaugh when they were both in high school. In the segment, Trump largely repeats broad White House talking points about making sure Ford is heard, and then pivots to touting Kavanaugh’s “unblemished record.” Trump also says he believes Kavanaugh will ultimately still be confirmed.

BORIS EPSHTEYN: The nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is facing last-minute turmoil over allegations that he committed sexual assault decades ago. I spoke with President Trump about this in a one-on-one, exclusive interview. Here’s what he shared.

[INTERVIEW CLIP BEGINS]

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think they’ve been very respectful of Dr. Ford, extremely respectful. I think they’re doing the right thing. They want to give her a voice, if she wants to take it. They’re talking now about timing. It’s already been delayed a week. That’s a long time. This is the U.S. Senate we’re talking about.

EPSHTEYN: Right.

TRUMP: I can only say this: Let her speak. But Brett Kavanaugh is one of the finest people you’ll ever meet. I think it’s been extremely hard on him and his family. When I look at what’s happening -- here’s a man with an unblemished record, and to be going through this all of a sudden. So I won’t say anything now. All I’m saying is that -- let it play out. Let her have open voice. And let’s see what happens.

This year, Epshteyn has aired interviews with seven other members of the Trump administration, eight Republican congressmen, and Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. The appearances include: then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Vice President Mike Pence, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler, Council of Economic Advisers Chair Kevin Hassett, and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI). DeSantis, McCarthy, Rooney, and Duffy are all on ballots this year.

Sept. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, As ‘Doonesbury’ characters turn 50, Garry Trudeau describes his journey from pummeling Nixon to tackling Trump, Michael Cavna, Sept. 20, 2018 (print edition). It was the summer of 1968, and Garry Trudeau, home after a seasonal job in Washington, had a few days to kill before returning for his junior year at Yale. So he sat on his bed in Saranac Lake, N.Y., and began to draw; by the end of an afternoon, he had created a week of comic strips that would alter the entire direction of his life.

There, in incipient form, he rendered B.D., a quarterback character named as a nod to Yale football player Brian Dowling. This was a sports strip, Trudeau recounts, but B.D. and his teammates did more talking than tackling, with their Vietnam War-era huddle serving less as an arena for marching orders and more as a verbal playground for exchanging ideas.

The next week, Trudeau took his four-panel samples to the Yale Daily News, where executive editor Reed Hundt told the aspiring cartoonist: “They’re all right. We publish pretty much anything.” And so on Sept. 30 — 50 years ago this month — the characters of what would become “Doonesbury” first saw the light of publication, beginning what Trudeau calls his “life’s project.”

Sept. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, White House reviews incident involving Epoch Times photographer handing a folder to Trump, David Nakamura, Sept. 18, 2018. The White House has reviewed an incident last week in which a news photographer for the Epoch Times, a publication banned in China for its critical coverage, stepped into a restricted area and handed President Trump a folder during an official event.

The photographer, identified by other photojournalists as Samira Bouaou, passed the purple-colored folder to Trump as he was walking out of the East Room on Sept. 12 after delivering remarks at a reception for the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. Bouaou was lined up with other photographers in an area reserved for journalists when she entered a restricted pathway where the president was walking, according to several news photographers who witnessed the incident.

Trump accepted the folder and appeared to open it briefly as he departed before quickly shutting it, the witnesses said. It was not clear what was inside the folder. Photographers who asked Bouaou afterward why she did it and what the folder contained said she declined to provide details.
Bouaou was said by those who know her to have recently secured a White House “hard pass” from the Secret Service allowing her daily access to the press briefing room and other events.

The incident was a violation of protocol for journalists covering the White House, and it marked at least the second time an Epoch Times journalist has disrupted a White House event. In 2006, an Epoch Times reporter, who had obtained a press credential to cover Chinese President Hu Jintao’s arrival on the South Lawn for a visit with President George W. Bush, shouted out, calling on Bush in English to stop Hu “from killing” and “persecuting the Falun Gong” — a spiritual group that has been outlawed by the Chinese Communist Party.

The Epoch Times was founded in New York in 2000 by a group of Chinese Americans in an effort to counter Chinese government propaganda. The newspaper bills itself as the largest news outlet aimed at the Chinese community outside mainland China and Taiwan, with versions in 23 languages and a reach of more than 1 million readers.

Sept. 17

The Intercept, Government Can Spy on Journalists in the U.S. Using Invasive Foreign Intelligence Process, Cora Currier, Sept. 17 2018. The U.S. government can monitor journalists under a foreign intelligence law that allows invasive spying and operates outside the traditional court system, according to newly released documents. Targeting members of the press under the law, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, requires approval from the Justice Department’s highest-ranking officials, the documents show.

In two 2015 memos for the FBI, the attorney general spells out “procedures for processing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act applications targeting known media entities or known members of the media.” The guidelines say the attorney general, the deputy attorney general, or their delegate must sign off before the bureau can bring an application to the secretive panel of judges that approves monitoring under the 1978 act, which governs intelligence-related wiretapping and other surveillance carried out domestically and against U.S. persons abroad.

The high level of supervision points to the controversy around targeting members of the media at all. Prior to the release of these documents, little was known about the use of FISA court orders against journalists. Previous attention had been focused on the use of National Security Letters against members of the press; the letters are administrative orders with which the FBI can obtain certain phone and financial records without a judge’s oversight. FISA court orders can authorize much more invasive searches and collection, including the content of communications, and do so through hearings conducted in secret and outside the sort of adversarial judicial process that allows journalists and other targets of regular criminal warrants to eventually challenge their validity.

“This is a huge surprise,” said Victoria Baranetsky, general counsel with the Center for Investigative Reporting, previously of Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press. “It makes me wonder, what other rules are out there, and how have these rules been applied? The next step is figuring out how this has been used.”

Sept. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘60 Minutes’ Producer Jeff Fager Is Ousted at CBS, John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum, Sept. 12, 2018. Jeff Fager, the longtime executive producer of “60 Minutes” on CBS, was fired on Wednesday for sending a bullying text message to one of the network’s reporters, just days after Leslie Moonves stepped down as the company’s chief executive following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.

In recent articles in The New Yorker and The Washington Post, Mr. Fager had been accused of touching women at company parties in ways that made them feel uncomfortable and fostering a culture of harassment at “60 Minutes.”

Mr. Fager has previously denied any wrongdoing, and CBS has enlisted two law firms to investigate the allegations and the workplace culture at CBS.

David Rhodes, the president of CBS News, told staff in an email that Mr. Fager’s departure was “not directly related to the allegations surfaced in press reports, which continue to be investigated independently.” It would be hard to overstate Mr. Fager’s power inside CBS’s news division or the significance of his departure to a network already reeling from the exit of its longtime leader.

Mr. Fager is only the second executive producer in the half-century history of “60 Minutes,” a show that despite dwindling audiences for news programs has remained among the highest-rated series on network television. Although Mr. Fager was not the titular head of CBS News, he was given carte blanche to run his fief as he saw fit.

Sept. 10

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Opinion, China: RSF press freedom laureate falls victim to violence in detention again, Staff report, Sept. 10, 2018. RSF condemns the latest violence inflicted by Chinese officials on Huang Qi, 55, the RSF Press Freedom Prize laureate who has been detained for almost two years without trial despite his critical health condition.

china flag SmallHis trial, scheduled for June 20, 2018, was canceled without a further date. Last Friday, in one of the rare visits, permitted, Huang’s lawyer Liu Zhengqing discovered his client's deteriorating health and weight loss. Huang, refusing to plead guilty despite pressure, had suffered 15 interrogations just in the month of August and complained of being hit by prosecutor Du Peng, as the apparent bruises on his chest indicate.

Huang Qi, the winner of the 2004 RSF prize, founder of civil-rights information website 64 Tianwang and winner of the 2016 RSF Press Freedom Prize, was arrested on October 23, 2016, for “divulging state secrets abroad,” punishable by death penalty. The journalist suffers from critical liver and kidney diseases as a result of eight years in jail and labor camp.

Sept. 9

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les moonvesAdweek, Embattled CBS CEO Les Moonves Is Officially Departing the Company After 23 Years, Jason Lynch, Sept. 9, 2018. He’ll leave immediately; COO Joseph Ianniello will step in as interim CEO. What does CBS look like without its über-confident longtime leader Les Moonves (right)? We’re about to find out.

Sept. 8

djt mike pence sheriffs rex shutterstock1211 cropped guardian

Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence pose for a picture with a group of sheriffs at the White House. Guardian graphic from Photo by Rex/Shutterstock

The Guardian, Sheriffs who cheered Trump's attack on press have their own media run-ins, Jon Swaine, Sept. 8, 2018. A group of sheriffs gave the president a troubling ovation after he called journalists ‘very, very dishonest’. Here is a taste of local media scrutiny of 10 of them.

Donald Trump whipped up another rowdy ovation from a friendly crowd this week with an attack on the media, accusing journalists of being “very, very dishonest” and refusing to give him credit for his purported achievements.

But rather than the usual sports stadium packed with partisans in red baseball caps, this tirade against the press was applauded by dozens of senior law enforcement officials in the splendour of the East Room of the White House.

The episode unfolded on Wednesday afternoon, after the New York Times published an article by an unidentified senior Trump administration official who claimed to be one of many working to thwart Trump’s “worst inclinations” and frustrate his agenda.

Some figures in law enforcement were dismayed by the sheriffs’ response to Trump’s remarks. “They are supposed to be leaders, not puppets who cheer attacks on the media,” said Michael Bromwich, a former federal prosecutor. “A shameful scene.”

A review of coverage produced by regional media outlets over recent years found that many of the sheriffs who cheered the president have come under sharp scrutiny from the press for their own actions – or for those of the officers in their departments.

They have been held accountable by local journalists for incidents including the leaving of a service pistol in a casino bathroom, alleged mistreatment in jails, the wearing of blackface by an officer, and various other actions.

Here, the Guardian has compiled some of the notable reporting on the sheriffs who appeared with Trump:

1. Sheriff Ana Franklin, Morgan County, Alabama. Franklin is under investigation by the FBI and state authorities after a local news blogger, Glenda Lockhart, disclosed last year that the sheriff used $150,000 in public money to invest in a now-bankrupt used car dealership that was part-owned by a convicted fraudster. The money was taken from a fund meant for feeding inmates in the county jail.

The sheriff’s office recruited Lockhart’s grandson as an informant as they attempted to find a source leaking information to the blogger. The grandson said he was paid to install spyware on Lockhart’s computer. Franklin’s deputies raided Lockhart’s home and seized her computer. Franklin was found by a judge to have broken the law.

Sept. 6

parents. ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Bezos, wife donate $10 million to veterans political group, Sept. 6, 2018. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos have made their largest political donation to date, giving $10 million to a nonpartisan political-action committee devoted to helping military veterans running for Congress.

The North Carolina-based committee With Honor confirmed the donation, which was first reported Wednesday by The Wall Street Journal. With Honor said it has raised $20 jeffrey bezos washington postmillion toward its $30 million goal to support veteran candidates of both parties.

Bezos, shown in a file photo at left, has previously made contributions to Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, and to Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch and former Rep. Jason Chaffetz. He has also contributed to Washington state campaign efforts to support gay marriage and charter schools and to defeat a measure that would have imposed a state income tax on high earners.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Jack Dorsey and Sheryl Sandberg Taught Congress and Vice Versa, Farhad Manjoo, Sept. 6, 2018. Wednesday’s hearings in Washington with social media executives did not devolve into ham-handed apologies. Instead, they showed a political system wrestling with issues that have no easy answers.

facebook logoWe are at a consequential juncture in the technology business and in society. A handful of tech giants have become the guardians of global speech, amplifying certain kinds of voices and limiting others according to their own bespoke, often opaque and shifting standards.

twitter bird CustomAlthough these companies — Facebook, Google and Twitter above all — are now integral to just about every corner of our lives, they face little regulatory oversight in the United States. It was only after the last presidential election that lawmakers even began expressing interest in the companies’ power.

And yet, against the scale of the issues involved, the congressional hearings held so far about the companies and their clout have often felt petty, misinformed and sharpened for political point-scoring. And President Trump’s assertion last week that Twitter, Facebook and Google are biased against conservatives only raised the stakes.

ny times logogoogle logo customNew York Times, Trump Says Google Is Rigged, Despite Its Denials. What Do We Know About How It Works? Daisuke Wakabayashi, Sept. 5, 2018. Not many people have a good understanding of how Google delivers search results. And for good reason — the company tries to keep it a secret.

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Repeatedly Crashes Truck Into Dallas TV Station’s Building, station’s building in downtown Dallas. Matthew Haag, Sept. 5, 2018. The man was detained after ramming the truck into the local Fox affiliate’s building, upset about the fatal police shooting of a friend in 2012, the police said.

August

Aug. 31

ny times logoronan farrowNew York Times, NBC Impeded Weinstein Reporting, Ex-Producer Says, John Koblin, Aug. 31, 2018 (print edition). Ronan Farrow, right, spent months investigating sexual misconduct accusations against Harvey Weinstein while he was at NBC News, but his articles published later in The New Yorker. A producer who worked closely with Mr. Farrow said “the very highest levels of NBC” tried to halt the work. The network disagrees.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Village Voice, a New York Icon, Closes, Tyler Pager and Jaclyn Peiser, Aug. 31, 2018. When Peter D. Barbey bought The Village Voice in 2015, he vowed to invest in the storied alternative weekly, saying it would “survive and prosper.” But last August he shuttered the print edition, and on Friday he closed the operation altogether.

The end of the left-leaning independent publication was an anticlimax, given the many empty red plastic Village Voice boxes that have been scattered like debris across the sidewalks of Manhattan in recent years.

“This is a sad day for The Village Voice and for millions of readers,” Mr. Barbey said. “The Voice has been a key element of New York City journalism and is read around the world. As the first modern alternative newspaper, it literally defined a new genre of publishing.”

ny times logoNew York Times, National Enquirer Had Decades of Trump Dirt. He Wanted to Buy It All, Jim Rutenberg and Maggie Haberman, Aug. 31, 2018 (print edition). President Trump and his lawyer, Michael Cohen, devised a plan to buy all the stories on Mr. Trump that the National Enquirer and its parent company had collected, according to Mr. Trump’s associates.The move indicated just how concerned they were about all the information amassed by the company, American Media, and its chairman, David Pecker.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s disapproval rating hits a high point in new poll, Philip Rucker and Scott Clement​, Aug. 31, 2018. Overall, 60 percent of Americans disapprove of President Trump’s job performance, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll that also finds that clear majorities of the public support the special counsel’s Russia investigation and say Trump should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Totally dishonest’: Trump asserts only he can be trusted over opponents and ‘fake news,’ Ashley Parker, Aug. 31, 2018. Over roughly the past day, President Trump has decried the “totally dishonest” media, with its “fake news” and “fake books.” He has argued that Google is biased against conservatives. And he has accused NBC News of “fudging” the tape of an interview with him that has been available online for more than a year.

The president has even declared there is no chaos in his White House, which he claimed is a “ ‘smooth running machine’ with changing parts,” despite the tumult that emanates almost daily from within its walls.

Trump’s assertions — all on Twitter, some false, some without clear evidence — come just over nine weeks before the midterm elections that could help determine his fate, and they are bound by one unifying theme: All of his perceived opponents are peddling false facts and only Trump can be trusted.

Aug. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Tariffs on Canadian Newsprint Are Overturned, Catie Edmondson, Aug. 29, 2018. The decision by the International Trade Commission is a win for regional American newspapers, which have struggled to absorb the cost of higher newsprint.

Aug. 28

(MSM) Ending Yemen War Self-Censonship

yemen cnn us missiles blackout broken1 14

Medium, Opinion: MSM [Mainstream Media] Finally Concedes Defeat On Yemen, Ceases Blackout Of Coverage, Caitlin Johnson, Aug. 28, 2018. Last month, an article by Fair.org went viral in republications by popular alternative media outlets ranging from Salon to Zero Hedge to Alternet to Truthdig, among many others. The article was initially titled “ACTION ALERT: It’s Been Over a Year Since MSNBC Has Mentioned US War in Yemen”, but many subsequent republications went with variations on the more attention-grabbing headline, “MSNBC has done 455 Stormy Daniels segments in the last year — but none on U.S. war in Yemen”.

yemen msnbc graphic comparing stormy yemen coveragemsnbc logo CustomThe centerpiece of the article was the following graphic [at right], which I saw shared on its own many times in my social media feeds:

That’s about as in your face as it gets, isn’t it?

Ever since the Saudi-led assault on Yemen began in March of 2015, alternative media outlets everywhere have been repeatedly and aggressively decrying the mainstream media in the US and UK for their spectacular failure to adequately and accurately cover the violence and humanitarian disaster with appropriate reporting on who is responsible for it. After the 2016 US election, journalist Michael Tracey wrote an essay documenting how throughout the entire year and a half that Americans were pummeled with updates from the mass media about candidates and their campaigns, not one single question about Yemen was ever asked by any mainstream outlet of any candidate.

This is of course outrageous, but because of how media coverage works, mainstream attention was never drawn to the problem. It hasn’t been a total media blackout, but because it only turns up in mainstream media reports every once in a while with little if any emphasis being placed on who is behind the devastation, it occupies a very peripheral place in western consciousness.

This has all changed in the last few days. Suddenly, the atrocities being inflicted upon the people of Yemen are being pushed into mainstream attention by the mass media outlets which have been ignoring them for more than three years.

The Washington Post editorial board published an op-edtitled “End U.S. support for this misbegotten and unwinnable war.” CNN did some actual, real journalism for a change with a viral exclusive documenting which American war profiteers were behind some of the more devastating Saudi bombings.

And yes, MSNBC finally did cover the violence in Yemen, breaking its year-long silence to report on a US-supplied bomb which killed 40 children with such urgent condemnation of those responsible you’d never know they’d been consistently ignoring such incidents which have been going on for years. Now politicians and celebrities everywhere are shoving the horror of their government facilitating the slaughter of innocents into mainstream attention.

9/11 Research

Newsweek, CIA and Saudi Arabia Conspired To Keep 9/11 Details Secret, New Book Says, Jeff Stein, Aug. 28, 2018. The authors of a new book on 9/11 hope to re-focus public attention on the cover-up. Thoroughly mining the multiple official investigations into the event, John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski find huge holes and contradictions in the official story that 9/11 was merely “a failure to connect the dots.”

Duffy, a left-leaning writer and environmental activist, and Nowosielski, a documentary filmmaker, have nowhere near the prominence of other journalists who have poked holes in the official story, in particular Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book that was turned into a gripping multi-part docudrama on Hulu earlier this year.

But Duffy and Nowosielski come to the story with a noteworthy credential: In 2009 they scored an astounding video interview with Richard Clarke, White House counterterrorism adviser during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

In it, Clarke raged that top CIA officials, including director George Tenet, had withheld crucial information from him about Al Qaeda’s plotting and movements, including the arrival in the U.S. of future hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. In The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark, the authors assemble a compelling case of a government-wide coverup of Saudi complicity in the affair.

Aug. 26

ny times logo

New York Times, In Liberal Wine Country, Turning Newspaper Readers Into Shareholders, Tim Arango, Aug. 26, 2018. A weekly newspaper publisher in Northern California is selling stock to its readers, who hope to save their paper and, some of them believe, democracy.

Last year, Rollie Atkinson, the owner and publisher of The Healdsburg Tribune and three other weeklies in Sonoma County, was staring down a grim financial reality. The business model, he said, was “failing rapidly.” He was tired of throwing his savings into the newspapers to keep them going, and weary of the “daily struggle” of staying afloat in an environment where readers have access to a torrent of information for free.

Aug. 16

ny times logogoogle logo customNew York Times, Google Workers Protest Plans for Censored Search Engine for China, Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi, Aug. 16, 2018. About 1,400 of the tech giant’s employees have signed a letter demanding transparency, saying censored search results raise “urgent moral and ethical issues,” according to a letter obtained by The New York Times.

Aug. 14

Media: Fighting Fake Theory

ny times logoNew York Times, Thwarting Fight Against Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theories, Sapna Maheshwari and John Herrman, Aug. 14, 2018 (print edition).  The father of a 6-year-old victim has tried to erase lies about his son from the internet, but Automattic, which runs WordPress, said “untrue content is not banned.” Leonard Pozner says he spends hours every day trying to erase online conspiracy theories that the death of his 6-year-old son Noah at the Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax.

alex jones headshotHe has taken Alex Jones, right, of Infowars, by far the most visible Sandy Hook denier, to court. He has put pressure on major tech companies to take action against the conspiracy theorists who flourish on their platforms.

But the bulk of his work is more methodical. Sandy Hook conspiracies are strewn around the internet on various platforms, each with its own opaque rules and reporting mechanisms. So Mr. Pozner has studiously flagged countless videos and posts for a wide variety of offenses — invasions of privacy, threats and harassment, and copyright infringement — prompting Facebook, Amazon and Google to remove false material about his son.

Twitter has been less receptive to his claims and some smaller sites have simply not responded at all. But one company, Mr. Pozner says, has actively pushed back against his attempts.

Aug. 12

The Hill, At least 100 newspapers sign up to publish editorials targeting Trump, Morgan Gstalter, Aug. 12, 2018. The Boston Globe has enlisted more than 100 newspapers from across the country to publish editorials fighting back against President Trump’s repeated attacks on the media.

The Globe has been contacting editorial boards and asking them to publish an editorial on Thursday, CNN reported Saturday. "We propose to publish an editorial on August 16 on the dangers of the administration's assault on the press and ask others to commit to publishing their own editorials on the same date," The Globe said in its pitch.

Marjorie Pritchard, the Globe’s deputy editorial page editor, told CNN that more than 100 publications have signed up to participate as of Saturday. She told the network that she expects the number of newspapers participating will rise in the next few days.

"The response has been overwhelming," Pritchard said. "We have some big newspapers, but the majority are from smaller markets, all enthusiastic about standing up to Trump's assault on journalism."

asne logoMajor journalistic organizations, including the American Society of News Editors [ASNE] and the New England Newspaper and Press Association, have been helping to coordinate the effort, CNN reported. Each newspaper will write their own editorial, rather than publish a unified message.

Pritchard told the newspaper teams to write about how Trump’s “assault” on journalism impacts their communities. "Our words will differ. But at least we can agree that such attacks are alarming,” Pritchard wrote.

The Globe’s campaign began days after the president ramped up his attacks on the media, which he often calls “the enemy of the people.”

"The Fake News hates me saying that they are the Enemy of the People only because they know it’s TRUE," Trump tweeted last week. "I am providing a great service by explaining this to the American People. They purposely cause great division & distrust. They can also cause War! They are very dangerous & sick!"

Editor's note: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig is a member of ASNE and the project supports the editorial effort.

Omarosa's Trump Book

washington post logoomarosa manigault newman unhinged CustomWashington Post, Ex-Trump aide releases recording purportedly made in White House Situation Room, Stephanie McCrummen​, Aug. 12, 2018. Omarosa Manigault Newman’s purported recording, which would constitute a serious breach of White House security, was played on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

Axios Sneak Peek, Analysis: 1 big thing: Inside Omarosa's reign of terror; 2. Between the lines on Omarosa's secret tapes, Jonathan Swan, Aug. 12, 2018. Want to know the secret behind Omarosa's wild, largely unchallenged, run in the White House, during which she would swan in and out of the Oval Office, secretly recording the president and his chief of staff? It’s simple: Some of the most powerful men in government were terrified of her.

1 big thing: Inside Omarosa's reign of terror: "I'm scared shitless of her... She's a physically intimidating presence," a male former colleague of Omarosa's told me. "I never said no to her," the source added. "Anything she wanted, 'Yes, brilliant.' I'm afraid of her. I'm afraid of getting my ass kicked." (He wouldn't let me use a more precise description of his former White House role because he admitted he's still scared of retribution from Omarosa. Other senior officials have admitted the same to me.)

Three other former officials shared that sentiment. “One hundred percent, everyone was scared of her,” said another former official.

The big picture: Trump has nobody to blame but himself for Omarosa's raucous book tour, in which she calls him a racist and a misogynist, and says he's in mental decline. Trump brought her into the White House at the senior-most level with the top salary.

In many ways, two former senior administration officials pointed out, what Omarosa is doing now is pure Trump.

"She may be the purest of all the Trump characters," one told me. "She may be the most Trumpian. She knows media, she knows about physical presence, like Trump does...that's why I think he's rattled."

john kelly o dhs2. Between the lines on Omarosa's secret tapes: A scene that caught the attention of West Wing officials and national security lawyers today: Omarosa let NBC's "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd play tapes of White House chief of staff John Kelly, whom she secretly recorded while he was firing her.

Why this matters: It's extraordinary enough to secretly record a White House colleague and then play the tape on television. But it's even more stunning that the conversation happened in the Situation Room — the most secure area in the West Wing, reserved for the most sensitive conversations, many of them dealing with highly classified intelligence.

Behind the scenes: I spoke to several Trump officials who've spent time in the SitRoom. They say Kelly and the White House lawyers — especially Uttam Dhillon, who was recently appointed to head the Drug Enforcement Administration — used the SitRoom to talk with staff they were accusing of serious breaches, including problems with their clearances.

In the recording Omarosa played on "Meet the Press," Kelly refuses to elaborate on the "pretty serious integrity violations" he tells her she committed.

The bottom line: Omarosa says Kelly threatened her and she made her secret recording to protect herself. And to be clear: the conversation was not classified, meaning she may not have broken federal law. But national security lawyers I've spoken to say it’s nonetheless disturbing.

Fox News, Omarosa releases purported secret recording of Chief of Staff John Kelly 'threatening' her in the Situation Room, Gregg Re, Aug. 12, 2018. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, the ex-reality star and former Trump aide who has since accused the president of racism, on Sunday released what she claimed was a secret recording of White House Chief of Staff John Kelly "threatening" her in the White House Situation Room.

But White House officials pushed back immediately, saying Manigault-Newman's termination for alleged ethical violations was handled appropriately and charging that she had flagrantly security protocols by taping Kelly in the highly secured room in the basement of the West Wing.

john kelly o dhsIn the recording, Kelly purportedly calls for Manigault-Newman's "friendly departure" from the administration without any "difficulty in the future relative to your reputation." According to the tape, Kelly continued by saying that things could get "ugly" for her, and that she was "open to some legal action" for conduct that would merit a court martial if she were in the military.

That comment was a "very obvious ... threat," Manigault-Newman told NBC's "Meet the Press." She said she had recorded the conversation because otherwise no one would believe her. That Manigault-Newman had apparently managed to record a conversation in the White House's high-tech Situation Room, which is the nerve center of sensitive government military operations, alarmed analysts Sunday.

The Hill, White House seeks to prevent Omarosa from releasing more tapes: report, Morgan Gstalter, Aug. 12, 2018. The White House is looking into legal options against former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman after she secretly recorded chief of staff John Kelly in the Situation Room, ABC News reported Sunday.

The administration reportedly wants to block Manigault Newman from releasing any more tapes and punish her for the recording she revealed on NBC's "Meet the Press" earlier Sunday, which was taped during Kelly's firing of her back in December.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Sunday that the “very idea a staff member would sneak a recording device into the White House Situation Room, shows a blatant disregard for our national security.”

“And then to brag about it on national television further proves the lack of character and integrity of this disgruntled former White House employee,” Huckabee Sanders continued.

A number of journalists, national security experts and former White House staff raised alarms about the dangers of recording in the Situation Room — the highly sensitive space where phones and electronic devices are prohibited for security reasons.

Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer called Manigault Newman’s taping “a massive violation of security protocol.”

“She taped the chief of staff for the White House in the Situation Room, clearly a violation of every security protocol that she signed when she applied for a security clearance,” Spicer said on "Fox News Sunday."

Manigault Newman released the tape in conjunction with her book tour for Unhinged: An Insider Account of the Trump White House. Excerpts of the explosive memoir released this week include the former aide claiming that Kelly fired her when he knew she was close to getting the audio of Trump using a racial slur.

Aug. 11

omarosa manigault newman unhinged Custom

The Guardian, The key Trump revelations in Omarosa Manigault Newman's new book, David Smith, Aug. 11, 2018 (print edition). The ex-White House adviser’s forthcoming memoir says Trump insisted upon being sworn in to the presidency with his own book.

Omarosa Manigault Newman, whose association with Donald Trump goes back all the way to his days on reality TV, has displayed her flair for spectacle by publishing a scathing insider’s account of his White House.

Omarosa says Trump is a racist who uses N-word – and claims there is tape to prove it.

Her book, Unhinged, characterizes the US president as a bigot, sexist and racist who has been caught on mic using the N-word “multiple times.” This is the verdict of the woman who was his director of African American outreach during the 2016 presidential election, then the most senior African American on his staff until her sudden departure last December.

Manigault Newman, who embraced the role “villain” on The Apprentice, said in 2015: “When you have a big reality TV star as the front-runner for the Republican nomination there is no way to separate it. This is the new reality.” Donald Trump is shown in a promotional photo for the show at right.

donald trump apprentice black and whiteHer memoir offers a glimpse of a reality TV candidacy and presidency full of chaos, egos, internecine warfare and mendacity.

When the Guardian approached the White House for comment about Manigault Newman’s book on Thursday, there was no response. But on Friday, press secretary Sarah Sanders claimed: “This book is riddled with lies and false accusations”. She added: “It’s sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks.”

There is more to come, however. Manigault Newman is due to appear on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday and then embark on a lengthy publicity tour that could further damage the man she once regarded as a mentor.

Aug. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Better Way to Ban Alex Jones, David French, Aug. 7, 2018. "Hate speech” is extraordinarily vague and subjective. Libel and slander are not.

alex jones headshotLet me start by making a few things abundantly clear. First, Alex Jones is a loathsome conspiracy theorist who generates loathsome content. Second, there is no First Amendment violation when a private company chooses to boot anyone off a private platform. Third, it seems reasonably clear that Mr. Jones’s content isn’t just morally repugnant, it’s also legally problematic. He makes wild, false claims that may well cross the line into libel and slander.

Right now, Mr. Jones is defending lawsuits filed by multiple Sandy Hook Elementary families accusing him of making intentionally false factual statements. Most appallingly, he has insisted that these grieving families were faking their pain:

So on Monday, when Apple, Facebook and YouTube acted — in seemingly coordinated fashion — to remove the vast bulk of Mr. Jones’s content from their sites, there’s no cause for worry, right? After all, this was an act of necessary public hygiene. A terrible human being who has no regard for truth or decency is finally getting what he deserves.

Would that it were that simple.

Rather than applying objective standards that resonate with American law and American traditions of respect for free speech and the marketplace of ideas, the companies applied subjective standards that are subject to considerable abuse.

Mr. French, the author of the column above, is a First Amendment litigator and senior writer for National Review.

Aug. 6

alex jones radio logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Alex Jones’s podcasts are erased by Apple in latest move against the conspiracy theorist who claims Sandy Hook was a hoax, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Aug. 6, 2018.  Apple has wiped iTunes and its podcasting app virtually clean of content by Alex Jones in one of the most aggressive moves by technology companies and streaming services against the conspiracy theorist and owner of the right-wing media platform Infowars.

As of early Monday, just one of the six Infowars programs once listed by Apple remained, “RealNews with David Knight.” The decision to pull the other shows, including “The Alex Jones Show” and “War Room,” represents a broader effort than those made by other companies in recent days to stop disseminating material associated with Jones, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the most prolific conspiracy theorist in contemporary America.”

Last week, Spotify removed several episodes of “The Alex Jones Show,” following similar moves by YouTube and Facebook the week before. The more sweeping action taken by Apple shows how companies have responded differently to the task of regulating false information and hate speech while remaining a neutral platform. Jones, who faces several defamation lawsuits arising from his claim that the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax, argues that his statements are protected speech.

Aug. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, The local-news crisis is destroying what a divided America desperately needs: Common ground, Margaret Sullivan​, Aug. 5, 2018. People who get their news only from Facebook or from cable TV are often deep in their own echo chambers. That’s why we need the local newspaper to give us common information — an agreed-upon set of facts to argue about.

Ken Doctor saw it coming. A few years ago, the media analyst looked at the trend lines and predicted that by 2017 or so, American newsrooms would reach a shocking point. “The halving of America’s daily newsrooms,” he called what he was seeing.

Last week, we found out that it’s true. A Pew Research study showed that between 2008 and last year, employment in newspaper newsrooms declined by an astonishing 45 percent. (And papers were already well down from their newsroom peak in the early 1990s, when their revenue lifeblood — print advertising — was still pumping strong.)

The dire numbers play out in ugly ways: Public officials aren’t held accountable, town budgets go unscrutinized, experienced journalists are working at Walmart, or not at all, instead of plying their much-needed trade in their communities.

One problem with losing local coverage is that we never know what we don’t know. Corruption can flourish, taxes can rise, public officials can indulge their worst impulses. And there’s another result that gets less attention: In our terribly divided nation, we need the local newspaper to give us common information — an agreed-upon set of facts to argue about.

Aug. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Newseum pulls ‘fake news’ shirts after outcry from journalists, Keith McMillan and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.​, Aug. 4, 2018. The Washington attraction “dedicated to the importance of a free press and the first amendment” sold garments with phrases the president popularized. Journalists took it as an affront.

Aug. 2

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotPalmer Report, Opinion: CNN’s Jim Acosta destroys Sarah Huckabee Sanders to her face, Bill Palmer, Aug. 2, 2018.  Donald Trump has been dishonestly attacking CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta for as long as anyone can remember. That’s because Acosta, along with a handful of other White House correspondents, has been consistently fearless in asking tough questions from day one. This week Trump once again called the media the “enemy of the people” during his rally in Florida. This led Acosta to go on the offensive during today’s White House press briefing.

Jim Acosta asked Trump’s White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose job is to work with the media on a daily basis, to definitively state that the media is not the “enemy of the people.” This led Huckabee Sanders (shownin a file photo) to rattle off a long list of dishonest criticisms of the media, falsely painting Trump as the victim. Acosta was less than impressed, and he let her know as much.

Daily Beast, National Enquirer Boss Slinks Away From Trump, Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Dean Sterling Jones, Aug. 2, 2018. Nothing Trump touches ever remains the same, including supermarket tabloids.

david pecker croppedShortly after the feds raided the office of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s now estranged personal attorney and longtime enforcer, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker (shown at right) went into a state of calculated retreat. For years, Pecker’s tabloid had promoted and puffing up Trump’s political rise and his presidency.

But once a regular fixture on the cover of the National Enquirer, Trump hasn’t appeared on it since an issue dated early May. That appearance was for a cover story on the various scandals swirling around... Cohen.

In that same issue detailing Cohen’s dirty work—work in which the Enquirer itself played a key role—there was another story showing how the Enquirer’s “lie detector examination” supposedly absolved Trump of any Russia-related collusion. Since then, the tabloid's approach to the saga has ranged from muted to silent.

The president’s disappearance from the pages of Pecker’s famous, Trump-endorsing supermarket tabloid was no coincidence. It also further demonstrates how so much of what President Trump touches, including the tabloids that relish the drama he produces, seems to suffer under the weight of scandals.

President Donald Trump officialBut the dialing-back of Trump content may have come with a cost. The National Enquirer's circulation numbers declined in the first half of the year, according to industry metrics compiled by the Alliance for Audited Media. The tabloid lost about 4,700 paid subscriptions from January through June, about six percent of its total at the beginning of the year.

As Pecker and his team were distancing themselves from Trump publicly, a more surreptitious effort was underway to cleanse the public record of details of Pecker’s involvement in the McDougal scandal and the AMI boss’s relationship with the president.

Over the course of a week last month, an anonymous Wikipedia user repeatedly tried to scrub Pecker’s page of damaging information regarding his alleged links to the McDougal hush-money scandal, removing huge blocks of text describing Pecker’s and AMI’s roles in paying the model for her story. The origin of the edits was even more interesting.

They were made by someone using an I.P. address associated with the high-powered Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor, according to publicly-available web database information. The same I.P. address has been used to edit pages for WME itself, the head of the agency’s literary division, and a number of WME clients.

July

July 31

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ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones, Pursued Over Infowars Falsehoods, Faces a Legal Crossroads, Elizabeth Williamson, July 31, 2018. In the five years since Noah Pozner was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., death threats and online harassment have forced his parents, Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, to relocate seven times. They now live in a high-security community hundreds of miles from where their 6-year-old is buried.

“I would love to go see my son’s grave and I don’t get to do that, but we made the right decision,” Ms. De La Rosa said in a recent interview. Each time they have moved, online fabulists stalking the family have published their whereabouts.

“With the speed of light,” she said. “They have their own community, and they have the ear of some very powerful people.”

On Wednesday in an Austin courtroom, the struggle of the Sandy Hook families to hold to account Alex Jones, a powerful leader of this online community, will reach a crossroads.

Lawyers for Noah Pozner’s parents will seek to convince a Texas judge that they — and by extension the families of eight other victims in the 2012 shooting that killed 20 first graders and six adults — have a valid defamation claim against Mr. Jones, whose Austin-based Infowars media operation spread false claims that the shooting was an elaborate hoax.

FOIA Fights

MM (The Millions), Exposing Murder Rings and the Realities of McCarthyism: A Deep Dive into FOIA, David A. Taylor, July 24, 2018. FOIA (pronounced foya) is an odd acronym that can seem obscure and inconsequential. A small proportion of Americans submits Freedom of Information requests.

As a freelance writer, I’ve submitted relatively few FOIA requests to different government agencies. For one project, I requested public records identifying the five biggest exporters in a secretive industry trading an endangered medicinal plant. It wasn’t exactly the Watergate break-in, but the request yielded information that pointed to high-value players who preferred a low profile.

In June 2016, President Barack Obama signed a law updating the Freedom of Information Act, making more government memos accessible after 25 years. No friend to FOIA for most of his presidency, Obama had set a presidential record for censoring or denying access to FOIA-requested information. The number of unanswered requests governmentwide climbed past 200,000. Under Trump, FOIA is an even more brittle tool for holding an unpredictable executive branch accountable.

July 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Publisher and Trump Clash Over President’s Threats Against Journalism, Mark Landler, July 29, 2018. President Trump and the publisher of the New York Times, A. G. Sulzberger, engaged in a fierce public clash on Sunday over Mr. Trump’s threats against journalism, after Mr. Sulzberger said the president misrepresented a private meeting and Mr. Trump accused The Times and other papers of putting lives at risk with irresponsible reporting.

Mr. Trump said on Twitter that he and Mr. Sulzberger had discussed “the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, ‘Enemy of the People.’ Sad!”

In a five-paragraph statement issued two hours after the tweet, Mr. Sulzberger said he had accepted Mr. Trump’s invitation for the July 20 meeting mainly to raise his concerns about the president’s “deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric.”

“I told the president directly that I thought that his language was not just divisive but increasingly dangerous,” said Mr. Sulzberger, who became publisher of The Times on Jan. 1. “I told him that although the phrase ‘fake news’ is untrue and harmful, I am far more concerned about his labeling journalists ‘the enemy of the people,’” Mr. Sulzberger continued. “I warned that this inflammatory language is contributing to a rise in threats against journalists and will lead to violence.”

This is particularly true overseas, Mr. Sulzberger said, where governments are using Mr. Trump’s words as a pretext to crack down on journalists. He said he warned the president that his attacks were “putting lives at risk” and “undermining the democratic ideals of our nation.”

boris epshteyn mike pence screenshot Custom

On the nationwide Sinclair TV network, commentator and former Trump campaign aide Boris Ephsteyn's pro-Trump propaganda segments are "must-run" for all stations. In this episode, Ephsteyn, right, essentially delivers the microphone to Vice President Mike Pence to claim that Trump policies are working great and no one should believe other media. Even Trump's FCC opposed Sinclair's recent big to buy 30 more TV stations.

Media Matters, Opinion: Sinclair's pro-Trump propaganda doesn't even bother with questions anymore, John Whitehouse, July 29, 2018. Sinclair has been producing pro-Trump "must-runs" that air during local news segments across the country.

sinclair broadcast logo customFrequently these segments feature chief political analyst Boris Epshteyn asking softball questions of Trump administration figures like Sarah Huckabee Sanders or Scott Pruitt -- at least when Epshteyn is not giving over the top pro-Trump commentary on his own. This week, Epshteyn gave a warm welcome to VP Mike Pence. The first parts of the interview were embarrassingly friendly, with Epsheyn praising Trump's unpopular tax law.

The final segment with Pence really jumped the rails. In the clip, Epshteyn did not even ask a question. Rather, the entire "must-run" was Pence talking about how great the Trump administration has been, followed by Epshteyn saying that the Trump administration "has to focus on continuing to achieve success for the American people."

The obvious goal here is to get audiences to only trust Sinclair -- and Trump.

July 28United Kingdom flag

ny times logofacebook logoNew York Times, British Lawmakers in ‘Fake News’ Inquiry Rebuke Facebook, David D. Kirkpatrick, July 28, 2018. In a report to be released Sunday, a parliamentary committee accused Facebook of providing “disingenuous” answers to questions and of withholding information.

USA Today, Sean Spicer accused of using racial slur at a heated book signing event, Marina Pitofsky, July 28, 2018. Sean Spicer's hotly anticipated book usa today logosigning took a turn for the worse Friday when the former Trump administration press secretary was accused of using a racial slur toward a black classmate during his high school years.

The ex-communications director, shown at the White House in a file photo, was at a book signing in Middletown, Rhode Island for his recent release of "The Briefing" about his time with President Donald Trump. At the signing, Alex Lombard, a resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, approached him.

sean spicerLombard told Spicer they attended the Portsmouth Abbey School together, a Catholic prep school in Rhode Island. After Spicer said hello to Lombard and confirmed that he boxed in school, Lombard charged Spicer with calling him the N-word before one of their fights, according to a video from the Newport Daily News. Lombard was then escorted away by a security guard.

A publicist told The Associated Press that was "taken aback" by the "outrageous claim." In the video, other attendees at the event can be heard saying, "you should be arrested immediately" and "get out of here" in response to Lombard's allegations.

Lombard can also be heard threatening to fight Spicer in the video as he left the store. "I was 14. I was a scared kid then, Sean. I'm not scared to fight you now," Lombard said.

Supporters and critics of Trump's administration also clashed at the signing. A few protesters gathered outside of the store during the event with signs calling Spicer a liar. Beth Murphy Ward, one of the demonstrators, explained why she came to the store to protest. Spicer was scheduled to have another book signing in Massachusetts on Saturday, but the event was canceled "due to the political climate," according to the AP.

July 25

Washington Post, Trump pushes 25 percent auto tariff as top advisers scramble to stop him, Damian Paletta​, July 25, 2018. The president wants to move forward on the plan despite warnings from GOP leaders and business executives who have argued that such a move could damage the economy and lead to political mutiny.

Trump Seeks More FCC Licenses For Supporters

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washington post logoWashington Post, Trump criticizes FCC for opposing Sinclair-Tribune deal, Tony Romm and Brian Fung, July 25, 2018. The president said the media merger would provide a “conservative voice for and of the People,” though politics are not supposed to factor into such considerations.

President Donald Trump officialPresident Trump came to the defense of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media, days after the Federal Communications Commission raised “serious concerns” about the deal and began legal proceedings to challenge it on grounds the companies had misled regulators.

Trump said Tuesday it was “so sad and unfair” that the FCC, an independent agency, did not approve the merger, a $3.9 billion transaction that would create a conservative television giant that originally hoped to reach roughly 70 percent of U.S. households.

fcc logoIn his tweet, the president stressed how the deal would provide a “conservative voice for and of the People," though politics are not supposed to factor into merger considerations.

“Liberal Fake News NBC and Comcast gets approved, much bigger, but not Sinclair. Disgraceful!” the president tweeted.

New York Times, ‘A Stir’ on Air Force One as a Television Is Tuned to CNN, Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, July 25, 2018 (print ed.). On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.

fox news logo SmallHe raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the “fake news” CNN — and caused “a bit of a stir” aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times.

At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward.

The channel-flipping flap was the latest example of how Mr. Trump, at a pivotal moment in his presidency, is increasingly living in a world of selected information and bending the truth to his own narrative. As his aides work to keep him insulated from the outside world, Mr. Trump is doubling down in his efforts to tell supporters to trust him over the words of critics and news reports.

U.S. Politics

July 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The city that never sleeps finds that it’s running out of reporters to report, Paul Farhi, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Local news plunges deeper into crisis as New York Daily News whacks half its staff.

New York City and its environs are home to 20 million people, Wall Street, Broadway, the fashion and media industries, and a mix of cultures unlike few cities on the planet.

And yet news organizations operating in this singular metropolis barely have enough reporters to cover the Bronx or Queens.

On Monday, the New York Daily News, one of the city’s three daily newspapers, said it would slash its news staff in half, a draconian cut that continues the long, slow bleeding of newspapers and reduces still further the amount of local news coverage in the nation’s largest city.

The story is largely the same across the United States as publishers have gradually pared their staffs amid the ongoing economic tumult wrought by the digital delivery of news and information.

The news industry has shriveled far faster than coal mining or heavy manufacturing, as exhaustively documented by the news industry itself. Employment in newspapers alone has sunk by more than half since the beginning of this century, tumbling from 424,000 people to 183,300 in mid-2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Digital 'Fake News' Scams

washington post logoWashington Post, On WhatsApp, fake news is fast — and can be fatal, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Annie Gowen, July 24, 2018 (print ed.). Americans associate misinformation with Facebook and the ways it shaped debate around the 2016 presidential election. But in other countries, falsities are just as likely to spread on private messaging services — sometimes with deadly consequences.

At least two dozen people have been killed in mob lynchings in India since the start of the year, their deaths fueled by rumors that spread on WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service. In Brazil, messages on WhatsApp falsely claimed a government-mandated yellow-fever vaccine was dangerous, leading people to avoid it. And as Mexico was heading into its presidential election this month, experts there called WhatsApp the ugly underbelly of the country’s news environment, a place where politically misleading stories, memes and messages can spread unchecked.

On WhatsApp, with 1.5 billion users, information can go viral in minutes as individuals forward messages along to their friends or groups, without any way to determine its origin.

Messaging platforms have hosted disinformation campaigns in at least 10 countries this year, according to a report by the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University. WhatsApp was the main platform for disinformation in seven of those nations, including Brazil, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe and Mexico.

July 23

ap logoAssociated Press via WABC TV, New York Daily News announces it is cutting half its newsroom staff, Staff report, July 23, 2018. The New York Daily News will cut half of its newsroom staff, saying it wants to focus more on digital news.

The paper was sold to tronc Inc. last year for $1, with the owner of the Chicago Tribune assuming liabilities and debt.

In an email sent to staff Monday, tronc said staff at the Daily News will focus on breaking news involving "crime, civil justice and public responsibility."

Revenue and print circulation have been sliding at the newspaper for years, even as it provided critical coverage of health issues in public housing and for first responders after the September 11 attacks.

Revenue slid 22 percent between 2014 and 2016, and the paper had already been letting people go.

"Since the year began, we've worked hard to transform the New York Daily News into a truly digitally-focused enterprise - one that creates meaningful journalism, delivers it more quickly and more frequently, and develops new approaches to engage our readers," an email sent to staff said. "We've gained a deeper understanding of our readership. We've redefined our structures. But we have not gone far enough."

Editor-in-chief Jim Rich and Managing Editor Kristen Lee are both included in the layoffs. Robert York, editor of Tronc-owned The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania, will take over as editor of The Daily News. Tronc Inc., based in Chicago, owns the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, and other media operations.

CNN, Tronc will make cuts at other papers after NYDN layoffs, Brian Stelter, July 23, 2018. Tronc laid off half the staff of the New York Daily News on Monday. Astonishingly, the cuts are not over yet. The newspaper publisher is laying off staffers at some of its other papers "today and tomorrow," according to a Monday afternoon memo from Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn.

The announcement immediately spooked staffers at papers like The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune. Dearborn said the cuts will not be as severe as in New York.

"The Daily News is unique in that local leadership determined a complete redesign of its structure was needed post-acquisition," he wrote. "We do not expect reductions of this scale in any of our other newsrooms."

A Tronc spokeswoman declined to provide further details about the size and scope of the cutbacks. The company's other publications include the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Hartford Courant, and The Morning Call of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

July 22

Justice Integrity Project, ABA Honors Media Revelations About Injustice, Andrew Kreig, July 22, 2018. The American Bar Association last week continued its 60-year tradition of annual media awards for legal coverage with a ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

On July 17, the 2018 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts recognized outstanding work that, in the words of the bar association, "fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system."

aba silver gavel 2018 blue Custom 2The six major awards for categories of print and video recognized cutting-edge work on policing, Japanese American internment during World War II, the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the prison colony at Guantánamo, a murder trial, and mortgage-fraud prosecution.

“The American Bar Association (ABA) engages in a careful, deliberative judging process to pick winners of the Silver Gavel Awards,” said Stephen C. Edds, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards in announcing the awards. “We congratulate all of our 2018 awardees for their extraordinary efforts to foster the American public’s understanding of law.”

Beyond those kinds of formalities that could be spoken any year, speakers noted the backdrop of this year's ceremony: huge attacks on the reputation of legal establishment (such FBI and judicial personnel) and the news media, especially from the White House and its supporters.

akhil amar colorMedia speakers especially voiced concern over how their normal work is being undermined by savage attacks at the same time that Internet-fostered competition is creating devastating financial problems for media organizations, forcing staff and coverage reductions.

As a result, this year's award process is particularly important, according to keynote speaker Akhil Amar (right), a Yale Law School constitutional scholar and previous Silver Gavel award-winner in the book division.

In such times as these, the professor continued, the Silver Gavel process encourages expensive in-depth media work from many others besides award winners. The awards foster a much larger and vitally necessary eco-structure of other good work, he said.  

Details here.

 

Alleged Disinformation Cadre 'White Helmets' Headed To UK, Canada, Germany

Jerusalem Post, Opinion: Israel evacuates hundreds of Syrian White Helmets in humanitarian effort, Seth J. Frantzman, July 22, 2018. The evacuation was kept secret and began at 9:30 p.m. Some 800 Syrians affiliated with israel flagthe White Helmets and their families are being evacuated from Quneitra through Israel to Jordan, according to the IDF Spokesperson's Unit. Syrian Civil Defense, the official name of the White Helmets, is a volunteer organization that has worked in rebel areas of Syria providing medical support during the Syrian conflict.

syrian white helmetsAccording to a Bild report published Saturday night by Paul Ronzheimer, Giorgos Moutafis and Julian Ropcke, around 800 Syrians were transported across the Syrian-Israel border. “From there on to Jordan,” the article states. “They are members and families of the famous White Helmets.” Those evacuated will continue on to the UK, Canada and Germany, according to Bild.

canadian flagThe Syrians will stay in a closed area while in Jordan for no more than three months and their passage onward has been guaranteed by three western countries. Jordan emphasized that it has hosted 1.3 million refugees from Syria and that the latest deal was organized by the United Nations.

Neither the AP report nor the Jordanian government statement mention Israel. This points to the fact that Israel’s role was considered controversial and that the method of the evacuation had to be kept under wraps until it was complete.

'Helmets' Alleged To Be UK/IDF/US Operatives

syria white helmets attack april 2017

'White Helmets' shown in alleged anti-Syrian propaganda film in April 2017

SouthFront, Opinion: Israel Evacuates 800 Members Of White Helmets And Their Families From Syria To Jordan, Staff report, July 22, 2018. Israel is working to hide the evidence of special propaganda operations carried out by the US-Israeli-led block against the Damascus government in Syria.

According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israel transported several hundred of the White Helmets and their families from the southwestern part of Syria to Jordan overnight Saturday. The IDF described it as “a humanitarian effort” at the request of the US and European countries.

The IDF claimed it engaged in the “out of the ordinary” move due to the “immediate risk” to the lives of the civilians in the area. The move came as Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, were finishing their operation to defeat Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and its allies in the southern provinces of Daraa and al-Quneitra.

The “civilians” evacuated by Israel were evacuated from the militant-held area.

According to Jordan’s official Petra state media outlet, the number of evacuated persons included 800 White Helmets members and their families.

Germany’s Bild newspaper reported that a convoy of dozens of buses crossed the contact line between the Israeli-controlled area and Syria late Saturday. Then the convoy was escorted to the Jordanian border by Israeli police and UN forces.

The White Helmets is an infamous Western-backed organization, which according to Syrian, Russian and Iranian governments as well as to multiple independent researchers, has been involved in staging chemical attacks and other propaganda actions in order to assist the US-led block in its attempts to overthrow the Assad government.

One of the most prominent cases if the “Douma chemical attack” on April 14, 2018.

According to Syrian experts, the key goal of the evacuation of the White Helmets members is to not allow forces of the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance from questioning members of the organization over their activities and to prevent further leaks and failures how the mainstream narrative on the conflict has been created through special propaganda operations.

BBC, Opinion: Syria conflict: White Helmets evacuated by Israel, Staff report, July 22, 2018. Israel says it has carried out an evacuation bbc news logo2of members of Syria's White Helmets civil defence group from a war zone in south-western Syria. Some 422 volunteers and family members were taken to Jordan via the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights overnight.

Numbering about 3,000 volunteers, they also carry out essential repair works. Some 200 members have been killed.

The White Helmets have gained worldwide praise, were nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize and were the subject of a Netflix documentary and BBC Panorama programme.

But Syria's government and its ally Russia have accused the group of links to jihadist groups. President Assad said it used "humanitarian masks and umbrellas just to implement a certain agenda".

The plan had been to evacuate 800 White Helmets and their families, but only 422 made it.The BBC's Mark Lowen says the others have been hemmed in by the expansion of Islamic State group fighters into pockets of south-west Syria and, as this was a one-off operation, fears remain for the fate of those left behind.

July 21

Mediaite, Rob Reiner’s 'Shock and Awe' Earns a Measly $41,000 on Opening Weekend, Tamar Auber, July 15, 2018. Director Rob Reiner‘s new movie "Shock and Awe," about journalists during the Iraq War, debuted this weekend… to disappointing numbers.

According to the movie’s description on Rotten Tomatoes, the film is “based on the true events of Knight Ridder journalists who were the only ones who ‘got it right’ in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq War when they questioned the true nature of the Bush White House’s justification for the conflict.”

Yet, you would be forgiven for not knowing that because this weekend practically no one bought tickets to see the film, which opened in limited release on July 13th. According to Box Office Mojo, for the weekend of July 13-15th, Shock and Awe grossed a measly $41,000. In contrast, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, which topped ticket sales earned $44,100,000.

rupert murdoch david shankbone cropped lic. creative commons 3.0

Rupert Murdoch shown in photo by David Shankbone (licensed under the Creative Commons attribution 3.0).

White House Chronicle, Rupert Murdoch, Mischief-Maker on a Global Scale, Llewellyn King, July 21, 2018. Liberals get apoplectic at the mention of the Koch brothers and, by the same token, conservatives gag at the mention of George Soros.

Yet, it can be argued, another rich man might have had a much larger effect on the politics of this century: Rupert Murdoch.Murdoch is the uber publisher and broadcaster of our time, and manipulator of public opinion.

In Britain, he is courted by prime ministers and in the United States by politicians, left and right. Since the emergence of Fox News as the champion of the angry white voter, he has been the comfort and the looking glass of one Donald Trump.

July 20

ny times logoNew York Times, The People Behind an Anti-Breitbart Twitter Account, Sapna Maheswari, July 20, 2018. No longer anonymously run, Sleeping Giants continues its mission of alerting companies to where their digital ads end up.

twitter bird CustomJust after the 2016 election, an anonymously run Twitter account emerged with a plan to choke off advertising dollars to Breitbart News, the hard-edge, nationalist website closely tied to President Trump’s administration.

The account, named Sleeping Giants, urged people to collect screenshots of ads on Breitbart and then question brands about their support of the site.

Sleeping Giants correctly guessed that many companies did not know where their digital ads were running, and advertisers were caught off guard as the account circulated images of blue-chip brands in proximity to headlines like “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”

As hundreds of brands blocked their ads from appearing on Breitbart, and the account expanded to put pressure on certain Fox News shows, the people behind Sleeping Giants maintained their anonymity — until this week.

ny times logomark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wNew York Times, What Stays and What Goes on Facebook? Site Can’t Answer, Farhad Manjoo, July 20, 2018 (print edition). Asked about the kind of content Facebook keeps up and the kind it removes, company executives from Mark Zuckerberg (shown at right) on down have been comically tripped up in their responses.

Facebook was once the most nimble company of its generation. The speed at which it adapted to every challenge was legendary. It needed only about a decade to go from a dorm-room start-up to the largest and most influential communications platform in the world.

facebook logoBut it’s been two years since an American presidential campaign in which the company was a primary vector for misinformation and state-sponsored political interference — and Facebook still seems paralyzed over how to respond.

In exchanges with reporters and lawmakers over the past week, its leaders — including Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive — have been comically tripped up by some of the most basic questions the site faces.

Mr. Zuckerberg, in an interview with the journalist Kara Swisher that was published Wednesday, argued that Facebook would not ban Holocaust denialism on the site because “there are things that different people get wrong.” He later explained there were many other ways that Holocaust deniers could be penalized by Facebook — yet lucidity remained elusive.

Kimberly Guilfoyle screenshot by The Blaze

Kimberly Guilfoyle became a former co-host at Fox News on Friday after the cable news network confirmed that they had parted ways with the popular news pundit. (Image Source: YouTube screenshot by The Blaze)

The Blaze, Fox News confirms Kimberly Guilfoyle departure in a surprising statement, Carlos Garcia, July 20, 2018. Fox News confirmed a report Friday that their popular host Kimberly Guilfoyle had left the cable news network in a statement that is being described as “terse.”

The statement released Friday was perfunctory and brief: “Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,” the statement read.

Guilfoyle had been a longtime co-host of “The Five,” but reports that she was dating the recently divorced Donald Trump Jr. have been followed by new career opportunities. The 49-year-old will reportedly join the pro-Trump non-profit organization, America First Politics, according to CNN. The report appeared to be confirmed through a tweet by a Trump Jr. spokesperson. “Having [Kim Guilfoyle] on the trail campaigning with [Donald Trump Jr.] for Republicans this fall is a win for the entire GOP,” Surabian tweeted.\Trump Jr., who is 40 years old, has been a prolific fundraiser and defender of his father’s agenda and legacy. Guilfoyle recently praised Trump Jr. as “the number one up-and-coming political figure for sure, on the right.”

“He has a compelling political voice; he is incredibly bright,” Guilfoyle added. “I have seen him at these different rallies, and I went to Montana with him. I’ve known him for over a decade.”

Mediaite, Fox News Announces Kimberly Guilfoyle is Leaving the Network, Aidan McLaughlin, July 20, 2018. Fox News confirmed in a statement to Mediaite on Friday that Kimberly Guilfoyle is leaving the network. “FOX News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle,” the short statement read, confirming reports that the longtime host is departing the network after more than a decade.

fox news logo SmallMediaite confirmed that Guilfoyle will not be appearing on The Five on Friday to say farewell. Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich will co-host in her place. She joined the network 2006, and served as a host on a series of shows, from Outnumbered to, most recently, The Five.

July 19

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ny times logoNew York Times, As Momentum for Sinclair Deal Stalls, Tribune Considers Options, Edmund Lee, July 19, 2018. The Sinclair Broadcast Group’s plan to create a broadcasting behemoth that it hoped would rival Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News appears to be coming to an end.

Already the largest local television operator in the nation, Sinclair agreed last year to buy the rival TV group Tribune Media for $3.5 billion. The deal would have given the combined company control of broadcasters reaching seven in 10 households across the country, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

But in light of the Federal Communications Commission’s draft order this week questioning whether Sinclair was sufficiently transparent in how it represented the deal to regulators and whether a merger would be in the public interest, Tribune said in a statement Thursday that it was “evaluating its implications and assessing all of our options.”

The merger agreement allows either side to walk away from the deal if it does not close by Aug. 8. Sinclair declined to comment.

ny times logogoogle logo customNew York Times, Opinion: Nice Try, but the E.U.’s Case Against Google Won’t Fix Tech, Editorial Board, July 20, 2018 (print edition). Officials need more effective ways to ensure competition in industries dominated by a handful of big players.

The European Union’s decision to fine Google $5.1 billion for abusing its dominance in the smartphone business unearthed some dubious corporate practices, but the penalty and an order for Google to change its practices are, regrettably, unlikely to make the technology industry more competitive.

After a yearslong investigation, Europe’s top antitrust official, Margrethe Vestager, on Wednesday said that Google had unfairly exploited its market power by imposing restrictions on manufacturers like Samsung that use the company’s Android software on their smartphones.

This case is important because about 80 percent of smartphones sold in Europe and globally run on Android, and Google is by far the largest player in internet search. The company is also the biggest player in online advertising, with a nearly 40 percent market share last year, and it has a commanding presence in a number of other internet businesses, like video, email and maps.

July 17

The Nation, I Came as a Journalist to Ask Important Questions, Sam Husseini, July 17, 2018. If I hadn’t been forcibly ejected from the Trump-Putin press conference, here’s what I would have asked.

I came to Helsinki to ask Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin questions about the threat of nuclear weapons and to distribute an open letter about the need for secure elections and true national security. Instead, I was dragged out of their press conference before it even began and into a Finnish jail. I was taken to a small room downstairs where I was told that Finnish law allows for police to detain me for 24 hours without charge. They did not allow me access to my phone or other possessions, and they forced me to give up my press badge, which I later got back. I was then taken to a detention facility. As I was moved outside, I hollered to onlookers, “This is freedom of press in Finland!”

At that point, officers started tackling me to the ground, and my legs and hands were cuffed. At the detention facility, I was asked more questions and laid out the facts of what had happened. I was released around midnight.

July 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Jailed Reporter in Myanmar Challenges Prosecution’s Version of His Arrest, Mike Ives, July 16, 2018. The journalist, U Wa Lone, and his colleague, U Kyaw Soe Oo, each face up to 14 years in prison under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act if convicted.

A Reuters reporter jailed for months by Myanmar’s government has challenged the prosecution’s account of how he and a colleague were arrested, the latest twist in a closely watched trial that highlights the government’s tense relationship with the news media.

The testimony on Monday by the journalist, U Wa Lone, came more than half a year after he and a Reuters colleague were arrested in Yangon, Myanmar’s major city, while investigating violence against the persecuted Rohingya ethnic minority, Reuters reported. It was the first time the defense had a chance to present its case to the court.

The prosecution has said the two reporters were detained during a routine traffic stop, Reuters reported. But Mr. Wa Lone told a Yangon court on Monday that the arrest occurred after he and his colleague, U Kyaw Soe Oo, met two police officers in a Yangon restaurant.Mr. Wa Lone said that one of the officers, Naing Lin, had arranged a meeting for the same day, insisting that it was urgent because he was about to be reassigned to another region.

July 9

myanmar map

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “Decision to try two Reuters reporters shows Myanmar court is following orders,” Staff report, July 9, 2018. A Myanmar judge announced today that the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are to be tried under the Official Secrets Act.

myanmar flagReporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this morning’s decision by a Yangon judge to go ahead with the trial of two Reuters journalists on a charge of possessing secrets and calls again for their immediate release.

After more than 200 days in detention and months of preliminary hearings, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are to face the possibility of up to 14 years in prison for investigating an army massacre of Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, a village near the Bangladeshi border in Rakhine state, in September 2017.

Arrested on 12 December after being lured into a trap by police and given supposedly classified documents, they are to be tried under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which the military uses whenever they want to prevent journalists from covering certain subjects.

“The refusal to dismiss the case against the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is indicative of a judicial system that follows orders and a failed transition to democracy in Myanmar,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“As a result of the decision to proceed with this trial, despite the many inconsistencies and the undeniable evidence of the two journalists’ innocence that came to light in the preliminary hearings, the chances of seeing a free and independent press emerge in Myanmar have declined significantly.”

RSF regards the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as patently arbitrary and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. Myanmar fell six places in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Indexand is now ranked 137th out of 180 countries.

Alternative Media

Unz Review, Why Was Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down? Kees van der Pijl, July 9, 2018. Kees van der Pijl is a Fellow, Centre for Global Political Economy and Professor Emeritus of the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

In my book Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster (Manchester University Press), I have refrained from entering the slippery terrain of making claims about who pulled the trigger, intentionally or by accident, in the late afternoon of 17 July, or even which type of weapon was used. For the downing of the Malaysian plane has become part of a propaganda war that was already heating up prior to the catastrophe. Instead the book is about what we do know about the events surrounding it, in the preceding months, weeks, and days, indeed even on the day itself. Subsequent events have only underlined that it is this context that lends meaning to the tragedy.

Whether the actual downing of Flight MH17 was an intentional, premeditated act or an accident, whether it involved a jet attack, an anti-aircraft missile, or both, ultimately cannot be established with certainty.

Yet both the NATO war party and the coup regime in Kiev, which on many occasions has demonstrated that its ultra-nationalist and fascist antecedents are very much alive, would have been perfectly capable of such an act and had the means for it. Most importantly, they had the motive. Those in power in Kiev had several times already attempted to draw Moscow into the civil war, directly and through a NATO intervention. If this indeed was their aim, it would also have served the Atlantic bloc’s determined and long-standing commitment to force continental Europe into an antagonistic relation with Russia.

Unz Review, Opinion: American Pravda: Post-War France and Post-War Germany, Ron Unz, July 9, 2018. Back in Junior High School I became an avid war-gamer, and was fascinated by the military history of the past, especially World War II, the most titanic conflict ever recorded. However, although I much enjoyed reading the detailed accounts of the battles of that war, especially on the Eastern Front that largely determined its outcome, I had much less interest in the accompanying political history, and simply relied upon the accounts in my standard textbooks, which I considered quite reliable.

July 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Wendi Winters, victim of Annapolis Capital Gazette shooting, rushed at gunman, Hannah Natanson, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Wendi Winters stood as soon as she heard the bangs.

A man with a gun had broken the glass doors leading to the newsroom of the Capital Gazette and was shooting at her colleagues, many of whom dropped to the floor or dove under their desks. Not Winters.

Grabbing the trash can and recycling bin she kept by her desk, she ran toward the man and yelled at him to stop — distracting him long enough to allow some of her colleagues to escape. Of the 11 people in the room that day, six survived.

“In an act of extraordinary courage, she gave her heart, and she gave her last breath, and she gave her final eight pints of blood to the defense of the free press and in defense of her family at the Capital,” Winters’s son Phoenix Geimer told a crowd of more than 700 family members, co-workers and friends gathered on Saturday in the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to celebrate Winters’s life. “She died fighting for what she believed in. My mom is an American hero, and we all have so much to live up to.”

Winters, 65, was among five Capital Gazette employees killed June 28 when, according to police, a man who had long borne a grudge against the paper opened fire in the Annapolis office in an effort to kill the reporters and editors inside.

washington post logoWashington Post, No comment’: The death of business reporting, Steven Pearlstein, July 8, 2018 (Print edition). More and more companies won’t talk with the press, and that’s bad for everyone.

Even the prospect of a positive story can’t crack open the door to the executive suite. Alan Murray, who spent years at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter and editor before taking the reins at Fortune magazine, summed it up this way: “One, they don’t trust us. And, two, they don’t need us.”

Indeed, what’s happened in the corporate world is not all that different from what has happened in politics and government in the era of Donald Trump, whose administration has set new highs in terms of distrust and hostility toward the press.

July 7

iran women hijab propaganda

Caitlin Johnstone via SouthFront, Opinion: This Is What Modern War Propaganda Looks Like, Caitlin Johnstone, July 7, 2018. I’ve been noticing videos going viral the last few days, some with millions of views, about Muslim women bravely fighting to free themselves from oppression in the Middle East. The videos, curiously, are being shared enthusiastically by many Republicans and pro-Israel hawks, who aren’t traditionally the sort of crowd you see rallying to support the civil rights of Muslims. What’s up with that?

American FlagWell, you may want to sit down for this shocker, but it turns out that they happen to be women from a nation that the US war machine is currently escalating operations against. They are Iranian.

Rex TillersonBack in December a memo was leaked from inside the Trump administration showing how then-Secretary of State, DC neophyte Rex Tillerson (right), was coached on how the US empire uses human rights as a pretense on which to attack and undermine noncompliant governments. Politico reports:

The May 17 memo reads like a crash course for a businessman-turned-diplomat, and its conclusion offers a starkly realist vision: that the U.S. should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“Allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies,” argued the memo, state dept map logo Smallwritten by Tillerson’s influential policy aide, Brian Hook.

The propaganda machine doesn’t operate any differently from the State Department, since they serve the same establishment.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudUS ally Saudi Arabia is celebrated by the mass media for “liberal reform” in allowing women to drive despite hard evidence that those “reforms” [led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, below right] are barely surface-level cosmetics to present a pretty face to the western world, but Iranian women, who have been able to drive for years, are painted as uniquely oppressed.

Iran is condemned by establishment war whores for the flaws in its democratic process, while Saudi Arabia, an actual monarchy, goes completely unscrutinized.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria: Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma, B, July 7, 2018. Some mainstream media are outright lying about the OPCW report on the alleged 'chemical attack' in Douma.

washington post logoThe Washington Post writes: "[A] global watchdog concluded that chlorine was indeed used in the city of Douma a day before rebel forces surrendered there....In an interim report released Friday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] said its inspectors had discovered traces of “various chlorinated organic chemicals” across two sites it inspected."

The OPCW did not conclude at all that "chlorine was indeed used." It found some chemical compounds which have chlorine, carbon and hydrogen in various configurations as their main elements. There are hundreds if not thousands of "chlorinated organic chemicals." A plastic pipe made from polyvenylchlorid (PVC = (C2H3Cl)n) is made of the same elements. One could call it a "chlorinated organic chemical." Burning something made of PVC will releases various compounds many of which will themselves be "chlorinated organic chemicals." But finding residues of a burned plastic pipe or isolation in a home does not mean that chlorine gas was used in that place. Several of the compounds the OPCW found result from using chlorine to disinfect water. They can be found within the chlorinated water and about anywhere where chlorinated water was used.

bbc news logo2The BBC made a similar 'mistake.' It headlined "Syria war: Douma attack was chlorine gas -- watchdog".

It took extensive social-media outrage and several hours for the BBC to correct its 'mistake.' It now headlines: Syria war: 'Possible chlorine' at Douma attack site -- Watchdog." That is better but still a lie. Nowhere do the OPCW report or its Technical Statement (pdf) use the expression 'possible chlorine.' No editorial note was added by the BBC to reveal that the original dispatch was changed.

A possible reason why so many outlets made this 'mistake' is the British news agency Reuters which first distributed this false claim. Reuters has since changed the headline and text of that item from "chlorine" to "chlorinated chemicals" but attached no note of that change. Moreover it does not explain that "chlorinated chemicals" will be found about anywhere.

It is doubtful that these 'mistakes' were made out of sloppiness. The writers likely intend to create the false impression that Syria was responsible for a 'chemical attack' that did not happen. They would otherwise have to expose the lies they published and told about the incident.

July 6

turkey flagReporters Without Borders, Zaman Trial: Heavy prison sentences for six Turkish journalists, Staff report, July 6, 2018. Six former columnists from Zaman, a now-closed Turkish newspaper, were sentenced on July 6 to prison terms as high as 10 and a half years. Five others were acquitted. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which attended the sentencing hearing, condemns the outcome as a political verdict that followed a Kafkaesque trial.

The verdict was handed down in Istanbul following a 10-month trial. Six former columnists for Zaman were sentenced to heavy prison terms for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The sentences for Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Ahmet Turan Alkan were eight years and nine months; Ibrahim Karayeğen got nine years; and Mustafa Ünaland Mümtazer Türköne were sentenced to 10 and a half years. Their colleagues İhsan Daği, Lale Kemal, Mehmet Özemir, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, however, were pronounced not guilty.

All of the defendants were acquitted on the charge of “attempting to overthrow of the government,” for which they could have faced life in prison.

United Kingdom flagReporters Without Borders (RSF), UK Counter-Terrorism Bill threatens press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources, Staff report, July 6, 2018. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about provisions of the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill that threaten press freedom, as outlined in a submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its inquiry into the bill.

The bill, which was tabled in the House of Commons on June 6, 2018 and is currently being scrutinized by the Public Bill Committee, contains a number of provisions that have worrying implications for press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources.

“We are alarmed by provisions of this bill that would restrict journalists’ ability to do their jobs and create a chilling effect on freedom of expression. This is particularly worrying in light of the broader trend of moves to restrict press freedom in the UK. Further, the speed at which this legislation is being pushed through is also concerning. We urge MPs to thoroughly scrutinize the bill and ensure that threatening measures are struck and sufficient protections for press freedom included”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

In particular, RSF has highlighted concerns about Clause 1, which criminalizes “reckless” expressions of opinion; Clause 2, which criminalizes the publication of images of clothing; Clause 3, which criminalizes the repeated viewing of vaguely defined content (a proposal RSF has previously spoken against); Clause 6, which proposes a significant increase in maximum sentences and could have a substantial chilling effect on journalism; Clause 12, which increases powers to enter and search home addresses, threatening the protection of confidential journalistic sources; and Clause 20 and Schedule 3, which create new powers of stop, search, detention, and retention and copying of material at ports and borders - again threatening the protection of journalistic sources.

RSF considers these measures unlawful, unnecessary, and disproportionate infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and recommends that they are excised from the bill. The new offences created would threaten press freedom and could criminalise responsible journalists investigating and reporting on issues of public interest. The UK is ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

July 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive named assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018.  Former Fox News Channel executive Bill Shine is joining the White House as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, the White House announced Thursday.

bill shineThe long-anticipated move follows weeks of speculation that the former Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network co-president was a front-runner for the job, which has remained vacant since former communications director Hope Hicks announced her resignation in February.

In a statement, the White House said Shine (shown above left in a file photo) “brings over two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience to the role.”

Shine, who started his two-decade-long career at Fox News as a producer for the show “Hannity & Colmes,” was ousted from his role as co-president last year after lawsuits suggested he enabled alleged sexual harassment by the network’s late chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive Bill Shine joins Trump White House as deputy chief of staff for communications, Paul Farhi and Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018. With Thursday’s announcement, Shine becomes the fifth communications chief since Trump took office nearly 18 months ago. Before Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci served 10 days in the role. He was preceded by Mike Dubke and Sean Spicer.

The move will bolster the White House’s messaging operation ahead of what is shaping up to be a fierce partisan battle over Trump’s choice for a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, set to be unveiled on Monday.

Yet the appointment is also likely to open the White House up to attacks regarding Shine’s record at Fox, as well as the Trump administration’s response to sexual misconduct allegations against officials within its own ranks. During his time at Fox, Shine helped to build the network into the media juggernaut it is today. But much like his mentor and patron, Ailes, Shine’s long tenure was clouded by unsavory allegations and associations with darker chapters in the network’s history. Ailes died in May 2017.

Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and improper behavior by more than a dozen women, accusations which he denies. And earlier this year, White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned amid reports that he had physically and emotionally abused his two ex-wives.

The presidential appointment reunites Trump with Shine, who gave the then-businessman and reality TV star copious airtime on Fox to opine on a range of subjects. Among them was a regular slot on “Fox & Friends,” on which Trump often promoted his false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. The weekly appear­ances helped burnish Trump’s political credentials, at least with more than a million viewers of the morning program.

gretchen carlsonShine has spent the past 14 months off the public grid after his ouster from Fox last May. He briefly succeeded Ailes as the network’s top executive after Ailes was driven out by sexual harassment allegations, including a lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson (shown at left), which Fox’s parent company settled in mid-2016 for $20 million.

Shine himself was never directly accused of harassment at Fox. But his latter years at the network were pockmarked by his association with Ailes, especially accusations that he helped facilitate Ailes’s predatory behavior. Shine has consistently denied wrongdoing.

He also was part of Fox’s senior management during the period in which the network was paying millions of dollars in settlements to former employees who had accused Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly of harassment.

He was named in suits filed by Carlson and former network contributors Julie Roginsky and Andrea Tantaros for his role in allegedly discouraging women at the network from taking their harassment claims to court. Roginsky, who said Ailes sexually harassed her, accused Shine of retaliating against her for her refusal to join “Team Roger,” a cadre of women who supported Ailes in his battle with Carlson. Shine denied those allegations.

laurie luhn cropped squareHe also allegedly played a role in covering up Ailes’s relationship with Laurie Luhn, a former Fox booker who claimed she had a long, abusive affair with Ailes that eventually led to her mental breakdown. Luhn received $3.1 million from Fox in 2011 to settle her allegations of abuse and mistreatment by Ailes.

Shine’s appointment by Trump on Thursday brought swift rebuke from attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Carlson and Roginsky in their suits against Ailes. “Roger Ailes’s enabler and confidant is well qualified to speak on behalf of a president who brags about assaulting women and preying on teenage beauty pageant contestants, and pays adult film actresses to be quiet about his adultery,” Smith said. “Being from Fox News, Shine is also well qualified to speak for a president who lies every single day.”

ed schultzBismarck Tribune, Former Fargo radio personality, MSNBC broadcaster Ed Schultz dies at 64, Staff and wire report, July 5, 2018. Longtime broadcaster Ed Schultz has died, multiple sources say. Sources say that Schultz died of natural causes. He was 64.

Schultz started his broadcast career in TV and radio in Fargo in the early 1980s, including time as sports director at WDAY-TV in Fargo. He went on to host a show at MSNBC and most recently worked for Russia Today. Schultz is a former quarterback at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

From Wikipedia: He was the host of The Ed Show, a weekday news talk program on MSNBC from 2009 to 2015, and The Ed Schultz Show, a talk radio show, nationally syndicated by Dial Global from 2004 to 2014. The radio show ended on May 23, 2014, and was replaced by a one-hour podcast, Ed Schultz News and Commentary, which ran from 2015 until his 2018 death. Schultz most recently hosted a daily primetime weekday show, News with Ed Schultz, on RT America TV channel based in Washington, D.C., that is part of the RT network.

July 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect Sent Letter Stating Plans to Kill at Capital Gazette, Matt Stevens and Daniel Victor, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The man suspected of fatally shooting five people in an Annapolis newsroom last week sent a letter to the Capital Gazette’s lawyer announcing that he planned to go there “with the objective of killing every person present,” a copy of the letter shows.

jarrod ramosIn the bizarre letter — which is postmarked June 28, the day of the shooting — the suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos formatted his remarks in such a way that the letter looks and reads much like a court document. Mr. Ramos, 38  (shown in a mug shot), had a yearslong legal dispute with The Capital over a 2011 column that detailed his harassment of a former high school classmate and had represented himself in the proceedings.

In his letter, he appears to blame the judiciary for being “too cowardly” to confront what he calls “lies.” He also uses an apparent quotation to argue that one reason defamation law exists is to prevent a defamed person from “wreaking his own vengeance.” And in what appears to be a separate attachment, he writes directly to a judge who had heard his case against the newspaper: “Welcome,” he tells the judge, “to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died.” He then signs the letter, “Friends forever.”

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Times Reassigns Reporter in Leak Case, Michael M. Grynbaum, July 3, 2018. Ali Watkins, the New York Times reporter whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Trump administration, will be transferred out of the newspaper’s Washington bureau and reassigned to a new beat in New York, The Times said on Tuesday.

Ms. Watkins, 26, had been the subject of an internal review by The Times after revelations that she had a three-year affair with a high-ranking aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she covered for several news organizations before joining The Times in December.

The aide, James Wolfe, 57, who handled classified material for the committee, was arrested last month as part of a leak investigation in which the Justice Department also seized Ms. Watkins’s communications, an unusually aggressive move against a journalist that prompted an outcry from press advocates. Mr. Wolfe was charged with lying to the F.B.I. but not with leaking classified information; he has pleaded not guilty.

June

June 29

washington post logoWashington Post, Capital Gazette shooting suspect charged with five counts of murder, Dana Hedgpeth and Ashley Halsey III, June 29, 2018. A man with a vendetta against a newspaper in Annapolis, Md., has been charged with five counts of murder after he fired a shotgun through the newsroom’s glass doors and at its employees, killing five and injuring two others Thursday afternoon in a targeted shooting.

Officials said Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel carried out the shooting. He is due Friday morning in Annapolis District Courthouse.

Local police said the Capital Gazette was targeted, prompting heightened security in newsrooms nationwide. The attack appears to be the deadliest involving journalists in the United States in decades.

On Friday, the opinion page of the Capital Gazette read, “Today we are speechless.”

Authorities said the suspect, whom they identified as Jarrod Ramos, specifically targeted the Capital Gazette when he fired a shotgun through the newsroom’s glass doors. Ramos, who is accused of killing five people and injuring two others, lost a defamation case he brought against the paper in 2015.

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Killed in Shooting in Maryland Newsroom, Sabrina Tavernise, Amy Harmon and Maya Salam, June 28, 2018. A man armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades stormed into the newsroom of a community newspaper chain in Maryland’s capital on Thursday afternoon, killing five staff members, injuring two others and prompting law enforcement agencies across the country to provide protection at the headquarters of media organizations.

jarrod ramosThe suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos (shown at right in a mug shot after arrest), 38, was taken into custody at the scene and was charged on Friday morning with five counts of first-degree murder. He had a long history of conflict with the Capital Gazette, which produces a number of local newspapers along Maryland’s shore, suing journalists there for defamation and waging a social media campaign against them.

The chilling attack was covered in real time by some of the journalists who found themselves under siege. A summer intern, Anthony Messenger, tweeted out the address of the office building where the newsroom is based, saying, “please help us.” A crime reporter, Phil Davis, described how the gunman “shot through the glass door to the office” before opening fire on employees.

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Mr. Davis wrote.

For a country that has grown numb to mass shootings, this was a new front. Schools have become a frequent target, with college students on down to kindergartners falling victim. A movie theater was shot up. Churches, too. But this was a rare attack on a news organization, one of the oldest in America, which dates its roots back to the 1700s and boasts on its website that it once fought the stamp tax that helped give rise to the American Revolution.

Unz Review, Update On 'American Pravda' Series, Ron Unz, June 29, 2018. Demonstrating that the passage of more than a half-century has not entirely dimmed interest in the issue, ranking first in readership this last week were the two parts of my analysis of the 1963 JFK Assassination, the first even being a hold-over from the previous week.

In Part I, I summarized some of the very considerable body of evidence that the Warren Commission verdict of a “lone gun” was very likely incorrect, and that a conspiracy of some sort therefore claimed the life of our President, noting that in research years even such impeccably respectable publications as The New York Times seem to have admitted exactly that conclusion.

Given the high likelihood of such a conspiracy, my much longer Part I discussed the possible range of central organizers, concluding that although it is impossible to come to any firm conclusion, the two most likely suspects, especially based on the factor of motive, would be Vice President Lyndon Johnson and the Israeli Mossad. Unsurprisingly this controversial topic provoked a very spirited debate, disputing all aspects of the issue, with comments on the two articles already totaling nearly 200,000 words and still going strong.

Unz Review, American Pravda: The JFK Assassination, Part I - What Happened? Ron Unz, June 18, 2018. Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W. Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, focused on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.

None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.

I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy,” in many cases from almost the very beginning.

American Pravda: The JFK Assassination, Part II – Who Did It? Ron Unz, June 25, 2018. A strong dam may hold back an immense quantity of water, but once it breaks the resulting flood may sweep aside everything in its path. I had spent nearly my entire life never doubting that a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy nor that a different lone gunman took the life of his younger brother Robert a few years later. Once I came to accept that these were merely fairy tales widely disbelieved by many of the same political elites who publicly maintained them, I began considering other aspects of this important history, the most obvious being who was behind the conspiracy and what were their motives.

The Kennedy assassination surely ranks as one of the most dramatic and heavily reported events of the twentieth century, yet the overwhelming evidence that our president died at the hands of a conspiracy rather than an eccentric “lone gunman” was almost entirely suppressed by our mainstream media during the decades that followed, with endless ridicule and opprobrium heaped on many of the stubborn truth-tellers. Indeed, the very term “conspiracy theory” soon became a standard slur aimed against all those who sharply questioned establishmentarian narratives, and there is strong evidence that such pejorative use was deliberately promoted by government agencies concerned that so much of the American citizenry was growing skeptical of the implausible cover story presented by the Warren Commission. But despite all these efforts, the period may mark the inflection point at which public trust in our national media began its precipitous decline. Once an individual concludes that the media lied about something as monumental as the JFK assassination, he naturally begins to wonder what other lies may be out there.

Although I now consider the case for an assassination conspiracy overwhelming, I think that the passage of so many decades has removed any real hope of reaching a firm conclusion about the identities of the main organizers or their motives. Those who disagree with this negative assessment are free to continue sifting the enormous mountain of complex historical evidence and debating their conclusions with others having similar interests.

June 27

Southern Poverty Law Center, Milo wants vigilantes to start killing journalists, and he's not being 'ironic,' David Neiwert, June 27, 2018. The far-right provocateur tells reporters he hopes angry conservatives start assassinating them, and the alt-right '14/88ers' love the idea.

milo yiannopoulos breitbartApparently, Milo Yiannopoulos (shown in a file photo) didn’t get the memo about the need for civility in our discourse. “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” the far-right provocateur texted a reporter for the New York Observer this week. When the reporter inquired further, Yiannopoulos explained that he had simply issued his “standard response to a request for a comment.”

But this wasn’t simply a toss-off remark. Yiannopoulos appears to be dead serious – that is, he sincerely believes that right-wing assassins should begin taking out targeted reporters. He’s been saying so on a number of forums, and it’s clear that he isn’t being simply “ironic” in the classic alt-right hall-of-mirrors fashion.

Yiannopoulos’ career has been in precipitous decline over the past year, following his sudden rise to media stardom as a leading figure in the alt-right, due largely to his influential role during the “Gamergate” controversy, then as an editor at Breitbart News. However, after an interview surfaced in February 2017 which he suggested sexual relations between adult men and young boys could be beneficial, he lost his sponsorship by the Mercer family, was dropped by his publisher, and resigned his position at Breitbart. Then in October, his close dalliances with white nationalists while at Breitbart (including an evening of karaoke with Richard Spencer) were exposed by Buzzfeed.

Since then, Yiannopoulos has tried to keep his career as an “alt-lite” pundit afloat through a number of ventures, even as his social media profile has risen and fallen. A speech in Arizona was shut down, ostensibly over death threats, causing his followers to plot revenge against his critics. He was also invited to speak to an audience of far-right anti-immigrant activists in Hungary in May 2018. He has spoken at a handful of campuses, including at Cal Poly in April, and also toured Australia in late 2017.

June 26

national  press club logoNational Press Club, Ethiopian journalist freed from prison expresses cautious optimism for reform, Lorna Aldrich, June 26, 2018. Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, freed from prison earlier this year, expressed cautious optimism for reform in his country at a news conference June 20 co-sponsored by the National Press Club Journalism Institute and the Freedom of the Press Team.

Nega noted that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April, promises change, but has not said what kind of change. According to AlJazeera.com, Ahmed replaced his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, and freed, or slated for freedom, 1,000 prisoners after widespread anti-government protests.

The journalist said he will return to Ethiopia and work to publish and to develop television journalism. The journalist mentioned two ways the international community has assisted and can still assist reform. Asked if efforts in 2012 by the Club and other journalists’ organizations on his behalf when he was on trial and potentially facing a death sentence made a difference, he said it did.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.S.A. Contractor Accused in Leak Pleads Guilty, Charlie Savage and Alan Blinder, June 26, 2018. Reality L. Winner, who pleaded guilty in Georgia, was the first person to be arrested during President Trump’s administration for leaking classified information.

Reality L. Winner, a former Air Force linguist who was the first person prosecuted by the Trump administration on charges of leaking classified information, pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of an agreement with prosecutors that calls for a sentence of 63 months in prison.

reality winner mug CustomMs. Winner (shown in a mug shot), who entered her plea in Federal District Court in Augusta, Ga., was arrested last June and accused of sharing a classified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election with the news media.

Ms. Winner, who is now 26, has been jailed since her arrest and wore an orange prison jumpsuit and white sneakers to the hearing. Her decision to plead guilty to one felony count allows the government both to avoid a complex trial that had been scheduled for October and to notch a victory in the Trump administration’s aggressive pursuit of leakers.

Ms. Winner, who was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 2016, was working as a contractor for the National Security Agency when she obtained a copy of a report that described hacks by a Russian intelligence service against local election officials and a company that sold software related to voter registration.

The Intercept, an online news outlet that a prosecutor said Ms. Winner admired, published a copy of the top secret report shortly before Ms. Winner’s arrest was made public. The report described two cyberattacks by Russia’s military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. — one in August against a company that sells voter registration-related software and another, a few days before the election, against 122 local election officials.

An F.B.I. affidavit made public when she was arrested last year said there was a visible crease mark on the file, a scan of which The Intercept had provided to the government while trying to authenticate it. That prompted investigators to surmise it was a printout. Audit trails showed six people had printed copies, but only one — Ms. Winner — had used a work computer to send emails to The Intercept. A search warrant application said she had found the report by plugging keywords into the N.S.A.’s system that fell outside her normal work duties.

Once rare, leak cases have become much more common in the 21st century, in part because of such electronic trails. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration brought nine or 10 leak-related prosecutions — about twice as many as were brought under all previous presidencies combined.

June 25 james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, How Reporter’s Affair With a Senate Aide Rattled the Media, Michael M. Grynbaum, Scott Shane and Emily Flitter, June 25, 2018 (print edition). The seizure of email records from a Times reporter alarmed First Amendment groups. Her relationship with an intelligence aide set off an ethical debate.

The pearl bracelet arrived in May 2014, in the spring of Ali Watkins’s senior year in college, a graduation gift from a man many years her senior. It was the sort of bauble that might imply something more deeply felt than friendship — but then again, might not.

Ms. Watkins, then a 22-year-old intern in the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers, was not entirely surprised. She had met James Wolfe, a 50-something senior aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee, while hunting for scoops on Capitol Hill. He had become a helpful source, but there were times when he seemed interested in other pursuits — like when he presented her with a Valentine’s Day card.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rapidly expanding fact-checking movement faces growing pains, Glenn Kessler, June 25, 2018..The number of fact-checking organizations has tripled around the globe in four years. But the journalistic movement is increasingly under attack.

Political fact-checkers from more than 50 countries gathered here to take stock of a fast-growing journalistic movement that has gained clout and influence while attracting criticism and heightened skepticism in an increasingly partisan age.

facebook logoFacebook has enlisted 24 fact-checking organizations in 14 countries to help weed out fake news on the social network, while policymakers and parliamentarians in Brazil, Italy and Spain, and at the European Union, have sought advice from fact-checkers on the challenge of misinformation.google logo custom Google now highlights fact checks in its search results and Bing has developed a special fact-checking page that features recent fact checks.

But fact-checkers have increasingly come under attack, facing accusations of bias and partisanship that the neutral journalistic format was supposed to avoid.

“A dark cloud hangs over us,” said Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), the umbrella organization that organized the meeting, when he opened the three-day conference on June 20.

Only four years ago, some three dozen fact-checkers met for the first time in London, in a small college classroom, hoping to spark greater global cooperation. That meeting led to the creation of the IFCN, which is housed at the Poynter Institute.

The number of fact-checking projects now stands at 149 in 53 countries, according to a count in February by the Duke University Reporters’ Lab. That’s triple the number recorded four years ago, but the figure is already out of date. Two fact-checking organizations have opened in Panama in recent months, for instance.

One persistent compliant is that fact-checkers suffer from “selection bias,” in that they decide what to fact-check.

The problem has become particularly acute for U.S. fact-checkers in the era of a president persistently tweeting and speaking falsehoods — and Republican domination of Congress. The result is that the percentage of fact checks of Democrats has fallen since the end of the Barack Obama presidency, creating an imbalance that some readers — and fact-checkers — find troubling.

June 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s trade war threatens the U.S. newspaper industry, Jackie Spinner, June 24, 2018 (print edition). His policy to protect U.S. paper mills is squeezing budgets at every paper in the country.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Facebook’s fight against fake news has gone global, Elizabeth Dwoskin, June 24, 2018 (print edition). In Mexico, just a handful of vetters are on the front lines, The social media giant is tracking 50 elections this year. In countries like Mexico, the meddling often comes from within.

June 23

julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

paul craig robertsWikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, shown in a graphic by The Indicter, an online magazine

OpEdNews, The Persecution of Julian Assange Proves That Western Values No Longer Exist, Paul Craig Roberts (right), June 23, 2018. The Western world never ceases to speak of its "democratic values." In Western political theory, the way democracy works is by free speech and a free press. By speaking out, citizens and media keep the government accountable.

This liberal tradition means that there are no words or terms that cannot be used because some designated "victim group" can claim to feel offended. The inroads into free speech made by political correctness, now institutionalized in universities and the public school system, in the presstitute media, in American corporations such as Google, and in the enculturated habits of Americans, demonstrate a decline in the status of free speech. Governments have also made inroads, with the "war on terror" becoming a justification for warrantless spying, mass surveillance, and a clampdown on dissent.

The free press has declined even more dramatically than free speech. The NY Times of the Pentagon Papers disappeared during George W. Bush's first term when the newspaper sat on the story that the Bush regime was spying without warrants. The NY Times sat on the story for a year, allowing Bush to be reelected without controversy and allowing the government time to legalize the spying on an ex post facto basis.

Today the media are a propaganda ministry engaged in the demonization of Russia and Trump and justifying the war crimes of Washington and its vassal states.

This is why there is no media uproar over the six-year incarceration of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Wikileaks is a news organization and has not done anything that a free press has not always done. Julian Assange is a citizen of Australia and Ecuador. He is not an American and thus cannot be guilty of treason. Yet Washington is believed to have used a grand jury to concoct such a case against him.

The new president of Ecuador is not the strong and good man that his predecessor was. Under Washington's pressure Moreno is making life in the Ecuadorian embassy as unbearable as possible for Assange in an effort to force him out into British hands. Responding to Washington's pressure, the British government will not honor his asylum, which prevents Assange from being able to leave the embassy.

This week there were protests in Australia in support of Assange. However, Western governments are now so far removed from citizens who are today little more than subjects that it is unlikely that anything short of revolution can restore accountability to governments in the West.

June 21

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

The New Yorker reports that Karen McDougal, shown in a photo drawn from YouTube with President Trump, was paid $150,000 by American Media, Inc., for her story about an affair with the married future president Trump in 2006

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, National Enquirer Executives Said to Be Subpoenaed in Cohen Investigation, Jim Rutenberg, June 21, 2018 (print edition). The investigation into President Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael D. Cohen (right) has ensnared the publisher of The National Enquirer, further thrusting the media company into a federal inquiry involving a onetime top lieutenant to a sitting president.

Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York subpoenaed executives at the publisher, American Media, this spring, according to people who have been briefed about the move but agreed to share the details about it only on the condition of anonymity.

david pecker croppedThe prosecutors had already asked for communications between Mr. Cohen and American Media’s chairman, David J. Pecker (left), and its chief content officer, Dylan Howard. That request was part of a search warrant they secured for Mr. Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and electronic devices in April. The people familiar with the investigation said prosecutors sought similar communications from Mr. Howard and Mr. Pecker.

karen mcdougal playboyDuring the presidential campaign, American Media had arranged to effectively silence Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump years earlier, with a $150,000 payout.

The payment caught the attention of investigators conducting a broad investigation into Mr. Cohen’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Trump during the campaign, as well as his own business dealings. It is also the subject of a complaint at the Federal Election Commission.

washington post logoWashington Post, Enquirer sent stories on Trump to his lawyer before publication, say people familiar with the practice, Sarah Ellison, June 21, 2018. The National Enquirer’s alleged sharing of material with Michael Cohen highlights the support the tabloid news outlet offered Trump as he ran for president in 2016.

During the presidential campaign, National Enquirer executives sent digital copies of the tabloid’s articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen in advance of publication, according to three people with knowledge of the matter — an unusual practice that speaks to the close relationship between Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company.

Although the company strongly denies ever sharing such material before publication, these three individuals say the sharing of material continued after Trump took office.

“Since Trump’s become president and even before, [Pecker] openly just has been willing to turn the magazine and the cover over to the Trump machine,” said one of the people with knowledge of the practice.

During the campaign, “if it was a story specifically about Trump, then it was sent over to Michael, and as long as there were no objections from him, the story could be published,” this person added.

The Enquirer’s alleged sharing of material pre-publication with Trump’s attorney during the campaign highlights the support the tabloid news outlet offered Trump as he ran for president. It also intersects with a subject that federal prosecutors have been investigating since earlier this year: Cohen’s efforts to quash negative stories about Trump during the campaign. As part of that, prosecutors are also looking into whether Cohen broke campaign finance laws, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Federal prosecutors subpoenaed American Media Inc. as part of their investigation into Cohen, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. A Justice Department official said Pecker did not fall under the regulation that governs when and how prosecutors can obtain records of members of the news media.

June 19

The 5th Estate Asia, Opinion: Anti-American website a matrix of propaganda, disinformation, bogus "financial advice," Robert S. Finnegan, June 19, 2018. With every passing day the fake news purveyors and manipulators become more and more sophisticated, metastasising across the lines of print, broadcast and internet platforms. Some are transparently easy to spot and isolate, others mutate daily in order to confuse, disorient and bedevil consumers in their disorienting search for factual and credible news reporting.

One graphic example of this insidious malignancy is the internet website Zero Hedge, a portal for "doom porn" that has now become a huge moneymaker in the digital world, along with "financial advice" that has led to the monetary evisceration of many investors that mistakenly took their slick "reports" on finance and Wall Street as the real thing.

Zero Hedge is a classic representation of the sophistry and propagandist modus operandi combining sourced news with totally contrived refuse in order to mask it's origins and intent, which is ultimately to confound, befuddle and misinform the reader.

Posts on Zero Hedge are written under the pseudonym "Tyler Durdin," Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s character from “Fight Club.” If nothing else the term "Buyer Beware" or "Caveat Emptor" applies in spades to Zero Hedge for both financial investors and news consumers alike.

Durden is actually two men: wealthy financial analysts Daniel Ivandjiiski and Tim Backshall. The Sydney Morning Herald provides background: Ivandjiiski worked for a hedge fund before being barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in 2008 for insider trading. He didn't admit or deny wrongdoing, the agency said. Backshall is a familiar face on financial news networks who has been quoted by media outlets, including Bloomberg.

June 18

Reporters Without Borders, Journalist arrested while covering protest in Missouri: Round-up of week's news, Staff report, June 18, 2018. Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of June 11-17:

michael nigro jefferson city mo

Journalist arrested while covering protest in Missouri: On June 11, photojournalist for Truthdig Michael Nigro (shown above) was arrested in Jefferson City, Missouri, while reporting on acts of civil disobedience taking place during an economic justice protest, where participants had linked arms and were blocking the street in front of the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Nigro was wearing press credentials and recording the incident when a police officer told him to get off the road and stand on the sidewalk. After approaching a different officer who also told him to return to the sidewalk, Nigro backed up but was still arrested and charged with “failure to obey.”

Press access limited at North Korea-United States summit: The White House restricted press access at the June 12 summit between the United States and North Korea. Only seven American journalists were included in the press pool during President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s first meeting, an event of the type that would normally consist of a pool of about a dozen reporters from various news outlets including major wire services like The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters. For this meeting, such wire services were not permitted to attend. Later that day, Singaporean press was permitted to attend the lunch between Trump and Kim, but American press were excluded.

Trump tweets “the fake news” is biggest threat to US and an enemy of the people: In a June 13 tweet, President Trump claimed “the fake news” is the country’s “biggest enemy.” That this tweet came just a day after he “lavished praise” on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not lost on the American press. This inflammatory anti-press rhetoric has become commonplace for the president, who has tweeted about “fake news” 9 times in the past week, including a tweet referring to major news organizations as the “enemy of the people Fake News.” Trump team members say reporters asking questions are “insulting.”

julian assange indictor collage resized Small

Julian Assange, shown inside Ecuador's embassy in London, in a collage assembed by The Indicter online magazine

WBAI-FM (New York City), MCM on the plight of Julian Assange, the moral failure of the US "left," and more, "Law and Disorder" host Michael Smith interviews New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller ("MCM"), June 18, 2018. The WikiLeaks founder and truth-telling publisher Julian Assange is in escalating danger of being sent from England to America where he would likely be tried for espionage, a crime that carries the death penalty.

Assange and WikiLeaks have revealed American war crimes in the Middle East, CIA global machinations , and the work of Clinton Democrats in preventing the popular Bernie Sanders from heading up the party ticket. Assange is presently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted political asylum six years ago by past leftist president Rafael Correa. But now, with the change of presidents in Ecuador, Assange has been cut off from the outside world. He has no phone, no computer, and no visitors.

The fresh offensive against him occurred the day after American General Joseph DiSalvo, the head of the US Southern Command, the Pentagon’s arm in Latin America, visited the new right wing Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno. Moreno has said that Assange is “an inherited problem” and is seeking s better relationship with the United States government, to whom he has already granted a military base.

mark crispin millerMark Crispin Miller is a professor of media studies at New York University. Miller has frequently spoken about media propaganda, the engineering of consent for empire, fake news, and the destruction of the independent press. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the humanities and is a vigorous defender of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

June 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Goodbye, Denver Post. Hello, Blockchain, Jaclyn Peiser, June 17, 2018. They left The Denver Post amid newsroom layoffs and interference in the editorial process by the newspaper’s hedge-fund owners. And now those reporters and editors are creating their own news outlet, The Colorado Sun.

They will be partnering with the Civil Media Company, an ambitious New York start-up that aims to use blockchain technology and crypto economics to start 1,000 publications nationwide by the end of the year.

“It is absolutely exciting,” said Larry Ryckman, a former senior editor at the beleaguered Denver daily, who will serve as the editor of The Colorado Sun. “We have been so eager to get moving.”

The editor has assembled a team of former Post employees, including five reporters — Kevin Simpson, John Ingold, Tamara Chuang, Jennifer Brown and Jason Blevins — and two senior editors, Eric Lubbers and Dana Coffield.

June 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Hands off my data! 15 more default privacy settings you should change now on your TV, cellphone plan and more, Geoffrey A. Fowler, June 16, 2018 (print edition). The Post’s tech columnist is back with Round 2 of his clickable guide to improving your privacy on all sorts of devices and online services.

rob rogers pittsburgh post gazette facebook

Rob Rogers, a 1999 Pulitzer finalist, fired as editorial cartoonist from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after beginning there in 1992 (Facebook photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Was Fired for Making Fun of Trump, Rob Rogers, June 16, 2018 (print edition). After 25 years as the editorial cartoonist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was fired on Thursday.

I blame Donald Trump. Well, sort of. I should’ve seen it coming. When I had lunch with my new boss a few months ago, he informed me that the paper’s publisher believed that the editorial cartoonist was akin to an editorial writer, and that his views should reflect the philosophy of the newspaper.

That was a new one to me. I was trained in a tradition in which editorial cartoonists are the live wires of a publication — as one former colleague put it, the “constant irritant.” Our job is to provoke readers in a way words alone can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.

pittsburgh post gazette logoWhen I was hired in 1993, The Post-Gazette was the liberal newspaper in town, but it always prided itself on being a forum for a lot of divergent ideas. The change in the paper did not happen overnight. From what I remember, it started in 2011, with the endorsement of the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, which shocked a majority of our readership.

The next big moment happened in late 2015, when my longtime boss, the editorial page editor, took a buyout after the publisher indicated that the paper might endorse Mr. Trump. Then, early this year, we published openly racist editorials.

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: The Real Deep State, Webster G. Tarpley (author and commentator shown at right), June 9, 2018 (74:02 mins.). Dr. Tarpley's decades of research helped document how a "deep" or unelected government controls much of presidential and other governmental action.

"We're in the middle of a collapse of the United States position in the world," he began. "We've got a collapse of the U.S. alliance sytem in Europe and we've got a very threatening situation inside the country in terms of basic freeddoms: the First Amendment under grave attack and the news that the Trump regime will no longer defend the Affordable Care Act against a lawsuit brought by 20 reactionary Republican states to try to strip you of your health care and leave you with nothing but your eyes to cry with."

"They'll give you with nothing! And that, of course, means 40 to 50 thousand needless deaths in this country. That's the essence of Republican policy, an attack on the lives, and the health and the well-being of America."

"They'll sell you junk insurance so that when you get sick they'll tell you that you're not covered."

ny times logodavid pecker croppedNew York Times, A.M.I., Tabloid Giant and Trump Ally, Expands Its Reach, Daniel Victor and Jim Rutenberg, June 16, 2018 (print edition). American Media Inc., the country’s largest tabloid publisher whose chairman is a close ally of President Trump, controls almost the entire supermarket checkout rack after new acquisitions announced on Friday.

A.M.I. said it had bought In Touch, Life & Style, Closer and 10 other titles from Bauer Media, expanding a celebrity-news portfolio that already included The National Enquirer, Us Weekly, Globe, OK!, Star and Radar Online.

att logoThe move gives the company, led by David J. Pecker (shown at right in a file photo), almost full ownership of the print gossip market, leaving People magazine, owned by the Meredith Corporation, as one of the only major glossy gossip titles not under Mr. Pecker’s umbrella. (TMZ, the dominant gossip player online, has come under the ownership of AT&T with its purchase of Time Warner.)

Mr. Pecker is a Bronx native and a longtime Trump friend. A former top executive of Mr. Trump’s casino business sits on A.M.I.’s four-member board of directors. During the 2016 campaign, its flagship National Enquirer devoted glowing covers to Mr. Trump’s triumphs, aggressively attacked his rivals and made its first-ever presidential endorsement

June 11

washington post logoWashington Post, So long to net neutrality, hello to bigger telecoms? The Web you know may never be the same, Tony Romm, June 11, 2018.Today marks the official end of the government’s net neutrality rules, a change that comes as a judge is expected to rule Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner. The two developments could lead to further consolidation of wireless, cable and content giants, public-interest advocates say.

Two pivotal developments this week could dramatically expand the power and footprint of major telecom companies, altering how Americans access everything from political news to “Game of Thrones” on the Internet.

ajit pai headshot customMonday marks the official end of the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules, which had required broadband providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon to treat all Web traffic equally. The repeal is part of a campaign by Ajit Pai (right), the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to deregulate the telecom industry in a bid to boost its investments — particularly in rural areas.

“I think ultimately it’s going to mean better, faster, cheaper Internet access and more competition,” Pai said in an interview. Others disagree and will challenge Pai in court, while many states are fighting back with their own laws, further muddling the situation.

att logoOne day after the net neutrality changes, a federal judge is set to rule on Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner. AT&T, already the country’s second-largest wireless network, stands to gain a content trove from Time Warner that includes HBO and CNN — leading the Justice Department, which filed the lawsuit, to argue that the company could harm its rivals.

ny times logoNew York Times, How You Could Be Affected Now That Net Neutrality Is Over, Keith Collins, June 11, 2018. Net Neutrality rules that required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content are no longer in effect as of Monday.

June 9

pogo logo squareProject On Government Oversight (POGO), Opinion: A Dangerous Escalation in "The War on Leaks," Andrea Peterson, June 9, 2018.A Dangerous Escalation in "The War on Leaks"

Last night, The New York Times reported that a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, James Wolfe, was arrested Thursday after a grand jury indicted him on charges of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Times reporter Ali Watkins and other journalists. Watkins, a rising star in national security reporting, and Wolfe, who led the Committee’s efforts to safeguard the classified and sensitive information shared with Members, had a three-year romantic relationship.

During that time, Watkins broke a number of high-profile scoops about the Committee’s operations. While Watkins told the Times Wolfe was not a source of classified information for her reporting during their relationship, the optics are concerning. But beyond the journalism ethics questions about the relationship, there’s a major threat to First Amendment rights. During the investigation into Wolfe and leaks from the Committee, the Justice Department went after Watkins’ data—seizing years of records related to her email accounts and phone number, according to a letter the agency sent to Watkins.

News media advocacy groups warn that the move sets a dangerous legal precedent for journalists’ ability to protect their sources. “Efforts by government that undermine this ability therefore represent a fundamental threat to press freedom,” the Committee to Protect Journalists’ North America Program Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck said in a statement Friday.

The Justice Department’s statement to the Times about the data grab also suggests the agency is potentially widening the scope of leak investigations beyond exposure of classified information by taking the unprecedented step of looking into the “unauthorized disclosure of controlled information" (emphasis added). That’s a much broader standard that could apply to leaking that is in no way criminal conduct, and which could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers who already face potential professional repercussions — such as being fired — for taking their concerns to the media.

June 8

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Reporter’s Records Are Seized in Justice Dept. Inquiry, Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner, June 8, 2017 (print edition). Prosecutors seized phone and email records as part of an investigation into leaks by a former Senate aide. It was the first known use of such an aggressive tactic under President Trump.

Justice Department log circularFederal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks. It was the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump.

The seizure — disclosed in a letter to the reporter, Ali Watkins — suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump has complained bitterly about leaks and demanded that law enforcement officials seek criminal charges against government officials involved in illegal and sometimes embarrassing disclosures of national security secrets.

Investigators sought Ms. Watkins’s information as part of an inquiry into whether James A. Wolfe, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, disclosed classified secrets to reporters. F.B.I. agents approached Ms. Watkins about a previous three-year romantic relationship she had with Mr. Wolfe, saying they were investigating unauthorized leaks. The two are shown above in file photos.

News media advocates consider the idea of mining a journalist’s records for sources to be an intrusion on First Amendment freedoms, and prosecutors acknowledge it is one of the most delicate steps the Justice Department can take. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

washington post logoWashington Post, Young reporter in leak investigation enjoyed meteoric rise in Washington journalism, Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi, June 8, 2018. The first known leak investigation of the Trump administration has put under scrutiny a 20-something New York Times reporter, who enjoyed a meteoric rise through Washington’s journalism ranks that began while she was still in college.

james wolfe cspanTimes reporter Ali Watkins hasn’t been charged in the Justice Department’s investigation of the leak of classified information from the Senate Intelligence Committee. But the revelation late Thursday that the FBI had secretly seized years’ worth of Watkins’ phone and email records, dating back to when she was a student at Temple University, raised questions about her relationship with the man at the center of the investigation.

Watkins’ romantic involvement with former intelligence committee aide James A. Wolfe (shown during a C-SPAN appearance) — who was indicted on Thursday — focused attention on her reporting for such news organizations as McClatchy’s Washington bureau, BuzzFeed and Politico.

June 7

Mondoweiss, Opinion: 'Israel has no choice’ — ‘NY Times’ columnists largely line up behind Gaza massacre, Philip Weiss, June 7, 2018. From the beginnings of the massacre in Gaza we have insisted that Israel’s actions have changed American opinion, and alienated people who were once supportive of Israel. “A frankly unconscionable use of force,” Chris Hayes said, while David Rothkopf called the slaughter the anti-Passover: “A supposedly Jewish state violating the most basic concepts of the religion in order to defend its ‘right to exist.’”

Now Eric Alterman in The Nation bluntly states that Israel used to be “a source of pride and admiration” for liberal Jews, but “today brings only shame and sadness.” The longtime liberal Zionist acknowledges the weight of this moment. The killings are “appalling,” Alterman says; and together with Israel’s 70th anniversary and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem give “every indication of being a turning point.”

His piece is important because he points out that Israel’s defenders are hard at work: “the punditocracy remains filled with those who do not merely excuse Israel’s use of excessive force but actively praise it.”

ny times logoThis is particularly true of the New York Times op-ed page, which, aside from Michelle Goldberg’s laments for the fate of liberal Zionism, is dominated by apologists for the Netanyahu government.

Tough Tom Friedman of course is also a defender of Israel’s actions. He wrote: “I get why Israel has no choice but to defend its border with Gaza with brute force.” Friedman says Palestinian refugees need to move on.

Why should they pay with their ancestral homes for Jewish refugees who lost theirs in Germany or Iraq? The only answer is that history is full of such injustices and of refugees who have reconciled with them and moved on — not passed on their refugee status to their kids and their kids’ kids. It’s why so few Arabs, so few Europeans, so few anybody, rose to Hamas’s defense. People are fed up with it.

I may be missing some opinions, but I’m surprised. I thought Times opinion writers would seek to reflect this moment in some of its horror. But no, at a time of moral reckoning, the stable of New York Times has been strongly on Israel’s side, excepting Goldberg. That’s what you get when you hire only pro-Israel columnists, several with an ideological commitment to Zionism. Many readers are turning the page.

June 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Are the Death Tolls in Puerto Rico From Hurricane Maria So Different? Sheri Fink, June 2, 2018. Widely different estimates of Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico have led to confusion. Here is a guide to the tallies, what accounts for their differences and how a new study aims to provide a more definitive account:

What is The New York Times’s estimate? In December, The New York Times analyzed vital statistics from the Puerto Rican government that showed that in the 42 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017, 1,052 more people than usual died in Puerto Rico.

That figure was particularly striking because thousands of people had left the island, including many with chronic medical conditions. Based on the likelihood that the population there was smaller in the fall of 2017, we would have expected the number of deaths per day to decrease, not increase.

May

National Press Club, National Press Club unveils plan for media summit after reporter roughed up at EPA meeting, Kathy Kiely, May 22, 2018. The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute are renewing a call for dialogue between newsmakers and the news media following another incident in which officials of President Donald Trump’s administration manhandled a reporter in a public building.

epa general logoHours after one of its reporters was blocked from covering a summit on water contamination, along with representatives of several other news organizations, the Associated Press reported receiving an apology Tuesday from the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the AP's account, guards had barred the wire service's reporter from passing through a security checkpoint, and when the reporter asked to speak with EPA public affairs personnel, shoved her out of the building.

EPA officials insisted in public statements, including emails to the Press Club, that they were merely trying to manage an overcrowded room. But the Press Club expressed concern about the decision to limit coverage at an event featuring EPA chief Scott Pruitt to 10 invited reporters and questioned the way that limit was enforced.

"Pushing reporters around is what happens in dictatorships, not in a democracy where the press's right to represent the public is enshrined in the Constitution," said Andrea Snyder Edney, president of the National Press Club. "And why were reporters being kept out of a meeting of major news significance at which a senior official was speaking on the public record? This is unacceptable."

This is not the first time since the Trump administration came to office that reporters have been manhandled by security guards while trying to do their jobs. Last May, the Press Club protested when one of its members, CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly, was forcibly prevented from questioning members of the Federal Communications Commission and then kicked out of FCC headquarters.

"It should go without saying that the press must be able to cover public events convened by a taxpayer-funded government agency--but apparently it needs to be said these days," said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the club's not-for-profit arm. "It is bad enough to bar the press in this way, but to use force to enforce such a misguided dictate just compounds the mistake."

In response to earlier outbreaks of hostility towards the press, including the international headlines that erupted when a reporter was attacked by a congressional candidate, the Press Club's Journalism Institute last summer hosted "Can We Talk," a conversation between members of the press and leaders of the institutions they cover about how to lower the temperature.

Funding has since been secured for an expanded version of this event that will feature more in-depth, intimate conversations among invited participants. Plans will be underway this summer for a fall summit.

April

April 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake news’ might have saved Trump from an awkward confrontation over his vulgar remark about African countries, Callum Borchers, April 30, 2018. Just a few months ago, President Trump grew frustrated during a meeting in the Oval Office about protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries and asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

muhammadu buhari suitThe African Union condemned the remark at the time. On Monday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari became the first of its members to visit the Trump White House.

“Did you address his reported comments from earlier this year, when he reportedly used vulgar language to describe African nations?” Jordan Fabian of the Hill asked Buhari (shown in a file photo) during a joint news conference.

Buhari's response showcased one possible effect of Trump's “fake news” refrain.

“Well,” Buhari began, “I’m very careful with what the press says about others than myself. I’m not sure about, you know, the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

If he truly doubts that Trump made the statement, partly in reference to African countries, then Buhari may be one of the few. Even the White House initially did not dispute The Washington Post’s report on the comment in January.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kelly denies calling Trump an ‘idiot,’ says news report is ‘pathetic attempt to smear people,’ Josh Dawsey, April 30, 2018. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Monday denied he said President Trump is an “idiot,” calling an NBC News story that said he had done so “total BS.”

Kelly’s statement came about 45 minutes after NBC News published a report that described a number of fights between Trump and his embattled chief of staff. The outlet reported that Kelly often tells senior aides that they have to save the president from himself and his impulses — and that Trump does not understand policy.

ap logoAssociated Press via WJLA TV, Koch Foundation donations linked to hiring, firing of professors at George Mason Univ., Matthew Barakat, April 30, 2018. Newly released documents show Virginia's largest public university granted the conservative Charles Koch Foundation a say in the hiring and firing of professors in exchange for millions of dollars in donations. The documents' release follows years of denials from George Mason University that the donations inhibit academic freedom.

antonin scalia cropped group portraitThe documents were released to a former student under a Freedom of Information Act request after a judge scrutinized Mason's denial of similar requests at a trial last week. University President Angel Cabrera wrote a note to faculty Friday saying the agreements fall short of his standards for academic independence. The foundation said the agreements are "old and inactive."

The school's relationship with the foundation has received increased scrutiny since 2016 when Mason renamed its law school for conservative jurist Antonin Scalia. [Scalia, shown at right, died on a junket to a luxery ranch in Texas at an outing with a secret society that included a patron for his trip.]

April 29

The Atlantic, The Era of Fake Video Begins, Franklin Foer, April 29, 2018 (May 2018 issue). The digital manipulation of video may make the current era of “fake news” seem quaint.

In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck, however, belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes, one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest, most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era. At the core of the cruelty is the acuity of the technology: A casual observer can’t easily detect the hoax.

Fabricated videos will create new and understandable suspicions about everything we watch. Politicians and publicists will exploit those doubts. When captured in a moment of wrongdoing, a culprit will simply declare the visual evidence a malicious concoction. The president, reportedly, has already pioneered this tactic: Even though he initially conceded the authenticity of the Access Hollywood video, he now privately casts doubt on whether the voice on the tape is his own.

Palmer Report, National Enquirer throws Michael Cohen under the bus, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. Ever since Donald Trump’s foray into politics began, the National Enquirer has consistently tried to steer public opinion in Trump’s direction. The tabloid rag has used its front page to push phony stories about Trump’s opponents, while playing up Trump to be some kind of hero. We’ve since learned that the Enquirer was also exclusively buying up the stories of Trump’s mistresses and accusers, in order to bury those stories. Now things have taken a major turn.

fbi logoThe Feds are investigating Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen (shown at right) on a number of matters, including his role in paying off Trump’s mistresses during the election, in apparent violation of campaign finance laws. The Feds are also investigating the payouts made by the National Enquirer; if those payouts were coordinated with the Trump team during the election, then they were also illegal. Now that Cohen is facing imminent criminal charges, the Enquirer just did something notable.

Guess who is now being attacked on the front page of the National Enquirer. It’s not Stormy Daniels. It’s not her attorney Michael Avenatti. It’s not even Hillary Clinton or any of Trump’s other usual favorite targets. Instead the Enquirer is attacking Michael Cohen. Its headline proclaims “Payoffs & Threats Exposed: Trump’s Fixer’s Secrets & Lies!” In other words, they’re throwing Cohen under the bus. At the bottom of their front page they’re falsely claiming Trump passed a polygraph test “proving no Russia collusion,” so they’re not really throwing Trump under the bus, just Cohen.

Controversial Comedian At Press Dinner: Just Deserts?

washington post logoWashington Post, The harshest jokes from Michelle Wolf’s correspondents’ dinner speech, Abby Ohlheiser and Emily Yahr, April 29, 2018. “Should have done more research before you got me to do this,” comedian Michelle Wolf told the audience, right after telling a joke about whether the famous “p—- hat” from the Women’s March was anatomically accurate.

Wolf’s speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner didn’t seem to win over the room of some of Washington’s best-known journalists, politicians and a slightly less celebrity-filled roster of guests. Online, the reaction was — surprise — divided. Some said that losing the love of a room of D.C. elites was proof that Wolf was hitting on something true.

Daily Kos, Opinion: Rob Reiner lights up Twitter with dead-on tweet about Michelle Wolf, Trump and the WHCD, Leslie Salzillo, April 29, 2018. Filmmaker, actor, producer, and staunch liberal activist Rob Reiner attended the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) in Washington DC on Saturday night. Early Sunday morning, like many, Reiner took to Twitter to comment on Michelle Wolf’s live roast of the Republican Party. Here’s the tweet.

michelle wolf c spanReiner Text: “I attended the WHCD last night. Donald Trump has so poisoned the atmosphere by attacking the disabled, gold star parents, Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, women, the press, the rule of law that a comedian who simply tells the truth is offensive? She’s joking. He’s not.”

Below is the YouTube video (via C-SPAN) of the referenced remarks by comedian Michelle Wolf (shown at left) at the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner. Whether one likes Wolf or not, if the majority of the media had a fraction of the courage she showed on Saturday night, Trump would probably not be in office. To see the full video transcript, read below the fold.

Daily Beast, Opinion: Comedians Defend WHCD Speech: ‘F*ck the Niceties, Michelle Wolf Was Brilliant,’ Matt Wilstein, April 29, 2018. After journalists criticized the comedian for supposedly attacking Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks, Michelle Wolf’s comedian friends came to her defense.

That didn’t take long. Comedian Michelle Wolf had barely left the podium at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night when the backlash began. CNN’s chyron instantly called her routine “controversial” and journalists like The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman were applauding White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for not walking out of the room when Wolf supposedly joked about her “physical appearance.”

But while the criticism of Wolf’s admittedly risky performance persisted, comedians—including her former Late Night boss Seth Meyers—were quick to come to her defense Sunday morning. And many focused on the fact that Sanders and others in the Trump White House have no leg to stand on when it comes to playing the victim.

Judd Apatow: "This is the moment when people are supposed to call out the madness, cruelty and corruption. Fuck the niceities. @michelleisawolf was brilliant and all her targets deserved it. We have a racist lying President and politicians who support him. No time to soft sell anything."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For the sake of journalism, stop the annual schmoozefest, Margaret Sullivan, April 29, 2018. It never has been a particularly good idea for journalists to don their fanciest clothes and cozy up to the people they cover, alongside Hollywood celebrities who have ventured to wonky Washington to join the fun. But in the current era, it’s become close to suicidal for the press’s credibility.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The mainstream media’s effort to silence Michelle Wolf, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. If you didn’t watch the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night, and you’ve merely heard about it from the media, you’d think comedian Michelle Wolf had spent the entirety of her speech trashing Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ physical appearance. The media has spent all day debating whether those attacks were appropriate. Here’s the thing: that’s not even what really happened.

Michelle Wolf opened with one quip about how Sarah Huckabee Sanders reminded her of a certain character from the Handmaid’s Tale. There has been debate as to whether Wolf was making this comparison due to the character’s physical appearance or disturbing behavior. Somewhere in there Wolf also complimented Huckabee Sanders on how she does her makeup. There has been debate as to whether it was a genuine or sarcastic compliment. You can have whatever opinion you want about that. But none of it was at the center of Wolf’s remarks about Huckabee Sanders.

If you actually watched the dinner, you know that Michelle Wolf used the vast majority of her remarks about Sarah Huckabee Sanders to address her constant lies during the White House press briefings. In fact Wolf used the word “lies” three times in the span of a minute and a half. When a public figure is accusing the White House Press Secretary of being a constant liar, it’s a big deal. Yet the mainstream media is largely acting as if this didn’t happen. Similarly, after Wolf did an entire riff on how Donald Trump is financially broke, the media largely ignored this as well.

It’s as if the mainstream media went out of its way to create the false narrative that Michelle Wolf spent the whole time riffing on Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks, so it could bury the fact that Wolf called out Huckabee Sanders for lying, and called out Donald Trump for being broke. These are two topics the media has largely been afraid to touch on in general – perhaps because they’re afraid of losing their access to those White House press briefings. The real scandal here is that the media is trying to effectively silence Michelle Wolf by drowning out what she actually said by putting other words in her mouth instead.

UK Media Clam Up On Poisoning Claims

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub Moon of Alabama, The Silence Of The Skripals; Government Blocks Press Reports; Media Change The Record, B, April 28, 2018. There has been no recent reporting on the Skripal case in which a British-Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England. There even seem to be attempts to change the public record of the case.

The British government alleged that the Skripals (shown in a restaurant after their alleged poisoning but before onset of symptoms) were poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent, and blamed Russia for it.

There are stiill many open questions to ask but the British media, otherwise not afraid of 'door stepping,' are curiously uninterested. We already noted in early April that the British press was throwing Novi-Fog™ onto the public. It was repeating outrageous and illogical claims from "security services" but did no genuine reporting on the Skripal case.

Now the former British ambassador Craig Murray quotes Clive Ponting, another former senior civil servant, who suspects that the British government issued a D-Notice. Such a notice forbids British media to report on an issue. Murray also points to a tweet by Channel 4 correspondent Alex Thomson from March 12 in which Thomsen mentions a D-Notice specifically related to Mr. Skripal's MI6 handler:

The D-Notice attempt Thomsen mentioned was too late as some media had already reported the name of the Skripal's MI6 handler. We spelled it out on March 8.

craig murray newCraigMurry.org, Opinion: Probable Western Responsibility for Skripal Poisoning, Craig Murray (Historian, Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist, shown at right), April 28, 2018. Stupidly I had forgotten this vital confirmation from Channel 4 News (serial rebel Alex Thomson) of the D Notice in place on mention of Pablo Miller. Back then I did not realise what I now know, that the person being protected was Pablo Miller, colleague in both MI6 then Orbis Intelligence of Christopher Steele, author of the fabrications of the Trump/Russia golden shower dossier.

That the government’s very first act on the poisoning was to ban all media mention of Pablo Miller makes it extremely probable that this whole incident is related to the Trump dossier and that Skripal had worked on it, as I immediately suspected. The most probable cause is that Skripal – who you should remember had traded the names of Russian agents to Britain for cash – had worked on the dossier with Miller but was threatening to expose its lies for cash.

ORIGINAL POST: This comment from Clive Ponting, doyen of British whistleblowers, appeared on my website and he has now given me permission to republish it under his full name:

I have been reading the blogs for some time but this is my first post. Like Craig I was a senior civil servant but in the ministry of defence not the fco. I had plenty of dealings with all three intelligence agencies. It seems to me that the reason none of the MSM are doing any investigating/reporting of the Salisbury affair, apart from official handouts, is that the government have slapped a D-Notice over the whole incident and it is not possible to report that a notice has been issued.

Here is another theory as to what happened. The Russians pardoned Skripal and allowed him to leave (spy agencies have an understanding that agents will always be swapped after an interval – it’s the only protection they have and helps recruitment). In the UK Skripal would have been thoroughly debriefed by MI6 and MI5 (his ex-handler lives near Salisbury). If at some point they discovered that Skripal was giving them false information, perhaps he was told to do so by the FSB as a condition of his release, lives may have been endangered/lost. If he also was also involved in the ‘golden showers’ dossier then elements in the US would have a reason to act as well. The whole incident was an inside job not to kill him, hence the use of BZ, but to give him a warning and a punishment. The whole thing is being treated as though the authorities know exactly what went on but have to cover it up.

Addendum: I meant to add that the policeman who ‘just happened’ to be around was almost certainly the special branch ‘minder’ who was keeping Yulia under surveillance. The media are not allowed to mention the existence of a D notice.

Those of us who have been in the belly of the beast and have worked closely with the intelligence services, really do know what they and the British government are capable of. They are not “white knights.”

UK Media Continue Assault On Syria

Syria News, Opinion: Syrian MP Fares Shehabi Pummels BBC Colonialist Sackur, Miri Wood, April 28, 2018 (23:58 mins. video). Syrian MP Shreds BBC Propaganda on 'Hard Talk.'

Fares Shehabi is a Member of Parliament representing Aleppo, and the Chairman of the Syrian Federation of Industry. On 27 April, he was interviewed on BBC’s HardTalk, by rabid colonialist Stephen Sackur. [In the BBC segment here], Sackur rudely tossed every bit of anti-Syria propaganda at Fares Shehabi, citing sources proven to lie, in attempts to intimidate the Syrian politician. Fares Shehabi used his mind as a boxer uses his fists, and ko’d the obnoxious Englishman every time he uttered a lie — which was virtually every time he opened his mouth.

Sackur seemed almost dizzy that Aleppo politician Fares Shehabi — elected by 200,000 voters — by the punches of reality, on the terrorists stealing factories from Aleppo, on the takfiri killing Syrian soldiers in Khan al Asal with chemical weapons, that the Syrian Arab Army is defending the Syrian citizenry from foreign invaders, funded by Britain, by France, by the US.

April 27

djt time covers april 23 2018 tim obrien feb 27 17 Custom

Time Magazine's "Stormy" cover for its April 23 issue (currently on sale) at right contrasts with another cover by the same artist published on Feb. 27, 2017

washington post logoWashington Post, Chaos, contradiction disrupt week of triumph for Trump, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, April 27, 2018 (print edition). The darkening cloud hanging over some Cabinet agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency, has some GOP strategists worried.

JFK Murder Records Mysteries

jfk limo jackie clint hill

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy stretches backwards to retrieve some of President Kennedy's brain matter for potential rescue of her husband after his fatal shooting in Dallas in 1963 as Secret Service special agent Clint Hill, assigned for her special protection, boards a limo strangely left unprotected otherwise.

Miami Herald, In latest JFK files, some tantalizing nuggets — and stuff that makes you go 'huh?' Glenn Garvin, April 27, 2018. Researchers who spent Thursday slogging through 19,000 newly declassified U.S. government documents on the Kennedy assassination learned little, except that the government's ideas about what needs to be secret, and what doesn't, are cryptic and unpredictable.

Some stuff in the documents that had been open for years is now classified again, and some stuff that had been classified and is now open is so innocuous that nobody can figure out what the point was.

What was apparent from early efforts to excavate the documents was the government's standards on classification range from ephemeral to nuts. One document was a complaint from one part of the federal government to another about the slowness with which office keys were being issued.

robert blakeyAnother listed the salaries of the staff of the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979. If you're interested in lawyer-salary porn, the committee's chief counsel, G. Robert Blakey (shown at left in a file photo), was making just $47,500 a year at a time when young Wall Street attorneys just of law school were starting their jobs at $30,000 to $35,000.

In some cases, the documents re-redacted material that had already been declassified in previous versions. Often that seemed to reflect Trump administration sensitivities to the feelings of foreign governments.

A 1975 CIA report on the surveillance of shooter Lee Harvey Oswald during his visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City just a few weeks before Kennedy's death was released years ago identifying a particular photo as coming from "a Mexican police surveillance camera." In the same document, re-released Thursday, the words "Mexican police" had been covered over.

james angleton 1975 senate intelligence hearing ny times george tames customSimilarly, the transcript of an interview of former CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton contained odd deletions. Angleton, shown at a right, talking in 1975 to a presidential commission investigating the CIA, recounted how he had persuaded Israeli intelligence to post a skilled spy in Havana who would cooperate with the short-staffed CIA station there.

That information was plainly visible in an earlier release of the transcript. But on Thursday, government censors had blocked out portions of six sentences to cover up the nationality of the Israeli spy.

Why there is still more to come?

Angleton, a professional paranoid whose job assignment was to prevent penetration of the CIA by foreign intelligence agencies, played key roles in some of the most cryptic episodes following the Kennedy assassination. He was involved to some degree in CIA surveillance of Oswald in Mexico. He is believed to have removed and destroyed some documents from the CIA station there. And he also retrieved and burned the diary of one of Kennedy's paramours, the ex-wife of a senior CIA official.

So the transcript of his interview with the presidential commission has long been one of the most sought-after of the documents scheduled for release. Parts of it have been released before, but more than half remained redacted. Yesterday it was re-released, this time including much fascinating new information — but almost none of it having anything to do with the assassination.

The new material included Angleton discussing some of the great failures of Western intelligence during the 1950s, when the upper echelons of the British spy agency MI-6 were riddled with Soviet agents. There's also a lengthy conversation between Angleton and the commission members in which he strongly implies — but never states plainly — that he suspects two New York Times reporters were working for a foreign intelligence service.

seymour hersh hsThe two, Polish-born Tad Szulc (who died in 2001) and Pulitizer-prize-winning Seymour Hersh (still based in Washington and writing for the London Review of Books), were asking questions about an operation code-named Easy Chair, a top-secret CIA attempt to plant bugs in the home of the Soviet ambassador to the Netherlands.

One of the investigators bluntly asked if Angleton believed Hersh (shown at left in a file photo) was a Soviet agent. "I am not saying that," Angleton replied. But, he added, he would like to see the CIA's files on Szulc and Hersh. You've got files on them? an investigator replied in seeming surprise. Yes, Angleton confirmed, and on other reporters, too.

"And on other Americans?" the investigator asked.

"A lot of them," Angleton assured him.

National Press Club, Anthony Scaramucci praises Trump’s political instincts, use of Twitter, Chris Teale, April 27, 2018. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said President Donald Trump has great political instincts, and his use of Twitter is an effective way to appeal to his supporters. Scaramucci, who was fired from his position last year after 11 days, said Trump was smart to identify the disaffection of the working class and build his 2016 campaign on it.

anthony scaramucci salt conference 2016 croppedYou may not like his syntax or certain ways that he approaches things, but he's got very, very good political instincts and he's very, very intelligent,” Scaramucci (shown in a file photo) said at a press conference.

“He's just intelligent in a different way than most people, which is why he's been successful in a very unorthodox way.” Others in the administration have tried to stop Trump from using Twitter so much, but Scaramucci said it can help counter what the President sees as overly negative media reports.

More #MeToo At NBC

tom brokaw msnbc

washington post logonbc logoWashington Post, Amid allegations against Lauer and Brokaw, NBC faces doubts on harassment reforms, Sarah Ellison, April 27, 2018 (print edition).  Matt Lauer is not the only prominent anchor accused of seeking inappropriate relationships with younger women. One former NBC correspondent told The Post that legendary anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her in the 1990s.

matt lauer todayMatt Lauer (shown at left on the Today Show set) is not the only prominent anchor at NBC who allegedly sought inappropriate relationships with younger women. Linda Vester, a former NBC correspondent, told The Post that legendary anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her on two occasions in the 1990s, including a forcible attempt to kiss her. Vester was in her 20s and did not file a complaint.

Brokaw denied anything untoward happened with Vester. “I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago, because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC,” he said in a statement issued by NBC. “The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her, at that time or any other.”

Another woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also told The Post that Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her in the ’90s, when she was a young production assistant and he was an anchor. He said no such incident happened.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Do We Do With These Men? Katie J. M. Baker, April 27, 2018. Ms. Baker is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News who has covered institutional responses to sexual violence and harassment.

The bad men are plotting their comebacks. In recent days, Page Six reported that the former CBS anchor Charlie Rose, accused by employees of acts ranging from groping to walking around naked in their presence, is shopping a return to television. His new project? Interviewing other men felled by #MeToo.

Mr. Rose isn’t alone: In the past few weeks, men from Tom Ashbrook to Matt Lauer to Mario Batali to Louis C.K. have reportedly been testing the waters.

I get it. For the first time in history, it seems, an unprecedented number of powerful men are facing significant consequences for predatory behavior. For a minority — such as Bill Cosby, who was found guilty this week in the first post-#MeToo celebrity sex crimes trial — the road to justice seems obvious. But for the vast majority, it isn’t. 

That’s especially true of men who aren’t famous enough to make headlines, and whose career moves aren’t subjected to constant scrutiny. And so if we want the #MeToo movement to be about more than just which celebrity will be the next to fall, or whose comeback must be stopped — if we want it to lead to real, lasting and widespread cultural change — we need to talk. About what we do with the bad men.

False Flag Chemical Attack In Syria?

syria chemical denial hague 4 26 18 hassan diab

News conference at The Hague on alleged Syrian gas attack on Douma, with purported victim Hassan Diab third from right

RT, No attack, no victims, no chem weapons: Douma witnesses speak at OPCW briefing at The Hague (VIDEO), Staff report, April 27, 2018. Witnesses of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, including 11-year-old Hassan Diab and hospital staff, told reporters at The Hague that the White Helmets video used as a pretext for a US-led strike on Syria was, in fact, staged.

“We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we needed to go to a hospital. We went through a tunnel. At the hospital they started pouring cold water on me,” the boy told the press conference, gathered by Russia’s mission at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

Hassan was among the “victims” seen being washed by water hoses in a video released by the controversial White Helmets group on April 7. The boy and his family later spoke to the media and revealed that Hassan was hurried to the scene by men who claimed that a chemical attack had taken place. They started pouring cold water on the boy and others, filming the frightened children.

“There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,” Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. “That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.”

Spy Games

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Spy University: How Intelligence Agencies Recruit Their Next Generation, Jeff Schechtman, April 27, 2018 (podcast). Higher education has evolved into a key source for obtaining military and technological intelligence. The post-9/11 efforts of the CIA and FBI, and the proliferation of international students have proven a fertile ground for nurturing future spies.

During the Cold War, our elite universities were a breeding ground for future spies. Schools like Yale and Harvard provided some of the “best and the brightest” to America’s intelligence agencies.

Today, the CIA and FBI are using college campuses once again to gain new recruits in the global war for clandestine information and technology. These government agencies, in many instances, are working with the full support and blessing of professors and often top university administrators, who rely on both government contracts and the maximum revenue that comes from over one million international students in US universities.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Daniel Golden, the efforts range from small colleges to large state universities to Ivy League institutions. In fact, Golden tells Jeff Schechtman in this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast that Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is one of the places where spies are most actively recruited. In addition, foreign governments see US universities as an almost unlimited reservoir for obtaining intelligence and for recruiting vulnerable students who are in need of money, filled with innocence, and/or ideologically confused.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Trump Orders Release of JFK Assassination Files — But Many Redactions Remain, Jimmy Falls, April 26, 2018. The National Archives has released 19,045 JFK files today that were previously either partially redacted or withheld from the public. But secrecy continues.The National Archives just released 19,045 JFK files. Today was the deadline for President Donald Trump to announce whether files previously either partially redacted or withheld from the public would remain hidden.

According to NARA, 15,834 of the files still contain redactions. They also claim that 520 documents remain withheld in full from the public because they are not subject to disclosure, such as documents falling under the IRS code or a sealed court order. NARA clarified that the documents with remaining redactions would have another chance for disclosure in three years:

The President has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary.

The White House also released a presidential memorandum stating the necessity for certain files to remain redacted.

roger stone headshotRoger Stone (shown in a file photo), a friend and former political consultant to the president, who also wrote a book on JFK claiming that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, told WhoWhatWhy,

“I am pleased that the president directed the final release of 19,045 documents today and that no document has been completely withheld. I am also pleased that the president ordered another review of withheld material by Oct 26, 2021 to determine whether further withholding can be justified. I have not yet had the opportunity to review how much of the material released today has been redacted but I am mindful that the president directed that redactions must relate to persons who are still living.”

Trump Caves In To CIA On JFK Assassination Records Release

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump delays release of some JFK files until 2021, bowing to national security concerns, Ian Shapira, April 26, 2018. After President Trump vowed last year to release all the long secret files related to the JFK assassination, the administration announced Thursday that some documents will be withheld until October 2021 for national security reasons.

In a White House memo, Trump said that the nation’s intelligence community persuaded him to keep some documents secret because their exposure could harm “identifiable national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.”

Trump gave the CIA, FBI and other agencies a deadline of April 24 to release the last remaining documents related to the investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas. Last year Trump, who once suggested Sen. Ted Cruz’s father played a role in the assassination, promised he was going to release the entirety of the five million pages of records, most of which have been available since the late 1990s.

As of Thursday morning, it was unclear exactly how many records are being kept secret. The President did authorize the disclosure of 19,045 documents that are available on the National Archives web site.

Trump said the next deadline for release of more documents would be Oct. 26, 2021.

“The need for continued protection can only grow weaker with the passage of time from this congressional finding,” Trump wrote.

Rex Bradford, president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, which tracks the JFK files, said he wasn’t sure yet what had been withheld and needed to spend time scrutinizing the latest release of documents to see whether they contain a large or small amount of redactions. He said he did a quick “spot-check” Thursday morning and was surprised to see fewer whited-out sections than in previous releases.

“I checked a few dozen files and there were certainly many with redactions, but they tended to be names and short phrases,” Bradford said.

nara logoNational Archives and Records Administration (NARA), New Group of JFK Assassination Documents Available to the Public, Staff report, April 26, 2018. In accordance with President Trump’s direction on October 26, 2017, the National Archives today posted 19,045 documents subject to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act). Released documents are available for download. he versions released today were processed by agencies in accordance with the President’s direction that agency heads be extremely circumspect in recommending any further postponement.

The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, established by the National Archives in November 1992, consists of approximately five million pages. The vast majority of the collection has been publicly available without any restrictions since the late 1990s.

As permitted by the JFK Act, agencies appealed to the President to continue postponement of certain information beyond October 26, 2017. The President provided agencies with a temporary certification until April 26, 2018 to allow for a re-review of all documents withheld in full or in part under section 5 of the JFK Act and directed agencies to “identify as much as possible that may be publicly disclosed” and to be “extremely circumspect in recommending any further postponement.”

Based on reviews conducted by agencies in accordance with the President’s direction, the National Archives released 3,539 documents on Dec. 15, 10,744 documents on Nov. 17, 13,213 documents on Nov. 9, and 676 documents on Nov. 3 of last year. The 19,045 documents released today represent the final release of documents in accordance with the President’s direction on October 26, 2017.

All documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act have been released in full or in part. No documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act remain withheld in full. The President has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary.

Preview: JFK Records Release Due Today

jefferson morley newJFKFacts.org, Analysis: JFK researchers doubt Trump will free the files today, Jefferson Morley (shown at right, with the cover of his biography, The Ghost, about CIA spymaster James Angleton below at left), April 26, 2018. The extreme and strange secrecy around the government’s information about the JFK assassination continues — even as the CIA insists we already know the whole truth of who killed a popular liberal president a long, long time ago.

April 25

Film / Global Politics

oliver stone portraitHollywood Reporter, Oliver Stone Compares Trump to "Beelzebub" at Iranian Film Festival, Deborah Young, April 25, 2018.  Speaking at the Fair International Film Festival in Tehran, the director also criticized French president Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia's influence and the "creative destruction" of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Oliver Stone (shown at right in a file photo) spoke out forcefully against U.S. president Donald Trump and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East on his first visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran this week, where he was the guest of the 36th Fair International Film Festival.

george w. bush wHaving once compared George W. Bush (shown at left) to John Wayne, he told a local journalist that he would have to liken Trump to "Beelzebub," a name sometimes given to the devil.

Demonstrating a solid knowledge of regional politics as well as Persian history at a press conference Wednesday in Tehran, the director drew parallels to his films like Alexander and W and lambasted the recent meeting of presidents Trump and France's Emmanuel Macron, in which they called for a revision of the Iran nuclear deal. He called Macron a “young man without much sense of history or memory of the great traditions of France” who sought a return to colonialism and imperialism, and compared him to French president Chirac, “who stood up to Bush” on the invasion of Iraq.

“National security trumps artistic freedom in every country, the U.S. as well as in the Middle East,” he said. “You can’t make a film critical of U.S. foreign policy," he said. "W was very difficult to finance. There was no interest in making Snowden, which was turned down by all the studios. I couldn’t get a dime from them.” He felt the film was ill-promoted and when it was finally released in the U.S., it came out too late.

Time and again he referred to W as his dramatization of the role of the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, along with their goals of attaining oil, money and resources at any cost. “I love the movie, it’s a satire,” he said. He referred the war in Iraq as a proxy war and to U.S. foreign policy since 2001 as aimed at regime change, “no matter how disastrous the invasion of Iraq was.”

“We made a mess out of Iraq, Syria, Libya, but it doesn’t matter to the American public. It’s okay to wreck the Middle East,” he said, criticizing the neo-conservative policy of "creative destruction." He added: “It doesn’t matter who is president – Bush, Obama or Trump, the U.S. will break any treaty” in its interests."

Press Advocacy Group Announces 2018 National Rankings

Reporters Without Borders, Analysis: RSF Index 2018: Hatred of journalism threatens democracies, Staff report, April 25, 2018. The 2018 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), reflects growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.

The climate of hatred is steadily more visible in the Index, which evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries each year. Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st), where “media-phobia” is now so pronounced that journalists are routinely accused of terrorism and all those who don’t offer loyalty are arbitrarily imprisoned.

More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.

The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving. In the Philippines (down six at 133rd), President Rodrigo Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they “are not exempted from assassination.” In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay. In each of these countries, at least four journalists were gunned down in cold blood in the space of a year.

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”

russ baker 2017 2018 portrait Custom 2

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Advocacy/Opinion/Fund-raising: Donate To WhoWhatWhy, Russ Baker, April 25, 2018. Russ Baker, shown above in an end-of-year portrait, is founder and editor of the investigative site WhoWhatWhy. Last October, when the deadline came for President Donald Trump to release what was supposed to be the ultimate batch of long-withheld JFK assassination documents, instead of resolution we got chaos and an extension of the foot-dragging that has gone on for decades. Trump announced that spy agencies, after having had 25 years to comply, wanted yet more time to review (and censor) the files. A new deadline was set for 180 days hence.

In preparation for last year’s release, WhoWhatWhy, alone among news organizations, had assembled a team of researchers and respected experts to examine the documents, create a comprehensive list of never-before-seen details and share our findings. This reader-supported dedication allowed us to publish unique stories (see here, here, and here) on key figures suspected of involvement in the assassination and to provide historical context for the continued agency stonewalling.

Trump’s extension expires on April 26. Tomorrow we will see if the government actually follows through on its promise to give the public access to the information we have waited more than 54 years to see.

Once again, presumably alone, WhoWhatWhy will painstakingly scrutinize whatever comes out — and will share our analysis. We will also report any more shenanigans by the authorities.

April 24

CIA Spying On Martin Luther King

JFK Facts.org, The CIA is still protecting its spy who shadowed Martin Luther King, Jefferson Morley, April 24, 2018. The CIA shadowed Martin Luther King during his stay at a Miami hotel in July 1966 with the help of a spy whose identity still remains a secret a half century later. The revelation is found in a 48-page file on King, portions of which were made public late last year, along with thousands of JFK assassination files.

President Trump has ordered all federal agencies to release the rest of their JFK-related files by April 26, a directive which covers the agency’s King file as well. Trump’s order, issued last October, exempts from disclosure only “the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living.” So if the CIA’s spy is deceased, his or her name is supposed to be made public this week.

“Surveillance was a joint effort of IDEN A [the spy] and local ODENVY [CIA’s code name for the FBI],” according to a cable from the chief of the agency’s south Florida station. The surveillance took place in July 1966 when King and two associates stayed at a Miami airport hotel.

Facebook Names Bush Operative As Privacy Leader

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Replaces Lobbying Executive Amid Regulatory Scrutiny, Cecilia Kang, April 24, 2018. Facebook on Tuesday replaced its head of policy in the United States, Erin Egan, as the social network scrambles to respond to intense scrutiny from federal regulators and lawmakers.

facebook logoMs. Egan, who is also Facebook’s chief privacy officer, was responsible for lobbying and government relations as head of policy for the last two years. She will be replaced by Kevin Martin on an interim basis, the company said. Mr. Martin has been Facebook’s vice president of mobile and global access policy and is a former Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Ms. Egan will remain chief privacy officer and focus on privacy policies across the globe, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said.

Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy, said in a statement on Wednesday: “We need to focus our best people on our most important priorities. We are committed to rebuilding people’s trust in how we handle their information, and Erin is the best person to partner with our product teams on that task.”

At the same time, Facebook is grappling with increased privacy regulations outside the United States. Sweeping new privacy laws called the General Data Protection Regulation are set to take effect in Europe next month. And Facebook has been called to talk to regulators in several countries, including Ireland, Germany and Indonesia, about its handling of user data.

Mr. Zuckerberg said told Congress this month that Facebook had grown too fast and that he hadn’t foreseen the problems the platform would confront.

“Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” he said. “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring.”

kevin martin wThe executive shifts put two Republican men in charge of Facebook’s Washington offices. Mr. Martin will report to Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy. Mr. Martin (shown at left) and Mr. Kaplan worked together in the George W. Bush White House and on Mr. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Facebook hired Ms. Egan in 2011; she is a frequent headliner at tech policy events in Washington. Before joining Facebook, she spent 15 years as a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling as co-chairwoman of the global privacy and security group.

Facebook is undergoing other executive changes. Last month, The Times reported that Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer, planned to leave the company after disagreements over how to handle misinformation on the site.

April 23

Media / Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity’s new Trump-connected real estate scandal explained, Daniel Cotter, April 23, 2018. The Hill and The Guardian are both reporting that Sean Hannity, the recently disclosed third legal client of Michael Cohen, has ties to shell companies that have purchased numerous foreclosure homes throughout the United States. Perhaps this is the “real estate advice” that Hannity stated he received from Cohen?

sean hannity gage skidmore 3This most recent disclosure would appear to support the reasons that Hannity (shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) did not want his name disclosed and raises questions about the use of shell companies (such as Essential Consultants LLC, which Cohen used to pay settlements in both the Broidy and Trump matters).

According to The Guardian, Hannity is connected “to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. The properties range from luxurious mansions to rentals for low-income families. Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them.” As only Hannity can do, he sharply criticized President Barack Obama for the number of foreclosures and how it was hurting the country (never mind that the Great Recession occurred in the W years), while at the same time he was busy buying up this collection and hiding behind the shell companies.

According to The Guardian, the houses were in seven states- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont. The shell companies were all created in Georgia using variants of his children’s initials. The reporting also mentions a real estate lawyer that Hannity uses. What is unclear is what, if any, connection this latest disclosure and information has to the disclosure that Hannity was one of three legal clients of Cohen’s from 2017 to the present. (The properties were mostly acquired in 2013.) At a minimum, it leaves one wondering why Hannity would call Cohen for advice on real estate manners when he has what appears to be a competent real estate lawyer that he uses regularly. Perhaps Judge Kimba Wood will inquire more into any potential connection to the Cohen investigation.

Claims of Chemical Attacks

SouthFront, Another Field Correspondent Finds Out That Douma Chemical Attack Was ‘Staged,’ Staff report, April 23, 2018. Uli Gack, a correspondent of the German state-run Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) broadcaster has visited the Damascus countryside [Douma is lcoated near it] and has found that refugees from Douma say that the April 7 chemical attack was “staged.”

Earlier, The Independent’s Robert Fisk visited the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located, and also found no evidence of the chemical attack by the Syrian military. Pearson Sharp, a reporter of One America News Network, visited the area of Douma with the same result.

A group of Russian journalists also found a boy filmed by militants in the Douma chemical attack video. The boy’s story also supports the version that the attack was staged.

April 21

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub

Yulia Skirpal and her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal, at a restaurant after they were allegedly poisoned in March in the United Kingdom

Consortium News, Analysis: Another Dodgy British Dossier: the Skripal Case, Gareth Porter, April 21, 2018. In this second part of a series, Gareth Porter compares the same faulty logic employed in two purposely misleading so-called British intelligence dossiers.

yulia skirpal facebookThe British government shared what was supposedly a dossier containing sensitive intelligence to convince allies and EU member states to support its accusation of Russian culpability in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal (shown at right on her Facebook page) in Salisbury, England on March 4.

But like the infamous 2003 “dodgy dossier” prepared at the direction of Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify British involvement in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the intelligence dossier on the Salisbury poisoning turns out to have been based on politically-motivated speculation rather than actual intelligence.

April 21

Google Search Manipulation?

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Google Continues its Attack on Alternative Media, Boosting Top-down MSM, Rob Kall, April 21, 2018.Google is leaving the roots that made it a success-- using bottom-up algorithms that based search results on the behaviors of millions of people. Google has been changing its search criteria so it favors top-down mainstream media, while hurting alternative media Under the guise of addressing the problems with "fake news," Google has used it's almost monopoly search engine position to decimate search results for bottom-up, grassroots alternative media. I don't have evidence to prove it, but I believe that this is exactly what the biggest mainstream media want-- to take out their bottom-up competition.

google logo customWhat would a Google attack on a website look like? Because Google is a search engine, an attack would deprecate the search result rank of a website. Google doesn't attack websites or people directly. They do it by modifying their algorithms. That means they change the weighting of factors that they consider in ranking a site. Google uses hundreds of different factors to assess site rank. Factors include number of links in to the site from other sites, security of the site (Https sites are favored over http sites, for example,) freshness of content, number of visitors to the site, to name a few

Imagine that a website had search results that put it at the top of the first page results. Deprecation would put it at the bottom of the first page or on the second, third or even 20th page.

I know because I've been following, for at least ten years, some of the key words for the website I founded and operate, OpEdNews.com. For many years OpEdNews was at the top of the first page search results, ranging from first to third place for the key words Progressive Opinion, Liberal Opinion and Liberal News.

Though our site traffic had not dropped by much, gradually, Google's algorithm moved us down to the bottom of the first result page and then often the front page altogether, and then off the the second page. By then our traffic was being hurt.

This past week Google confirmed that it had again tweaked its search algorithm. So I, as I've done many times, I checked out the keywords I listed above. The results were clear. Not only was OpEdNews further down in page rank, but so were many other progressive news and opinion sites. The top ranks were replaced by big mainstream media, what many in the alternative media consider to be fake liberal, fake progressive. These include New York Times and the networks, even FOX. Then there's a Linkedin page for a group-- that has two followers, and there a number of aggregators who have lists of liberal or progressive sites. Even such aggregation is top down.

This latest Google attack by algorithm is bad for all alternative media, is bad for what Antonio Lopez calls the media ecosystem. But it may also be bad for Google, which earned its almost monopoly status by smartly tapping the wisdom of the crowd. The reality is that when people tap the power of bottom-up they can sometimes achieve top-down status. After all, understanding the bottom-up aspects of people's behavior and the role in business can lead to great wealth and power.

Media / Propaganda

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: The Media War On Truthful Reporting And Legitimate Opinions -- A Documentary, b, April 21, 2018. Last week saw an extreme intensifying of the warmongers' campaign against individuals who publicly hold and defend a different view than the powers-that-be want to promote.

The campaign has a longer history but recently turned personal. It now endangers the life and livelihood of real people. In fall 2016 a smear campaign was launched against 200 websites which did not confirm to NATO propaganda.

Those working in the media are up in arms over alleged fake news and they lament the loss of paying readership. But they have only themselves to blame. They are the biggest creators of fake news and provider of government falsehood. Their attacks on critical readers and commentators are despicable.

Until two years ago, Hala Jabar was foreign correspondent in the Middle East for the Sunday Times. After fourteen years with the paper and winning six awards for her work, she was 'made redundant' for her objective reporting on Syria. She remarks on the recent media push against truth about Syria and the very personal attacks against non-conformist opinions.

April 20

More Trump Scrutiny

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Donald Trump publicity photo from The Apprentice, his iconic show promoting his ostensible wealth and power

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes, Jonathan Greenberg, April 20, 2018.  Jonathan Greenberg is an investigative journalist, author and new-media innovator. Posing as ‘John Barron,’ he claimed he owned most of his father’s real estate empire.

roger stone fox news

Palmer Report, Analysis: The real reason Roger Stone is suddenly coming out against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 20, 2018. Donald Trump is having a rather strange week, even by his standards. Now Roger Stone (shown above in a file photo), the closest thing Donald Trump has to a friend, is suddenly coming out against Trump. The Stone development might be the most notable of all.

Stone has decided to publicly attack Trump for how he’s treated [Michael] Cohen over the years. Here’s what Stone just told the New York Times about Trump and Cohen: “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage.” So what just changed? Based on the timing, the Cohen raid has to be what changed Stone’s stance so radically. If Stone’s loyalty to Trump up to this point has been in the hope of getting a pardon, then suffice it to say that Stone just decided that it isn’t happening.

Either Roger Stone is planning to go to trial and try to defeat whatever criminal charges are brought against him, or Stone has decided he’s going to cut a plea deal, or Stone is now so far gone that he no longer cares what happens to him and he’s just lashing out indiscriminately. Take your pick. But Stone is clearly no longer on Team Trump. He just announced it for everyone to hear.

April 19

Settlement: Playboy Model Can Tell Her Trump Story

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and Karen McDougal

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Playboy model settles with tabloid publisher, ending lawsuit over story of her alleged Trump affair, Staff report, April 19, 2018 (print edition). The National Enquirer’s parent company had bought — but never published — Karen McDougal’s story for $150,000.

April 18

ridenhour prizes 2018

The Nation Institute, Announcing the 2018 Ridenhour Prizes, Staff report, March 26, 2018. The Nation Institute, Fertel Foundation, and Stewart R. Mott Foundation are proud to announce the winners of the 2018 Ridenhour Prizes, awards given annually for the past 15 years to extraordinary individuals "who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice, or illuminate a more just vision of society. "This year's winners include #MeToo founder Tarana Burke; San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto; Lauren Markham, author of The Faraway Brothers; and Joe Piscatella Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.

These prizes memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that whistleblower and investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. Ridenhour exposed the horrific My Lai massacre of the Vietnam War to the public, and today, the Ridenhour Prizes continue to honor his important legacy of speaking truth to power.

tarana burkeTarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, whose lifelong civil rights work fighting for gender equity and empowerment has led to a major social movement and raised awareness about sexual abuse in America, will receive The Ridenhour Courage Prize. "I look forward to continuing this work, anchored by the legacy of my predecessors and emboldened by tenacity of survivors worldwide," said Burke. "I am so very honored to receive the Ridenhour Prize for 2018."

carmen yulín cruz soto57Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who spoke truth to power on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, will receive the 2018 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. When Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017, Yulín made frequent appearances on national and international television. She pleaded for help, criticized federal aid efforts, and accused President Donald Trump and his administration of "killing us with inefficiency."

lauren markhamLauren Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life, will receive the 2018 Ridenhour Book Prize. Markham brings stereotypes into sharp relief with reality by introducing readers to pieces of immigrant life in America. "I wrote this book with the understanding that the ways in which we choose to support — or not to support — our newest community members will determine the next chapter in the American story."

joe piscatella58"Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower," directed by Joe Piscatella, follows the story of Joshua Wong, one of the student leaders of Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution in 2014. Joshua, 17-years-old at the time, was arrested while protesting Beijing's attempt to joe jiscatella joshua coverencroach on the independence of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong. "I am both proud and humbled by this award: proud, because the award recognizes the tremendous feats of Joshua Wong and his friends who have braved tear gas, police brutality, threats of being disappeared or jailed to stand up for Hong Kong against the largest government on the planet, and humbled to be carrying on the spirit of Ron Ridenhour."

U.S. Politics, Propaganda

sinclair broadcast logo customRoll Call, Sinclair TV Owner Maxed Out Donations to Gianforte, Montana GOP, Griffin Connolly, April 18, 2018. An owner of the controversial Sinclair Broadcast Group has donated more than $10,000 to Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte in the last year and a half. Robert E. Smith, whose family owns the largest local television station operator in the country, gave the maximum $5,400 to Gianforte’s campaign in March, The Guardian reported.

republican elephant logoHe did the same last year, ahead of Gianforte’s 6-point special election victory over Democrat Rob Quist. The night before the special election, Gianforte attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. He later pleaded guilty to assault charges and was sentenced to community service and anger management classes.

Robert E. Smith, who identified himself as ‘retired’ and worked in real estate, also donated to Trump’s campaign

syria east ghouta false gas hassan diab

SouthFront, Journalists Found Boy Filmed In White Helmets’ Douma Chemial Attack Video. He Did It For Food, Staff report, April 18, 2018. A group of syrian white helmetsRussian correspondents led by Evgeny Poddubny has found a boy filmed by the White Helmets in their video showing people “affected” by the alleged chemical attack in Douma on April 7.

According to Poddubny: "11-year-old Hassan Diab is fine; He suffered no injures from the “chemical attack” because there was no attack (at least then and there); The boy participated in the video for food (rice, dates and cookies)." The boy, father and others are shown in photos below after the Syrian government reclaimed control of Douma.

syria east ghouta false gas hassan diab after false flag

Poddubny also contacted Hassan’s father. He also said that there was no chemical attack in the town.Hassan’s story is quite similar to the case observed during the battle for Aleppo city in 2016.

A photo of Omran Daqneesh (shown below in an ambulance) became popular in the mainstream [Western] media and was widely used for propaganda purposes against Syrian forces fighting militants in the city [but the boy and his father later described the White Helmets campaign as a stunt over which they had no control].

syrian boy injured aleppo media center 2016

Omran Daqneesh: “We were very harmed because of the gunmen and how they used things to their benefit with my child,” Omran’s father told Ruptly after the city was liberated. “Thank god, he was only slightly wounded. Thank god after the army advanced and retook these areas; we are now back in our homes. The situation now is very good, thank god.” Daqneesh’s father also accused militants of using his son for propaganda purposes.

mike pompeo portraitCIA, JFK Records Deadline -- and Obstruction?

JFKFacts.org, Opinion: Is the CIA’s chief historian obstructing justice in the JFK case? Jefferson Morley (shown at right), April 18, 2018. President Trump will soon announce his decision on whether the last of the U.S. government’s JFK files will be fully released or not. April 26 will be a moment to assess what we know about JFK’s assassination that we didn’t know before, and specifically, what have we learned about the CIA’s role in the events of November 1963.

Among those vouching for the probity of the CIA in the JFK assassination story is the agency’s chief historian David Robarge.

david robarge cia cspan.320While Robarge (shown at left) has acknowledged in an open-source article that the CIA did not cooperate with the Warren Commission–and indeed deceived its members about key facts–he asserts that, in the case of the murdered president, the agency was guilty of nothing more than a “benign coverup” of embarrassing information.

Peter Dale Scott, professor at the University of California and JFK author, has a different opinion: He says Robarge himself is liable for obstructing justice in the case of the murdered president. In a 2015 article for WhoWhatWhy, Scott made a strong case that Richard Helms (shown below right on a Time Magazine cover, deputy CIA director in 1963, had perjured himself while obstructing the investigation of JFK’s death.

richard helms time coverConclusion: Some people have deduced, from the fact that CIA officials lied to the Warren Commission, that the CIA killed Kennedy. I myself do not believe that, though I do believe that some CIA individuals were involved, along with others in other agencies.

My hypothesis is not that the killing was a CIA operation, but that the plot was piggybacked on an authorized CIA covert operation that was not under secure control and may have been outsourced.

Some agency actions before the assassination, notably the protection of Oswald by suppressing the reported allegation that he had been in contact with presumed KGB officer Valeriy Kostikov, suggest to me that some members of the Counterintelligence Staff, and in particular CI Chief James Angleton, may have participated to some degree in the piggybacked plot.

At a minimum, we can say that the CIA was sufficiently involved in the facts of the assassination to have been embarrassed into covering them up. That coverup began the day JFK died, and it continues to this day.

April 17

Fox News Scandal

Politico, Fox News says Hannity has ‘our full support’ amid Cohen controversy, Cristiano Lima, April 17, 2018. Fox News said on Tuesday that the network was previously unaware of what it described as an “informal relationship” between Sean Hannity and President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, but that the host “continues to have our full support.”

sean hannity gage skidmore 3“While FOX News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” a spokesperson said in a statement, according to reports. Hannity, the top-rated prime time host at Fox News, is shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore.

A lawyer for the president’s attorney named Hannity in court on Monday as one of Cohen’s few clients, an announcement that sent ripples across the political media landscape and raised questions about his failure to disclose his legal affiliation on air. But Hannity, one of the president’s most prominent and outspoken backers on cable television, disputed the characterization of his relationship with Cohen.

“I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees,” Hannity said in a statement on social media. “I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.”

fox news logo SmallFox News’ announcement marks the latest instance of the network’s standing by its leading primetime anchor in the face of criticism over ethical decision-making. During the 2016 campaign, Hannity was sharply criticized for appearing in a pro-Trump campaign ad, and last year became the subject of a large-scale boycott campaign after propagating conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer.

After news broke that Hannity, who reportedly pushed Cohen’s legal team to have his identity kept confidential, was named in court, a wave of media figures and analysts blasted the host and network for not making the extent of his dealings with the attorney clear.

#MeToo Coverage Nets Pulitzers

ny times logoharvey weinsteinNew York Times, Times, New Yorker Win Pulitzers for Harassment Coverage, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 17, 2018. The Pulitzer board recognized The New York Times and The New Yorker for reporting on sexual harassment in the workplace — including the predations of the film mogul Harvey Weinstein (shown at right).

Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday to the news organizations that drove two of the biggest stories of the year: the high-stakes investigation into President Trump’s relationship with Russia and the consequential reckoning about the treatment of women by powerful men.

The prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, went to The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine for their revelations of sexual harassment and abuse that had gone on, unheeded and unpunished, in the spheres of Hollywood, politics, the media and Silicon Valley.

The national reporting prize went to The Times and The Washington Post for their coverage of Mr. Trump’s possible ties to Russia — a recognition of two journalism stalwarts that exposed the hidden activities of the Trump White House while withstanding much presidential ire.

And in a surprise pick, the rapper Kendrick Lamar received the prize for music for his pointed and defiant album, “DAMN.” It was the first time that a musician outside the classical discipline or jazz had won the award since it was first handed out in 1943.

Fake News: Sandy Hook Parents Sue Radio Host Alex Jones

alex jones radio logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Sandy Hook Parents Sue Alex Jones for Defamation, Matthew Haag, April 17, 2018. k Three parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 filed a defamation lawsuit on Tuesday against Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who has long claimed the shooting was “completely fake” and a “giant hoax” perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment.

Mr. Jones, the popular radio show host who also operates the conspiracy theory website Infowars, has questioned for years whether 20 children and six adults died in the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. To bolster his false claims, he often cites news reports and video clips from the hours after the shooting that turned out to be incomplete or based on wrong information.

Soon after they buried their children, many Sandy Hook parents started to come under fierce attack by conspiracy theorists who have said they are actors in an elaborate scheme to enact stricter gun control laws. The fringe theories still thrive in small forums online but have reached a far greater audience through Mr. Jones, the most vocal propagator.

The two lawsuits filed on Tuesday represent the first civil action taken by parents accusing Mr. Jones of defamation. One was filed by Leonard Pozner and his former wife, Veronique De La Rosa, and the other was filed by Neil Heslin. Their sons, Noah Pozner and Jesse Heslin, both 6, were killed at Sandy Hook.

The suits focus on comments made by Mr. Jones in the past year. In a segment on his radio show called “Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed,” which aired on April 22, 2017, Mr. Jones highlighted an interview that Ms. De La Rosa did with Anderson Cooper of CNN after the shooting. While they are standing outside a downtown Newtown building, Mr. Cooper turns his head to face her.

Corrupt Trump Appointee To Advisory Board

fcc logoThe Verge, Broadband adviser picked by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai arrested on fraud charges, Nick Statt, April 16, 2018.  Elizabeth Pierce allegedly tricked investors into pouring $250 million into a fiber optic scheme by forging revenue agreements.

ajit pai headshot customA broadband adviser selected by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai (shown at left) to run a federal advisory committee was arrested last week on claims she tricked investors into pouring money into a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The adviser, Elizabeth Pierce, is the former chief executive of Quintillion, an Alaska-based fiber optic cable provider operating out of Anchorage. In her capacity as CEO, Pierce allegedly raised more than $250 million from two New York-based investment companies using forged contracts with other companies guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue.

Pierce resigned from Quintillion in August of last year, and she stepped down from her role in Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) the following month. 

geoffrey berman sdny“As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” US attorney Geoffrey Berman (shown at right) said in prepared remarks, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counter-party signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.” Pierce was trying to raise money to help build out a fiber optic system that would wire Alaska with high-speed internet and better help connect it to networks in other US states. Pierce was charged with wire fraud last Thursday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

republican elephant logoPierce was tapped by Pai in April of last year to be the chair of the BDAC, which he formed “to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access, or broadband, by reducing and removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.” According to broadband industry news and advocacy website Stop the Cap, Pierce may have gotten on Pai’s radar by complaining about how cumbersome it was to bring internet access to parts of the country like Alaska.

In a statement issued last week, Quintillion says it began cooperating with the Department of Justice as soon as allegations against Pierce surfaced last year. “Quintillion became aware of the situation regarding the alleged actions of Ms. Pierce last year, took swift action and self-reported to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Quintillion has been cooperating fully with the authorities during this ongoing investigation,” reads the company’s press release on the charges. The company goes on to say that “the ongoing investigation has not impacted Quintillion’s operations nor the quality of its services,” and that it “continues to move aggressively to extend its network and provide world-class telecommunications to Alaska and beyond.”

Boston Marathon Bombing Defendant

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Still Gagged As Death Penalty Appeal Grinds On, James Henry, April 17, 2018. WhoWhatWhy makes its semiannual interview request with convicted Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The feds answer: Nope. As the fifth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing comes and goes, we can’t help but wonder what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might have to say for himself — if he were allowed to speak.

For one thing, we’d like to ask him if he could fill in some details about his brother Tamerlan’s mysterious activities in the years leading up to the bombings — much of which the government continues to withhold as “classified.”

Dzhokhar Tsaraev HSDzhokhar (right) is being held at the maximum-security federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado — known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” — under extreme confinement conditions called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015 for his role in the bombing near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Tsarnaev is appealing his federal death penalty conviction. (All death penalty convictions are automatically appealed.)

Essentially a form of solitary confinement, SAMs prevent inmates from communicating with all but a few pre-approved individuals. Tsarnaev is not even allowed to communicate with other inmates in the facility. The government justifies the imposition of SAMs by pointing to the possibility that Tsarnaev could try to secretly communicate with criminal compatriots or incite violence of one kind or another.

It’s not clear who that might be, since the government insists that Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan acted on their own.

sean hannity nydailynews 4 17 2018 Custom

New York Daily News front page on April 17, 2018.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2018. One week after Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen saw his life shattered into little pieces in the form of an FBI raid of his office and residence, we saw Trump’s most notorious television ally Sean Hannity dragged into the Trump-Cohen criminal investigation as well. It’s led to the question of just how many of Trump’s allies and sycophants are going to end up getting taken down in Trump’s scandals. The answer: we’re just getting started.

sean hannity white houseDonald Trump likes to surround himself with people who are either already morally corrupt, or who can be corrupted. The one consistent pattern we’ve seen is that the longer an associate or underling hangs around Trump, the more that person’s moral fiber disintegrates. Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity (shown at right) were not good people before Trump took them under his wing.

But Trump steered Cohen toward some truly ugly “fixer” work that has him in serious danger of going to prison, and Trump steered Hannity from merely misrepresenting the news for ratings, to outright rigging the news out of misguided personal loyalty. They’re part of a larger pattern that we’re soon going to see on full display.

republican elephant logoWhy do these types of people end up making a mess of their own careers and lives for the sake of the greater glory of Donald Trump? That’s a question for a psychologist. But the key here is that Trump knows how to find these types, and how to manipulate them. Was Hope Hicks intending to commit obstruction of justice when she signed on to work for Trump? Probably not. But former Trump spokesman Mark Corallo testified to Robert Mueller (shown at right) that he heard Hicks promising to scuttle key evidence. If that proves true, it’ll mean that Hicks started as merely someone who was unqualified for the job, and ended as a felon. There are endless similar examples.

robert mueller full face fileThe criminal investigations into Donald Trump’s lifetime of crime are spreading so far and wide, it’s now clear that everyone involved in Trump’s crimes is going to be exposed. Some of these Trump associates will testify against him, while others will take a fall for him. But we’re now at a point where Sean Hannity of all people is smack in the middle of a federal criminal investigation into Trump’s crimes and coverups. Before long, everyone in league with Trump will be called to answer for it. Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg.

Freedom of the Press

Consortium News, Instead of a Pulitzer, He was Fired, Don North, April 17, 2018. Don North, veteran TV reporter, looks back on his days with the late Consortium News founder and editor Bob Parry, beginning in Central America during Reagan’s wars.

I first met Bob back in the early 80’s in El Salvador. We bonded immediately over our mutual revulsion for US President Ronald Reagan and his dirty wars in Central America. I was trying to film and produce documentaries and spent three months in the mountains with FMLN guerrillas trying to tell their story. Bob was with the Associated Press and later Newsweek and The Nation. But we both had the same problem — few mainstream media organizations wanted to go up against what Reagan was promoting. On a meagre budget I produced a half-hour program “Guazapa: The Face of War in El Salvador.”

It got a few showings in church basements and colleges but no network would run it and even PBS, supposedly a haven for independent journalism said, “Show us something supporting the Salvador government and we might consider it.”

Bob uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal, but instead of a Pulitzer he was fired by the AP and later Newsweek and Bloomberg. So Bob took the advice of renowned media critic A.J. Liebling: ”Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Campus Partisan Politics

Truthout, Turning Point USA: Well-Funded Conservative Organization Attacks, Inflames and Provokes Liberals On Campuses Across the Country, Bill Berkowitz, April 17, 2018. From Colorado State University where Turning Point USA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, told the audience that "White privilege is a myth and a lie," to Florida Atlantic University, where the organization is defending a professor, Marshall DeRosa, who has ties to the white nationalist hate group League of the South, Turning Point USA is making its presence felt on the nation’s college campuses.

The stated mission of TPUSA is to "identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government." Or as Splinter’s Katherine Krueger pointed out, the organization that is aiming "to take back America’s colleges from the menace of liberalism -- is best known for the very small but deeply embarrassing spectacles its student members make on their campuses."

 

March 

March 31

sinclair broadcast logo custom

sinclair broadcasting deadspin tim burke 3 31 2018

Sinclair-owned "news" anchors parrotting the same propagand script word-for-word around the nation (Deadspin investigation)

Deadspin, How America's Largest Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers In Trump's War On The Media, Timothy Burke, March 31, 2018 (1:28 mins. video here.) Timothy Burke is Deadspin's Video Director.

Earlier this month, CNN’s Brian Stelter broke the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner or operator of nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., would be forcing its news anchors to record a promo about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” The script, which parrots Donald Trump’s oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as “fake news,” brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts.

boris ephsteyn You might remember Sinclair from its having been featured on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight last year, or from its requiring in 2004 of affiliates to air anti-John Kerry propaganda, or perhaps because it’s your own local affiliate running inflammatory “Terrorism Alerts” or required editorials from former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn (shown at right), he of the famed Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that failed to mention Jewish people. (Sinclair also owns Ring of Honor wrestling, Tennis magazine, and the Tennis Channel.)

abc news logocbs news logoThe net result of the company’s current mandate is dozens upon dozens of local news anchors looking like hostages in proof-of-life videos, trying their hardest to spit out words attacking the industry they’d chosen as a life vocation. [They appear on stations with network affiliations such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, thus hiding from viewers the centralized control of news management.]

fcc logofox news logo Smallnbc news logoNot that any of it matters to Sinclair, which, with the help of a friendly federal government, is about to swallow up another 40 television stations — increasing its reach and its lead over competitors like Hearst and Scripps.

The script, as transcribed by ThinkProgress based on the KOMO (Seattle) version, reads:

Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…

(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.

(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.

For a list of stations owned or operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, check here: "Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest owner of television stations in the United States, currently owning or operating a total of 173 stations across the country (233 after all currently proposed sales are approved) in nearly 80 markets, ranging from markets as large as Washington, D.C. to as small as Steubenville, Ohio."

March 30

martin luther king injustice quote

washington post logoWashington Post, Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed, Tom Jackman, March 30, 2018. In the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin at age 39, his children have worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy, sometimes with sharply different views on how best to do that. But they are unanimous on one key point: James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King.

For the King family and others in the civil rights movement, the FBI’s obsession with King in the years leading up to his slaying in Memphis on April 4, 1968 — pervasive surveillance, a malicious disinformation campaign and open denunciations by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — laid the groundwork for their belief that he was the target of a plot.

“It pains my heart,” said Bernice King, 55, the youngest of Martin Luther King’s four children and the executive director of the King Center in Atlanta, “that James Earl Ray had to spend his life in prison paying for things he didn’t do.”

Until her own death in 2006, Coretta Scott King, who endured the FBI’s campaign to discredit her husband, was open in her belief that a conspiracy led to the assassination. Her family filed a civil suit in 1999 to force more information into the public eye, and a Memphis jury ruled that the local, state and federal governments were liable for King’s death. The full transcript of the trial remains posted on the King Center’s website.

“There is abundant evidence,” Coretta King said after the verdict, “of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury found the mafia and various government agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination. … Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.”

But nothing changed afterward. No vast sums of money were awarded (the Kings sought only $100), and Ray was not exonerated.

King’s two other surviving children, Dexter, 57, and Martin III, 60, fully agree that Ray was innocent. And their view of the case is shared by other respected black leaders.

john lewis official“I think there was a major conspiracy to remove Dr. King from the American scene,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a 78-year-old civil rights icon (shown at left). “I don’t know what happened, but the truth of what happened to Dr. King should be made available for history’s sake.”

Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor who was at the Lorraine Motel with King when he was shot there, agrees. “I would not accept the fact that James Earl Ray pulled the trigger, and that’s all that matters,” said Young, who noted that King’s death came after the killings of John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X and just months before the slaying of Robert F. Kennedy.

william pepper plot to kill 2016Astride all this controversy for the last 40 years has been William Pepper, a New York lawyer and civil rights activist who knew and worked with King. Pepper first visited Ray in prison in 1978 along with Ralph Abernathy, one of King’s closest associates. Pepper became convinced of Ray’s innocence and continued to investigate the case even after Ray died.

Pepper wrote three books outlining the conspiracy, most recently The Plot to Kill King in 2016, which were largely ignored by the media.

He defended Ray in a mock trial on HBO in 1993 (Ray was found not guilty), and filed and tried the Memphis civil suit that found the government liable for King’s death.

Trump Media Scandal?

djt david pecker

President Trump and his friend and defender, David  Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer and affiliated media

ny times logoNew York Times, Tabloid Mogul Used Trump’s Friendship to Court Saudis, Jim Rutenberg, Kate Kelly, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Mike McIntire, March 30, 2018 (print edition). A White House dinner helped David J. Pecker, whose company owns The National Enquirer, showcase his connections as he sought Saudi cash to buy Time magazine. It is a previously untold chapter in the long, symbiotic relationship between President Trump and the tabloid publisher.

huff post logoHuffPost, Parkland Survivor Criticizes Laura Ingraham For Only Apologizing After Advertisers Fled, Marina Fang, March 30, 2018. The list of advertisers pulling ads from the Fox News host’s program continues to grow. Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg on Friday pilloried Fox News host Laura Ingraham, declining to accept her apology after she mocked him for getting rejected from several colleges ― one of several right-wing attacks against the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

david hogg rally“She’s only apologizing after a third of her advertisers pulled out, and I think it’s really disgusting, the fact that she basically tried promoting her show after apologizing to me,” Hogg, 17, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “If she really wants to do something, she could cover inner-city violence and the real issues that we have in America.”

On Wednesday night, Hogg (shown in a file photo from a Florida rally) called on his Twitter followers to pressure advertisers to cut ties with Ingraham’s TV and radio shows. By Friday evening, at least 14 companies had announced they were pulling their ads or had otherwise sought to distance themselves from Ingraham:

•Nutrish; •TripAdvisor; •Wayfair; •Expedia; •Nestlé; •Johnson & Johnson; •Stitch Fix; •Hulu; •Jos. A. Bank; •Office Depot; •Jenny Craig; •Miracle-Ear; •Liberty Mutual; •Principal;

Some of the companies did not specify whether their decision was directly tied to Ingraham’s comments. But a number of them did criticize the host’s remarks.

“As a company, we support open dialogue and debate on issues,” a spokeswoman for the home goods retailer Wayfair said. “However, the decision of an adult to personally criticize a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values.”

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Fox News host Ingraham’s rapid apology shows the power of Parkland survivors, Amy B Wang, Allyson Chiu and Tracy Jan, March 30, 2018 (print edition). Several companies said they would pull their advertising from Laura Ingraham’s show after the host taunted Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior David Hogg about his college applications being rejected.

donald trump ny daily pussy

Then and Now: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump's claimed fight (below) against sexual assaults

The Hill, Trump declares April sexual assault prevention month, Josh Delk, March 30, 2018. President Trump on Friday issued an official proclamation observing April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. In a statement, Trump encouraged the nation to "remain steadfast" in working to prevent sexual crimes and reaffirmed his administration's commitment to empowering individuals to speak out in their communities and workplaces against perpetrators.

"Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society, and offenders too often evade accountability. These heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately: in intimate relationships, in public spaces, and in the workplace," Trump said.

The longstanding observation of the month, which often sees outreach by public health organizations and community crisis centers nationwide, comes this year following a wave of newly-empowered women leveling allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against high-profile men in media, entertainment and politics in recent months.

The proclamation also hits home for the Trump administration, which was embroiled in controversy earlier this year over allegations of past domestic abuse against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter from his two ex-wives.

The president himself has also faced accusations of misconduct by multiple women dating back to his days as a real estate mogul and reality television star, and has faced controversy for making lewd comments about his relationships with women in the past.

'Fake News' Fight Treatens Cyber-Censorship

facebook logoRT, Facebook teams up with ‘third-party fact checkers,’ and guess who they are?, Staff report, March 30, 2018. Facebook has announced that it will step up its efforts to filter “fake news” from its platform. The company will partner with “third-party fact checkers,” including AP (Associated Press) and AFP (Agence France-Press), to verify news, photos, and videos.

The company’s fact-checking measures come as part of an overall strategy aimed at stopping the spread of content that could influence elections. This content was spread by foreign actors to “divide Americans, and to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt” in the 2016 election, claimed Guy Rosen, Facebook VP of content management.

“We’re trying to develop a systematic and comprehensive approach to tackle these challenges, and then to map that approach to the needs of each country or election,” said Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer.

Whereas Facebook previously waited for reports from users before reviewing content, it will now play the role of policeman and use machine-learning technology to proactively filter out content it deems harmful to election integrity. This approach was first rolled out last year at the time of the Alabama special Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. Facebook now hopes to take this approach in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

In addition, the company announced yesterday that its army of fact checkers will be drawn from the Associated Press, AFP, and other organizations that follow Poynter’s “fact checking.”

During the 2016 election campaign, these fact-checking mercenaries could only review articles that were flagged by Facebook users. As of yesterday, they have been given authority to seek out and flag content they deem “suspicious.”

“To reduce latency in advance of elections, we wanted to ensure we gave fact checkers that ability,” said Facebook’s News Feed Product Manager Tessa Lyons. This content includes not just news articles and blog posts, but photos and videos as well. Photos and videos, Facebook argues, can influence discourse without needing to be clicked. This was seen recently, as a doctored image that showed Parkland shooting survivor and activist Emma Gonzalez ripping up the constitution did the rounds on social media.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hicks Is Gone, and It’s Not Clear Who Can Replace Her, Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, March 30, 2018 (print edition).  Thursday was the last day at the White House for Hope Hicks, who followed an unlikely career path to become a presidential confidante.

Whistleblower News

national whistleblower center logoNational Whistleblower Center, Whistleblowers’ reward approved for criminal sanctions issued against international financial institution for assisting U.S. citizens in evading taxes, Staff report, March 30, 2018. The law firms of Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav, PC (ZMF); Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto (KKC) and Robert Amsel, Esq. announced today a key victory for tax whistleblowers with the filing of a joint stipulation for dismissal of the government’s appeal in the cases of Whistleblower 21276-13W and 21277-13W v. CIR, Case Nos. 17-1119 and 1120 (D.C. Cir.).

The case was scheduled for oral argument on April 9, 2018 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It had pitted the U.S. Department of Justice and IRS against two whistleblowers whose information has led to $54.131 million in criminal penalties and civil forfeitures awarded against a major Swiss bank. The DOJ and IRS were arguing that the tax whistleblower law did not apply to criminal tax cases that resulted in payments of fines and civil forfeitures.

The dismissal of the government’s appeals keeps in place the whistleblower’s win in the Tax Court decision of Whistleblower 21276-13W and 21277-13W v. CIR 147, TC 4 (2016) providing for a broad definition of “collected proceeds” – the basis for whistleblower awards in tax cases. The whistleblowers had previously received an award of $4,474,000 based on the government’s collection from the Swiss bank of $20 million in restitution paid directly to the IRS for back taxes. But the IRS refused to pay an award on the additional $54.131 million collected from the bank.

Based on the DOJ and IRS’s withdrawal of the appeal the whistleblowers will receive an additional award of approximately $12.9 million, as had been previously ordered by the Tax Court.

The appeal of this Tax Court victory for whistleblowers to the D.C. Circuit was being closely watched by whistleblowers and the tax community. Amicus briefs in support of the whistleblowers had been filed by former DOJ tax prosecutors who warned that limiting tax whistleblower rewards could have a crippling impact on criminal tax cases. Senator Charles Grassley, the sponsor of the original tax whistleblower law, also filed an amicus brief in support of the whistleblowers.

RT, Opinion: RT silenced in Washington DC, proving FARA crackdown not just formality, Staff report, March 30, 2018. RT programming was removed from its two broadcast frequencies in the DC area. The move proves that claims made by the US government that the channel’s registration as a foreign agent would not affect its work were false.

Audiences in the Washington, DC area are no longer able to tune in to RT's regular air broadcasts. Part of the reason is that MHz Networks, a Virginia-based not-for-profit distributor of international entertainment and news programming, decided to auction their licenses to frequencies previously used to broadcast RT, along with a dozen other outlets. The development was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday, which said that the change will take place on April 1. The auction of licenses happened in March 2017.

RT can now reveal that the channel was in fact dropped by its two signal broadcasters in the area, WNVT and WNVC, on February 2, 2018. This fact was later independently confirmed by MHz Networks through the Associated Press.

Anna Belkina, RT’s chief of communications, said that although the channel is not “at liberty to disclose the details, we know that this decision was linked to RT's forced registration as a 'foreign agent' in the US.” The US Department of Justice forced RT America to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 2017.

Frederick Thomas, the founder and president of MHZ Networks, told Bloomberg that the company did indeed contact the DoJ after it targeted Reston Translator LLC, the company producing content for RT America, as part of its FARA crackdown on Russian media reporting for US audiences. But he denied the decision to get rid of the broadcast frequencies, which affected RT’s presence in Washington, DC, had anything to do with it. “It has more to do with the spectrum auction,” he said.

March 29

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Trump lashes out again at Amazon in morning tweet, Abha Bhattarai​, March 29, 2018. President Trump said he has long had concerns about the online retail giant’s business practices. But some of his claims about Amazon have not always been based on complete information. President Trump once again lashed out at Amazon.com, the online retailing giant, on Thursday morning, saying he has long had concerns about the company’s business practices.

I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2018

Trump has periodically criticized Amazon before and since becoming president. Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.

Trump’s latest critique comes after Amazon’s stock took a hit Wednesday following the publication of a report in Axios that Trump was “obsessed” with the retail giant, according to a person interviewed by the publication. Shares fell more than 4 percent on Wednesday, and continued their tumble Thursday, falling more than 3.8 percent in morning trading.

Some of Trump’s claims about Amazon have not been based on complete information. Amazon, for example, does collect taxes on products it sells to customers in the 45 states with a sales tax. Items sold by third-party vendors, however, may have different arrangements. The company has also said it supports legislation that would require other online retailers to pay state and local sales taxes.

Trump’s use of social media to call out individual people and companies has been unprecedented for a president. His other Twitter targets have included Apple, Boeing and General Motors, as well as media outlets including The Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN.

Fox Host Ingraham Incurs Boycott

washington post logoWashington Post, You’re a mother’: Laura Ingraham faces boycott for taunting Parkland teen over college rejections, Amy B Wang and Allyson Chiu, laura ingraham gage skidmore CustomMarch 29, 2018. Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg is calling for advertisers to boycott Laura Ingraham’s show after the Fox News host taunted the high school senior over his college rejections.

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it,” Ingraham tweeted Wednesday morning. She linked to a story from a conservative news site that described Hogg as a “Gun Rights Provocateur” who had not gained acceptance to four University of California schools. “Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA … totally predictable given acceptance rates,” added Ingraham (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore portrait).

fox news logo SmallIngraham faced immediate backlash over her tweet from those shocked she would attack a 17-year-old student who had survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. Among the outraged were people who reminded Ingraham, simply, that she was a mother, and Hogg’s 14-year-old sister, who accused the Fox News host of stooping to a “real low” to boost her ratings.

Politico, Companies pull ads from Fox’s Ingraham after her jab at Parkland student, Cristiano Lima, March 29, 2018. A growing number of companies will heed calls from a survivor of the Florida high school shooting to drop their advertisements on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program after the host mocked the student on Twitter.

At least six said they would cease buying ads on the show. Nutrish, celebrity cook Rachael Ray’s dog food company, announced on Thursday that it was “in the process of removing ads from Laura Ingraham’s program.” TripAdvisor, the American travel website, told POLITICO that it had “made a decision to stop advertising on that program.”

Ingraham on Thursday issued an apology via Twitter for the remarks. “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA — including David Hogg,” she said. “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland.” Ingraham added that Hogg was “welcome to come on my show anytime for a productive discussion.”

March 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Rosanne’ Reboot Part of ABC Plan to Entice Trump Voters, John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum, March 23, 2018. The network realized it was leaving some viewers behind — and put into effect a plan that brought back a working-class sitcom.

Associated Press via the Washington Post, The Latest: Trump bids farewell to Hope Hicks, Staff report, March 23, 2018.​  President Donald Trump is bidding farewell to one of his longest-serving aides as he departs for Ohio. The president appeared alongside outgoing communications director Hope Hicks outside the Oval Office on Hicks’ last day at the White House.

Trump pointed at Hicks, waved to the cameras, and gave Hicks a handshake and a kiss on the cheek before heading to Marine One. Hicks has been one of the president’s most trusted, loyal and influential staffers. She held a portfolio that extended well beyond her job title.

March 28

ny times logopeter thiel npc noel st john oct 31 2016New York Times, App to Harvest Data on Facebook Had Tie to a Thiel Company, Nicholas Confessore and Matthew Rosenberg, March 28, 2018 (print edition). The idea of a personality quiz to help Cambridge Analytica mine user information came from a man working for a firm that serves American spy agencies and was co-founded by Peter Thiel (shown in a Noel St. John photo), a Facebook board member and a Trump supporter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Whistle-Blower Contends Data-Mining Swung Brexit Vote, Ellen Berry, March 28, 2018. The whistle-blower Christopher Wylie (shown in a file photo) held a roomful of British lawmakers rapt for three and a half hours on Tuesday, like a pink-haired, nose-ringed oracle sent from the future to explain data.

christopher wylie cnnIn testimony to the House of Commons’ select committee on culture, Mr. Wylie, a 28-year-old Canadian, described the inner workings of SCL, a political consultancy that gave its clients access to a vast collection of personal information harvested from Facebook.

In one of the longest sessions in recent memory, Mr. Wylie made a number of jaw-dropping assertions, most significantly that the company’s exploitation of personal data had swung the results of Britain’s 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union. He also suggested that his predecessor at Cambridge Analytica was murdered.

But mostly, Mr. Wylie tried to explain data-mining. He looked like a cerebral skate-rat, which might in other circumstances have undermined his credibility, but in this case it seemed to help. He was polite. He resembled, as one journalist put it, “a patient grandson trying to set up a Skype call with his gran.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyberattack Holds Atlanta ‘Hostage’ by Freezing City Systems, Alan Blinder and Nicole Perlroth, March 28, 2018 (print edition).  Atlanta’s city government has been struggling for days with ransomware that has hobbled its computer networks and forced it back to doing business with ink and paper. The City of Atlanta’s 8,000 employees got the word on Tuesday that they had been waiting for: It was O.K. to turn their computers on.

But as the city government’s desktops, hard drives and printers flickered back to life for the first time in five days, residents still could not pay their traffic tickets or water bills online, or report potholes or graffiti on a city website. Travelers at the world’s busiest airport still could not use the free Wi-Fi.

Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.

The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim’s computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

HUD Retreat On Housing Bias?

ny times logoben carsonNew York Times, Carson Scales Back HUD’s Fair Housing Enforcement, Glenn Thrush, March 28, 2018.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development under Ben Carson (right) is rolling back Obama administration attempts to curtail segregation in federally subsidized housing.

#MeToo Wall Street Claim

ny times logoNew York Times, Star Broker, Accused of Abuse, Still Works at Morgan Stanley, Emily Flitter, March 28, 2018. Douglas E. Greenberg, a top Morgan Stanley broker, was repeatedly accused of violence against ex-wives and girlfriends. Bank managers were told. But he kept his job.

'Free-Range' Parents Protected

washington post logoWashington Post, Utah’s ‘free-range parenting’ law said to be first in the nation, Meagan Flynn, March 28, 2018. Utah became the first state in the U.S. to pass a “free-range” parenting law. Here’s what you should know.

It all started when Lenore Skenazy let her 9-year-old ride the subway home alone. She gave him a map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill and — just in case — some quarters for a pay phone call. Then she left him in the handbag section in New York’s original Bloomingdale’s. It was all his idea. He had begged Skenazy to just leave him somewhere and let him find his way back all by himself, until finally, on a spring day in 2008, she let him do it.

Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) signed the “free-range parenting” bill into law earlier this month after it passed unanimously in both chambers of Utah’s legislature. It’s believed to be the first such law in the United States, according to Skenazy. The measure, sponsored by Utah state Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R), exempts from the definition of child neglect various activities children can do without supervision, permitting “a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities …”

Those activities include letting children “walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended.” The law does not say what the “sufficient age” is.

caroline sunshine Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Disney Channel star and a medieval history expert? Yep, and that's just the start of Donald Trump's new lunacy, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2018. With Donald Trump’s behavior and judgment deteriorating by the day, the only thing left he could do that would still surprise us is if he hired his personal physician to run the VA, a former Disney Channel star to work on his media team, and a medieval history expert for his Trump-Russia legal team. So naturally, Trump has spent the week making precisely these moves. No really, these aren’t random punchlines, these are people he’s actually hired this week.

Last night we saw the news come across the wire that Trump had hired former Disney Channel star Caroline Sunshine (shown above in a Disney publicity photo) for a White House communications job, we suspected it might have been a hoax. But sure enough, this actually happened. Caroline studied politics and she’s completed two political internships, meaning she’s the very rare Trump hire who’s actually qualified for the job. However, based on his track record, we worry that he only hired her because she’s young and attractive, and we hope she has the sense to keep physical distance from him. Seriously.

Finally, Donald Trump seemed to be trying to one-up himself in the ludicrousness department today when he announced that his personal military physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, would be the new VA Secretary. Jackson has absolutely no skills or qualifications for the job, but he did recently announce that Trump only weighed 239 pounds. Sadly, that’s probably the reason he got the gig.

March 27

washington post logoalexander nix web summit 2017 lisbon Web Summit Sam 7378 CC by 2.0Washington Post, Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix: Bond villain, tech genius or hustler? William Booth and Karla Adam, March 27, 2018. People are divided on how to characterize the suspended head of the British political consulting firm (shown at right) that boasted of helping President Trump win election and is now suspected of violating the privacy of tens of millions of Facebook users.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Donald Trump’s hiring of John Bolton is all about Cambridge Analytica and Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2018. Donald Trump has tried to play it safe with comparatively small military action like Yemen, Syria and Niger, and even that has largely blown up in his face.

Even with the John Bolton hiring, there is no reason to expect Trump is looking to start a war. There is, however, every reason to expect that Bolton was hired because the Cambridge Analytica scandal is exploding.

roger stone headshotStone Cold Truth, Opinion: Daily Beast Web of Lies, Roger Stone, March 27, 2018. The Daily Beast published stories three days in a row claiming new evidence shows Guccifer 2.0 has been identified as a Russian and that he hacked the DNC emails and that a communication I had with him over twitter are somehow proof of collusion. This is all 100 % fabricated fake news.

You got to hand it to the folks at The Daily Beast. They just keep recycling the same discredited bullschiff with the bogus claim that some stunning new evidence proves Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian hacker and then continuing to push the unproven assertion that he hacked the DNC emails and delivered the material to WikiLeaks. Now watch a dozen other fake news sites jump on the bandwagon- even though the Daily Beast’s claim is totally contrived. The New York Post and Yahoo News are already recycling this nothingburger.

I disproved the Daily Beast story here on the Stone Cold Truth (Oct. 11, 2017), and it is dispatched here.

Since “Guccifer 2.0” used software licensed to a DNC employee the evidence that he is an American is far more significant that anything the Daily Beast is recycling. Guccifer 2.0 screamed Russian and posted five documents purposefully tainted with ‘Russian Metadata Fingerprints’. Perhaps he was trying to look like a Russian.

As I told the House Intelligence Committee I once thought Guccifer 2.0 was a Romanian. I no longer think so. I once believed his public claim that he hacked the DNC emails. I no longer think so. In fact, whether the DNC was hacked at all which is, despite the MSM insistence, unproven.

March 26

stormy daniels 60 minutes cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, Stormy Daniels Says She Stayed Silent on Trump Out of Fear, Jim Rutenberg, March 26, 2018 (print edition). The porn actress told “60 Minutes” that in 2011 a man threatened her to stop talking about her affair with Donald J. Trump. “He leaned round and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl, it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ ”

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Intel Expert James Bamford Blasts Russiagate Hype, Peter B. Collins, March 26, 2018. Bamford Believes Russia Hacked DNC, Can’t Confirm Transfer of Contents to WikiLeaks. Author and intelligence expert James Bamford says the reports of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, which is being treated as one of the biggest stories out there right now, are overblown.

james bamfordSo far, Bamford argues, no evidence has been presented that this is anything other than the type of intelligence gathering or operation that countries are engaged in all the time.

Bamford (shown at right) is critical of the hyped, 24/7 coverage of Russiagate. Indeed, he sees widespread hacking by Russia, the United States, and other online spies as old news. He has special criticism for his colleagues in the media, who have “squandered their objectivity and precious resources on a single story.”

He points out that the best known use of cyberweapons is America’s insertion of the Stuxnet virus into the automated centrifuges at the heart of Iran’s nuclear program. Despite this, he notes, many American leaders present the US only as a victim of cyberattacks.

In this Radio WhoWhatWhy interview, Bamford also talks about the recent failures of the intelligence community, including the theft of NSA hacking tools and the CIA’s bungled efforts to retrieve them. He calls the operatives of both agencies “Keystone spies,” and criticizes the extreme public responses that have compared hacking to Pearl Harbor.

james bamford body of secrets coverJames Bamford has written a number of books and articles about America’s intelligence community, with special focus on the National Security Agency. He has also produced Frontline documentaries for PBS on these subjects. His recent article in the New Republic offers his overview of Russiagate.

Bamford is the author of The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, America’s Most Secret Intelligence Organization (Penguin Books, September 1983); Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (Anchor Books, April 2002); The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Anchor Books, July 2009); A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies (Anchor Books, May 2005).

Real Clear Politics, Larry King Rips Cable News Networks: There Is No News Anymore, "It's All Trump." Ian Schwartz, March 26, 2018. Legendary TV talk show host Larry King said there is "no news" broadcasted on cable networks anymore. He said it is "all Trump" in an interview on the Adam Carolla Show that aired on Monday.

King complained about the age of partisan cable news channels, the overuse of the 'breaking news' alert, and the lack of actual news aired on the networks. King was not afraid to criticize his long-time former network CNN. He said the network is "all panels," often with 8 (or more) guests.

The former CNN host said MSNBC is liberal, FOX News is conservative, and his former home is "sorta liberal."

March 21

george orwell war is peace freedom is slavery ignorance is strength george orwell 22 12 12

robert mercer gettyThe Observer, Analysis: Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream media, Carole Cadwalladr, Feb. 26, 2017, last mofified on March 21, 2018. With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist, shown at right, is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network.

Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe you any more.” CNN was described as “very fake news… story after story is bad”. The BBC was “another beauty”.

That night I did two things. First, I typed “Trump” in the search box of Twitter. My feed was reporting that he was crazy, a lunatic, a raving madman. But that wasn’t how it was playing out elsewhere. The results produced a stream of “Go Donald!!!!”, and “You show ’em!!!” There were star-spangled banner emojis and thumbs-up emojis and clips of Trump laying into the “FAKE news MSM liars!”

Trump had spoken, and his audience had heard him. Then I did what I’ve been doing for two and a half months now.

I Googled “mainstream media is…” And there it was. Google’s autocomplete suggestions: “mainstream media is… dead, dying, fake news, fake, finished”. Is it dead, I wonder? Has FAKE news won? Are we now the FAKE news? Is the mainstream media – we, us, I – dying?

I click Google’s first suggested link. It leads to a website called CNSnews.com and an article: “The Mainstream media are dead.” They’re dead, I learn, because they – we, I – “cannot be trusted”. How had it, an obscure site I’d never heard of, dominated Google’s search algorithm on the topic?

In the “About us” tab, I learn CNSnews is owned by the Media Research Center, which a click later I learn is “America’s media watchdog”, an organisation that claims an “unwavering commitment to neutralising leftwing bias in the news, media and popular culture”.

Another couple of clicks and I discover that it receives a large bulk of its funding – more than $10m in the past decade – from a single source, the hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer. If you follow US politics you may recognise the name. Robert Mercer is the money behind Donald Trump. But then, I will come to learn, Robert Mercer is the money behind an awful lot of things. He was Trump’s single biggest donor. Mercer started backing Ted Cruz, but when he fell out of the presidential race he threw his money – $13.5m of it – behind the Trump campaign.

It’s money he’s made as a result of his career as a brilliant but reclusive computer scientist. He started his career at IBM, where he made what the Association for Computational Linguistics called “revolutionary” breakthroughs in language processing – a science that went on to be key in developing today’s AI – and later became joint CEO of Renaissance Technologies, a hedge fund that makes its money by using algorithms to model and trade on the financial markets.

One of its funds, Medallion, which manages only its employees’ money, is the most successful in the world – generating $55bn so far. And since 2010, Mercer has donated $45m to different political campaigns – all Republican – and another $50m to non-profits – all rightwing, ultra-conservative. This is a billionaire who is, as billionaires are wont, trying to reshape the world according to his personal beliefs.

Robert Mercer very rarely speaks in public and never to journalists, so to gauge his beliefs you have to look at where he channels his money: a series of yachts, all called Sea Owl; a $2.9m model train set; climate change denial (he funds a climate change denial thinktank, the Heartland Institute); and what is maybe the ultimate rich man’s plaything – the disruption of the mainstream media. In this he is helped by his close associate Steve Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager and now chief strategist. The money he gives to the Media Research Center, with its mission of correcting “liberal bias” is just one of his media plays. There are other bigger, and even more deliberate strategies, and shining brightly, the star at the centre of the Mercer media galaxy, is Breitbart.

It was $10m of Mercer’s money that enabled Bannon to fund Breitbart – a rightwing news site, set up with the express intention of being a Huffington Post for the right. It has launched the careers of Milo Yiannopoulos and his like, regularly hosts antisemitic and Islamophobic views, and is currently being boycotted by more than 1,000 brands after an activist campaign. It has been phenomenally successful: the 29th most popular site in America with 2bn page views a year. It’s bigger than its inspiration, the Huffington Post, bigger, even, than PornHub. It’s the biggest political site on Facebook. The biggest on Twitter.

2017

February

Journal Inquirer (Manchester, Conn.), A life wasted in news slogs on just for spite, Chris Powell, Feb. 17, 2018. When the Journal Inquirer merged the weekly newspapers in Rockville, South Windsor, and East Windsor and went daily in August 1968, its premise, like the premises of the Connecticut newspapers that had been started long before, was that people wanted local news. The Hartford newspapers serving the growing suburbs to the north and east were not providing much of it. For 25 years the upstart's circulation grew steadily and two of its competitors closed, in large part because they lacked local news.

Back then Connecticut, literate and prosperous, had the highest per-capita newspaper readership in the country. But for most of the last 25 years newspaper circulation throughout the country and in Connecticut has declined, even for the most local of papers.

This is commonly blamed on the rise of the internet, but recent surveys suggest it is something else. They find that most people are not using the internet much to obtain local and state news, that most of the news sought on the internet is national and world news, that there isn't so much interest even in that news, and that most use of the internet is not for news but for social contact, shopping, and amusement.

While newspapers and their internet sites remain the primary providers of local and state news, it seems that interest in such news has collapsed.

Indeed, the collapse of interest in local and state news may correlate less with the rise of the internet than with the collapse of civic engagement generally as indicated by measures like voter participation.

Census and voter registration figures suggest that even in Connecticut about 25 percent of the eligible adult population doesn't even register to vote. As a result, actual voter participation is probably only 50 percent of the eligible population for presidential elections, a third for state elections, and around 10 percent for municipal elections.

For example, far more people voted in Manchester's town election in 1962 than in its town election in 2017, though the town's population is 40 percent larger.

No one needs newspapers for keeping up with the Kardashians.

Trouble for newspapers is not the worst of it. Democracy and the country are in jeopardy.

So someone who has spent 50 years at a newspaper in Connecticut may be permitted his discouragement. The civic engagement business was never lucrative, but now nearly all local- and state-oriented newspapers struggle to survive.

As the state's economic and demographic decline accelerates, knowledge of Connecticut's past, present, and public policy has lost all financial value except for those who would use it to extract the last scraps of patronage and graft from the state's hapless and insolvent government.

Of course many lives are always wasted, but what kind of future awaits Connecticut when most of its high school graduates never master high school English and math, much public college instruction is remedial, and most people cannot identify the state's three branches of government? (You know -- the teacher unions, the lawyers, and the liquor stores.)

MediaMatters.org, Alex Jones’ Former Editor Trashes Him As A Trump Sellout Who Plays “The Race & Religion Card” For Business, Feb. 7, 2017. 
Kurt Nimmo, a longtime former editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, has been publicly trashing his ex-boss as a “snake oil salesman” who sold out to support President Donald Trump.

Alex Jones and his Infowars.com are known for pushing conspiracy theories, including claiming the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, among others.

The site’s editor, Paul Joseph Watson, apparently has no editorial standards and has repeatedly posted fraudulent information. Jones recently announced that the purported news organization would be attending White House press briefings and that it had hired widely discredited reporter Jerome Corsi as its D.C. correspondent.

Infowars has become one of the leading sources of pro-Donald Trump boosterism. Trump’s presidential campaign repeatedly tweeted out links to Infowars content in 2016. Trump himself tweeted out a link to Infowars.com’s aggregation of a conservative blog post to claim that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks. (In fact, no evidence supports that.) Trump appeared on Jones’ program during the presidential campaign and apparently called Jones after the election to thank his audience for its support. Trump adviser and regular contributor Roger Stone told The Washington Post that Trump “has watched Infowars.”

 

Robert Kennedy Victory Speech Ambassador Hotel, June 6, 1968

Two children of slain U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy are disputing the official account of his assassination 50 years ago, prompting renewed debate before the June 5 anniversary.

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)Robert F. KennedyLongtime law professor and environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman raised the profile of the long-simmering controversy with Jackman's front-page Sunday story on May 26 entitled, Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan.

The son is shown at far right in a portrait (by Gage Skidmore) next to a file photo of his father on the 1968 presidential campaign trail. The late New York senator also is portrayed above at top in file photo taken during his California Democratic primary victory speech minutes before his murder. He was shot in a kitchen pantry after leaving the speaking stage at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

Jackman, who has covered law enforcement since 1998 at the Post, reported:

The younger Kennedy was ready to go public with his views after spending months re-examining the evidence and meeting in prison with Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of the murder in a 1969 jury trial in which defense counsel mounted scant defense.

“I got to a place where I had to see Sirhan,” Kennedy told Jackman of the defendant, shown at right in a 2016 prison photo.

Sirhan Sirhan“I went there because I was curious and disturbed by what I had seen in the evidence,” said Kennedy, an environmental lawyer and the third oldest of his father’s 11 children. “I was disturbed that the wrong person might have been convicted of killing my father. My father was the chief law enforcement officer in this country. I think it would have disturbed him if somebody was put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit.”

The report of Kennedy's comments and the evidence supporting them represent breakthrough coverage of the case for a mainstream publication — and a challenge to other family members, authorities, opinion leaders and indeed any concerned citizen.

The challenge is whether the oft-reported basic facts of such a high-profile assassination could have been so incomplete or suppressed as to lead to a false imprisonment — and an escaped murderer or murderers.

That's an assessment provided in an exclusive interview June 4 by Dr. William Pepper, a close friend of the late Senator Kennedy and also the current defense counsel for Sirhan. It took years for Pepper to become convinced that Sirhan was innocent of killing RFK, not just via a legal technicality but as a matter of scientific and other proof.

william pepper mlkPepper, shown at right with his friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) at a major political conference in 1967, was a journalist and activist who last year summarized RFK evidence in a pending petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a unit of the Organization of American States (IACHR/OAS), seeking what Pepper calls the first evidentiary hearing ever in the Sirhan murder case.

He regards Jackman's reporting as extraordinary, much like the Washington Post's willingness to print it, as well as a breakthrough story by Jackman on March 30, Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed. Jackman, a Post reporter covering courts and crime since 1998, quoted prominent members of MLK's family as saying they did not believe that his convicted killer James Earl Ray really killed the civil rights leader in April 1968 in Memphis. 

cia logo"More than any other mainstream media journalist," Pepper told me regarding RFK's murder, "Tom Jackman has gone in-depth into the evidence of the case related to Sirhan's alleged guilt and has very clearly shown that evidence was withheld and that Sirhan was selected as a victim of CIA MK Ultra mind control efforts to be set up as a patsy through the use of hypnosis and chemicals. His role was to perform a distraction so that the real assassin could do his work and put three bullets into RFK's body at much closer range while Sirhan was always three to five feet in from of the senator." 

dan brownUpdate: Jackman and author/ filmmaker / professor Dr. Shane O'Sullivan have provided powerful reporting bolstering the hypnosis explanation in new, in-depth articles quoting experts, including Harvard Medical School Professor Dr. Daniel P. Brown (shown at right), an expert in forensic psychiatry and hypnosis. He extensively interviewed Sirhan and studied also what is known about the CIA's MK Ultra program.

Their new articles are: The assassination of Bobby Kennedy: Was Sirhan Sirhan hypnotized to be the fall guy? by Jackman on June 4 in the Washington Post and Was Sirhan Hypnotically Programmed to Assassinate RFK? by O’Sullivan on June 5 in the investigative online site WhoWhatWhy. The WhoWhatWhy report contains a 67-minute video featuring interviews with Brown and Sirhan's attorney Laurie Dusek. Despite filming six hours of interviews, Brown was spiked from the recent Netflix documentary Bobby Kennedy For President.

Other Mainstream Reporting

Conventional wisdom is that reporters, editors and their news outlets always seek to publish verifiable information challenging the power structure, especially for suspected misconduct in something like a high-profile murder case, which the assassination of a Kennedy running for president surely was, by any standard.

The track record on truly sensitive topics is less than impressive, however, as indicated by the Netflix decisioni among many others, especially if new reporting undermines decades of previous coverage and powerful institutional relationships, as we reported on May 29 in our most recent column here, Rights Pioneer's Obit Prompts Disputes Over JFK Murder Half-Truths. Our column began: "The Washington Post's obituary last week of a pioneering African-American lawyer continued the newspaper's controversial coverage of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1964 murder of JFK's friend and purported lover Mary Pinchot Meyer."

Regarding the RFK coverage, the Post's most recent big stories were quite varied in their assumptions.

The gist of Jackman's in-depth pieces on May 26 and June 4 contrasted sharply with a Post Sunday Magazine story a week later, What is it like to be the brother of Robert Kennedy’s assassin? The life of the other Sirhan.

For the magazine piece, Los Angeles-based freelance author Peter Gilstrap accepted Sirhan's guilt with scant attempt to explore the possibility of his innocence. The discrepancy doubtless occurred in part because of the long lead time for magazine articles, which are generated separately from the Post's news staff. Nonetheless, the supposedly in-depth treatment that a magazine is supposed to provide managed to miss much of the gist of four decades of investigative revelations. 

The Washington Post published in its news section on the same day, June 3, another major treatment, headlined Robert F. Kennedy’s final flight: The storied journey of the ride from California to New York. Authored by freelance legal expert David Margolick, it avoided the issue of murder guilt and focused instead on the mournful yet intriguing airplane flight in which the three widows of 1960s murdered ikons JFK, MLK and RFK accompanied RFK's corpse from Los Angeles to Washington, DC. On June 5, Post editorial board member and op-ed columnist Charles Lane dismissed any new evidence or calls for a new investigation as crackpot ideas unworthy of discussion except (apparently) to insult those proposing them.

kathleen kennedy townsendThe Boston Globe, New England's largest circulation newspaper, followed up Jackman's May 26 scoops in the Post by reporting on May 31 that the late senator's oldest child, former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (shown at left), has been persuaded by her brother Robert Jr.'s analysis to join him in seeking a new investigation of the murder.

But the Globe story, RFK's children divided over calls for a fresh investigation of his assassination by Michael Levenson on May 31, 2018, also reported that other children of the slain senator said that they opposed a re-investigation. Levenson reported that this opposition underscores "how divisive the second-gunman theory continues to be, a half-century after the presidential candidate, former attorney general, and senator from New York, was killed in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles."

joe kennedy ii rfk child former repThose children objecting to a new investigation were former Massachusetts Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy II (shown at right), documentary filmmaker Rory Kennedy (the late senator's youngest child, who declined comment to the Globe but voiced opposition to the Post), and Kerry Kennedy, who is president of a human rights organization named for her father. The irony is striking. The head of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights opposes a new investigation into alleged human rights violations that allegedly protected his murderer.

This dispute about evidence will surprise and shock many. Most people have thought from initial news reports to the present that they knew what happened: Sirhan hated Kennedy, acted alone to kill him, and was convicted after a fair trial. Any doubts about such a consensus casts doubt on enormously important and influential American institutions and leaders, past and present.

Read more ...

The Washington Post's obituary last week of a pioneering African-American lawyer continued the newspaper's controversial coverage of the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the 1964 murder of JFK's friend and lover Mary Pinchot Meyer.

dovey roundtreeOn May 21, the Post published a long and respectful obituary, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, 1914–2018, about an African-American woman by that name (shown at right) who overcame racial bias to carve out impressive careers in the military, law, and ministry in a Washington, DC work environment that was heavily segregated for most of her career.

One of Roundtree's early highlights was winning a 1965 jury acquittal for Raymond Crump, Jr., an African-American day laborer whom authorities had charged with murdering Meyer on a canal towpath near her home in the capital's fashionable Georgetown neighborhood.

Obituary writer Harrison Smith reported on Roundtree's civic commitment and skill in winning the acquittal. The reporter also quoted two commentators — journalist / author Nina Burleigh and attorney Robert Bennett — as opining that Crump was guilty, despite the jury verdict.

Several JFK assassination researchers, including this editor and another Meyer biographer, Peter Janney, sharply challenged via reader comments and letters to the Post its taint of Crump (and by implication Roundtree).

paul kuntzler georgetown dish croppedAnother critic, Paul Kuntzler, used the dispute to urge the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to renew the murder investigation by focusing on a witness against Crump, retired professor William L. Mitchell, whom Janney has accused of being a CIA asset who participated in an effort to frame Crump on a claim that he murdered Meyer during an attempted rape that she resisted. Mitchell has responded through the years with conflicting statements, as amplified below.

In 2007, Kuntzler (a retired exhibit sales manager for the National Science Teachers Association shown at right) spent his life savings of nearly $200,000 on two pages of advertising in the New York Times denouncing that newspaper, the Washington Post and other major news organizations for failing to cover fairly the JFK murder and cover-up evidence.

peter janney coverAs a preview of our treatment below:

Janney, the son of high-ranking CIA executive Wistar Janney, has argued in his investigative book Mary's Mosaic: The CiA Conspiracy to Murder John F. Kennedy, Mary Pinchot Meyer, and their Vision for World Peace, that his father and Meyer's ex-husband Cord Meyer, another high-level CIA executive, were among those in the agency implicated in her murder on (Oct. 12, 1964). Her shooter used two bullets to kill her execution-style on a canal towpath.

Janney, drawing also on other research typically ignored by the media, asserts that murder motive was fear by authorities that the well-connected Meyer — sister-in-law to Post-Newsweek rising star Ben Bradlee, among her other influential contacts — would use her connections to expose flaws in the Warren Commission report issued in September 1964.

earl warrenThat panel led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren assertedthat JFK was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone. The commission, which included former CIA Director Allen Dulles, also claimed that Oswald's killer Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner, had no connection to the mob despite Ruby's longtime work with Mafia leaders who had sub-rosa alliances with parts of the CIA, law enforcement at the national and Dallas levels, and anti-Castro Cubans.   

The Roundtree obituary failed to quote Janney or any other backer of Roundtree's defense of Crump. Instead, it cited only the establishment lawyer Bennett and Burleigh, shown in a file photo and author of 1998 biography of Meyer, A Very Private Woman.

nine burleigh newsweek screenshotThe reaction to those few paragraphs in the obituary criticizing the jury acquittal of Crump prompted reaction mostly because the perceived slant paralleled the Post's biased and at times self-protective coverage for decades of JFK's assassination, which occurred during a Dallas motorcade on Nov. 22, 1963.

As documented in the Justice Integrity Project's 50-part "Readers Guide to the JFK Assassination," the Post has thrown its editorial weight behind the Warren Report from 1964 to present. The newspaper with rare exceptions has ignored or trivialized the most compelling contrary scientific, documentary and witness evidence. That evidence draws on some five million pages of declassified documents and more than 2,500 books in whole or part about the assassination. Many critics of the Warren Commission believe the single best book for general readers summarizing the evidence is JFK and the Unspeakable by James Douglass, published in 2009.

Ben Bradlee, moreover, played a key role in the Post's coverage through the years, first as the Washington bureau chief of the Post-owned Newsweek and then as the Post's longtime executive editor.

peter janney jfk mary meyerHe was also a key participant in the Meyer case in several ways: As a news executive, brother-in-law to the victim, personal friend of the president, and witness in the Crump trial. Perhaps most notably, he helped deliver the murder victim Meyer's diary to CIA master spy James J. Angleton, a mutual friend of Bradlee and the victim, and kept that entire matter secret at the trial and out of the media.

Not until a scoop by an outsider in 1976 did the reading public learn that Meyer had had an affair with Kennedy during his presidency. Mary Meyer is shown at the White House with the president during one of her visits with Bradlee and his wife Antoinette Pinchot Bradlee.

'Fake News' Factors?

Meanwhile, Bradlee had been achieving iconic status as a fearless, crusading editor leading the public's right to know about such tough investigative stories as the Pentagon Papers (recently chronicled by a Hollywood film) and Watergate. One of his quotations is shown below.

ben bradlee pursuit of truthSimmering under the surface, however, public opinion polls for decades have shown that more than 60 percent of Americans do not believe the Warren report despite the efforts of mainstream media like the Bradlee-led Post to reinforce the report and downplay critics, whether contemporaries like Meyer (ex-wife of Cord Meyer, one of the top CIA propagandists for many years), or scientific, law enforcement, and other experts.

Many Americans suspect that the Post, like other news organizations, places a higher importance in protecting its institutional interests (including relationships with government and/or other power brokers) than on the public's right to know about truly sensitive matters. This would be despite the long-standing campaigns of the news sector  to promote Bradlee, among others, as paragons of fearless truth-telling.

Robert F Kennedy Jr (2017 portrait by Gage Skidmore)Yet any news organization is constantly generating new material that complicate, if not undermine, suggestions of unwarranted, pervasive self-censorship. On May 27, for example, the Post published a breakthrough, in-depth report quoting law professor and environment activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (shown at right) as saying he no longer believes the official story that his father was killed in 1968 by the still-imprisoned convict Sirhan Sirhan.

The powerful front-page story headlined Who killed Bobby Kennedy? His son RFK Jr. doesn’t believe it was Sirhan Sirhan was reported by the Post's Tom Jackman. On March 30, he published on the Post's front page a similar breakthrough report, Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed, quoting members of the King family as stating they did not believe that Dr. Martin Luther King was fatally shot by the convict James Earl Ray, who died in 1998 in prison.

Reasonable observers might differ on whether the Post's two front-page stories this spring illustrate the strength of the free press and journalistic initiative, or are long overdue course corrections.

But it's hard to imagine that the details are not worth reviewing, as we enable with the materials below, especially during current times when a current president is so reckless broadcasting claims of "fake news" against the Post and many other leading news organizations.

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The Justice Integrity Project (JIP)'s original reporting provides for the most part an alternative to conventional mainstream reporting even though many of this editor's other activities involve reporting, legal, business and other civic activities closely associated with traditional institutions.

asne logoOne way to provide that broader context along with a change of pace from much of our usual fare here is to excerpt two of my columns published last week by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) based on my reporting of nearly two days of ASNE briefings for fellow members earlier this month at the U.S. Department of State on May 7 and at the DC-based Heritage Foundation on May 6.

About a dozen ASNE members attended the briefings and several of us volunteered to report the discussions for ASNE's quarterly publication "The Masthead," excerpted immediately below.  

American Society of Newspaper Editors, State Dept. report: U.S. counters threats from China, North Korea, May 17, 2018. The United States takes a stern stance against threats from China and North Korea, according to a senior U.S. Department of State official who briefed ASNE members this month at the department’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

American Society of Newspaper Editors, Heritage panel: Conservatism supports, survives Trump, May 17, 2018. The conservative movement’s policies largely coincide with President Donald Trump’s agenda and so will emerge intact if not stronger following his presidency.

This editor has long been a member of about a half dozen other journalism groups, including the National Press Club, the Overseas Press Club and the American Society of Journalists and Authors, as well as the District of Columbia Bar, the American Bar Association, the Federalist Society, American Constitution Society, and the Fixed Wireless Communications Coalition. The latter advocates for technically efficient spectrum use in fixed wireless bands. My involvedment grows out of a previous career leading the Wireless Communications Association as President/CEO from 1996-2008. In addition, I have served in recent years as a research fellow at two major universities but those relationships are now concluded. Also, I am active with two school alumni groups, primarily in fostering events, alumni news and the modest level of donations such activities generate.

None of these groups bears any responsibility by implication or otherwise, for any reporting here, of course. But it does seem appropriate to share with readers here from time to time the wider context that the directors of the Justice Integrity Project have long been involved in a varied civic activities, while trying (successfully so far, according to our best belief) to avoid any conflict of interest with reporting, which is intended to be hard-hitting, while non-partisan and otherwise free from conflicts. 

Regarding ASNE's annual State Department briefing, these are annual on-the-record discussions between department policy makers and ASNE members, with most of the latter's attendees coming from the editorial opinion pages of major newspapers. The half-day briefing with the Heritage Foundation was a similar program designed to foster dialog between opinion journalists and groups of newsmakers. Details are below.

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U.S. Senators face career-defining confirmation votes beginning Wednesday regarding President Trump's nominee to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Gina Haspel Custom 2The nomination of current CIA Acting Director Gina Haspel (shown at right) will help define each senator's legacy.

That's partly because of her own abuses at the CIA in fostering torture and destroying the evidence so that other malefactors could avoid accountability but also because of the background of decades of whitewashes by the senate in failing to excercise their oversight obligations under the Constitution over the powerful intelligence agencies like the CIA.

The media have duly reported Haspel's record of assisting torture and rendition after 9/11 and then helping to destroy evidence. Those shortcomings are why she is expected to receive confirmation by a relatively narrow and nearly party-line vote, primarily from the Republican majority.

cia logoWith her confirmation likely assured, our focus here is less about her than on whether the senate and, particularly its Democratic members who might aspire to future leadership, will show a commitment to the Constitution by keeping the vote close.

Haspel runs one of the nation's most powerful and unaccountable bodies, one that has been instrumental in countless covert operations, some of which have targeted Americans through the years, not simply foreigners as originally intended by the CIA's 1947 enabling legislation.

dianne feinsteinMost immediately, public attention should focus on the votes of Senate Select Committee On Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-Virginia), who announced on May 15 that he would support the nominee, former Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and a number of senators who are reputed to be gearing up for 2020  presidential campaigns. Feinstein faces the more immediate test of a primary election next month against a rival endorsed by California's Democratic Party at a convention this spring.

mark warner shirtsleevesWarner (shown at right) may have been complicit with the committee's GOP Chairman Richard Burr in preventing his Senate colleagues reading a classified  account of Haspel's role in the torture cover-up. That's implied by The Intercerpt's reporter Ryan Grim Monday in a column headlined Ahead of Vote on Gina Haspel, Senate Pulls Access to Damning Classified Memo. The material is from a Department of Justice report by special counsel John Durham documenting Haspell's role in helping suppress CIA torture evidence in ways not specified. Grim's story is excerpted more fully below, along with other news reports,

john mccain 2009 wRepublican senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Rand Paul (KY) are opposing Haspel. McCain, a torture victim during the Vietnam War, says the practice is fundamentally unAmerican. Paul has centered his opposition on what he regarded as Haspel's evasive testimony on her views, which she amplified in a letter to Warner released Tuesday.

Bottom line: While most of senators face heavy political pressures to approve a presidential nominee none of the senators who vote for Haspel under these circumstances should be entitled to a leadership position on any intelligence or armed forces committee, much less less presidential consideration for reasons explained more fully below.

Update: Roll Call, Senate Confirms Gina Haspel to Lead CIA, Niels Lesniewski, May 17, 2018. Bipartisan vote does not follow partisan script. After a number of Democratic senators announced they would support President Donald Trump’s choice of Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to run the agency, she was easily confirmed Thursday afternoon.

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jfk american university

President Kennedy delivers an iconic speech in June 1963 at American University calling for world peace.

Some scholars say the courageous speech during allen dulles HRthe Cold War -- combined with Kennedy's actions antagonizing CIA, Pentagon, fanatic anti-communist empire-builders, segregationist, Cuban exile, Mafia and wealthy Texas oil forces -- helped set in motion his death later in the year. Among other actions, JFK's fury at the CIA's manipulations during the Bay of Pigs invasion led him to oust the top three CIA executives. One of them, CIA Director Allen Dulles (right), an operative for decades on behalf of some of America's leading dynasties, would help guide six other Warren Commission officials supervising the Commission staff writing the official report in 1964 about JFK's death.

Beginning in the 1970s, professor, poet and former diplomat Peter Dale Scott popularized the term "Deep State" in his books to describe the secretive relationship between America's oligarchs and key unelected officials such as Dulles, as evident in scholarly research about the Kennedy assassination.

 

On April 26 this spring, the last day of the historic deadline for JFK assassination records release, President Trump ordered suppression until 2021 of some 520 remaining classified records regarding the 1963 murder of President John F. Kennedy (JFK) in Dallas.

In violating his earlier pledge to release all records, Trump released at least parts of some 19,000 other records but cited only vague “national security” concerns for the redactions and outright document suppressions despite a congressionally passed legal requirement in the 1992 “JFK Act” that he and his administration provide a specific reason to suppress each withheld record.

The White House press announcement confused the issues further by redacting many of the 19,000 documents that were released by the National Archives and Records Administation (NARA) in the latest batch last week. The records are available online, a good thing. But NARA failed to organize them in a way readily accessible to reporters and other researchers — or to provide such other key details as whether documents had been previously released in significant part.

Trump used a similar stall tactic last fall in postponing the final release of documents, which were all supposed to be released by last Oct. 26, according to the so-called JFK Act unanimously passed by Congress in 1992 to quell public fervor from Oliver Stone's powerful film JFK.

One of Trump's longtime close friends confided this spring to us that he did not believe Trump had paid any significant attention to the JFK records issues last fall until just before decision date, even though some of Trump advisors had been telling him about the importance of the release. It happens also that djt newsweek lazy boy cover customTrump his son-in-law Jared Kushner's uncle, Murray J. Laulicht, born in 1940, had served as an assistant counsel on the Warren Commission staff and was one of countless experts that the Justice Integrity Project, among others, had ascertained (JFK Experts Advocate Compliance With Records Deadline) ,as arguing for full document release.

Thus, the Newsweek cover "Lazy Boy" last year seemed apt as a portrayal of the president for this piece.

Last week's delay and release of some but not all of the documents confused the largely deferential and gullible mainstream media that automatically defers to “national security” claims.

Let’s be blunt since this process is apparently never going to be complete, at least within the lifetimes of the surviving witnesses who could augment the record of  what was literally "The Crime of the Century."

The so-called national security most at stake involves the ability of powerful entities to murder a president, in this case President Kennedy, in broad daylight for policy reasons and then to pressure successors, Congress, courts and the media to maintain a cover-up for more than five decades so that the institutional successors of the malefactors can continue their agendas at home and abroad.

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