Media News 2021-22

 

 JIPLogo

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. Most focus on U.S. media.

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2021-22

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

 

August

Aug. 8

Media, Religion, Education, Sports News

washington post logoWashington Post, David McCullough, master chronicler of American history, dies at 89, Glenn Rifkin, Aug. 8, 2022. The two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize was a master storyteller who brought to life the grand sweep of time and place.

David McCullough was a young researcher at the U.S. Information Agency when he walked into the Library of Congress in 1961 and chanced upon a photography exhibit depicting the 1889 flood in Johnstown, Pa., the deadliest in American history.

“I was overwhelmed by the violence revealed in them, the destruction,” Mr. McCullough, who was from the same area of western Pennsylvania, later told the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat. More than 2,200 people died, and a thriving coal-and-steel town was submerged in muddy debris because wealthy industrialists had neglected a dam.

The passage of time had reduced the tragedy to a historical footnote, Mr. McCullough discovered, with little if any serious scholarly study devoted to it. Undaunted by his own inexperience — “I imagined myself being a writer, but never a writer of history,” he said — he set out to write a book about the Johnstown flood.

For years, he dedicated his spare time to his research, interviewing the few remaining survivors to capture their memories of sudden terror, desperate acts of self-preservation and the awful duty, in the aftermath, of identifying the dead.

“The Johnstown Flood,” published in 1968, became a bestseller, rekindled national interest in the disaster and instantly established its author as a historian with an exceptional gift for animating history.

 

Former University of Alabama great and NFL coach Ray Perkins as a coach with his Alabama players in 1983 (Associated Press file photo).

Former University of Alabama great and NFL coach Ray Perkins as a coach with his Alabama players in 1983 (Associated Press file photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, They Made History at Alabama. But Football Stardom Had a Price, Alan Blinder, Aug. 8, 2022 (print ed.). At least four fixtures of Alabama’s great teams of the 1960s had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., at their deaths. Researchers expect it in other players, too. Near the end, his brain deteriorated after almost a lifetime around football, Ray Perkins was still captivated by the sport.

Perkins, who played and coached at Alabama and led the N.F.L.’s Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, asked once for his whistle. Twice, he clutched his aged briefcase and announced that he had a meeting. Years out of coaching, he sometimes looked through his playbooks anyway.

Then, in the months before his death in 2020 at 79, the Perkins family edged toward letting scientists study his brain once he was gone. The eventual findings were bracingly familiar to experts and players and their families: chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a neurological disorder linked to blows to the head and sometimes seen in men who played elite football.

“In my heart, I knew he had it,” Lisa Perkins, Perkins’s widow, said in an interview with The New York Times, the family’s first public disclosure of the medical history of a man who played at Alabama under Coach Bear Bryant and later succeeded him.

More than a half-century after one of Alabama’s football renaissances began, the cost is edging into view. Pathologists have confirmed in recent years that at least four fixtures of Alabama’s fearsome, Bryant-led teams of the 1960s, including at least one from each of Alabama’s three national-champion squads that decade, developed C.T.E.

The 1965 team, which capped its title run with a victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, had at least three men known to have died with C.T.E., and at least two others whose families would come to think they had developed the disease.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Lawsuits, Ex-Employees Offer Harsh Portrait of Project Veritas, Colin Moynihan and Jonah E. Bromwich, Aug. 8, 2022. One former employee described the conservative group as having a “highly sexualized” atmosphere where drinking and drug use were commonplace.

The conservative group Project Veritas has for years sought to embarrass political opponents and members of media organizations by surreptitiously recording them and publicizing their private communications.

But two lawsuits filed in federal court late Sunday by the organization’s former employees purported to expose its own inner workings, portraying a “highly sexualized” work culture where daytime drinking and drug use were common and the group benefited from employees who worked additional hours without pay.

Both lawsuits, filed in Manhattan, describe the dedication of a young staff of operatives who have attracted the support of powerful political allies and donors. One suit describes a corporate apartment the organization kept as having been used like a “frat house” for drinking, sex and parties.

That lawsuit also discloses the names of more than a dozen of the organization’s employees and the identities of field operatives, information that the group has taken significant care to shield.

The suits — which were triggered in part by a conflict with an ex-employee, Antonietta Zappier, over the terms of her departure from the organization — come as the group is under investigation by federal prosecutors, who have suggested they have evidence the organization was complicit in stealing a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, a daughter of President Biden; Project Veritas has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge that the diary was stolen.

Both lawsuits were filed by Arthur Z. Schwartz, a former general counsel for Acorn, a community organizing group that dissolved after an undercover sting operation carried out in part by Mr. O’Keefe.

In a statement, Mr. O’Keefe referred to Ms. Zappier as a “disgruntled” former employee and called her claims “a range of made-up falsehoods.”

“Zappier was fired months ago for unprofessional and inappropriate behavior in the workplace,” the statement said, adding that she had threatened to physically harm one of Project Veritas’s neighbors and insulted people who had reached out to the organization to tell their stories.

It also said that Mr. Schwartz was attempting to leverage her claims “to hurt Project Veritas,” adding: “His one and only objective in representing Zappier is to get payback for Veritas’s investigation into Acorn over 10 years ago.”

Mr. Schwartz objected to the characterization of Ms. Zappier, noting that she had received positive evaluations at work, had never been admonished for negative behavior and was trusted by Mr. O’Keefe.

Ms. Zappier’s lawsuit comes two months after Project Veritas filed a lawsuit against her and her husband, Vincent Zappier. In its suit, the group accused her of breaching the terms of a separation agreement, and her husband of harassing its employees. Some of the specific claims about Ms. Zappier included in Mr. O’Keefe’s statement were not in the organization’s lawsuit against the couple.

Although Project Veritas describes its employees as journalists, its operations typically diverge from standard journalistic practice, with the organization’s operatives masking their real identities or creating phony ones.

Project Veritas has an ongoing defamation suit against The Times, and the publication of articles based on the organization’s legal memos is the subject of litigation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Olivia Newton-John, Pop Singer and ‘Grease’ Star, Dies at 73, Jim Farber, Aug. 8, 2022. She began her career as an innocent purveyor of middle-of-the-road pop but later adopted a bad-girl persona.

olivia newton johnOlivia Newton-John, right, who sang some of the biggest hits of the 1970s and ’80s while recasting her image as the virginal girl next door into a spandex-clad vixen — a transformation reflected in miniature by her starring role in “Grease,” one of the most popular movie musicals of its era — died on Monday at her ranch in Southern California. She was 73.

The death was announced by her husband, John Easterling. She had lived with a breast cancer diagnosis since 1992 and in 2017 announced that the cancer had returned and spread.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Lawsuits, Ex-Employees Offer Harsh Portrait of Project Veritas, Colin Moynihan and Jonah E. Bromwich, Aug. 8, 2022. One former employee described the conservative group as having a “highly sexualized” atmosphere where drinking and drug use were commonplace.

The conservative group Project Veritas has for years sought to embarrass political opponents and members of media organizations by surreptitiously recording them and publicizing their private communications.

But two lawsuits filed in federal court late Sunday by the organization’s former employees purported to expose its own inner workings, portraying a “highly sexualized” work culture where daytime drinking and drug use were common and the group benefited from employees who worked additional hours without pay.

Both lawsuits, filed in Manhattan, describe the dedication of a young staff of operatives who have attracted the support of powerful political allies and donors. One suit describes a corporate apartment the organization kept as having been used like a “frat house” for drinking, sex and parties.

That lawsuit also discloses the names of more than a dozen of the organization’s employees and the identities of field operatives, information that the group has taken significant care to shield.

The suits — which were triggered in part by a conflict with an ex-employee, Antonietta Zappier, over the terms of her departure from the organization — come as the group is under investigation by federal prosecutors, who have suggested they have evidence the organization was complicit in stealing a diary belonging to Ashley Biden, a daughter of President Biden; Project Veritas has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge that the diary was stolen.

Both lawsuits were filed by Arthur Z. Schwartz, a former general counsel for Acorn, a community organizing group that dissolved after an undercover sting operation carried out in part by Mr. O’Keefe.

In a statement, Mr. O’Keefe referred to Ms. Zappier as a “disgruntled” former employee and called her claims “a range of made-up falsehoods.”

“Zappier was fired months ago for unprofessional and inappropriate behavior in the workplace,” the statement said, adding that she had threatened to physically harm one of Project Veritas’s neighbors and insulted people who had reached out to the organization to tell their stories.

It also said that Mr. Schwartz was attempting to leverage her claims “to hurt Project Veritas,” adding: “His one and only objective in representing Zappier is to get payback for Veritas’s investigation into Acorn over 10 years ago.”

Mr. Schwartz objected to the characterization of Ms. Zappier, noting that she had received positive evaluations at work, had never been admonished for negative behavior and was trusted by Mr. O’Keefe.

Ms. Zappier’s lawsuit comes two months after Project Veritas filed a lawsuit against her and her husband, Vincent Zappier. In its suit, the group accused her of breaching the terms of a separation agreement, and her husband of harassing its employees. Some of the specific claims about Ms. Zappier included in Mr. O’Keefe’s statement were not in the organization’s lawsuit against the couple.

Although Project Veritas describes its employees as journalists, its operations typically diverge from standard journalistic practice, with the organization’s operatives masking their real identities or creating phony ones.

Project Veritas has an ongoing defamation suit against The Times, and the publication of articles based on the organization’s legal memos is the subject of litigation.

Aug. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate GOP escalates its attack on Google over email spam, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Aug. 5, 2022 (print ed.). As the party’s online fundraising dips, a new draft letter demands that the tech giant give campaigns a mulligan when they run afoul of Gmail’s spam filter.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, the campaign arm of the Republican caucus, is preparing to escalate its attack on Google over the company’s email spam filter, which it blames for recent fundraising disappointments, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

google logo customA draft letter on NRSC letterhead, and addressed to Google, claims that “Google and its algorithms have handed a distinct advantage to Democrat fundraising efforts, resulting in Republicans raising millions of dollars less than they should be able to.” And a Wednesday afternoon email from an NRSC official to chiefs of staff and legislative directors for Republican senators asks them to have their bosses sign the letter before leaving for their August recess.

The email states that Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is spearheading the effort. In a May meeting, Grassley told Google representatives that Gmail should operate like a post office and suggested that sending emails to spam was equivalent to a post office refusing to deliver the mail, according to three people in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private meeting.

The GOP went to war against Google over spam — and may win

The basis for the GOP’s allegations, which Google denies, is a March study published by researchers at North Carolina State University finding that Gmail sent 77 percent of right-wing candidate emails to spam in 2020, compared with 10 percent of left-wing candidate emails.

Google took issue with the study, saying it relied on a small sample size and old data while not accounting for which candidates had used recommended tools when sending bulk emails. People familiar with the company’s thinking said Google is being scapegoated by Republican consultants seeking to shift the blame for poor fundraising caused by lists that have grown stale and recipients who have tired of incessant appeals, especially those coming from entities that have rented or purchased email addresses. The GOP’s online fundraising has fallen off in recent months, declining by about 11 percent in the second quarter of the year, compared with the first, according to federal filings from WinRed, the main donation-processing portal for Republicans.

Still, the study fueled a months-long pressure campaign waged by the GOP against the technology giant. The campaign involved private meetings with Google chief executive Sundar Pichai; public censure of the company by party leaders on Twitter; and draft legislation introduced in both chambers of Congress that would limit Google’s ability to apply spam filtering.

The impact of the pressure became apparent last month, when Google asked the Federal Election Commission to green-light a pilot program that would exempt campaign emails from automated spam detection. That change could reshape the experience of Gmail users. The amount of political fundraising conducted over email and text has exploded in recent years, adding to the deluge of promotional messages swamping Americans every day. The program could further intensify the inundation.

A draft advisory opinion published Tuesday by FEC lawyers said the proposed program would not violate federal campaign finance law. The draft opinion will be considered by the body’s six commissioners, who are divided evenly by party, at a meeting Aug. 11. Four votes are needed to approve an opinion.

The NRSC letter calls the proposed pilot program “unacceptable.”

“It comes too late and it’s too risky for campaigns,” the letter argues. “In the first place, it’s not clear that the FEC will approve it before the election.”

The letter also alleges that the proposal “requires campaigns to provide Google with a great deal of sensitive proprietary information.”

It’s unclear what sort of information Senate Republicans have in mind. Google’s request to the FEC makes no mention of a need for sensitive information. Rather, the proposed program would include only campaigns and committees registered with the FEC because the company can verify their identity using the email address provided to the regulator.

In place of the pilot program, the letter demands that Google simply give “any 2022 campaign the option to reset their email domain, restoring their email reputation and allowing emails to go to Gmail inboxes.”

A domain’s reputation is among the factors that weigh in Gmail’s spam filters, which rely on artificial intelligence. “These filters look at a variety of signals, including characteristics of the IP address, domains/subdomains, whether bulk senders are authenticated, and user input,” Google states.

At least once in recent months, Google reset those signals for an individual campaign once it fixed authentication errors and adhered to best practices. That happened in late May for a domain associated with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) after his team fixed an authentication problem, according to emails reviewed by The Post.

Aug. 4

 

gannett logo Custom

Poynter, Gannett reports disastrous financial results; layoffs are coming, Rick Edmonds, Aug. 4, 2022. Digital subscriptions are up, but, as expenses rise, other revenue streams are in a freefall.

Gannett recorded a dismal second quarter financially, the company reported Thursday – important revenues sources down, costs up and a loss of $54 million on revenues of $749 million.

Strong cost reduction moves are on the way. Media division head Maribel Perez Wadsworth, in a note to staff, warned of impending layoffs. “In the coming days,” she wrote, “we will … be making necessary but painful reductions to staffing, eliminating some open positions and roles that will impact valued colleagues.”

Gannett stock, already down roughly 45% for the year, fell another 28.5% in midmorning trading, indicating Wall Street had not expected such bad results.

Besides the operating cutbacks, Reed said, the company expects to accelerate the sale of real estate assets for the rest of the year and apply the proceeds to paying down debt.

Gannett is one of few regional newspaper companies (the others are Lee and the Dallas Morning News) that remain public and thus required to report financial results.

The company publishes USA Today and more than 200 regional dailies. Ironically those papers have just had some big successes, as Reed noted: The Austin American-Statesman publishing video of law enforcement delays in the Uvalde shooting and its Columbus and Indianapolis outlets documenting the case of a 10-year-old rape victim who needed to go out of state for an abortion.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million to Sandy Hook parents, jury rules, Brittany Shammas, Kim Bellware and Timothy Bella, Aug. 4, 2022. Infowars founder Alex Jones must pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the Sandy Hook mass shooting, an Austin jury announced Thursday, after the right-wing conspiracy theorist’s false claims that the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history was a “giant hoax” created a “living hell” for the family.

The decision means that Jones, America’s foremost purveyor of outlandish conspiracy theories, could pay far less than the $150 million sought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-year-old Jesse Lewis, for Jones’s remarks nearly a decade ago after the massacre in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, 20 of them young children.

Jones, 48, was previously found by judges in Connecticut and Texas to be liable for damages in lawsuits stemming from his false claims that the 2012 shooting was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.” Since then, Jones has been banned from major platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Spotify, and the parent company for his Infowars website filed for bankruptcy during the trial.

Despite Jones finally conceding this week in court that the shooting was not a hoax but “100 percent real,” District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Tex., noted the considerable damage caused by the Infowars founder’s remarks — and how his comments led to years of abuse for Sandy Hook parents.

The jury’s decision, which did not include punitive damages, comes just one day after it was revealed in court that the legal team representing Jones inadvertently sent the contents of his cellphone to a lawyer representing the parents. The apparent blunder led attorney Mark Bankston to accuse Jones of lying under oath when he testified that he did not have any text messages related to the Sandy Hook massacre.

During the jury’s deliberations, Jones’s lawyers requested a mistrial and demanded that Bankston delete the phone data they had handed over, which the judge denied.

Sandy Hook lawyers say Alex Jones’s attorneys accidentally gave them his phone contents

Once described by Roger Stone as maybe “the single most important voice in the alternative conservative media,” Jones has seen his false claims and rants launched into the mainstream national dialogue in recent years, embraced by the likes of then-President Donald Trump and Joe Rogan, the popular podcast host.

Business Insider via Yahoo News, Twitter paid to join a political group fighting against abortion as criticism from Republican lawmakers heats up, Grace Kay, Aug. 4, 2022. Twitter reportedly paid $25,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association.

The group is raising funds to combat "Democrats' pro-abortion agenda."

twitter bird CustomA Twitter spokesperson said the funds were paid membership dues and the money won't go to any political candidates.

Twitter paid to join an organization that was requesting funds for an anti-abortion campaign, according to a recent report from Popular Information.

The online newsletter reported that Twitter paid $25,000 to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) on June 17. The payment was revealed in a filing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

A Twitter spokesperson acknowledged the payment but told Insider that Twitter does not make political campaign donations. The company shut down its Political Action Committee (PAC) in 2020 and has not made political donations since, they said.

"We're committed to working with policymakers and civil society – from across the political spectrum – to ensure we are able to serve the public conversation," the spokesperson said. "This year, for the first time, we joined and paid membership dues to both the Democratic Attorneys General Association (DAGA) and the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) – simultaneously. Prior to this year, we were not members of either organization. To be clear, our membership dues for both organizations are not and will not be distributed to political candidates."

Political Information was unable to confirm the DAGA payment as the IRS information is only available through June 30 and Twitter informed the organization that it was made in July.

A RAGA spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.

RAGA is raising money to support candidates that are against abortion. According to a fundraising email from the group on June 24, "every donation [to the RAGA fund] will help the Republican Attorneys General combat the Democrats' pro-abortion agenda and stand tall for life."

In June, members of the conservative organization responded to news of a 10-year-old rape victim who traveled out of state to get an abortion by publicly attacking the medical provider that assisted the 10-year-old in the media.

Twitter's payment comes after the social media site has faced repeated criticism from the Republican Party on anything from bots on the site to the platform's handling of its ban on former President Donald Trump.

Aug. 3

Mediaite, Here Are the 5 Wildest Moments From Alex Jones’s Sandy Hook Defamation Trial, Alex Griffing Aug. 3, 2022. The defamation trial of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones sparked headlines across the media this week as the courtroom drama offered one wild moment after another.

mediaite square logoThe week began with a judge allowing the trial to move forward on Monday morning despite the company associated with Jones’ conspiracy-based show InfoWars declaring bankruptcy. The move has been seen by critics as a ploy to avoid paying the $150 million claim that the parents of a child murdered in the Sandy Hook massacre are seeking against Jones.

Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of murdered six-year-old Jesse Lewis, are suing Jones over the threats and harassment they faced after Jones repeatedly told his audience the massacre was a hoax and their child was an actor.

On Tuesday, Jesse’s mother, Scarlett Lewis confronted Jones in court and spoke to him directly:

I wanted to tell you to your face because I wanted you to know that I am a mother first and foremost. And I know that you are a father and my son existed,” Lewis said, speaking directly to Jones as he shook his head.

Lewis cut straight to the heart of the matter and argued on behalf of the immense damage Jones is doing to society by constantly spreading lies about current events.

“You’re still on your show today trying to say that I’m, implying that I’m an actress, that I am ‘deep state,’ you have this week,” she continued, adding:

And I don’t understand. Truth, truth is so vital to our world. Truth is what we base our reality on, and we have to agree on that to have a civil society. Sandy Hook is a hard truth. Hard truth.

“This happened almost ten years ago. We’ve had over 350 school shootings since then. We have to keep our kids safe. Jesse was real. I am a real mom,” she concluded.

The trial only got more bizarre as Jones himself took the stand. At one point the judge had to scold the conspiracy theorist for repeatedly lying on the stand and warned him against further lying in the courtroom.

“You’re already under oath to tell the truth,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble told Jones on Tuesday. “You’ve already violated that oath twice today. In just those two examples. It seems absurd to instruct you again that you must tell the truth while you testify. Yet here I am.”

“You must tell the truth while you testify,” Gamble said. “This is not your show.”

Jones remained defiant despite the threat of perjury and retorted, “Just because you claim to think something is true does not make it true.”

In another wild moment, the lawyer for Lewis and Heslin questioned Jones on the stand and revealed that Jones’ lawyers inadvertently sent them the entire contents of his phone.

“Mr. Jones, did you know that 12 days ago, 12 days ago, your attorneys messed up and sent me an entire digital copy of your entire cell phone with every text message you’ve sent for the past two years,” attorney Mark Bankston asked.

“And when informed, they did not take any steps to identify it as privileged or protected in any way. And as of two days ago, it fell free and clear into my possession. And that is how I know you lied to me when you said you didn’t have text messages about Sandy Hook,” Bankston continued, noting he caught Jones perjuring himself.

“Mr. Jones, in discovery you were asked, do you have Sandy Hook text messages on your phone? And you said no. Correct. You said that under oath,” Banston continued.

“You know, perjury. I just want to make sure, you know, before we go any further, you know what it is?” he added before continuing to question Jones in the extraordinary moment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Vin Scully Was Los Angeles, Scott Miller, Aug. 3, 2022. Scully’s Dodgers’ career began in 1950, and it continued until the end of the 2016 season, when he handed over the reins to Joe Davis. In a town synonymous with fleeting fame, Scully was the one thing that always seemed to endure. His voice, “like a gentle hand,” still resonates.

He was Venice Beach, Pink’s hot-dog stand and the Hollywood Bowl all rolled into one. He was Los Angeles, the sound of summer, the poet laureate of the Dodgers — Brooklyn and Los Angeles — for 67 seasons.

We knew Vin Scully wasn’t going to last forever. It only seemed as if he might. Even in retirement, years after his final broadcast in 2016, his presence remained both ubiquitous and ethereal, like the ocean and the air.

“There are two words to describe Vin: Babe Ruth,” said Charley Steiner, the Dodgers’ radio play-by-play man since 2005 after moving west from the Yankees’ booth (2002-2004). “The best who ever did it. Babe Ruth will always be defined as baseball. Vin will always be remembered as the voice of baseball.”

The wild ride that was Tuesday’s major league trading deadline suddenly and sharply gave way to a heaviness in the still of that night, when the Dodgers announced that Scully had died at 94. Baseball’s cycle of life, distilled into one day: new starts and sad endings. Scully had been in declining health in recent months, and those who knew him well had been bracing for the phone call. But when it came, it still was a gut punch.

“It doesn’t make it easier, because we lost a friend,” said Rick Monday, the former outfielder and longtime Dodgers broadcaster. “Whether we actually met Vin Scully or not, he was our friend.”

Like the best of friends, he was full of wonder, joy, humility and surprises.

“When I was in college, I wrote for The Times, so you probably saw my byline,” Scully said eagerly to begin an interview with The New York Times earlier this summer for a story about Gil Hodges, as if his days at Fordham University were just around a recent corner. “It says, ‘Special Correspondent to The Times.’ I was under an assumed name. Anyway, I just wanted you to know my literary background.”

Another time, late at night after an interleague game at Angel Stadium early in the 2013 season, some news media members were awaiting a press-box elevator to head home for the evening when Scully joined them for the ride down. He was wearing a brace on his left hand and wrist, the result of a bout with tendinitis.

Aug. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Electronics are built with death dates. Let’s not keep them a secret, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Aug. 2, 2022. Our analysis of 14 popular consumer devices found most could stop working in 3 to 4 years because of irreplaceable batteries. Here’s how we get the tech industry to design products that last longer — and do less damage to the environment.

Is that just how technology works? No, that's just how tech companies make more money from you.

amazon logo smallNearly half of the companies I contacted — including Sony, Dyson, Logitech, Google-owned Fitbit, Amazon, Therabody and Samsung-owned JBL — refused to answer or just ignored my specific questions.

None of this should be a secret.

The important thing to consider, experts say, is that every person and every case of covid is unique. There is no hard-and-fast rule for how sick a person will get or how long a person remains infectious. The guidelines offer a general framework, but patients should take into account their different circumstances, priorities and resources to assess risk.

Aug. 1

 

Fox News host Tucker Carlson shares quality time with former President Trump at the LIV Golf event over the weekend in Bedminster, NJ.djt

Fox News host Tucker Carlson shares quality time with former President Trump at the LIV Golf event over the weekend in Bedminster, NJ.

Mediaite, NYT Reporter Says Tucker Carlson Trashes Trump in Private: He ‘Thinks Very Little’ of His Audience, Kipp Jones, Aug. 1, 2022. Jeremy Peters of the New York Times claimed Monday night to have the inside track on how Fox News host Tucker Carlson truly feels about former President Donald Trump.

mediaite square logoHe shared some of those insights from his reporting with Newsmax TV host Eric Bolling. Peters’ book Insurgency: How Republicans Lost Their Party and Got Everything They Ever Wanted was released in February.

According to the reporter and author, Carlson personally holds Trump in contempt, but is more than happy to align himself with him publicly to siphon support and viewers.

On The Balance Monday, Bolling noted Carlson was at Trump’s Bedminster, New Jersey golf club over the weekend, where the pair was photographed together.

liv golf logo“I saw a lot of pictures floating around the internet of Trump and Tucker Carlson kind of yucking it up a little bit in the Trump box,” Bolling said.

Bolling asked Peters why he feels Carlson would be seen with Trump, despite Peters’ assessment that cable’s top-rated host is not a fan.

Peters was blunt in his response:

I think you know as well as I do that Tucker, in private, what he says about Trump is very different than what he says about Trump in public, and it benefits him to be seen having photos taken with Trump at the golf course and everything. I would not be surprised at all to see Tucker, I quoted him in my book, he said, “I am voting for Kanye West.”

This is in 2020 so… he didn’t vote for Trump as far as we know. I mean, I don’t know, I wasn’t there with him in the in the ballot box, but we know that Tucker Carlson is one of these people who benefits from having the Trump audience on his side, but thinks very little of the people who make up that audience.

Bolling stated he believes Carlson might have presidential ambitions, and if he ran, he would need Trump’s voters to get him there.

He turned the segment over to Peters for a final thought.

“I think there are a lot of people, Eric, who snicker behind Trump’s back, who say that they support him publicly and they like his ideas, and they like him,” Peters said. “But privately, it’s a different story, and that to me is the ultimate fallacy of the conservative media.”

 

July

July 31

ny times logoNew York Times, Will the Biggest Publisher in the United States Get Even Bigger? Alexandra Alter, Elizabeth A. Harris and David McCabe, July 31, 2022. The Biden administration is suing to block Penguin Random House from buying Simon & Schuster. A federal court will decide if the sale can proceed.

When the largest publisher in the country, Penguin Random House, struck a deal in the fall of 2020 to acquire its rival Simon & Schuster, publishing executives and antitrust experts predicted that the merger would draw intense scrutiny from government regulators.

simon schuster logoThe merger would dramatically alter the literary landscape, shrinking the number of major publishing houses — known in the industry as the Big Five — to four. (Or, as one industry analyst put it, it could create the Big One and the other three.)

Such a shift could ripple through the industry, potentially impacting smaller publishers, authors, and ultimately, the books that reach readers, said in an email the novelist Stephen King, who was called by the government to testify in the trial.

“The more the big publishers consolidate, the harder it is for indie publishers to survive,” King said. “And that is where the good writers are currently starting out and learning their chops.”

Last fall, the Biden administration sued to block the $2.18 billion sale as part of its new and more aggressive stance against corporate consolidation. The trial will start on Monday, with oral arguments at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where Judge Florence Pan will preside.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

washington post logoWashington Post, Alex Jones’s media company files for bankruptcy during Sandy Hook trial, Timothy Bella, July 31, 2022 (print ed.). The parent company for Alex Jones’s Infowars website filed for bankruptcy, his attorney announced Friday, as parents of victims in the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School are seeking $150 million in defamation damages against the right-wing conspiracy theorist who falsely claimed the massacre was a “giant hoax.”

As the first week of the civil trial in Austin concluded, Jones’s attorney, F. Andino Reynal, told the courtroom that his client’s media company, Free Speech Systems, had filed for bankruptcy but that it would not interfere with the defamation lawsuit.

While details surrounding the bankruptcy for Infowars’ parent company were not immediately available, Reynal said the filing was made so that Jones’s company could “put this part of the odyssey behind us so that we have some numbers” for potential defamation damages, according to the Associated Press.

It’s the second time in recent months that a bankruptcy filing related to Jones (shown above in a file photo on air) has come up during litigation from Sandy Hook families brought against the conspiracy theorist. Infowars and two other of Jones’s business entities filed for bankruptcy protection in April. The spring filing for bankruptcy protection delayed the start of the trial in Texas, where Infowars is headquartered.

Reynal did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Saturday. Mark Bankston, an attorney for the Texas families suing Jones, slammed the Infowars personality for having his media company file for bankruptcy during the defamation damages trial.

“The world is currently watching the final chapter of Mr. Jones’ pathetic exit from the American stage, and true to form, he will try to grab some cash on his way out,” Bankston said in a statement to The Washington Post. “We don’t intend to allow it.”

Christopher Mattei, an attorney representing some of the Sandy Hook families in Connecticut, echoed Bankston and criticized the timing of the bankruptcy filing.

“Just two days before jury selection is due to begin in Connecticut, Mr. Jones has once again fled like a coward to bankruptcy court in a transparent attempt to delay facing the families that he has spent years hurting,” Mattei said in a statement to The Post. “These families have an endless well of patience and remain determined to hold Mr. Jones accountable in a Connecticut court.”

The bankruptcy filing represents the latest financial blow to Jones after he said the deadliest elementary school shooting in U.S. history — in which 26 people were killed in Newtown, Conn., 20 of them young children — was a “false flag” operation carried out by “crisis actors.” Although Jones has since acknowledged that the shooting took place and blamed his false claims on “a form of psychosis,” he has been banned from major platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Spotify for violating their hate-speech policies.

Judges in Connecticut and Texas have found Jones liable for damages in lawsuits stemming from his false claims. In default judgments against Jones and Infowars last October, District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble of Travis County, Tex., ruled that Jones did not comply with court orders to give information in a pair of 2018 lawsuits brought against him by the families of two children killed in the 2012 massacre. Jones repeatedly did not hand over documents and evidence to the court supporting his damaging and erroneous claims.

Jones has been previously ordered to pay tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees to families who have sued him. Nine families have sued him over the years.

During jury selection this week, Reynal told the Austin courtroom that the founder of Infowars “has medical issues” that could keep him from showing up during parts of the trial, even though he “has no obligation to be here.” While Reynal did not specify what “medical issues” could prevent the 48-year-old from attending the trial in person, Jones has previously blamed stress and cardiovascular effects from his coronavirus infection for missing depositions in the Connecticut trial last year. Jones has also faced daily fines of $25,000 from a Connecticut judge for failing to show up for court-ordered depositions in March.

“I started getting sick after I got covid last year … like everybody else. It attacked the cardiovascular system, okay?” Jones said in an audio message posted in March. “I’m 48, and I’m under a lot of stress.”

Jurors in Austin are determining how much in compensatory and punitive damages Jones must pay the victims’ families, who are pushing for $150 million. While Jones has claimed in court filings that he has a net worth of negative $20 million, attorneys for the Sandy Hook families have pointed to records showing that Jones’s Infowars store made more than $165 million between 2015 and 2018.

The first week of the trial featured fireworks in and out of the courtroom. The trial is expected to conclude next week.

July 30

 

fox upside down news

washington post logoWashington Post, The Murdochs and Trump aligned for mutual benefit. That may be changing, Sarah Ellison and Jeremy Barr, July 30, 2022. In the frenzied coverage of the Jan. 6 House committee hearings, Fox News has been the outlier. While every other major network carried the first public testimony live in prime time in June, Fox relegated the feed to its little-watched business channel.

rupert murdoch newThe network has aired midday hearings live, but Trump-boosting opinion hosts have tended to downplay revelations. When former White House aide Cassidy Hutchison gave bombshell testimony a month ago, Laura Ingraham called it “bad acting.”

But the owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, right, has been watching the hearings with a less dismissive eye. And there are signs that the proceedings have helped convince him that the former president is losing his political expediency.

new york post logoSpeculation over the 91-year-old media executive’s thinking crescendoed after the first set of hearings concluded this month and two of his papers published nearly simultaneous editorials. “Trump’s silence on Jan. 6 is damning,” the New York Post declared. “Character is revealed in a crisis,” the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board concluded. “Mr. Trump utterly failed his.”

Murdoch’s support for Donald Trump has been crucial to his political career and at times to his efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss. But as Trump inches closer to a third presidential run under the glare of criminal, civil and governmental investigations, multiple associates of Murdoch told The Washington Post that it appears he has lost his enthusiasm for Trump.

But Murdoch, who controls a vast swath of the political media world, has spent decades learning to ride the waves of U.S. politics and hedge his bets on candidates. Fox has tried to pull away from the 45th president before, only to return in the face of Trump’s fury.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox News, Once Home to Trump, Now Often Ignores Him, Jeremy W. Peters, July 29, 2022. Former President Trump hasn’t been interviewed on the network in more than 100 days, and other Republicans often get the attention he once did.

The network, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch and boosted Mr. Trump’s ascension from real estate developer and reality television star to the White House, is now often bypassing him in favor of showcasing other Republicans.

fox news logo SmallIn the former president’s view, according to two people who have spoken to him recently, Fox’s ignoring him is an affront far worse than running stories and commentary that he has complained are “too negative.” The network is effectively displacing him from his favorite spot: the center of the news cycle.

On July 22, as Mr. Trump was rallying supporters in Arizona and teasing the possibility of running for president in 2024, saying “We may have to do it again,” Fox News chose not to show the event — the same approach it has taken for nearly all of his rallies this year.

Instead, the network aired Laura Ingraham’s interview with a possible rival for the 2024 Republican nomination, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. It was the first of two prime-time interviews Fox aired with Mr. DeSantis in the span of five days; he appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show shortly after talking to Ms. Ingraham.

When Mr. Trump spoke to a gathering of conservatives in Washington this week, Fox did not air the speech live. It instead showed a few clips after he was done speaking. That same day, it did broadcast live — for 17 minutes — a speech by former Vice President Mike Pence.

Mr. Trump has complained recently to aides that even Sean Hannity, his friend of 20 years, doesn’t seem to be paying him much attention anymore, one person who spoke to him recalled.

July 29

 

lina khan resized ftc

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Chair Upends Antitrust Standards With Meta Lawsuit, Celia Kang, July 29, 2022 (print ed.). Lina Khan (shown above) may set off a shift in how Washington regulates competition by filing cases in tech areas before they mature. She faces an uphill climb.

Early in her tenure as chair of the Federal Trade Commission, Lina Khan declared that she would rein in the power of the largest technology companies in a dramatically new way.

meta logo“We’re trying to be forward looking, anticipating problems and taking fast action,’’ Ms. Khan said in an interview last month. She promised to focus on “next-generation technologies,” and not just on areas where tech behemoths were already well established.

This week, Ms. Khan took her first step toward stopping the tech monopolies of the future when she sued to block a small acquisition by Meta, the company formerly known as Facebook, of the virtual-reality fitness start-up Within. The deal was significant for Meta’s development of the so-called metaverse, which is a nascent technology and far from mainstream.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The new East-West Cold War is a war of dueling lists; it should be more than that, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, July 27-28, 2022. Russia and, to a lesser extent, China have created enemies’ lists of countries with which they have reserved the right to target in cyber-propaganda operations via social media platforms, cyber-sabotage, election interference, and debasement of political and cultural institutions.

Russia’s “enemies list” is formally known as the “Unfriendly Countries List.” Created in May 2021 in the wake of sanctions wayne madesen report logoimposed on Russia for espionage and other hostile activities, the list originally included only two nations. They were democratic donkey logothe United States, which continued to suffer political destabilization in the wake of Russia-backed Donald Trump’s attempt to stage a coup d’état to remain in power following his 2020 electoral loss, and the Czech Republic, which accused Russian GRU military intelligence’s Unit 29155 of blowing up ammunition depots in the town of Vrbetice, near the late Ivana Trump’s hometown of Zlin, in 2014.

Some of Moscow’s propaganda mouthpieces in the West have earned them the distinction of being placed by the Ukrainian Center for Countering Disinformation on a Ukrainian list of propagandists for Russia.

They include former U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul; polemicist Glenn Greenwald; U.S. military analyst Edward Luttwak; retired U.S. Army Colonel and January 6 coup plotter Douglas Macgregor; Helga Zepp-LaRouche, the widow of Lyndon LaRouche and the head of what remains of his movement; U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs; former CIA analyst Ray McGovern; former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter; and American “shock and awe” military doctrine developer and onetime DC Madam client Harlan Ullman.

July 28

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis spokeswoman Christina Pushaw makes sure reporters feel the burn, Paul Farhi, July 28, 2022 (print ed.). July 27, 2022. Known for her aggressive Twitter comments and brusque treatment of the media, the Florida governor’s press secretary has used taunts to solidify a tough image.

The derisive tone was typical of Pushaw, 31, a state employee who earns $120,000 a year. In the 14 months since joining DeSantis’s staff, she has transformed the typically buttoned-down role of gubernatorial press secretary into something like a running public brawl — with Twitter as her blunt-force weapon. Her usual targets: Democrats, the news media and anyone else she deems insufficiently supportive of DeSantis’s agenda and her own conservative politics.

None of Pushaw’s public dust-ups seems to have ruffled her boss, DeSantis, who is widely considered a leading contender to challenge former president Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination. On occasion, he has defended Pushaw, who has loyally promoted his agenda, which has included a string of legislative victories on culture-war issues, such as passage of the gender-discussion bill and a ban on teaching critical race theory.

 

oan logo

ny times logoNew York Times, OAN, a Dependable Promoter of Donald Trump, Faces a ‘Death Blow,’ Jeremy W. Peters and Benjamin Mullin, July 28, 2022 (print ed.).  After Verizon drops One America News at the end of this week, the cable network will have lost its presence in some 20 million homes this year

The future of One America News, which established itself as a powerful voice in conservative media by promoting some of the most outlandish falsehoods about the 2020 election, is in serious doubt as major carriers drop it from their lineups and defamation lawsuits threaten to drain its finances.

By the end of this week, the cable network will have lost its presence in some 20 million homes this year. The most recent blow came from Verizon, which will stop carrying OAN on its Fios television service starting Saturday. That will starve the network of a major stream of revenue: the fees it collects from Verizon, which counts roughly 3.5 million cable subscribers. In April, OAN was dropped by AT&T’s DirecTV, which has about 15 million subscribers.

OAN’s remaining audience will be small. The network will soon be available only to a few hundred thousand people who subscribe to smaller cable providers, such as Frontier and GCI Liberty, said Scott Robson, a senior research analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence. OAN also sells its programming directly to users through its OAN Live and KlowdTV streaming platforms, but those products most likely provide a fraction of the revenue generated by traditional TV providers.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The new East-West Cold War is a war of dueling lists; it should be more than that, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, July 27-28, 2022. Russia and, to a lesser extent, China have created enemies’ lists of countries with which they have reserved the right to target in cyber-propaganda operations via social media platforms, cyber-sabotage, election interference, and debasement of political and cultural institutions.

Russia’s “enemies list” is formally known as the “Unfriendly Countries List.” Created in May 2021 in the wake of sanctions wayne madesen report logoimposed on Russia for espionage and other hostile activities, the list originally included only two nations. They were democratic donkey logothe United States, which continued to suffer political destabilization in the wake of Russia-backed Donald Trump’s attempt to stage a coup d’état to remain in power following his 2020 electoral loss, and the Czech Republic, which accused Russian GRU military intelligence’s Unit 29155 of blowing up ammunition depots in the town of Vrbetice, near the late Ivana Trump’s hometown of Zlin, in 2014.

Some of Moscow’s propaganda mouthpieces in the West have earned them the distinction of being placed by the Ukrainian Center for Countering Disinformation on a Ukrainian list of propagandists for Russia.

They include former U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul; polemicist Glenn Greenwald; U.S. military analyst Edward Luttwak; retired U.S. Army Colonel and January 6 coup plotter Douglas Macgregor; Helga Zepp-LaRouche, the widow of Lyndon LaRouche and the head of what remains of his movement; U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs; former CIA analyst Ray McGovern; former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter; and American “shock and awe” military doctrine developer and onetime DC Madam client Harlan Ullman.

July 27

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lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Former Covington Catholic Student Nick Sandmann Loses Defamation Lawsuits Against CBS, ABC, NYT, and Others, Aaron Keller, July 27, 2022. A federal judge in Kentucky ruled that Sandmann's lawsuits against five media companies could not survive summary judgment.

After years of politically charged litigation, former Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann, above, has lost a round of high-profile defamation lawsuits against five mainstream media companies at the summary judgment stage. That’s according to court dockets and an opinion and order signed by a federal judge in the Eastern District of Kentucky on Tuesday.

Sandmann’s cases against ABC News, Rolling Stone magazine, CBS News, newspaper and television station owner Gannett, and The New York Times are now officially listed as “terminated” on the court record.

Sandmann sued the five organizations in question — and a few others, including CNN and NBC — on March 2, 2020. The lawsuits alleged that various articles and broadcasts defamed Sandmann by characterizing his actions toward Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist, on Jan. 18, 2019 in Washington, D.C., as nefarious.

roy holden

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Dallas Jury Hits Charter Spectrum with $7 Billion Verdict After Cable Installer Robbed and Murdered an Elderly Woman, Adam Klasfeld, July 27, 2022. Charter Communications must pay the family of a 83-year-old woman murdered by her cable installer more than $7 billion, a Dallas jury ruled. The jurors found that the company ignored red flags about its employee and forged documents to minimize their liabilities.

On Dec. 11, 2019, Spectrum sent Roy Holden, Jr. to the home of the elderly Betty Thomas, who reported problems with her bundled phone, TV, and internet service. Returning to her home the next day, Holden arrived in his Spectrum car and uniform and told Thomas that he had to perform follow-up repairs, but he wasn’t on the clock. He stabbed her to death and stole her wallet and ID, reportedly using her debit card hours after her murder.

Holden later pleaded guilty to Thomas’s murder and is serving a life sentence.

“This was a shocking breach of faith by a company that sends workers inside millions of homes every year,” trial lawyer Chris Hamilton, who represented the family with Dallas-based firm Hamilton Wingo, said in a statement. “The jury in this case was thoughtful and attentive to the evidence. This verdict justly reflects the extensive evidence regarding the nature of the harm caused by Charter Spectrum’s gross negligence and reckless misconduct. For the safety of the American public, we can only hope that Charter Spectrum and its shareholders are listening.”

The massive verdict represents more than eight percent of Charter Communications’ market capitalization, currently estimated at more than $80 billion. The company operates under the name Spectrum.

washington post logoWashington Post, Now on the tee for LIV Golf: Trump National and the polarizing former president, Josh Dawsey and Rick Maese, July 27, 2022. Former president Donald Trump joins hands this week with the biggest controversy in sports when his New Jersey golf club hosts the latest event in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series, further cementing his relationship with Saudi Arabia and angering families of 9/11 victims who have decried the start-up venture as “sportswashing.”

While the renegade golf circuit has staged two other events, including another in the United States, this week’s event at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., promises to be an even more glaring flash point, given its proximity to Manhattan and the involvement of the ex-president.

In recent days, Trump has publicly and privately dismissed human rights concerns about the Saudi kingdom and railed against the professional golf establishment. He is expected to attend every day of this weekend’s event and has been in contact for months with organizers on event details, according to an adviser, who said Trump remains livid with PGA of America officials who moved the 2022 PGA Championship from his Bedminster club following the Jan. 6 insurrection. Doral, his club outside Miami, will host another LIV Golf event in October.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook workers fear cuts after blunt warnings from Zuckerberg, leaders, Naomi Nix, July 27, 2022. Once the symbol of Silicon Valley’s prosperity, Meta executives are outlining a new era of high performance expectations and slowed hiring, amid economic challenges.

Facebook has a message for employees, one delivered relentlessly by executives in recent weeks: It’s time to shape up.

facebook logoIn a memo earlier this month, the company’s top human resources officer advised team leaders to return to the “rigorous performance management” practices that Facebook used before the coronavirus pandemic, including giving critical feedback to struggling employees.

“If someone is still unable to meet expectations with that additional support, transitioning them out of Meta is the right thing to do,” wrote Lori Goler in a memo viewed by The Washington Post.

The missive, one of multiple recent such messages to the workforce at the social media giant, is part of a broader crackdown following years of laxer management practices, according to current and former employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters and internal message posts obtained by The Washington Post.

July 26

National Press Club, Statement By National Press Club On LIV Golf Event At Trump Course, July 26, 2022. The following is a statement by Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the LIV golf tournament taking place this weekend in Bedminster, N.J.

national  press club logo“We are revolted by the way the Saudi-funded LIV enterprise has followed the fist bump in the desert by shoving themselves onto golf courses and television screens. We call on all Americans to see this unsavory attempt to minimize the grisly bone-saw attack on Washington Post opinion writer Jamal Khashoggi for what it is – an attempt to sweep under the rug a brutal state-sponsored murder. We call on people of conscience to reject this tournament. Do not attend. Do not watch it on television. Let it fail.

“That the tournament is being held at a course owned by former President Trump is, if possible, even more revolting. It reminds us that the former President bragged of distracting Congress from the murder, delaying the release of the final U.S. government report that concluded MBS, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia (and recipient of the fist-bump from President Biden) was most likely involved in planning and approving Jamal’s murder. And the tournament on the Trump course reminds us how Saudi Arabia finds ways to personally enrich Trump and his family – including $2 billion to his son in law.

“We note that at one of LIV’s first news conferences their officials shouted down a question from an AP reporter and escorted him from the room saying that he was being rude. That is how the LIV episode started. They silenced the press. Again.

“Finally, we note that LIV is currently seeking representation by a public relations firm to make the slaughter of a journalist more acceptable to the American public through golf. We call on public relations firms, many of whom employ former journalists, to reject this blood money. We understand that clients need representation, but it seems reasonable to draw the line at clients that use a bone saw on a journalist. We hope the prospective PR firm thinks very carefully before agreeing to work for LIV. Their association with LIV will define who they are and damage their carefully developed reputation. This will not be good for their other clients or their business. We suggest they stay on the fairway.”

About The National Press Club: Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the United States and around the world.

About The National Press Club Journalism Institute: The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged, global citizenry through an independent and free press and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement.

 

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Whistleblower Crackdown, John Kiriakou, July 26, 2022. This is National Whistleblower Week, with Saturday marking john kiriakouNational Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The National Whistleblower Center in Washington has its annual lunch, seminar, and associated events scheduled. Whistleblowers from around the U.S. attend, a couple members of Congress usually show up, and we talk about how important it is to speak truth to power.

I've been attending these events for much of the past decade. But I'm not sanguine about where our efforts stand, especially on behalf of national security whistleblowers. Since I blew the whistle on the C.I.A.'s torture program in 2007 and was prosecuted for it in 2012, I think the situation for whistleblowers has grown far worse.

In 2012, when I took a plea to violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 for confirming the name of a former C.I.A. colleague to a reporter who never made the name public, I was sentenced to 30 months in a federal prison.

In 2015, former C.I.A. officer Jeffrey Sterling, who blew the whistle on racial discrimination at the agency, was sentenced to what Judge Leonie Brinkema called "Kiriakou plus 12 months," because I had taken a plea and Jeffrey had had the unmitigated gall to go to trial to prove his innocence. So, he ended up with 42 months in prison.

Things just got worse from there.

The prosecutors of drone whistleblower Daniel Hale asked Judge Liam O'Grady to sentence him to 20 years in prison. O'Grady instead gave Hale 46 months. But to spite him, and to show prosecutors' anger with the sentence, the Justice Department ignored the judge's recommendation that Hale be sent to a low-security hospital facility in Butner, North Carolina, and instead incarcerated him in the supermax facility in Marion, Illinois, with no treatment for his debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder.

I was in the courtroom during Hale's sentencing. When prosecutors asked for the draconian sentence, Hale's attorneys cited my sentence of 30 months and Sterling's 42 months. Prosecutors retorted that they had "made a mistake with
Kiriakou. His sentence was far too short."

It was clear that since my own case, the Justice Department's ongoing prosecutions of national security whistleblowers wasn't discouraging people from going public with evidence of waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality in the intelligence community. Perhaps, they thought, tougher sentences would do it. Don't count on it, I say.

In the meantime, I ran into another national security whistleblower at an event recently. He told me that the F.B.I. had recently paid him a visit. I chuckled and said, "Because you're so close to them and they've been so kind to you?"

We laughed for a moment, but he was serious. He is still on probation and the F.B.I. offered to get that probation lifted if he would tell them anything and everything he knows about Julian Assange and Ed Snowden. He told them that he speaks through his attorney and wanted no further contact with them. His attorney told the F.B.I. that his client had nothing to say, would tell them nothing about Assange or Snowden even if he knew something and to not contact his client again. They haven't.

The Assange Nightmare

If you're reading this, you've likely followed the nightmare that Julian Assange has been experiencing for years now. He could be extradited to the United States by next year and he faces more than a lifetime in prison. That's the Justice Department's goal - that Assange die in a U.S. prison. Ed Snowden likely faces the same fate if he were to find his way back to the U.S.

In order to try to smooth the path for Assange's extradition, prosecutors have promised British authorities that Assange would not be placed in a Communications Management Unit or a Special Administrative Unit, where his access to the outside world would be practically nil.

They've also promised that he would not be placed in solitary confinement.

But that's all nonsense. It's a lie. Prosecutors have literally no say in where a prisoner is placed. It's not up to the judge and it's not up to the prosecutors. Placement is solely at the discretion of the Bureau of Prisons (on recommendation from the C.I.A., which spied on Assange and his lawyers) and they haven't made any promises to anybody.

Belmarsh Prison in London is awful. But Supermax Marion, Supermax Florence, USP Springfield, USP Leavenworth, USP Lewisburg, and any of the other American hell-holes where Assange and other whistleblowers are and can be placed would be worse.

Though it's National Whistleblower Week, we can't pause to celebrate. We can't bask in minor successes.

We have to keep up the fight because that's what the Justice Department is doing.

 

 

sprint tmobile logosPolitico, U.S. authorities hit former GOP Rep. Stephen Buyer with insider trading charges, Sam Sutton, July 26, 2022 (print ed). The SEC complaint claims that Buyer netted $330,000 from the transactions.

politico CustomFederal authorities filed criminal and civil insider trading charges against former Rep. Stephen Buyer in U.S. court in Manhattan on Monday, alleging that the Indiana Republican used information gleaned from a golf outing with a T-Mobile executive to purchase securities before the company’s planned acquisition of Sprint.

stephen buyer cspanBuyer, shown in a C-SPAN photo, was arrested on Monday, said U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams at a press conference.

Buyer, who had been working as a consultant to T-Mobile at the time, learned about the possible megamerger from a company executive while on a work trip to Miami, according to a civil complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Despite being warned about securities exchange commission sealthe confidential status of the merger, which was ultimately scuttled, Buyer purchased more than $500,000 of Sprint shares, which were then sold shortly after news of the deal went public, the agency alleged.

The former nine-term congressman also allegedly leveraged his role as a consultant to another company, Guidehouse LLP, to purchase shares of Navigant before his client’s acquisition of that business in 2019, according to the complaint.

The SEC’s complaint claims that Buyer netted roughly $330,000 from the transactions, which he spread across multiple accounts belonging to associates and family members, as well as an unidentified friend with whom he had allegedly engaged in a romantic relationship.

“When insiders like Buyer — an attorney, a former prosecutor, and a retired Congressman — monetize their access to material, nonpublic information, as alleged in this case, they not only violate the federal securities laws but also undermine public trust and confidence in the fairness of our markets,” said Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC Enforcement Division.

The SEC is seeking disgorgement of the gains allegedly accrued by Buyer and his wife, Joni Buyer, and to block the former congressman from ever serving as an officer or director at a public company.

“Congressman Buyer is innocent,” said Buyer’s attorney, Andrew Goldstein of Cooley LLP. “His stock trades were lawful. He looks forward to being quickly vindicated.”

ScheerPost, Commentary: CIA Vault 7 Leaker Found Guilty. What Did He Actually Reveal? John Kiriakou, right, July 26, 2022. CIA veteran John john kiriakouKiriakou breaks down some of the most important elements of Vault 7—the biggest leak in CIA history—allegedly divulged to WikiLeaks by another former CIA officer.

A federal jury in New York last week convicted former CIA officer Joshua Schulte on nine felony counts under the Espionage Act for leaking information to Wikileaks that became known as Vault 7. Schulte has consistently denied that he was the source of the information. Two years ago, he was convicted on two of the original 11 charges, while the jury hung on the remaining nine. The most recent trial, in which Schulte represented himself, was on those nine counts, and he now faces up to 80 years in prison. Schulte is yet to be tried on state child pornography charges.

Joshua Schulte, , the former CIA software engineer accused of causing the biggest theft of classified information in CIA history, has been convicted at a New York City retrial. A jury reached the guilty verdict against Joshua Schulte on Wednesday, July 13, 2022 in federal court in Manhattan. (Elizabeth Williams via AP)Prosecutors had literally no forensic evidence that Schulte, left, had taken the data from the CIA and transferred it to WikiLeaks. But they contended that he was a computer genius so brilliant that he was able to cover his tracks. They alleged that he leaked the information because he was a disgruntled former CIA employee who hated his boss, couldn’t get along with his coworkers and sought revenge against the agency. That was enough for the jury.

CIA Deputy Director for Digital Innovation Sean Roche called the Vault 7 leak “a digital Pearl Harbor.” Chief prosecutor Damian Williams said the revelations were “one of the most brazen and damaging acts of espionage in American history.” And Vice magazine said it was “the worst leak of CIA information ever.” The CIA leadership apparently thought the leak was so damaging that then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo ordered the agency to come up with a plan to kidnap or to kill Julian Assange in London. One former Trump Administration national security official said that Pompeo and other senior CIA leaders, “were completely detached from reality because they were so embarrassed about Vault 7. They were seeing blood.”

All of the major media outlets reported on the finalization of Schulte’s case. What they haven’t reported on, though, is exactly what Schulte was accused of leaking in the first place. What did we learn from Vault 7?

Vault 7 was a series of 24 collections of documents totaling hundreds of thousands of pages that included the most sophisticated computer hacking, surveillance and cyberwarfare tools that the CIA ever developed. Wikileaks published the first tranche, called “Year Zero,” on March 7, 2017. Just this first installment contained more information than all of that released by Edward Snowden and included vulnerabilities known to the CIA within web browsers, including Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox and Opera and the operating systems of most of the world’s cell phones, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

The fact that the CIA knew about these vulnerabilities and didn’t inform the companies was a violation of a longstanding policy the agency claims to have, stating it would assist US tech companies with their security if it learned of security weaknesses. Instead, it exploited those problems in its digital operations. We have no idea if the agency used these vulnerabilities to spy on Americans. Ashley Gorski, an American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney said at the time, “Our government should be working to help the companies patch vulnerabilities when they are discovered, not stockpile them.”

A second Vault 7 revelation came on March 23, 2017 and included accounts of CIA efforts to hack Apple’s iPhones and Mac computers.

Additional tranches were released every week or two until September 2017. Their revelations included proof that the CIA was able to hack into cars’ computer systems and could take over control of the vehicle. Was the purpose of this to force the vehicle off the road? Off a cliff? Into a tree? The CIA never commented. Still other documents showed how CIA officers could take over an unsuspecting person’s smart TV and turn its speaker into a microphone to surreptitiously bug a room, even while the television appears to be turned off. Yet more documents showed that the CIA was running digital operations against the National Security Agency (NSA). It is unclear whether this was done as an exercise between the two agencies or if it was something more sinister.

Other revelations included a CIA-created program that was able to track documents transferred by would-be whistleblowers to media outlets (the program is called “Scribblers”), malware that can take over and control computers using the Microsoft Windows 10 operating system (called “Athena”) and malware that can be transferred from one “clean” computer to another through internal systems that are otherwise protected by anti-virus software (called “Pandemic”).

The revelations were not limited to software. Also leaked was a program called “HammerDrill,” that injects a trojan horse onto CDs and DVDs and then documents information on the discs for later transmission to the CIA. An operation called “Dark Matter” revealed security vulnerabilities unique to Apple operating systems while a huge range of Cisco Systems router models also had their own compromised vulnerabilities known to the CIA, costing Apple and Cisco untold millions of dollars to redesign their products and correct the security flaws.

The American people have a right to know what the government is doing in their name, especially if what the government is doing is illegal. Unfortunately, we most often have to rely on whistleblowers to learn what we need to know.

Either way, I feel strongly about the treatment that Schulte has endured, being held in barbaric conditions over the past two years and kept in a literal cage in solitary confinement at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Brooklyn. Now convicted, he’ll likely be placed in a Special Administrative Unit or a Communications Management Unit in a maximum-security or supermax penitentiary. The government will seek to cut him off from the rest of the world for as long as possible.

Read John Kiriakou’s piece on this topic here

In addition, the state of New York, simultaneously with the federal charges, charged Schulte with multiple counts of child pornography, which has given many of Schulte’s natural supporters pause. Prosecutors maintained that they only discovered the pornography when they seized the computer hard drives in Schulte’s apartment while looking for Vault 7 information. Schulte’s defense to the child pornography charges will be that the considers himself to be a libertarian anarchist and that he set up a server to allow people unfettered “free speech,” something akin to the 4chan and 8chan servers. He maintains that he has not “received” or “disseminated” any child pornography personally. However, when child pornographers saw that Schulte’s server supported “unfettered free speech,” they used it to trade illegal images and videos. Schulte is adamant that none of the pornography was his. His protestations likely won’t matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, College alumni groups spread nationally to counter ‘cancel culture,’ Susan Svrluga, July 26, 2022 (print ed). Alumni groups are popping up at colleges across the country as some debates intensify.

Alumni groups pressing free-speech issues are popping up at colleges in many states, as debates over academic freedom, “cancel culture” and changes on campus intensify.

More than a dozen groups have joined the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, a group announced last fall that now includes graduates from schools including Harvard, Bucknell, Yale and Cornell universities, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Wofford and Davidson colleges. Organizers say hundreds of people from schools all across the country have contacted them, all graduates who have questions they say their traditional alumni associations are not asking.

To join, the groups must hold freedom of speech, academic freedom and viewpoint diversity as primary missions, said Edward Yingling, president of the alliance and a founder of Princetonians for Free Speech. “There is a feeling that a lot of universities are losing their way,” Yingling said. “There is very little diversity of thought.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Jared Kushner Says He Was Treated for Thyroid Cancer While in White House, Maggie Haberman, July 26, 2022 (print ed). Jared Kushner, former President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer while he was serving in the West Wing, he wrote in an upcoming memoir set to be published next month.

“On the morning that I traveled to Texas to attend the opening of a Louis Vuitton factory, White House physician Sean Conley pulled me into the medical cabin on Air Force One,” Mr. Kushner wrote in “Breaking History: A White House Memoir,” to be published on Aug. 23, according to an excerpt about his illness provided to The New York Times.

“‘Your test results came back from Walter Reed,’ he said. ‘It looks like you have cancer. We need to schedule a surgery right away.’”

In a memoir to be published next month, former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law wrote that he wanted the diagnosis and treatment kept quiet.

July 25

OpEd News, 10th Annual Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival Celebrates Whistleblowers from Knapp to Now! Michael McCray, July 25-26, 2022. ACORN 8, in association with the Northeast Filmmakers Lab (NEFL) and the Society of Professional Journalists (DC Pro Chapter), will co-host the 10th Annual Whistleblowers Summit & Film Festival from July 25 through July 31, 2022.

The Whistleblower Summit features FREE public policy panels online and on Capitol Hill (registration required). However, the Film Festival and Special Event Tickets range from $20 for individual tickets to $150 for week-long passes, which are available NOW at (www.WhistleblowerSummit.com).

Recent events led to the theme for the annual conference"Does The Truth Still Matter? 50 Years After The Watergate Break-in.

The hybrid event will take place virtually and on Capitol Hill and will include panel discussions with prominent whistleblowers, distinguished authors, emerging filmmakers, and policymakers. At its core, the Whistleblower Summit celebrates free speech and advocacy. "Sometimes the hardest truths are best told in jest. Thus we are pleased to announce a 'Tribute to Dick Gregory Comedy Showcase' as a capstone event for this year's summit." said Marcel Reid, Festival Director.

Famed New York City Detective Frank Serpico (David Burnham, NYT Reporter and Inspector Paul Delise) are nominated for a Lifetime Achievement Award. Earlier this year, Frank Serpico received his Medal of Honor from NYPD over 50 years after his heroic actions resulted in the creation of the Knapp Commission. Prior recipients include Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and Senator Charles "Chuck" Grassley.

Alexander Vindman (Photo by Ana Isabel Martinez Chamorro).In recognition of more recent acts of moral courage, the Vindman brothers are nominated to receive the Shaw Marvin Pillar Award, the highest military whistleblower award presented at the Whistleblower Summit.

Alexander Vindman, right (Photo by Ana Isabel Martinez Chamorro) is the Former Director for European Affairs for the United States National Security Council. He and his brother suffered retaliation after Alexander reported a shakedown for military aid to Ukraine by Former President Trump. He is currently a doctoral student and senior fellow for the Foreign Policy Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). In addition, he is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, Here, Right Matters.

"This is an exciting collaboration," said Mike Camoin, Northeast Filmmakers Lab.

The 10th Anniversary Whistleblower Summit features a screenplay contest and a new creative support incubator hosted by the Northeast Filmmakers Lab. NEFL empowers emerging filmmakers to complete and present their projects by leveraging world-class industry expertise. Our Hollywood Pitch Lab, a three-day immersive training, will conclude with a "Pitch Contest" to industry professionals for valuable prizes.

"So whether you are a filmmaker, screenwriter, or a whistleblower"everything starts with a pitch!" said Michael McCray, Managing Director. Finally, the film festival will include an educational screening of the Netflix docu-series MELTDOWN. This vital film portrays the Three Mile Island whistleblower and the advocates who supported him, presented by the Government Accountability Project (GAP) on Capitol Hill.

July 24

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

ny times logoNew York Times, Ties Between Alex Jones and Radio Network Show Economics of Misinformation, Tiffany Hsu, July 24, 2022. The Genesis Communications Network built a lucrative business alongside the radio host.

Ted Anderson, a precious metals seller, was hoping to rustle up some business for his gold and silver dealership when he started a radio network out of a Minneapolis suburb a couple of decades ago. Soon after, he signed a brash young radio host named Alex Jones.

Together, they ended up shaping today’s misinformation economy.

The two built a lucrative operation out of a tangled system of niche advertisers, fund-raising drives and promotion of media subscriptions, dietary supplements and survivalist merchandise. Mr. Jones became a conspiracy theory heavyweight, while Mr. Anderson’s company, the Genesis Communications Network, thrived. Their moneymaking blueprint was reproduced by numerous other misinformation peddlers.

Mr. Jones eventually drifted from his dependence on Genesis, as he expanded beyond radio and attracted a large following online. Yet they were closely tied together again in lawsuits accusing them of fueling a bogus narrative about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Mr. Jones was found liable by default in those cases. Last month, the plaintiffs’ lawyers dropped Genesis as a defendant. Christopher Mattei, one of the lawyers, said in a statement that having Genesis involved at trial would have distracted from the main target: Mr. Jones and his media organization.

The move freed Genesis, which says on its website that it “has established itself as the largest independently owned and operated talk radio network in the country,” from the steep penalties that most likely await Mr. Jones. But the cases, soon headed before juries to determine damages, continue to shed light on the economics that help to drive misleading and false claims across the media landscape.

The proliferation of falsehoods and misleading content, especially heading into the midterm elections this fall, is often blamed on credulous audiences and a widening partisan divide. Misinformation can also be hugely profitable, not just for the boldface names like Mr. Jones, but also for the companies that host websites, serve ads or syndicate content in the background.

“Misinformation exists for ideological reasons, but there is always a link to very commercial interests — they always find each other,” said Hilde Van den Bulck, a Drexel University media professor who has studied Mr. Jones. “It’s a little world full of networks of people who find ways to help each other out.”

Mr. Jones and Mr. Anderson did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Genesis originated in the late 1990s as a marketing ploy, operating “hand-in-hand” with Midas Resources, Mr. Anderson’s bullion business, he has said. He told the media watchdog FAIR in 2011: “Midas Resources needs customers, Genesis Communications Network needs sponsors.”

Alex Jones and his doom-and-gloom worldview fit neatly into the equation.

Genesis began syndicating Mr. Jones around the time he was fired by an Austin station in 1999, the host said this year on Infowars, a website he operates. It was a complementary, if sometimes jarring partnership — “sort of a marriage made in hell,” Ms. Van den Bulck said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Scientists Find a Language Spoken Across the Globe: Baby Talk, Oliver Whang, July 24, 2022. In an ambitious cross-cultural study, researchers found that adults around the world speak and sing to babies in similar ways. We’ve all seen it, we’ve all cringed at it, we’ve all done it ourselves: talked to a baby like it was, you know, a baby.

“Ooo, hellooooo baby!” you say, your voice lilting like a rapturously accommodating Walmart employee. Baby is utterly baffled by your unintelligible warble and your shamelessly doofus grin, but “baby so cuuuuuute!”

Regardless of whether it helps to know it, researchers recently determined that this sing-songy baby talk — more technically known as “parentese” — seems to be nearly universal to humans around the world. In the most wide-ranging study of its kind, more than 40 scientists helped to gather and analyze 1,615 voice recordings from 410 parents on six continents, in 18 languages from diverse communities: rural and urban, isolated and cosmopolitan, internet savvy and off the grid, from hunter gatherers in Tanzania to urban dwellers in Beijing.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Right-wing rhetoric today is the same as that of the Nazis and fascists 90 years ago, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left (longtime commentator, author of 22 books, including The Rise of the Fascist Fourth Reich below, and former Navy intelligence officer), July 22-24, 2022. Donald Trump and his fellow far-right Republican candidates for national, state, and local office are relying upon the same politically-charged rhetoric used by Adolf Hitler and his Nazis in Germany and Benito Mussolini's fascists in Italy in the years leading up to and during World War II.

wayne madesen report logoTerms like "radical left socialists," "Marxists," "black radicals," and "anarchists" match almost exactly the far-right propaganda lexicon manufactured by Joseph Goebbels' Ministry of Propaganda in Berlin and Dino Alfieri's Ministry of Popular Culture in Rome. During Trump's last year as president, he repeatedly attempted to have "antifa," which is an acronym for anti-fascism philosophy, declared a "terrorist group." Trump, like Hitler and Mussolini before him, has no problem with right-wing terrorism.

Moreover, Trump's and his supporters' use of Nazi German rhetoric were encouraged by two of the would-be U.S. dictator. White House wayne madsen fourth reich coveraides. They were Stephen Miller, who is Jewish, and Andrew Veprek, a supporter of Miller's unbridled neo-Nazi and white supremacist political views.

The alt-right's stock phrases and terms, including "Great Replacement," "foreigner invasion," and "lying media," have often been cited in manifestos and social media posts by mass killers. These include Anders Breivik in Norway, Jared Loughner in Tucson, Dylann Storm Roof in Charleston, James Fields in Charlottesville, Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch, Elliott Rodger in Santa Barbara, Patrick Crusius in El Paso, Nikolas Cruz in Parkland, Robert Bowers in Pittsburgh, John Earnest in Poway, Robert Crimo in Highland Park, and Jonathan Sapirman at the Greenwood Park Mall in Indiana. The phrases used by the killers had been echoed on white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites, as well as frequently by Fox News and its resident fascist ideologue, Tucker Carlson.

The Republican Party is now the party of seditious conspiracy, white nationalism, and Donald Trump-level graft and corruption. It should be consigned to history, along with its political forbears, the Whigs, Federalists, and Know Nothings.

July 23

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Four reasons the Jan. 6 hearings have conquered the news cycle, Margaret Sullivan, right, July 23, 2022 (print ed.).  margaret sullivan 2015 photoThere was no guarantee these hearings would break through the way they have. Here’s what set them apart.

By their nature, congressional hearings are boring. Politicians speechify. The pace is slow and halting. If anyone manages to say anything important, it’s drowned in a sea of bloviation.

But the eight hearings held by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have been riveting to watch — and even more remarkably, they have captured the daily news cycle again and again, not only finding substantial TV and streaming audiences as they aired but also consistently landing at the top of broadcast and cable news reports and of newspaper front pages. This was far from a sure thing, given how much news coverage the Capitol riot already received over the past year and a half.

Thursday night’s hearing — the season finale, as it’s been dubbed — was no exception.

The New York Times led its website Friday morning with this headline: “Jan. 6 Panel Presents Evidence of Trump’s Refusal to Stop the Capitol Riot.” The Washington Post took its hearings headline across five of the six possible front-page columns in print — “Trump ignored many pleas to act” — with two related stories nearby. CNN spent nearly as much time recapping and analyzing afterward as the hearing itself had consumed. Nearly every other major media outlet — with the obvious exception of Fox News — gave the hearing an equivalent treatment.

“It’s surprising — certainly not what I would have predicted — the way these hearings have broken through and captured the news cycle again and again,” said Tom Bettag, a journalism professor at the University of Maryland.

Bettag was a longtime executive producer of the CBS “Evening News” and ABC’s “Nightline” whom I’ve found to be a savvy media observer, so I was eager to talk to him about how these hearings have managed to command the news cycle. Here are a few theories.

The Jan. 6 hearing was horrifying. It also gave me hope.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Revenue Falls as It Struggles to Draw Advertisers, Kate Conger and Adam Satariano, July 23, 2022 (print ed.).  The company’s quarterly earnings failed to meet expectations, a sign of deeper troubles as it navigates a legal battle with Elon Musk.

July 22

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon will see you now: Tech giant buys health-care chain for $3.9 billion, Rachel Lerman and Hamza Shaban, July 22, 2022. The e-commerce giant’s plan to buy One Medical for $18 per share gives it a firm foothold in the health-care sector.

amazon logo smallAmazon will dramatically expand its health-care reach with its planned $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical, a primary care provider with 188 offices in 25 markets nationwide.

The e-commerce giant went big: It offered $18 a share for One Medical’s parent company, 1Life Healthcare — 77 percent higher than the previous day’s closing price. Sparks flew on Wall Street after Thursday’s announcement, powering the stock up nearly 70 percent.

July 21


oan logo 

Daily Beast, Far-Right Channel One America News Officially Dropped by Last Major TV Carrier, Justin Baragona, Updated July 21, 2022. BUH BYE. Verizon announced on Thursday that One America News will be removed from its channel lineup on July 31, leaving the far-right network with almost no TV providers.

daily beast logoMAGA cable channel One America News has been on life support since satellite provider DirecTV dropped the far-right conspiratorial network from its lineup this spring. It now looks like it may be DOA.

Verizon Fios, currently the largest pay-TV platform still carrying OAN, announced on Thursday afternoon that it had been unable to come to terms with the network’s owners on a new agreement and would no longer carry the channel after this month.

verizon logo“Our negotiation with OAN has been a typical, business-as-usual carriage negotiation like those that routinely happen between content distributors and content providers. These negotiations were focused on economics, as they always are, but OAN failed to agree to fair terms,” a Verizon spokesperson said in a statement.

“Since we were unable to reach an agreement, effective July 31, 2022, we will no longer have the rights to provide our customers with this programming, and it will be removed from the Fios TV lineup,” the statement continued.

djt maga hat“Our company has long advocated for providing customers with the ability to choose what content they want to watch, and our Fios TV platform offers a wide and diverse choice of programming options, including a la carte options, that strive to meet our millions of customers' various content needs and preferences,” the telecommunications company concluded.

Following DirecTV’s decision to drop the pro-Trump channel, depriving OAN of its biggest revenue stream by far, the channel has gone through an existential crisis. Besides dealing with a talent exodus and dropping employee morale, One America News also faces billion-dollar lawsuits over the election lies spread by its hosts.

Meanwhile, even as the network has lobbed attacks at Verizon as their deal was about to expire, CEO Robert Herring Sr. has begged other cable companies to pick up the struggling channel. He even went so far as to peddle far-fetched rumors that Elon Musk was going to buy the network (something Musk quickly shot down.)

At the same time, however, the network’s hosts have also urged viewers to dig up dirt on executives of companies that had dropped OAN, not exactly helping Herring’s cause to attract new customers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Newspapers are dying? This digital media veteran launched one anyway, Margaret Sullivan, right, July 21, 2022.
margaret sullivan 2015 photoSusan Clark knew that print newspapers had lost ground to the Internet. But in her Connecticut hometown, “we just desperately needed a paper."

It wasn’t even a decade ago that Susan Clark was in charge of the Economist magazine’s digital operation around the world.

This was a forward-looking role that seemingly placed her within journalism’s vanguard at the time — championing media’s online future, at an organization well-placed to tap into a lucrative global audience.

In other words, Clark was basically one of the last people you’d expect to launch a small-town print newspaper in 2022.

Yet she did just that with the Redding Sentinel in Fairfield County, Conn. And while it’s still early in the Sentinel’s trajectory, Clark is more than happy with how it’s going.

washington post logoWashington Post, Top Russian tennis star criticizes Ukraine war, comes out as gay, Annabelle Timsit, July 21, 2022. Daria Kasatkina, Russia’s highest-ranked female tennis player, came out as gay and criticized the war in Ukraine in an unusually candid interview that highlighted the difficulties top athletes face in navigating the repercussions of the conflict — at home and abroad.

Kasatkina, 25, touched on two of the most sensitive topics in Russia — Ukraine and LGBTQ rights — in a wide-ranging conversation with Russian blogger Vitya Kravchenko that was recorded in Barcelona and released Monday on YouTube.

Kasatkina — the No. 12 in the world — said she wanted “the war to end” and described the conflict as “a full-blown nightmare.”

She said there “hadn’t been a single day since February 24,” when Russia invaded Ukraine, that she hadn’t read or thought about the war. She expressed empathy for Ukrainian players affected by the war.

“I want to play against players who have an opportunity to train and prepare for tournaments just like me, who don’t need to worry about courts being bombed and [having] nowhere to go,” she added. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to have no home — not because you haven’t bought it but because your home was taken away.”

Kasatkina is the latest Russian athlete to speak out against the war, in defiance of laws in Russia that ban anyone from criticizing what officials there call Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Several other Russian tennis players have called for an end to the war, including eighth-ranked Andrey Rublev — though many have done so in more vague terms than Kasatkina.

washington post logoWashington Post, China fines Didi $1.2 billion for breaking data-security laws, Eva Dou and Pei-Lin Wu, July 21, 2022. The ride-hailing giant collected millions of pieces of data, including facial recognition details and screenshots from users’ photo albums, the regulator said.

China’s cybersecurity regulator fined ride-hailing juggernaut Didi Global $1.2 billion after a year-long probe, saying it had violated laws on data security and the protection of personal information.

The Cyberspace Administration of China said Thursday that Didi, a 10-year-old Chinese company based in Beijing, illegally collected 12 million pieces of “screenshot information” from users’ mobile photo albums and excessively accumulated 107 million pieces of passenger facial recognition information and 1.4 million pieces of family relationship information, among other violations.

The regulator also said there were “severe security risks” in Didi’s data-processing methods, which would not be detailed because they related to national security.

“The evidence is conclusive,” the regulator said in a statement published online. “The circumstances are serious, the nature is immoral, and the punishment should be severe.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Tesla dumps Bitcoin amid pressure from factory shutdown, Faiz Siddiqui, July 21, 2022. Tesla recorded a smaller profit than the previous quarter after a covid-19 shutdown of its Shanghai Gigafactory slowed business.

Tesla sold more than $900 million worth of bitcoin last quarter, shedding 75 percent of its holdings and prompting the overall market value of the cryptocurrency to drop.

tesla logoThe company sold it off because of issues with car production in China, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said during an earnings call Wednesday.

“The reason we sold a bunch of our bitcoin holdings was that we were uncertain as to when the covid lockdowns in China would alleviate,” Musk said. “We are certainly open to increasing our bitcoin holdings in the future, so this should not be taken as some verdict on bitcoin — it’s just that we were concerned about overall liquidity to the company.”

Musk was enthusiastic about bitcoin last year when the company first announced it was investing $1.5 billion in the cryptocurrency, saying on Twitter that the electric car manufacturer would soon accept the digital currency as payment. He said Tesla would not convert its bitcoin received from payments to fiat currency, or paper money.

washington post logoWashington Post, George Clooney, Gladys Knight, U2 among next Kennedy Center honorees, Peggy McGlone, July 21, 2022. The 45th annual celebration of the performing arts will also salute Amy Grant and Tania León on Dec. 4 at the national arts center in Washington.

July 20

 

dana canedy

ny times logo New York Times, Dana Canedy, Publisher of Simon & Schuster’s Flagship Imprint, Has Left the Job, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, July 20, 2022 (print ed.). She was the first Black woman in the position, which she held for two years. Her hiring came amid a push for diversity in the industry.

Dana Canedy, shown above in a file photo, the first Black woman to serve as publisher of Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint, left her position after two years, the company said on Tuesday.

simon schuster logoThe announcement came amid an industrywide push to increase diversity. Several major publishing houses have over the past two years hired and promoted people of color into prominent editorial roles, including Lisa Lucas, the first Black publisher in Pantheon’s 80-year history, and Jamia Wilson, vice president and executive editor at Random House.

In a statement, Simon & Schuster said that Ms. Canedy was leaving to write a book, a sequel to her 2008 memoir, A Journal for Jordan, which was about her partner, First Sgt. Charles M. King, and the journal he wrote for their son, Jordan. Mr. King was killed in combat in Iraq in 2006.

Ms. Canedy came to her role at Simon & Schuster in July of 2020 with little publishing experience. She was a journalist at The New York Times for more than 20 years and later served as administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes.

When she joined Simon & Schuster, her appointment was welcomed as a sign that the publishing world, which has long been overwhelmingly white, was taking steps to become more inclusive in its upper ranks. Ms. Canedy said the wider significance of her position made it difficult to leave.

“The issue when you’re ‘the first’ or ‘the only,’ is that to many, you represent an entire industry,” she said. “And I embrace that. However, it made it harder to make a decision that I felt was right for me.”

While Ms. Canedy’s tenure was brief, she had a significant impact on the company.

She brought in Aminda Marqués González, the former executive editor of The Miami Herald, to be Simon & Schuster’s vice president and executive editor, and acquired books by prominent Black journalists and scholars, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, the journalist and editor Errin Haines, and Erica Armstrong Dunbar, a history professor at Rutgers University who specializes in African American women’s history.

mike pence leftBut Ms. Canedy also angered and alienated much of her own staff, and drew criticism from liberals, when she signed a deal last April to publish an autobiography by Mike Pence, the former vice president, calling it “the definitive book on one of the most consequential presidencies in American history.”

More than 200 employees signed a petition demanding that the publisher cancel the deal, and were joined by thousands of other writers and publishing professionals. The letter argued that Simon & Schuster’s deal with Pence, left, had broken “the public’s trust in our editorial process, and blatantly contradicted previous public claims in support of Black and other lives made vulnerable by structural oppression,” it said.

Ms. Canedy and Jonathan Karp, Simon & Schuster’s chief executive, stood by the acquisition of Mr. Pence’s book as a crucial account of the Trump presidency, and maintained that publishers should acquire books from across the political spectrum. Ms. Canedy said she would continue to work on titles by Mr. Pence, Mr. Robinson and Ms. Dunbar.

Her departure comes at a tumultuous moment for Simon & Schuster. In the fall of 2020, Simon & Schuster’s parent company, ViacomCBS, struck a deal to sell it to another publishing company, Penguin Random House, but the acquisition has faced intense regulatory scrutiny, and is being challenged in an antitrust lawsuit by the Justice Department. If it goes through, Simon & Schuster will be absorbed into a much bigger rival, and may lose some of its autonomy; if the Justice Department blocks the deal, the company faces even greater uncertainty.

A spokesman for Simon & Schuster said that Mr. Karp, who was formerly the publisher of Simon & Schuster before becoming the chief executive, will “resume being publisher for the foreseeable future” while continuing his work as the head of the company.

 July 19

 ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk and Twitter will go to trial over their $44 billion deal in October, Kate Conger, July 19, 2022. Twitter had sought to expedite the case by requesting a trial in September, which Mr. Musk had countered by asking for a trial in February.

elon musk 2015Twitter and Elon Musk, right, will go to trial in October over whether the billionaire must complete his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company, a Delaware judge ruled on Tuesday.

The ruling was the first decision in a lawsuit that Twitter filed this month to force Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, to go through with the blockbuster deal. Mr. Musk had agreed to buy Twitter in April, but indicated this month that he wanted to terminate the purchase. Twitter had sought to expedite the case by requesting a trial in September, which Mr. Musk had countered by asking for a trial in February.

“The longer the merger transaction remains in limbo, the larger a cloud of uncertainty is cast over the company,” said Kathaleen St. J. McCormick, the judge overseeing the case in the Delaware Court of Chancery, in a nearly two-hour hearing.

twitter bird CustomThe ruling was a win for Twitter, which said an extended timeline would give Mr. Musk more time to badger the company and find a way out of the deal. Judge McCormick ruled that the trial would last five days, with the exact date to be based on the schedules of the court and the lawyers in the case.

“We are pleased that the court agreed to expedite this trial,” a Twitter spokesman said.

Alex Spiro, a lawyer representing Mr. Musk, said, “We’ll be ready.”

When Mr. Musk agreed to buy Twitter, he said that he would take it private and that the company had plenty of potential. But within weeks, he began arguing that Twitter had stymied his attempts to understand how many of the accounts on its platform were fake and said the company was not disclosing relevant information to him.

Twitter has said Mr. Musk was searching for a way out of the purchase as the stock market slumped. The company has said it worked with Mr. Musk to give him information about fake accounts.

In the hearing on Tuesday, Twitter pushed for the lawsuit to be resolved as quickly as possible. Bill Savitt, a lawyer for Twitter, said the “continued uncertainty” over the deal “inflicts harm on Twitter, every hour of every day,” and asked that a trial be scheduled in September. Postponements would allow Mr. Musk to run out the clock on financing for the deal, Mr. Savitt said.

  truth social logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Word of Trump Media Deal Is Said to Have Leaked Months in Advance, Matthew Goldstein, July 19, 2022 (print ed.). Federal authorities are investigating a surge in trading that preceded the announcement of a $300 million deal with the former president’s media company.

Months before former President Donald J. Trump’s social media company unveiled an agreement to raise hundreds of millions of dollars last fall, word of the deal leaked to an obscure Miami investment firm, whose executives began plotting ways to make money off the imminent transaction, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The deal — in which a so-called special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would merge with Mr. Trump’s fledgling media business — was announced in October. It sent shares of the SPAC soaring.

Employees at the Miami investment firm, Rocket One Capital, had learned of the pending deal over the summer, long before it was announced, according to three people familiar with the firm’s internal discussions. Two of the people said that Rocket One officials at the time talked about ways to profit off the soon-to-be-announced transaction with Trump Media & Technology Group by investing in the SPAC, Digital World Acquisition Corporation.

A top Rocket One executive, Bruce Garelick, was on the board of Digital World until he resigned in recent weeks.

In the days before the Trump Media deal became public, there was a surge in trading in a type of security known as warrants, which entitled investors to buy shares of Digital World at a preset price in the future.

Federal prosecutors and regulators are now investigating the merger between Digital World and Trump Media, including the frenzied trading in the SPAC’s warrants, according to people familiar with the investigation and public disclosures. Digital World said in a recent regulatory filing that a federal grand jury in Manhattan had issued subpoenas seeking information about Rocket One, among other things.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How media coverage drove Biden’s political plunge, Perry Bacon Jr., right, July 19, 2022 (print ed.). The mainstream media perry bacon jrhas played a huge, underappreciated role in President Biden’s declining support over the past year. Its flawed coverage model of politics and government is bad for more than just Biden — it results in a distorted national discourse that weakens our democracy. The media needs to find a different way to cover Washington.

joe biden black background resized serious fileOne of the sharpest dips in Biden’s approval rating — which has dropped from 55 percent in January 2021 to less than 39 percent today — happened last August, when it declined almost five points in a single month. There wasn’t a huge surge in gas prices, nor some big legislative failure. What caused Biden’s dip was the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan — or, rather, the media’s 24/7, highly negative coverage of it.

To be clear, Biden deserved criticism. The early stages of the U.S. exit were tumultuous, with desperate Afghans clinging to U.S. military planes and massing outside the Kabul airport. The Taliban took control far more quickly than the administration anticipated. But for much of August, the homepages of major newspapers and cable news programs were dominated by Afghanistan coverage, as if the chaotic withdrawal was the only thing happening in the world. Journalists and outlets tore into the president, with Axios calling the withdrawal “Biden’s stain,” NBC News correspondent Richard Engel declaring that “history will judge this moment as a very dark period for the United States,” and CNN’s Jake Tapper asking an administration official on his show, “Does President Biden not bear the blame for this disastrous exit from Afghanistan?”

Biden’s poll numbers plunged, closely tracking the media hysteria. As The Post’s Dana Milbank wrote in December, data analysis showed a marked increase in negativity in media coverage of Biden that started last August. After the withdrawal, the media lumped other events into its “Biden is struggling” narrative: infighting among Democrats over the party’s agenda, Democrats’ weak performances in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial races, rising inflation, and the surge of the delta and omicron variants. Biden’s role in these issues was often exaggerated — there are many causes of inflation besides Biden’s policies; presidents can’t stop the emergence of coronavirus variants. This anti-Biden coverage pattern remains in place.

 

library of congress main reading room

washington post logoWashington Post, Preservationists say Library of Congress makeover plan is ‘vandalism,’ Peggy McGlone, July 19, 2022 (print ed.). The library’s Main Reading Room (shown above), included in a $60 million renovation of the Thomas Jefferson Building, lands on the D.C. Preservation League’s list of endangered places.

A proposed change to the ornate Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress that critics say would remove the symbolic and functional heart of the 1897 Beaux-Arts masterpiece has landed the library on the D.C. Preservation League’s 2022 list of Most Endangered Places.

The Library of Congress plans to remove the mahogany librarian’s desk that rises some 16 feet in the middle of this spectacular, first-floor room and replace it with a circular window in the floor that will offer a view of its decorative dome to visitors looking up from the floor below.

When the D.C. Preservation League announced the listing last month, it described the alternation as ill-advised and unnecessary and said it would “desecrate the Reading Room’s character and function.” It asked Congress and the Architect of the Capitol, the federal agency responsible for the Capitol complex, to stop it.

The league’s listing is the most recent and public criticism of the proposal, which was unveiled more than three years ago. It follows a retired librarian’s complaint submitted to the Library of Congress inspector general in April and expressions of outrage from arts and civic leaders.

“I’m appalled at this proposal,” Arthur Cotton Moore, the consulting architect on the building’s renovation between 1981 and 1997, said in a recent phone interview. “We are trying to head off a tragedy.”

The alteration is part of a $60 million makeover of the Thomas Jefferson Building, one of three Library of Congress structures on Capitol Hill. The makeover includes additional exhibition space, a learning lab and an orientation center and is intended to improve the visitor experience and increase attendance.

Principal Deputy Librarian of Congress Mark Sweeney called the project a “game changer” that is critical to the library’s future. The D.C. Preservation League’s posting about the plan has several errors, he added, including the idea that the library is turning away from its central function as a place for scholarship.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The college football lunacy isn’t permanent. It’s going to get worse, Rick Reilly, July 19, 2022 (print ed.). College football is slaying its history. It’s selling all its tradition and fans and rivalries down the river on an out-of-control steamboat with a drunk donkey at the wheel.

The lunacy really kicked in on June 30 when USC and UCLA bolted the Pac-12 conference for the Big Ten (which now will have 16 teams, if that makes any sense).

That’s right. Starting in 2024, the Big Ten conference, longtime symbol of the hearty American Midwest, corn ice cream and 400-pound kickers, will now be playing teams full of surfers, lowriders and guys in hair buns.

Big Ten teams are now conveniently located near their banks, not each other. Take USC, which is near Hollywood, and their new conference foe Rutgers, which is somewhere near “The Sopranos.” This is going to be such an exciting new rivalry. One team has six Heisman Trophy winners, can claim 11 national championships and over the years has spent 91 weeks as the No. 1 team in the country. The other is Rutgers.

ncaa logoThen you have the University of Maryland — a Midwest-by-the-Chesapeake Big Ten team since 2014 — soon to be taking on UCLA, which is a six-hour flight away. The winner of the game will take possession of the coveted Dead Polar Bear trophy. Imagine that: The flyover states they’ll be flying over are where their conference resides. College football really needs to get Google Maps.

Why did UCLA abandon the traditions of nearly 100 years in the Pac-12, the conference that has more national championships in more sports than any other? Because its athletic program was $103 million in debt, according to USA Today, and stands to make about $60 million more per year in TV money with the Big Ten than it was with the Pac-12. What good are traditions if the repo man just took your blocking sleds?

But don’t fret, college football fans. None of this is permanent: It’s going to get worse, until what we’re left with is two superconferences — the Big Ten and the SEC — with maybe 40 teams total. The superconferences, controlling all the watchable college football in the country, will then put the NCAA out of its misery, take over the game and hold their own national championship.

July 18

 

andy jassy left and resized jeff bezos

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon C.E.O. Andy Jassy Breaks From the Bezos Way, David McCabe and Karen Weise, July 18, 2022. Jeff Bezos’ successor has set himself apart with a hands-on approach in Washington.

When Jeff Bezos, above left, was chief executive of Amazon, he took an arms-length stance toward the company’s affairs in Washington. He rarely lobbied lawmakers. He testified only once before Congress, under the threat of subpoena.

Andy Jassy, above right, Mr. Bezos’ successor, is trying a different approach.

amazon logo smallSince becoming Amazon’s chief executive last July, Mr. Jassy, 54, has visited Washington at least three times to traverse Capitol Hill and visit the White House. In September, he met with Ron Klain, President Biden’s chief of staff. He has called Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic majority leader, to lobby against antitrust legislation and talked with Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat from Virginia, about Amazon’s new corporate campus in the state.

“He was very inquisitive,” said Mr. Kaine, who met with Mr. Jassy at the Capitol in September and spoke with him by phone last month. Mr. Jassy was diplomatic rather than out to “bowl you over” by “force of personality,” Mr. Kaine said, and came prepared with knowledge of the lawmaker’s committee assignments.

Mr. Jassy’s actions in Washington are a sign of a new era taking shape at Amazon. The executive, who joined the company in 1997 and built its Amazon Web Services cloud computing business, followed Mr. Bezos’ footsteps for years and was viewed as one of his closest lieutenants. The succession last year was largely seen as a continuation of Mr. Bezos’ culture and methods.

But Mr. Jassy has quietly put his own imprint on Amazon, making more changes than many insiders and company watchers expected.

He has drilled into key parts of the business that Mr. Bezos pushed off onto deputies, especially the logistics operations. He has admitted that Amazon overbuilt and needed to cut costs, closing its physical bookstores and putting some warehouse expansion plans on ice. He has started a tumultuous overhaul of leadership. And while he has reiterated the company’s opposition to unions, he has also struck a more conciliatory tone with Amazon’s 1.6 million employees.

The starkest difference with Mr. Bezos may be the new chief executive’s far more hands-on approach to regulatory and political challenges in Washington.

Mr. Jassy has engaged more with the scrutiny on Amazon’s broader role as an employer and in society, beyond serving customers, said Matt McIlwain, a managing partner at Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group, which was an early investor in the company.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Unraveling of an Award-Winning Documentary, Jane Arraf, July 18, 2022. In a pivotal scene of the 2021 documentary “Sabaya,” two men rescue a young woman named Leila from a Syrian detention camp for the families of ISIS fighters, bundling her into a car and driving her to safety as shots are fired behind them.

In interviews with BBC Radio and others, the film’s Iraqi-Swedish director, Hogir Hirori, recounted the tension of the rescue and the terror of the ride as they raced from Al Hol detention camp with the young woman, one of thousands of women and girls from Iraq’s Yazidi religious minority who had been sexually enslaved by ISIS.

The dramatic scene helped the Swedish-government-funded film garner glowing reviews and awards, including best director for a foreign documentary at the Sundance Film Festival last year.

But following an investigation by a Swedish magazine, Kvartal, Hirori has admitted that he was not there when Leila was freed, that he substituted another woman instead and that he lied to a BBC interviewer.

The admissions follow findings by The New York Times last year that many of the traumatized women either did not initially consent to be in the film or refused but were included anyway. The director’s admissions have also renewed accusations that the documentary played down the coerced separation of mothers from their young children, born during enslavement by ISIS — and turned the very men responsible for that separation into heroes for rescuing them.

While Yazidi women sexually enslaved by ISIS were welcomed back by their communities after ISIS was defeated, the children were not. Some women did not want the children, but for most, the forced separations have had serious repercussions, including suicide attempts.

In a statement issued after the Kvartal investigation, Hirori acknowledged that he had depicted Leila’s escape “using a rescue scene of another woman which I participated in.” He said the woman who was presented as Leila, the main character, did not want to be filmed after the rescue and so he did not mention her in the documentary.

Speaking in Swedish through an interpreter, he told BBC Radio last year, “It was important for me to film it as it was happening because that was the reality.” In the interview, one of several in which he expressed the same sentiment, he also spoke of the Yazidi women: “They aren’t just numbers, they are people just like you and me.”

The BBC has removed the lengthy interview from its website after press queries. A BBC spokesperson said it was being reviewed. Hirori said in his statement that he regretted not telling the BBC the truth about the rescue scene.

A timeline by Kvartal also showed that in three scenes that included news reports about the battle against ISIS and a Turkish invasion, audio was inserted from events that had occurred several months earlier or weeks later. In at least one of the scenes, the film’s hero reacts to news from the car radio that he could not have been hearing.

The issue of forced separations is the single most contentious one among Yazidis. While the Yazidi Home Center featured in “Sabaya” was responsible for finding and caring for hundreds of Iraqi Yazidis freed from ISIS captivity, the organization, acting on instructions from Yazidi elders in Iraq, also arranged for the children to be taken from their mothers. Most were sent to an orphanage in northeastern Syria that the women were not allowed to visit once they returned to Iraq.

The director of “Sabaya,” about Yazidi women who had been sexually enslaved by ISIS, says that he wasn’t present for a key scene and substituted footage.

July 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: What made Harvey Weinstein a monster? Does it matter? Caetlin Benson-Allott, July 17, 2022 (print ed.). Ken Auletta widens the lens on the sordid tale and inadvertently humanizes its villain.

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence

By Ken Auletta

Penguin Press. 466 pp. $30

In horror movies, the monster (almost) always rises from the dead for one final scare. One could be forgiven for feeling the same way harvey weinsteinregarding books and articles about Harvey Weinstein, right. What is to be gained, one wonders, from reading another thousand or hundred thousand words about the studio executive-slash-sexual predator who raped or otherwise assaulted more than 100 women between the 1970s and 2010s?

His crimes have been well covered in newspaper and magazine stories and in books by the journalists behind those exposés, not to mention multiple podcasts and documentaries. Inasmuch as each new commentary extends Weinstein’s notoriety and postpones his obsolescence, it arguably serves his core desires: fame and influence.

A similar point has been made many times about true crime and serial killers; as Teen Vogue’s Sandra Song put it, “When we focus so much on the murderer — their neuroses, their troubled pasts — we ignore the fact that the victims of these crimes were also people.”

ken aulettaKen Auletta, left, certainly does not ignore the victims in Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, his new biography of the former film producer, now serving 23 years in prison. But in hunting for Weinstein’s “Rosebud,” Auletta both aggrandizes the monstrous mogul (by analogizing his megalomania to “Citizen Kane”) and extends the cultural conversation around the perpetrator and what makes him tick.

As a biography, Hollywood Ending focuses more on Weinstein himself than the issues of sexual misconduct and professional intimidation featured in Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement” and Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. In those books, the journalists who broke the story of Weinstein’s serial sexual abuse in 2017 explain how their reporting for the New York Times and the New Yorker, respectively, finally exposed Weinstein and led to his arrest, conviction and imprisonment. Kantor, Twohey and Farrow concentrate on the assault survivors and their bravery in exposing a predator. Notably, these authors also contextualize Weinstein’s downfall within the #MeToo movement.

By contrast, Auletta zooms out from the 2017 revelations about Weinstein to identify the producer’s other victims: the employees he bullied, the business partners he exploited and the brother he belittled.

Auletta also plumbs Weinstein’s childhood and early adult years to uncover factors that might have contributed to the mogul’s criminal behavior. Was it his angry and overbearing mother? Was it, as Weinstein himself puts it, growing up “poor, ugly, Jewish,” always the outsider and the underdog (positions, it should be clear, that Weinstein also embraced)?

Who cares? As anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie knows, ex post facto explanations of the monster’s pathology are beside the point. The revelations about Norman Bates’s terrible childhood at the end of Psycho do nothing to help Marion Crane, the victim of Bates’s murderous “shower scene” attack. Nor do such revelations prevent future Normans from assaulting future Marions or teach women how to avoid Normans altogether.

Like all of Auletta’s work, Hollywood Ending is thoroughly researched and eminently readable. Auletta is a highly skilled journalist whose ability to assemble compelling narratives from scores of sources helps him craft well-rounded characters and juicy prose. A prime example is his description of Weinstein’s “unhinged, Shakespeare-worthy relationship with his younger brother, Bob Weinstein, which gyrated from an impregnable partnership to screaming matches, stony estrangements, and, at least once, bloody blows.” Bob co-founded Miramax and the Weinstein Company with Harvey and initially shared Harvey’s mercurial temper and verbally abusive tendencies. Yet over the course of Hollywood Ending” Bob Weinstein emerges as an emblem of redemption. Whereas Bob too once berated staff and even paid the settlements to some of Harvey’s victims (ostensibly without realizing that their claims involved assault), he entered treatment for alcoholism in 2004 and later tried to guide his brother toward addiction recovery as well. What Bob knew and how much he enabled Harvey remains unclear, but in Auletta’s hands his character demonstrates that rehabilitation is possible, that Harvey could have changed but didn’t.

By exploring Harvey’s relationship with his brother and other men, Auletta humanizes the monster, which makes his approach feel fundamentally misguided. As Auletta himself is the first to admit, he failed to expose Weinstein’s sexual predations in a 2002 profile for the New Yorker. Auletta admirably addresses that shortcoming in his book and praises Kantor, Twohey and Farrow for eventually breaking the story he couldn’t. Yet Hollywood Ending persists in emphasizing the same bullying behavior Auletta uncovered in 2002: temper tantrums, verbal abuse of staff and colleagues, and profligate eating, smoking and spending. Perhaps this is the Harvey that Auletta knows best, or perhaps Auletta is quietly reasserting the significance of his 2002 profile and the revelations it contained.

Either way, I found myself wondering why I should care about Weinstein’s corporate power struggles, such as whether he was insubordinate to Michael Eisner after Disney bought Miramax in 1993. Maybe Miramax didn’t make as much money for Disney as the Weinstein brothers claimed, and maybe Harvey did refuse to acknowledge Eisner as his boss. But broken budgets and tyrannical arrogance are less grievous offenses than rape and sexual assault, and “Hollywood Ending” implicitly conflates them. For instance, in a 28-page chapter on “The Culture of Silence,” which protected Weinstein in the mid-1990s, Auletta devotes only eight pages to criminal sexual behavior. The other 20 inventory Miramax’s successes with “Pulp Fiction,” “Sling Blade,” “The Piano” and “Scream.” Auletta proposes that those successes are the reason Weinstein’s contemporaries protected him, but in devoting more pages to Weinstein’s business dealings than his victims, the author perpetuates a value system that prizes art over the people hurt by its maker. Certainly Weinstein should not have yelled at colleagues, started a whisper campaign to diminish the Oscar chances of “Saving Private Ryan,” or forcibly kissed, stripped and molested actresses and his employees. These offenses are not commensurate, however, and in his rush to document all of Weinstein’s inappropriate behavior, Auletta, however inadvertently, suggests that they are.

Hollywood Ending is a finely crafted biography of an ignominious sexual predator. It is not a prurient book, yet I could never stop questioning its approach to its subject. Like most true-crime reporting, it exists because women suffered.

Yet its main topic is neither those survivors nor the noble reporters and prosecutors who ended a monster’s reign of terror. It is, still, the monster himself. I am not convinced that knowing Weinstein better will help women “gain some sort of power over culturally endemic narratives in which girls and women are brutalized” — a common rationale for the genre that Tanya Horeck references in her book Justice on Demand: True Crime in the Digital Streaming Era. So read Hollywood Ending if you’re interested in how power is amassed and exploited in the U.S. film industry, but don’t read it expecting answers about sexual violence or how to stop it. The monster has nothing to teach you.

Caetlin Benson-Allott is a professor of English, film and media studies at Georgetown University and the author of “The Stuff of Spectatorship: Material Cultures of Film and Television.”

July 16

 

President Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid of Israel in Jerusalem on Thursday (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).President Biden and Prime Minister Yair Lapid of Israel in Jerusalem on Thursday (New York Times Photo by Doug Mills).

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden calls for full accounting of Palestinian American journalist’s death, Steve Hendrix, July 16, 2022 (print ed.). Several investigations, including one by The Post, have blamed Israeli gunfire for Shireen Abu Akleh’s death in May.

President Biden devoted the last hours of his Israeli visit to restoring the ties with Palestinians severed by his predecessor, visiting a Palestinian hospital Friday in East Jerusalem and crossing an Israeli military checkpoint to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem.

shireen abu akleh fileThe president called for a full accounting of the May killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, right, during an Israeli raid in the West Bank, the first time he has publicly mentioned the incident during his visit.

Biden’s two events produced no progress toward renewed talks in the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. But the White House did announce a range of measures meant to improve the situation at a time “when Palestinians are hurting, you can just feel it,” Biden said after his meeting with Abbas.

“I know that the goal of the two state [solution] seems so far away, while indignities like restrictions on movement and travel or the daily worry of your children’s safety are real and immediate,” the president said. “So even if the ground is not ripe at this moment to restart negotiations, the United States and my administration will not give up on trying to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis closer together.”

The administration approved $316 million in new aid for Palestinians, including $100 million for a hospital network that serves patients from the West Bank and Gaza. Another $200 million will go to the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees, funding that was largely eliminated by the Trump administration. Biden, who has pledged to renew support for Palestinians, began restoring Washington’s contribution soon after taking office.

The White House also announced $15 million in emergency aid to help the territories during grain shortages caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as an initiative to speed the rollout of 4G technology in the West Bank and Gaza. The administration said it was also pressing Israel to ease travel restrictions on Palestinians by streamlining the crossing between the West Bank and Jordan.

July 15

Reuters, Judge in Twitter v. Musk made rare ruling: ordering a deal to close, Tom Hals and Hyunjoo Jin, July 15, 2022. The judge overseeing elon musk 2015Twitter Inc's (TWTR.N) $44 billion lawsuit against Elon Musk, right, has a no-nonsense reputation as well as the distinction of being one of the few jurists who has ever ordered a reluctant buyer to close a U.S. corporate merger.

reuters logoKathaleen McCormick took over the role of chancellor or chief judge of the Court of Chancery last year, the first woman in that role. On Wednesday, she was assigned the Twitter lawsuit which seeks to force Musk to complete his deal for the social media platform, which promises to be one of the biggest legal showdowns in years.

"She already has a track record of not putting up with some of the worst behavior that we see in these areas when people want to get out of deals," said Adam Badawi, a law professor who specializes in corporate governance at the University of California Berkeley. "She is a serious, no-nonsense judge."

twitter bird CustomIn contrast to Musk's brash and volatile behavior, she is known as soft-spoken, approachable and amiable -- but a person who also stands her ground. She advocates respect among litigants and integrity at legal conferences.

"We've always had each other's backs, we've always gone out for drinks after arguments and maintained this level civility," she told a gathering at the University of Delaware this year.

After weeks of confrontational tweets suggesting Twitter was hiding the true number of fake accounts, Musk said on Friday he was terminating the $54.20-per-Twitter share acquisition, worth $44 billion. On Tuesday, the social media platform sued.

Judges have ordered reluctant buyers to close corporate acquisitions only a handful of times, according to legal experts and court records. One of those was McCormick.

Last year, McCormick got the attention of Wall Street dealmakers by ordering an affiliate of private equity firm Kohlberg & Co LLC to close its $550 million purchase of DecoPac Holding Inc, which makes cake decorating products.

She described her ruling as "chalking up a victory for deal certainty" and rejected Kohlberg's arguments that it could walk away because of a lack of financing.

The case has many parallels to the Twitter deal. Like Musk, Kohlberg said it was walking away because DecoPac violated the merger agreement. Like Musk, Kohlberg argued in part that DecoPac failed to maintain ordinary operations.

There are also differences. Musk's deal is magnitudes bigger, involves a publicly traded target company in Twitter and might have implications for Tesla Inc , the electric vehicle maker that is the source of much of Musk's fortune.

In other cases, she has come down on the side of shareholders when they clashed with management.

Last year, she prevented energy company The Williams Cos Inc from adopting a so-called poison pill anti-takeover measure, saying it breached their fiduciary duty to shareholders.

A graduate of Notre Dame Law School, McCormick started her career with the Delaware branch of the Legal Aid Society, which helps low-income people navigate the court system.

She went into private practice "mainly for financial reasons," she told the Delaware Senate during her confirmation hearing, joining Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, one of the state's main firms for business litigation.

She joined the Court of Chancery in 2018 as a vice chancellor and became the first woman to lead the Court of Chancery last year.

July 13

washington post logoWashington Post, What to know as Elon Musk’s rocky deal with Twitter heads to court, Rachel Lerman, July 13, 2022. Twitter’s saga with billionaire Elon Musk, marked by months of negotiations and contentious tweets, has made its way to the court system.

elon musk 2015Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, agreed to buy the social media company for about $44 billion in April, saying he wanted to promote free speech on the site and “defeat the spam bots.” But less than three months later, he filed to terminate the deal after accusing Twitter of withholding information about the bot accounts on its site.

On Tuesday, Twitter sued Musk in the Delaware Court of Chancery, seeking to enforce the deal and writing that “Musk refuses to honor his obligations to Twitter and its stockholders because the deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests.”

What are the next steps in the rocky deal between the social media company and the world’s richest person?

Twitter sues Elon Musk, setting stage for epic legal battle

What to know

In its lawsuit filed Tuesday, Twitter wrote that “Musk apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away. This repudiation follows a long list of material contractual breaches by Musk that have cast a pall over Twitter and its business.”

twitter bird CustomTwitter has an obligation to act in the best interest of its shareholders — and right now, that path seems to involve a legal battle to compel Musk to fulfill the agreement. Twitter’s stock price has sharply sunk since Musk agreed to buy the company and is now nearly 40 percent below his offer price of $54.20 per share.

If Twitter lets Musk walk away from the deal, the company will be left with a workforce in turmoil, a rocky stock price — and no money or new owner to show for it.

“It puts the Twitter board in a tough position,” said David Larcker, a professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business who studies corporate governance, before the suit was filed this week. He added that he thought the company was doing what it is supposed to do from a corporate governance standpoint.

Delaware is one of the only remaining states in the United States to still have a chancery court, which mainly deals with issues such as guardianships, trusts, estates — and, particularly in Delaware’s case, corporate matters including mergers and acquisitions.

Many U.S. companies, including Twitter, are incorporated in Delaware, giving the experienced court jurisdiction over the case. The court has one chancellor, who acts like a chief judge, and six vice chancellors (judges) who oversee cases. It does not hold jury trials.

The court has a deep history of deciding on corporate fiduciary matters and mergers, including one example that might be relevant to Twitter’s case. In 2001, then-Vice Chancellor Leo E. Strine, Jr. ruled that Tyson Foods needed to complete its acquisition of IBP after the foods giant tried to cancel the deal.

Strine now works for Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, the New York law firm Twitter hired to represent it in the upcoming case.
When will we finally know what happens with Musk and Twitter?
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It’s unclear, though the Delaware court has the ability to expedite cases. It’s possible this case could take only four to six months to litigate, legal experts say, meaning there could be a resolution this year.

That assumes the case will be left in the judge’s hands. If Twitter and Musk instead reach a settlement deal, the matter could be settled even sooner.

No — not as long as Twitter works to hold him to his end of the agreement. The acquisition agreement includes a $1 billion breakup fee, which Musk might have to pay even if the judge agrees he can walk away from the deal.

“What does seem pretty clear to me is that Twitter’s board has concluded that they can’t just let this go and walk away empty-handed,” said Tom Redburn, partner and chair of the securities litigation group at firm Lowenstein Sandler.

But Twitter has argued that Musk does not have a good enough reason to abandon the deal and should be forced to buy the company at the price he agreed. Many legal experts agree that Musk’s argument about bot information does not seem to constitute a strong enough reason to leave the deal, according to the terms of the agreement.

July 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Tiger Woods calmly condemns Greg Norman, LIV Golf before British Open, Chuck Culpepper, July 12, 2022. Tiger Woods has arrived at the crazy-historic 150th British Open and has brought along his voice, all earned and found and seasoned. He sounded statesmanlike on Tuesday morning as he spoke without reluctance about the blaring, glaring issue disrupting his sport: the breakaway, Saudi-funded LIV Tour. He even recoiled at the idea of loud music.

He started early at his news conference, fielding a question about the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews’s decision to disinvite Greg Norman because of the distracting noise Norman’s presence might cause given his chairmanship of the LIV Tour.

“The R&A obviously have their opinions and their rulings and their decision,” Woods said. “Greg has done some things that I don’t think are in the best interest of our game, and we’re coming back to probably the most historic and traditional place in our sport. I believe it’s the right thing.”

He specified a few answers later: “I know what the PGA Tour stands for and what we have done and what the tour has given us, the ability to chase after our careers and to earn what we get and the trophies we have been able to play for and the history that has been a part of this game. I know Greg tried to do this (a rival tour) back in the early ’90s. It didn’t work then, and he’s trying to make it work now.

“I still don’t see how that’s in the best interests of the game. What the European Tour and what the PGA Tour stands for and what they’ve done, and also all the professional — all the governing bodies of the game of golf and all the major championships, how they run it. I think they see it differently than what Greg sees it.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Ada Limón is the next U.S. poet laureate, Jess Eng, July 12, 2022. In her new role as poet laureate of the United States, Ada Limón will help bridge nature and humanity through new poetry initiatives.

Limón, 46, hopes to share her devotion to nature with the whole country. She was named the 24th poet laureate of the United States on Tuesday. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden called Limón with the news, much to the poet’s pleasant surprise. “For someone who is a poet and believes in the power of language, I can tell you that language definitely went out the window at that moment in my life,” she says.

Born in Sonoma, Calif., Limón was first enchanted by the world of poetry while working at her local bookstore. At the University of Washington, she majored in theater and planned to continue theater studies in graduate school. That is, until her poetry teacher Colleen McElroy pulled her aside during office hours.

July 11

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: The fascists are coming after our history. Will we let them take it? Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books, longtime journalist and former Navy intelligence officer, July 11, 2022. The fascists are coming after our history. Will we let them take it?

Pro-democracy Americans, who continue to represent some 70 percent of the total voting age population of the country, can no longer delude themselves that what occurred in Germany in the early 1930s cannot happen here.

wayne madesen report logoWhat has and is happening here is that a violent movement of Nazis, fascists, and racist Confederates have not only seized control of the Republican Party through their cult leader Donald Trump, but elected Republicans and candidates for office are moving to repaint American history.

The intentions of these dreadful products of the Trump movement are clear. They seek to justify the Holocaust of World War II as a necessary, African slavery as necessary for the development of the American economy, and the genocide of the Native Americans as an acceptable manifestation of European colonial expansion.

What is occurring in America is not only a re-writing of history but a movement to require Christo-fascist indoctrination of students in the same manner that Adolf Hitler and his Nazis required Germany’s public schools to teach Nazi racist ideology.

And who will be teaching a Nazi-laundered version of history in American schools? Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey just signed into law Senate Bill 1159, which states that a college degree is no longer required to teach in Arizona’s public schools. One only is required to be enrolled in college in order to teach. That means Bubba, the fat bearded and bald motorcycle gangster with swastika tattoos on his forearms, need only be signed up with some diploma mill in order to teach young children the benefits of being a Mexican- and black-hating racist.

washington post logoWashington Post, American firm drops bid for Israeli spyware following U.S. concerns, Ellen Nakashima, July 11, 2022 (print ed.). The American defense firm L3Harris has ended talks with blacklisted Israeli spyware company, NSO Group, to buy the firm’s hacking tools following intelligence and security concerns raised by the Biden administration, according to people familiar with the matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: College football was betrayed by the adults who were supposed to protect it, Sally Jenkins, July 11, 2022 (print ed.). The game's real threat was never NIL payments to kids. It was administrative gluttons, with their combination of treachery and ineptitude.

July 10

washington post logoWashington Post, As Elon Musk moves to abandon deal, Twitter faces ‘worst case scenario,’ Cat Zakrzewski, Naomi Nix and Joseph Menn, July 10, 2022 (print ed.). In attempting to walk away from the $44 billion acquisition, Elon Musk sets the stage for a legal battle, which could carry financial risks for the social network and further darken employee morale.

ny times logoNew York Times, Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, July 10, 2022. More than 300 bookstores have opened in the past couple of years — a revival that is meeting a demand for “real recommendations from real people.”

People told Lucy Yu it was a crazy time to open a bookstore in Chinatown. It was early 2021, and the pandemic had devastated the neighborhood, forcing dozens of stores and restaurants to close. The rise of anti-Asian hate crimes had shaken residents and local business owners.

But Ms. Yu believed that a bookstore was just what the neighborhood needed.

She raised around $20,000 on GoFundMe, enough to rent a narrow storefront — a former funeral supply store — on Mulberry Street in downtown Manhattan. A neighborhood grant gave her $2,000 for shelves and books. And in December, she opened Yu and Me Books, which specializes in titles by and about immigrants and people of color.

The store was profitable within four months, Ms. Yu said.

Yu and Me Books is one of more than 300 new independent bookstores that have sprouted across the United States in the past couple of years, in a surprising and welcome revival after an early pandemic slump. And as the number of stores has grown, the book selling business — traditionally overwhelmingly white — has also become much more diverse.

“People were hungry for a place focused on Asian American and immigrant stories,” said Ms. Yu, 27, who worked as a chemical engineer and supply chain manager before opening the store. “That’s something I was always searching for when I went to bookstores, and I wanted people to come here and not have to search.”

Two years ago, the future of independent book selling looked bleak. As the coronavirus forced retailers to shut down, hundreds of small booksellers around the United States seemed doomed. Bookstore sales fell nearly 30 percent in 2020, U.S. Census Bureau data showed. The publishing industry was braced for a blow to its retail ecosystem, one that could permanently reshape the way readers discover and buy books.

Instead, something unexpected happened: Small booksellers not only survived the pandemic, but many are thriving.

“It’s kind of shocking when you think about what dire straits the stores were in in 2020,” said Allison Hill, the chief executive of the American Booksellers Association, a trade organization for independent bookstores. “We saw a rally like we’ve never seen before.”

The association now has 2,023 member stores in 2,561 locations, up from 1,689 in early July of 2020. Some of the growth reflects the renewal of memberships by existing stores that put off doing it last year amid the uncertainly caused by the pandemic. But there has also been a sharp and sustained rise in new bookshops, and more than 200 additional stores are preparing to open in the next year or two, Ms. Hill said.

July 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Tucker Carlson: ‘I don’t clear anything with anybody,’ Erik Wemple, July 8, 2022. In recent years, Fox News host Tucker Carlson has promoted the racist “Great Replacement” theory, asserted that immigrants make the United States “dirtier" and “poor,” fearmongered over Black Lives Matter protests and spread conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol.

Any supervision from the higher-ups at Fox News? “I don’t clear anything with anybody,” Carlson said Thursday via remote connection to a media conference organized by the soon-to-launch digital outlet Semafor and sponsored by the Knight Foundation.

“I say what I want,” Carlson told Semafor co-founder Ben Smith. “I’m blessed, unlike a lot of journalists, who are leading miserable lives.”

fox news logo SmallContrast Carlson’s own comments on his long leash at Fox News with those of senior executive producer Justin Wells, who was quoted in a recent New York Times investigative series as saying that stories on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” “undergo a rigorous editorial process.” That Times series reported that the top-rated host “boasts of rarely speaking with Fox’s chief executive, Suzanne Scott, but talking or texting regularly with [Fox Corp. Chairman Lachlan] Murdoch.”

So much for a rigorous editorial process.

Carlson’s latitude to articulate racist viewpoints with no interference from higher-ups is among the more enduring stories in modern media. In Thursday’s interview, Smith pointed to Carlson’s promotion of the “Great Replacement” theory — a notion that elites are promoting immigration, and “replacing” White Americans, to reshape American politics — and asked about his history of working with people who hold racist views — all of which Carlson deflected, insisting, as he has before, that he is antiracist.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk Moves to End $44 Billion Deal to Buy Twitter, Kate Conger and Lauren Hirsch, July 8, 2022. Less than four months ago, Elon Musk, right, the world’s richest man, struck a blockbuster $44 billion deal to buy Twitter. He proclaimed that the elon musk 2015company had “tremendous potential.”

In the months since, Mr. Musk changed his tune. He sniped at Twitter’s top executives. He unleashed tweets taunting the company’s board. He complained that the social media service had too many spam accounts and that he could not get insight into the issue. He tweeted a poop emoji to express his displeasure.

twitter bird CustomAnd on Friday, Mr. Musk tried to back out of the acquisition altogether.

In a regulatory filing prepared by his lawyers, Mr. Musk said he wanted to terminate the Twitter deal because of a continuing disagreement over the number of spam accounts on the platform. He claimed that Twitter had not provided information necessary to calculate the number of those accounts — which the company has said is lower than 5 percent — and that the company had appeared to make inaccurate statements.

In a regulatory filing on Friday, Mr. Musk said Twitter was in “material breach” of the acquisition agreement.

Mr. Musk’s move sets him up for a protracted legal battle with Twitter. The billionaire signed a legally binding agreement in April to buy the company at $54.20 a share and had waived due diligence to get the deal done quickly. The terms also included a $1 billion breakup fee if the agreement fell apart and a clause that gives Twitter the right to sue Mr. Musk and force him to complete or pay for the deal, so long as the debt financing he has corralled remains intact.

Twitter’s shares fell 8 percent in after-hours trading.

 

david shipley bloomberg

washington post logoWashington Post, David Shipley named editor of Washington Post editorial page, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, July 8, 2022 (print ed.). David Shipley, the top editor of Bloomberg’s opinion section, was named editor of The Washington Post’s editorial page on Thursday, filling one of the most senior jobs at the newspaper and one of the most influential in American journalism.

Shipley, shown above in a Bloomberg photo, succeeds longtime Post opinions editor Fred Hiatt, who died in December at 66 after suffering sudden cardiac arrest.

Shipley, 59, is a well-respected but somewhat surprising choice to oversee The Post’s more than 80-member opinion staff, which operates independently from its news department and has been led by editors elevated from internal ranks for more than 60 years. He is the second top editor to be appointed by publisher Fred Ryan from outside the newspaper; last year he named Sally Buzbee, a former top editor of the Associated Press, as the executive editor of The Post’s news staff.

In a memo to staff, Ryan wrote that Shipley “emerged as a standout in an exhaustive search that involved more than 150 candidates” and began after Hiatt’s death.

Deputy editorial page editors Ruth Marcus and Karen Tumulty have run the department on an interim basis for several months.

Shipley’s appointment comes at a tumultuous time for opinion journalism at American newspapers. The New York Times, which introduced the first “op-ed” section consisting of guest editorials in 1970, has recently reduced the number of opinion pieces it publishes by about 25 percent while expanding into other forms, such as audio, video and graphics.

Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, has been radically shrinking its editorial sections, prompted by both cost-cutting pressures and research indicating that many readers are repelled by overt opinion or confused by how it’s supposed to differ from the news coverage. Many of its papers have abandoned the traditional practice of endorsing candidates in local or national political races.

Yet opinion pieces have regularly ranked among the most-read pieces on The Post’s website. And The Post’s editorial pages have historically carried an outsize influence among the political and diplomatic class. It has also published guest commentaries from leading dissidents, such as writer and filmmaker Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is now imprisoned in Russia, and Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist who was murdered in 2018.

 brittney griner alexander zemlianichenko ap

 ny times logoNew York Times, Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty as Her Trial Resumes in Russia, Anton Troianovski and Ivan Nechepurenko, July 8, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration has said the basketball star, jailed on drug smuggling charges, is a hostage of Moscow. Follow updates.

The detained American basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a court near Moscow on Thursday, her lawyer said.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Ms. Griner said in English, which was then translated into Russian, Reuters reported.

Ms. Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17, accused by the Russian authorities of having a vape cartridge with hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.

Aleksandr Boikov, her lawyer, said cartridges appeared in Ms. Griner’s luggage “because of carelessness.”

“She pleaded guilty, stressing that she was carrying substances prohibited in Russia unintentionally, because she was packing in a hurry,” Mr. Boikov said.

If Ms. Griner is convicted, she could face up to 10 years in a Russian penal colony. Ms. Griner still faces formal conviction and sentencing proceedings, and her next day in court is scheduled to be July 14.

Her guilty plea came hours after a top Russian diplomat lashed out at the Biden administration for trying to “foment hype” around her case.

The Russian diplomat, Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said that the publicity around the case was not helping Ms. Griner, who American officials say is essentially a hostage taken by President Vladimir V. Putin in the run-up to the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Ryabkov indicated that Moscow would be prepared to negotiate her fate, but only after the court reached a verdict on the drug charges that were brought against her.

“We have a long-established form of discussing these matters,” Mr. Ryabkov told reporters on Thursday in Moscow, according to the Interfax news agency. “The American side’s attempts to foment hype and make noise in the public environment are understandable, but they don’t help to practically resolve issues.”

After her trial began last week, Ms. Griner sent a handwritten letter to Mr. Biden asking him not to “forget about” her and other American detainees overseas.

ny times logoNew York Times, James Caan, Actor Who Won Fame in ‘The Godfather,’ Dies at 82, Clyde Haberman, July 8, 2022 (print ed.). A Bronx native, he starred in countless movies and TV shows, but was most closely identified with the volatile character Sonny Corleone.

James Caan, who built a durable film career in varied roles across six decades but was forever identified most closely with one of his earliest characters, the quick-tempered, skirt-chasing Sonny Corleone in the original “Godfather” movie, died on Wednesday. He was 82.

July 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk’s deal to buy Twitter is in peril, Faiz Siddiqui, Gerrit De Vynck and Joseph Menn, July 7, 2022. Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter is in serious jeopardy, three people familiar with the matter say, as Musk’s camp concluded that Twitter’s figures on spam elon musk 2015accounts are not verifiable.

Musk’s team has stopped engaging in certain discussions around funding for the $44 billion deal, including with a party named as a likely backer, one of the people said. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the ongoing discussions.

Talks with investors have cooled in recent weeks as Musk’s camp has raised doubts about the recent data “fire hose” — a trove of data sold to corporate customers — they received from Twitter. Musk’s team’s doubts about the spam figures signal they believe they do not have enough information to evaluate Twitter’s prospects as a business, the people said.

twitter bird CustomNow that Musk’s team has concluded it cannot verify Twitter’s figures on spam accounts, one of the people said, it is expected to take potentially drastic action. The person said it was likely a change in direction from Musk’s team would come soon, though they did not say exactly what they thought that change would be.

The spam accounts are not the only reason Musk might try to wriggle out of the deal. Twitter’s share price has fallen TK% since his takeover bid in April, leading to the impression that he is overpaying. And Musk also runs two other major companies, Tesla and SpaceX, along with some start-ups.

But the terms of the deal mean it wouldn’t be easy for Musk to walk away. The deal carries a $1 billion break up fee. And legal experts expect a giant legal battle if Musk tries to pull out. Twitter, which initially fought Musk’s takeover bid, would be a much weaker company if the deal falls apart than when Musk first bought a stake, and experts expect Twitter to fight to get it done. Twitter could attempt to force Musk to go through with the purchase if his reason for scuttling it is not based on the company’s fundamental business.

Musk shook up the social media world earlier this year with his unprecedented offer to take the company private, arguing he would be able to grow Twitter and make it more open and, in his mind, politically neutral. He said he would let former president Donald Trump back on the service and argued its content moderation practices infringed on free speech. Musk waived his right to take a deeper look at the company’s finances when he signed the deal.

But soon after, questions arose about whether he would actually follow through. A global sell-off in tech stocks deeply cut into his personal net worth, which he had leveraged to get commitments for the debt he needed to buy Twitter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Disinformation Has Become Another Untouchable Problem in Washington, Steven Lee Myers and Eileen Sullivan, July 7, 2022 (print ed.). Numerous federal agencies agree that widely promoted falsehoods threaten the nation’s security. Doing something about them is another matter.

The memo that reached the top of the Department of Homeland Security in September could not have been clearer about its plan to create a board to monitor national security threats caused by the spread of dangerous disinformation.

The department, it said, “should not attempt to be an all-purpose arbiter of truth in the public arena.”

Yet when Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the disinformation board in April, Republican lawmakers and conservative commentators denounced it as exactly that, calling it an Orwellian attempt to stifle dissenting views. So did some critics from the left, who questioned the powers that such an office might wield in the hands of future Republican administrations.

Within weeks, the new board was dismantled — put on “pause,” officially — undone in part by forces it was meant to combat, including distortions of the board’s intent and powers.

There is wide agreement across the federal government that coordinated disinformation campaigns threaten to exacerbate public health emergencies, stoke ethnic and racial divisions and even undermine democracy itself. The board’s fate, however, has underscored how deeply partisan the issue has become in Washington, making it nearly impossible to consider addressing the threat.

The failure to act, according to experts, has left openings for new waves of disinformation ahead of November’s midterm elections — and even for violence like the racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket in May, which was motivated by a baseless conspiracy theory that global forces aimed to “replace” white Americans with immigrants.

“I think we’re in a really bleak situation here in this country,” said Nina Jankowicz, who briefly served as the board’s director before resigning when the controversy boiled over.

 

kate bedingfield

ny times logoNew York Times, The White House communications director is stepping down, the latest senior adviser to leave the Biden administration, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, July 7, 2022 (print ed.). Kate Bedingfield, shown above in a file photo at the White House briefing room, will be the latest senior adviser to leave the Biden administration, whose messaging has faced growing criticism from Democrats.

Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, will step down from her position this summer, White House aides said on Wednesday, marking the latest departure of a senior adviser from the Biden administration.

Ms. Bedingfield is a longtime aide to President Biden who helped shape the messaging strategy for his campaign and during his presidency. She is expected to assist the White House from outside the administration, although her next position remained unclear.

Ron Klain, the president’s chief of staff, credited Ms. Bedingfield with helping Mr. Biden win the 2020 election, pass the coronavirus stimulus and infrastructure packages, and secure the Supreme Court nomination of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“She has played a huge role in everything the president has achieved — from his second term as vice president, through the campaign and since coming to the White House,” Mr. Klain said in a statement.

It will be the latest departure from a White House communications apparatus that has faced growing criticism from members of the president’s own party. Democrats have in recent weeks pressed Mr. Biden for a more forceful and consistent message in response to multiple mass shootings, the Supreme Court’s ruling to eliminate the federal right to abortion and record-high inflation.

The announcement comes just weeks after Jen Psaki left her job as the White House press secretary for an on-air role at MSNBC. A number of more junior press aides have also exited in recent weeks, as well as some higher-ranking staff members. Cedric Richmond, a former senior adviser, left the White House in May for a similar role at the Democratic National Committee. Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House Covid czar, also departed the administration this year.

But Mr. Biden has also brought in longtime advisers, a sign that he is preparing his re-election campaign. Anita Dunn, a senior adviser, recently returned to the White House from her public affairs firm. Ian Sams, who had been a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, has joined the White House staff as a spokesman for the counsel’s office.

Ms. Bedingfield, an aide for Mr. Biden since he was vice president during the Obama administration, was one of the more visible public faces of his 2020 campaign. As deputy campaign manager and communications director, she has often appeared on television as a surrogate for Mr. Biden.

She was tasked with building support for Mr. Biden after he finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary, raising doubts about his ability to win the election. She then helped craft Mr. Biden’s message of unifying the country, which he has continued to turn to during his presidency.

As communications director, Ms. Bedingfield holds a role that is typically more behind the scenes than that of Ms. Psaki or the current press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre. But when they both were sidelined with the coronavirus, Ms. Bedingfield made multiple appearances hosting the White House daily press briefing.

July 6

ny times logoNew York Times, With Rising Book Bans, Librarians Have Come Under Attack, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, July 6, 2022. Caustic fights over which books belong on the shelves have put librarians at the center of a bitter and widening culture war.

Martha Hickson, a high school librarian in Annandale, N.J., heard last fall that some parents were going to call for her library to ban certain books. So at 7 p.m., when she and her husband would usually watch “Jeopardy!” she got comfortable in her recliner and turned on a livestream of the local school board meeting.

A parent stood up and denounced two books, Lawn Boy and Gender Queer, calling them pornographic. Both books, award winners with L.G.B.T.Q. characters and frank depictions of sex, have been challenged around the country and were available at the North Hunterdon High School library. Then the woman called out Ms. Hickson, who is the librarian there, by name, for allowing her 16-year-old son to check out the books.

“This amounts to an effort to groom our kids to make them more willing to participate in the heinous acts described in these books,” said the parent, Gina DeLusant, according to a video recording of the meeting. “It grooms them to accept the inappropriate advances of an adult.”

Ms. Hickson said the accusation left her sick to her stomach, with a tightness in her chest. “I was stunned,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

As highly visible and politicized book bans have exploded across the country, librarians — accustomed to being seen as dedicated public servants in their communities — have found themselves on the front lines of an acrimonious culture war, with their careers and their personal reputations at risk.

They have been labeled pedophiles on social media, called out by local politicians and reported to law enforcement officials. Some librarians have quit after being harassed online. Others have been fired for refusing to remove books from circulation.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I Don’t Want to Help Him’: Joe Rogan Says He Refused Trump as a Podcast Guest, Isabella Simonetti, July 6, 2022. The commentator, who is no stranger to controversy, claimed he had declined several times to have the former president on his influential podcast on Spotify.

joe rogan twitterJoe Rogan, right, whose contrarian views on vaccines and political conspiracy theories have made him popular with many supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, revealed that he has declined to host Mr. Trump on his influential podcast several times.

“I’ve had the opportunity to have him on my show more than once. I’ve said no every time,” Mr. Rogan, the host of “The Joe Rogan Experience,” said on Lex Fridman’s podcast on Monday. “I don’t want to help him.”

spotify logoMr. Rogan, a comedian and sports commentator in addition to a podcast host, is Spotify’s highest paid podcaster, with a $200 million deal for exclusive rights to host his show, which attracts millions of listeners per episode.

On Monday, he described the former president as “a polarizing figure” and “an existential threat to democracy.” Mr. Rogan, who endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive from Vermont, for president in 2020, recently voiced his support on his podcast for Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican, if he were to run for president.

The podcast host has been condemned for using a racial slur on his show, mocking the first openly transgender athlete in mixed martial arts and having a “love-hate relationship with conspiracies.” He has been criticized for amplifying Covid-19 misinformation on his platform, prompting medical professionals to call on Spotify to take action at the beginning of this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, On Conservative Radio, Misleading Message Is Clear: ‘Democrats Cheat,’ Stuart A. Thompson, July 6, 2022 (print ed.). Election fraud claims from 2020 are widespread on talk radio, contributing to the belief that the midterm results cannot be trusted.

July 5

fox upside down news

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:The Republican Party joins a list of other disreputable puppet parties, Wayne Madsen, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallleft, author of 22 books, longtime journalist and former Navy intelligence officer, July 5-6, 2022. Not since the puppet parties of Quisling and Vichy France has the world seen a political apparatus as foreign-controlled as the Republicans.

Like many political parties totally dependent on one or more outside powers for ideological direction, the U.S. Republican Party, founded in Ripon, Wisconsin in 1854 by abolitionists, has become a puppet party expressing the fascist principles espoused by leaders in Russia, Hungary, Brazil, Turkey, India, and Israel.

wayne madesen report logoFinancial support for the Republicans has not only come from offshore contrivances linked to the Russian, Hungarian, Turkish, Brazilian, Israeli, Indian, and other like-minded governments but domestic wealthy fascist ideologues like Peter Thiel, Charles G. Koch, Rupert Murdoch, John Childs (Childs was arrested in the same 2019 solicitation for prostitution sting in Jupiter, Florida, which involved human sex trafficking, that also tagged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft), Tatnall Hillman, Ken Griffin, Lewis Topper, Richard Uihlein, and Robert and Rebekah Mercer.

Perhaps the worst form of dynastic fascism exists within the media. NewsCorp's Rupert Murdoch, who was largely responsible for the rise of right-wing governments in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, where he has maintained large media holdings in newspapers and television, has turned the reins of power over to his son, Lachlan Murdoch. The Trump presidency could not have been possible without the constant din of propaganda masquerading as legitimate journalism from Fox News.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Baltimore Big Enough for the Two of Them? Katie Robertson, July 5, 2022 (print ed.). The internet has pretty much killed local news wars. The Baltimore Banner, a nonprofit start-up, is trying to change that by taking on The Baltimore Sun.

July 4

 

Mr. Bausman, right, has said he entered the Capitol in the capacity of a journalist (Photo via YouTube).

Charles Bausman, right, in a red MAGA hat and with a black glove, has said he entered the Capitol in the capacity of a journalist (Photo via YouTube). He has said he entered the Capitol in the capacity of a journalist. He is shown also in a photo (by Mikhail Voskresenskiy for Sputnik, distributed by the Associated Press) pattending a 2015 conference in Moscow sponsored by the Russian-government owned television network RT and featuring a number of American attendees, including future Green Party Presidential candidate Jill Stein, Trump national security Advisor Michael Flynn. A banquest including a number of conference attendees was attended also by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Stein and Flynn sitting at his table.

charles bausman mikhail voskresenskiy sputnik ap

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: An American’s Murky Path From Russian Propagandist to Jan. 6, Mike McIntire, July 4, 2022 (print ed.). Charles Bausman recorded footage in the Capitol for a Russian television producer for a propaganda video. Then he fled to Moscow as a “political refugee.”

In security footage from Jan. 6, it is easy to overlook the thin man wearing a red Trump hat who filters into the U.S. Capitol Building to record the mayhem with his phone.

He blends in with the mob, seemingly unexceptional by the chaotic standards of that day. But what he did afterward was far from routine.

Within 24 hours, the man, Charles Bausman, gave his recordings and commentary to a Russian television producer for a propaganda video. He then decamped to Moscow, where, appearing on a far-right television network owned by a sanctioned oligarch, he recently accused American media of covering up for neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

“We must understand that in the West,” Mr. Bausman told Russian viewers, “we are already in a situation of total lies.”

For Mr. Bausman — an American alumnus of Phillips Exeter Academy and Wesleyan University who speaks fluent Russian — it was the latest chapter in a strange odyssey. Once a financial executive who voted for President Barack Obama, he emerged in 2014 as a public critic of the left and of the United States, boosted by Russian state-sponsored organizations through speaking invitations, TV appearances and awards.

Central to his transformation was a series of websites he created pushing anti-America, pro-Russia themes, as well as racist and homophobic messaging. Some of his posts have racked up millions of views, and his 5,000-word screed on “the Jewish problem” has been hailed by antisemites around the world and translated into multiple languages.

Mr. Bausman’s path in some ways tracks a broader shift on the political right that embraces misinformation and sympathy toward Russia while tolerating an increasingly emboldened white nationalism. For its part, the Kremlin has sought to court conservatives in the United States and sow discord through a network of expats, collaborators and spies.

People who have written for Mr. Bausman’s websites or promoted his work have come under scrutiny by American intelligence, and the founder of a pro-Russia forum that hosted him and others was charged in March with being an unregistered agent of Moscow.

After surfacing as a voluble defender of Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, Mr. Bausman became an outspoken Trump supporter. With white nationalism on the rise, he threw himself into promoting it, relocating to rural Pennsylvania and hosting neo-Nazis at his property. He joined Republican protests against coronavirus restrictions and the 2020 election and most recently has reappeared in Russian media to criticize the West’s response to the war in Ukraine.

Mr. Bausman attended a 2015 conference hosted by RT, a news channel tied to the Kremlin.
Konstantin Malofeev, an influential oligarch indicted by the United States over alleged sanctions violations, said he had asked Mr. Bausman to appear on his television network because Mr. Bausman was one of the few Russian-speaking Americans willing to do it.

“Who else is there to invite?” Mr. Malofeev asked.

Mr. Bausman, 58, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. No charges have been brought against him related to the events of Jan. 6, though he appears inside the Capitol in video clips introduced in court cases against others. When a Russian TV host referred to him as “a participant” in storming the Capitol, Mr. Bausman interrupted to say that the description could get him into trouble, and that he was a journalist.

Mr. Bausman has always said he did not receive support from Russian authorities. But there is little doubt that his emergence as an American salesman of pro-Kremlin views was aided greatly by entities controlled by or tied to the Russian state.

After Russia Insider went live, Mr. Bausman began appearing on RT and other Russian media, and a news crew from a major state-owned TV channel traveled to his parents’ home in Connecticut to film him discussing his new website. On Facebook, he boasted that “our traffic exploded after this aired.”

His older sister, Mary-Fred Bausman-Watkins, said last year that her brother “was always short on money” and that their parents frequently helped him out, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has compiled several reports on his activities. Ms. Bausman-Watkins died in May.

“They funded his whole life,” she told the center, “and then he inherited their money when they died, and they’re still funding his life.”

On Facebook, Mr. Bausman posted an appeal for people to go to Washington “to support Trump.” At various points during the riot, Mr. Bausman can be seen inside the Capitol, often using his phone to record the chaos.

Afterward, he returned to Lancaster and gave a lengthy interview for a video about the insurrection produced by Arkady Mamontov, a Russian television host known for splashy pro-Kremlin propaganda pieces. The video also included footage of Mr. Bausman outside his home that appears to have been filmed months earlier. Mr. Mamontov did not respond to a request for comment.

In the video, Mr. Bausman suggested, without evidence, that federal agents had instigated the violence at the Capitol to “discredit Trump,” and he painted a dystopian, conspiratorial picture of American society. It is a theme that he has carried forward to more recent appearances on Mr. Malofeev’s television network, in which he has accused Western media of lying about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mike McIntire is an investigative reporter. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and has written in depth on campaign finance, gun violence and corruption in college sports. @mmcintire

July 2

truth social logo

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Media Is Subpoenaed in Federal Inquiry of Truth Social Deal, Matthew Goldstein July 2, 2022 (print ed.). The investigation threatens to delay a merger that would provide Trump Media and its platform, Truth Social, with up to $1.3 billion. The investigation by federal prosecutors and securities regulators into a proposed merger between a cash-rich blank check company and former President Donald J. Trump’s social media company has gotten closer to Mr. Trump’s end of the deal.

republican elephant logoFederal prosecutors served grand jury subpoenas on Trump Media & Technology Group and “certain current and former TMTG personnel,” according to a regulatory filing on Friday by Digital World Acquisition, the special purpose acquisition company that has a tentative deal to merge with Trump Media.

Grand jury subpoenas are typically issued in connection with a potential criminal investigation. The filing said the Securities and Exchange Commission also served a subpoena on Trump Media this week.

securities exchange commission sealJust days earlier, Digital World revealed that it, too, had received a grand jury subpoena from federal prosecutors in Manhattan along with similar subpoenas served on its board of directors.

The grand jury subpoenas appear related to earlier S.E.C. subpoenas on Digital World that sought communications concerning potential merger talks with representatives of Trump Media before Digital World’s initial public offering in September.

The regulatory filing on Friday said the grand jury subpoenas served on Trump Media were “seeking a subset of the same or similar documents demanded in subpoenas to Digital World and its directors.”

The expanding investigation threatens to delay the completion of the merger, which would provide Mr. Trump’s company and its social media platform, Truth Social, with up to $1.3 billion in capital, in addition to a stock market listing.

The S.E.C. investigation has focused on whether there were serious discussions between the leadership of Digital World and Trump Media before the special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, went public in September and, if so, why those talks were not disclosed in regulatory filings. SPACs, which raise money to go public in the hopes of finding a merger candidate, are not supposed to have an acquisition target in mind when they raise money from investors.

July 1

martin cooper ap 1973Cellphone inventor Marty Cooper is seen holding up his Motorola DynaTAC in 2003 — 30 years after he made the first-ever cell phone call in front of stunned newspaper reporters (Associated Press Photo).

New York Post, Inventor of world’s first cellphone: Put down your devices and ‘get a life,’ Andrew Court, July 1, 2022. Inventor of world’s first cellphone: Put down your devices and ‘get a life.’

The inventor of the world’s first cellphone says he’s stunned by how much time people now waste on their devices, telling users to “get a life.”

Martin Cooper, 92, made the declaration during an interview with “BBC Breakfast” on Thursday, responding to a co-host who claimed she whiled away upwards of five hours per day on her phone.

new york post logo“‘Do you really? You really spend five hours a day? Get a life!” he stated, before bursting into laughter.

Chicago-based Cooper invented the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X — the world’s first cellphone — back in 1973.

The engineer had been working at Motorola for more than two decades and was frustrated by the growing popularity of car phones.

“People had been wired to their desks and their kitchens for over 100 years, and now they’re gonna wire us to our cars, where we spend 5% of our time?” Cooper recalled thinking in a recent interview with CBS News.

He subsequently came up with the idea to make a portable phone that people could bring with them into their car, but also take out of the vehicle and use while they were out and about running errands.

Before he focused on the mechanics of the cellphone, he envisioned what the device would look like, saying he wanted it to be “small enough to put in your pocket, but big enough so that it could go between your ears and your mouth.”

Cooper wanted each person to have their own phone number — which he now calls his “greatest accomplishment.” Until that time, phone numbers had been associated with places, such as a home, car or desk.

Motorola subsequently poured millions into Cooper’s project and it took the engineer and his team just three months to make the phone, given they had used similar technology to previously put together police radios.

Once the device was completed, it was named the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. It weighed 2½ pounds and was 10 inches long. It lasted just 25 minutes before it ran out of battery and took a whopping 10 hours to recharge.
Cooper is seen holding the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X in Manhattan on April 4, 1873 — the day after he made the first ever cell phone call.

Cooper is seen holding the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X in Manhattan on April 4, 1973 — the day after he made the first-ever cellphone call.

On April 3, 1973, Cooper made the first-ever cellphone call using the device, deciding to ring his competitor, Joel Engel, who was working as a head engineer at AT&T.

The event took place outdoors in front of reporters in Midtown Manhattan, with Cooper dialing Engel’s landline.

“Joel, this is Marty. I’m calling you from a cellphone, a real handheld portable cellphone,” he stated, as the reporters watched on in amazement.

washington post logoWashington Post, LAPD confirms Miles Bridges’s domestic violence arrest; wife details injuries, Matt Bonesteel, July 3, 2022 (print ed.). Miles Bridges, one of the bigger names of this summer’s NBA free agency period, was arrested on a felony domestic violence charge Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The L.A. Police Department confirmed the details in a statement Friday, saying that Bridges was arrested for “intimate partner violence with injury” following an incident Monday in West Los Angeles.

According to online records, Bridges was booked and released on $130,000 bond Wednesday evening. His arraignment is July 20.

Bridges’s wife, Mychelle Johnson, shared photos of various injuries Friday on Instagram, as well as an apparent medical report. Dated Tuesday, the report listed her diagnosis as: “Adult victim of physical abuse by male partner; assault by strangulation; brain concussion; closed fracture of nasal bone; contusion of rib; multiple bruises; strain of neck muscle.”

“I hate that it has come to this but I can’t be silent anymore,” Johnson wrote on Instagram. “I’ve allowed someone to destroy my home, abuse me in every way possible and traumatize our kids for life. … I won’t allow the people around him to continue to silence me and continue to lie to protect this person.”

Johnson also said she suffered “torn muscles in my neck from being choked until I went to sleep.”

Bridges, a 6-foot-7 forward, averaged a career-best 20.2 points, 7 rebounds and 3.8 assists for the Charlotte Hornets last season, his fourth in the NBA after he was selected with the 12th overall pick in the 2018 draft out of Michigan State. He is a restricted free agent and the Hornets have given him a qualifying offer, meaning they can match offers from other teams. Before his arrest, he was expected to draw sizable offers from a number of teams, including the Detroit Pistons (Bridges hails from Flint, Mich.) and Indiana Pacers.

 

June

June 29

washington post logoWashington Post, You scheduled an abortion. Planned Parenthood’s website could tell Facebook, Tatum Hunter, June 29, 2022. The organization left marketing trackers running on its scheduling pages.

The Supreme Court’s decision last week overturning the nationwide right to an abortion in the United States may have sent worried people flooding to Planned Parenthood’s website to learn about nearby clinics or schedule services.

facebook logoBut if they used the organization’s online scheduling tool, it appears Planned Parenthood could share people’s location — and, in some cases, even the method of abortion they selected — with big tech companies.

An investigation by Lockdown Privacy, the maker of an app that blocks online tracking, found that Planned Parenthood’s web scheduler can share information with a variety of third parties, including Google, Facebook, TikTok and Hotjar, a tracking tool tiktok logo square Customthat says it helps companies understand how customers behave. These outside companies receive data including IP addresses, approximate Zip codes and service selections, which privacy experts worry could be valuable to state governments looking to prosecute abortions.

Big Tech silent on data collection as workers call for post-Roe action

In a video shared with The Washington Post, Lockdown founder Johnny Lin visited the Planned Parenthood website, opened the scheduling tool, input a Zip code and selected “surgical abortion” as a service. As he clicked around, a development tool let him see how data such as his IP address was being shared with Google, Facebook and many other third-party companies. Only the companies would know for sure how they use our data, but any data sitting on servers is vulnerable to potential cyberattacks or government subpoenas. In a criminal abortion case, an IP address would be pertinent because with the help of internet service providers, law enforcement can trace IP addresses back to individuals.

ny times logoNew York Times, First Amendment Confrontation May Loom in Post-Roe Fight, Jeremy W. Peters, June 29, 2022. Without a federal right to abortion, questions about how states can regulate speech about it suddenly become much murkier.

The Supreme Court declared clearly last week that there is no federal right to abortion. But how the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization affects the right to talk about abortion remains far from settled, teeing up what legal experts said was a looming confrontation over whether the First Amendment allows censoring speech about a medical procedure that will become illegal in much of the country.

In states where abortion is outlawed, for instance, how can women be informed of their options elsewhere? Will media outlets be free to publish advertisements across state lines from providers operating in states where abortion has not been outlawed — as the Supreme Court long ago ruled they could? Will women be allowed to accept information about abortion if they then decide to terminate a pregnancy but don’t live in a state that allows it? What if states move to make this kind of exchange of information illegal?

“You have the right, ostensibly, to talk about abortion,” said Will Creeley, the legal director for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. “The question then becomes whether that talk can be regulated if it aids and abets or encourages others to have an abortion.

“That presents a First Amendment problem,” he added. “Will you still have the First Amendment right to speak when you no longer have the constitutional right to an abortion? And that is going to get messy.”

A top anti-abortion lobbying group, the National Right to Life Committee, recently proposed model legislation for states that would make it a crime to pass along information “by telephone, the internet or any other medium of communication” that is used to terminate a pregnancy.

Many states essentially did just that before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. And it is not clear whether courts will find that the protections afforded to speech in the Constitution still apply to abortion rights supporters as they look to circumvent the raft of new restrictions.

Many legal scholars say such protections still should apply. It is generally not illegal to promote an activity that isn’t a crime. And since abortion will remain legal in many places, offering information about how women can obtain one legally shouldn’t become a crime, scholars said.

“There will be some tougher questions,” said Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Let’s say you’re deliberately advertising in a Texas newspaper and say, ‘Would you like an abortion? Go to this New Mexico abortion clinic.’ Can Texas prohibit that?”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Two more newspapers close every week — and ‘news deserts’ grow larger, Margaret Sullivan, right, June 29, 2022. In margaret sullivan 2015 photopoorer, less-wired parts of the U.S., it’s harder to find credible news about your local community. That has dire implications for democracy. Penelope Muse Abernathy may be the nation’s foremost expert on what media researchers call “news deserts”— and she’s worried.

News deserts are communities lacking a news source that provides meaningful and trustworthy local reporting on issues such as health, government and the environment. It’s a vacuum that leaves residents ignorant of what’s going on in their world, incapable of fully participating as informed citizens. What’s their local government up to? northwestern logoWho deserves their vote? How are their tax dollars being spent? All are questions that go unanswered in a news desert.

Local newspapers are hardly the only news sources that can do the job, but they are the ones that have traditionally filled that role. And they are disappearing.

One-third of American newspapers that existed roughly two decades ago will be out of business by 2025, according to research made public Wednesday from Northwestern University’s Medill School, where Abernathy is a visiting professor.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, FCC commissioner calls on Google and Apple to ban TikTok app, Aaron Gregg, June 29, 2022. Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr, a Republican, expressed concerns that personal data from millions of U.S. TikTok users is being accessed in China.

apple logo rainbowA Federal Communications commissioner is calling on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores over concerns that user data from the wildly popular social media platform is being accessed in China.

google logo customIn a tweet Tuesday, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr shared a letter addressed to Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai, the chief executives of Apple and Google parent Alphabet, respectively. He raised concerns over TikTok’s Chinese ownership, saying that “it harvests swaths of sensitive data that new reports show are being accessed in tiktok logo square CustomBeijing.”

Carr can’t single-handedly compel them to ban TikTok, since the FCC doesn’t regulate app stores.

But the request nonetheless underscores the scrutiny that the leading tech firms continue to draw from powerful regulators in both parties and marks yet another chapter in TikTok’s complicated dance with the U.S. government.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact-checking movement grapples with a world awash in false claims, Glenn Kessler, June 29, 2022. Members of fact-checking organizations from around the globe met last week for their first in-person conference in three years, confronting a world awash in baseless claims promoted by politicians and even governments and increasingly embraced by receptive audiences.

nancy pelosi gavel safe oenwashington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi receives Communion at Vatican after earlier U.S. bishop refusal, Stefano Pitrelli and Amy B Wang, June 29, 2022. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), right, a Catholic and vocal supporter of abortion rights, received Holy Communion on Wednesday during a papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to an attendee at the Mass.

pro publica logoPro Publica, Investigating The Other Cancel Culture: How a Public University Is Bowing to a Conservative Crusade, Daniel Golden and Kirsten Berg, June 29, 2022. With a rising national profile and donor base and relatively little state funding, Boise State University should be able to resist pressure by the Idaho Legislature. Instead the university, led by a liberal transplant, has repeatedly capitulated.

National Press Club, Statement on Murder of Mexican Journalist Antonio de la Cruz, June 29, 2022. Following is a statement by Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute on the murder of Antonio de la Cruz, a reporter for the Mexican newspaper Expreso, today in Tamaulipas.

national  press club logoWe call on the Mexican government and law enforcement to bring to justice the killers of Antonio de la Cruz – the 12th journalist murdered in Mexico this year. Those who murder journalists must be arrested, prosecuted and punished. Because cases of violence against Mexican journalists are almost never solved, the state is sending a very bad message to the gangs and cartels who carry out these atrocities. De la Cruz was active on social media and regularly denounced politicians for corruption. In the same attack where he was killed, his wife was also killed, and their daughter was injured. This kind of tragedy must stop. Journalists must have better protection and when they are attacked the response from law enforcement and the government must be swift and vigorous.”

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the U.S. and worldwide.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement.

June 25

 

shireen abu akleh file

washington post logoWashington Post, U.N. rights body says Israeli soldiers killed American journalist in West Bank, Shira Rubin and Kareem Fahim, June 25, 2022 (print ed.). Israeli authorities originally said the fatal shots came from Palestinian gunmen.

Israel FlagA veteran Palestinian American journalist was killed by Israeli forces while covering a military raid in the occupied West Bank, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Friday, summarizing the results of the office’s investigation into the fatal shooting in May of Shireen Abu Akleh, a correspondent for Al Jazeera.

Abu Akleh was not shot “from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities,” Ravina Shamdasani said in a statement.

A correspondent with decades of experience for Al Jazeera news network covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Abu Akleh was fatally shot in the head early on the morning on May 11, while reporting on an Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Jenin. Witnesses said the fire appeared to come from a convoy of Israeli military vehicles, but Israeli officials initially said she was likely killed by Palestinian gunfire, before reversing course and saying it was possible she unintentionally been shot by an Israeli soldier.

ny times logoNew York Times, Leader of the QAnon Conspiracy Theory Returns, Stuart A. Thompson, June 25, 2022. Three posts on Friday night signaled the resurfacing of a figure who used a variety of conspiracy theories to marshal support for former President Trump.

After more than a year of silence, the mysterious figure behind the QAnon conspiracy theory has reappeared.

The figure, who is known only as Q, posted for the first time in over a year on Friday on 8kun, the anonymous message board where the account last appeared. “Shall we play the game again?” a post read in the account’s typical cryptic style. The account that posted had a unique identifier used on previous Q posts.

The posts surprised disinformation researchers and signaled the ominous return of a figure whose conspiracy theories about an imaginary ring of elite sex traffickers marshaled support for then-President Donald J. Trump. Message boards and Telegram channels devoted to QAnon lit up with the news, as followers speculated about the meaning of Q’s return.

June 23

Politico, Book bombs: Trump aide tell-alls fail to sell, Daniel Lippman, Meridith McGraw and Max Tani,  A number of top aides to the 45th president churned out books after his presidency ended. The public isn’t buying. Multiple book editors and publishers interviewed for this politico Customstory said the hefty advances doled out to the authors before publication – for some, in the millions, like Kellyanne Conway and Bill Barr – might not be made back by the publisher with sales.

A year after Donald Trump lost the 2020 election, his former chief of staff Mark Meadows, right, released a tell-all book about his 10 Mark Meadowsmonths in the White House that promised to be a “frank, candid account” of running Trump’s chaotic West Wing.

The buzz around it was heavy. But in the publishing world, it was a bust.

mark meadows book chief chiefThe Chief’s Chief has sold only 21,569 books, according to NPD Bookscan, a market research firm that tracks book sales. And it’s not the only book by an ex-Trump aide that has failed to fly off the shelves.

The memoir of Deborah Birx, the Covid response coordinator under Trump, has sold fewer than 6,000 copies; Dr. Scott Atlas’ book sold 27,013 copies; Dr. Ben Carson’s book sold 21,786 copies; former White House press secretary turned Trump critic Stephanie Grisham sold 38,249 books; counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has sold 42,273 books since it was published in late May; and former defense secretary Mark Esper sold 20,900 books.

Former attorney general Bill Barr sold 64,103 books.

But the one Trump post-White House book sales that did best appears to be Peter Navarro’s, whose In Trump Time has sold 80,218 copies of his book so far. The book, unlike the others, is less a revelation about life inside the former administration than an ode to Trump’s approach to governance. Perhaps for that reason, it has earned extensive publicity in MAGA circles and is currently advertised on Steve Bannon’s The War Room website.

June 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Allows Fox News Defamation Suit to Include Fox Corporation, Jeremy W. Peters, June 22, 2022. The decision broadens the possible legal exposure to the highest ranks of the Fox media empire.

A judge presiding in the defamation lawsuit against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems ruled this week that the cable channel’s parent fox news logo Smallcompany, Fox Corporation, can be included in the suit, broadening the possible legal exposure to the highest ranks of the Fox media empire.

Dominion had argued that Fox Corporation should also be part of the litigation because its two most senior executives, dominion voting systemsRupert and Lachlan Murdoch, played “a direct role in participating in, approving and controlling” statements that fed false perceptions of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

In a decision, Judge Eric M. Davis of Delaware Superior Court said Dominion had “adequately pleaded” facts supporting its claim that Fox Corporation was “directly liable” for what Fox News put on the air. He reasoned that the Murdochs were widely known to have a hand in shaping Fox News coverage. Judge Davis also said it was reasonable to infer that Fox Corporation had “participated in the creation and publication of Fox News’s defamatory statements.”

 

rupert murdoch jerry hall

ny times logoNew York Times, Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall Are Said to Be Divorcing, Jim Rutenberg and Benjamin Mullin, June 22, 2022. The media mogul’s fourth divorce is unlikely to change the ownership structure of Mr. Murdoch’s empire, but it could reverberate through companies such as Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.

The October-December pairing — Ms. Hall is 65, Mr. Murdoch 91 — made the couple (shown above in a file photo) the regular subject of rival tabloids, with paparazzi regularly catching the two smiling broadly on a pristine beach, in a wintry football stadium or at a black-tie opening.

June 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why the media and pundit class is shocked that the January 6th public hearings are changing minds about Donald Trump, bill palmerBill Palmer, right, June 21, 2022. For months, we’ve heard large chunks of the media and pundit class insist that no matter how convincing or damning the January 6th Committee public hearings end up being, it won’t matter, because the public’s view of Trump isn’t going to change one way or the other at this late date.

But even as we keep hearing MSNBC talking heads and Twitter pundits insisting that “Everyone’s view of Trump is locked in and no one will ever change their minds,” new polling from ABC News reveals that eight percent of Americans have in fact changed their minds about Trump being prosecuted in the past week alone.

bill palmer report logo headerEight percent may not sound like a lot, until you consider that every competitive election in modern American history has ended up being decided by less than eight points. It’s the difference between winning and losing. And if eight percent of Americans have changed their minds about Trump in the past week, how many of them will end up changing their minds about how they’re going to vote in November, given that Trump’s Republican Party is on the ballot?

The media and pundit class loves to pretend that the nation consists solely of the two bases. This is because it’s the two bases who spend every day tuning in to the media and pundit class, which loves to pander to its audience. But this ignores the fact that a couple hundred million Americans don’t really follow or care about day to day politics, and only occasionally take a side when things are made easy for them.

These January 6th public hearings have clearly been designed to speak to those in the middle who normally don’t care about politics. And all signs, from the huge TV audiences to the stark shift in polling, point to these hearings working. It’s the people who don’t normally care about politics who are persuadable when it comes to this sort of thing. These hearings were never, ever about either base.

June 20

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Says It’s Time for Longtime Small-Business Users to Pay Up, Nico Grant, June 20, 2022. Google is charging some small businesses for email and other apps after more than a decade of free use. Business owners say Google is being callous.

google logo customWhen Google told some small businesses in January that they would no longer be able to use a customized email service and other workplace apps for free, it felt like a broken promise for Richard J. Dalton Jr., a longtime user who operates a scholastic test-prep company in Vancouver, British Columbia.

“They’re basically strong-arming us to switch to something paid after they got us hooked on this free service,” said Mr. Dalton, who first set up a Google work email for his business, Your Score Booster, in 2008.

Google said the longtime users of what it calls its G Suite legacy free edition, which includes email and apps like Docs and Calendar, had to start paying a monthly charge, usually around $6 for each business email address. Businesses that do not voluntarily switch to a paid service by June 27 will be automatically moved to one.

washington post logoWashington Post, Peter Thiel helped build Big Tech. Now he wants to tear it all down, Elizabeth Dwoskin, June 20, 2022. Inside the billionaire investor’s journey from Facebook board member to an architect of the new American right.

peter thiel twitter smileSince March of 2021, Thiel, left, has pumped more than $20 million into 16 political campaigns, including the Ohio Senate race where close associate J.D. Vance last month won the Republican nomination, in part by attacking Big Tech and social media censorship. Thiel also has given at least $13.5 million to acolyte Blake Masters, a Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona who serves as president of Thiel’s personal foundation and has positioned himself as an adversary of Big Tech.

Thiel’s growing political clout mirrors that of another Silicon Valley billionaire, Elon Musk, a self-proclaimed libertarian who espouses increasingly right-wing views to his 94 million Twitter followers, as he finalizes his deal to buy the social network. The men are not close — Thiel pushed out Musk when the two ran PayPal — but they’ve become more aligned politically, often echoing each other’s rhetoric as they criticize “socially responsible” investing and express concern about Big Tech’s control of speech.

This account is based on interviews with more than a dozen people familiar with Thiel’s thinking, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Swimming Authority Restricts Transgender Women From Elite Competition, Matthew Futterman, June 20, 2022 (print ed.). The world governing body for swimming effectively barred transgender women from the highest levels of women’s international competition on Sunday, intensifying a debate over gender and sports that has roiled state legislatures and increasingly divided parents, athletes and coaches at all levels.

The vote by FINA, which administers international competitions in water sports, prohibits transgender women from competing unless they began medical treatments to suppress production of testosterone before going through one of the early stages of puberty, or by age 12, whichever occurred later. It establishes one of the strictest rules against transgender participation in international sports. Scientists believe the onset of male puberty gives transgender women a lasting, irreversible physical advantage over athletes who were female at birth.

World swimming would also establish a new, “open” category for athletes who identify as women but do not meet the requirement to compete against people who were female at birth.

More than 70 percent of FINA’s member federations voted to adopt the policy, which was devised by a working group set up in November that included athletes, scientists and medical and legal experts. The policy will go into effect Monday, just days after the start of the world swimming championships in Budapest.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Feminism Made a Faustian Bargain With Celebrity Culture. Now It’s Paying the Price, Susan Faludi (a journalist and the author of Backlash: The Undeclared War Against Women, among other books), June 20, 2022. One month almost to the day after Americans learned of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that would eviscerate the constitutional right of women to control their bodies and so their lives, millions sat glued to their screens to witness the verdict in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation trial, in which the jury awarded more than $10 million to Mr. Depp.

In a statement afterward, Ms. Heard said she was “disappointed with what this verdict means for women.” “It sets back the clock,” she said, “to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated.”

The ruination of Roe and the humiliation of Ms. Heard have been cast as cosmic convergence, evidence of a larger forced retreat on women’s progress. “Johnny Depp’s legal victory and the death of Roe v. Wade are part of the same toxic cultural movement,” a Vox article asserted. “These examples may seem disparate, but there’s an important through line,” a USA Today reporter wrote, citing academics who linked the Alito draft opinion, the Depphead mobbing and, for good measure, the “public consumption” of cleavage at the Met Gala (held the same night the Supreme Court draft leaked): “This is backlash.”

Backlash it may be. Even so, putting the pillorying of Ms. Heard in the same backlash-deplorables basket as the death rattle of Roe is a mistake. Lost in the frenzy of amalgamation lies a crucial distinction. There’s a through line, all right. Both are verdicts on the recent fraught course of feminism. But one tells the story of how we got here; the other where we’re headed. How did modern feminism lose Roe v. Wade? An answer lies in Depp v. Heard.

June 15

 

nso group logo

washington post logoWashington Post, White House has security concerns about any deal for NSO hacking tools, Ellen Nakashima and Craig Timberg, June 15, 2022 (print ed.). The Biden administration is warning that a potential deal between a major American defense firm and NSO Group, a blacklisted Israeli spyware company, to buy the Israeli firm’s hacking tools would raise “serious” counterintelligence and security concerns for the U.S. government.

“We are deeply concerned,” said a senior White House official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

The defense contractor, L3Harris, is in talks with NSO Group to buy phone-hacking spyware in a deal that would give the U.S. company control of one of the world’s most sophisticated and controversial hacking tools, according to people familiar with the talks. This story was jointly reported by The Washington Post, the Guardian and Haaretz.

The unusual transaction appears to be an attempt to salvage some utility from a firm facing serious financial straits, by selling its most valuable product — its hacking code and access to the software’s developers — to a company that would restrict its use to the United States and trusted Western allies.

June 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Chris Stirewalt lost his job at Fox News. But he knows he was right, Margaret Sullivan, right, Jan. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The margaret sullivan 2015 photopolitics editor behind the Arizona 2020 call that enraged Trump brought his journalism bona fides to the House Jan, 6 hearing.

For a guy who made a controversial election-night call and then lost his treasured role with what he has called “the best decision desk in the news business,” Chris Stirewalt appears to have no regrets.

fox news logo SmallTestifying Monday morning, the former politics editor at Fox News spoke confidently, colorfully and, yes, decisively, about what happened in November 2020 when an erstwhile news organization that has morphed into former president Donald Trump’s propaganda arm went temporarily off script.

Stirewalt and his colleagues on the decision desk made a stunningly early call that challenger Joe Biden had won Arizona. It was only 11:20 p.m. Eastern time, with 73 percent of the vote counted.

That the Arizona call freaked out Trump World was obvious; having such a verdict, especially coming from his usually dependable cheerleading squad at Fox News, was devastating. The call made it immeasurably harder to put forth the idea that Trump ultimately would prevail, and harder to even pretend that he would. Of course, as we know all too well, that didn’t stop him.

June 11

ny times logoNew York Times, At least 20 million people watched the Jan. 6 hearing, a Nielsen tally showed, John Koblin, June 11, 2022 (print ed.). The number is in the ballpark of big television events like a “Sunday Night Football” game.

An audience of at least 20 million people watched the first prime-time hearing of the House Select Committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack on Thursday night, according to Nielsen.

By scheduling a congressional hearing for 8 to 10 p.m., committee members and Democrats were hoping to make the case to the biggest audience possible. ABC, CBS and NBC pre-empted their prime-time programming and went into special-report mode to cover it live.

Though the Thursday night figure pales next to presidential debates (63 million to 73 million) or this year’s State of the Union address (38 million), it’s still much larger than the audience that would normally watch a daytime congressional hearing. And it’s in the ballpark of television events like a big “Sunday Night Football” game or the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

ABC attracted the biggest audience, with 5.2 million viewers. NBC and CBS each had an audience of more than three million. MSNBC averaged more than four million, and CNN drew 2.7 million. (The 20 million figure did not yet include PBS, so the total audience was most likely a bit bigger.)

The Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity dedicated their shows to Jan. 6, and both had the hearing playing live in a split screen — but the feed from Congress was muted while the hosts spent two hours belittling the committee’s efforts.

“It’s deranged, and we’re not playing along,” Mr. Carlson said of the hearings. “This is the only hour on an American news channel that will not be carrying their propaganda live. They are lying, and we are not going to help them do it. What we will do instead is to try to tell you the truth.”

Fox’s counterprogramming efforts drew an average audience of three million, which is just about normal.

June 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Jan. 6 hearing was horrifying. It also gave me hope, Margaret Sullivan, June 10, 2022. That we could margaret sullivan 2015 photosee the grim facts laid out on network television restored my faith that a quest for accountability might succeed.

The hearing was riveting. It was skillfully and wisely presented for an American audience that hasn’t been paying attention to every news development or investigation stemming from the incomprehensible Capitol assault of Jan. 6. An audience that, for a multitude of reasons, may have been tuned out.

And it was horrifying. Can anyone who heard U.S. Capitol Police officer Caroline Edwards testify before the House select committee Thursday night ever forget her account of slipping in blood as she struggled through hours of hand-to-hand combat with her own countrymen who were calling her a traitor? I can never forget hearing her say these six words: “It was carnage. It was chaos.”

So, yes: Riveting. Horrifying. But strangely, for me, at least, the hearing was also heartening — and even inspiring. The material was awful to behold, but these two hours, presented by every broadcast TV network without interruption during prime time, radiated something simple and deeply important: the truth.

washington post logoWashington Post, How the pro-Trump web responded to the hearing, Drew Harwell and Will Oremus, June 11, 2022 (print ed.). Ironically, online accounts that helped organize the insurrection tried to debunk the evidence the Jan. 6 committee presented Thursday.

Former president Donald Trump’s supporters scrambled to defend him online in the hours after the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings began, seeking to sow doubt about his involvement via the same social media channels that had captured clear evidence linking him to the Capitol assault.

In so doing, they reinforced the unmistakable role social media played in the 2021 insurrection and made clear that his supporters are determined to remain a major internet force, despite Trump’s ban from major platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Trump War Room, a Twitter account once run by his reelection campaign, tweeted, “Trump and the rally had nothing to do with the Capitol breach!,” defying the House committee’s effort to pin responsibility for the riot squarely on Trump.

On the message board Patriots.win — a spinoff of TheDonald.win, where members had shared ideas on how to sneak guns into Washington before the riot — a popular thread Friday called Jan. 6 “the most patriotic thing I’ve ever seen” and said anyone who disagrees is “an enemy of the nation.”

June 9

History Re-examined: The 1972 Watergate Break-in

 

Watergate Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward, left, and Carl Bernstein speaking at the National Press Club on Oct. 20, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John).20 14

Watergate Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward, left, and Carl Bernstein speaking at the National Press Club on Oct. 20, 2014 (Photo courtesy of Noel St. John).

The Atlantic, Why ‘The Watergate Three’ Are Remembered as a Duo, Joshua Benton, June 9, 2022. Doing great journalism requires an atlantic logoinfrastructure, including a lot of talented people who don’t get bylines. Barry Sussman—the Watergate journalist named neither “Woodward” nor “Bernstein”—was one.

The headline in Time magazine—May 7, 1973—was quite clear, numerically speaking: “The Watergate Three.” Not two—three.

When the Pulitzer Prizes are announced next week, the citation for public service by a newspaper — barring a last-minute reversal — will go to the Washington Post for its continuous digging into the Watergate case and related campaign scandals.

atlantic logo horizontalCertainly the Post deserves credit for its tenacity. But the trade knows that personal honors belong to an unlikely trio of relatively junior newsmen, the Post’s District of Columbia editor, Barry Sussman, 38, and reporters Carl Bernstein, 29, and Bob Woodward, 30.

Three. An unlikely trio. For generations of young reporters, the men who brought down Richard Nixon, who exposed Watergate, were two in number: Woodward and Bernstein. Woodstein, if you wanted people to know you’d mastered the lingo.

barry sussmanWho’s this third guy—the one listed first?

Barry Sussman died a few days ago at the age of 87, and while his passing earned some notice, it wasn’t commensurate with the impact of his work. In the half century since the Watergate break-in, the Watergate Three have become, in the popular imagination, the Watergate Two.

Part of that is just what it means to be an editor in a newsroom. No matter how much you shape, rewrite, or co-create the work, your name isn’t the one at the top of the story—or the bottom, for that matter. Becoming an editor means giving up the authorial glory that comes with being a reporter. Your work will be valued internally, but the world won’t see your fingerprints on any of it.

But Sussman was also uniquely shortchanged by the transformation of the Post’s Watergate coverage from news story into cultural artifact. The real history got processed into something more easily digestible, and Barry wasn’t in it.

These days, talk about the future of journalism often circles around reporters’ individual brands—the sort of word journalists take a strange pride in hating. Build up a reputation with an audience? Quit your job, lose the constraints (however real or mythical) muzzling your voice, and start a Substack!

There are journalists for whom that model makes a lot of sense. But the story of Barry Sussman reminds us that many of the world’s most important journalists don’t get bylines at all. Their brand is invisibility. And whatever models, whatever systems of support inspire journalism’s next forms, they need to find a way to make sure they can do their work, too.

Read: What did Atlantic readers think of Watergate?

Barry Sussman was the city editor of The Washington Post on Saturday, June 17, 1972, when five men were arrested for breaking into and bugging the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate complex. A few hours later, after a tip from an attorney, the Post managing editor Howard Simons called Sussman, still in bed, to tell him about the break-in. Sussman decided to assign two reporters to the story: the longtime police reporter Alfred E. Lewis and a Post newbie named Bob Woodward.

bob woodward twitterHanging around the newsroom that Saturday—because he still hadn’t filed a story that’d been due the day before—was another relative newcomer, Carl Bernstein. Lewis got the byline on the first-day story, with Woodward and Bernstein among the eight reporters getting “contributing to this story” credits. Sussman had to pick who would come in the next day, Sunday, to work on a follow-up; he picked Woodward and Bernstein. Not long after, Sussman took on the new job of full-time Watergate editor and again chose the two of them to work on it full-time—fighting real opposition from higher-ups in order to put Bernstein on the story.

To give you an idea of the role Sussman played in the months that followed, I want to share a few excerpts from the many, many books written about Watergate in the years since. First, here’s how Woodward and Bernstein themselves described Sussman in All the President’s Men (1974):

 

watergate burglarswatergate conference photoKingston School of Art and The Citadel, The Watergate Break-in: 50 Years Later: Two day conference via Zoom, June 9-10, 2022, Conference organizers: Dr. Shane O’Sullivan (Kingston School of Art) and Dr. Melissa Graves (Dept. of Intelligence and Security Studies, The Citadel). Shown above: Collage of Five Watergate Burglars, and a 1970s photo of the Watergate office and residential complex, at center, in Washington, D.C.
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the first Watergate break-in, when James McCord planted bugs in two phones at DNC headquarters and Rolando Martinez snapped 38 photos of documents concerning DNC chairman Larry O’Brien. McCord didn’t know where O’Brien’s office was and tapped the wrong phone with a bug that didn’t work, so the burglars went in again on June 17, 1972, and got caught.This free two-day online conference (June 9-10, 2022) will reflect on the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in and the investigation that followed.
Speakers include lead Watergate prosecutor Earl Silbert, FBI case agent Angelo Lano and three other FBI investigators, whistleblower Judy Hoback Miller, CNN presidential historian Timothy Naftali, and a distinguished line-up of historians, journalists, academics and published authors on the case.
There has been a resurgence of interest in Watergate in recent years, as parallels have been drawn between Watergate events and the Mueller investigation and presidential impeachment hearings, and each new scandal is dubbed “worse than Watergate.”
While much has been written about the White House cover-up and the Nixon White House tapes, the stories of the burglars and the FBI investigation are less well-known. Fifty years after the break-in, the surviving investigators and prosecutors still don’t understand why the burglars entered DNC headquarters in the early morning hours of June 17, 1972; or how the experienced intelligence operatives in the break-in team made such elementary mistakes, resulting in their arrests and President Nixon’s resignation two years later.
Conference organisers Shane O'Sullivan (Kingston School of Art) and Melissa Graves (Dept of Intelligence and Security Studies, The Citadel) aim to widen the scope of Watergate scholarship and explore some of the remaining mysteries of the case.

Day 1

The Watergate Break-in
Watergate in Presidential History
Investigating the Watergate Break-in
The Hidden Motives of James McCord

Day 2

Bookkeeper/Whistleblower
Every Tree in the Forest Will Fall: The CIA and Watergate
Watergate Myths and Counter-Narratives
The Legacy of Watergate

June 8

 capitol noose shay horse nurphoto via getty

A crowd of Trump supporters surrounded a newly erected set of wooden gallows outside the Capitol Building on Jan. 6. "Hang Mike Pence!" members of the crowd shouted at times about the Republican Vice President who had announced that he could not comply with the president's call to block election certification that day. The wooden gallows are near the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Jared Kushner Washed His Hands of Donald Trump Before Jan. 6, Peter Baker, June 8, 2022. The role of the former president’s son-in-law as the Trump administration ended will be scrutinized by a committee investigating the Capitol attack.

On Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, barely 24 hours after President Donald J. Trump claimed in the middle of the night that “frankly, we did win this election,” Jared Kushner woke up in his Kalorama mansion and announced to his wife that it was time to leave Washington. “We’re moving to Miami,” he said.

The election had not even been called for Joseph R. Biden Jr., but as Mr. Kushner, right, later told the story to aides and associates, the White House’s young power couple felt no need to wait for the official results. They saw which way the votes were going and understood that, barring some unforeseen surprise, the president had lost his bid for a second term. Even if he refused to accept it himself.

djt march 2020 CustomNo matter how vociferously Mr. Trump, left, claimed otherwise, neither Mr. Kushner nor Ivanka Trump believed then or later that the election had been stolen, according to people close to them. While the president spent the hours and days after the polls closed complaining about imagined fraud in battleground states and plotting a strategy to hold on to power, his daughter and son-in-law were already washing their hands of the Trump presidency.

Their decision to move on opened a vacuum around the president that was filled by conspiracy theorists like Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who relayed to Mr. Trump farcically false stories of dead voters, stuffed ballot boxes, corrupted voting machines and foreign plots. Concluding that the president would not listen even to family members urging him to accept the results, Mr. Kushner told Mr. Trump that he would not be involved if Mr. Giuliani were in charge, according to people he confided in, effectively ceding the field to those who would try to overturn the election.

Proof, A Guide to Watching the January 6 Hearings, Seth Abramson, left, June 8, 2022. Congress will televise its most significant hearings seth abramson graphicin a half-century beginning June 9. PROOF has offered readers America’s most comprehensive January 6 coverage; now it offers a HJ6C viewing guide.

What to Watch: Live, televised hearings of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, commonly known as the “House January 6 Committee” or (colloquially) the “HJ6C.”

seth abramson proof logoWhere to Watch: The HJ6C direct link. Also ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and C-SPAN.

When to Watch: Session 1: June 9, 8PM ET [primetime]; Session 2: June 13, 10AM ET; Session 3: June 15, 10AM ET; Session 4: June 16, 10AM ET; Session 5: June 21, 10AM ET; Session 6: June 23, 8PM ET [primetime]. Note that the Committee has previously said that there will be “eight” live, televised hearings in June 2022, so it’s possible that two additional hearing sessions will be announced sometime soon.

What You’ll Get: Live testimony; taped depositions; multimedia presentations; visual exhibits; and limited statements from committee members. A former ABC executive is working with the Committee to craft what aims to be a highly watchable experience.

What to Watch For: CNN recently reported a House January 6 Committee member as saying that the hearings will “blow the roof off the House.” A different Committee member—a Republican—told reporters that based on the evidence the Committee has discovered and will reveal in these hearings, Donald Trump was part of a “chilling” “conspiracy” that was both “extremely broad” and “extremely well-organized.”

One thing we know for certain, via NPR and countless other major-media outlets, is that the Committee promises “previously unseen [January 6] material” will be shared.

The House January 6 Committee has interviewed over 900 witnesses, per CBS News. The list below will be updated in real time as Proof receives additional witness information.

Witnesses Reported By Major Media Outlets

  • Ivanka Trump, daughter of former president Donald Trump (recorded depo)
  • Jared Kushner, son-in-law of former president Trump (recorded depo)
  • Nick Quested, documentarian embedded with the Proud Boys
  • Caroline Edwards, USCP officer injured in the attack on the U.S. Capitol
  • J. Michael Luttig, former U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit judge
  • Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows
  • Marc Short, aide to former Vice President of the United States Mike Pence
  • Greg Jacobs, counsel to former Vice President Pence

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Fox News’ blackout of Jan. 6 points to a hidden crisis for Democrats, Greg Sargent, right, June 8, greg sargent2022. The not-so-shocking revelation that Fox News will not carry House committee hearings about the insurrection is yet another sign that right-wing media will go to extraordinary lengths to shield the GOP base from brutal truths about Jan. 6, 2021.

That partly reflects a serious political problem for Republicans. The hearings starting Thursday will feature a documentary filmmaker who has new video evidence of the violent mob assault incited by Donald Trump and extensive advance planning among paramilitary-type groups. Riveting material about Trump’s corruption and the GOP’s enabling of it will follow.

fox news logo SmallBy contrast, Fox hosts are gearing up to substitute a propagandistic alternative story in which the only real victims related to Jan. 6 and the hearings are Trump and his supporters. House Republicans allied with Trump will manufacture material for this disinformation push designed to keep the truth from the base at all costs.

Yet Fox’s blackout also highlights severe information challenges that Democrats will face for the foreseeable future. The fact that Republicans enjoy a massive media apparatus that manufactures a separate reality for the base, even as Democrats rely on traditional news organizations to communicate with voters, creates deep information asymmetries that continue to bedevil them.

I reached out to Dan Pfeiffer, the longtime communications adviser to former president Barack Obama, who experienced the evolution of this situation firsthand. Pfeiffer has a new book about the depths of this problem and how to counter it.

The Fox blackout of the Jan. 6 hearings is a case in point. Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have already telegraphed that they’re going to offer a completely contrary fake propagandistic narrative, in which the primary victims of the Jan. 6 investigation are Trump and Republicans.

dan pfeiffer university of delawareDan Pfeiffer (shown above in a University of Delaware photo): If there is one last human being in Washington D.C. who clung to the idea that Fox is a center-right journalistic institution with opinion at night, this should be the end of that. They are going to ensure that their audience not only doesn’t see the hearings, but also gets conspiracy theories about what happened.

Sargent: The other side of this is that the right-wing media also exerts gravitational pull on the mainstream media.

Pfeiffer: When I worked at the White House, this right-wing operation existed, but it was a fraction of the size. Our biggest concern was not what was on Fox. It was that Fox was helping dictate what the rest of the press was covering. Washington Post, Biden to propose making underwater canyon off New York a marine sanctuary, Anna Phillips, June 8, 2022. The Biden administration said Wednesday it intends to protect a massive underwater canyon about 100 miles off the coast of New York City. The Hudson Canyon rivals the Grand Canyon in scale and is home to sperm whales, sea turtles and deep-sea corals.

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Way to Choose Your Next Book, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, June 8, 2022 (print ed.). Most books are sold online, where it’s impossible to replicate the experience of browsing in a brick-and-mortar store. Book-discovery apps aim to change that.

By some measures, the book business is doing better than ever.

Last year, readers bought nearly 827 million print books, an increase of roughly 10 percent over 2020, and a record since NPD BookScan began tracking two decades ago.

But all is not as rosy as it seems. As book buyers have migrated online, it has gotten harder to sell books by new or lesser known authors. With the exception of surprise runaway best-sellers (“Where the Crawdads Sing,” for example) and books by celebrities or brand name authors (Matthew McConaughey, James Patterson), most writers fail to find a much of an audience. Of the 3.2 million titles that BookScan tracked in 2021, fewer than one percent of them sold more than 5,000 copies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Fox News’ blackout of Jan. 6 points to a hidden crisis for Democrats, Greg Sargent, right, June 8, greg sargent2022. The not-so-shocking revelation that Fox News will not carry House committee hearings about the insurrection is yet another sign that right-wing media will go to extraordinary lengths to shield the GOP base from brutal truths about Jan. 6, 2021.

That partly reflects a serious political problem for Republicans. The hearings starting Thursday will feature a documentary filmmaker who has new video evidence of the violent mob assault incited by Donald Trump and extensive advance planning among paramilitary-type groups. Riveting material about Trump’s corruption and the GOP’s enabling of it will follow.

fox news logo SmallBy contrast, Fox hosts are gearing up to substitute a propagandistic alternative story in which the only real victims related to Jan. 6 and the hearings are Trump and his supporters. House Republicans allied with Trump will manufacture material for this disinformation push designed to keep the truth from the base at all costs.

Yet Fox’s blackout also highlights severe information challenges that Democrats will face for the foreseeable future. The fact that Republicans enjoy a massive media apparatus that manufactures a separate reality for the base, even as Democrats rely on traditional news organizations to communicate with voters, creates deep information asymmetries that continue to bedevil them.

I reached out to Dan Pfeiffer, the longtime communications adviser to former president Barack Obama, who experienced the evolution of this situation firsthand. Pfeiffer has a new book about the depths of this problem and how to counter it.

The Fox blackout of the Jan. 6 hearings is a case in point. Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity have already telegraphed that they’re going to offer a completely contrary fake propagandistic narrative, in which the primary victims of the Jan. 6 investigation are Trump and Republicans.

Dan Pfeiffer: If there is one last human being in Washington D.C. who clung to the idea that Fox is a center-right journalistic institution with opinion at night, this should be the end of that. They are going to ensure that their audience not only doesn’t see the hearings, but also gets conspiracy theories about what happened.

Sargent: The other side of this is that the right-wing media also exerts gravitational pull on the mainstream media.

Pfeiffer: When I worked at the White House, this right-wing operation existed, but it was a fraction of the size. Our biggest concern was not what was on Fox. It was that Fox was helping dictate what the rest of the press was covering. Washington Post, Biden to propose making underwater canyon off New York a marine sanctuary, Anna Phillips, June 8, 2022. The Biden administration said Wednesday it intends to protect a massive underwater canyon about 100 miles off the coast of New York City. The Hudson Canyon rivals the Grand Canyon in scale and is home to sperm whales, sea turtles and deep-sea corals.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Is Said to Agree to Give Musk Access to Stream of Tweets, Lauren Hirsch and Mike Isaac, June 8, 2022. The move may make it tougher for Elon Musk, who has said he is not getting enough information from the company, to end the $44 billion acquisition.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, has threatened to pull out of a $44 billion deal for Twitter, saying the company has refused to give him information about its fake accounts.

So Twitter now plans to give Mr. Musk access to a large swath of its data, potentially down to its very last tweet.

The social media company has agreed to allow Mr. Musk direct access to its “firehose,” the stream of millions of tweets that flow through the company’s network on a daily basis, according to a person with knowledge of the decision. Whether Mr. Musk will get full or partial access to that “firehose” is unclear.

twitter bird CustomThe information would give Mr. Musk the tools to discern how many accounts on Twitter’s platform may be fake. But it isn’t likely to help him reach Twitter’s conclusion that 5 percent of its active accounts are fake, since the company uses a different methodology involving proprietary data and human analysis to get to that figure. Mr. Musk has said he doesn’t believe that just 5 percent of Twitter’s active accounts are fake.

Twitter’s move may make it more difficult for Mr. Musk to terminate the deal. On Monday, his lawyers sent a letter to the company, accusing it of stonewalling his efforts to obtain information that was essential to closing the acquisition. For weeks, Mr. Musk has also tweeted increasingly barbed comments about Twitter’s fake accounts, appearing to lay the groundwork to renegotiate or get out of the agreement.

Mr. Musk agreed to buy Twitter in April for $54.20 a share. If the deal falls apart, there is a $1 billion breakup fee. But the agreement includes a “specific performance clause,” which gives Twitter the right to sue him and force him to complete or pay for the deal, so long as the debt financing he has corralled remains intact.

ny times logoNew York Times, Threats, Then Guns: A Journalist and an Expert Vanish in the Amazon, Jack Nicas, Ana Ionova and André Spigariol, June 8, 2022. A British journalist and a Brazilian expert on Indigenous groups have not been seen since Sunday. Before they disappeared, they faced threats.

The Javari Valley in the Amazon rainforest is one of the most isolated places on the planet. It is a densely forested Indigenous reserve the size of Maine where there are virtually no roads, trips can take a week by boat and at least 19 Indigenous groups are believed to still live without outside contact.

The reserve is also plagued by illegal fishing, hunting and mining, a problem exacerbated by government budget cuts under President Jair Bolsonaro. Now local Indigenous people have started formally patrolling the forest and rivers themselves, and the men who exploit the land for a living have responded with increasingly dire threats.

That tension was the kind of story that has long attracted Dom Phillips, a British journalist in Brazil for the past 15 years, most recently as a regular contributor to The Guardian. Last week, Mr. Phillips arrived in the Javari Valley to interview the Indigenous patrols for a book. He was accompanied by Bruno Araújo Pereira, an expert on Indigenous groups who had recently taken leave from the Brazilian government in order to aid the patrols.

About 6 a.m. Saturday, the two men were with a patrol, stopped along a snaking river, when another boat approached, according to officials at Univaja, a Javari Valley Indigenous association that helps organize the patrols. The approaching vessel carried three men known to be illegal fishermen, Univaja said, and as it passed, the men showed the patrol boat their guns. It was the kind of threat that Univaja had been recently reporting to authorities.

June 7

 

felicia somnez dave weigel

Media Confidential, WaPo Reporter Dave Weigel Suspended Following Retweet, Edited by Tom Benson, June 7, 2022. Washington Post politics reporter Dave Weigel (above at right) has been suspended following uproar over a sexist joke he retweeted, reports The NY Post.

The newspaper suspended Weigel Monday without pay, CNN reported, after he reposted a tweet from Youtuber Cam Harless that stated, “Every girl is bi. You just have to figure out if it’s polar or sexual.”

Colleague Felicia Sonmez (above left), who also covers national politics, then blasted Weigel for sharing the off-putting joke, tweeting, “Fantastic to work at a news outlet where retweets like this are allowed!” with a screenshot of Weigel’s retweet.

Later that day Weigel removed the tweet.

“I just removed a retweet of an offensive joke,” Weigel said. “I apologize and did not mean to cause any harm.”

It’s unclear how long the suspension will last, but an email to Weigel seeking comment led to automatic reply that said he was out of the office and returning July 5.

Weigel’s retweet led to weekend-long turmoil at the Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper. Another Washington Post reporter, Jose Del Real, admonished Sonmez for calling out Weigel publicly. That led to a back-and-forth between the two.

Sonmez was briefly suspended by the newspaper in January 2020 after she mentioned a rape allegation against NBA legend Kobe Bryant after he, his daughter and seven others died in a helicopter crash. She was reinstated after colleagues rallied to her defense.

She also sued the news organization last year claiming she was the victim of discrimination after the newspaper barred her from covering high-profile cases involving sexual misconduct, though a judge threw the case out in March. In 2018, Sonmez, who at the time was at the Wall Street Journal, alleged that a then-Los Angeles Times reporter, Jonathan Kaiman, 31, groped her and sexually assaulted her in Beijing.

The Washington Post barred Sonmez from covering sexual assault cases because the newspaper felt there was a conflict of interest.

June 6

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk accuses Twitter of withholding data on fake accounts in letter, Taylor Telford, June 6, 2022. The Tesla CEO says the platform’s refusal to provide information is violates the terms of their $44 billion deal. Elon Musk, below right, accused Twitter of “actively resisting” his right to information about bogus accounts on the social media platform and violating the terms of elon musk 2015their $44 billion sale agreement, according to a letter sent Monday.

In the letter to the company drafted by his legal team, the world’s richest man reiterated concerns that caused him to pause his bid for Twitter weeks ago, claiming Twitter was breaching obligations to turn over any data he deems relevant to the deal. The Tesla CEO now believes Twitter is “transparently refusing to comply” with the terms they agreed to, “which is causing further suspicion that the company is withholding the requested data twitter bird Customdue to concern for what Mr. Musk’s own analysis of that data will uncover.”

The move adds to speculation that Musk is trying to wriggle free of the agreement — which comes with a $1 billion breakup fee, though his past tweets suggest he may try to get around that cost. Since he first voiced interest in Twitter in April, Tesla’s stock has been pummeled amid a broader pullback for tech stocks. Last week, he instituted a hiring freeze and pledged to cut Tesla’s salaried staff by 10 percent, saying in an email to staff that he had a “super bad feeling” about where the economy was headed.

June 5

ny times logoNew York Times, CNN Enters a Post-Jeff Zucker Era. Bye-Bye, ‘Breaking News’ Banners, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, June 5, 2022. Chris Licht, the new CNN chairman, is encouraging a more nuanced approach to coverage. Some at the network are skeptical.

CNN’s ubiquitous “Breaking News” banner is gone, now reserved for instances of truly urgent events. Snarky on-screen captions — “Angry Trump Turns Briefing Into Propaganda Session,” for instance — are discouraged. Political shows are trying to book more conservative voices, and producers have been urged to ignore Twitter backlash from the far right and the far left.

CNNA month into his tenure as the new leader of CNN, Chris Licht is starting to leave his mark on the 24-hour news network he inherited in May from its prominent former president, Jeff Zucker. So far, the Licht Doctrine is a change from the Zucker days: less hype, more nuance and a redoubled effort to reach viewers of all stripes.

Running a network is a new challenge for Mr. Licht, a 50-year-old lifelong producer who has never led an organization as big as CNN. (His last employer, “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” had a staff of about 200 people; CNN has roughly 4,000.) Some CNN journalists say they wonder if he can navigate a sprawling, unwieldy global news network past what has been a no good, very bad year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barry Sussman, Washington Post editor who oversaw Watergate reporting, dies at 87, Emily Langer, June 5, 2022 (print ed.). Working alongside reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, he provided invaluable if at times unheralded contributions to the news coverage that helped force President Richard M. Nixon from office.

barry sussmanBarry Sussman, left, the Washington Post editor who directly oversaw the Watergate investigation by reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, providing invaluable — if at times unheralded — contributions to the news coverage that helped force President Richard M. Nixon from office, died June 1 at his home in Rockville, Md. He was 87.

The cause was an apparent gastrointestinal bleed, said his daughter Shari Sussman Golob.

In Hollywood and in the public eye, newspapering is often imagined as a solitary undertaking, the work of shabbily dressed reporters hunched over their keyboards with telephones cradled between shoulder and ear, barricaded in by notepads and papers piled high atop their desks.

richard nixon wIn truth, journalism is a far more collective enterprise, with crucial roles played by people whose names do not appear below headlines in the space known in newspaper jargon as the byline. One such person, and perhaps the chief example in The Post’s unraveling of the Watergate affair, was Mr. Sussman.

By Saturday, June 17, 1972, when five burglars wearing business suits broke into the Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, Mr. Sussman was The Post’s city editor, in charge of 40 to 45 reporters and editors responsible for coverage of the District.

One standout Metro reporter was 29-year-old Woodward. A button-down former Navy lieutenant, he had been with The Post only nine months but had already distinguished himself with his inexhaustible work ethic and investigative zeal, although not with his literary flair. Mr. Sussman took Woodward on as a protege and personal friend, journalist and Watergate scholar Alicia C. Shepard reported, helping him improve his writing “at a time when colleagues joked that for Woodward, English was a second language” and teaching him “how to take his hard-earned facts and massage them into readable stories.” The morning of the Watergate break-in, Mr. Sussman immediately phoned Woodward at home and called him into the newsroom.

The more renegade Bernstein, 11 months younger than Woodward but with more than a decade of journalism experience, sensed intrigue in the Watergate burglary and wanted in on the action. While other editors at The Post had grown exasperated by Bernstein’s more trying habits — he was allergic to deadlines and once rented a car on The Post’s dime, parked it in a garage and forgot about it — Mr. Sussman recognized his value as both a reporter and a writer and argued successfully to keep him on the Watergate story.

Paired by Mr. Sussman, Woodward and Bernstein — known collectively as Woodstein — became the most famous reporters in American journalism. Their incremental and inexorable revelations of the political sabotage, corruption and coverup that began with the Watergate break-in helped send numerous Nixon associates to prison and ultimately precipitated Nixon’s resignation on Aug. 9, 1974. During their reporting, Mr. Sussman was detailed to serve as special Watergate editor.

The Post’s Watergate coverage received the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for public service, the highest honor in journalism, and was dramatized in All the President’s Men, the 1976 movie directed by Alan J. Pakula. Robert Redford played Woodward, convening by night in a parking garage with his highly placed source called Deep Throat. Dustin Hoffman played the shaggy-haired Bernstein. Mr. Sussman was omitted entirely.

In her 2007 book Woodward and Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate, Shepard wrote that the filmmakers excised Mr. Sussman “for dramatic reasons.” The story already had three editors — executive editor Benjamin C. Bradlee, portrayed in an Oscar-winning turn by Jason Robards; managing editor Howard Simons, whose real-life role the movie diminished, played by Martin Balsam; and Metropolitan editor Harry M. Rosenfeld, played by Jack Warden.

If Mr. Sussman was deemed superfluous for the movie — a decision that deeply wounded him, according to Shepard’s reporting — he was by all accounts the opposite in the actual events that inspired it.

“Barry was essential for The Post’s Watergate” coverage, said former executive editor Leonard Downie Jr., who worked as an editor on the Watergate investigation, “just as essential as Bob and Carl.”

Journalist David Halberstam, writing in his 1979 book about American media, The Powers That Be, described Mr. Sussman as “the perfect working editor at exactly the right level.”

“Almost from the start, before anyone else at The Post,” Halberstam wrote, Mr. Sussman “saw Watergate as a larger story, saw that individual events were part of a larger pattern, the result of hidden decisions from somewhere in the top of government which sent smaller men to run dirty errands.”

Woodward and Bernstein, for their part, described Mr. Sussman as “Talmudic” in his mastery of the most arcane details of the Watergate affair and “Socratic” in his ability to elicit leads from them through his insightful questioning.

“More than any other editor at The Post, or Bernstein and Woodward, Sussman became a walking compendium of Watergate knowledge, a reference source to be summoned when even the library failed,” the two reporters wrote in All the President’s Men, their 1974 book upon which the movie was based.

“On deadline, he would pump these facts into a story in a constant infusion, working up a body of significant information to support what otherwise seemed like the weakest of revelations. In Sussman’s mind, everything fitted. Watergate was a puzzle and he was a collector of the pieces.”

The book All the President’s Men reportedly contributed to a rift that opened between Mr. Sussman and the two reporters he had supported through the most difficult days of the Watergate investigation, when an error in their reporting involving grand jury testimony invited questions about their credibility, and when Nixon was privately threatening “damnable, damnable” consequences for The Post in retaliation for its coverage.

Mr. Sussman had hoped to co-author the account of Watergate with Woodward and Bernstein, Shepard wrote, but the reporters ultimately moved forward alone with “All the President’s Men,” which became a bestseller. Shepard quoted Woodward as saying that “it was a reporter’s story to tell, not an editor’s,” and that Mr. Sussman’s “role is fully laid out in the book.”

By the time the book was published, Shepard wrote, Mr. Sussman had stopped speaking to Woodward and Bernstein. According to barry sussman cover newMr. Sussman, they were “wrong often on detail” in the book and had a tendency to “sentimentalize” the Watergate story.

Mr. Sussman wrote his own book about Watergate, The Great Cover-Up (1974), which broadcast journalist Brit Hume, writing in the New York Times, praised as establishing “with clarity the compelling case for Nixon’s complicity in the Watergate coverup.”

Decades later, when Shepard called Mr. Sussman to inquire about his two former colleagues, he replied, “I don’t have anything good to say about either one of them.”

Reached after Mr. Sussman’s death, Woodward, left, said in an interview that “Barry was one of the bob woodward twittergreat imaginative, aggressive editors at The Washington Post during Watergate. We all owe him a debt of gratitude, particularly Carl Bernstein and myself.”

In 1987, Mr. Sussman was hired by United Press International as managing editor for national news; he resigned within months in opposition to large-scale staff cuts at the troubled news agency.

He later ran a private survey research firm, was a consultant to newspapers in Spain, Portugal and Latin America and served as editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project at Harvard University. As the Internet upended the newspaper business model and hollowed out newsrooms across the United States, he cited reductions in the ranks of editors as “the single greatest failing of newspaper investigations these days.”

“There’s no cohesion in the reporting,” he told Investigating Power, an online history of investigative journalism. It seemed, he said, that when new scandals arose, “there’s not an editor who is told ‘[this] is your story,’ the way I was told Watergate was my story, and you’re going to get to the bottom of it.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Beware partisan ‘pink slime’ sites that pose as local news, Margaret Sullivan, June 5, 2022. Why margaret sullivan 2015 photoyou should ask more questions before posting that enraging story on social media.

Increasingly, “articles” that look like news may be something entirely different — false or misleading information grounded not in evidence but in partisan politics, produced not by reporters for a local newspaper but by inexperienced writers who are paid, in essence, to spread propaganda.

Last week provided a case in point when what looked like a legitimate news story went viral.

Published in the “West Cook News,” the story purported to reveal that a Chicago suburban school would soon be giving students different grades depending on their race. It started like this:

Oak Park and River Forest High School administrators will require teachers next school year to adjust their classroom grading scales to account for the skin color or ethnicity of its students. In an effort to equalize test scores among racial groups, OPRF will order its teachers to exclude from their grading assessments variables it says disproportionally hurt the grades of black students. They can no longer be docked for missing class, misbehaving in school or failing to turn in their assignments, according to the plan.

It found a ready audience. “But of course,” tweeted the conservative author Andrew Sullivan, as he shared the story to his hundreds of thousands of followers.

He was far from alone in promoting the story. There was a big problem, though. It wasn’t true.

ny times logoNew York Times, Critic's Notebook: ‘The Wire’ Stands Alone, James Poniewozik, June 2, 2022. After 20 years, the classic drama is much praised and rarely imitated. For a series based on the idea that institutions don’t change, that’s fitting.

When critics get to assessing a classic TV show, we have a weird tendency to turn into evolutionary biologists. We pull out the old television family tree and gauge the series’s achievement by how many branches we can trace back to it — how many series modeled one or another aspect on it. “Dragnet,” “The Simpsons,” “Lost” — you shall know them by their copycats.

And sure, influence is one measure of greatness. But so is inimitability. There is the painter who leaves behind a school of disciples, but there is also the artist who sees a color that no one has envisioned before or since.

“The Wire” premiered on HBO on June 2, 2002. In the two decades since, its reputation has only grown, as has its audience. It is one of those series, like the original “Star Trek,” that future generations will refuse to believe struggled with low ratings during its entire run. (Let alone that it was nominated for an absurd two Emmys, and won exactly none.)

But has anyone made another “Wire” since? Who — besides the creator, David Simon, in his later series — has emulated its sprawl, its complexity, its bucking of TV’s easy-to-digest episodic structure? TV fans and makers praise the show as a landmark and inspiration. Yet 20 years later, “The Wire” — like the cheese in the tune whistled by the show’s notorious drug bandit, Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) — stands alone.

June 2

 

Justice Department logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Barr’s extraordinary defense of the John Durham probe, Aaron Blake, June 2, 2022. From the start, then-Attorney General William P. Barr’s decision to appoint special counsel John Durham to investigate the origins of the Russia investigation was controversial.

And more than three years later, the inquiry has largely come up empty. It has secured one guilty plea that led to a sentence of probation, and it has now come up short in the much-watched trial of Michael Sussmann, who was acquitted Tuesday.

It’s a marked contrast to the probe Durham was tasked with investigating, in which Robert S. Mueller III secured more than half a dozen guilty pleas or verdicts. Those included several high-profile aides and associates of then-President Donald Trump. And that’s to say nothing of the extensive evidence Mueller laid out suggesting Trump might have committed obstruction of justice. A later bipartisan Senate report also suggested there was more to the collusion portion of the investigation than even Mueller was able to unearth.

To the extent people on the right have believed the Russia investigation was a “hoax” and the real crime was the Mueller probe itself, the evidence thus far paints quite a different picture.

william barr new oWhich leaves everyone involved to account for that. And on Wednesday, Barr himself attempted to do so — in a rather novel way for a lawman. Indeed, his defense reinforced Barr’s dual role under the Trump presidency as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and a political actor often preoccupied with taking extraordinary steps to right the supposed wrongs committed against Trump.

Fox News had hyped the significance of the Sussmann verdict beforehand and then just as quickly fox news logo Smalldownplayed the acquittal afterward, suggesting the jury was unfriendly. But when Barr, right, appeared for an interview, one of its hosts pressed him on the probe’s lack of deliverables.

“Do you feel in any way responsible for how this Durham situation’s unfolding?” Jesse Watters asked. “And are you disappointed in John Durham?”

Barr assured he wasn’t disappointed. He noted that it’s difficult to obtain guilty verdicts and suggested repeatedly that the jury was slanted.

But he also pointed to a way in which Durham’s probe was supposedly successful: telling a story.

To wit (emphasis added):

“I think he accomplished something far more important, which is he brought out the truth in two important areas. First, I think he crystallized the central role played by the Hillary campaign in launching as a dirty trick — the whole Russiagate collusion narrative and fanning the flames of it. And second, I think he exposed really dreadful behavior by the supervisors in the FBI, the senior ranks of the FBI, who knowingly use this information to start an investigation of Trump …”

“The other aspect of this is to get the story out.”

“Complicated cases like this take a long time to build; they occur step-by-step and in secret. People don’t like that. If they want people punished, that’s what it takes. If they want the facts of what happened, you can get it that much more quickly.”

To summarize: Even without convictions, this is good, because it has exposed something. And that something apparently need not be proven crimes or anything amounting to the supposed conspiracy that has been alleged.

That is decidedly not how this is supposed to work. There is a reason the Justice Department doesn’t generally disclose its investigations when it can avoid doing so: because it wants to avoid impugning those who didn’t commit crimes. The role of the Justice Department is to enforce the law — not to expose “dirty tricks” that haven’t been shown to be crimes. Yet Barr is basically suggesting the value of this investigation lay largely in getting information out there, regardless of whether that information is ultimately tied to a proven crime.

(Here, we are leaving aside the actual substance of the information Durham has put out, which has been misleading in its most high-profile instances.)

This is a remarkable view of the special counsel investigation Barr launched, to be sure, but it’s also in keeping with Barr’s general posture. While decrying the politicization of law enforcement, he took an extraordinary interest in the affairs of Trump and Trump allies who found themselves afoul of the law. Some prosecutors resigned in response. In what was arguably an audition for his job in the first place, Barr wrote a remarkable 2018 memo, while he was still a private citizen, assailing Mueller’s investigation. At one point, he even suggested that Mueller’s probe was less substantiated than a debunked conspiracy theory involving the Clintons and Uranium One.

Against that backdrop, saying that your decision to launch a special counsel investigation is validated by the information it has put out, rather than the laws enforced, isn’t terribly surprising. But it’s still a remarkable admission.

ny times logoNew York Times, Racist and Violent Ideas Jump From Web’s Fringes to Mainstream Sites, Steven Lee Myers and Stuart A. Thompson, June 2, 2022 (print ed.). Despite some efforts by tech companies to limit the spread of the disturbing content that fuels facebook logomass shootings, it often remains only a click or two away. On March 30, the young man accused of the mass shooting at a Tops grocery store in Buffalo surfed through a smorgasbord of racist and antisemitic websites online.

On BitChute, a video sharing site known for hosting right-wing extremism, he listened to a lecture on the decline of the American middle class by a Finnish extremist. On YouTube he found a lurid video of a car driving through Black neighborhoods in Detroit.

Over the course of the week that followed, his online writing shows, he lingered in furtive chat rooms on Reddit and 4chan but also read articles on race in HuffPost and Medium. He watched local television news reports of gruesome crimes. He toggled between “documentaries” on extremist websites and gun tutorials on YouTube.

The young man, who was indicted by a grand jury last week, has been portrayed by the authorities and some media outlets as a troubled outcast who acted alone when he killed 10 Black people in the grocery store and wounded three more. In fact, he dwelled in numerous online communities where he and others consumed and shared racist and violent content.

 

sheryl sandberg CNBC

ny times logoNew York Times, Sheryl Sandberg Is Stepping Down From Meta, Mike Isaac, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, June 2, 2022 (print ed.). The longtime chief operating officer of Facebook’s parent company, shown above in a CNBC screenshot, has had a lower profile during Mark Zuckerberg’s pursuit of the so-called metaverse.

facebook logoWhen Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, recruited a Google executive named Sheryl Sandberg to his social network in 2008, he said he had hired her because “she has just about the most relevant industry experience for Facebook, especially since we need to scale our operations and scale them globally.”

Ms. Sandberg answered in kind. “The opportunity to help another young company to grow into a global leader is the opportunity of a lifetime,” she said at the time.

Mr. Zuckerberg was 23, and Ms. Sandberg was 38.

meta logoToday Mr. Zuckerberg is the same age that Ms. Sandberg was when he brought her on board, and Facebook has ballooned into a behemoth. Over the past year, Mr. Zuckerberg has begun taking the social network into a new direction — toward the immersive online world of the so-called metaverse — and renamed the company Meta. And Ms. Sandberg, 52, has increasingly lowered her profile as Mr. Zuckerberg has taken over more of her responsibilities and reorganized the company for its new chapter.

On Wednesday, Ms. Sandberg said she was leaving Meta — which also owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger — this fall. In an interview, she said she had expected to be at the company only for roughly five years rather than the 14 she has served. She added that she planned to focus on her personal philanthropy and her foundation, Lean In, and that this summer she would marry Tom Bernthal, a television producer.

June 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court puts on hold Texas law that limits social media companies’ moderation efforts, Robert Barnes and Cat Zakrzewski, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). The law would bar social media companies from removing posts based on a user’s political ideology.

twitter bird CustomThe Supreme Court on Tuesday stopped a Texas law that would regulate how social media companies police content on their sites, while a legal battle continues over whether such measures violate the First Amendment.

facebook logoThe vote was 5 to 4. The five in the majority — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Brett M. Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett — did not provide reasoning for their action, which is common in emergency requests.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch, said he had not made up his mind about the constitutionality of the law, but would have allowed it to go into effect while review continues. Justice Elena Kagan also would have let stand for now a lower court’s decision allowing the law to take effect, but she did not join Alito’s dissent or provide her own reasons.

washington post logoWashington Post, A ‘Dynamite’ guest at the White House: K-pop group BTS meets with Biden on anti-Asian discrimination, Seung Min Kim, June 1, 2022 (print ed.). A horde of eager journalists began to crowd the aisles of the White House briefing room Tuesday long before the daily parrying session with reporters would begin — and they weren’t there for Brian Deese.

For one afternoon, the White House became an exclusive stage for global K-pop phenomenon BTS, with each of the 49 briefing room seats becoming the most coveted tickets in town. The group had been invited by the administration to raise awareness of the prevalence of anti-Asian discrimination.

“We are BTS,” said RM, whose formal name is Kim Nam-Joon and is considered the megagroup’s de facto leader, as he stepped up to the briefing room lectern. “It is a great honor to be invited to the White House today to discuss the important issues of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian inclusion and diversity.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, who opened up for the group, noted that while “many of you many know BTS as Grammy-nominated international icons, they also play an important role as youth ambassadors, promoting a message of respect and positivity.”

The other group members then took turns delivering their own messages in Korean. Later, an interpreter summed up their various messages, such as: “equality begins when we open up and embrace all of our differences” and “we hope today is one step forward to respecting and understanding each and every one as a valuable person.”

Then RM returned to the lectern.

“Lastly, we thank President Biden and the White House for giving this important opportunity to speak about the important causes,” he said. “Remind ourselves of what we can do as artists.”

washington post logoWashington Post, 4 homes tied to Mass. reporter hit with bricks, graffitied with spray paint, Jonathan Edwards, June 1, 2022. The vandal warned it was ‘JUST THE BEGINNING!’ in latest incident.

Journalist Lauren Chooljian came home last month to discover that a brick had been thrown through the front window of her home in Melrose, Mass. On the white siding just below the shattered glass, the vandal had spray-painted an ominous warning in big, red letters.

“JUST THE BEGINNING!”

In fact, the beginning had started nearly a month earlier. Since late April, there had been four other attacks on homes tied to Chooljian, all hit with the same two weapons: a brick and red spray paint. Targets included her former address, her boss’s place and her parents’ home, which was hit twice.

Police in four towns are investigating the five incidents. On Thursday, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan in Massachusetts released video footage of a vandal hurling a brick into Chooljian’s home and asked anyone with information about his identity to contact police. Ryan said investigators are considering the possibility that the attacks are linked to Chooljian’s work as a senior reporter and producer for New Hampshire Public Radio. The possible motive: revenge for stories she’s published in the past, intimidation to silence her in the future, or both.

 

May

May 31

Emptywheel, Analysis: Jury aquits Michael Sussmann; Sussman lawyer calls prosecution "Extraordinary prosecutorial overreach," emptywheel marcy wheeler(Dr.  Marcy Wheeler, Ph.D., right, independent national security analyst), May 31, 2022. The Michael Sussmann jury just announced its verdict. Michael Sussmann was acquitted of lying to the FBI.

The jury deliberated for six hours. This morning, they asked for exhibits that include the taxi receipts showing that Sussmann did not bill the Hillary campaign for the meeting with the FBI. They also asked whether they all had to agree on the elements of the offense, suggesting some people believed Durham had not proven some aspects (such that Sussmann had lied or that he did so intentionally) whereas others believed Durham had not proven other parts (such as that it was material — remember that FBI largely proceeded as if this were a tip from the Hillary campaign).

Durham released a statement:

While we are disappointed in the outcome, we respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service. I also want to recognize and thank the investigators and the prosecution team for their dedicated efforts in seeking truth and justice in this case.

Sussmann read a statement:

I have a few thoughts to share, now that trial has ended.

First, I told the truth to the FBI, and the jury clearly recognized that with their unanimous verdict today.

I am grateful to the members of the jury for their careful and thoughtful service. Despite being falsely accused, I am relieved that justice ultimately prevailed in this case.

As you can imagine, this has been a difficult year for my family and me. But right now, we are grateful for the love and support of so many during this ordeal, and I’m looking forward to getting back to the work that I love.

Finally, I want to thank my legal team at Latham & Watkins—Sean Berkowitz, Michael Bosworth, Natalie Rao, & Catherine Yao. They are the finest lawyers, and they worked tirelessly on my case.

Thank you.

The statement from his attorney, Sean Berkowitz, is more interesting.

We have always known that Michael Sussmann is innocent and we are grateful that the members of the jury have now come to the same conclusion.

But Michael Sussmann should never have been charged in the first place. This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overreach. And we believe that today’s verdict sends an unmistakable message to anyone who cares to listen: politics is no substitute for evidence, and politics has no place in our system of justice.

Media Matters via Twitter, Fox last hour before Sussman was found not guilty, Lis Power, May 31, 2022. 

  • Fox last hour before Sussman was found not guilty: An acquittal in the Sussman trial "could raise doubts about the legal merits of Durham's entire investigation."
  • Fox this hour after Sussman was found not guilty: THE JURY WAS RIGGED, ANOTHER BLACK EYE FOR OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM

May 30

washington post logoWashington Post, First she documented the alt-right. Now she’s coming for crypto, Gerrit De Vynck, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Molly White, a veteran Wikipedia editor, is fast becoming the cryptocurrency world’s biggest critic.

In a strange, animated YouTube video, Cryptoland paints itself as the ultimate utopia, featuring luxurious villas, a casino and a private club, all located on a pristine island in Fiji. Built by and for cryptocurrency enthusiasts, it was looking for investors.

To Molly White, the project wasn’t just cringeworthy bluster, it was promotional material for yet another potential scam — one that was targeting the money of real people. Digging into Cryptoland’s organizing documents, she found a business plan full of contradictions and other red flags, like an address in the Seychelles islands, a tax haven which has hosted previous high-profile crypto scams.

White unpacked the project in a dashed-off Twitter thread, which went viral, kicking off a wave of criticism and ridicule and spawning copycat videos that boast millions of views. Now, Cryptoland’s website appears inactive, and supporters have abandoned it. Requests for comment to its founders were not answered.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Why the press will never have another Watergate moment, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 30, 2022 (print ed.). Fifty years ago, margaret sullivan 2015 photothe nation was gripped by media coverage of Nixon’s crimes — and there was no Fox News to tell it to look away.

You’ll be hearing a lot about Watergate in the next several weeks, as the 50th anniversary of the infamous June 17, 1972, burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters approaches. There will be documentaries, cable-news debates, the finale of that Julia Roberts miniseries (“Gaslit”) based on the popular Watergate podcast (“Slow Burn”). I’ll be moderating a panel discussion at the Library of Congress on the anniversary itself — and you can certainly count on a few retrospectives in this very newspaper.

The scandal has great resonance at The Washington Post, which won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1973 for its intrepid reporting and the courage it took to publish it. And it has particular meaning for me, because, like many others of my generation, I was first drawn into journalism by the televised Senate hearings in 1973, and I was enthralled by the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men,” based on the book by Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Yet thinking about Watergate saddens me these days. The nation that came together to force a corrupt president from office and send many of his co-conspirator aides to prison is a nation that no longer exists.

washington post logoWashington Post, French journalist killed in strike on humanitarian convoy, officials say, Meryl Kornfield and Tara Bahrampour, May 30, 2022. A French photojournalist covering evacuation efforts in eastern Ukraine was killed during a Russian strike that hit the humanitarian truck he was in, officials say.

Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who was carrying press credentials, was fatally wounded after shrapnel pierced the armored evacuation truck that was about to pick up refugees near Severodonetsk, a focal point of the ongoing battle, according to Ukrainian officials. The shrapnel struck his neck.

May 29

ny times logoNew York Times, The Fall of the ‘Sun King’ of French TV, and the Myth of Seduction, Norimitsu Onishi, May 29, 2022 (print ed.). Patrick Poivre d’Arvor has been accused by more than 20 women of rape, sexual assault and harassment in France’s belated #MeToo reckoning.

France’s most trusted anchorman for decades, he used to draw millions in an evening news program that some likened to a religious communion. In an earlier time, he embodied an ideal of the French male — at ease with himself, a TV journalist and man of letters, a husband and a father who was also, unabashedly, a great seducer of women.

Patrick Poivre d’Arvor, nicknamed the Sun King of French TV, seemed so confident of his reputation that last month he sued for defamation 16 women who had accused him of rape, sexual assault and harassment, saying that they were simply “jilted” and “bitter.”

Angered, nearly 20 women appeared together this month in a TV studio for Mediapart, France’s leading investigative news site, with some recounting rapes or assaults that lasted minutes, carried out with barely a few words.

May 26

 

shireen abu akleh file

ny times logoNew York Times, Palestinian Inquiry Accuses Israel of Intentionally Killing Al Jazeera Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek, May 26, 2022. The Palestinian Authority reported its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of the journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (shown above in a file photo).

The Palestinian Authority announced on Thursday its final findings from a two-week investigation into the killing of a veteran Palestinian-American journalist, again accusing Israeli soldiers of intentionally killing her.

Israel FlagThe Authority’s attorney general said at a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah that an Israeli soldier shot the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, on May 11 with an armor-piercing bullet fired from a Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle. It based its findings in part on examination of the high-velocity 5.56 mm bullet that struck her in the back of the head.

Palestinian officials said that they were the only ones who had examined the bullet and neither Israeli nor U.S. authorities were permitted to examine it.

“It was proven that a member of the Israeli occupation forces stationed in the middle of the street fired a live bullet that hit the martyr journalist” directly in the head, said the attorney general, Akram Al-Khateeb. She was shot “while she was trying to escape from the successive gunshots fired by the occupation soldiers,” he added.

May 25

washington post logoWashington Post, How two Texas newspapers broke open the Southern Baptist sex scandal, Elahe Izadi, May 25, 2022. Houston Chronicle city hall reporter Robert Downen was on the night shift one evening in 2018, just a few months into the job, when something caught his attention.

Scrolling through an online federal court docket, he spotted a lawsuit that accused Paul Pressler, a prominent former judge and leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, of sexual assault. While the case had been previously reported, newly filed documents painted an even more damning picture, including the revelation that Pressler had previously agreed to pay his accuser $450,000. Downen, then 25, probed more deeply and discovered other survivors of church abuse, who made it clear to him, he recalled, that “if you think this problem is confined to one leader, we have quite a bit to show you.”

Downen’s ever-growing spreadsheet of cases soon inspired a larger reporting effort to quantify the scope of sex abuse within the massive Protestant denomination. Journalists at the Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News teamed up to create a database of cases involving nearly 300 church leaders and more than 700 victims for their landmark 2019 “Abuse of Faith” series.

A wave of outrage in response to the series rocked the Southern Baptist Convention, prompting its Executive Committee to hire an outside firm to investigate. The result was Sunday’s release of an explosive, nearly 300-page report that found church leaders had covered up numerous sex abuse cases and belittled survivors.

May 23

washington post logoWashington Post, 11th Circuit blocks major provisions of Florida’s social media law, Cat Zakrzewski, May 23, 2022. The appeals court harshly criticized arguments that social media platforms (such as Twitter and Facebook) should be considered ‘common carriers’ subject to government regulation.

twitter bird CustomThe 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday ruled it is unconstitutional for Florida to bar social media companies from banning politicians, in a major victory for tech companies currently fighting another appeals court ruling that allowed a similar law in Texas to take effect.

In a detailed, 67-page opinion, the court rejected many of the legal arguments that conservative states have been using to justify laws governing the content moderation policies of major tech companies after years of accusations that the tech companies are biased against facebook logotheir political viewpoints.

Though the court struck down the most controversial aspects of the law, it did rule that some provisions could stand, including that people banned from the platforms should be able to access their data for 60 days and disclosure provisions, such as clear content standards.

Tech groups ask Supreme Court to block Texas social media law

The decision stated that tech companies’ content moderation decisions are protected by the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from regulating free speech.

cambridge analytica facebook logoswashington post logoWashington Post, D.C. attorney general sues Zuckerberg over Cambridge Analytica scandal, Cat Zakrzewski, May 23, 2022. The suit, filed Monday, accuses the Meta CEO of being directly involved in the decision-making that led to the siphoning of personal data of millions of Facebook users.

karl racineD.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D), right, on Monday sued Mark Zuckerberg, below left, seeking to hold the CEO of Facebook parent company Meta liable for data abuses and for misleading Facebook users about their privacy protections.

The suit, filed in D.C. Superior Court, alleges that Zuckerberg directly participated in decisions that enabled the Trump-allied Mark Zuckerbergpolitical consultancy Cambridge Analytica to siphon the personal data of millions of users. Racine sued the company over its data practices in 2018 in a case that is ongoing, but he is now seeking to fine Zuckerberg personally over his role in the events.

“This unprecedented security breach exposed tens of millions of Americans’ personal information, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s policies enabled a multi-year effort to mislead users about the extent of Facebook’s wrongful conduct,” Racine said in a news release. “This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary, and sends a message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions.”

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Cyber pros are fed up with talk about a cyber-Manhattan Project, Joseph Marks and Aaron Schaffer, May 23, 2022.

ny times logoNew York Times, Once a star at CBS News, Lara Logan has now become one for the far right, Jeremy W. Peters, May 23, 2022 (print ed.). The former chief foreign affairs correspondent is now a popular guest on podcasts hosted by vaccine skeptics and deniers of the 2020 election.

lara logan screenshotWhen Lara Logan, left, reached the heights of American journalism more than a decade ago, as the chief foreign affairs correspondent for CBS News, her bosses didn’t think twice about sending her to cover the biggest stories in the world. Producers clamored to work with her as she landed interviews with a Taliban commander, chronicled the Arab Spring and tracked the Ebola outbreak. Former President Barack Obama called her to wish her well after the most traumatic event of what seemed like a limitless career: She was sexually assaulted while covering a demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011.

CBS News logoBut today Ms. Logan cuts a far different figure in American media. Instead of on national news broadcasts, she can be found as a guest on right-wing podcasts or speaking at a rally for fringe causes, promoting falsehoods about deaths from Covid vaccines and conspiracy theories about voter fraud.

Recently, she downplayed the seriousness of the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol on one of those shows. “This is now the crime of the century?” she asked sarcastically. She has echoed pro-Kremlin attacks on the United States, accusing Americans of “arming the Nazis of Ukraine.” And she has compared Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Hillary Clinton to some of Hitler’s most notorious henchmen.

Her latest project is a forthcoming documentary on voting machines called “Selection Code” that is being financed by Mike Lindell, the chief executive of My Pillow, who has helped spread some of the most outrageous myths about the 2020 presidential election.

 May 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Oracle’s Larry Ellison joined Nov. 2020 call about contesting Trump’s loss, Isaac Stanley-Becker and Shawn Boburg, May 20, 2022. The GOP donor participated along with Fox’s Sean Hannity and Sen. Lindsey Graham, according to court filings and a participant.

larry ellisonLarry Ellison, right, the billionaire co-founder and chairman of the software company Oracle and the biggest backer of Elon Musk’s attempted Twitter takeover, participated in a call shortly after the 2020 election that focused on strategies for contesting the legitimacy of the vote, according to court documents and a participant.

The Nov. 14 call included Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.); Fox News host Sean Hannity; Jay Sekulow, an attorney for oracle vector logoPresident Donald Trump; and James Bopp Jr., an attorney for True the Vote, a Texas-based nonprofit that has promoted disputed claims of widespread voter fraud.

Ellison’s participation illustrates a previously unknown dimension in the multifaceted campaign to challenge Trump’s loss, an effort still coming into focus more than 18 months later. It is the first known example of a technology industry titan joining powerful figures in conservative politics, media and law to strategize about Trump’s post-loss options and confer with an activist group that had already filed four lawsuits seeking to uncover evidence of illegal voting.

Ellison is the 11th-richest person in the world, with a net worth of about $85 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He became a major political power broker during the Trump administration, hosting the president in 2020 for a fundraiser at his estate in California’s Coachella Valley and contributing millions to Republican candidates and committees, including to Graham, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

During the Trump administration, in 2020, Oracle partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to collect data from doctors treating coronavirus infections with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug touted by the president, among other drugs. That fall, it won praise from Trump as a “great company” as it became the preferred U.S. buyer of TikTok, in a potential deal with Chinese company ByteDance that did not come to fruition.

Details of the November 2020 call and questions about Ellison’s role in it were revealed in new filings made in litigation brought against True the Vote and its representatives by Fair Fight, a political action committee associated with the voting rights organization founded by Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tesla’s stock price plummets as Twitter deal hangs in the balance, Rachel Lerman and Faiz Siddiqui, May 20, 2022. Shares continued falling on Friday, possibly imperiling Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter.

Tesla’s stock — and Elon Musk’s wealth — took a huge hit Friday, continuing a downward spiral and possibly imperiling the billionaire’s deal to buy Twitter.

tesla logoShares of the electric car company, from which much of Musk’s wealth comes, sank more than 10 percent during trading Friday, falling at one point to about $636 per share. That’s about a 35 percent drop from its price on the day Musk’s deal to buy Twitter was announced.

The downturn of Tesla’s stock could have more than just a superficial impact on Musk’s wealth.

Musk has taken out extensive personal loans that are heavily tied to the value of Tesla’s stock. At times, he has put down as much as 50 percent of his Tesla shares as collateral to back them. As the company’s share price approaches $600, Musk enters dangerous territory with lenders — where they could seek some of his equity to ease their confidence in his ability to pay, according to analysts.

May 19

Washington Post, Elon Musk, notorious Twitter troll, is now trolling Twitter itself, Elizabeth Dwoskin, May 19, 2022 (print ed.). The stock price is plummeting, and executives are heading for the doors. elon musk 2015Can the social media company withstand Musk’s takeover bid? Billionaire Elon Musk fired off yet another tweet Tuesday potentially sabotaging his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter. His scorched-earth campaign may also be sabotaging Twitter itself.

twitter bird CustomFor weeks, Musk has needled the social media company on its own platform, driving down its stock price and alarming employees who live in fear of being attacked by Musk’s legions of online followers. Rank-and-file workers are polishing their résumés, saying they can’t get straight answers to basic questions, such as whether there would be layoffs, whether there would be a board of directors after the acquisition, and whether Musk would change the company’s content moderation policies. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal’s firing of top executives and reduction in hiring have added to the sense of chaos.

Twitter has seen its share of disruption in 16 years, from absentee leaders to employee uprisings. But over the past six weeks, Musk has brought next-level dysfunction to the company’s San Francisco headquarters and beyond.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon spokesman Kirby will move to senior commmunications role at White House, Tyler Pager, May 20, 2022 (print ed.). Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, shown below left in a file photo, will move to the White House in a senior communications role, according to two people familiar with the personnel move.

john kirbyKirby’s move to the White House comes after Karine Jean-Pierre took over as White House press secretary from Jen Psaki, who left the administration last week. Kirby met with President Biden at the White House the day after he offered the press secretary job to Jean-Pierre.

Kirby’s exact title and role remain unclear. Some in the White House said Kirby would make regular appearances at the daily press briefing, while others said he would not share duties with Jean-Pierre and only appear alongside her.May 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Presses Ahead on Deal as Elon Musk Casts Doubt on It, Lauren Hirsch, Kate Conger and Adam Satariano, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The company urged shareholders to vote in favor of the deal, even as Mr. Musk said he wouldn’t move ahead without more data on spam.

Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, continued creating confusion around his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter on Tuesday, even as the social media company tried to keep the deal on course. Early in the morning, the billionaire tweeted that “this deal cannot move forward” until he got more details about the volume of spam and fake accounts on the platform.

twitter bird CustomA few hours later, Twitter said it was “committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable.” It urged its shareholders to back the bid by Mr. Musk, who appeared to be carrying out a public tweet-by-tweet negotiation even though he had struck the blockbuster deal to buy Twitter last month.

Mr. Musk’s increasingly skeptical — and erratic — comments about the takeover have kept investors, bankers and Twitter itself guessing about his motives. Some analysts figure that the 50-year-old is trying to drive down the acquisition price or walk away from the deal altogether. Many were unnerved by his methods, with market-moving pronouncements made off the cuff at conferences or in emoji-laden tweets in the middle of the night.

Yet his comments are in keeping with Mr. Musk’s longtime methods of operation, where he often wings it in the biggest moments, eschews experts and relies almost solely on his own counsel. Years ago, he said that he had stopped making business plans. And people close to Mr. Musk have said that he had no plan whatsoever when he piped up with an offer to buy Twitter last month.

washington post logoWashington Post, Google’s Russian subsidiary will file for bankruptcy, citing asset seizure, Aaron Gregg, May 18, 2022 (print ed.). The tech giant, which already paused most of its operations in the country, says it cannot pay workers or carry out other basic business operations.

google logo customGoogle’s Moscow-based subsidiary plans to file for bankruptcy, a company spokesperson said Wednesday, because Russia’s seizure of its assets has rendered basic business operations — including paying its staff — “untenable.”

The tech giant submitted a notice of intention to declare itself bankrupt, according to Reuters, which cited a filing in Russia’s federal register.

“The Russian authorities’ seizure of Google Russia’s bank account has made it untenable for our Russia office to function, including employing and paying Russia-based employees, paying suppliers and vendors, and meeting other financial obligations,” the Google spokesperson said in a statement.

May 16

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Racist ‘great replacement’ theory a popular refrain among Carlson, Ingraham and Coulter, Paul Farhi, May 16, 2022. The suspect in Saturday’s killing of 10 people at a Buffalo supermarket allegedly wrote a document endorsing “great replacement theory,” a once-fringe racist idea that became a popular refrain among media figures such as Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham of Fox News and conservative writer Ann Coulter.

Before the shooting rampage that also left three wounded, the suspect, Payton S. Gendron, 18, allegedly posted a lengthy document invoking the idea that White Americans were at risk of being “replaced” by people of color because of immigration and higher birthrates.

Gendron, who is White, allegedly indicated that he chose a neighborhood with a large number of Black residents for his alleged attack. In the document that Gendron is suspected to have written, he indicated that he was radicalized online. There’s no indication that he watched Carlson’s program.

fox news logo SmallThe theory was once confined to far-right White extremists, who cast immigration as part of a plot by “elites” to take political and economic power away from White people. It has gained broader circulation in recent years as a talking point among prominent conservative media figures.

Tucker Carlson twists Biden’s 2015 comments to push conspiracy theory

On Sept. 22, Fox News host Tucker Carlson misrepresented past immigration remarks by President Biden to suggest the existence of the “great replacement theory.” (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Carlson, whose weeknight program is typically the most popular on Fox News, has been an especially avid promoter of the thesis. He has mentioned variations on the idea in more than 400 episodes since 2016, according to a New York Times analysis of his program. In April of last year, he said on Fox News that people from the “Third World” are immigrating to the United States “to replace the current electorate” and “dilute the political power of the people who live there” — language that essentially distills the replacement thesis.

He was more explicit in a video posted on Fox News’s YouTube account in September. Carlson said President Biden was encouraging immigration “to change the racial mix of the country, … to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here, and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Democracy is at stake in the midterms. The media must convey that, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 16, 2022 (print ed.). We margaret sullivan 2015 photoournalists have to try harder and find new ways to convey to voters how badly things could turn out.

I was mesmerized this past week by two astonishing videos, watching them both multiple times.

One showed the stunning Kentucky Derby, where the little-known chestnut colt Rich Strike came out of nowhere to blast past the favorites and win the race by less than a length. The other showed an entire North Carolina beach house tumbling into the ocean, yet another indication of Outer Banks shoreline erosion and, more generally, the world’s catastrophic climate crisis.

And I couldn’t help but see both as metaphors for the precarious state of democracy in America and the news media’s role in helping to save the day or in succumbing to disaster.

Here’s what I mean. Since Jan. 6 of last year, a growing chorus of activists, historians and political commentators have spoken of “democracy on the brink” or “democracy in peril.” What they mean is that, thanks to a paranoid, delusional and potentially violent new strain in our nation’s politics, Americans may not be able to count on future elections being conducted fairly — or the results of fair elections being accepted.

And at least some news organizations are taking heed.

The Washington Post established a “democracy team” to expand reporting on the nationwide battles over voting rules, access to polls, and efforts to create unfounded doubt about the outcome of elections.

joe kahnAt the New York Times, soon-to-be executive editor Joe Kahn, right, is talking frankly about the need to investigate efforts to undermine the institutions that uphold democracy. (If they don’t, he told the Columbia Journalism Review, “we’re not doing our job as a leading news organization.”)

A number of regional journalists are beginning to push against industry norms to speak more clearly about the threat: The Philadelphia Inquirer boldly declined to use the euphemism word “audit” to dignify state Republicans’ endless probes for nonexistent voter fraud — essentially the GOP’s attempt to cast unwarranted doubt on the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania.

But the clearest recognition I’ve heard so far came last week from a managing editor for CNN. Alex Koppelman is not the editor overseeing the network’s political coverage; instead, he supervises business and media news. But CNN gave him a voice to lay out the harsh reality of what the nation is up against, and what we in the media need to do about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos Battles With President Biden Online Over Taxes, Ephrat Livni, May 16, 2022. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is trolling President Biden on Twitter. After Mr. Biden on Friday connected lowering inflation with corporations paying “their fair share,” Mr. Bezos quipped, “The newly created Disinformation Board should review this tweet, or maybe they need to form a new Non Sequitur Board instead.” He said that conflating lower inflation with higher corporate taxes amounted to “misdirection.”

jeff bezos w Encore awards 2010Still bristling, Mr. Bezos (shown in a file photo), who owns the Washington Post, fired again on Sunday, the DealBook newsletter reports. He lauded Joe Manchin, the centrist West Virginia senator who has often declined to vote with other Democrats on economic issues, halting additional stimulus plans.

“Manchin saved them from themselves,” Mr. Bezos wrote, plunging the company into politics at a fraught time internally, amid an employee unionization push. Externally, many executives recently have been trying to stay out of difficult debates, given the backlash some companies have faced.

amazon logo smallWrangling with the government over taxes on Twitter means calling public attention to a touchy topic for Amazon. The company reported nearly $36 billion in U.S. pretax income in 2021 yet said it owed only about $2 billion in federal taxes. That’s a 6 percent tax rate — less than a third of the rates both corporations and workers must pay. When Mr. Biden unveiled plans to raise rates and close tax loopholes last year, he singled out Amazon, saying, “I don’t want to punish them, but that’s just wrong.” Amazon did not respond to DealBook’s request for comment.

Disney last month lost its special tax status in Florida after opposing a law limiting gender identity discussions in schools. Now, Republican lawmakers at the state and federal levels are drafting similarly retributive legislation for politically minded businesses.

But for executives, it’s a balance. Many workers, shareholders and customers are demanding that corporations speak up, and pressure could increase now that abortion rights have become a major midterm election issue. So Amazon’s current chief executive, Andy Jassy, is probably not looking for this fight right now.

Mr. Bezos, for his part, quietly butters up the government, just like Elon Musk. While both have been publicly critical of the Biden administration, Mr. Bezos’ Blue Origin and Mr. Musk’s SpaceX spend significant resources lobbying officials to pick up their space exploration tabs and to win NASA contracts. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has accused the two billionaires of using NASA like an A.T.M. He tweeted at Bezos on Saturday about Amazon’s labor issues and soaring profits.

 

New White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre arrives to speak to reporters in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2022.

New White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre arrives to speak to reporters in the James S Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 16, 2022.

CNN, Karine Jean-Pierre holds first briefing as White House press secretary, Kate Sullivan, May 16, 2022. Karine Jean-Pierre held her first briefing as White House press secretary on Monday after making history as the first Black and out LGBTQ person to step into one of the most visible roles in the administration.

"I am a Black, gay, immigrant woman. The first of all three of those to hold this position," Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday.
She said, "If it were not for generations of barrier-breaking people before me I would not be here. But I benefit from their sacrifices, I have learned from their excellence and I am forever grateful to them."

cnn logo"Representation does matter -- you hear us say this often in this administration, and no one understands this better than President (Joe) Biden," Jean-Pierre said.

Jean-Pierre has briefed reporters in her previous role of principal deputy White House press secretary many times, both from the podium in the White House briefing room but more often off-camera on Air Force One. Last May she became the second Black woman in history to hold the daily press briefing.

She has served on the White House's senior communications team since Biden took office, and prior to that was an adviser to his campaign and chief of staff to now-Vice President Kamala Harris. Jean-Pierre has traveled with the President on several occasions, including when she replaced Psaki at the last minute for Biden's four-day trip to Europe amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine after Psaki tested positive for Covid-19.
Jean-Pierre's family includes her partner, CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux, and their daughter.

Psaki had long been public about her intention to leave the job after one year. CNN has reported Psaki will be joining MSNBC.

After Psaki's departure and Jean-Pierre's promotion was announced by the President, Psaki invited Jean-Pierre up to the podium and gave an emotional tribute to her colleague and friend. The two women embraced as Psaki went through Jean-Pierre's qualifications and the significance of her taking the job.

"She will be the first Black woman, the first out LGBTQ+ person to serve in this role, which is amazing because representation matters and she is going to, she will give a voice to so many and allow and show so many what is truly possible when you work hard, and dream big and that matters, and ... we should celebrate that," Psaki said.

Mediaite, WHCA Threatens Reporter Who Interrupted Psaki Briefing With Possible Expulsion in Scathing Email, Jackson Richman, May 16, 2022. Reporter Simon Ateba Asks Jen Psaki if Biden Blames Her or Her Comms Team for Low Approval Ratings.

A reporter who interrupted Friday’s White House press briefing has been threatened with suspension or expulsion from the White House Correspondents Association were he to do the same again.

jen psakiDuring Jen Psaki’s last press briefing as White House press secretary, Simon Ateba of Today News Africa twice interrupted and called on Psaki, left, to call on the reporters in the back rows. He interrupted the Associated Press’ Zeke Miller and ABC News’ Mary Bruce.

In an email to Ateba, obtained by Mediaite, White House Correspondents Association President and CBS News Radio White House Correspondent Steven Portnoy chided him on Monday for the interruptions.

“Your disruptive behavior at last Friday’s briefing interrupted your colleagues and reflected poorly on the press corps,” he said. “There is no right of any reporter to be called on by any official. Preventing your colleagues from asking their questions is no way to seek relief.”

Portnoy warned that Ateba would be suspended or expelled were he to repeat his behavior from Friday.

“We note that you have been granted status as an Associate Member of our organization. With that comes a responsibility to act in a collegial manner with your fellow WHCA members,” he said. “If you again demonstrate disrespect for your colleagues in the manner you did last Friday, the WHCA Board will act on behalf of the collective. I am pasting Article X of our bylaws below for your reference.”

In a statement to Mediaite, Ateba said he received the email “with a heavy heart.”

fox news logo Small“I received the email from WHCA’s President Steven Portnoy with a heavy heart. I am the victim here and I am being treated so unfairly by WHCA. It is sad and it is heartbreaking,” he said. “America is the greatest country in the world and no country comes even close. Here in the United States, press freedom is respected, or so I thought, or so I was made to believe.”

Ateba, who is Black, said his rationale for interrupting was due to being discriminated against “due to his origins, being an African covering the White House and focusing on U.S.-Africa ties and interactions for Today News Africa” and since he questioned the White House about the Biden administration’s African travel bans in November. In light of this, Ateba made numerous appearances on Fox News and called out the administration for the bans.

May 14

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White House Chronicle, Many Newspapers Are on Death Row; Will They Be Reprieved? Llewellyn King (executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS), May 14, 2022. Newspapers are on death row. The once great provincial newspapers of this country, indeed of many countries, often look like pamphlets. Others have already been executed by the market.

The cause is simple enough: Disrupting technology in the form of the internet has lured away most of their advertising revenue. To make up the shortfall, publishers have been forced to push up the cover price to astronomical highs, driving away readers.

One city newspaper used to sell 200,000 copies, but now sells fewer than 30,000 copies. I just bought said paper’s Sunday edition for $5. Newspapering is my lifelong trade and I might be expected to shell out that much for a single copy, but I wouldn’t expect it of the public to pay that — especially for a product that is a sliver of what it once was.

New media are taking on some of the role of the newspapers, but it isn’t the same. Traditionally, newspapers have had the time and resources to do the job properly; to detach reporters to dig into the murky, or to demystify the complicated; to operate foreign bureaus; and to send writers to the ends of the earth. Also, they have had the space to publish the result.

More, newspapers have had something that radio, television and the internet outlets haven’t had: durability.

I have a stake in radio and television, yet I still marvel at how newspaper stories endure; how long-lived newspaper coverage is compared with the other forms of media.

I get inquiries about what I wrote years ago. Someone will ask, for example, “Do you remember what you wrote in 1980 about oil supply?”

Newspaper coverage lasts. Nobody has ever asked me about something I said on radio or television more than a few weeks after the broadcast.

There is authority in the written word that doesn’t extend to the broadcast word, and maybe not to the virtual word on the internet in promising, new forms of media like Axios.

If publishing were just another business — and it is a business — and it had reached the end of the line, like the telegram, I would say, “Out with the old and in with the new.” But when it comes to newspapers, it has yet to be proved that the new is doing the job once done by the old or if it can; if it can achieve durability and write the first page of history.

Since the first broadcasts, newspapers have been the feedstock of radio and television, whether in a small town or in a great metropolis. Television and radio have fed off the work of newspapers. Only occasionally is the flow reversed.

The Economist asks whether Russians would have supported President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine if they had had a free media and could have known what was going on; or whether the spread of COVID in China would have been so complete if free media had reported on it early, in the first throes of the pandemic?

The plight of the newspapers should be especially concerning at a time when we see democracy wobbling in many countries, and there are those who would shove it off-kilter even in the United States.

There are no easy ways to subsidize newspapers without taking away their independence and turning them into captive organs. Only one springs to mind, and that is the subsidy that the British press and wire services enjoyed for decades. It was a special, reduced cable rate for transmitting news, known as Commonwealth Cable Rate. It was a subsidy, but a hands-off one.

Commonwealth Cable Rate was so effective that all American publications found ways to use it and enjoy the subsidy.

That is the kind of subsidy that newspapers might need. Of course, best of all, would be for the mighty tech companies to pay for the news they purloin and distribute; for the aggregators to respect the copyrights of the creators of the material they flash around the globe. That alone might save the newspapers, our endangered guardians.

 

shireen abu akleh file

ny times logoNew York Times, Israeli Police Attack Mourners Before Funeral of Al Jazeera Journalist, Patrick Kingsley and Raja Abdulrahim, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). As hundreds gathered to witness the start of Shireen Abu Akleh’s funeral procession, riot police assaulted the people carrying her coffin.

In life, Shireen Abu Akleh, above, an acclaimed Palestinian American broadcaster, was one of the leading chroniclers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Her death, while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, turned her into one of the conflict’s most prominent recent victims. Palestinian witnesses and officials said Ms. Abu Akleh, 51, long a leading television reporter for Al Jazeera, was shot by Israeli soldiers, though Israeli officials said she could have been struck by either Palestinian or Israeli fire.

Then, on Friday in Jerusalem, her funeral was marred by another burst of violence.

Early that afternoon, as thousands of people massed in East Jerusalem for one of the largest Palestinian funerals in recent memory, a phalanx of Israeli riot police assaulted a group of mourners carrying the coffin containing Ms. Abu Akleh’s body, causing them to almost drop it.

Israel FlagThe Israeli police later said they had intervened because the mourners, who wanted to carry the coffin by foot to the funeral, had refused to put it in a hearse, an arrangement the police said had previously been agreed to with Ms. Abu Akleh’s family.

But the police intervention drew shock and condemnation both in Israel and beyond, with the assault on mourners regarded as egregious regardless of its motive.

It was the latest and perhaps most startling salvo of the most violent period in Israel and the occupied territories, outside of full-scale war, in several years.

The assault occurred outside a hospital in East Jerusalem, where Ms. Abu Akleh’s body had been kept since another memorial on Thursday, and where hundreds had gathered to witness the start of her funeral cortege.

Tensions arose between Palestinians and Israeli police officers after the Palestinians began waving Palestinian flags and chanting nationalist slogans. They escalated after the police refused to allow mourners to take the coffin on their shoulders to the church, according to Sven Kühn von Burgsdorff, a senior foreign diplomat who witnessed the dispute.

At the White House, the press secretary Jen Psaki described video footage of the clash as “deeply disturbing” and said, “We regret the intrusion into what should have been a peaceful procession.”

East Jerusalem is mostly populated by Palestinians, and most of the world views it as occupied territory — but Israel has annexed the area, considers it part of its capital, and often prevents expressions of Palestinian nationalism there.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fact-Check Analysis: Republicans Wrongly Tie Biden Immigration Policies to Baby Formula Shortage, Linda Qiu, May 14, 2022 (print ed.). Republicans have misleadingly claimed that the Biden administration is sending formula to undocumented immigrants amid a national shortage. Here’s a fact check.

Republican lawmakers have misleadingly suggested that the Biden administration is sending baby formula to undocumented immigrants at the expense of American families amid a national shortage.

Around the country, more than 40 percent of formulas are out of stock, caused by supply chain issues and the closure of a major manufacturing plant in February. The limited availability has left parents desperate and scrambling for a solution. The Biden administration announced modest steps on Thursday to address the crisis, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday that the House would take action on the issue next week.

The shortage has become fodder for political attacks from Republicans, who have fused the issue with criticisms of the administration’s immigration policies. Democrats have countered that those opposed to providing migrant infants with formula belong to a “pro starvation caucus,” as one lawmaker put it.

But it is inaccurate to suggest that President Biden is choosing to prioritize the needs of immigrant children over those of American children. Providing food — like formula — and water to migrant children detained at the border is required by a lawsuit settlement, and the Trump administration also adhered to that requirement. And it is unlikely that the amount of formula in stock at detention facilities would meaningfully ease the shortage.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Twitter’s bots likely won’t be grounds for Musk to back out, Reed Albergotti, May 14, 2022. But the Tesla CEO can try to use the issue as leverage to open renegotiations. The up-and-down saga of Elon Musk’s bid to acquire Twitter took a turn this week that many long suspected: The Tesla CEO tweeted something declaring the deal was in jeopardy.

elon musk 2015Musk said in a tweet early Friday that the deal was temporarily on hold, pending an inquiry into the number of “spam/fake,” accounts that exist on Twitter. He later clarified he was still serious about the acquisition.

Two people close to the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to speak publicly said the tweet reflected an effort by Musk to bring down the $44 billion price tag. That amount was settled before the stock market tanked in recent weeks, making the acquisition price comparatively more expensive.

These so-called “bot” accounts he raised concerns about represent a financial risk for Twitter. Musk has said he intends to remove these accounts when he completes his acquisition of the company. But bots generate revenue just like normal accounts, thanks to viewing the same ads. If there are more fake accounts than Twitter lets on, that would mean a drop in revenue if they are removed.

Musk’s question about bots nothing new for Twitter

twitter bird CustomMusk, whose net worth dropped roughly $50 billion in recent weeks as the markets roiled Tesla and other tech stocks, is free to back out of the deal if he’s getting cold feet. Much of Musk’s wealth comes from his 17 percent stake in Tesla. The electric car company is now worth close to $800 billion. Musk has financed the majority of his Twitter acquisition but still needs to put up $21 billion, which he aims to offset with outside investments.

But even if Musk discovers that Twitter grossly underestimates the number of bots on its service, Musk will likely still be on the hook for a $1 billion fee for killing the deal, legal experts say. And, were he to pull out of the deal, he’d likely face a lawsuit from Twitter, which could claim heavy financial damages for the turmoil Musk has caused since agreeing to acquire it.

May 13

The Guardian, US secretly issued subpoena to access Guardian reporter’s phone records, Ed Pilkington, Updated May 13, 2022. Newspaper decries ‘egregious’ move by DoJ to obtain details of Stephanie Kirchgaessner as part of investigation into media leaks.

The U.S. justice department secretly issued a subpoena to gain access to details of the phone account of a Guardian reporter as part of an Justice Department log circularaggressive leak investigation into media stories about an official inquiry into the Trump administration’s child separation policy at the southern border.

Leak investigators issued the subpoena to obtain the phone number of Stephanie Kirchgaessner, the Guardian’s investigations correspondent in Washington. The move was carried out without notifying the newspaper or its reporter, as part of an attempt to ferret out the source of media articles about a review into family separation conducted by the Department of Justice’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz.

It is highly unusual for US government officials to obtain a journalist’s phone details in this way, especially when no national security or classified information is involved. The move was all the more surprising in that it came from the DoJ’s inspector general’s office – the watchdog responsible for ethical oversight and whistleblower protections.

Katharine Viner, the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, decried the action as “an egregious example of infringement on press freedom and public interest journalism by the US Department of Justice”.

She added: “We will be asking the DoJ urgently for an explanation for why and how this could have occurred, and for an apology. We will also be seeking assurances that our reporter’s details will be erased from DoJ systems and will not be used for any further infringements of press freedom.”

The leak inquiry was conducted on behalf of the DoJ by the inspector general’s office of an outside government department, housing and urban development (Hud). Its investigation focused on allegations that an employee within the DoJ’s inspector general’s office had leaked sensitive information to three news outlets – the Guardian, the New York Times and NBC News.

The Guardian was the only one of the three outlets to have a subpoena issued relating to its reporter’s phone account.

The Guardian published two sensitive reports by Kirchgaessner within the timeframe of the DoJ review into child separation covered by the leak inquiry. On 23 July 2020 she revealed that the DoJ’s former deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein had personally advised that migrant parents should be prosecuted, no matter how young the children accompanying them.

On 2 September 2020, Kirchgaessner reported that a senior justice department official nominated by Trump to be a federal judge had participated in the removal of a Texas prosecutor who had sounded the alarm over child separation.

On Thursday, the investigative reporter Jason Leopold released a redacted version of the HUD leak inquiry report obtained under freedom of information laws. It revealed that leak investigators had reviewed evidence of 127 phone calls totalling about six hours in length with “phone numbers identified as belonging to reporter Stephanie Kirchgaessner of the Guardian”, and an additional 126 phone calls about six hours and 20 minutes “with a phone number identified as belonging to the Guardian generally”.

The leak report also discloses that the DoJ issued an “administrative subpoena” to a telecommunications company for “subscriber information to confirm that a specific telephone number belonged to the Guardian”. It said that “basic subscriber information” had been obtained involving “names, addresses, and length of service only” and “not the contents of communications”.

Child separation was effected in 2018 under the Trump administration. Known officially as “zero tolerance,” the policy ordered federal prosecutors to act against undocumented immigrants entering the US unlawfully even when minors were present – a reversal of previous practice which had spared families from criminal proceedings in order to avoid children being separated from their parents.

The policy led to more than 3,000 children being separated from their parent or guardian, and to widespread chaos in which the location of many children became unknown. The much-delayed DoJ inspector general’s report into the practice was finally published after two years, in January 2021.

Earlier this week Politico reported that an employee of the DoJ inspector general’s office had “abruptly resigned” after coming under scrutiny from the leak investigation. See: Justice watchdog staffer resigned amid leak probe over Trump family separation report.

May 12

 

shireen abu akleh file

washington post logoWashington Post, American journalist killed by Israeli forces in West Bank, network says, Steve Hendrix, Sufian Taha and Shira Rubin, May 12, 2022 (print ed.). The network and Palestinian officials said journalist Shireen Abu Akleh (shown above in a file photo in Jerusalem) was killed by Israeli fire. Israel said Palestinian gunmen may have been responsible.

Israel FlagIsraeli forces killed a Palestinian American journalist for the Al Jazeera news network in the West Bank early Wednesday, according to the network and the Palestinian Health Ministry. Israel said the journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was killed in an exchange of gunfire and called for an investigation.

Abu Akleh, 51, a longtime Al Jazeera correspondent, was shot in the head while covering Israeli raids in the Jenin refugee camp, according to the network and the ministry. She was taken to a hospital before dying from her wounds.

In a statement, Al Jazeera accused Israeli forces of killing Abu Akleh “in cold blood” and said she had been “clearly wearing a press jacket that identifies her as a journalist.” Two journalists who were standing next to Abu Akleh said in interviews that the area had been relatively calm before she was shot.

May 11

Politico, Justice watchdog staffer resigned amid leak probe over Trump family separation report, Josh Gerstein, right, May 11, 2022. DOJ Inspector josh gerstein headshot CustomGeneral ordered investigation into who disclosed report about border policy.

politico CustomAn employee of the Justice Department Inspector General’s office “abruptly resigned” after coming under scrutiny in an investigation of the disclosure to the media of a closely-held draft report on the Trump administration’s family separation policy, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the watchdog office and accounts from two people familiar with the matter.

An investigative summary posted online by DOJ’s Inspector General did not name the employee who quit nor specify what report triggered the leak probe, but two people familiar with the episode told POLITICO the leak inquiry focused on disclosures about a review of the origins Trump administration’s family separation policy.

Reports by NBC News and the New York Times in October 2020, about a month before the presidential election, said former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other top Justice Department officials were “a driving force” behind a series of moves in 2018 that led to thousands of children being separated from their parents or other relatives after crossing the border from Mexico into the U.S. The reports cited a draft report michael horwitz headshotby Inspector General Michael Horowitz, left, that followed a two-year review of the so-called “zero tolerance” policy.

The policy, eventually abandoned by the Trump administration, resulted in adults accused of crossing the border illegally being prosecuted criminally even if accompanied by young children. During the chaos prompted by the policy, U.S. officials essentially lost track of the ties between some immigrant children and their parents, leading to extreme difficulty in reuniting them. Litigation and claims for financial damages over the policy remain pending.

The disclosures in the media in the fall of 2020 prompted concern inside the department, where officials believed the leaks were intended to influence the outcome of the election, two people familiar with the matter said. The final report was formally released by Horowitz’s office in January 2021.

According to the summary posted Wednesday, Horowitz’s office referred the potential leak to a council which oversees inspectors general across the government, which in turn assigned the investigation to an inspector general’s office outside the Justice Department.

That probe eventually centered on an unnamed employee in Horowitz’s office, which has approximately 500 investigators and other staff.

“The independent investigation reviewed the DOJ OIG employee’s phone records and found that they reflected numerous and lengthy phone conversations between the then DOJ OIG employee and reporters at the media outlets during the time period in which articles were published about the then ongoing DOJ OIG review, as well as electronic evidence that demonstrated that the then DOJ OIG employee was privy to documents referenced in the various articles,” the two-page statement said.

The summary described a broad-ranging investigation into the leak, which included asking staffers involved in the work to answer written questions about whether they’d had any interactions with the media. This request seemed to have prompted one employee to quit, the statement suggested.

“The independent investigation noted that the then DOJ OIG employee abruptly resigned from DOJ OIG shortly before the date by which the employee and other DOJ OIG employees connected to the then ongoing DOJ OIG review were asked to submit sworn answers to a questionnaire regarding the unauthorized disclosures to the media,” the summary said. “The independent investigation further noted that the then DOJ OIG employee was the only DOJ OIG employee who did not answer the questions about the unauthorized disclosures.”

While the probe found that the unnamed employee violated “federal ethics regulations and DOJ OIG policy,” the summary makes no reference to the leak being unlawful or to the matter being referred for potential prosecution. A written denial from the alleged leaker could have exposed him or her to a criminal false statement charge.

Horowitz’s office said the staffer who resigned later declined to talk with investigators. The DOJ IG and the other agency IG which conducted the leak probe lack the power to compel former employees to testify in investigations, the summary noted.

In a related development, Horowitz’s office said later Wednesday that it made “non-material revisions” to its final report on the family separation policy following a review by the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general.

“The changes were made to the passages of the report to more closely align with the supporting evidence in our underlying work papers,” Horowitz’s office said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why do journalists in Mexico keep getting killed? Alejandra Ibarra Chaoul and Kevin Sieff, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). With the shooting deaths this week of a cameraperson and a director in Veracruz state, the number of journalists killed in Mexico this year is now up to 11. That’s more than in Ukraine, where the world’s press corps is covering a war.

Mexico has long been one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be a journalist. But 2022’s killing rampage is on pace to more than triple last year’s total. The increase has left many here wondering what has changed — how to explain the epidemic of violence against reporters, editors and photographers.

Sheila Johana García Olivera and Yesenia Mollinedo Falconi of the online news outlet El Veraz were shot Monday night while sitting in a car outside a convenience store. Neither survived. Mollinedo Falconi had received threats for her journalistic work, her brother said.

A closer look at this year’s killings suggests no single reason explains the uptick. No one criminal organization or arm of the government is responsible. Instead, the deaths point to the wide range of threats that journalists here face daily — and the impunity that allows their killers to act without fear of consequence.

 

greg palast logo

dinesh dsouza 2000 mules

BuzzFlash and GregPalast.com, '2,000 Mules': Belly Laughs, Belly Aches from Film’s “Proof” that Trump Won, Greg Palast, May 11, 2022. Don’t laugh. Yet.

A Black man walks from his car to the ballot drop box (as shown above). Dark music plays. The Black man puts ballots in the drop box then gets back in his car.

“This is a smoking gun! This is OJ Simpson being seen leaving the scene of the crime!”

A crime?

larry elder screenshotNo less an expert than radical right radio kook Larry Elder, right, is convinced he has seen a crime.

It looks to me like a Black man putting ballots in a drop box. (In Georgia, as just about everywhere, you can drop off ballots for family members.)

In this film 2000 Mules, heavily promoted by Donald Trump (who hosted the release at Mar-al-Lago), front man Dinesh D’Souza sets out to prove the Black man is a “mule,” part of a giant criminal conspiracy to stuff ballot boxes with fraudulent votes. The proof? Well, you can see it with your own eyes! The evidence is in your face: There’s a BLACK man and he is dropping off BALLOTS in a ballot drop box. Case closed! Guilty!

OK, you can laugh now. But crying time is coming. I predict that 2000 Mules will create the platform for Trump’s loss of the election in 2024 — and Trump’s inauguration in 2025.

But for now, back to the film.

D’Souza’s “expert” tells us they tracked the Black mule. “So, in one night this person, this mule went across six counties to 27 different drops.”

Wow!

Does D’Souza have the film to prove it? Yes, of course he does, you liberal jerk! D’Souza worked with a courageous group, True the Vote, that obtained ALL the security footage of every ballot drop box in Atlanta — 4 million minutes of film and they looked at all of it!

They have the damning film — they just won’t show it

They have the film, but they … just don’t, uh, show it. Why not show us at least a couple of film clips of the 27 times this Black felon repeated his crime? Well, that’s the problem with you liberal jerks: You see a Black man with a ballot and you, Mr. Liberal, assume he’s voting, when he’s obviously committing a crime. And he does it dozens of times! Why do we have to show you the evidence? We just need Elder, the Chubby Checker of right wing nuttery, to blubber his amazement at seeing the footage on D’Souza’s computer. Case closed! Guilty!

I was so angry at this criminal voter, I wanted to bust him! Expose him. Arrest him. They have his photo, his car, his license plate number. In fact, their “expert” says these ballot mules have, “bad backgrounds, bad reputations, …violent guys.”

Whoa! So, If D’Souza identifies their “backgrounds,” they must have their names. So why don’t they show us the files? Name the names? Show us their faces? Confront them. Call the cops, the feds!

dinesh dsouzaBut D’Souza, left, and True the Vote didn’t bust anyone. Didn’t name a single mule — though they supposedly can identify them. They even fuzzed over the mules’ faces so we can’t see who it is. Nice of D’Souza to protect the guilty. Unless, of course, the Black men weren’t guilty. Or just guilty of Voting While Black. They don’t show us the files of their “bad reputations" because these files don't exist.

Why did the Black man with the ballots commit a crime on camera that will get him five years in prison? For the money, of course! Did D’Souza know for certain the Black man took money? Of course! D’Souza shows a film of money being handed to someone. OK, it’s a reenactment — the actor gets a credit at the end of the film. But hey, it could have happened. Case closed! Guilty!

D’Souza knows the Black man was paid by a “non-profit” group. They showed a photo of Black candidate Stacey Abrams. But he doesn’t actually say that she or her group, Fair Fight Georgia, made the payments. In fact, he doesn’t say who made the payments. Why?

And what about those “non-profits” that paid the mules — 2,000 mules casting nearly a million illegal votes — 817,765 illegal ballots (we toted up their claims) in just five cities — i.e. Black cities. D’Souza tracked the mules to the offices of these “non-profits,” even had an Arizona bbc news logo2whistleblower say she herself gathered the ballots and paid the mules out of one office.

But the whistleblower is in shadow, unnamed…and D’Souza, oddly, conceals the name of this criminal “non-profit.” He won’t reveal the group because … well, that’s odd. When I reported investigations for BBC Television, not once did I say, “We have the proof — witnesses, film, documents — of felony crimes committed by … well, that’s our secret!”

He knows who paid hundreds of millions to the mules — but he won’t tell us.

D'Souza says, “We know that the mules got their stashes of ballots from these activist organizations.” He “knows,” but won’t say how he knows, what evidence he has. Hell, he doesn’t name even one evil organization (and he claims there are many) because… well, maybe they didn’t do it.

Why didn’t he confront this unnamed group or groups with the evidence? I do that in every report I’ve ever filmed (in fact, it’s required by British law for UK reporters). Maybe because D’Souza has no evidence. He certainly didn’t show us any evidence, zero, of a single payment to a single mule.

When the Palast team finds a crime or malfeasance or vote manipulation, we name the perps — Chevron, Katherine Harris, whomever, and I confront them.

Take a look at our last major report from Georgia. We discovered that GOP operatives challenged the right to vote of tens of thousands of Black and young Georgians on false evidence. We named the key operatives — Pam Reardon is the Republican challenger-in chief. Here’s a photo of me confronting Reardon with the evidence. We didn’t fuzz out her face. And we named and confronted the group who gave her the phony, racially poisonous purge list: True the Vote. Yep, the same characters who provided the bogus info for 2000 Mules.

Yes, there is vote theft — votes stolen from people of color and the young. We’ve got the proof and, unlike D’Souza, we will show you the evidence and name the perps.

And when we say True the Vote receives Dark Money for these voter roll hits, we name the perp: The Bradley Foundation, the uber-right-wing billionaires from Milwaukee.

Why does the Palast team, whether for the BBC or Rolling Stone or Democracy Now! always names the perps? Well, that’s kind of point of investigative reporting. We do it because we can: we have the evidence, so we show it.

D’Souza and True the Vote don’t name the perps nor the evil groups nor their funders because… they don’t have the evidence. Period.
Stuffing the drop box from 93 feet away

But Mules is slick. Real slick. With an air of science and hard statistics. They use the new tool of “geo-tracking”. They bought (as anyone can) “pings” from cell phones in five cities, trillions of pings. D’Souza shows a satellite in space, shows all kinds of flashing lights on a computer screen and the damning evidence — photos of Black men casting ballots.

They say (but don’t show us) that these Black men, inexplicably, went to drop boxes "on average 23 times”. That’s pretty damning, if true.
But it’s not true. The commercial geo-tracking services that True the Vote used can only identify a phone moving within 30 meters (93 feet) of a location. That is, if someone is jogging by a couple of drop boxes, although they are on the other side of a highway, they are “mules.” D’Souza shows dramatic fluorescent lines on a computer showing the path of two “mules” — who go by several drop boxes. Case closed! Guilty!

Now, who would go by the same boxes day after day? Maybe they aren’t “mules.” In fact, a more accurate name for the film would be “2000 Mailmen”.

The commercial geo-tracking services that True the Vote used can only identify a phone moving within 30 meters (93 feet) of a location. Now, who would go by the same boxes day after day? Maybe they aren’t “mules.” In fact, a more accurate name for the film would be “2000 Mailmen”.

With thousands of “mules,” somehow they didn’t name a single one. As a former professor of statistics and investigator for several Attorneys General, I can tell you it would be damn easy to locate a bunch of them. True the Vote has license plates, film of faces, and the list of voters whose ballots were dropped off. They could match the photos to the date stamp on the ballots.

They even had a detective hired by the Republican Party who said he saw and filmed men stuffing the ballot boxes late at night. But he didn’t show the film nor call the cops nor tag the suspects (nor did the GOP). Why not? Because it didn’t happen.

And where did these 817,765 ballots come from? A ballot cannot simply be printed and stuffed into a box: every mail-in ballot is assigned and coded to an individual voter (your vote choice is secret but not the ballot envelope nor the fact you voted). So, it would have been easy to call the voters whose ballots were supposedly stolen and used to vote without their consent to prove these were fraudulent votes. (Yes, it’s time consuming: Our Georgia investigation required 1,200 phone calls.)

Since proving ballots are stolen is easy (though time-consuming) why didn’t D’Souza prove his case? Provide a list of the names on the fraudulent ballots? Because he can’t.

D’Souza and True the Vote insist that tens of thousands of ballots in Georgia alone were stolen — yet there were no reports of ballot thefts. Voters would have found that someone cast their ballot when they tried to vote. They can’t prove a million ballots were stolen or illegally bought (“trafficked” in True the Vote’s terminology) because it didn’t happen.

D’Souza’s charge is mind-blowing. He claims that there are as many 54,000 mules that were organized and paid in at least five big cities. In Fulton County (Atlanta), he tells us 92,670 ballots were stuffed illegally into drop boxes.

That’s astonishing — because there were only 79,000 ballots cast in drop boxes in Fulton County!

And in Detroit, it was worse. “Mules” stuffed 226,590 ballots into Detroit area drop boxes — way more than the total number of all mail-in ballots — about three times the number of ballots in drop boxes.

True the Vote’s “expert” tells us he identified mules in Detroit, “That went to more than a hundred drop boxes.” That’s also amazing because there were only 30 drop boxes in all of Detroit.

And with over three-quarters of a million ballots stolen or “trafficked,” not one voter claimed that someone stole their ballot. Because, maybe, it didn’t happen. We can conclude: Walking 50 feet from a ballot box does not mean you were paid to stuff that box, Mr. Elder.

Don’t laugh. The guy next to me sure wasn’t laughing. As the credits rolled, he shouted, “I’M A VETERAN! YOU HAVE TO TELL EVERYONE TO WATCH THIS FILM!”

When I asked the shouter — his name is Steve — why D’Souza didn’t name the “non-profits” spending millions on ballot trafficking, Steve said, “Yeah, I was kind of wondering ‘bout that.” But then Steve added his own explanation: “These people [Clintons, Obama and the mule-driving “non-profits”] have an arrangement with the Devil.” I guess D’Souza did not want to upset Satan.

So, who put up the hundreds of millions of dollars of Dark Money to hire the mules and organize this national operation? D’Souza features a right wing “expert” who tells us Mark Zuckerberg, George Soros and Warren Buffet have the money to do it. But did they? Well, two out of three are Jewish. What other proof do you need, Liberal?

Am I saying there are no election crimes? Of course not. Example: Dinesh D’Souza was convicted of the felony crime of concealing election campaign contributions in 2014, served a 5 month sentence in a halfway house, was fined and given five years' probation — and was later pardoned by Trump for his service to the cause.

Why hire "mules" at all?

And two more things. First, every single drop-box ballot (and mail-in ballot) must be signed by the voter and the signature verified against the registration signature. D’Souza doesn’t tell us how over a quarter million ballot signatures were forged—yet not one forgery was caught.

Really?

And second, and most devastating: Why hire mules at all? Why in the world would these unnamed "non-profits" pay tens of millions to Black men to drive all over the county to stuff them into drop boxes, committing a felony crime on camera — when anyone can simply dump them into a mail box, no cameras, no time stamps, no evidence.

This “evidence” will allow Republican Legislatures to claim the electoral votes of those states are in question and, on January 6, 2025, those Electoral College votes will not be certified by a Republican Congress.

2,000 Mules will elect Trump in 2024

Still laughing? Prepare for the unhappy ending. This film will be the excuse for massive new vote suppression trickery all in the name of preventing “voter fraud.” In Georgia, under SB202, devised by Gov. Brian Kemp, Stacey Abrams’ likely opponent, Fulton County’s 38 drop boxes will be reduced to just eight and will be locked inside state buildings. True the Vote’s hit list of Georgia voters has expanded, without a word in the national press, to block over 300,000 ballots cast by voters of color.

Thirty-five states are purging several million voters from the rolls using a method pushed by True the Vote’s funders, the Bradleys, all to prevent chimerical fraudulent voters.

Now, jump into my time machine to 2024. Let’s say a Biden-Trump race produces the same electoral count as in 2020. But in 2024, the GOP will have the “evidence,” bogus though it may be, of “mules” stuffing ballot boxes in Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona and Michigan. This “evidence” will allow Republican Legislatures to claim the electoral votes of those states are in question and, on January 6, 2025, those Electoral College votes will not be certified by a Republican Congress.

At that moment, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution will kick in and, in place of the Electoral College, each state will have one vote for President. Do the math: As the majority of state delegations are Republican, a 12th Amendment procedure will insure that, on January 20, 2025, Trump will be inaugurated again.

While the band strikes up, Hail to the Thief. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘2000 Mules’ offers the least convincing election-fraud theory yet, Philip Bump, right, May 12, 2022. There’s one scene in philip bumpparticular that I think summarizes the irredeemable flaws of Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie “2000 Mules,” in which he purports to demonstrate rampant illegality surrounding the 2020 presidential election. The film has become a central part of Donald Trump’s assertions about the election, with the former president hosting a screening last week at his Mar-a-Lago resort. But, interestingly, the most revealing scene doesn’t have anything to do with the election at all.

dinesh dsouzaIn it, D’Souza, left, is hearing from a man named Gregg Phillips about how cellphone geotracking works. In short, your phone has various tools that allow it to know roughly where it is at any given moment, data that is often collected through apps and shared with companies that aggregate data for marketers. Phillips uses that data, which also includes time stamps, to show that only a few phones were in the vicinity of a fatal shooting in Atlanta — an incident that Phillips’s colleague Catherine Engelbrecht describes as “ebbing on cold-case status.”

“You could see, visually, that there were only a handful of unique devices that could possibly have pulled the trigger,” Phillips says. He shows a circle overlaid on a map, within which five dots of different colors are visible — dots indicating “the only potential legitimate shooters,” he says. He explains that, having done this analysis, his team turned information about those devices over to the FBI.

“Now, I read, they've arrested two suspects,” D'Souza says.

“They have,” Phillips says, somberly.

There’s a reason for this scene. Phillips and Engelbrecht’s analysis of geotracking data is the crux of D’Souza’s claims about there being an army of people who were dispatched to collect ballots before the presidential election. If data can be used to identify and arrest criminals in one case, the movie would have us believe, it can be similarly used in the case of all this alleged election fraud.

But looking at the case more closely, you see how the impression you’re meant to have is wildly misleading. The shooting led to the death of Secoriea Turner on July 4, 2020. It was far from a “cold case” — police arrested a suspect about two weeks later after he turned himself in. A second suspect was arrested in early August 2021 — not by federal law enforcement but by state officials. There is no indication that geolocation data played a role in either arrest, much less data provided by Phillips’s team.

In other words, D’Souza is elevating shaky, misrepresented, incomplete claims to bolster his rhetoric — as I said, an apt summary of the movie overall.

D’Souza declined to comment for this article.

“2000 Mules” can be broken out into three basic components. There’s the geolocation-based material that’s the heart of D’Souza’s assertions about the election. The second half of the movie is a broader effort to undergird the geolocation claims, an attempt to build a foundation of how and why a rampant ballot collection scheme might have been undertaken. And then there’s the third part, a sort of cable-news-style panel conversation with D’Souza and several other conservative and right-wing pundits. (All of those pundits, incidentally, have shows with Salem Media Group, which served as executive producer of the film.) By the end, the pundits have been convinced that rampant fraud occurred, with former Trump administration official Sebastian Gorka outlining all of the evidence that had been presented “empirically” in support of the claim.

There is no such empirical evidence, by a long shot. That geolocation data from Phillips and Engelbrecht’s group, True the Vote, which also has executive-producer credits on the film, is used as a purportedly data-driven latticework on which everything else hangs. But beyond lots of harrumphing about how revealing this data is, we see very little of it.

The theory that Phillips and Engelbrecht present is that nonprofit organizations employed people to collect ballots and then drop them into drop boxes in various cities. They call this “ballot trafficking,” a term meant to connote illegality akin to the transport of narcotics. The people carrying the ballots, then, become “mules” and the nonprofit groups “stash houses.” To test this theory, they obtained a large amount of anonymized cellphone geolocation data and tried to figure out how often individual phones appeared near drop box sites or near those nonprofit groups.

By itself, this is a dubious approach. As the Associated Press pointed out in a fact check of the film, there’s no way by just using cellphone data to know whether someone visited a ballot drop box, particularly since those boxes were installed in high-traffic areas. Last month, I spoke with an expert on geolocation who made clear that the imprecision of phone geolocation would make specifying that a phone was actually near a drop box (and not, say, 10 feet from it) nearly impossible. The film makes repeated comparisons to federal law enforcement’s ability to identify people who entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, but even if the phone’s location is off by 20 feet, it’s still obvious when you’re inside a large building. (In one shot, the film shows geolocated data inside the Capitol — with positions surrounded by large circles of uncertainty that make this point clearly.)

In essence, we're just asked to trust that True the Vote found what it says it found. That by itself is probably not wise.

Phillips first rose to national attention in 2016 when he claimed, without any evidence, that millions of people had voted illegally in that year’s presidential election. Trump jumped on the claim, but Phillips never presented any evidence it had occurred. There was no reason to assume it had.

So we get sweeping claims about how many “mules” True the Vote identified in each city and the average number of drop boxes each visited. We’re shown one map of the travels of one “mule” throughout one city on one day, but even that is simply offered by Phillips as representing “a smoothed-out pattern of life” that we’re asked to assume is accurate. Everything else is just offered in the aggregate.

To bolster the claim, though, the movie spends a lot of time showing video from ballot drop boxes, obtained with public records requests. Phillips and Engelbrecht narrate what we're seeing, framing all of it as evidence in support of their theory.

In one bit of footage, we see a woman come and use a drop box. She puts in “a small stack” of ballots, Phillips says, “maybe three, maybe four,” and then removes latex gloves that she had been wearing and throws them away. This happened at 1 a.m., the True the Vote team says, making it more suspicious.

Except:

It’s not at all clear that the woman is putting more than one ballot in the box. There’s just one thin white rectangle that gets slipped into the box.

This was on Jan. 5, 2021, during Georgia’s runoff election, so it had nothing to do with the presidential race.

The woman is wearing gloves and a mask — suggesting that she is taking precautions against the coronavirus.

Is it hard to believe someone might wear latex gloves to access a publicly used drop box if one is worried about infection?

We are later told that the True the Vote team noticed the “mules” wearing gloves only after a late-December election-fraud indictment in Arizona — an indictment that stemmed, we are told, from fingerprints being used to catch culprits. That indictment involved the collection and submission of four ballots, and it’s not clear that fingerprints were an important part of tracking down the alleged culprits. But this additional — and hard to verify in the moment — piece of information makes the woman’s actions seem much more nefarious.

The True the Vote people claim that they identified the same woman “in a number of locations” and that she went to “dozens and dozens over the course of these two elections.” But we don’t see the map of her geolocated activity. We don’t even see a map of her cellphone going to that drop box on that night in January 2021. We don’t see video footage of her at another drop box. We’re just asked to believe that all of this occurred, without evidence.

Then there's the guy with a bike. He arrives at a drop box, removes a ballot from his backpack and puts it in the drop box.

“You also see him get sort of frustrated as he starts to leave,” Phillips claims, though there’s no obvious evidence of frustration. “Because, guess what? At this point, they had started requiring the mules, apparently, to take pictures of the stuffing of the ballots. It appears that that’s how they get paid.”

You then see the guy park his bike by the drop box and take a picture of both.

“If you’re just casting your own ballot,” Engelbrecht says, “what reason in the world would you have to come back and take a picture of the box?”

The answer is obvious. The particular drop box in this case can be easily tracked to the Ponce de Leon Library in Atlanta. If you look on Instagram, there are a number of people posting photos of themselves voting at this drop box. (For example.) There are any number of other photos people posted on social media showing themselves, say, riding a bike to drop off a ballot. Elections officials encouraged sharing voting experiences on social media in a bid to drive up turnout.

But that’s the sum total of the evidence offered against “bike guy” — that he took a picture. Again, he doesn’t appear to have multiple ballots. Again, there’s no geolocated data putting him there. It’s just this one snippet of purported sketchiness that comes down to a guy taking a picture of himself voting. Notice, too, that Phillips doesn’t purport to have any information from anywhere else that taking a photo was a requirement to get paid — he just says this is “apparently” a new requirement. (The lady with the gloves didn’t take a picture.) Phillips just layers that story on top of the video to make it seem as if the guy with the bike was part of a conspiracy and True the Vote had unpacked this complicated scheme.

At no point is there evidence presented of people getting ballots from a nonprofit group and dropping them in drop boxes. There’s one anonymized interview with a woman in Arizona who claims this happened, but there’s no geolocated or video evidence of ballot drops being made. Despite a confused scene with the pundit panel in which it’s alleged that maybe some of these ballots were submitted on behalf of dead people or people who moved, there’s no evidence of that happening. There aren’t even very many snippets of people casting more than one ballot — a practice that wasn’t itself necessarily illegal.

One segment of the movie shows a man depositing multiple ballots in a county in Georgia. But there’s a trivial — and legal — answer, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Mark Niesse reported: He was dropping off ballots for his family, which he’s allowed by law to do.

That the film does not even try to show that man making any geolocated visits to other drop boxes should by now not need to be mentioned. What appears to have happened is not that True the Vote found “mules” and then placed them at drop boxes using governmental video surveillance. Instead, the group appears to be trying to imply overlap between two large, distinct data sets — one with dots on a map and one with unusual-looking activity at drop boxes.

If there’s no proof of “mules” running around, the film’s second-half effort to explain how the system works is unimportant. (It’s mostly a mishmash of old claims about fraud and the au courant effort to cast increasing voter turnout as devious.)

But none of this is really the point. The point, instead, is that the viewers come away from the movie believing that they were right all along about the election being stolen. And so D’Souza scratches that itch by adding up the number of “mules,” the number of drop box visits and the average number of ballots deposited to determine how this network of criminality swung the election to Joe Biden.

It's useful here to be blunt: Every part of the calculus that D'Souza uses to show that Trump really won is nonsense, as he himself inadvertently makes clear.

First, it depends on True the Vote’s “mule” estimates being accurate, which for the reasons stated above should not be assumed. Second, it weirdly relies on the average number of drop box visits per “mule” instead of just a total number of visits, which one would think True the Vote could provide. Third, it assumes that those votes are invalid or would not otherwise have been cast, which is not a defensible assumption. (In fact, speaking at a legislative hearing in Wisconsin in March, Engelbrecht noted that “we’re not suggesting that the ballots that were cast were illegal ballots.”) And fourth, it relies on True the Vote’s estimate that each drop box visit included the drop of five ballots on average.

Consider that for a moment. What on Earth could that be based on? There is one scene in which True the Vote notes that a drop box in Georgia had more ballots than would have been expected based on the number of visits observed in video footage during the 24 hours prior, but there’s no attempt to understand why that might be the case. Did they see someone roll up with a giant stack of ballots? If so, why isn’t that in the movie? Even if all of the rest of this were true, there’s simply no way to know how many ballots were dropped in a drop box by a “mule.”

After declaring that Trump would have won the election based on the math above, D’Souza does something even odder: He just assumes that there were more mules than True the Vote counted and, for no explained reason, that they were averaging three instead of five ballots per drop. Suddenly, Trump wins every contested state!

And if there was a secret effort to dress chipmunks up as people and cast in-person ballots for Trump to the tune of, oh, 40 percent of turnout in each state, removing that criminal activity gives Biden a massive electoral victory! I have video of a chipmunk in my yard that I believe is carrying a ballot, so who’s to say my theory isn’t accurate? If we make up whatever numbers we want, we can do all sorts of interesting things.

At its heart, “2000 Mules” is a triumph of capitalism. There’s huge demand for proving that Trump didn’t lose in 2020, and this film provides just enough of a veneer of authority to let people collapse comfortably into that belief. That it doesn’t survive even mild external scrutiny is as irrelevant as pointing out contradictions in a religious text is to recent converts: They want to believe what they want to believe.

“Their ability to keep their side ignorant is total,” radio host Dennis Prager said during the pundit panel portion of the film. It’s an interesting commentary on how partisan belief works, certainly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian TV, online platforms hacked with antiwar message, Mary Ilyushina and Annabelle Timsit, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). Russians using smart TVs reported seeing something atypical: A message appeared instead of the usual listing of channels. “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands,” read the message that took over their screens. “TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”

The apparent hack, targeting ordinary Russians sitting by their televisions or looking things up on their search engines, broke through the pro-Moscow messaging Monday as Russia celebrated Victory Day, a commemoration of the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.

As Russia intensified its attacks in Ukraine’s south and east, thousands of Russian troops assembled in Moscow’s Red Square for a military parade. Addressing them, President Vladimir Putin gave a speech doubling down on his invasion of Ukraine and accusing NATO and Western countries, without evidence, of provoking Russia.

On Victory Day, Putin defends war on Ukraine as fight against ‘Nazis’

The antiwar message that appeared on the screens of Russian smart TVs also appeared on the platforms of Yandex, Russia’s IT giant. Like Google, it combines many products under one umbrella, including a search engine and a service providing TV programming schedules. On that page, the daily programs for state-run Channel One and Russia-1 were also defaced early Monday.

Russia’s equivalent of YouTube, called Rutube, was also affected, it said in a statement.

“Following the sites of various Russian ministries, which have been constantly subjected to cyberattacks over the past two months, hackers have reached RUTUBE,” Rutube said on its official Telegram channel. “Our video hosting has undergone a powerful cyberattack. At the moment, it is not possible to access the platform.”

The streaming platform later said that it had “localized the incident” and was working to restore normal service, and that the apparent hackers were unable to access its content library.

“Specialists localized the incident, and work is currently underway to ensure security,” Rutube said. “We will announce the timing of the restoration of the video service in the near future.”

washington post logoWashington Post, House approves nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine, Felicia Sonmez and Andrew Jeong, May 11, 2020 (print ed.). The package of military, economic and humanitarian support is $7 billion more than the $33 billion President Biden requested. The Senate is expected to follow suit this week.

The House on Tuesday approved nearly $40 billion in additional aid for Ukraine as the country battles Russia’s brutal invasion, now in its third month.

The package of military, economic and humanitarian support, which is $7 billion more than the $33 billion President Biden requested, was approved on a bipartisan vote of 368-to-57, with the Senate expected to follow suit this week.

All House Democrats present Tuesday night voted in favor of the measure. They were joined by 149 House Republicans. Fifty-seven House Republicans voted “no.”

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: U.S. SIGINT shared with Ukraine not the first for the post-Soviet region, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 21 books and a former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, May wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small10-11, 2022. Russia did not complain when the U.S. passed to it top-level intelligence to enable it to target a former Soviet general.

President Biden is reportedly infuriated that U.S. national security officials have leaked to the media information that the United State shared intelligence with Ukraine that led to successful Ukrainian hits on some 12 Russian generals serving on or near the wayne madesen report logofront lines of the war in Ukraine. Biden was also upset that intelligence leaks confirmed that similar U.S. intelligence helped in the successful Ukrainian sinking of the Russian Black Sea flagship, the Moskva.

In a May 6 call to his top national security officials, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, CIA director William Burns, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Biden said the leaks must stop. Biden was reacting as all past administrations have nsa logo 2done when highly-classified signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations are leaked to the media. Apparently, the National Security Agency has found a rich environment of usable SIGINT in Ukraine because Russian military personnel have been relying on commercial mobile phones to discuss battlefield operations. These communications are intercepted and geo-located by NSA SIGINT satellites, aircraft, and other platforms in the region. That geo-locational data has, according to the leaked intelligence, been passed on to Ukraine to target Russian field commands, resulting in the killing of generals and other high-ranking officers.

When it comes to SIGINT, the "holy grail" of the FIVE EYES intelligence alliance of the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, every alliance leader has reacted negatively to leaks about communications intercept operations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Celebrity chef Mario Batali found not guilty of sexual assault in Boston trial, Tim Carman, May 11, 2022 (print ed.). Mario Batali was found not guilty on Tuesday of charges of indecent sexual assault and battery following a two-day trial in which the celebrity chef never took the witness stand in his own defense.

mario batali book simple mealsThe case against Batali, 61, was a #MeToo landmark: the first time a chef accused of sexual misconduct faced criminal charges in court. On Monday, the first day of the trial, Batali, shown at left on the cover of one of his cookbooks, waived his right to a jury trial, opting to leave his fate in the hands of Judge James Stanton, who on Tuesday said that evidence showed the accuser was motivated by financial gain.

Mario Batali’s accuser details alleged assault as his trial begins

The case hinged almost exclusively on the testimony of Natali Tene and the selfie photos she took with Batali on April 1, 2017, at a restaurant in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston, not far from Eataly, an Italian marketplace that counted Batali among its owners.

“It’s an understatement to say that Mr. Batali did not cover himself in glory on the night in question,” Stanton said in announcing his ruling. “His conduct, his appearance and his demeanor were not befitting a public person of his stature at that time.”

But Stanton said it is the court’s job to determine how much weight to give to the testimony of witnesses. “The complaining witness has significant credibility issues,” he said. “The issues were highlighted in her testimony.”

On Monday, Tene testified that, while dining at Towne Stove and Spirits, she was caught trying to take a furtive photo of the chef who, before the #MeToo era, was a multimedia star. He wrote cookbooks, appeared on daytime television, was a regular on “Iron Chef America,” had his own cookware and was known virtually everywhere he went for his iconic footwear: orange Crocs.

After Batali motioned her over to his bar stool, Tene testified, she was prepared to apologize for snapping his picture without permission and even ready to delete it. But Batali, she said, encouraged her to take selfies with him. Off and on, over the course of three minutes or so, she testified, she snapped photos and short videos with Batali, who remained seated while she stood next to him.

May 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Russian TV, online platforms hacked with antiwar message, Mary Ilyushina and Annabelle Timsit, May 10, 2020. Russians using smart TVs reported seeing something atypical: A message appeared instead of the usual listing of channels. “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands,” read the message that took over their screens. “TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.”

The apparent hack, targeting ordinary Russians sitting by their televisions or looking things up on their search engines, broke through the pro-Moscow messaging Monday as Russia celebrated Victory Day, a commemoration of the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.

As Russia intensified its attacks in Ukraine’s south and east, thousands of Russian troops assembled in Moscow’s Red Square for a military parade. Addressing them, President Vladimir Putin gave a speech doubling down on his invasion of Ukraine and accusing NATO and Western countries, without evidence, of provoking Russia.

On Victory Day, Putin defends war on Ukraine as fight against ‘Nazis’

The antiwar message that appeared on the screens of Russian smart TVs also appeared on the platforms of Yandex, Russia’s IT giant. Like Google, it combines many products under one umbrella, including a search engine and a service providing TV programming schedules. On that page, the daily programs for state-run Channel One and Russia-1 were also defaced early Monday.

Russia’s equivalent of YouTube, called Rutube, was also affected, it said in a statement.

“Following the sites of various Russian ministries, which have been constantly subjected to cyberattacks over the past two months, hackers have reached RUTUBE,” Rutube said on its official Telegram channel. “Our video hosting has undergone a powerful cyberattack. At the moment, it is not possible to access the platform.”

The streaming platform later said that it had “localized the incident” and was working to restore normal service, and that the apparent hackers were unable to access its content library.

“Specialists localized the incident, and work is currently underway to ensure security,” Rutube said. “We will announce the timing of the restoration of the video service in the near future.”

May 9

washington post logoWashington Post, 48 million households to qualify for $30 Internet plan under new Biden program, Jacob Bogage, May 9, 2022. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and 17 other providers will offer discounts under the plan, which the White House estimates will extend to 48 million households.

Households can qualify for the subsidies, called the Affordable Connectivity Program, if their income is at or below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, a member of the household participates in certain federal anti-poverty initiatives — including Medicaid, Supplemental att logoNutrition Assistance Program, federal housing assistance, Pell Grant tuition assistance, or free or reduced-price school meals — or if the household already qualifies for an Internet provider’s low-income service program.

Consumers can check whether they qualify for discounted service at getinternet.gov.

President Biden, both during his 2020 campaign and in negotiations for the bipartisan infrastructure bill, has made Internet access a high priority, especially for rural America and low-income consumers. A 2021 study by the Pew Research Center found that though broadband, the most reliable form of Internet connectivity, access has increased among rural residents in the past decade, rural communities still lag well behind others in terms of service.

Roughly 7 in 10 adults in rural areas reported having home broadband access in 2021, Pew found; the same proportion had a desktop or laptop computer. Eight in 10 had a smartphone.

“If we didn’t know it before, we know now,” Biden said last month at a White House ceremony honoring the national teacher of the year. “High-speed Internet is essential.”

Biden’s infrastructure package reserved $65 billion to improve the nation’s broadband network. Most of that funding will go to states for projects directed by local policymakers, but a $14 billion pool was set aside for Internet subsidies.

The discount program faces early hurdles because the households it is meant to serve are not online and therefore more difficult to reach. The White House said it would partner with other federal agencies, state and city governments and charitable groups to spread the word.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Pamela Anderson, Amber Heard and the Limits of the Feminist Redemption Plot, Jessica Bennett, May 9, 2022. To look the part of Pamela Anderson in “Pam & Tommy,” the Hulu series, the actress Lily James sat through four hours of makeup each day and reportedly went through 50 pairs of 34DD prosthetic breasts, which had to be switched out repeatedly during filming and were at times so sweaty, they almost fell off.

The series recounts the whirlwind marriage of Ms. Anderson and her ex, the Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and centers on the honeymoon sex tape that was stolen from their home and distributed to the masses. But this retelling of their story, created without their involvement, purports to be the empowering version of events — an attempt to depict Ms. Anderson’s struggle in the aftermath and “provoke a conversation about how we treat women,” as Ms. James has put it.

So if the camera seems a little too interested in lingering on those prosthetic breasts? Don’t worry — this is feminist art.

And it’s the kind of art that seems to be everywhere in Hollywood these days, part of a slate of projects that aim to “reclaim,” “redeem,” “reframe” and “reconsider” famous, beautiful, usually white and always misunderstood women from our semirecent pasts, who were at one point vilified, usually over something sexual in nature. As the logic (and marketing language) tends to go, by retelling (and consuming!) these women’s hardships through the more enlightened lens of today, we are helping women reclaim their power.

“Pam & Tommy” is not the most recent example of this genre, though it is perhaps the most controversial — in part because Ms. Anderson wanted nothing to do with it. But by the time it was announced, in 2018, there was a whole host of other successful projects like it: a biopic and documentary about Anita Hill, recounting her treatment in her sexual harassment claim against Clarence Thomas; “I, Tonya,” about the figure skater Tonya Harding, now treated as more complex than just a low-class villain; and “Lorena,” about Lorena Bobbitt, who today goes by Lorena Gallo and who we now see was not merely the woman who chopped off her husband’s penis but also a victim of domestic abuse.

We owe some of this redemption framework to Monica Lewinsky, of course, whose affair with the president was the backdrop to my teen years and whose return to the public eye I arguably helped facilitate once I was old enough to recognize its complexity. I wrote about Ms. Lewinsky in 2015, shortly before she delivered a TED Talk on public humiliation, and then again last year, when she became the subject of the FX series “Impeachment.”

So I am not immune to the appeal of this redemption arc. And yet …

At what point does the fictional depiction of that spectacle, and our viewing of it, become just as bad as watching it in the first place?

There are enough tales of wronged women in history that we could keep telling these stories forever. But are we really any better off today for having heard so many of them?

May 7

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Judge dismisses Trump’s lawsuit against Twitter, Cat Zakrzewski, May 7, 2022 (print ed.). The former president accused the social network of violating the First Amendment by suspending his account after Jan. 6.

A California judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that Donald Trump filed against Twitter, the latest blow to the former president’s high-profile battles with major tech companies over their decisions to suspend his accounts in the fallout of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

twitter bird CustomThe lawsuit, which Trump initially filed last year in Florida along with suits targeting Google and Facebook, was viewed as part of a broader strategy to appeal to conservatives who have long argued that social media companies unfairly censor their viewpoints. The judge’s dismissal comes after Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk announced his plans to buy Twitter, taking issue over content moderation decisions he views as limiting free speech — and raising speculation that Trump could return to the platform.

In the ruling, U.S. District Judge James Donato rejected Trump’s argument that Twitter was operating as a “state actor” when it suspended his account in January 2021, calling it not plausible. Trump had claimed that Twitter was constrained by the First Amendment’s restrictions on government limitations of free speech because it had acted in cooperation with government officials.

May 6

 

Justice Clarence Thomas (left) and Justice Samuel Alito.

Justice Clarence Thomas (left) and Justice Samuel Alito.

Proof, Investigative Commentary:The Real Supreme Court Leak in Dobbs v. Jackson Isn’t the One You Think—and May Point Toward the Leaker’s Identity, Seth seth abramson proof logoAbramson, May 6, 2022. It turns out Alito’s draft opinion on abortion may have leaked earlier than believed, and not to Politico but another—farther right—outlet. This revelation may hold the key to a historic leak probe.

Seth Abramson, shown at right, founder of Proof, is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

May 5

 

supreme court 2018 group photo cropped Custom

SCOTUSblog, Analysis: How the leak might have happened, Tom Goldstein (SCOTUSblog editor and founder, and prominent litigator before the Supreme Court), May 5, 2022. Among the debates generated by the leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion in Dobbs is whether the leaker was conservative or liberal. The leak will ultimately pale in importance to the court’s decision once it is issued; the ruling will directly affect the lives and rights of tens of millions of people. But in the meantime, the motives of the leaker are an important topic because they help explain why an institution that zealously guards its secrets suddenly seems porous.

Start from the premise that there were actually (at least) two leakers, and three leaks. The first leak was to the Wall Street Journal editorial board last week. john roberts oIn substance, it was that the court had voted to overrule Roe v. Wade, but that the precise outcome remains in doubt because Chief Justice John Roberts, right, is trying to persuade either Justice Brett Kavanaugh or Justice Amy Coney Barrett to a more moderate position that would uphold the Mississippi abortion restriction without formally overturning Roe.

While not formally presented as relying on a leak, the editorial transparently does. The most obvious example is that it predicts that Alito samuel alito ois drafting a majority opinion to overrule Roe, but gives no explanation for that prediction and none is apparent. We now know that Alito, left, did draft that opinion.

The second leak was to Politico. Likely within the past few days, a person familiar with the court’s deliberations told them that five members of the court – Alito, Kavanaugh, and Barrett, along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch – originally voted to overturn Roe and that remains the current vote. In addition, the position of the chief justice is unclear. The remaining justices are dissenting.

The third leak was also to Politico. It was presumably – but not certainly – by the same person. Someone provided them with Alito’s Feb. 10 draft opinion.

Note as well what was not leaked. Politico seemingly was not told which justices had joined the Alito opinion. (The fact that five justices voted in December politico Customto overturn Roe as a general matter does not mean that all five of them necessarily would have agreed to sign on to Alito’s draft.) And Politico apparently was not provided with a subsequent draft, which ordinarily would have circulated to the court by now – in response to comments from some members of the would-be majority.

Here is what you would conclude is the state of play if you took all the leaks as both accurate and pretty complete (assumptions that, admittedly, are by no means certain). Alito’s opinion probably has been joined by Thomas and Gorsuch. Kavanaugh and Barrett have yet to join – most likely because they are waiting to consider an alternative opinion from the chief justice.

In these circumstances, which ideological side would think it benefits from leaking the opinion? It seems to me, that is the left. I can see conservatives believing that they would gain from leaking the fact that Kavanaugh had originally voted to strike down Roe. They might believe it would tend to lock him into that position. But that was accomplished by leaking that fact to both The Wall Street Journal and Politico.

The question here is who believed they would benefit from leaking the opinion itself. That document was much more likely to rally liberals than conservatives. It brought home the fact that the court was poised to overrule Roe in much more concrete terms than merely leaking the vote. The opinion is also a full-throated attack on abortion rights and – with important caveats – substantive due process rights more broadly. And as a first draft – without the benefit of later refinement – it does not yet present the critique of Roe in its most persuasive form.

It is also important to look at the leak of the opinion through the lens of the fact that someone – almost certainly a conservative – had just before leaked the court’s tentative decision and the state of the voting to The Wall Street Journal. That leak was itself an extraordinary and unethical breach of confidences and certainly caused very deep concern inside the court.

My guess is that someone on the left felt somewhat justified in releasing the opinion in response. Through the opinion, one would see what the Journal was saying Kavanaugh and Barrett were considering. That leak was a historically unprecedented violation of the deepest and most solemn trust among the justices and the court’s staff. It wounded the institution.

One small note about the identity of the leaker. There has been some speculation that turns on a supposed relationship with Josh Gerstein, the Politico legal affairs reporter who is the lead author on their story. It seems to me that the leak very likely runs instead through the other reporter with a byline on the story: Alexander Ward, who is a national security reporter. In response to questions from The Washington Post, Politico confirmed that the story was very tightly held from even its own staff. Almost surely, the leaker would have insisted on that confidentiality. I cannot think of a reason that Ward would have been on the story other than that the leaker communicated through him, not Gerstein. And Politico would have felt compelled to give Ward a byline on such a historic scoop.

May 3

disney world mickey mouse facebook

San Francisco Chronicle, Opinion: No, Ron DeSantis’ battle with Disney isn’t just political grandstanding, Burt Neuborne and Erwin Chemerinsky, Updated May 3, 2022. The core principle underlying the First Amendment is that government cannot punish speech because it disagrees with its viewpoint. But that is exactly what Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have done to the Disney corporation for having dared to oppose legislation limiting discussion of gay issues in Florida’s public schools.

We think the Supreme Court was wrong in Citizens United when it granted full free speech rights to corporations like Disney. Nor are we fans of delegating government powers to profit-driven corporations. But, as long as corporations continue to function as powerful First Amendment speakers, the worst thing we could do is empower an all-powerful regulatory state to turn corporate speakers into mouthpieces for the government by punishing them for failing to toe the party-line. That’s how Vladimir Putin rules Russia.

ron desantis hands outGov. DeSantis, right, and Florida state lawmakers have revoked a 55-year-old arrangement that allowed the Walt Disney Co. to self-govern its 25,000-acre Disney World complex. Stripping Disney of its local governmental powers was done for just one reason, and DeSantis was explicit about it: Disney CEO Bob Chapek had criticized Florida’s recently adopted law prohibiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in certain elementary school classrooms. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature were simply retaliating for Chapek’s criticism of the “don’t say gay” law.

It was once the law that government could condition the grant of a so-called “privilege,” like Disney’s authority to exercise delegated local government power, on any terms it wished. But over a half century ago, the Supreme Court rejected that approach and repeatedly has held that the regulatory state may not condition the continued enjoyment of a government-granted benefit on the recipient’s waiver of its First Amendment rights. Under disney logosettled First Amendment principles, the Florida Legislature could not provide that a person’s license to practice medicine or law, or their eligibility to receive welfare benefits, could be made contingent on supporting government policy.

Simply put, the government cannot condition the discretionary grant of a benefit on a recipient’s waiver of a constitutional right. The Supreme Court, applying its “unconstitutional condition” doctrine, has struck down efforts to condition government funding of public television stations on a waiver of the station’s First Amendment right to use privately raised funds to support news programs.

Florida’s effort to condition Disney’s continued exercise of local government authority on its support for the governor’s anti-gay bill is no different. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have unconstitutionally conditioned Disney’s ability to exercise local government benefits on the company’s silence.

There is a temptation to dismiss Florida’s action as political grandstanding by a governor who wants to run for president and is seeking issues that play to his base. Going after Disney for being too supportive of gays received just the headlines DeSantis wanted.

But if DeSantis and the Florida Republicans can get away with this, there will be no stopping their power to use the machinery of government to punish and silence their critics — corporate or otherwise. If DeSantis gets away with punishing Disney for its speech, any corporation, indeed any person receiving a benefit from a government will risk losing it unless they toe the party line. The potential for government manipulation of corporate — and other — speech is enormous.

washington post logoWashington Post, Christiane Northrup, once a New Age health guru, now spreads covid disinformation, Sam Kestenbaum, May 3, 2022. For much of the pandemic, there has been a tidy pattern to Christiane Northrup’s days.

A retired celebrity doctor with a New Age fandom, she would take her position at a sunny desk in coastal Maine, snap on a camera, and hold forth on spiritual topics such as chakra alignment and energy fields. With a flowery dress and glittering jewelry, she sometimes serenaded her online audience of half a million or so by plucking an enormous harp.

Then Northrup would land on a gloomier theme: covid-19. Northrup would claim that the virus was part of a plot involving Deep State brainwashing and treacherous depopulation schemes. She encouraged fans to check out QAnon, called the Centers for Disease Control a “covid death cult,” and described the vaccines as crimes against humanity.

“We are, indeed, at war,” she said in one recent dispatch. “It is good versus evil. Dark versus light.”

Last year, these apocalyptic-sounding messages put the doctor on a watchdog’s list of the top sources of falsehoods about the coronavirus vaccine for, among other things, sharing posts that falsely claimed the shot would lead to a 800% increase in chronic illnesses for children. The White House then called for her to be booted from the public square.

To those familiar with Northrup from the ’90s and 2000s, when she hosted PBS specials and became a beloved household name,(Oprah Winfrey once called her writing “a guide, a bible”) the doctor holding forth at her desk could seem radically transformed. Exiled from some circles, she found a hero’s welcome in the MAGA set and on anti-vaccine speaking tours that also featured former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Infowars host Alex Jones.

To some who knew Northrup personally, all of this came as a shock. Bill Manahan, a Minnesota doctor who befriended Northrup in the 1980s, said, “It’s like she went to the dark side.”

May 2

Investigations: Challenges To Democratic Norms

 

tucker carlson fox horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, Part 1: Tucker Carlson, once a failed pundit, stoked white fear to conquer cable, Nicholas Confessore, April 30, 2022. A New York Times investigative analysis in three parts of 1,100 episodes of the apocalyptic worldview of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the top-rated 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Fox News.

Tucker Carlson burst through the doors of Charlie Palmer Steak, enfolded in an entourage of producers and assistants, cellphone pressed to his ear. On the other end was Lachlan Murdoch, chairman of the Fox empire and his de facto boss.

fox news logo SmallMost of Fox’s Washington bureau, along with the cable network’s top executives, had gathered at the power-class steakhouse, a few blocks from the office, for their annual holiday party. Days earlier, Mr. Carlson had set off an uproar, claiming on air that mass immigration made America “poor and dirtier.” Blue-chip advertisers were fleeing. Within Fox, Mr. Carlson was widely viewed to have finally crossed some kind of line. Many wondered what price he might pay.

The answer became clear that night in December 2018: absolutely none.

When “Tucker Carlson Tonight” aired, Mr. Carlson doubled down, playing video of his earlier comments and citing a report from an Arizona government agency that said each illegal border crossing left up to eight pounds of litter in the desert. Afterward, on the way to the Christmas party, Mr. Carlson spoke directly with Mr. Murdoch, who praised his counterattack, according to a former Fox employee told of the exchange.

“We’re good,” Mr. Carlson said, grinning triumphantly, as he walked into the restaurant.

In the years since, Mr. Carlson has constructed what may be the most racist show in the history of cable news — and also, by some measures, the most successful.

 

sean hannity uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, Part 2: How Tucker Carlson reshaped Fox News — and became Trump’s heir, Nicholas Confessore, May 2, 2022 (print ed.). A New York Times investigative analysis in three parts of 1,100 episodes of the apocalyptic worldview of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the top-rated 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Fox News.

Tucker Carlson had a problem.

tucker carlsonAfter years in the cable wilderness, he had made a triumphant return to prime time. And his new show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” had leapfrogged to the heart of Fox News’s evening lineup just months after Donald J. Trump’s upset victory shattered the boundaries of conventional politics.

But as Mr. Trump thrashed through his first months in office, Mr. Carlson, right, found himself with an unexpected programming challenge: Fox was too pro-Trump. The new president watched his favorite network religiously, and often tweeted about what he saw there, while Fox broadcasts reliably parroted White House messaging. No one was more on message than Sean Hannity, shown above, then Fox’s highest-rated star, who frequently devoted his show to Mr. Trump’s daily battles with Washington Democrats and the media.

Newly planted in Fox’s newly vacated 8 p.m. time slot — previously held by the disgraced star Bill O’Reilly — Mr. Carlson told friends and co-workers that he needed to find a way to reach the Trump faithful, but without imitating Mr. Hannity. He didn’t want to get sucked into apologizing for Mr. Trump every day, he told one colleague, because the fickle, undisciplined new president would constantly need apologizing for.

The solution would not just propel Mr. Carlson toward the summit of cable news. It would ultimately thrust him to the forefront of the nationalist forces reshaping American conservatism. “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” the host and his producers decided, would embrace Trumpism, not Mr. Trump. The show would grasp the emotional core of Mr. Trump’s allure — white panic over the country’s changing ethnic composition — while keeping a carefully measured distance from the president himself. For years, as his television career sputtered, Mr. Carlson had adopted increasingly catastrophic views of immigration and the country’s shifting demographics. Now, as Mr. Trump took unvarnished nativism from the right-wing fringe to the Oval Office, Mr. Carlson made it the centerpiece of “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

ny times logoNew York Times, American Nationalist: Part 3, Nicholas Confessore, April 30, 2022 (print edition upcoming). A New York Times investigative analysis in three parts of 1,100 episodes of the apocalyptic worldview of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," the top-rated 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Fox News.

The nightly message to audience about the audience's domestic enemies in the media and among Democratic leaders and Left activists: "They don't care what you think. They want to control what you do."

May 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Russia struggles under unprecedented wave of hacking, puncturing myth of its cyber-superiority, Joseph Menn, May 1, 2022. Experts anticipated a Moscow-led cyber assault; instead, attacks by hacktivists and criminals have wreaked havoc in Russia.

 The rare front-line visit of such a high-ranking military official comes as analysts say Russian forces remain beset with logistical problems and disarray.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Ukraine and pledged U.S. support “until victory is won.” Civilians were being evacuated from Mariupol. Follow updates.

 

Ukraine Pilot unnamed

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The True Story of the “Ghost of Kyiv, Seth Abramson, left, May. 1, 2022. One of the most confusing and controversial news stories of seth abramson graphicRussia’s ten-week-long invasion of Ukraine is the story of a Ukrainian MiG-29 pilot whose identity—and even reality—has been hotly debated.

The Ukrainian Air Force (UAF), which is comparatively small and has comparatively old equipment, has now shot down a startling number of Russian fighter jets and attack helicopters—far more than U.S. intelligence expected would be the case, but in any case at a clip now confirmed by intelligence agencies from across the Western world. And these combat victories began very early on—even before the phrase “the Ghost of Kyiv” had been coined (let alone heard) by anybody.

seth abramson proof logoNeedless to say, almost none of these now-confirmed Ukrainian ground-to-air and air-to-air kills were recorded, for the obvious reason that all potential soldier-filmmakers were too busy fighting, and everyone else was too busy hiding. And it took several days for Western-media camera crews to get into position to get significant footage—or even to know where to go to get that footage—and even once they had that capacity, they were often prohibited from getting such footage either by safety concerns or the reasonable request of the Ukrainian armed forces that its positions not be broadcast.

But for all that, someone was downing a lot of Russian aircraft. That much is now clear.

To date, 189 Russian aircraft—at a bare minimum—have been downed by Ukrainians.

Were these 189 Russian aircraft downed by 189 different Ukrainian soldiers, wielding 189 different Stinger missile delivery systems and/or flying 189 different MiG-29s? No one knew, as February slipped into March and March into April.

So is it possible, given the miniscule size of Ukraine’s air force, the limited number of missions it runs daily (about ten, per major media reports) and the more-than-likely fact that many of the Russian aircraft lost so far have been jets that a single Ukrainian pilot managed, by March 13 of 2022—19 days into the war—to down enough Russian aircraft (five) to be officially named a “flying ace” under the conventions of modern warfare? Of course it’s possible. Frankly, in a certain view it doesn’t even seem unlikely.

Who Decides If—or When—the “Ghost of Kyiv” Exists?

Given the fog of war, the identity of any individual Ukrainian pilot who shot down any individual Russian jet or helicopter was always going to be a piece of news revealed to the world by the Ukrainian military—and almost certainly by members of Ukraine’s military speaking to members of Ukraine’s press corps.

It goes without saying that the Kremlin has never once been honest with the world or even its own people about the cost it is paying for Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine; and it’s equally clear there are far more Ukrainian journalists on the ground in Ukraine (particularly in the hottest hot spots for shelling and live small arms fire) than there are U.S. or other Western journalists. So if it were to come to pass that one Ukrainian were responsible for five of 189 downed Russian aircraft—a not unimaginable outcome—that intelligence was almost certain to come from a Ukrainian source and be given to, in turn, a Ukrainian source.

Indeed, given that we know which Ukrainian news sources are the most respected and have the most journalists on the ground in Ukraine, we could probably have predicted in advance that if it came to pass that one Ukrainian had been responsible for just five of the 189 downed Russian aircraft in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, we’d likely hear about it from the Kyiv Post.

But there were other things about a scenario of this sort that we could’ve predicted in advance:

  • The Ukrainians would give any such “flying ace” a nickname—because such aces always get nicknames;
  • The Ukrainians would use a nickname first created outside Ukraine if it seemed more to the Ukrainian military’s advantage to do so;
  • The Ukrainians wouldn’t hesitate to issue a nickname to such a flying ace after the fact, because nicknames for such persons are often given after the fact;
  • No matter what had actually happened with respect to such a Ukrainian ace, the Kremlin—and its far-right allies in the United States—would insist that it had not happened, if they felt it to be to their benefit to falsely say so;
  • The young white men on 4chan and Reddit would be annoyed if they felt that the Ukrainians had used for their new ace a nickname that they (the young white men) created, as irrespective of the politics of these young men—whether they’re white supremacists, alt-right, Trumpists, old-school Republican Party adherents, libertarians, apolitical, or anarchists—they do not like the idea of “meme magic” being used by anyone but them, and (if they hail from any of the first three political philosophies above) they especially do not want Ukraine using their digital work-product to the detriment of their heroes in the Kremlin.
  • And yet the core facts remained: the Ukrainian military was always going to control the identification of a Ukrainian “ace” in the first instance; it was always going to be almost impossible to confirm or deny such a claim by Ukraine’s military; Ukrainian journalists would likely be first to report such a claim being made by the Ukrainian military; and the Ukrainian military was going to use whatever name for its ace best served the purposes of the Ukrainian military, regardless of from where that name had originated.

marina ovsyannikova afp via getty

Marina Ovsyannikova, above, a 43-year-old editor from Russia’s state-run propagandist Channel One TV network, crashed the set of Russia’s top evening newscast, brandishing an anti-war poster.

Politico Magazine, The Mysterious Case of Marina O., Zoya Sheftalovich, May 1, 2022. Her anti-war protest on live Russian TV was seen by millions. But is she a Kremlin stooge? 

In a non-descript room in a secret police station deep within a sprawling Moscow exhibition center, a Russian police officer offered Marina Ovsyannikova a cup of tea.

“For some reason, I wasn’t afraid,” Ovsyannikova told me over the phone a few days ago. “In that moment I wasn’t afraid. Now — I would think twice.”

By that point, Ovsyannikova, a 43-year-old editor from Russia’s state-run propagandist Channel One TV network had already answered the same questions for hours; she was tired, hungry and thirsty. The previous night, on March 14 at 9:30 p.m., she had crashed the set of Russia’s top evening newscast Vremya wearing a necklace in the colors of the Ukrainian and Russian flags and brandishing an anti-war poster. “Stop the war. Don’t believe the propaganda. They are lying to you here,” she had written in Russian. “No war” and “Russians against war,” she’d scrawled in English. “Stop the war, no to war, stop the war, no to war,” she shouted.

For a few moments, Ovsyannikova’s protest was beamed into homes around Moscow and central Russia. Then, the camera cut away. Ovsyannikova was detained, taken to a large police station within the state television studio complex known as Ostankino, before being moved half a mile to the secret police department within Moscow’s Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy, a large park with exhibition halls known by its acronym VDNKh, where she was held for the next 14 hours.

It was after what seemed like endless questioning, in the wee hours of the morning, that her interrogator said: “Let’s drink a cup of tea. Let’s eat some blini. Everyone’s hungry,” Ovsyannikova recounted.

As any foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin would have warned Ovsyannikova, were they still alive to do so: When a Russian security officer offers you an Earl Grey and a snack, don’t say yes. But Ovsyannikova was new to the dissident game and unprepared for what lay ahead of her.

She drank the tea.

 

elon musk safe image time

washington post logotwitter bird CustomWashington Post, Opinion: The real problem with Twitter under Musk may be privacy, Jacob Silverman (staff writer at the New Republic and the author of "Terms of Service: Social Media and the Price of Constant Connection"), May 1, 2022 (print ed.). Twitter already has serious issues around the globe. Musk (shown above) is unlikely to fix them.

washington post logoelon musk 2015Washington Post, Opinion: Three steps for Elon Musk if he’s serious about free speech at Twitter, Margaret Sullivan, May 1, 2022. But first, a primer for a somewhat confused billionaire on what the First Amendment actually entails.

washington post logoWashington Post, As gala returns, Biden jokes about return to near-normal, Paul Farhi, April 30, 2022. After a two-year pandemic delay, the dinner returned with a comedy routine from Trevor Noah and celebrity cameos by Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson.

Washington’s media and political elite partied like it was 2019 on Saturday at the annual White House correspondents’ dinner, the traditionally glitzy spring gala that staggered back to life after a pandemic-induced two-year hiatus.

Despite the continuing specter of the coronavirus, the event once again had all its usual trappings and excesses: a tuxedoed-and-begowned throng of insiders, a smattering of celebrities, an appearance by the president and a big-name comedian to make fun of them and it.

 

April

April 30

ny times logoNew York Times, How Twitter’s Board Went From Fighting Elon Musk to Accepting Him,  April 30, 2022. It’s highly unusual to move from a “poison pill” to a $44 billion deal in under two weeks. But Twitter’s board ran out of options.

Twitter’s board had reached the end of the road.

elon musk 2015It was April 24. Ten days earlier, Elon Musk, right, the world’s richest man, had made an unsolicited bid to buy Twitter for $54.20 a share. Alarmed by the out-of-the-blue proposal and uncertain if the offer was for real, the social media company had adopted a “poison pill,” a defensive maneuver to stop Mr. Musk from accumulating more of its shares.

But by that Sunday, Twitter was running out of choices. Mr. Musk had lined up financing for his offer and was needling the company with his tweets. And after hours of discussions and reviewing Twitter’s plans and finances, the questions the 11 board members were wrestling with — could the company be worth more than $54.20 a share? would any other bidder emerge? — were all leading to one dissatisfying answer: No.

Less than 24 hours later, the blockbuster $44 billion deal was announced.

“What I’ll tell you is that based on the analysis and the perception of risk, certainty and value, the board unanimously decided the offer from Elon represented the best value for our shareholders,” Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chairman, told the company’s more than 7,000 employees on Monday in a call that The New York Times listened to.

A central mystery of Mr. Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is how the company’s board went from installing a poison pill to agreeing to sell to him in just 11 days. In most megadeals, the adoption of a poison pill leads to a protracted fight. The tactic is a clear signal that a company intends to battle. Negotiations then drag out. Sometimes buyers walk away.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Isn’t for Quitters, Jeremy W. Peters, April 30, 2022. One thing that unites conservatives and liberals? No matter how loudly they denounce the social media platform, they don’t actually leave it.

It was the moment conservative Twitter tried to cancel itself.

twitter bird CustomMajor social media networks were moving aggressively to crack down on serial spreaders of false and potentially inciting information, as myths about Covid and voter fraud swirled around the 2020 election. Right-wing commentators and activists vowed en masse to delete their dan bonginoaccounts.

They included political figures like the former White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, and popular media personalities like Dan Bongino, right, who made a chest-thumping, expletive-flecked rant urging fans to follow him to the alt-social media universe of platforms — they now include Parler, Rumble, Gettr, Gab and the Trump-branded Truth Social — where he said they would be free from the “tech tyrants” of Twitter, Google and Facebook.

It didn’t take.

ny times logoNew York Times, How ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Took On Murder and the Mormon Church, Austin Considine, April 30, 2022 (print ed.). A new FX mini-series adapts the investigative book by Jon Krakauer. He and the creator, Dustin Lance Black, talked about their efforts to get at the truth.

Dustin Lance Black still gets emotional when he talks about the time he left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, around three decades ago. It was hard, he said, because he loved the church. But his Mormon father had run off to marry his own first cousin, leaving behind a wife and three children. And when his stepfather became physically violent, local church leaders circled the wagons and told his mother, who was paralyzed from polio, to leave the police out of it.

So he had questions. And eventually, doubts.

He also still recalls when he first read Under the Banner of Heaven (2003), a book of investigative journalism by Jon Krakauer that is now the basis of an FX mini-series on Hulu, which Black created. Black had come out as gay by then and was trying to make it as a young screenwriter. “Banner” shined a clarifying light into corners of church practice and history that had always been hidden to him.

“It felt so true to me and then had all of these layers that I hadn’t yet examined about my childhood faith — my family’s faith still — and how I had grown up in it,” Black, 47, said in a three-way video call earlier this month. “It was formative for me.”

Krakauer, who was also on the call, had just seen the first several episodes of Black’s series, which debuts on Thursday. His knowledge of Black’s script was minimal; he had no official role in the series. He could tell, he said, that the show’s depictions of how church leaders encouraged women to stay in abusive relationships was rooted in experience.

April 28

 

Collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir,

Shown above is a collage of photos portraying the career and memoir of Abraham Bolden, recruited by President John F. Kennedy from the Illinois State Police force to become the first African-American on a Secret Service presidential protection detail. Bolden's memoir, "The Echo from Dealey Plaza," documents how he was framed and convicted on corruption charges in a trial with many highly dubious procedures after he sought to describe publicly security flaws in JFK's Secret Service protections. The Justice Integrity Project, among other researchers, has for years described Bolden as victim of a frame-up who deserves a presidential pardon, wihch President Biden announced on April 26, 2022.

JFK Facts, Commentary: Biden pardons Abraham Bolden, the only Secret Service agent who sought JFK accountability, Jefferson Morley, right, April 27, 2022. The jefferson morley newgood news is that President Biden has pardoned Abraham Bolden, the first African-American Secret Service agent, who was falsely convicted on bribery charges in the 1960s.

The bad news is that initial reports emphasize Bolden was persecuted for the color of his skin, which is true enough but not the whole story.

Bolden was silenced because he raised questions about the causes of JFK’s assassination. For doing his job, he was targeted, defamed, and railroaded.

After Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, Bolden said lax procedures and heavy drinking in JFK’s detail may have contributed to the breakdown of security in Dallas. He also called attention to a possible plot against Kennedy in Chicago in early November 1963.

From British historian John Simkin:

Bolden claimed that in October, 1963, the Chicago Secret Service office received a teletype from the Federal Bureau of Investigation warning that an attempt would be made to kill President John F. Kennedy by a four-man Cuban hit squad when he visited the city on 2nd November. Armed with high-powered rifles, the men from “a dissident Cuban group”. According to investigative journalist Edwin Black, the Secret Service arrested two suspects, however, they were eventually released.

Abraham Bolden later discovered that this information was being kept from the Warren Commission. When he complained about this he was warned “to keep his mouth shut”. Bolden decided to travel to Washington where he telephoned Warren Commission Counsel J. Lee Rankin.

That’s when Bolden was arrested and charged with discussing a bribe with two known counterfeiters. He was convicted on the testimony of a witness who later recanted and spent close to four years in prison.

In fact, the Secret Service and J. Edgar Hoover, the racist FBI director, wanted to blame JFK’s death entirely on Lee Harvey Oswald–the accused assassin who was conveniently dead–and absolve their agents of any responsibility for Kennedy’s violent death. In the end, only one Secret Service agent lost his job after Kennedy’s murder, the only one who served the martyred president faithfully: Abe Bolden.

Bolden chronicled his journey from a ‘first’ to a ‘disgraced’ Secret Service agent in his 2008 memoir ‘The Echo from Dealey Plaza.’”

Nonetheless, ABC News is reporting the story without reference to JFK’s assassination.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor’s request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

The bad faith of the Secret Service was exposed in 1995 when the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) was seeking documents about the events of 1963. The Secret Service informed the ARRB that it had just destroyed “presidential protection survey reports for some of President Kennedy’s trips in the fall of 1963.” Those records might have given credence to Bolden’s allegations. Instead they were shredded.

Major U.S. news organizations often tip-toe around inconvenient facts of the JFK story that call into question the official theory of a “lone gunman.” The full story of Bolden’s overdue pardon is one such story.

 

royce white youtube

washington post logoWashington Post, How a former NBA player and activist became a far-right media darling, David Gardner, April 28, 2022. On the last Saturday in March, Royce White stepped into a Capitol Hill townhouse and descended the steps into a basement studio. He shook hands with his host and settled into his chair in front of a microphone.

The host asked White to share some of his life story. For a few minutes, it was standard fare for an interview with a former pro athlete. White was raised by a single mother in Minneapolis, he said, before becoming a standout college basketball player and a first-round NBA draft pick. The only unusual thing about the interview at first was the setting. The show was called “War Room: Pandemic,” and its host was Stephen K. Bannon.

Until recently, White was known for his battle with the NBA over mental health policy. In 2013, he asked for accommodations for his generalized anxiety disorder, and the dispute essentially ended his career after he appeared in only a handful of games. Then, after the murder of George Floyd in his hometown of Minneapolis, White led several large-scale protests against police brutality. He was hailed as an emerging civil rights activist.

Since that summer, White, 31, has publicly rebranded himself as a far-right populist. He has embraced conspiracy theories ranging from the origins of the coronavirus to the integrity of the 2020 presidential election and satanic influences in the federal government. He has appeared on Bannon’s programs at least 25 times, and he considers the former Trump strategist — who is under indictment for refusing to cooperate with the Jan. 6 Commission — a “friend, a mentor and an American hero,” he said. White has, in turn, been warmly embraced by figures on the far right, from Tim Pool to Alex Jones, who appear to find his backstory useful to their causes. “Here you got a Black guy, a basketball player, in Minneapolis, that actually talks about real issues,” Bannon said. “That, I think can resonate.”

In February, White announced that he would run as a Republican in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, a Democratic stronghold held by Rep. Ilhan Omar since 2019. In his opening campaign video, he said his “problem” with Omar was “not that she’s not an American or that she’s not from Minnesota” but that “she’s in on it; she’s a globalist.” A campaign spokesman for Omar, who became a naturalized American citizen in 2000 at 17, declined to comment.

The odds against White unseating Omar are overwhelming: The district hasn’t elected a Republican since 1960. And the long-shot nature of the campaign has left some political observers in the state wondering whether his real aim is to drum up attention for a future as a political commentator. But the radical shift in White’s rhetoric has left some former teammates, coaches, friends and family stumped — and saddened.

 

npc journalism institute logoNational Press Club Journalism Institute, How it became normal for public officials to attack journalists (Washington Post), Edited by National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, April 28, 2022.

■ Media coalition condemns LA County sheriff’s threat to investigate LA Times reporter (RCFP) / California's journalists stand with Alene Tchekmedyian (Media Guild of the West)

■ What Biden will (and won’t) say at the WHCA dinner (POLITICO) / No tests, vaccines required for Hilton WHCA dinner staff (Axios) / ‘Biden felt it was important to attend the dinner to showcase his support for the free press, adding that it stands "in stark contrast to his predecessor, who not only questioned the legitimacy of the press on a nearly daily basis but also never attended the dinner."’ (CNN) / ‘How does this dinner play in Peoria? The press sipping champagne and trading jokes with politicians feels perfectly harmless to Washington’s establishment, but it looks uncomfortably cozy outside the Beltway.’ (Washington Post)

■ ‘An audible gasp’: Quartz, once a high-flying startup, has sold to G/O Media (Nieman Lab) / Quartz will have its fourth owner in 10 years with its sale to G/O media (Poynter) / Quartz tried literally everything in just 10 years (New York) / Read the memo to Quartz staff from CEO and editor-in-chief Zach Seward (Quartz) / Read the memo to G/O staff from CEO Jim Spanfeller (via Ben Mullin)

■ Why this family foundation gives out $100,000 of unrestricted money to select freelance journalists (Poynter)

■ Is she a bully or did she just work for the New York Post? (The Cut) / A top New York Post editor settles her discrimination lawsuit against the tabloid (New York Times)

■ 'She Said': Movie about New York Times’ reporters' Harvey Weinstein exposé revealed at CinemaCon (Deadline)

■ Former ‘GMA’ and ‘World News’ anchor Charlie Gibson returning to ABC News … as a podcast host (Hollywood Reporter)

■ Was Martha Mitchell 'gaslit'? Or 'gaslighted'? Maybe neither (The Washington Post)

Press freedom

■ Indigenous journalists make way for sunshine (Center for Public Integrity)

■ ACLU says Amber Heard’s domestic violence Washington Post op-ed aimed to capitalize on ‘Aquaman’ press (Variety) / How the domestic violence column in the Washington Post that landed Johnny Depp and Amber heard in court was written (Daily Beast)

■ 'Rust' shooting victim's family outraged over set video release, demands police retract it (The Wrap)

April 26

joe biden 4 26 2022

ap logoAssociated Press via ABC News, Biden pardons former Secret Service agent and 2 others, Aamer Madhani, April 26, 2022. President Joe Biden is announcing he has granted the first three pardons of his term.President Joe Biden has granted the first three pardons of his term, providing clemency to a Kennedy-era Secret Service agent convicted of federal bribery charges that he tried to sell a copy of an agency file and to two people who were convicted on drug-related charges but went on to become pillars in their communities.

The Democratic president also commuted the sentences of 75 others for nonviolent, drug-related convictions. The White House announced the clemencies Tuesday as it launched a series of job training and reentry programs for those in prison or recently released.

Many of those who received commutations have been serving their sentences on home confinement during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several were serving lengthy sentences and would have received lesser terms had they been convicted today for the same offenses as a result of the 2018 bipartisan sentencing reform ushered into law by the Trump administration.

“America is a nation of laws and second chances, redemption, and rehabilitation,” Biden said in a statement announcing the clemencies. “Elected officials on both sides of the aisle, faith leaders, civil rights advocates, and law enforcement leaders agree that our criminal justice system can and should reflect these core values that enable safer and stronger communities.”

Those granted pardons are:

— Abraham Bolden Sr., 86, the first Black Secret Service agent to serve on a presidential detail. In 1964, Bolden, who served on President John F. Kennedy's detail, faced federal bribery charges that he attempted to sell a copy of a Secret Service file. His first trial ended in a hung jury.

Following his conviction in a second trial, key witnesses admitted lying at the prosecutor's request. Bolden, of Chicago, was denied a retrial and served several years in federal prison. Bolden has maintained his innocence and wrote a book in which he argued he was targeted for speaking out against racist and unprofessional behavior in the Secret Service.

— Betty Jo Bogans, 51, was convicted in 1998 of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine in Texas after attempting to transport drugs for her boyfriend and his accomplice. Bogans, a single mother with no prior record, received a seven-year sentence. In the years since her release from prison, Bogans has held consistent employment, even while undergoing cancer treatment, and has raised a son.

— Dexter Jackson , 52, of Athens, Georgia, was convicted in 2002 for using his pool hall to facilitate the trafficking of marijuana. Jackson pleaded guilty and acknowledged he allowed his business to be used by marijuana dealers.

After Jackson was released from prison, he converted his business into a cellphone repair service that employs local high school students through a program that provides young adults with work experience. Jackson has built and renovated homes in his community, which has a shortage of affordable housing.

Civil rights and criminal justice reform groups have pushed the White House to commute sentences and work harder to reduce disparities in the criminal justice system. Biden’s grants of clemency also come as the administration has faced congressional scrutiny over misconduct and the treatment of inmates in the beleaguered federal Bureau of Prisons, which is responsible for inmates serving sentences of home confinement.

Biden, as head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped shepherd through the 1994 crime bill that many criminal justice experts say contributed to harsh sentences and mass incarceration of Black people.

During his 2020 White House run, Biden vowed to reduce the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. and called for nonviolent drug offenders to be diverted to drug courts and treatment.

He also has pushed for better training for law enforcement and called for criminal justice system changes to address disparities that have led to minorities and the poor making up a disproportionate share of the nation's incarcerated population.

Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, granted 143 pardons and clemency to 237 during his four years in office.

Trump sought the advice of prison reform advocate Alice Johnson, a Black woman whose life sentence for a nonviolent drug offense he commuted in 2018. He was also lobbied by celebrity Kim Kardashian as well as advisers inside the White House, including daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner, as he weighed applications for clemency.

The Republican used his pardon authority to help several political friends and allies, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Republican operative Roger Stone and Charles Kushner, the father-in-law of Ivanka Trump.

Among Trump's final acts as president was pardoning his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and Al Pirro, the husband of Fox News host and Trump ally Jeanine Pirro.

Prosecutors alleged that Bannon, who had yet to stand trial when he was pardoned, had duped thousands of donors who believed their money would be used to fulfill Trump’s chief campaign promise to build a wall along the southern border. Instead, Bannon allegedly diverted more than $1 million, paying a salary to one campaign official and personal expenses for himself. Pirro was convicted in 2000 on tax charges.

With the slate of pardons and commutations announced Tuesday, Biden has issued more grants of clemency than any of the previous five presidents at this point in their terms, according to the White House.

In addition to the grants of clemency, Biden announced several new initiatives that are meant to help formerly incarcerated people gain employment — an issue that his administration is driving home as key to lowering crime rates and preventing recidivism.

The Labor Department is directing $140 million toward programs that offer job training, pre-apprenticeship programs, digital literacy training and pre-release and post-release career counseling and more for youth and incarcerated adults.

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year includes a trio of grant programs that the administration says promote hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals. And the Labor and Justice Departments announced on Tuesday a collaborative plan to provide $145 million over the next year on job skills training as well as individualized employment and reentry plans for people serving time in the Bureau of Prisons.

Biden said the new initiatives are vital to helping the more than 600,000 people released from prison each year get on stable ground.

"Helping those who served their time return to their families and become contributing members of their communities is one of the most effective ways to reduce recidivism and decrease crime," Biden said.

 

sean hannity uncredited

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Yes sir’: New texts show Hannity promising on-air Trump campaign push, Jeremy Barr, April 26, 2022. Fox News host Sean Hannity promised Donald Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, that he would push an Election Day get-out-the-vote message to his radio show listeners, according to communications within a cache of more than 2,000 text messages obtained by CNN.

“NC gonna be ok?” Hannity wrote in one text to Meadows on Nov. 3, 2020, according to the CNN report published on Monday — an apparent reference to Trump’s electoral prospects in the battleground state of North Carolina.

Meadows then asked for Hannity’s help with messaging, and offered him a slogan to convey to the host’s millions of radio show listeners. “Stress every vote matters,” Meadows wrote back. “Get out and vote. On radio.”

fox news logo SmallHannity responded in the affirmative, writing back, “Yes sir. On it,” before adding, “any place in particular we need a push.”

When Meadows suggested Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada, Hannity replied, “Got it. Everywhere.” (Trump won North Carolina but lost the other three states to President Biden.)

In past years, Fox News has attempted to set some boundaries for its on-air personalities: Even opinion hosts, who could be open about their ideological views, were nonetheless expected to stop short of publicly wading into political contests.

While Hannity has long been an outspoken supporter of Trump during his presidential campaigns and presidency, the messages — which had been turned over by Meadows to the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6 — suggest that Hannity saw himself as part of the broader pro-Trump campaign apparatus on Election Day, offering up his radio show audience to help boost Trump’s chances. (CNN wrote that Hannity was one of Meadows’ most frequent pen pals.)

washington post logoWashington Post, In a city full of adjunct faculty members, many struggle to get by, Lauren Lumpkin, April 26, 2022. Part-time instructors across the region cobble together many jobs to make a living wage. Unions that represent them are gaining strength, and protests are becoming more frequent.

 

From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter at House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on March 25, 2021 via YouTube.From left, Sundar Pichai of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter testified remotely in March 2021 to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Buying Twitter, Elon Musk Will Face the Reality of His Free-Speech Talk, Shira Ovide, April 26, 2022. Tech’s big shots have learned again and again that free speech isn’t so simple. Our columnist considers what might happen when Mr. Musk owns Twitter.

A decade ago, Twitter executives, including the chief executive, Dick Costolo, declared that the social media site was the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party.” The stance meant Twitter would defend people’s ability to post whatever they wished and be heard by the world.

Since then, Twitter has been dragged into morasses over disinformation peddlers, governments’ abuse of social media to incite ethnic violence and threats by elected officials to imprison employees over tweets they didn’t like. Like Facebook, YouTube and other internet companies, Twitter was forced to morph from hard-liner on free expression to speech nanny.

twitter bird CustomToday, Twitter has pages upon pages of rules prohibiting content such as material that promotes child sexual exploitation, coordinated government propaganda, offers of counterfeit goods and tweets “wishing for someone to fall victim to a serious accident.”

The past 10 years have seen repeated confrontations between the high-minded principles of Silicon Valley’s founding generation of social media companies and the messy reality of a world in which “free speech” means different things to different people. And now Elon Musk, who on Monday struck a deal to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, wades directly into that fraught history.

Successive generations of Twitter’s leaders since its founding in 2006 have learned what Mark Zuckerberg and most other internet executives have also discovered: Declaring that “the tweets must flow,” as the Twitter co-founder Biz Stone wrote in 2011, or “I believe in giving people a voice,” as Mr. Zuckerberg said in a 2019 speech, is easy to say but hard to live up to.

Soon, Mr. Musk will be the one confronting the gap between an idealized view of free speech and the zillion tough decisions that must be made to let everyone have a say.

Mr. Musk is a relative dilettante on the topic and hasn’t yet tackled the difficult trade-offs in which giving one person a voice may silence the expression of others, and in which an almost-anything-goes space for expression might be overrun with spam, nudity, propaganda from autocrats, the bullying of children and violent incitements.

If Twitter wants to pull back from moderating speech on its site, will people be less willing to hang out where they might be harassed by those who disagree with them and swamped by pitches for cryptocurrency, fake Gucci handbags or pornography?

The 2016 U.S. presidential election and the Brexit vote that same year gave Silicon Valley executives, U.S. elected officials and the public a peek into what can go wrong when social media companies opt not to wade too deeply into what people say on their sites. Russian propagandists amplified the views of deeply divided Americans and Britons, further polarizing the electorate.

April 25

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Implosion of CNN+, John Koblin, Michael M. Grynbaum and Benjamin Mullin, April 25, 2022 (print ed.). Seen as the future of CNN, the streaming channel was suddenly killed. Its next owner, Discovery, had concerns but was constrained in guiding a competitor.

David Zaslav had been chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery for all of a few hours when he learned he had a problem.

cnn logoOn April 11, the day his newly merged company began trading on Nasdaq, Mr. Zaslav greeted New York employees with pasta and ice cream bars, delivering an impromptu rallying cry to his new charges. He was on his way to Washington, next stop on the coronation tour, when a call came in.

His team had just gotten its first look at data from CNN+, the much-promoted subscription streaming service started two weeks before, and the news was grim. Fewer than 10,000 viewers were watching at any given time, despite a multimillion dollar ad campaign and big hires like Chris Wallace. They were recommending a cold-eyed review.

Three days later, shortly after Mr. Zaslav appeared with Oprah Winfrey for a rah-rah company town hall, he gathered his deputies inside a low-slung stucco building in Burbank, Calif., on the Warner Bros. studio lot, and said he agreed with their conclusion: shut it down.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Nears a Deal to Sell Itself to Elon Musk, Lauren Hirsch, Mike Isaac and Kate Conger, Updated April 25, 2022. The company’s board met with Mr. Musk to discuss his offer to take the social network private. An agreement could come as soon as Monday.

elon musk 2015Twitter is nearing a deal to sell itself to Elon Musk, right, two people with knowledge of the situation said, a move that would unite the world’s richest man with the influential social networking service. An agreement could be announced as soon as Monday, the people said.

Twitter’s board was negotiating with Mr. Musk into the early hours of Monday over his unsolicited bid to buy the company, after he began lining up $46.5 billion in financing for the offer last week, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss confidential information. The two sides were discussing details including a timeline to close any potential deal and any fees that would be paid if an agreement were signed and then fell twitter bird Customapart, they said.

The discussions followed a Twitter board meeting on Sunday morning to discuss Mr. Musk’s offer, the people said. Obtaining commitments for the financing was a turning point for how the board viewed Mr. Musk’s bid of $54.20 a share, enabling the company’s 11 board members to seriously consider his offer, the people said.

Twitter’s stock rose more than 5 percent in premarket trading, to about $51.50 a share.

An agreement is not yet final and may still fall apart, but what had initially seemed to be a highly improbable deal appeared to be nearing an endgame. The situation involving Twitter and Mr. Musk remains fluid and fast-moving, the people with knowledge of the situation said.

April 23

AlterNet via RawStory, Alex Jones attorney under fire for dropping pants and using the N-word during comedy routine, Meaghan Ellis, April 23, 2022. Alex Jones attorney under fire for dropping pants and using the N-word during comedy routine

The attorney for right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is at the center of controversy amid the emergence of footage from his recent comedy set. According to HuffPost, Norm Pattis is seen in the comedy set tossing around the N-word with his pants down.

In a standup routine in East Haven, Conn., on March 21, Pattis (a former editorial writer during the 1980s for the Hartford Courant in Connecticut) could be heard saying, “You just can’t say certain words, they’re off-limits. And one of those words is n****r.”

Footage of Pattis' stand-up routine surfaced this week. It featured him rambling and ranting about a number of controversial topics including the Black Lives Matter movement. At one point in the segment, he made racial slurs and homophobic remarks with his pants down to his ankles. Pattis also made outdated remarks about former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick's iconic 2016 silent protest during the national anthem.

As for his N-word portion of the segment, comedian Teddy Ren spoke with HuffPost to share details about what really transpired. Although Pattis initially danced around the offensive word, Ren notes that the entire mood of the segment changed when he actually said it.

“I wanna watch a ballgame and there’s Colin Kaepernick, ‘I’m in church,’” Pattis said of Kaepernick. “I don’t wanna hear about that, I don’t wanna hear about Black Lives Matter. You know, even the commercials are fucking political now.”

He also said, “But anyhow, the N-word, right, can I say the N-word? I guess not, I’m gonna get beat up in a parking lot, but I’m going to try. Ready? Ready?”

“Nnnniii...” Pattis teased.

Ren also explained how the segment shifted at the end. “You see, when he gets to the very end of it, there is no joke,” Ren said of Pattis’ remarks. “He just pauses, and he has a lot of charisma onstage ― never seen him drop charisma ― but in this moment he kind of seemed like he was second-guessing it."

He added, "It was like I watched his body glitch. And then he said it, and it’s not even a joke. You literally didn’t even deliver a joke. It felt like he wanted to say it because he knew I was right there.”

As the video continues to circulate, Black Lives Matter activists are pushing back with deep criticism of the attorney. Ivelisse Correa, an organizer for the local anti-racism organization, Black Lives Matter 860, shared her opinion with HuffPost.

“He can’t blame this one on Ambien,” Correa said in reference to famed comedian Roseanne Barr’s excuse at posting a racist tweet. “I’d like to know why he feels that that was appropriate in any context. This isn’t about comedy, or the spirit of being edgy. As we grow as a society, we learn that things are no longer appropriate: homophobia, sexism, racism. Those things have also fallen out of favor in comedy. So attempting to resurrect that, as someone who claims to be for civil liberties, is disgusting.”

April 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Hackers Claim to Target Russian Institutions in Barrage of Cyberattacks and Leaks, Kate Conger and David E. Sanger, April 22, 2022. Hackers claim to have broken into dozens of Russian institutions over the past two months, including the Kremlin’s internet censor and one of its primary intelligence services, leaking emails and internal documents to the public in an apparent hack-and-leak campaign that is remarkable in its scope.

The hacking operation comes as the Ukrainian government appears to have begun a parallel effort to punish Russia by publishing the names of supposed Russian soldiers who operated in Bucha, the site of a massacre of civilians, and agents of the F.S.B., a major Russian intelligence agency, along with identifying information like dates of birth and passport numbers. It is unclear how the Ukrainian government obtained those names or whether they were part of the hacks.

Much of the data released by the hackers and the Ukrainian government is by its nature impossible to verify. As an intelligence agency, the F.S.B. would never confirm a list of its officers. Even the groups distributing the data have warned that the files swiped from Russian institutions could contain malware, manipulated or faked information, and other tripwires.

Some of the data may also be recycled from previous leaks and presented as new, researchers have said, in an attempt to artificially increase the hackers’ credibility. Or some of it could be manufactured — something that has happened before in the ongoing cyberconflict between Russia and Ukraine, which dates back more than a decade.

ny times logoNew York Times, E.U. Takes Aim at Social Media’s Harms With Landmark New Law, Adam Satariano, April 22, 2022. The Digital Services Act would force Meta, Google and others to combat misinformation and restrict certain online ads. How European officials will wield it remains to be seen.

european union logo rectangleThe European Union was nearing a deal on Friday on landmark legislation that would force Facebook, YouTube and other internet services to combat misinformation, disclose how their services amplify divisive content and stop targeting online ads based on a person’s ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

The law, called the Digital Services Act, is intended to address social media’s societal harms by requiring companies to more aggressively police their platforms for illicit content or risk billions of dollars in fines. Tech companies would be facebook logocompelled to set up new policies and procedures to remove flagged hate speech, terrorist propaganda and other material defined as illegal by countries within the European Union.

The law aims to end an era of self-regulation in which tech companies set their own policies about what content could stay up or be taken down. It stands out from other regulatory attempts by addressing online speech, an area that is largely off limits in the United States because of First Amendment protections. Google, which owns YouTube, and Meta, the owner of Facebook google logo customand Instagram, would face yearly audits for “systemic risks” linked to their businesses, while Amazon would confront new rules to stop the sale of illegal products.

The Digital Services Act is part of a one-two punch by the European Union to address the societal and economic effects of the tech giants. Last month, the 27-nation bloc agreed to a different sweeping law, the Digital Markets Act, to counter what regulators see as anticompetitive behavior by the biggest tech firms, including their grip over app stores, online advertising and internet shopping.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: As Europe Approves New Tech Laws, the U.S. Falls Further Behind, Cecilia Kang, April 22, 2022. Federal privacy bills, security legislation and antitrust laws to address the power of the tech giants have all failed to advance in Congress, despite hand wringing and shows of bipartisan support.

european union logo rectangleIn just the last few years, Europe has seen a landmark law for online privacy take effect, approved sweeping regulations to curb the dominance of the tech giants and on Friday was nearing a deal on new legislation to protect its citizens from harmful online content.

For those keeping score, that’s Europe: three. United States: zero.

The United States may be the birthplace of the iPhone and the most widely used search engine and social network, and it could also bring the world into the so-called metaverse. But global leadership on tech regulations is taking place more than 3,000 miles from twitter bird CustomWashington, by European leaders representing 27 nations with 24 languages, who have nonetheless been able to agree on basic online protections for their 450 million or so citizens.

In the United States, Congress has not passed a single piece of comprehensive regulation to protect internet consumers and amazon logo smallto rein in the power of its technology giants.

It’s not for lack of trying. Over 25 years, dozens of federal privacy bills have been proposed and then ultimately dropped without bipartisan support. With every major hack of a bank or retailer, lawmakers have introduced data breach and security bills, all of which have withered on the vine. A flurry of speech bills have sunk into the quicksand of partisan disagreements over freedoms of expression. And antitrust bills to curtail the power of Apple, Amazon, Google and Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, have sat in limbo amid fierce lobbying opposition.

April 21

 

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Alexander, center, and his co-organizer, Infowars radio host, Alex Jones, to his right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones Reaches Out to Justice Dept. About Jan. 6 Interview, Alan Feuer, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, April 21, 2022 (print ed.). The effort by the Trump ally to get an immunity deal is the latest sign of progress in the investigation, which recently brought on a well-regarded prosecutor. The federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election appears to be gaining traction, with the Justice Department having brought in a well-regarded new prosecutor to help run the inquiry and a high-profile witness seeking a deal to provide information.

Alex Jones, the host of the conspiracy-driven media outlet Infowars and a key player in the pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” movement, is in discussions with the Justice Department about an agreement to detail his role in the rally near the White House last Jan. 6 that preceded the attack on the Capitol.

Through his lawyer, Mr. Jones said he has given the government a formal letter conveying “his desire to speak to federal prosecutors about Jan. 6.”

The lawyer, Norm Pattis, maintained that Mr. Jones had not engaged in any “criminal wrongdoing” that day when — chanting slogans about 1776 — he helped lead a crowd of Trump supporters in a march to the Capitol as violence was erupting.
As a condition of being interviewed by federal investigators, Mr. Jones, who is known for his rants about the “Deep State” and its supposed control over national affairs, has requested immunity from prosecution.

“He distrusts the government,” Mr. Pattis said.

While convincing federal prosecutors to grant him immunity could be an uphill climb for Mr. Jones, his discussions with the Justice Department suggest that the investigation into the postelection period could be gathering momentum.

Two weeks ago, another prominent Stop the Steal organizer, Ali Alexander, a close associate of Mr. Jones, revealed that he had received a subpoena from a federal grand jury that is seeking information on a broad swath of people — rally planners, members of Congress and others close to former President Donald J. Trump — connected to political events that took place in the run-up to Jan. 6. Mr. Alexander, who marched with Mr. Jones to the Capitol that day, has said that he intends to comply with the subpoena.

Several months ago, the department quietly took another significant step, adding Thomas Windom, a career federal prosecutor from Maryland, to help in the expanded Jan. 6 investigation, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Politico, Justice Department, Sandy Hook families question Infowars bankruptcy, Josh Gerstein, April 21, 2022. A federal judge is asked to postpone Friday's hearing on an effort by the right-wing provocateur Alex Jones to ward off creditors.

The Justice Department and attorneys for families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting are questioning the legitimacy of attempts by right-wing talk show host Alex Jones to put several businesses in his media empire into bankruptcy just as a trial was set to open in Texas, where he faced the possibility of being ordered to pay millions of dollars in damages.

Both the families and a Justice Department office asked a federal bankruptcy judge in Houston to put off an initial, emergency hearing scheduled for Friday morning to address Chapter 11 filings earlier this week by three entities linked to Jones’ Infowars brand: InfoW, IW Health and Prison Planet TV.

The requests to delay the hearing said that the bankruptcy filings seemed designed to halt long-standing defamation litigation in Texas and Connecticut over Jones’ bizarre claims that the 20 children and six adults killed in the shocking 2012 elementary school shooting had somehow staged their own deaths and that their families were “crisis actors.”

The Justice Department’s Office of the U.S. Trustee told Judge Christopher Lopez the structure of Jones’ filing “may demonstrate these cases are an abuse of the bankruptcy system.” The government submission questioned why Jones had not filed for personal bankruptcy and why another business he controls, Free Speech Systems, was not included in the filings earlier this week.

Lawyers for the Sandy Hook families made similar arguments that Jones is making an “illegitimate” attempt to dodge or delay the financial consequences of his false claims about the 2012 attack.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Meet the woman behind Libs of TikTok, secretly fueling the right’s outrage machine, machine, Taylor Lorenz, April 21, 2022 (print ed.). A popular Twitter account has morphed into a social media phenomenon, spreading anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and shaping public discourse.

In just one year, the Twitter account has helped steer the outrage machine at the center of right-wing messaging and legislation.

On March 8, a Twitter account called Libs of TikTok posted a video of a woman teaching sex education to children in Kentucky, calling the woman in the video a “predator.” The next evening, the same clip was featured on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, prompting the host to ask, “When did our public schools, any schools, become what are essentially grooming centers for gender identity radicals?”

Libs of TikTok reposts a steady stream of TikTok videos and social media posts, primarily from LGBTQ+ people, often including incendiary framing designed to generate outrage. Videos shared from the account quickly find their way to the most influential names in right-wing media. The account has tiktok logo square Customemerged as a powerful force on the Internet, shaping right-wing media, impacting anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and influencing millions by posting viral videos aimed at inciting outrage among the right.

The anonymous account’s impact is deep and far-reaching. Its content is amplified by high-profile media figures, politicians and right-wing influencers. Its tweets reach millions, with influence spreading far beyond its more than 648,000 Twitter followers. Libs of TikTok has become an agenda-setter in right-wing online discourse, and the content it surfaces shows a direct correlation with the recent push in legislation and rhetoric directly targeting the LGBTQ+ community.

“Libs of TikTok is basically acting as a wire service for the broader right-wing media ecosystem,” said Ari Drennen, LGBTQ program director for Media Matters, the progressive media watchdog group. “It’s been shaping public policy in a real way, and affecting teachers’ ability to feel safe in their classrooms.”

The account has been promoted by podcast host Joe Rogan, right, and it’s been featured in the New York Post, the Federalist, the Post Millennial and a slew of other right-wing news sites. Meghan McCain has retweeted it. The online influencer Glenn Greenwald has amplified it to his 1.8 million Twitter followers joe rogan twitterwhile calling himself the account’s “Godfather.”

Last Thursday, the woman behind the account appeared anonymously on Tucker Carlson’s show to complain about being temporarily suspended for violating Twitter’s community guidelines. Fox News often creates news packages around the content that Libs of TikTok has surfaced.

“The role I’ve seen this account playing is finding new characters for right-wing propaganda,” said Gillian Branstetter, a media strategist for the ACLU. “It’s relying on the endless stream of content from TikTok and the Internet to cast any individual trans person as a new villain in their story.”

Throughout its increasingly popular posts and despite numerous media appearances, the account has remained anonymous. But the identity of the operator of Libs of TikTok is traceable through a complex online history and reveals someone who has been plugged into right-wing discourse for two years and is now helping to drive it.
An account in search of a voice — and a big break from Joe Rogan

Chaya Raichik had been working as a real estate salesperson in Brooklyn when, in early November 2020, she created the account that would eventually become Libs of TikTok.

Under her first handle @shaya69830552, she minimized covid, cast doubt on the election results and promoted a dubious story about a child sex trafficking ring. On Nov. 23, 2020, Raichik changed handles, this time going by @shaya_ray and identifying herself publicly as a real estate investor in Brooklyn. She began doubling down on election fraud conspiracies using QAnon-related language. Early that December, she joked about launching a clothing line titled “voter fraud is real.”

 

ron desantis hands out

washington post logoWashington Post, Disney to lose tax status in Fla. as lawmakers side with governor in rift over teaching of LGBTQ issues, Lori Rozsa, April 21, 2022. Florida’s Republican-led state legislature on Thursday passed a bill sought by Gov. Ron DeSantis to cancel Walt Disney World’s special tax district in Florida.

The speedy approval of the bill — it was filed three days ago, during a special session that was called for a different reason — was decried by state Democrats. Sen. Tina Polsky (D) called it “an enormous decision based on spite and revenge governance.”

disney logoThe House did not debate the bill after Democrats held a sit-in to protest a map that DeSantis had ordered which redraws Florida’s congressional districts and cuts the number of minority access districts in half. House speaker Chris Sprowls (R) said that if representatives couldn’t be “civil,” he would cancel the debate and go straight to the vote, which he did.

DeSantis (R) has been feuding with the Walt Disney Company for weeks, ever since CEO Bob Chapek issued a statement criticizing a parental rights law that DeSantis championed and paused donations to Florida politicians. That law prohibits discussions about gender-related issues in public school classes up to third grade, and potentially through high school.

The Disney law will dissolve the entertainment giant’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was created in 1967 after Walt Disney bought 40 square miles of land in Central Florida to build the Magic Kingdom. Disney lobbyists said the project was too massive for local governments to handle, so legislators gave Disney the authority to run the development as a quasi-governmental agency.

The law doesn’t take effect until June 2023, giving local governments near Disney 14 months to decide how to manage and pay for the huge property’s public services, such as road maintenance and sewage treatment.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP’s cozy ties with Big Business unravel as DeSantis goes after Disney, Todd C. Frankel, April 21, 2022. Many Republican leaders are threatening to punish companies, alleging that these firms should be more supportive of a conservative agenda. Six years ago, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence scrambled to change a “religious freedom” bill he had just signed into law because corporate America objected.

Apple and Salesforce opposed the bill, which seemed to allow businesses to discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Eli Lilly, a big employer in the state, called it “bad for Indiana and for business.” Indiana’s Chamber of Commerce said the law was “entirely unnecessary.”

disney logoLegislators listened. The Republican-controlled statehouse quickly revised the bill to clarify that it could not be used to deny service based on sexual orientation. Pence signed it. And a fight between two longtime allies — companies and Republicans — was over.

But Pence’s capitulation can feel like a postcard from a distant era as growing numbers of state and federal Republican leaders today seem eager to clash with the country’s biggest corporations over bills on similar hot-button issues.

DeSantis proposes dissolving special tax status for Disney World

Last year, the GOP attacked entities such as Delta Air Lines and Major League Baseball for standing against Georgia’s restrictive voting law. Citigroup was threatened for taking action seen as opposing Texas’s recent abortion law. And Disney’s complaints about Florida’s new law limiting classroom discussion of sexual identity has led to Republicans targeting the Magic Kingdom’s perks. On Thursday, the GOP-controlled Florida legislature passed a bill that would eliminate Disney’s special district status, sending it to the governor. The implications of this major change remain unclear.

Despite the onslaught, companies are not backing down — goaded by heightened expectations from customers and employees. Citigroup did not rescind its offer to help its Texas workers obtain out-of-state abortion services after the new restrictive law there, despite the threat from a state GOP representative to block the financial company from underwriting municipal bonds.

The result is fresh cracks in the once-sturdy relationship between companies and a business-friendly GOP.

This strange new state of play is starkest in the clash between Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican with presidential ambitions, and the Walt Disney Co., a theme park and entertainment giant with 80,000 workers in the Sunshine State alone. There is little normal about Florida’s governor going after the state’s most powerful company.

The formally titled Parental Rights in Education bill, signed by DeSantis earlier this month, was instantly polarizing.

DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw labeled it the “Anti-Grooming Bill.”

Disney was hit for not doing enough to stop the legislation and protect its LGBTQ workers. Disney executives apologized. They promised to halt contributions to Florida politicians while they reexamined priorities. Then the company said the bill “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law” and promised to push for its repeal.

Even after signing the bill, DeSantis kept taking shots at Disney. He said the company had “crossed the line.”

 

warner brothers discovery logo

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN’s new streaming service, CNN Plus, is already set to shut down, about a month after launch, Jeremy Barr, April 21, 2022. Less than a month after CNN launched with great fanfare a $100 million streaming service that represented its bet on the future of news consumption, new parent company Warner Bros. Discovery has decided to shut it down at the end of April.

CNN Plus offered a dozen new shows from veteran CNN stars and newly hired marquee talents, such as former Fox News anchor Chris Wallace, that could be watched live or on-demand, as well as a substantial library of original documentaries, such as the food-and-travel programs hosted by Stanley Tucci and the late Anthony Bourdain.

cnn logoYet the service got off to a slow start, as the cable-news giant found difficulty convincing enough customers to pay the $5.99 monthly cost. On Thursday, new CNN chief executive Chris Licht stunned employees with the announcement it would shutter next week.

“While today’s decision is incredibly difficult, it is the right one for the long-term success of CNN,” Licht wrote in a memo to staff obtained by The Washington Post, adding that it would allow the company to “refocus resources” on CNN’s journalism.

A veteran producer described the announcement’s impact as “just complete shock across the network.” The producer, who was not authorized to comment and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that many CNN employees expected “some sort of reimagining” of the service but chris wallacenot a complete shutdown.

The service seemed to be in jeopardy almost from the beginning, but particularly after Discovery Inc. formally took control of the CNN brand on April 11.

The network has not released any data on the number of people who have subscribed, but early media reports suggested that the number was lower than expected considering the overall cost of the project. Besides Wallace, right, CNN Plus was building new shows around several other talents hired away from prominent news organizations, including Kasie Hunt of MSNBC and Audie Cornish of NPR.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says he’s lined up $46.5B for his proposed Twitter purchase, Faiz Siddiqui, Aaron Gregg and Douglas MacMillan, April 21, 2022. In an SEC filing, the Tesla CEO also says he is considering a tender offer to acquire all outstanding shares of the social media platform.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, says he has secured $46.5 billion in financing to acquire Twitter, signaling the Tesla CEO is serious about his bid to acquire to the social media firm — and intends to back it up with his personal fortune.

The Tesla CEO’s offer, made public in a filing Thursday, draws on a combination of loans and equity financing, but questions remain about how he will structure the deal and how Twitter’s board will respond. Still, it suggests Musk is willing to risk some of the lucrative Tesla shares that have made him the world’s richest person to acquire the platform he has described as a modern-day town square.

“It signals an increasing level of seriousness,” said Donna Hitscherich, a member of the finance faculty at Columbia Business School. “You’re ratcheting up the resolve with the hopes that at one point the other side will come to the table.”

In the Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Musk listed three sources for the offer. The first two would be loans from investment bank Morgan Stanley, worth $13 billion and $12.5 billion respectively. The third source is described as an equity commitment of $21 billion from Musk himself.

But it leaves him responsible for delivering $21 billion in cash on his own while providing no details on how he will come up with the money. Musk is ranked by Bloomberg as the richest man in the world ― with a net worth of $249 billion as of Wednesday. Much of his wealth is tied up in Tesla and the rocket building company SpaceX, which he also helms as CEO.

Meanwhile, some Tesla investors have bristled at Musk’s proposal because it distracts from his responsibilities as CEO and potentially takes momentum away from the world’s most valuable automaker.

April 20

 

ron desantis hands out

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis proposes dissolving special tax status for Disney World, Lori Rozsa, April 20, 2022 (print ed.). Florida’s governor, shown above in a file photo, is seeking to undo a 55-year-old compact that helped create the Magic Kingdom.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is following through on his promise to try and cancel a 1967 deal between the state and the Walt Disney Co. that could leave the company on the hook for millions of dollars a year in local taxes — and with less autonomy over its property.

disney logoOn Tuesday, DeSantis announced that lawmakers in Tallahassee for a special legislative session would take up the issue. The proposal follows weeks of public attacks on Disney by the governor, who has criticized the company for opposing a new Florida law that limits how educators discuss LGBTQ issues in the classroom.

Legislators “will be considering the Congressional map, but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” DeSantis said at a news conference in The Villages, a retirement community north of Disney.

A proclamation signed by DeSantis states that “it is necessary to review such independent special districts to ensure that they are appropriately serving the public interest.”

It is unclear what impact the proposal would have on Disney World’s operations. The company did not respond to requests for comment.

The bill to eliminate the special district passed GOP-majority state Senate and House committees Tuesday afternoon. Democrats called it an act of retaliation by a powerful governor that could have unintended consequences.

“If this isn’t the grandest form of bullying that I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is,” state Sen. Janet Cruz (D) said. “I have this vision of a mousetrap that we’ve created, and I see us leaning on the neck of the mouse for 12 months, just to step on Mickey’s neck.”

But the bill’s supporters pushed back. Sen. Jennifer Bradley said the legislation, which specifies Disney without naming it, “is not an attempt to villainize” the company but to reassess its legal authority after more than a half-century.

“They are not governed by a different set of rules as everyone else. They make their own rules,” said Bradley, the bill’s sponsor in the Senate. “Those are incredibly broad powers that have been brought to light.”

Bill sponsor Rep. Randy Fine (R) tweeted soon after DeSantis’s announcement that “Disney is a guest in Florida. Today, we remind them.”

The Reedy Creek Improvement District is the official name of the 25,000-acre property that Walt Disney negotiated to buy in Central Florida in the mid-1960s. Disney sought as much control as possible over the land, and its lobbyists worked with state legislators to create the special taxing district. It is one of 1,800 special districts in Florida and allows Disney to oversee its property — which spans two counties and about 40 square miles — as a quasi-governmental agency, building roads and collecting taxes.

Republican sponsors of the legislation couldn’t answer questions Tuesday about whether the measure would leave local governments responsible for billions of dollars in infrastructure and other responsibilities in the district that Disney now pays for on its own.

The creation of Disney World helped launch the thriving Central Florida theme park industry, which draws an estimated 70 million tourists a year. About 20 million people visit Disney World annually, making it the most-visited theme park in the world.

Democrats have long been critical of the sway Disney holds over lawmakers. The company has donated millions to politicians in Florida, mostly members of the GOP, including DeSantis. But they say unraveling the company’s authority over its vast properties should be done more carefully.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk’s talk of a Twitter takeover masks Tesla’s troubles in China, Faiz Siddiqui, April 20, 2022. Some are concerned the Tesla CEO may be stretching himself too thin. The world is distracted by Elon Musk’s hostile takeover bid for Twitter. That may be serving the Tesla CEO’s purposes well.

Tesla’s Shanghai “Gigafactory,” where it makes some of its electric sedans and crossover SUVs, has been shuttered for weeks as a result of China’s “zero covid” policy, something the company is expected to address on its earnings call when it reports first quarter results later Wednesday. Tesla has also come under fire for no longer including a standard charging cable with its cars, a move that hints at possible supply chain woes — and amounts to what analysts are calling a backdoor price increase.

elon musk 2015Meanwhile, Musk, right, has been consumed in recent weeks with a surprise push to take over the social media platform he uses for company announcements and communicating with his more than 82 million followers.

china flagAnalysts and investors have expressed concern that Musk is stretched too thin — not only by the demands of Tesla, which has opened multiple new factories in recent weeks, but other responsibilities as CEO of rocket builder SpaceX and several smaller companies. If he succeeds in his bid to buy Twitter, Musk will have a historic, and largely unprecedented, catalogue of tech companies under his helm even after questioning last year how long he could keep up with overflowing demands.

Musk praised Tesla’s performance despite the challenges in a tweet this month.

“This was an *exceptionally* difficult quarter due to supply chain interruptions & China zero Covid policy,” he wrote. “Outstanding work by Tesla team & key suppliers saved the day.”

Tesla said at the time that it delivered more than 300,000 vehicles in the quarter, the first of 2022, positioning its numbers as a strong result “despite ongoing supply chain challenges and factory shutdowns.”

Analysts expect Tesla to report strong first quarter numbers, but those will largely be a footnote as the company faces questions over how the China closure will affect its year. Tesla has called the Shanghai factory its main export hub, making it a critical site for the carmaker that is largely credited with ushering in the era of electric vehicles.

Over the course of a decade, Tesla went from a niche automaker delivering tens of thousands of vehicles to more than 936,000 in 2021. Along the way, it has faced profitability concerns, regulatory fights and production challenges that posed massive hurdles for Musk.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk Races to Secure Financing for a Twitter Bid, Lauren Hirsch, April 20, 2022 (print ed.). The world’s richest man is trying to shore up debt financing, including potentially taking out a loan against his shares of Tesla, so he can buy Twitter.

Morgan Stanley, the investment bank working with Mr. Musk on the potential deal, has been calling banks and other potential investors to shore up financing for the offer, four people with knowledge of the situation said. Mr. Musk is first focused on raising debt and has not yet begun to seek equity financing for his bid, one of the people said.

twitter bird CustomMr. Musk is evaluating various packages of debt, including more senior debt known as preferred debt and a loan against his shares of Tesla, the electric carmaker that he runs, two of the people said. Apollo Global Management, an alternative asset manager, is among the parties considering offering debt financing in a bid for Twitter. The equity he needs is likely to be sizable.

Mr. Musk is aiming to pull together a fully funded offer as soon as this week, one of the people said, though that timeline is far from certain. The people with knowledge of the discussions were not authorized to speak publicly because the details are confidential and in flux.

It is unclear if Mr. Musk’s efforts will be successful, but they go toward addressing a key question about his Twitter bid. Last week, Mr. Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, made an unsolicited offer for the social media company, saying that he wanted to take it private and that he wanted people to be able to speak more freely on the service. But his offer was regarded skeptically by Wall Street because he did not include details about how he would come up with the money for the deal.

 

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison in 2021 after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

ny times logoNew York Times, British Court Brings Julian Assange One Step Closer to Extradition, Megan Specia, April 20, 2022. The court formally ordered the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder to the United States, but it still needs approval from a British cabinet minister and his defense can appeal to her directly.

The order to extradite Mr. Assange, who is being sought by the United States in connection with charges under the Espionage Act, must be signed by the British home secretary, Priti Patel. Mr. Assange has four weeks to appeal to her directly, and he also has the right to take his case to the English High Court after she issues her decision.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomWednesday’s court decision, delivered in a brief hearing that saw Mr. Assange dial in by video call from a prison in London, was the latest blow to his attempts to fend off his extradition. Protesters, as they have done throughout his legal battle, gathered outside the courtroom in central London.

Britain’s Supreme Court ruled last month that Mr. Assange could not appeal an earlier decision that paved the way for his extradition, bouncing the decision back to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which made the decision on Wednesday.

Ms. Patel will now decide whether to order the extradition or refuse the request, but Mr. Assange’s defense team also is entitled to make submissions to her before her final decision is made. His legal team has until May 18 to do so. The Home Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Assange was charged in the United States under the Espionage Act in connection with obtaining and publishing classified government documents about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq on WikiLeaks in 2010. Those files were leaked by Chelsea Manning, a former military intelligence analyst.

Mr. Assange has waged a prolonged legal battle against his extradition following his arrest in London in 2019, after he spent seven years holed up inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in an effort to avoid detention.

His defenders have sought to present the case as a matter of press freedom, and his extradition to the United States could raise major issues about First Amendment rights, experts say.

“The extradition of Julian Assange would also be devastating for press freedom and for the public, who have a right to know what their governments are doing in their name,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general.

Then-Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump attends a religious service in Detroit during the 2016 campaign with his aide Omarosa Manigault Newman (Reuters photo by Carlo Alegri).  Then-Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump attends a church service in Detroit on Sept. 3 during the 2016 campaign with his aide Omarosa Manigault Newman (Reuters photo by Carlo Alegri).

Then-Republican Presidential nominee Donald J. Trump attends a church service in Detroit on Sept. 3 during the 2016 campaign with his aide Omarosa Manigault Newman (Reuters photo by Carlo Alegri). Her book became a tell-all No. 1 national best-seller.

CNBC, Trump campaign must pay $1.3M in legal fees to ‘Apprentice’ star Omarosa Manigault Newman in White House book lawsuit, Dan Mangan, April 20 cnbc logo2022. The presidential campaign of Donald Trump has been ordered by an arbitrator to pay $1.3 million in legal fees to Omarosa Manigault Newman in connection with a dispute over a book about her tenure as a White House advisor, her lawyer said.

The awarding of legal feels comes nearly seven months after the arbitrator ruled in Manigault Newman’s favor that a confidentiality agreement she signed while working on Trump’s 2016 campaign was invalid under New York law.

Manigault Newman first gained notoriety for her role as a villain-esque contestant on the first season of Trump’s former reality television show “The Apprentice.”

An arbitrator ordered Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to pay $1.3 million in legal fees to Omarosa Manigault Newman, the former “Apprentice” star whom the campaign unsuccessfully sued over a book about her tenure as a White House advisor, her lawyer said Wednesday.

omarosa manigault newman unhinged coverThe award comes nearly seven months after the arbitrator ruled in Manigault Newman’s favor that a confidentiality agreement she signed while working on Trump’s 2016 campaign was invalid under New York law.

The campaign in 2018 had filed a complaint with the American Arbitration Association in New York against her claiming that she violated that nondisclosure agreement with a scathing tell-all book titled Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House.

Manigault Newman’s lawyer John Phillips, in a statement, said the decision was the “largest known attorney fee award against a Political Campaign or President we can find and hopefully will send a message that weaponized litigation will not be tolerated and empower other lawyers to stand up and fight for the whistleblower and vocal critic against the oppressive machine.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Johnny Depp takes stand, says Amber Heard’s abuse allegations are untrue, ‘heinous,’ Emily Yahr and Sonia Rao, April 20, 2022. Johnny Depp took the stand Tuesday in his defamation lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, telling a Fairfax County jury that he was appearing before it because of the actress’s “heinous” and “disturbing” allegations of abuse and that he wanted everyone to know the claims were “not based in any species of truth.”

Though Depp acknowledged there were arguments between them, he said, “Never did I, myself, reach the point of striking Ms. Heard in any way, nor have I ever struck any woman in my life.”

Heard and Depp were married in February 2015 after dating for more than three years. In May 2016, Heard filed for divorce and a restraining order, alleging that Depp had physically abused her. They settled their divorce months later. The actor is suing Heard for $50 million for defamation over a 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post calling herself a survivor of domestic abuse, which Depp says caused further damage and irreparably destroyed his reputation and career. Heard countersued him for $100 million for defamation after his lawyer called her claims a hoax.

Depp’s attorneys filed the suit in Virginia because The Post’s printing presses and online servers are in Fairfax County. (The Post is not a defendant in the case.) The state is also known for weaker anti-defamation laws.

He spoke in front of the jury and about 100 spectators in the courtroom; the testimony was also streamed online. A murmur rippled through the crowd when his attorney called “John C. Depp” to the stand. Depp said that back in 2016, Heard’s accusations “permeated” the entertainment industry, and, after being picked up in the media and on social media, became assumed as fact.

“Since I knew there was no truth to it whatsoever, I felt it my responsibility to stand up not only for myself . . . but stand up for my children, who at the time were 14 and 16,” Depp said, referring to his children Jack and Lily-Rose, whom he shares with his ex-partner of 14 years, Vanessa Paradis. He spoke about a People magazine cover at the time that showed Heard’s bruised face and said the story kept multiplying from there.

“It was my responsibility, I felt, to not only attempt to clear my name for the sake of — for many reasons, but I wanted to clear my children of this horrid thing that they were having to read about their father, which was untrue,” he said.

Heard’s lawyers have repeatedly pointed to Depp’s history of alcohol and drug use, saying that his substance issues are what ruined his career and that he’s an “obsessed ex-husband hellbent on revenge.” Depp said that Heard has “grossly embellished” his “quote-unquote substance abuse,” and that she’s using the secrets of his past against him. Depp said he first tried “nerve pills” at age 11 when he saw they calmed down his mother, and tried every drug imaginable by age 15.

  • Washington Post, What to know about Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s defamation trial

washington post logoWashington Post, Netflix loses 200,000 subscribers after Ukraine-linked Russia pullout, Andrew Jeong, April 20, 2022. For the first time in a decade, the streaming service said that it had lost more paying viewers than it added, even as its revenue grew, pushing its stock price down by more than 20 percent in after-hours trading. For the first time in a decade, Netflix said Tuesday, the streaming service lost more paying customers than it added after a net drop of 200,000 subscribers it attributed to its pullout from Russia.

Even though revenue grew, the announcement pushed its stock price down by more than 20 percent in after-hours trading. In a letter to shareholders, Netflix attributed the net loss in the January-March period to its decision last month to suspend services in Russia in protest of the Kremlin’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

It lost 700,000 viewers in Russia, although it added 500,000 elsewhere globally.

The drop comes amid a larger trend of shrinking viewership, with the streaming service projecting that it will lose a further 2 million subscribers in the next three-month quarter ending in June.

It still said revenue would grow to almost $8 billion in that period, a 10 percent increase from the same time last year. The company also retains a paying audience of over 220 million, more than double what it had five years ago.

April 19

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Commanders deny allegations of financial misdeeds in letter to FTC, Nicki Jhabvala and Mark Maske, April 19, 2022. The Washington Commanders sent an 18-page letter to the chair of the Federal Trade Commission on Monday that described the allegations of financial improprieties made by a former team employee and detailed by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform as “baseless” and asserted that “no investigation is warranted.”

The rebuttal claims the committee’s letter, which was sent to the FTC on Tuesday, “relies solely on the uncorroborated, false testimony of a single disgruntled former employee,” referring to former vice president of sales and customer service Jason Friedman, who worked for the team for 24 years.

In an interview with the committee and through shared emails and documents, Friedman alleged that Washington engaged in a long-running practice of withholding refundable deposits from season ticket holders and hiding money that was supposed to be shared among NFL owners. The team described the committee’s letter as “one-sided” and “uncorroborated” and included declarations from four former executives — team counsel David Donovan, chief operating officer Mitch Gershman, director of finance Paul Szczenski and senior vice president Michael Dillow — as well as documents and text exchanges to dispute Friedman’s claims.

Congress details allegations of Commanders’ ‘unlawful’ conduct to FTC

ftc logo“We are confident that, had this referral not come from a Congressional Committee, the FTC would exercise its discretion to decline to open an investigation based on the uncorroborated and implausible allegations of a single disgruntled former employee, especially one with such notable impairments to his credibility as set forth below,” read the team’s letter, which was signed by attorney Jordan Siev of Reed Smith LLP. “We respectfully suggest that the FTC should not be influenced by the patina of credibility created by a congressional referral when the actual investigation pursued by the Committee in question was conducted in such a one-sided, deficient, and partisan fashion.”

The letter was addressed to FTC chair Lina M. Khan and copied to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the Oversight Committee’s chairwoman; Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), the chairman of the subcommittee on economic and consumer policy; Republican leaders of the committee; NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; and attorneys general Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia, Brian E. Frosh (D) of Maryland and Karl A. Racine (D) of D.C.; among others.

Throughout the letter and its 17 accompanying exhibits, the team describes Friedman as an “untrustworthy” former employee who was fired for “professional misconduct” in October 2020 and later pleaded to be rehired. The letter said Friedman “repeatedly berated his staff, including minority women” and “created a culture of fear.” Included in the exhibits are emails purported to be sent from Friedman that include derogatory and misogynistic language.

Szczenski described Friedman’s claims as “speculative, uninformed guesswork” and said he “had virtually no visibility into the Team’s accounting function. He was not present at meetings of the accounting team or included in [their] communications except in very limited circumstances when it involved his department,” according to the letter.

Friedman’s attorneys, Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, said in a statement Monday that Friedman “stands by his testimony, which was truthful and based on his experiences with the team.” The attorneys previously have said that Friedman has “contractual constraints” that prohibit him from speaking publicly about his allegations regarding the team.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why Carlson wants men to aim lasers at their private parts, Dana Milbank, right, April 19, 2022 (print ed.). With the pandemic fading (at least for now), there are fewer occasions to swallow ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine or to inject oneself with bleach.

dana milbank newestSo what’s a Trump-loving, conspiracy-obsessed Fox News-viewing guy to do?

Tucker Carlson, above, has the answer: He should stand naked and spread-eagle on top of a large rock at twilight and gaze heavenward as a red laser illuminates his genitals.

fox news logo Small“One of the biggest stories of our lifetimes is the total collapse of testosterone levels in American men … completely changing the way people are at the most fundamental level,” Carlson says in introducing the trailer for his latest “documentary.” After showing the teaser, Carlson brings in his expert “fitness professional” Andrew McGovern.

McGovern recommends that you “expose yourself to red-light therapy and the Joovv” — a brand of red light — “that we were using in the documentary.”

“Which is testicle tanning,” Carlson explains.

“It’s testicle tanning,” McGovern agrees, “but it’s also full-body red-light therapy.”

Carlson, the most-watched Fox News host, sums it up: “So, obviously, half the viewers are now like, ‘What? Testicle tanning — that’s crazy.’ But my view is, okay, testosterone levels have crashed and nobody says anything about it. That’s crazy.”

No, this is what’s crazy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk wants a free speech utopia. Technologists clap back, Elizabeth Dwoskin, April 19, 2022 (print ed.). Musk’s vision of the Internet is outdated and doesn’t take into account the real world, they say.

Elon Musk’s vision for Twitter is a public town square where there are few restrictions on what people can or can’t say on the Internet.

elon musk 2015But the utopian ideal envisioned by the Tesla CEO, right, ceased to exist long ago and doesn’t take into account what’s happening in the real world, tech executives, Twitter employees and Silicon Valley insiders say. As Musk seeks a $43 billion hostile takeover bid for Twitter, critics say his ambition for what the platform should be — a largely unpoliced space rid of censorship — is naive, would hurt the company’s growth prospects and would render the platform unsafe.

Twitter, Facebook and other social networks have spent billions of dollars and employed armies of people to create and enforce policies to reduce hate speech, misinformation and other toxic communication that degrades public discourse. In doing so, they’ve provoked the ire not only of politicians on the right, who claim these actions amount to censorship, but also people on the left, who say tech companies’ enforcement is both too limited and biased.

“What Musk seemingly fails to recognize is that to truly have free speech today, you need moderation,” said Katie Harbath, a former Facebook public policy director and CEO of consultancy Anchor Change. “Otherwise just those who bully and harass will be left as they will drive others away.”

She added that content moderation and responsible platform design done right can actually allow for more speech.

Jack Dorsey, former Twitter CEO, who co-founded the social media company 16 years ago, said in a tweet about Musk’s potential takeover bid: “I don’t believe any individual or institutions should own social media, or more generally media companies. It should be an open and verifiable protocol. Everything is a step toward that.”

twitter bird CustomTwitter declined to comment. Musk didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

Musk, a prolific Twitter user himself with more than 80 million followers, has touted the benefits of free speech in the lead up to his hostile takeover bid unveiled in a Securities and Exchange filing last week. Following the disclosure, he conducted a poll asking on Twitter whether taking the company private at $54.20 a share should be up to shareholders and not the board. During a TED conference in Vancouver Thursday, he touted the merits of free speech on the Internet.

“I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said during the TED interview. “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s just really important that people have the, both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”

Musk, who has previously referred to himself as a free speech maximalist, also said he hoped to make available to the public the company’s algorithm, helping people understand how content surfaces on the platform. He also said that platforms should police speech in accordance with U.S. laws, a comment that was widely interpreted to mean that he was advocating for limited content moderation because speech in the United States short of direct calls for violence is largely protected by the First Amendment.

joe kahn

ny times logoNew York Times, Joe Kahn Is Named Executive Editor of The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum and Jim Windolf, April 19, 2022. Mr. Kahn, 57, above, who helped steer The New York Times into the digital era, will succeed Dean Baquet in the top newsroom job.

Joe Kahn, an award-winning China correspondent who rose to lead the international desk of The New York Times, and then as managing editor helped steer the newspaper into the digital era, has been selected to be The Times’s next executive editor, the top newsroom job.

Mr. Kahn, 57, currently the No. 2-ranking editor at The Times, will take on one of the most powerful positions in American media and the global news business. He is to succeed Dean Baquet, whose eight-year tenure is expected to conclude in June.

The announcement was made on Tuesday by the publisher of The Times, A.G. Sulzberger.

“For many people, especially those who have worked alongside Joe — a brilliant journalist and a brave and principled leader — this announcement will come as no surprise,” Mr. Sulzberger wrote in a memo to the Times staff. “Joe brings impeccable news judgment, a sophisticated understanding of the forces shaping the world and a long track record of helping journalists produce their most ambitious and courageous work.”

In elevating Mr. Kahn, Mr. Sulzberger chose a veteran journalist steeped in the values of traditional newspaper reporting and editing to lead an institution undergoing enormous change. After decades devoted to the “daily miracle” of the print edition, The Times is focused on a digital future and competing for audiences around the world.

April 18

 

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washington post logoNew York Times, Alex Jones’s Infowars Files for Bankruptcy, Derrick Bryson Taylor, April 18, 2022. Three companies affiliated with the far-right broadcaster and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, above, among them the media outlet Infowars, filed for Chapter 11 protection on Sunday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas, according to court documents.

Infowars is facing multiple defamation lawsuits from families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, which Mr. Jones has claimed was a hoax. Two other companies connected to Mr. Jones, IWHealth and Prison Planet TV, also filed for bankruptcy protection on Sunday.

Last September, Mr. Jones lost two defamation lawsuits filed in Texas by victims’ families because he failed to provide requested information to the court. Months later, in a case representing the families of eight others killed in the shooting, a Connecticut judge ruled that Mr. Jones was liable by default because he had refused to turn over documents ordered by the courts, including financial records. The rulings delivered sweeping victories to the families.

Mr. Jones for years spread bogus theories that the shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn., was part of a government-led plot to confiscate Americans’ firearms and that the victims’ families were actors in the scheme.

Because of the falsehoods, families of the victims have found themselves routinely accosted by those who believe those false claims. Among those are the parents of Noah Pozner, who have moved nearly 10 times since the shooting, and live in hiding.

The Sandy Hook families maintain that Mr. Jones profited from spreading lies about their relatives’ murders. Mr. Jones has disputed that, while for years failing to produce sufficient records to bolster his claims.

Last month, a Connecticut judge found the radio host in contempt for failing to sit for a deposition and ordered that he be fined $25,000 for the first weekday he fails to appear for testimony, with the fine rising by $25,000 every day thereafter that he did not appear.

In trials scheduled to begin this month in Texas, juries will determine how much Mr. Jones must pay the families in damages. The Connecticut case is the last scheduled trial, set to begin on Sept. 1.

In its court filings, Infowars said that it had up to 49 creditors, as much as $50,000 in estimated assets and up to $10 million in estimated liabilities. The two other companies said they also had up to 49 creditors, with IWHealth stating it had up to $1 million in assets while Prison Planet TV said it had up to $50,000.

April 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter underscores the risks of social media ownership, Joseph Menn, Cat Zakrzewski and Craig Timberg, April 17, 2022. After years of struggling to get Facebook to confront its problems, experts worry about the impact of a Twitter owned by one individual.

elon musk 2015Social media industry safety professionals and outside experts who’ve spent years trying to slow the empowerment of tyrants and violent mobs by Facebook and other platforms are aghast that a second major company might come under the control of just one person — especially one complaining that Twitter places too many limits on what can be posted on its site.

In tweets and a TED conversation that followed his surprise bid last week to take Twitter private, billionaire Elon Musk has decried decisions to bar some users as censorship and said moderation that blunts the spread of legal but offending content as going too far.

twitter bird Custom“If it’s a gray area, let the tweet exist,” Musk said Thursday.

Such comments alarm those whose experience has been that unfettered speech makes social media platforms unusable and that lightly controlled speech favors those who can direct thousands to make versions of the same point, which is then amplified by algorithms designed to maximize engagement and thereby advertising dollars.

“This is a disaster, and it’s not only about Elon Musk, but he kind of puts it on steroids,” said Shoshana Zuboff, a retired Harvard Business School professor and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,”which says that the money coming from the collection of data about human behavior is the lifeblood of a new and thus far nearly unregulated era.

facebook logoZuboff’s work argues that Facebook, Twitter and others extract as much data about users as possible and then attempt to maximize their time on the site because that earns them money. But platforms, she argues, aren’t neutral — in driving users’ online interests, they alter not only discussions but also beliefs and even physical actions, encouraging people to do what they otherwise would not, such as joining real-world protests.

Putting so much power in the hands of one company is bad enough — but putting it in the hands of one person, as is largely the case with Facebook’s controlling shareholder, Mark Zuckerberg, and would be the case with a Musk-owned Twitter — would be, she says, incompatible with democracy.

April 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Ukraine is scanning faces of dead Russians, then contacting the mothers, Drew Harwell, April 15, 2022. Ukrainian officials say the use of facial recognition software could help end the brutal war. But some experts call it ‘classic psychological warfare’ that sets a gruesome precedent.

Ukrainian officials have run more than 8,600 facial recognition searches on dead or captured Russian soldiers in the 50 days since Moscow’s invasion began, using the scans to identify bodies and contact hundreds of their families in what may be one of the most gruesome applications of the technology to date.

The country’s IT Army, a volunteer force of hackers and activists that takes its direction from the Ukrainian government, says it has used those identifications to inform the families of the deaths of 582 Russians, including by sending them photos of the abandoned corpses.

The Ukrainians champion the use of face-scanning software from the U.S. tech firm Clearview AI as a brutal but effective way to stir up dissent inside Russia, discourage other fighters and hasten an end to a devastating war.

But some military and technology analysts worry that the strategy could backfire, inflaming anger over a shock campaign directed at mothers who may be thousands of miles from the drivers of the Kremlin’s war machine.

The West’s solidarity with Ukraine makes it tempting to support such a radical act designed to capitalize on family grief, said Stephanie Hare, a surveillance researcher in London. But contacting soldiers’ parents, she said, is “classic psychological warfare” and could set a dangerous new standard for future conflicts.

“If it were Russian soldiers doing this with Ukrainian mothers, we might say, ‘Oh, my God, that’s barbaric,’ ” she said. “And is it actually working? Or is it making them say: ‘Look at these lawless, cruel Ukrainians, doing this to our boys?’ ”

Clearview AI’s chief executive, Hoan Ton-That, told The Washington Post that more than 340 officials across five Ukrainian government agencies now can use its tool to run facial recognition searches whenever they want, free of charge.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter adopts ‘poison pill’ intended to thwart Elon Musk’s takeover bid, Faiz Siddiqui, April 15, 2022. The plan signals that Twitter does not look favorably at Musk’s bid.

Twitter is rebuffing Elon Musk’s hostile takeover bid, the company announced Friday, adopting a plan known as a “poison pill” that would seek to thwart the Tesla CEO from becoming the owner of the social media network.

twitter bird CustomThe plan, known as a “shareholder rights plan” seeks to insulate shareholders against Musk’s efforts as the largest individual shareholder to amass an exponentially bigger stake in Twitter.

“The Rights Plan will reduce the likelihood that any entity, person or group gains control of Twitter through open market accumulation without paying all shareholders an appropriate control premium or without providing the Board sufficient time to make informed judgments and take actions that are in the best interests of shareholders,” Twitter said in a news release.

elon musk 2015Musk, right, disclosed earlier this month that he had amassed a more than 9 percent stake in Twitter, and he launched a takeover bid to take the company private valued at roughly $43 billion Thursday.

The poison pill plan would effectively allow shareholders other than Musk to buy additional stock at a discounted price, flooding the market with shares that would then trade at a premium. That would make it difficult for a prospective owner to amass a higher stake without spending significantly more money.

The ”poison pill” would be triggered if Musk crossed a threshold of 15 percent ownership in Twitter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Law That Shaped the Internet Presents a Question for Elon Musk, Peter Coy, April 15, 2022. "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Those are “the 26 words that created the internet,” says Jeff Kosseff, an associate professor of cybersecurity law at the United States Naval Academy, who wrote a book with that title that came out in 2019. The fruitful words come from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That brief passage fueled the growth of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook by protecting them from lawsuits over content posted by users of their platforms.

Nearly three decades later, conservatives and liberals are equally unhappy with Section 230, but for opposite reasons, says Mary Anne Franks, a professor at University of Miami School of Law.

Liberals, for the most part, don’t like those 26 words because they feel they have permitted the platforms to host and even promote hate speech, unfounded conspiracy theories, racism and other objectionable content that attracts eyeballs and makes money.

Conservatives and libertarians, for the most part, dislike the next section, which protects the platforms when they take down objectionable material. It says the platforms can’t be held civilly liable if “in good faith” they remove content they deem “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” The conservatives and libertarians argue that platforms such as Twitter are using Section 230 to suppress their freedom of expression. (You can read the whole section here.)

Now comes Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, with an offer to buy Twitter at a valuation of about $43 billion. (The company on Friday moved to make it more difficult for any single investor to amass a large stake.)

It’s difficult to know anything for sure about Musk, but if he does buy Twitter it’s a good bet he’ll reduce content moderation. “I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said Thursday at a TED conference. He might also end the “permanent” suspension of former President Donald Trump, which was imposed after the invasion of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

But no matter how smart and rich he is, Musk can’t rid the web of the problems that Section 230 was meant to address. It would be crazy, and counterproductive, for Musk to end all content moderation. Twitter would soon fill up with not-quite-illegal sexual material, deceptive sales pitches, trolls and other garbage that would drive away users and wreck Twitter’s market and consumer value.

No platform can reasonably promise unadulterated free speech. Trump’s faltering Truth Social platform, which claims to be a “big tent,” threatens to ban users whose contributions are, borrowing from Section 230, “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, violent, harassing, libelous, slanderous, or otherwise objectionable.” (“Otherwise objectionable” is a capacious phrase.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Elon Musk’s road to Twitter is paved with broken promises, Geoffrey A. Fowler, April 15, 2022. Musk says he’ll remake Twitter and save free speech. But his track record is a mix of wild successes and many unfulfilled pledges.

Elon Musk wants to use his billions to remake Twitter as a “platform for free speech around the globe.” He says he’ll stop it from censoring speech, ban annoying bots and make tweets editable.

But as Earth’s richest person adds the social media industry to his conquests, keep one thing in mind: Musk’s promises often need an edit button of their own.

His track record is a mix of wild successes and many, many, many broken promises.

I’ve lived it: In 2019, my family leased a Tesla Model 3 and paid thousands of dollars extra for its “full self-driving” capability. When we returned the lease a few months ago, we still hadn’t received it. (There was no refund, either — we asked.)

It’s the fundamental paradox of Musk: He’s both our Thomas Edison and that kid in school who made up fantastical stories about what he did on summer vacation. Last fall, Musk actually announced plans for a humanoid robot at an event by using a real human dancing in a robot suit. He says so many zany things that some of his critics, who are often financially invested in his failure, catalogue them on sites including Elon’s Broken Promises and Elon Musk Today.

washington post logoRobert ReichOpEdNews, Commentary: Why Elon Musk has blocked me on Twitter (and now owns the joint), Robert Reich, right, Professor at the University of California, Chairman of Common Cause and former U.S. Secretary of Labor, April 15, 2022. This isn't about freedom of speech. It's about power.

Years ago, pundits assumed the Internet would open a new era of democracy, giving everyone access to the truth. But dictators like Putin and demagogues like Trump have demonstrated how naïve that assumption was.

At least America responded to Trump's lies. Trump had 88 million Twitter followers before Twitter took him off its platform -- just two days after the attack on the U.S. Capitol which he provoked, in part, with his tweets. (Trump's social media accounts were also suspended on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, and TikTok.)

twitter bird CustomTwitter's move was necessary to protect American democracy. But Elon Musk -- the richest man in the world, with 80 million Twitter followers -- wasn't pleased about it. Musk tweeted that U.S. tech companies shouldn't be acting "as the de facto arbiter of free speech."

I would have posted that tweet for you right here, if I had access to it. But ever since I posted a tweet two years ago criticizing Musk for how he treated his Tesla workers, he has blocked me -- so I can't view or post criticisms of his tweets to his 80 million Twitter followers. Seems like an odd move for someone who describes himself as a "free speech absolutist."

It's power that compelled Musk to buy $2.64 billion of Twitter stock, making him the largest shareholder, with a 9.2 percent stake in the company. Last week, Twitter announced that Musk will be joining the company's board of directors. After the announcement, Musk promised "to make significant improvements" to the platform. (He even changed his investment designation to clarify that he's not simply a "passive" investor but one who intends to impact the way the company is run.) Yesterday evening, though, it was announced that -- contrary to last week's announcement -- Musk would not be joining Twitter's board. No reason was given but this is typical for Musk.

It's likely part of a bargaining Kabuki dance. Musk wouldn't have plopped down $2.64 billion for nothing. He probably wants more control. If he is not on Twitter's board, Musk is not bound by the "standstill" agreement in which he pledged to buy no more than 14.9 percent of Twitter's stock. Musk now has no restrictions on how much of Twitter's stock he can buy. I predict he buys more and takes an even more active role trying to influence the platform.

By the way, what "improvements" does Musk have in mind for Twitter? Would he use his additional influence over the platform to prevent users with tens of millions of followers from blocking people who criticize them? I doubt it.

Would Musk pressure Twitter to let Trump back on? I fear he would.

Musk has long advocated a libertarian vision of an "uncontrolled" Internet. That vision is dangerous rubbish. There's no such animal, and won't be. Someone has to decide on the algorithms in every platform -- how they're designed, how they evolve, what they reveal and what they hide. Musk has enough power and money to quietly give himselfthis sort of control over Twitter. He talks about freedom of speech but his real power is freedom of reach - reaching 80 million twitter followers without accountability to anyone (including critics like me) - and enough money to buy himself a seat on Twitter's board.

Musk has never believed that power comes with responsibility. He's been unperturbed when his tweets cause real suffering. During his long and storied history with Twitter he has threatened journalists and stolen memes. In March 2020 he tweeted that children were "essentially immune" to Covid. He's pushed cryptocurrencies that he's invested in. When a college student started a Twitter account to track Musk's private plane, Musk tried and failed to buy him off, before blocking him.

The Securities and Exchange Commission went after Musk after he tweeted that he had funding to take Tesla private, a clear violation of the law. Musk paid a fine and agreed to let lawyers vet future sensitive tweets, but he has tried to reverse this requirement. He has also been openly contemptuous of the SEC, tweeting at one point that the "E" stands for "Elon's." (You can guess what the "S" and "C" stand for.) By the way, how does the SEC go after Musk's ability to tweet now that he owns Twitter?

Billionaires like Musk have shown time and again they consider themselves above the law. And to a large extent, they are. Musk has enough wealth that legal penalties are no more than slaps on his wrist, and enough power to control one of the most important ways the public now receives news. Think about it: After years of posting tweets that skirt the law, Musk was given a seat on Twitter's board (and is probably now negotiating for even more clout).

Musk says he wants to "free" the Internet. But what he really aims to do is make it even less accountable than it is now, when it's often impossible to discover who is making the decisions about how algorithms are designed, who's filling social media with lies, who's poisoning our minds with pseudo-science and propaganda, and who's deciding which versions of events go viral and which stay under wraps.

Make no mistake: This is not about freedom. It's about power. In Musk's vision of Twitter and the Internet, he'd be the wizard behind the curtain - projecting on the world's screen a fake image of a brave new world empowering everyone. In reality, that world would be dominated by the richest and most powerful people in the world, who wouldn't be accountable to anyone for facts, truth, science, or the common good. That's Musk's dream. And Trump's. And Putin's. And the dream of every dictator, strongman, demagogue, and modern-day robber baron on earth. For the rest of us, it would be a brave new nightmare.

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ny times logoNew York Times, How Russian Media Uses Fox News to Make Its Case, Stuart A. Thompson, April 15, 2022. Russia’s state media has seized on the network’s prime-time segments, opinion pieces and online comments section to paint a critical portrait of the U.S.

As Western leaders introduced sanctions against Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, said seizing personal property from Russian oligarchs went too far.

fox news logo Small“No American government had ever done anything like that before,” he said.

While the segment was aimed at Fox News’s conservative audience, it found another audience in Russia. The argument was parroted beat by beat by RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency, which wrote that “the average U.S. citizen is simply horrified by what is happening.”

In the U.S., Biden has been accused of destroying the country with anti-Russian sanctions

The narratives advanced by the Kremlin and by parts of conservative American media have converged in recent months, reinforcing and feeding each other. Along the way, Russian media has increasingly seized on Fox News’s prime-time segments, its opinion pieces and even the network’s active online comments section — all of which often find fault with the Biden administration — to paint a critical portrait of the United States and depict America’s foreign policy as a threat to Russia’s interests.

Mr. Carlson was a frequent reference for Russian media, but other Fox News personalities — and the occasional news update from the network — were also included.

April 14

Associated Press, Elon Musk accused of breaking law while buying Twitter stock, Michael Liedtke, April 15, 2022 (print ed.). Elon Musk’s huge Twitter investment took a new twist Tuesday with the filing of a lawsuit alleging that the colorful billionaire illegally delayed disclosing his stake in the social media company so he could buy more shares at lower prices.

elon musk 2015The complaint in New York federal court accuses Musk, right, of violating a regulatory deadline to reveal he had accumulated a stake of at least 5%. Instead, according to the complaint, Musk didn’t disclose his position in Twitter until he’d almost doubled his stake to more than 9%. That strategy, the lawsuit alleges, hurt less wealthy investors who sold shares in the San Francisco company in the nearly two weeks before Musk acknowledged holding a major stake.

Musk’s regulatory filings show that he bought a little more than 620,000 shares at $36.83 apiece on Jan. 31 and then continued to accumulate more shares on nearly every single trading day through April 1. Musk, best known as CEO of the electric car maker Tesla, held 73.1 million Twitter shares as of the most recent count Monday. That represents a 9.1% stake in Twitter.

The lawsuit alleges that by March 14, Musk’s stake in Twitter had reached a 5% threshold that required him to publicly disclose his holdings under U.S. securities law by March 24. Musk didn’t make the required disclosure until April 4.

twitter bird CustomThat revelation caused Twitter’s stock to soar 27% from its April 1 close to nearly $50 by the end of April 4′s trading, depriving investors who sold shares before Musk’s improperly delayed disclosure the chance to realize significant gains, according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of an investor named Marc Bain Rasella. Musk, meanwhile, was able to continue to buy shares that traded in prices ranging from $37.69 to $40.96.

The lawsuit is seeking to be certified as a class action representing Twitter shareholders who sold shares between March 24 and April 4, a process that could take a year or more.

Musk spent about $2.6 billion on Twitter stock — a fraction of his estimated wealth of $265 billion, the largest individual fortune in the world. In a regulatory filing Monday, Musk disclosed he may increase his stake after backing out of an agreement reached last week to join Twitter’s board of directors.

Jacob Walker, one of the lawyers that filed the lawsuit against Musk, told The Associated Press that he hadn’t reached out to the Securities and Exchange Commission about Musk’s alleged violations about the disclosure of his Twitter stake. “I assume the SEC is well aware of what he did,” Walker said.

The SEC and Musk have been wrangling in court since 2018 when Musk and Tesla agreed to pay a $40 million fine t o settle allegations that he used his Twitter account to mislead investors about a potential buyout of the electric car company that never materialized. As part of that deal, Musk was supposed to obtain legal approval for his tweets about information that could affect Tesla’s stock price — a provision that regulators contend he has occasionally violated and that he now argues unfairly muzzles him.

Musk didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment posted on Twitter, where he often shares his opinion and thoughts. Alex Spiro, a New York lawyer representing Musk in his ongoing dispute with the SEC, also didn’t immediately respond to a query from The Associated Press.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk launches hostile takeover bid of Twitter, Aaron Gregg, April 14, 2022. The Tesla CEO, who recently became the social media company’s largest shareholder, is offering $54.20 per share.

Elon Musk, right, has launched a hostile takeover bid of Twitter — promising to unlock its “extraordinary potential” as a private company — in the latest twist in a elon musk 2015stunning multiweek saga.

In a securities filing dated Wednesday, the billionaire tech CEO proposed $54.20 a share for the social media giant, calling it his “best and final offer. If it is not accepted, he added, “I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.”

In a letter addressed to Twitter Chairman Bret Taylor, Musk said he invested in the company because of its “potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe." Free speech is a “societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” he added.

“However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”

twitter bird CustomTwitter confirmed Thursday in an unsigned news release that it had received an “unsolicited, non-binding proposal” from Musk. “The Twitter Board of Directors will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders.”

The move comes after a wild two weeks between Musk and Twitter, which was full of head fakes and at least one lawsuit.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk won't join Twitter's board after all

The company’s share price closed Wednesday near $46 per share but it was up 10 percent in premarket trading Thursday morning. If Musk decided to unload his shares, it could send the company’s stock price sharply lower.

Musk recently disclosed he’d acquired a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter, suddenly becoming its largest shareholder. While he is a prolific Twitter user with more than 80 million followers, Musk also is a frequent critic: In late March, he suggested in a tweet that he was considering launching his own social media company.

On April 5, Twitter surprised employees and investors by announcing that Musk would join the board of directors. Days later, however, Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal announced that Musk had backed out.

“There will be distractions ahead, but our goals and priorities remain unchanged,” Agrawal wrote. “The decisions we make and how we execute remain unchanged. The decisions we make and how we execute is in our hands, no one else’s. Let’s tune out the noise, and stay focused on the work and what we’re building.”

Joining the board would have “handcuffed” him from fully acquiring the company, noted CFRA equity researcher Angelo Zino in an email to The Post.

Board membership also would bestow Musk with certain fiduciary responsibilities, such as requiring him to act in the best interests of the company.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary (WMR), Destroying nations through propaganda: a history, Wayne Madsen, left, April 13-14, 2022. President Biden justifiably wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallaccused Russia of carrying out genocide against Ukraine. Russia's actions to date have fulfilled one of the definitions of genocide: the systematic destruction of an entire nation and its people.

Aspirant czar Vladimir Putin claims he wants to "protect" Russians and Russian-speakers in Ukraine. Putin's military attacks on the country have been indiscriminate in their targeting: Ukrainians, Russians, Russian-speaking Ukrainians, Belorusians, Crimean Tatars, Pontic Greeks, Jews, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Hungarians, Romanians, Romani, Armenians, Azeris, Georgians, Gagauz, and Poles have been killed by Russian forces.

wayne madesen report logoPutin and the rhetoric of Russian neo-fascism he has embraced do not recognize a separate Ukrainian nation. That recognition was even extended by Joseph Stalin even though he, too, sought to destroy the Ukrainian nation. Stalin employed an enforced famine, an event known in Ukraine as the Holodomor, which killed as many as 5 million people. The Holodomor is considered an act of genocide in the same vein as Adolf Hitler's extermination of Ukraine's Jewish population. Putin's name can now be added to the list of the genocidal tyrants of modern Ukrainian history: Stalin, Hitler, and Putin.

Putin's propaganda as seen on Russian television and other media relies on the same type of fabulism used by Hitler and other fascist leaders.

Fascist propaganda has come a long way since the 1930s and 40s. It is now available on a 24x7 basis on Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, and hundreds of largely obscure podcasts on the web. The treaties signed in 1945 by the Allies with the fascist regimes of Germany, Italy, and Japan did not end the struggle against fascism. They were merely temporary ceasefires. The war continues to this day and hour in Ukraine, France, and a select committee room in the U.S. House of Representatives.

April 13

ny times logo New York Times, Substack’s Growth Spurt Brings Growing Pains, Tiffany Hsu, April 13, 2022. The publishing platform’s founders want Substack to be an “alternate universe on the internet.” But it faces copycat rivals, an exodus by writers and a need to move beyond newsletters.

But now, Substack finds itself no longer a wunderkind but a company facing a host of challenges. Depending on whom you talk to, those challenges are either standard start-up growing pains or threats to the company’s future.

Tech giants, news outlets and other companies have released competing newsletter platforms in the past year. Consumers who loaded up on newsletters during the pandemic began to scale back. And many popular writers left, such as the associate English professor Grace Lavery and the climate journalists Mary Annaïse Heglar and Amy Westervelt, often complaining about the company’s moderation policy or the pressure to constantly deliver.

“Substack is at a pivot point where it needs to think about what it’s going to be when it grows up,” said Nikki Usher, an associate journalism professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

The good news for the company, five years old this summer, is that it is still growing. Paid subscriptions to its hundreds of thousands of newsletters exploded to more than one million late last year from 50,000 in mid-2019. (The company won’t disclose the number of free subscribers.) A hiring spree hopes to net more than a dozen engineers, product managers and other specialists. Executives hope to eventually take the company — which has raised more than $82 million and is said to be valued at $650 million — public.

But to maintain that growth, Substack executives say, the company must offer more than newsletters.

Consortium News, Twitter Wars—My Personal Experience in Twitter’s Ongoing Assault on Free Speech, Scott Ritter, April 13, 2022. At some point, the U.S. people, and those they elect to higher office need to bring Twitter in line with the ideals and values Americans collectively espouse when it comes to free speech and online identity protection.

Scott Ritter is a former U.S. Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We see how Dan Snyder treats customers. Who would build him a stadium? Sally Jenkins, right, April 13, 2022. Washington sally jenkinsCommanders owner Daniel Snyder has denied allegations of financial impropriety.

What governor, mayor or legislator could stand on a dais with Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder for a stadium ribbon-cutting ceremony and assure constituents that they will get fair returns and not be fleeced? Only the crookedest pol at this point. There can be no stadium funds — no tax-free bonds, not so much as a discount on sewer lines — until Snyder has turned over every sticky page of his ledgers. What’s needed is a forensic accounting.

Cheating fellow NFL owners. Preying financially on unsuspecting fans. These are just two of the allegations in Tuesday’s letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to the Federal Trade Commission requesting an investigation of “potentially unlawful business practices” under Snyder. The contents of the letter are at once stunning and unsurprising. Unsurprising, given that Snyder always seems to find new tar pits. Stunning, in the level of detail contained in the letter’s 20 pages and the seriousness of the accusations: A former executive alleges the flagship franchise of the nation’s capital kept two sets of books, played shell games with revenue and pocketed refunds (and interest) owed to ticket buyers, all of which could amount to fraud if verified. And if it’s true, it should be verifiable.

Of course, there can be no new stadium deal under these circumstances. For that matter, not one cent of public money or favor should go to any NFL owner until the league comes clean and stops acting as a protection racket for Snyder’s sordidness. According to the committee’s letter, the NFL has met its inquiry into pervasive workplace misconduct in Snyder’s building with “obstruction” and sought to “withhold key documents and information.”

In short, the NFL has demonstrated it doesn’t care about the women who work within it. If the league does nothing with these latest allegations, it shows it doesn’t.

 

npc journalism institute logoNational Press Club Journalism Institute, Photographer's first aid helped save Brooklyn subway shooting victims (Journal-isms), Edited by National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, April 13, 2022. 

YouTube removes account tied to Brooklyn subway shooting suspect (BloombergQuint) / WATCH: Crowd cheers ‘hero’ security camera installer who tipped police to location of subway shooting suspect (Mediaite) / ‘Zack Dahnan, the 21-year old security camera installer who first spotted the suspected subway shooter in the East Village, is holding an impromptu press conference on 1st Avenue.’ (Jack Offenhartz)

■ First migrant bus from Texas arrives in DC, drops them blocks from Capitol ‘in front of the building that houses Fox News, NBC News, and C-SPAN’ (New York Post)

Press Freedom

■ Trial date set in defamation suit against Fox News over US election claims (Reuters)

■ Media organizations sue Gov. Youngkin for allegedly violating FOIA law (Washington Post)

■ Ethics complaint filed after reporter barred from Mississippi House GOP Caucus meeting (Mississippi Today)

■ US asked Israel for help locating American journalist Austin Tice (Axios)

■ Romanian journalists call for action after facing threats, intimidation (POLITICO)

April 12

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Newspapers keep eliminating print days. They say it’s for the best, Elahe Izadi, April 12, 2022. Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain, is cutting back on printed papers and pointing readers to e-editions. After more than 100 years of publication, Ohio’s Akron Beacon Journal has stopped printing on Mondays, when it instead offers readers a digital version of the newspaper.

“Your first thought is, as our aunt would have said, ‘Oh, good grief,’ ” Auburn said. “It’s a change, and for some of us, the paper has been a part of our lives.”

For more than two decades, industry sages have been predicting the death of the printed newspaper. Now, a growing number of local publishers are cutting back on their print editions, pointing to rising costs and arguing consumers will prefer the immediacy and convenience of online news.

 

Britney Spears and her father and former conservator, James Spears (Associated Press file photos).

Britney Spears and her father and former conservator, James Spears (Associated Press file photos).

ny times logoNew York Times, Britney Spears, Out of Conservatorship, Says ‘I Am Having a Baby,’ Julia Jacobs, April 12, 2022 (print ed.). During her successful effort to end her conservatorship, the performer had complained that the team appointed to supervise her had blocked her from having additional children.

Months after Britney Spears was released from the conservatorship that she said was restricting her from having a third child, the pop star announced Monday in an Instagram post that she is pregnant.

In explosive testimony last year, Ms. Spears called the conservatorship that had governed her life for 13 years “abusive,” saying the people who managed it had refused to let her get her IUD removed so she could try to have another child.

“I want to be able to get married and have a baby,” Ms. Spears said last June. “I was told right now in the conservatorship I am not able to get married or have a baby.”

The singer’s assertion about her birth control device was among the most stunning in her speech, during which she said she had been drugged and compelled to work against her will. Reproductive rights advocates condemned the situation as a violation of her rights.

April 11

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk will no longer join Twitter’s board of directors, the company said, Mike Isaac, Updated April 11, 2022. The announcement reverses a decision last week, when Twitter said Mr. Musk would become a board member after amassing a 9.2 percent stake in the company.

Elon Musk, elon musk 2015right, the world’s wealthiest man and the biggest shareholder of Twitter, will no longer join the social media service’s board of directors, the company said late Sunday.

The move capped a whirlwind week at Twitter that had been set off by Mr. Musk, 50. On Tuesday, Twitter announced that the billionaire would be appointed to its 11-person board for a term that expires in 2024. The invitation to join the board followed Mr. Musk’s accumulating a 9.2 percent stake in the company, making him its largest shareholder.

But Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief executive, tweeted late Sunday that the situation had changed. On Saturday morning, Mr. Musk — who is a heavy Twitter user with more than 81 million followers — told the company he would no longer become a board member, Mr. Agrawal said.

“We have and will always value input from our shareholders, whether they are on our board or not” Mr. Agrawal said in his tweet about the news. “Elon is our biggest shareholder and we will remain open to his input.”

twitter bird CustomNo reason was given for the reversal. But Mr. Musk had been tweeting erratically throughout the weekend, polling his followers with barbed questions about the future of the social media company.

In one post on Saturday, Mr. Musk asked, “Is Twitter dying?”

No reason was given for the reversal. But Mr. Musk had been tweeting erratically throughout the weekend, polling his followers with barbed questions about the future of the social media company.

In one post on Saturday, Mr. Musk asked, “Is Twitter dying?”

In another, he suggested turning Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter because “no one shows up anyway.” He also rattled off a stream of critiques of the company’s products, at one point suggesting that Twitter remove ads from the service entirely. (Most of Twitter’s revenue comes from ads.)

Under corporate governance principles, board members are required to act in the best fiduciary interest of a company and its shareholders, which Mr. Agrawal pointed out in his tweet on Sunday evening. He also said that Twitter’s board had been “clear about the risks” of Mr. Musk’s deciding to join as a director.

By not joining Twitter’s board, Mr. Musk will also no longer be bound by a previous agreement he had signed with the company. Under a “standstill” agreement last week, he had pledged not to purchase more than 14.9 percent of Twitter’s stock and not to take over the company. That suggests Mr. Musk could now keep adding to his stake in the company.

A spokesman for Twitter declined to comment beyond Mr. Agrawal’s post. In a tweet on Sunday night, Mr. Musk did not directly address the situation with Twitter’s board but posted an emoji of a hand over a face.

npc journalism institute logoNational Press Club Journalism Institute,  DC’s Gridiron COVID outbreak tally hits 72 as cases tick up nationwide (Ars Technica), Edited by National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, April 11, 2022.  White House Correspondents' Association adds vaccine requirement to attend annual dinner (The Hill) / The elite D.C. social scene sees a rash of covid cases, but parties on (Washington Post)

■ CNN reporter in Shanghai: 'I can't go outside' (The Hill)

■ 'David Zaslav visited the CNN newsroom and told them to think of CNN as a "reputation asset" and not a profit center' (Claire Atkinson) / Earlier: Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav to meet skittish CNN anchors after merger (New York Post)

■ CBS News, Norah O'Donnell make new long-term deal official (Hollywood Reporter) / Rachel Maddow is returning to MSNBC. But how long will she stay? (Los Angeles Times)

■ Russian journalist who protested Ukraine war on live TV finds new job (Newsweek)

■ As climate change intensifies extreme weather events, local newspapers see a bright future in meteorology (Nieman Journalism Lab)

■ From homeless to housing reporter: How living in a car for a year helped shape one journalist’s trajectory. (Slate)

■ ICYMI: The New York Times would really like its reporters to stop scrolling and get off Twitter - at least once in a while (Nieman Lab) / Researchers paid Fox viewers to watch CNN for one month. Here's what they found (CNN) / National Portrait Gallery exhibition looks at Watergate 50 years later (Washington Post)

Press Freedom

Johnny Depp v. Amber Heard: Dueling defamation claims go to trial over Washington Post op-ed (Hollywood Reporter) / How to watch the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial online (The Wrap)

■ Hong Kong police arrest veteran journalist for alleged sedition (WTVB)

■ Journalist Aasif Sultan granted bail, then re-arrested under preventative detention law (CPJ)

 April 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The media is failing the public on the good news about jobs, Margaret Sullivan, right, April 10, 2022. The job market is great right now. margaret sullivan 2015 photoIf people think it’s the opposite, some part of the blame falls on us.

But if you ask regular Americans about the jobs climate, a surprising number of them seem to think the opposite is true. One recent poll found that more respondents have it completely backward: 37 percent of the public assumes that jobs were actually lost over the past year; only 28 percent realized, correctly, there had been a gain. Among Republicans, the false belief is worse; nearly half believe jobs were lost.

This lack of knowledge matters. Political fortunes rise and fall in part on the health of the job market. As the Clinton 1992 campaign staff kept reminding themselves when gauging how to communicate with voters, “it’s the economy, stupid.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Lachlan Murdoch, once the ambivalent Fox heir, makes his views clear, Sarah Ellison and Josh Dawsey, April 10, 2022. The News Corp. co-chair, Rupert’s eldest son, left no mystery about his conservative politics in a fiery speech.

Lachlan Murdoch’s first major media moment was also his first public humiliation.

lachlan murdoch 2013It was 2005, and the oldest son of Rupert Murdoch was on the cover of New York magazine as “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Be King.” The dishy piece outlined how the elder media mogul had undercut his anticipated successor by siding instead with a beloved top executive, Fox News co-founder Roger Ailes, on key programming decisions.

Licking his wounds, Lachlan, then 34 (and shown at left in a 2013 photo), abruptly resigned his role in the family-controlled news empire and fled New York with his wife and child for their native Australia, which he referred to as their “spiritual home.”

It was a move that cemented a public image of the tanned, tattooed surfer as an ambivalent heir. And even as he made his way back to family business, nearly a decade later, and rose again through the ranks, the image remained of a passive Gen-Xer who kept his politics quiet and his ambitions subservient to those of the swaggering conservative billionaire dad who aspired to influence power at the highest global levels.

The unemployment rate is at an encouragingly low point. Less than 4 percent of the labor force is actively seeking work. And the latest monthly Labor Department report showed another healthy spike in the number of new jobs — they’ve been steadily on the rise for many months in a row.

Until last week.

April 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Hollywood Gets a New Giant, John Koblin, April 8, 2022. The megamerger of Discovery and WarnerMedia, expected to close as soon as Friday, would put many of the biggest names in movies, TV and news under one roof.

Discovery, the medium-size media company that began as a small cable network in 1985, is on the brink of something once unthinkable: assuming ownership of a fabled Hollywood company that controls Batman, Harry Potter, “Sex and the City,” “Game of Thrones,” CNN and March Madness.

CNNDiscovery Inc. and WarnerMedia are expected to complete their megamerger as soon as Friday afternoon, adding a new behemoth to the entertainment industry. The two companies will combine television, movie and news operations that draw revenue of nearly $50 billion, forming one of the biggest media companies in the country.

att logoThe decision by AT&T, WarnerMedia’s parent company, to spin off its entertainment division and merge it with Discovery — in a deal announced in May — will be felt throughout the media world in the months to come. It could push smaller competitors to hunt for deals to beef up in size. And it means that rivals like Netflix, Disney, Amazon and Apple now have a new ferocious competitor for streaming dominance.

The job of making the merged company a success falls to David Zaslav, the garrulous 62-year-old veteran cable TV executive who has been running Discovery for 15 years. He will take over as chief executive of the new company, which will be called Warner Bros. Discovery in a nod to the Hollywood studio started nearly a century ago.

April 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Eric Boehlert, Media Critic and Writer, Dies at 57, Katie Robertson, Updated April 7, 2022. “He was fearless and brilliant in his investigation of hypocrisies and double standards in the media, and his contribution was priceless,” his family said in a statement.

Eric Boehlert, a veteran journalist who was a fierce critic of right-wing misinformation and hypocrisy in the news media, died on Monday in New Jersey. He was 57.

eric.boehlertMr. Boehlert, right, was struck by a New Jersey Transit train while riding his bicycle near the Watchung Avenue station in Montclair. His death was confirmed by his wife, Tracy Breslin.

A frequent commentator on television and radio, as well as a prolific writer, Mr. Boehlert never shied away from searing critiques of what he saw as bias in the mainstream press and the circular impact of media on politics.

After more than a decade as a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media monitoring group, Mr. Boehlert had in recent years started his own newsletter, Press Run, as a vehicle for his commentary.

“I’m devastated for his family and friends and will miss his critical work to counteract misinformation and media bias,” Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Born in Utica, N.Y., Mr. Boehlert spent some of his childhood in Indiana before his family moved to Guilford, Conn. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Early in his career, Mr. Boehlert covered the music industry at Billboard and Rolling Stone, before becoming a staff writer at Salon. In 2006, he joined Media Matters.

“His passing is a real loss for truth and will leave a void in the broader media landscape,” the group wrote in a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Mr. Boehlert was the author of two nonfiction books: Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush, published in 2006, and Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press, published in 2009.

After a stint as a media writer for the website Daily Kos, Mr. Boehlert started Press Run in 2020, which he described as “an unfiltered, passionate and proudly progressive critique of the political press in the age of Trump.”

Ms. Breslin said Mr. Boehlert was an avid athlete and cyclist.

“Eric was brilliant and funny and kind,” she said. “He was an amazing father to Jane and Ben, present their entire lives.” Their daughter, Jane Boehlert, remembered him as “a magnificent father, an incredible person.”

“We already miss him deeply,” she said.

In Mr. Boehlert’s last article on Press Run, published the day he died, he questioned journalists’ coverage of the Biden administration, saying the news media was playing down the president’s achievements. (Editor's Note: The Justice Integrity Project had excerpted here that column, Why is the press rooting against Biden? , among a number of others as apt commentary.)

“The glaring disconnect between reality and how the press depicts White House accomplishments means a key question lingers: Why is the press rooting against Biden?”

A statement from Mr. Boehlert’s family, provided to The New York Times by Richard Abate, Mr. Boehlert’s literary agent, described him as “a fierce defender of democracy, social justice and truth in media.”

“He was fearless and brilliant in his investigation of hypocrisies and double standards in the media, and his contribution was priceless,” the family said. “Eric was filled with vibrant enthusiasms and interests in life as a loving husband, father, sibling, uncle and friend.”

April 6

 

mantas kvedaraviciusl

National Press Club, News Leaders Statement on Death of Documentarian in Mariupol, Staff Report, April 6, 2022. Following is a statement by Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute on the killing of Lithuanian documentarian Mantas Kvedaravicius, shown above, in Ukraine Sunday.

“With the death of Lithuanian documentarian Mantas Kvedaravicius last weekend we count 10 journalists killed during Russia’s war on Ukraine – a staggering number. Kvedaravicius was reportedly killed while trying to leave Mariupol. This tragic incident further emphasizes that Russia is firing upon civilians as they attempt to evacuate cities. Deliberate targeting of civilians – including journalists – is a war crime.”

“Kvedaravicius’s work, ‘Mariupolis,’ was recognized at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2016 and in 2011 he received an award from Amnesty International for his film on the war in Chechnya: ‘Barzakh.’” We will know less about what happened in Ukraine because of the tragic loss of this talented documentarian.”

Founded in 1908, the National Press Club is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. The Club has 3,000 members representing nearly every major news organization and is a leading voice for press freedom in the United States and around the world.

About the National Press Club Journalism Institute

The National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club’s non-profit affiliate, promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement.

ny times logoNew York Times, You’re Still Being Tracked on the Internet, Just in a Different Way, Brian X. Chen and Daisuke Wakabayashi, April 6, 2022. Apple and Google are pushing privacy changes, but a shift in digital tracking is giving some platforms a bigger advertising advantage.

The internet industry shuddered last year when Apple introduced privacy measures for the iPhone that threatened to upend online tracking and cripple digital advertising. Google pledged similar privacy actions.

apple logo rainbowBut in less than a year, another type of internet tracking has started taking over. And it is having the unintended effect of reinforcing the power of some of tech’s biggest titans.

The shift suggests that gathering people’s online data for targeted advertising is not going away. That has implications for how companies make money online and how the internet operates. It also underlines the advantages built up by some of the largest digital platforms.

“They’ve entrenched their own power,” Eric Seufert, a media strategist and the author of Mobile Dev Memo, a blog about mobile advertising, said of Apple google logo customand Google.

For years, digital businesses relied on what is known as “third party” tracking. Companies such as Facebook and Google deployed technology to trail people everywhere they went online. If someone scrolled through Instagram and then browsed an online shoe store, marketers could use that information to target footwear ads to that person and reap a sale.

But that kind of invasive tracking is being scaled back or blocked by Apple and Google to protect people’s privacy. Last April, Apple introduced a feature so iPhones users could choose not to be followed by different apps. Google also announced a plan to disable the tracking tech in its Chrome web browser by 2023 and said it was working to limit data sharing on Android phones.

Now tracking has shifted to what is known as “first party” tracking. With this method, people are not being trailed from app to app or site to site. But companies are still gathering information on what people are doing on their specific site or app, with users’ consent. This kind of tracking, which companies have practiced for years, is growing.

In other words, Google is accumulating data on its own users’ search queries, location data and contact information. Pinterest is doing the same with its users on its site and app, while TikTok is gathering information on the people who are on its app.

 

Julie K. Brown rachel maddow

Florida Bulldog, Private eye slams ruling worth over $350K to Miami author Julie K. Brown who wrote book about Jeffrey Epstein drama, Noreen Marcus, April 6, 2022. A case about who did what to produce a sensational book rehashing the story of sex offender Jeffrey Epstein entered a new phase in a new forum, Miami-Dade Circuit Court.

jeffrey epstein hands handsAn arbitrator rejected private detective Mike Fisten’s $350,000 claim for his work on Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story, Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown’s book about the rich serial pedophile.

Jailed in New York for sex trafficking, Epstein, right, apparently committed suicide by hanging himself in August 2019.

Brown and Fisten, a former Miami-Dade County police detective, contracted to split a $1 million publisher’s advance 50-50. Instead, she gave him $150,000 and kept $850,000.

Arbitrator David Lichter agreed with Brown, shown above during an interview on MSNBC, that Fisten breached their contract by failing to perform investigative perversion of justice miami herald logotasks that were supposed to generate material for the book. Published last year, it expands upon and updates Brown’s award-winning 2018 newspaper series, also called “Perversion of Justice.”

Lichter wrote in his Dec. 30 ruling that Fisten contributed no more than a “negligible” 4.3 per cent of the book’s contents. He criticized as “improper messaging” Fisten’s list of completed tasks and disputed many of them.

After a hearing, Lichter found Brown more credible, though “some of her actions were less than laudatory.” He didn’t elaborate, but he referenced the confidential testimony of lawyer Bradley Edwards, who represents many Epstein victims and was a source for Brown.

Still, Fisten’s “credibility was damaged far more substantially [than Brown’s] and in far more significant ways,” Lichter concluded in his 34-page ruling.

Later he ordered Fisten to pay $58,570 in attorney fees as punishment for discovery violations and for breaching a confidentiality clause by speaking out publicly about the case.

Brown’s lawyer, Steven Peretz, sent Florida Bulldog a statement that says the arbitration award “represents a complete vindication for Ms. Brown.” He noted that Lichter “also awarded substantial attorney fees to Ms. Brown as a sanction against Mr. Fisten for his conduct during the case.”

miami herald logo“We will be moving forward to have the award confirmed in court and we expect the court will readily do so given the arbitrator’s comprehensive and detailed ruling,” Peretz wrote.

Fisten called the ruling “biased and negligent.” He wrote in an email that Brown “made numerous misstatements” in her testimony. “It is for these and many other reasons that we feel we will prevail in our appeal.”

Peretz, when asked about Lichter’s assertion that some of his client’s actions were “less than laudatory,” wrote this: “The arbitrator was unclear about what actions he was referring to … so I cannot comment on that point.”

Florida Bulldog asked Edwards to share his testimony about Brown, the testimony Lichter cited in his ruling.

“Other than being called as a witness and asked questions by both parties, I don’t know enough about the dispute to comment,” he wrote. Edwards said he hasn’t read the arbitration ruling and hasn’t worked with Fisten, once his valued lead investigator, for a decade.

On March 31 Fisten filed a motion in Miami-Dade Circuit Court to vacate the Dec. 30 arbitration award, which both parties had treated as confidential. Lichter’s ruling is an exhibit attached to the motion, making it a public record.

In the motion, Fisten’s lawyer, Andrew Kassier, previews his upcoming appeal. It will be based on Lichter’s “evident partiality” toward Brown and his “misconduct” directed at Fisten. Also, Lichter “refused to hear evidence material to the controversy.” Kassier provides no details.

Fisten has tried to focus public attention on Brown.

Chiefly, she takes credit for single-handedly identifying more than 60 Epstein victims and persuading four of them to do on-camera interviews for the Miami Herald series. But Fisten insists he tracked down almost all the victims, who later became plaintiffs and witnesses, while working as Edwards’s investigator.

In Edwards’s own book, Relentless Pursuit / My Fight for the Victims of Jeffrey Epstein, published in 2020, he writes about meeting Brown in 2017 after she approached him asking for help. At that point he’d already spoken to more than 50 victims, he wrote.

“I had accumulated all of the evidence in these cases and done all of the work,” Edwards wrote. “Unable to imagine the scope of that decade-long task or how voluminous the materials were and how complicated piecing it together was, Julie, like other reporters, wanted to start with my just spoon-feeding her everything and making it simple.”

He wouldn’t do that because he wanted her to appreciate the complexities, Edwards wrote. Instead, he made a list of documents for her to review –- and she persevered. “She followed the road map and stayed on course.”

Edwards praises Brown in his acknowledgements: “Thank you for having the courage to finally publish what other major publications would not. You made the public listen when all other journalists were scared.”

But he’s more fulsome in his praise of Fisten: “No good investigation can be done alone. While I had numerous investigators along the way, you were in the trenches with me during crucial times.

“In addition to game-planning with me, tracking down witnesses, and coordinating surveillance on Epstein, you also guarded my house and my family when things got hairy, for which I am forever grateful,” Edwards wrote.

Fisten isn’t the only one to raise questions and concerns about how Brown pursued and told the Epstein story.

Two victims are suing her for defamation in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Haley Robson alleges that Brown threatened her when she declined to be interviewed for the Epstein book, then made good on the threat by falsely portraying her as a member of Epstein’s inner circle.

courtney wildThe other plaintiff, Courtney Wild, left, claims Brown falsely stated in her book that after Epstein raped Wild when she was underage, she had sex with him.

Wild’s lawyer, Jeffrey Gutchess, wrote that she suffered abuse by Epstein but never had sex with him. The lawsuit seeks significant money damages and a public apology from Brown.

Wild has been a leader among the Epstein victims, battling for years to undo his shady 2008 plea deal and make him answer to sex-trafficking charges. Wild also pushed for a victims’ compensation fund.

“Brown has sought to take credit away from the victims,” her lawsuit states. “Knowing Ms. Wild had spearheaded each of these major achievements, and not Ms. Brown as she claimed in her book, Ms. Brown sought to debase and defame Ms. Wild,” Gutchess wrote.

April 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk is now the largest Twitter shareholder, setting up a showdown, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Faiz Siddiqui and Taylor Telford, April 5, 2022. His 9.2 percent stake in the company sets up a confrontation with advocates for restricting harmful accounts.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, became the largest shareholder of Twitter on Monday, setting the platform up for a potential political showdown over its efforts to limit harmful content, efforts the firebrand Tesla chief executive has indicated that he sees hastening a turn toward censorship.

His surprise investment, which comes days after questioning the company’s commitment to free speech and suggesting he might start his own social platform, sent Twitter stock soaring. While it was not immediately clear what role Musk plans to play, analysts speculated he may try for an activist restructuring that could change the way Twitter polices its platform as well as who it banishes.

twitter bird CustomSome inside Twitter worry Musk may push Twitter in a libertarian direction, away from blocking or restricting accounts that cause social harm, according to people familiar with internal conversations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.

Just days after Twitter banned former president Donald Trump in the wake of the Capitol insurrection, Musk wrote on Twitter that “a lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech.”

Some Twitter employees and experts fear Musk’s involvement could also push the company further into chaos after years of investor activism and the sudden departure of former chief executive Jack Dorsey. The company is already at a critical juncture ahead of the 2022 midterm elections that will determine control of Congress, when it will have to police related misinformation that could help sway votes.

Musk has a 9.2 percent stake in the social media company, which was disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing and sent shares up 27 percent. His stake, worth nearly $2.9 billion based on the closing price of Twitter on Monday, now dwarfs that of Dorsey, who owns a 2.3 percent stake. Musk tweeted, “Oh hi lol,” greeting users of the social media app where he makes many of his most erratic pronouncements, including news about Tesla, where he heads the company. Musk seemed to realize the potential of his influence almost immediately. By Monday evening, he launched a Twitter poll asking users whether they would like an edit button — a longtime bone of contention among users and the app’s leadership.

 

truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Truth Social in trouble as financial, technical woes mount, Drew Harwell and Josh Dawsey, April 5, 2022. The former president has fumed about the app’s glacial rollout and has been reluctant to post there until it’s a proven success. Three top executives have resigned.

Here’s a truth former president Donald Trump doesn’t want to hear: His social network, Truth Social, is falling apart.

The app — a Twitter look-alike where posts are called “truths” — has seen its downloads plunge so low that it has fallen off the App Store charts. The company is losing investors, executives and attention. And though his adult sons just joined, Trump himself hasn’t posted there in weeks.

devin nunes file flagDevin Nunes, left, the former member of Congress from California who gave up the seat that he held for 19 years to run the company, had said the app would be “fully operational” by the end of March. But it has been hamstrung by technical issues, including a waiting list that has blocked hundreds of thousands of potential users during its crucial first weeks online.

Trump has privately fumed about the app’s slow rollout and has mused about joining other platforms such as Gettr, one of its biggest competitors, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Spurred by the former president’s frustration, Nunes has worked to install his own people atop the troubled company, leading to the resignations of its chiefs of technology, product development and legal affairs, according to the people familiar with the turmoil. The departures were first reported by Reuters and Politico.

They said Nunes has regularly traveled to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., to brief the former president and discuss the platform’s issues. Trump is holding out hope that the platform will eventually be lucrative, but he has been reluctant to post on it because “it is not ready for prime time,” a close adviser said.

He has, however, continued to pay attention to Twitter, which he has repeatedly criticized as irrelevant since the site banned him last year. He still reviews tweets from politicians and members of the media from time to time, two of the people said.

Truth Social was planned to be the flagship product of the Trump Media & Technology Group, a start-up that Trump’s advisers said would become a “media powerhouse” encompassing online video, entertainment and news.

 

fox upside down news

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Hey, Tucker Carlson, are you still rooting for Russia over Ukraine? Max Boot, right, April 5, 2022. Only someone born yesterday max boot screen shotwould be remotely surprised by the atrocities revealed in Bucha, Ukraine. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has been committing war crimes since the day he took office. That makes it all the more sinister and enraging that he retains an influential rooting section of right-wing voters in the United States.

The Pew Research Center finds that the number of Republicans expressing confidence in the Russian tyrant has, mercifully, declined from 37 percent in 2006 to just 7 percent today. But some of the loudest and most influential voices in the MAGA movement still refuse to support Ukraine or stop pushing Russian propaganda. Many take an anti-anti Putin stance by criticizing the Ukrainians for resisting the invasion, insisting that the United States has no stake in the conflict, and focusing their ire on “neocons” and “globalists” (which, to my ears, sounds a lot like “Jews”) who are supposedly trying to drag the United States into a war with Russia.

Here, for example, is a manifesto issued on March 31 by isolationists of the left and right — including Sohrab Ahmari, Michael Anton, Glenn Greenwald and Christopher Rufo — blaming “leading interventionists in the United States and Europe,” rather than Putin, for “goading the West into an abyss of war and suffering.”

Here is what Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) said a few weeks ago: “Remember that Zelensky is a thug. Remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies.” Here is the Daily Wire’s Candace Owens on March 17: “President Zelensky is a very bad character who is working with globalists against the interests of his own people.”

Here is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) on March 15: “NATO has been supplying the neo-Nazis in Ukraine with powerful weapons and extensive training on how to use them.” Here is Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance on Feb. 19: “I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.”

tucker carlsonThe worst offenders are also the most influential: former president Donald Trump and Fox “News” host Tucker Carlson, right. Hey, Tucker, are you still rooting for Russia over Ukraine — as you said you were in 2019? Do you still think there’s no reason to “hate Putin” because he isn’t shipping “every middle-class job in your town to Russia” or “teaching your kids to embrace racial discrimination” — as you said on Feb. 22? Hey, Trump, do you still regard Putin’s invasion of Ukraine as an act of “genius,” and do you still view Putin as a “very savvy” guy who “loves his country” — as you said on Feb. 22?

More broadly, will the pro-Putin wing of the GOP stay loyal to the Butcher of Bucha as more evidence of his crimes emerges? The early indications are not promising.

 

dan snyder redskins com

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder (File photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Commanders deny withholding revenue. Lawyer claims evidence presented, Liz Clarke, Nicki Jhabvala and Mark Maske, April 5, 2022 (print ed.). Dueling statements issued Monday provide some clarity on allegations made to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

Acrimony over allegations of financial improprieties within the Washington Commanders’ front office escalated Monday with dueling statements from the team and the attorney of the former employee who made the claim to members of Congress.

In their statement, the Commanders identified the essence of the allegations The Washington Post reported March 31 that were being investigated by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

nfl logo cropped“There has been absolutely no withholding of ticket revenue at any time by the Commanders,” the team’s three-sentence statement read. “Those revenues are subject to independent audits by multiple parties. Anyone who offered testimony suggesting a withholding of revenue has committed perjury, plain and simple.”

Lawyer Lisa Banks, who represents more than 40 former team employees including Jason Friedman, a former vice president of ticketing who worked for the team for more than 20 years, countered with a statement defending her client and noting that he provided the panel with evidence to support the allegations.

The Commanders’ statement “defamed my client, Jason Friedman, who came forward at the request of the Congressional Oversight Committee and testified truthfully, with evidence,” Banks wrote. “Unfortunately, Mr. Friedman is unable to defend himself publicly due to contractual constraints that prevent him from speaking freely. He would be happy to recount his testimony if [team owner] Dan Snyder and the Washington Commanders allow him to do so. I will await their response.”

The House Oversight Committee launched its investigation of Washington in October, dissatisfied with the lack of transparency in the NFL-sponsored investigation into reports of pervasive sexual harassment and toxicity in the team’s workplace.

While the panel’s focus remains on the Commanders’ workplace culture and the NFL’s response, it now is looking into Friedman’s allegations of financial improprieties.

Page Six, Nicolle Wallace marries MSNBC contributor Michael Schmidt, Francesca Bacardi, April 4, 2022. The MSNBC anchor and Schmidt married on Saturday in an intimate ceremony surrounded by immediate family, a spokesperson for the network confirmed to Page Six.

Page Six broke the news in March 2019 that Wallace, 50, and the New York Times writer, 38, began dating. The two met on the set of her show, as he appears as a frequent guest and commentator.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist was around Wallace so frequently at the time that the pair disclosed their relationship to network chiefs, who were fine with it, relatively quickly. The network head honchos were also understanding when “Morning Joe” co-anchors Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough coupled up.

April 4

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Three Big Lies of 2022: Two Concern the Pandemic, Steven Jonas, rightl, April 4, 2022. "Three Big Lies," you might ask? "I thought that stephen jonasthere was only one." "Well yes," I would say. "There is indeed only one REALLY Big Lie, which is going to have very serious long-term POLITICAL consequences for the United States."

As is well-known, it is indeed the Trumpian Big Lie that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen from him, the persistence of which and the belief in it of many people is currently helping the Republican Party lead the nation down the road to fascism. (While this formulation was seen infrequently in political commentary just a few years ago, it is no, unfortunately, becoming commonplace.) And note that I said that it is the Republican Party, not the "Trumpublican Party" as I have referred to it over the past couple of years, that is leading this endeavour.

The Republican strategy is targeted voter suppression (and it is always targeted towards specific population groups, not just aimed at fixing a somewhat creaky system over all). It leads the way in all Republican strategy and tactics, with Trump having little if any active role to play in either the strategy or the tactics other than acting as a cheerleader. Thus, it is clear that it is the Party as a whole that is pulling the nation, or at least significant chunks of it geographically and ideologically, in that direction. Which of course is why I have taken to labelling it the Republo-fascist Party. While it is very important to note that it was Trump himself who began developing the Big Lie message of the "rigged election," actually back in 2016, it is the Republo-fascists that have taken it over for their own, broader, purposes. That is Big Lie No. 1.

Following Big Lie No. 1 of the "stolen election" come the Two Big Lies of the Pandemic, to which the bulk of the rest of this column is devoted. As it happens, they relate closely to the first and to the propaganda that the Republicans are using to drive the nation to fascism. The first of the Two Big Lies of the Pandemic is that the word "Mandate" in the (Democratic) government's program for dealing with the Pandemic and bringing it under control means forcing everybody and anybody to be vaccinated, whether they want to be or not. The second is that any national program for vaccination is comparable to the Nazi Holocaust. This latter one has not been as widely used as the false "mandates" one, but it is gaining in popularity as part of the anti-vaxx propaganda movement. It has been widely promoted by such prominent anti-vaxxers as Bobby Kennedy Jr. (self-styled-in-this-context) Left.

Dr. Steven Jonas, right, MD, MPH, MS, a professor emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook Medicine (NY) and author / co-author / editor / co-editor of over 35 books. He has been published also on many current affairs news sites. His own political website,stevenjonaspolitics.com, will eventually archive the close to 1,000 political columns he has published since 2004.

He was also a stony brook medicine2career triathlete (36 seasons, 256 multi-sport races), who is now retired from the sport.

His latest book is Ending the ‘Drug War’; Solving the Drug Problem: The Public Health Approach, Punto Press Publishing, (Brewster, NY, 2016). It is available on Kindle from Amazon, and also in hardcover from Amazon. In 1996, he published a ‘future history’ of the United States entitled The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A Futuristic Novel (Third Edition published by Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and also available on Amazon.

 
Press Run, Why is the press rooting against Biden? Eric Boehlert, right, April 4, 2022. Burying great news. Like clockwork, the first Friday of the month brought eric.boehlertanother blockbuster jobs report. The U.S. economy under President Joe Biden added another 400,000-plus new jobs in March, it was announced last week.

Biden is currently on pace, during his first two full years in office, to oversee the creation of 10 million new jobs and an unemployment rate tumbling all the way down to 3 percent. That would be an unprecedented accomplishment in U.S. history. Context: In four years in office, Trump lost three million jobs, the worst record since Herbert Hoover.

Yet the press shrugs off the good news, determined to keep Biden pinned down. “The reality is that one strong jobs report does not snap the administration out of its current circumstances,” Politico stressed Friday afternoon. How about 11 straight strong job reports, would that do the trick? Because the U.S. economy under Biden has been adding more than 400,000 jobs per month for 11 straight months.

The glaring disconnect between reality and how the press depicts White House accomplishments means a key question lingers: Why is the press rooting against Biden? Is the press either hoping for a Trump return to the White House, or at least committed to keeping Biden down so the 2024 rematch will be close and ‘entertaining’ for the press to cover? Is that why the Ginni Thomas insurrection story was politely marched off the stage after just a few days of coverage last week by the same news outlets that are now in year three of their dogged Hunter Biden reporting? (“ABC This Week” included 19 references to Hunter Biden yesterday.)

Just look at the relentlessly dour economic coverage. For the press, inflation remains the dominant, bad-news-for-Dems economic story. Even on Friday, the day the stellar jobs report was released, “inflation” was mentioned on cable news nearly as often as “jobs,” according to TVeyes.com.

The home-run report itself was often depicted as a mixed bag. These were some of the glass-half-empty headlines that appeared in the wake of the latest runaway numbers:

• “America’s Job Market Is On Fire. Here’s Why It Doesn’t Feel Like It” (CNN)
• “Booming Job Growth Is a Double-Edged Sword For Joe Biden” (CNN)
• “Why a Great Jobs Report Can’t Save Joe Biden” (CNN)
• “Unemployment Hits Pandemic Low in March, But Uncertainty Looms Ahead” (Washington Post)
• “Biden Gets a Strong Jobs Report, But a Sour Mood Still Prevails” (Washington Post)

April 3

 

robert malone war room

ny times logoNew York Times, The Latest Covid Misinformation Star Says He Invented the Vaccines, Davey Alba, April 3, 2022. Dr. Robert Malone (shown above in a screenshot from right-wing strategist Steve Bannon's radio show "War Room," says he helped invent mRNA vaccines and has been wronged for decades. Now he’s spreading unfounded claims about the vaccines and the virus.

Dr. Malone spent decades working in academic centers and with start-ups seeking to bring new medical treatments to market and to combat the Zika and Ebola outbreaks. But in recent months, as the coronavirus pandemic has persisted, he has taken up an entirely different role: spreading misinformation about the virus and vaccines on conservative programs.

In many of his appearances, Dr. Malone questions the severity of the coronavirus, which has now killed nearly one million people in the United States, and the safety of the coronavirus vaccines, which have been widely found to be safe and effective at preventing serious illness and death. His statements in late December on “The Joe Rogan Experience,” one of the most popular podcasts in the country, with 11 million listeners per episode on average, were at the center of the uproar over Mr. Rogan’s role in spreading bad information about the virus.

Dr. Malone also routinely sells himself on the shows as the inventor of mRNA vaccines, the technology used by Pfizer and Moderna for their Covid-19 shots, and says he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for their development. While he was involved in some early research into the technology, his role in its creation was minimal at best, say half a dozen Covid experts and researchers, including three who worked closely with Dr. Malone.

joseph mercolaIn spreading these exaggerations and unfounded claims, Dr. Malone joins medical professionals and scientists, like Dr. Joseph Mercola, left, and Dr. Judy Mikovits, right, whose profiles have grown during the pandemic as they spread misinformation about mask-judy mikovits pandemicwearing and convoluted conspiracy theories about virus experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But unlike many of them, Dr. Malone is quite new to the right-wing media world, first appearing regularly on podcasts last June. Even two years into the pandemic, new misinformation stars are being minted. And in today’s media echo chamber — powered by social media algorithms and a tightknit network of politicians and influencers promoting debunked claims — they can quickly catapult to stardom.

In addition to his regular appearances on conservative shows, Dr. Malone has more than 134,000 subscribers to his Substack newsletter. About 8,000 pay the $5 monthly cost, he said, which would amount to at least $31,200 in monthly revenue. And mentions of him on social media, on cable television and in print and online news outlets have soared — to more than 300,000 so far this year, according to Zignal, a media research firm.

The coronavirus pandemic has “given rise to a class of influencers who build conspiracy theories and recruit as many people into them as possible,” said Emerson T. Brooking, a resident senior fellow for the Atlantic Council who studies digital platforms. “These influencers usually have a special claim to expertise and a veneer of credibility.”

“And almost without exception, these influencers feel that they have been wronged by mainstream society in some way,” Mr. Brooking added.

Dr. Malone earned a medical degree from Northwestern University in 1991, and for the next decade taught pathology at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Maryland. He then turned to biotech start-ups and consulting. His résumé says he was “instrumental” in securing early-stage approval for research on the Ebola vaccine by the pharmaceutical company Merck in the mid-2010s. He also worked on repurposing drugs to treat Zika.

In extended interviews at his home over two days, Dr. Malone said he was repeatedly not recognized for his contributions over the course of his career, his voice low and grave as he recounted perceived slights by the institutions he had worked for.

 

dan snyder redskins comNBC News, If allegations of withholding payments from league are true, Daniel Snyder likely will be done, Mike Florio, April 3, 2022. Saturday night’s bombshell could indeed be the last straw for the NFL and Daniel Snyder, above.

A.J. Perez of FrontOfficeSports.com reported last night that Congress is exploring whether the Washington Commanders withheld money that should have been surrendered to the league’s visiting-team pool. As a league source with knowledge of the dynamics among owners told PFT, this would become Snyder’s “death knell” as an owner, if it’s proven to be true.

There also would be an effort to force Snyder to make his payments, whether through the court system or an internal arbitration.

nfl logo croppedNFL teams don’t keep all of their ticket revenue, and they don’t directly share any of the money from each given game with the opponent. Instead, 40 percent of the gate from every game goes into a league-wide pool that goes in equal portions to all teams. (Home teams deduct 15 percent of the total ticket revenue for expenses, making it basically a 66-34 percent share of the gross and a 60-40 split of the net.)

So, if this is true, Snyder got 1/32nd of the 40-percent payments generated by the other 31 teams — and he failed to pony up all of the 40-percent chunk that should have gone to his partners.

His partners have protected him when it comes to the investigation regarding workplace misconduct because, indirectly, they are protecting themselves from having similar allegations threaten the hold on their franchises. If it can be proven that he has been picking his partners’ pockets, his partners quite likely will be kicking his ass out of the house.

April 2

 

Ukrainian photographer and documentary maker Maks Levin in Kyiv on May 5, 2019 (Photo by Genya Savilov of AFP via Getty Images).

Ukrainian photographer and documentary maker Maks Levin in Kyiv on May 5, 2019 (Photo by Genya Savilov of AFP via Getty Images).

HuffPost, Missing Ukrainian Photojournalist Maks Levin Found Dead In Combat Zone, Hilary Hanson, April 2, 2022. Maksim "Maks" Levin was a photographer and videographer who worked with a number of news organizations in Ukraine and internationally.

Ukrainian photojournalist and filmmaker Maksim “Maks” Levin has been found dead after going missing last month.

Levin’s body was found in the village of Huta Mezhyhirska in the Vyshhorod district ― an area that’s been shelled heavily by Russian forces ― where he had been reporting on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said in a statement that Levin was killed by gunshots fired by members of the Russian military, The Associated Press reported. An investigation into his death is underway.

The Kyiv-born Levin, 40, is survived by his wife and four sons. He had worked with numerous Ukrainian media outlets as well international news organizations, including The Associated Press, Reuters and the BBC.

“Maks has provided compelling photos and video from Ukraine to Reuters since 2013,” Reuters global visuals managing editor John Pullman said in a statement. “His death is a huge loss to the world of journalism.”

 

huawei meng wanzhou

washington post logoWashington Post, Huawei’s CFO promoted to a top post months after U.S. extradition deal, Eva Dou, April 2, 2022. Meng, above, daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, is now one of three rotating chairs who helm the tech giant for six-month intervals.

Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has promoted chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou to a key role just half a year after the end of her U.S. extradition fight, setting up a potential family succession at one of China’s most important companies.

The promotion makes 50-year-old Meng, daughter of Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, one of three rotating chairs who helm Huawei for six-month intervals. Ren, 77, remains chief executive.

Ren had long said his children would not succeed him at Huawei. Meng, who spent most of her Huawei career in the finance department, was widely seen as lacking the engineering expertise that would allow Huawei’s employees to accept her as their leader. But her lengthy house arrest in Canada has raised her popularity within the company and across China.

Meng entered the international spotlight in December 2018, when she was detained in Canada at the request of U.S. authorities. Her detention sparked a global standoff after China jailed two Canadian nationals on vague charges, in what Western officials said was an example of “hostage diplomacy.” Meng remained in house arrest in Vancouver for almost three years battling extradition to the United States.

She returned to China in September after cutting a deal with the U.S. Justice Department in which she acknowledged helping to conceal the company’s direct dealings in Iran, which violated U.S. sanctions. While Meng admitted illegal conduct, she did not have to plead guilty as part of a deferred prosecution agreement.

 

herschel walker hill tv

Press Run, Commentary: CNN gives Herschel Walker a pass, Eric Boehlert, right, April 2, 2022. One of the disturbing consequences of the press spending so eric.boehlertmany years refusing to call Trump a liar is that the tepid media trend now extends to the rest of the GOP at a time when key players have learned that they can make anything up and the press won’t say so.

CNN on Friday posted a revealing story (above) about how Herschel Walker, Trump’s pick to be Georgia’s next U.S. Senator, spent years telling crowds that he graduated in the top 1% of his class from the University of Georgia, where he was a star running back in the 1980’s.In truth, Walker never graduated from college. The ridiculous part: CNN gently claimed Walker was guilty of “overstating his academic achievements.”

Question: If a high-profile Democratic candidate fabricated his/her bio this aggressively, do you the think the press would treat it so politely?

CNN, Investigation: GOP Senate candidate Herschel Walker has been overstating his academic achievements for years, Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck,  April 1, 2022. For years, Herschel Walker, shown above in a screenshot from HillTV.com, has told the same inspiring story: that he graduated in the top 1% of his class at the University of Georgia. He's told the story, according to a review of his speeches by CNN's KFile, during motivational speeches over the years and as recently as 2017. The only problem: it's not true.

CNNWalker, who is a candidate in the Republican primary race for US Senate in Georgia, acknowledged in December that he did not graduate from Georgia after the Atlanta-Journal Constitution first reported that the false claim was listed on his campaign website.

But a CNN KFile review found that Walker himself has been repeating the claim for years. Walker's comments in 2017, and others made over the years, show the former football star repeatedly misrepresented his academic credentials.

"And all of sudden I started going to the library, getting books, standing in front of a mirror reading to myself," Walker said in a 2017 motivational speech. "So that Herschel that all the kids said was retarded become valedictorian of his class. Graduated University of Georgia in the top 1% of his class."

Walker also made the claim in another interview in 2017.

"I also was in the top 1% of my graduating class of college," Walker told Sirius XM radio.

Walker did not graduate from Georgia, where he was a star running back after entering as a prized high school recruit. A profile of Walker from 1982 in the Christian-Science Monitor and an article in The New York Times said he maintained a B average at the school. Walker himself told The Chicago Tribune in 1985 he maintained a 3.0 before his grades dropped. He left to play professional football before graduating and, though having repeatedly said he was returning to obtain his degree, he never received a diploma.

The Walker campaign did not provide proof of Walker's claims when asked by CNN, but they defended his record as a professional athlete. Walker is endorsed by former President Donald Trump and is expected to be the Republican nominee to run against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in November.

The claim was removed from his website between December and January, according to screenshots from the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.

That was not the only claim about Walker's education that was adjusted on his website at the time. After a review of the revised site, CNN's KFile found another little-noticed claim was removed that said Walker graduated valedictorian of his high school. The website now says that Walker graduated "top of his class." The claim still remains on the Heisman Winners page for Walker.

While Walker was a top student at his high school and the president of the Beta Club -- he maintained an "A" average to be in the school's Beta Club -- CNN's KFile found no evidence he was the class valedictorian.

Walker has mentioned in numerous speeches over the years, including in the 2017 speech where he claimed to have graduated in the top 1% of his college class, and in his 2008 autobiography that he was class valedictorian at Johnson County High School. The street where Johnson County High School resides was officially renamed "Herschel Walker Drive" in 2017 in honor of Walker's football achievements.

April 1

 

hunter biden

Press Run, Commentary: The media's Hunter Biden debacle, Whitewater II, Eric Boehlert, right, April 1, 2022. Eagerly deploying newsroom resources to the eric.boehlertperpetually overblown Hunter Biden story — just as Trump and Fox News kick off a new smear campaign — CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post gladly did the GOP’s bidding this week. Signing off on the idea that the Hunter Biden story remains a scandal simply because Republicans say so, the press has adopted a Whitewater-like obsession with the perpetual dead-end story.

One White House reporter on Thursday, doing his best Fox News impression, asked if President Joe Biden would take the extraordinary step of pardoning Hunter (shown above) — who is not accused of any crime.

Producing remarkably similar articles that were published nearly simultaneously this week, the CNN.com, Journal, and Post efforts all swung and missed. On paper, there’s no reason why they would pick the exact same moment to churn out nearly 7,000 words of Biden reporting. Especially since none of the investigations dug up any startling revelations about his business dealings from the previous decade.

The copycat nature of the reports raises questions about who the unnamed sources for these stories were, and if there was a coordinated effort by Republican operatives to push simultaneous Hunter updates.

It’s also telling that the hand-delivered leaks arrived the same time we’re learning even more about the Trump White House’s criminality. Specifically, the administration’s clear lawbreaking surrounding the January 6th coup attempt.

This was the big ah-ha moment from the Post piece: “The new documents illustrate the ways in which his family profited from relationships built over Joe Biden’s decades in public service.”

And?

The press can’t provide an answer to the “and” — they can’t find anything illegal or shocking — so they pretend that the business deals themselves are newsworthy and that Hunter’s career requires years of media digging. Meanwhile, the recent revelation about a Supreme Court Justice’s wife strategizing with the Trump White House to overturn an election has evaporated from most newsrooms in less than one week.

After years of media focus there’s nothing to suggest Joe Biden was involved in his son’s business dealings or profited from them in any way, or that the senior Biden ever did anything remotely unethical in connection with Hunter’s career.

The son has never run for office, never served in the government, never lobbied to change U.S. policy, and never acted as an advisor to his father in any way.

The fact is, he remains under investigation for matters related to tax payments and his foreign work, and there is a chance he could be indicted. Although, as the New York Times recently reported, Biden recently paid off “a significant tax liability,” which “could make it harder for prosecutors to win a conviction or a long sentence for tax-related offenses.”

It’s a relatively small stakes tax case that has produced a ridiculous amount of breathless Beltway coverage, much to the delight of the GOP. Context: 11 Trump associates who worked directly with the president have been indicted on criminal charges.

The press relentlessly pursues the Hunter story because they insist there’s the appearance of conflict of interest given the family connections. But Hunter began making overseas energy deals just as his father was leaving office in 2016 after eight years serving with President Barack Obama. If Hunter wanted to cash in on his father’s vice presidency, why did he wait until the end of his father’s vice presidency?

Still, the media fixation continues.

“I’m so glad our colleagues are still doing strong reporting on this story,” New York Times columnist Gail Collins cheered last week. “Hunter Biden’s scummy business dealings shouldn’t be swept under the rug any more than anyone else’s.”

Swept under the rug? Good grief. Since 2017, “Hunter Biden” has appeared in more than 800 articles and columns published by the Times, according to Nexis.

 

census bureau logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Seven Decades Later, the 1950 Census Bares Its Secrets, Michael Wines, Updated April 1, 2022. Federal law kept the answers on the census forms secret for 72 years. The forms went online Friday, a bonanza for historians and the merely curious.

At 12:01 a.m. on Friday, precisely 72 years after enumerators began knocking on the doors of some 46 million American houses and apartments, the federal government made public what they learned: the ages, incomes, addresses, ancestry and a trove of other facts about the 150.7 million people who were counted in the 1950 census.

Those millions of census forms, painstakingly filled out by hand in ink, were posted online by the National Archives and Records Administration, which by law has kept them private until now. The records, searchable by name and address, offer an intimate look at a nation on the cusp of the modern era — for the merely curious, a glimpse of the life parents or grandparents led, but for historians and genealogists, a once-in-a-decade bonanza of secrets unveiled.

“This is the Super Bowl and the Olympics combined, and it’s only every 10 years — it’s awesome stuff,” Matt Menashes, the executive director of the National Genealogical Society, said in an interview. “What’s so great about these points of data is that it helps you paint a picture — not just relationships, but what society was like.”

The last release of similar data was in 2012, when the National Archives made details of the 1940 census public. The government has imposed a 72-year ban on the release of census records since 1952, when the Census Bureau turned over to the National Archives all the data it had collected since the first census in 1790.

Trump Administration White House Photographer Shealah Craighead (Photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times).

Trump Administration White House Photographer Shealah Craighead (Photo by Doug Mills of the New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, She Took the White House Photos. Trump Moved to Take the Profit, Eric Lipton and Maggie Haberman, Updated April 1, 2022. The former chief White House photographer made plans to publish a book of Trump photos. The former president had other plans.

As President Donald J. Trump’s tenure came to an end, the chief White House photographer, who had traveled the world with him and spent countless hours inside the White House snapping pictures, notified Mr. Trump’s aides that she intended to publish a book collecting some of her most memorable images.

This was hardly a radical idea: Official photographers from every White House since President Ronald Reagan’s have published their own books. Barack Obama and George W. Bush were so supportive that they wrote forewords for them.

But like so much else involving Mr. Trump, the plan by his chief photographer, Shealah Craighead, did not follow this bipartisan norm.

First, aides to Mr. Trump asked her for a cut of her book advance payment, in exchange for his writing a foreword and helping promote the book, according to former associates of Mr. Trump.

Then Mr. Trump’s team asked Ms. Craighead to hold off on her book project to allow the former president to take Ms. Craighead’s photos and those of other White House staff photographers and publish his own book, which is now selling for as much as $230 a copy.

That the profits from Ms. Craighead’s labor are now going into Mr. Trump’s pocket has left several of Mr. Trump’s former aides upset — but not exactly surprised.

“Shea’s a very talented photographer and this was really all of her hard work,” said Stephanie Grisham, who served as the White House press secretary for Mr. Trump and wrote her own book, referring to Ms. Craighead by her nickname. “I just keep thinking: What a shame that he is actually now profiting off of it. But then again, this is the guy who is hawking caps and all kinds of stuff right now to raise money for himself.”

Eric Draper, who was the chief White House photographer during Mr. Bush’s tenure, said the move was disrespectful to Ms. Craighead.

“It’s a slap in the face,” Mr. Draper said, adding that he had spoken with Ms. Craighead last year about her plan to do her own book. “I would be disappointed if I were in her shoes.”

The 317-page book Mr. Trump published in December, titled Our Journey Together, includes no photo credits. It does not mention any of the photographers who took the images until the last page, where he briefly offered a “grateful acknowledgment” to “all the phenomenal White House photographers,” listing them by name, including Ms. Craighead, whose pictures make up much of the book.

There is no legal prohibition on Mr. Trump assembling and publishing photographs that a White House staff member took during his tenure; under federal law, those photographs are considered in the public domain and not subject to copyright. There is a public Flickr account, now managed by the National Archives, that has 14,995 photos from the Trump White House, a third of them listing Ms. Craighead as the photographer.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jen Psaki is said to be in talks to join MSNBC, John Koblin, April 1, 2022. Ms. Psaki joined President Biden’s administration as his first press secretary. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, is in advanced talks with MSNBC to join the network after she leaves the Biden administration, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.

Ms. Psaki could leave the White House as soon as next month, one of the people said.

While the details of her role are still being discussed, the negotiations have centered on an arrangement in which she could host shows both for MSNBC and for Peacock, the streaming platform of MSNBC’s parent, NBCUniversal. Ms. Psaki could also make regular appearances on other MSNBC shows as well as on NBC News, the people said.

Though a deal is not yet finalized and could still fall apart, Ms. Psaki is now only talking with NBCUniversal officials, the two people said. CNN had also been pursuing bringing Ms. Psaki aboard, one of them said.

washington post logoWashington Post, A Jan. 6 pastor divides his Tennessee community with extremist views, Annie Gowen, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). The pastor promised his followers that this church service would be like no other, and the event on a cold Sunday in March did not disappoint.

“Devil, your foot soldiers are coming out tonight, they’re coming all the way out. We will expel them,” Pastor Greg Locke howled from the stage in a crowded white tent. “You gotta leave, Devil,” he shouted, “you gotta get out!”

Wielding a microphone as he paced the stage, his wife Tai at his side, Locke called out “spirits” of anger, rage, bitterness, lust and envy.

“Spirit of molestation, spirit of abuse, get out right now!” Locke commanded.

“Every spirit of homosexuality, lesbianism, come out, come out,” his wife ordered. “Transgenderism, gender dysphoria, come out.”

“We rebuke it, we rebuke it!” Locke yelled.

The tent slowly took on a spirit of its own. Worshipers began writhing as if in pain, others waved their hands in the air in benediction. “Amens” began to mix with the guttural sound of growling, moaning and praying in tongues.

“If you’ve had the covid-19 shot, I’m telling you you’ve got poison in your veins,” Locke thundered. “We call out the covid-19 vaccine out right now. Keep that demonic spirit out of you right now in the name of Jesus!”

Some fell to the ground, pawing at cedar chips, or wretched into silver vomit buckets that had been set at the end of each row of white folding chairs.

To those unfamiliar with charismatic worship style, the scene might be easily dismissed or mocked. Yet Locke, 45, head of the Global Vision Bible Church, boasts millions of followers, many of them online, gaining national attention during the coronavirus crisis when he kept his church open and defied the mask mandates of the “fake pandemic.”

But to his critics, he is spreading a dangerous message of hate that is taking root in some conservative churches. His rising prominence also comes as many mainstream faith leaders and experts on extremism grow increasingly concerned about the spread of White Christian nationalism, the belief that patriotism and love of America are explicitly intertwined with White evangelical Christianity.

Locke is an “ambassador” of a movement where he and other pastors around the country appear at rallies and tent revivals preaching Donald Trump’s fraudulent claims that the election was stolen as a new holy war, according to Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, an organization dedicated to religious freedom.

“If someone is convinced that God has preordained an election result for a messiah-like candidate and is told over and over that the election was stolen, that erodes trust in elections and democracy,” Tyler said.

Locke, in an interview, was defiant that he is not a Christian nationalist, but he makes no apologies for bringing politics into the pulpit. He was on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection and has continued to preach the falsehood that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Locke and his ministry have divided this quiet town on the outskirts of Nashville with many residents distressed at the thousands who flock here to hear him and the attention he attracts, most recently with a book burning where he and followers threw copies of the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series and Disney villain merchandise into a giant bonfire. He has declared he now wants to “deliver” people from demonic influences and witchcraft.

washington post logoWashington Post, Turmoil at CBS News over Trump aide Mick Mulvaney’s punditry gig, Jeremy Barr, April 1, 2022 (print ed.). Mulvaney’s punditry gig
A network executive said they want to hire more Republicans to gain ‘access’ ahead of a ‘likely’ Democratic midterm wipeout.

CBS News’s decision to hire former Trump administration official Mick Mulvaney as a paid on-air contributor is drawing backlash within the company because of his history of bashing the press and promoting the former president’s fact-free claims.

CBS News logoBut a top network executive seemed to lay the groundwork for the decision in a staff meeting earlier this month, when he said the network needed to hire more Republicans to prepare for a “likely” Democratic midterm wipeout.

“If you look at some of the people that we’ve been hiring on a contributor basis, being able to make sure that we are getting access to both sides of the aisle is a priority because we know the Republicans are going to take over, most likely, in the midterms,” CBS News’s co-president Neeraj Khemlani told the staff of the network’s morning show, according to a recording of his comments obtained by The Washington Post. “A lot of the people that we’re bringing in are helping us in terms of access to that side of the equation.”

Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio), Court rejects appeals by Oberlin College, Gibson's Bakery from 2019 civil trial, Dave O'Brien, April 1, 2022. The 9th District Court of Appeals in Akron on Thursday rejected appeals by both Oberlin College and Gibson's Bakery over the results of a 2019 civil trial.

The court unanimously upheld all of Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi's rulings in the bakery's long-running civil case against the college, stemming from student protests regarding alleged racist behavior by the business on West College Street in Oberlin in November 2016.

A jury awarded the bakery and its owners, the late David and Allyn W. "Grandpa" Gibson, more than $44 million in damages in June 2019.

Miraldi lowered that to $25 million to conform with state law, but he also awarded more than $6.2 million in fees to the Gibsons' attorneys. The monetary award has been stayed pending the appeals process.

In a 50-page ruling on the dueling appeals filed by the college and the Gibsons, Judges Donna Carr, Jennifer Hensal and Betty Sutton overruled three arguments made by the college and one by the bakery.

The court said Miraldi was right to deny the college's request for a new trial and that his rulings on the amount of damages and attorney fees owed the Gibsons were appropriate.

The Gibsons also appealed the damages award, saying it didn't sufficiently punish the college for its behavior. The appeals court also rejected that argument.

Through the trial and a more than two-year appeals process and the deaths of both David and Grandpa Gibson, the Gibson family persevered, attorney Lee Plakas said.

"The Gibsons fought the good fight, as the family has done for over 130 years," he said Thursday. "Somewhere high above us, Grandpa and Dave Gibson are smiling to know that the truth still matters."

The unanimous appeals court decision "shows that the judges recognized the importance of the case on both a regional and national level and methodically and insightfully dissected the evidence and the record which supported the verdict," Plakas said. "I was very impressed with the judges' command of and reference to specific evidentiary portions of the very large record that confirmed, even to the judges, that in fact truth does still matter."

In a statement provided to The Chronicle-Telegram on Thursday, Oberlin College said it was "obviously disappointed that the appeals court affirmed the judgment in its ruling earlier today."

"We are reviewing the Court’s opinion carefully as we evaluate our options and determine next steps," it said. "In the meantime, we recognize that the issues raised by this case have been challenging, not only for the parties involved in the lawsuit, but for the entire Oberlin community. We remain committed to strengthening the partnership between the college, the city of Oberlin and its residents, and the downtown business community. We will continue in that important work while remaining focused on our core educational mission."

The ruling

The appeals court noted the "significant local and national media attention" around the case, and how much of the outside focus "has been on an individual’s First Amendment right to protest and voice opinions in opposition to events occurring around them locally, nationally and globally."

The appeals court did not take those arguments into consideration, Carr wrote.

The appeals court "must emphasize, however, that the sole focus of this appeal is on the separate conduct of Oberlin and (former Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith) Raimondo that allegedly caused damage to the Gibsons, not on the First Amendment rights of individuals to voice opinions or protest," she wrote.

Oberlin College, and media rights and free speech groups that filed briefs on its behalf, argued that a finding of defamation "could have a chilling effect on students' rights to free speech at colleges and universities across the country."

Miraldi agreed, but that wasn't the issue at hand, the appeals court said. Instead, "the Gibsons' libel claim focused solely on whether Oberlin had disseminated false, written statements of fact that caused the Gibsons significant harm," the appeals court found.

In one of three "assignments of error," Oberlin College argued that Miraldi improperly denied its request to dismiss the case in its favor or overturn the jury's verdict.

It argued that the Gibsons failed to prove that the college libeled them or the bakery and that any alleged libel was constitutionally protected opinion.

Students protesting the arrest of three of their number gathered outside the bakery for two days in November 2016. They passed out flyers saying the bakery had a long history of racist discrimination and profiling.

Raimondo also was there and the appeals court said testimony at the trial was that she and other college employees actively passed out flyers and assisted students who were protesting.

Allegations that bakery employee Allyn D. Gibson — the son and grandson of the owners — "assaulted" a student for shoplifting in an incident that was the catalyst for the student protests were on the flyers. The allegation was repeated in an Oberlin College Student Senate resolution that was posted on campus.

The college argued the flyer and senate resolution were simply opinions, "but it has focused its arguments throughout this case on statements alleging merely that the Gibsons were racists," Carr wrote. "Despite Oberlin’s arguments to the contrary, the potentially libelous statements in this case include much more than calling the Gibsons 'racists.'"

In fact, Miraldi found "that both the flyer and the Senate Resolution were not statements of constitutionally protected opinion but were defamatory," Carr wrote, and that he focused "on the statements about the Gibsons and their bakery having a history of racial profiling and discrimination toward students and residents and the statements about an 'assault' of a student by an owner or owners of the bakery."

Miraldi "found that allegations of an assault, if untrue, were defamatory per se and Oberlin has not raised a timely or proper challenge to that ruling by the trial court," Carr wrote.

A "reasonable reader" of the flyer and resolution could be led to believe that the Gibsons "had a verifiable history of racially profiling shoplifters on that basis for years," even though no such testimony was offered or allowed in court.

And "a reasonable person could conclude that Oberlin (College) took actions to directly publish and/or assist in publishing the flier," Carr wrote.

The Gibsons called multiple witnesses to testify that they had never experienced racism while working at or patronizing the store, while Oberlin College employees who tried to testify they had heard reports or rumors of racial profiling or discrimination had their testimony rejected as hearsay.

The college "did not call witnesses to testify about their personal experiences with the Gibsons. Instead, the defendants sought to have Oberlin administrators testify about 'what Oberlin heard' about the Gibsons from community members," Carr wrote. "Oberlin’s excluded evidence was hearsay, while the Gibsons' evidence on this issue was not."

Oberlin College also argued the Gibsons had no claim against Raimondo for interfering with the business relationship between the bakery and the college, but the appeals court rejected that argument.

David Gibson and Allyn W. "Grandpa" Gibson were required to prove at trial that Oberlin College intended to cause, knew or should have known that it would cause serious emotional distress, and that its conduct was "extreme and outrageous, going beyond all bounds of decency and considered intolerable in a civilized society" causing "psychic injury" or "mental anguish beyond what a reasonable person would be expected to endure," according to the law.

The appeals court said any statements of alleged libel were not protected by the First Amendment. The Gibsons were not public figures, for whom the rules are different when it comes to allegations of libel, the court ruled.

The Gibsons presented evidence that when the college learned "that the student allegations of assault and racial profiling might be false," it started doing business with the bakery again but refused to correct the statements in the flyer or the Student Senate resolution.

"The Gibsons also presented evidence that they had been continually taunted and harassed for many months, that their business and property had been vandalized, and that Grandpa Gibson had broken his back after an encounter with someone he believed was trying to harass him or break into his apartment," Carr wrote, adding that the appeals court "cannot conclude that reasonable minds could only conclude that this conduct failed to rise to the level of extreme and outrageous."

Oberlin College had also requested a new trial, a request Miraldi denied. In its appeal, it argued Miraldi gave the jury bad instructions about libel, improperly excluded evidence and should have reduced compensatory damages.

The appeals court disagreed, saying Miraldi properly instructed the jury.

Oberlin College failed to cite any legal authority to support different jury instructions, didn't give Miraldi grounds for its objection and forfeited its right to raise the issue in a motion for a new trial or on appeal, Carr wrote.

Miraldi also properly kept testimony about the shoplifting incident that led to the protest out of the civil trial, the appeals court ruled.

The jury originally awarded the Gibsons more than $11 million in compensatory damages and $33 million in punitive damages, for a total of $44 million that Miraldi reduced to $25 million under Ohio law.

It was up to Oberlin College to demonstrate that Miraldi made mistakes in his rulings on capping monetary damages — which the appeals court ruled it did not.

The appeals court "will not make an argument for Oberlin" on that matter, Carr wrote.

The Gibsons' argument that punitive monetary damages didn't go far enough toward punishing Oberlin College for damaging their reputation and the reputation of the bakery was flawed because the family didn't establish a constitutional right to "a particular degree of punitive damages."

The Ohio Supreme Court has held that defendants subject to punitive damages also have a right to fairness "which requires that they receive notice of the severity of the penalty the state may impose for their conduct," Carr wrote.

The Gibsons "failed to establish" that caps on punitive damages "infringed on their constitutional rights," she wrote.

The five-week trial in 2019 was extended by a sixth week for arguing motions, involved 33 witnesses, 32 depositions taken by the college, and 33 motions by the college that the Gibsons and their lawyers had to respond to, according to the bakery's attorneys.

The Gibsons' attorneys spent 14,417 hours on the case, at an average hourly rate of $290, according to testimony in the case, and Miraldi ordered the college to pay them more than $6.2 million in fees.

His calculation also was based on the skills of the attorneys involved, the time and labor involved and the difficulty of the issues in the case, he said, and the appeals court agreed.

Plakas said David Gibson, who died in November 2019 after battling cancer, had worried the college would wait him and his father out until they died. Grandpa Gibson died Feb. 12.

March 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Facebook paid GOP firm to malign TikTok, Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell, The firm, Targeted Victory, pushed local operatives across the country to boost messages calling TikTok a threat to American children. “Dream would be to get stories with headlines like ‘From dances to danger,'" one campaign director said.

facebook logoFacebook parent company Meta is paying one of the biggest Republican consulting firms in the country to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok.

The campaign includes placing op-eds and letters to the editor in major regional news outlets, promoting dubious stories about alleged TikTok trends that actually originated on Facebook, and pushing to draw political reporters and local politicians into helping tiktok logo square Customtake down its biggest competitor. These bare-knuckle tactics, long commonplace in the world of politics, have become increasingly noticeable within a tech industry where companies vie for cultural relevance and come at a time when Facebook is under pressure to win back young users.

Employees with the firm, Targeted Victory, worked to undermine TikTok through a nationwide media and lobbying campaign portraying the fast-growing app, owned by the Beijing-based company ByteDance, as a danger to American children and society, according to internal emails shared with The Washington Post.

Targeted Victory needs to “get the message out that while Meta is the current punching bag, TikTok is the real threat especially as a foreign owned app that is #1 in sharing data that young teens are using,” a director for the firm wrote in a February email.

Campaign operatives were also encouraged to use TikTok’s prominence as a way to deflect from Meta’s own privacy and antitrust concerns.

“Bonus point if we can fit this into a broader message that the current bills/proposals aren’t where [state attorneys general] or members of Congress should be focused,” a Targeted Victory staffer wrote.

The White House is briefing TikTok stars about the war in Ukraine

The emails, which have not been previously reported, show the extent to which Meta and its partners will use opposition-research tactics on the Chinese-owned, multibillion-dollar rival that has become one of the most downloaded apps in the world, often outranking even Meta’s popular Facebook and Instagram apps. In an internal report last year leaked by the whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook researchers said teens were spending “2-3X more time” on TikTok than Instagram, and that Facebook’s popularity among young people had plummeted.

Targeted Victory declined to respond to questions about the campaign, saying only that it has represented Meta for several years and is “proud of the work we have done.”

In one email, a Targeted Victory director asked for ideas on local political reporters who could serve as a “back channel” for anti-TikTok messages, saying the firm “would definitely want it to be hands off.”

In other emails, Targeted Victory urged partners to push stories to local media tying TikTok to dangerous teen trends in an effort to show the app’s purported harms. “Any local examples of bad TikTok trends/stories in your markets?” a Targeted Victory staffer asked.

“Dream would be to get stories with headlines like ‘From dances to danger: how TikTok has become the most harmful social media space for kids,’” the staffer wrote.

Press Run, Commentary: Are only Dems guilty of "gaffes?" Eric Boehlert, right, March 30, 2022. Most of President Joe Biden’s historic foreign policy eric.boehlertspeech given over the weekend was washed away by the press.

For days, journalists fixated not on how the Poland address marked a fundamental change in the West’s relationship with Russia, but on a nine-word ad-lib that Biden added to the text, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” in reference to Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Journalists rushed in to claim the “gaffe” had produced “shock waves” around the world. (It did not.)

Swinging into theater criticism mode and searching for a conflict narrative, the press obsessed over the semantics story, portraying Biden as “undisciplined” and creating a monster “distraction” — an “unforced error” — as the war in Ukraine drags on.

Biden doubled down, saying that he was expressing his “moral outrage” over the mass killing that Putin had unleashed. He confirmed his comment came from the heart and did not represent a policy change for the U.S., which is not trying to change the regime in Moscow.

Still, journalists refused to drop the weird gotcha coverage. They hit Biden on Monday with 14 separate questions at a press briefing (“It sounded like you were calling for regime change in Russia”), pretending the story was still shrouded in confusion. Meanwhile, the press didn’t ask a single question about the state of the Ukraine war.

The media theatrics were especially galling since the previous president spent four years struggling to string together coherent sentences, garbling his way through a presidency.

Famous for being a habitual liar, as well as boasting often impossible-to-follow syntax that left people scratching their heads trying to make sense of his oddball pronouncements, Trump obliterated the idea that an occasional gaffe ought to define a politician, and the press stopped caring about his nonstop missteps. (To this day, Trump thinks "stealth" fighter planes are invisible to the human eye.)

Biden’s nine-word comment about Putin? That was Katie bar the door for the media — “gaffe” was mentioned on cable news over 100 times with regards to the Biden-Putin story, according to TVeyes.

It certainly appears the breathless pursuit of “gaffes” is a sport the press plays only with Democrats. “You will notice that the use of "gaffe" almost disappeared during Trump's term as president because most of what he said was a gaffe— or would have been under a previous president,” noted New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen.

How many news articles and television reports did you see in 2020 about Trump "gaffes" and how they might stand in the way of his re-election bid?

Probably the same number as I did, which was basically zero. Even though Trump was urging people to inject bleach into their veins.

The press for years has been overly interested in Biden “gaffe” coverage. The president famously grew up with a severe stutter, which he overcame but sometimes finds himself at a temporary loss for words. The press likes to lean into that to generate news, and especially during the 2020 campaign. One Hill headline read, “Do Biden's Gaffes Make Him Unelectable?” Mediaite labeled it an "insane gaffe" when Biden at a rally mistakenly referred to Super Tuesday as Super Thursday, before quickly catching his mistake. That doesn't seem "insane."

Biden ended up getting more votes for president than any candidate in U.S. history, confirming that voters don’t care about Democratic “gaffes.”

 

joan joyce ted williams frank spec shea joan chandler via nyt

ny times logoNew York Times, Joan Joyce, a Sensation in Softball and More, Is Dead at 81, William McDonald, Updated March 30, 2022. Her pitching feats — including striking out Ted Williams — were legend. And her prowess in basketball, volleyball and golf as well spoke to her all-around athletic greatness.

On a warm August night in 1961, Ted Williams, the “Splendid Splinter” who had finished his Hall of Fame baseball career the year before as the last hitter to bat .400 in a single season, strode to the plate before an overflow crowd at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury, Conn., to face a young softball pitching phenom by the name of Joan Joyce.

The occasion was a charity fund-raising exhibition. Williams was in his Boston Red Sox uniform, No. 9. Joyce stood on the mound 40 feet away (regulation in women’s softball, as opposed to 60 feet 6 inches in major-league baseball), clad in the red-and-white jersey and shorts she wore as the premier pitcher for the Raybestos Brakettes, one of the top teams in the women’s game, with its home field 30 miles to the south in suburban Stratford, Conn.

It was one of several such exhibitions in which Williams and Joyce faced off in the early 1960s, but the one in Waterbury — Joyce’s hometown, where the fans were chanting “Joanie, Joanie Joanie!” — proved to be the most memorable. It would become an oft-told tale in the lore that enveloped Joyce over her long career as, many would say, the most dominant player in the history of women’s fast-pitch softball and — given her prowess in basketball, volleyball and golf as well — as one of the greatest female athletes of her generation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bruce Willis to Step Away From Acting After Aphasia Diagnosis, Maya Salam, March 30, 2022. His ex-wife, Demi Moore, announced online that the actor was recently diagnosed with a disorder that affects the ability to understand or express speech.

On Wednesday, Demi Moore announced on Instagram that her ex-husband Bruce Willis, the prolific action-movie star, had recently been diagnosed with aphasia — a disorder that affects the brain’s language center and a person’s ability to understand or express speech — and that he would be stepping away from acting.

“To Bruce’s amazing supporters, as a family we wanted to share that our beloved Bruce has been experiencing some health issues and has recently been diagnosed with aphasia, which is impacting his cognitive abilities,” Moore’s post reads. “As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.”

“We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him,” it continued. “As Bruce always says, ‘Live it up,’ and together we plan to do just that.”

The post is signed “Emma, Demi, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel & Evelyn” — referring to Emma Heming Willis, Willis’s wife, and his children. Moore is the mother of Rumer, Scout and Tallulah, and Heming Willis is mother to Mabel and Evelyn.

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ap logoAssociated Press via HuffPost, Sandy Hook Families Reject Alex Jones Settlement Offer Of $120,000 Per Plaintiff, Staff Report, March 30, 2022. A trial is planned to determine how much he should pay the plaintiffs.

Infowars host Alex Jones offered to pay $120,000 per plaintiff to resolve a lawsuit by relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims who said he defamed them by asserting the massacre never happened, according to court filings Tuesday. The offer was quickly rejected by the families.

A Connecticut judge found Jones liable for damages in November, and a trial is planned to determine how much he should pay the families.

The plaintiffs said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy promoted on his show.

The court filings posted online said: “Mr. Jones extends his heartfelt apology for any distress his remarks caused.”

Last week Jones defied a court order to attend a deposition near his home in Austin, Texas, to provide testimony ahead of the trial. Jones said he was ill. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday on a request by the plaintiffs to sanction Jones for not cooperating.

Lawyers for the families rejected the settlement offer within a few hours, saying in court filings that it was a “transparent and desperate attempt by Alex Jones to escape a public reckoning under oath with his deceitful, profit-driven campaign against the plaintiffs and the memory of their loved ones lost at Sandy Hook.”

Twenty first graders and six educators were killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The families of eight of the victims and an FBI agent who responded to the school sued Jones, Infowars and others in Connecticut over the hoax conspiracy. Jones has since said he believes the shooting did occur.

Jones also was found liable for damages in similar lawsuits filed in Texas by relatives of Sandy Hook victims, and also faces trial later this year.

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Huff Post, Donald Trump's Truth Social App Is Failing Fantastically, Report Says, Ron Dicker, March 30, 2022. The former president's effort to keep his MAGA base talking appears to be cratering.

Donald Trump’s Truth Social app has plummeted in sign-ups and traffic since its technically challenged launch last month, The Wrap reported Tuesday.

The former president’s social media network for MAGA disciples has sunk to about 60,000 new users a week.
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“This is down 93% from its launch week, when it saw 872,000 installs during the week of Feb. 21,” Stephanie Chan of the analytics site Sensor Tower told The Wrap. “We estimate that Truth Social has so far reached approximately 1.2 million installs since its launch.”

Truthsocial.com reportedly has fallen to 1.9 million weekly visits from a high of 6 million in the debut week for the Twitter-like platform, according to Similarweb stats cited by the news website.

Team Trump created Truth Social after he was banned from Twitter for allegedly inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

The digital opinion site has struggled in a conservative space already occupied by right-leaning ventures such as Gettr.
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Truth Social also caught the snarky attention of talk show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel.

“Truth Social has been such a disappointment so far, Trump may have to rename it to ‘Don Jr.,’” Kimmel sniped last month.

Trump has been so perturbed by the stumbling rollout that he was heard asking, “What the fuck is going on?” on the phone, The Daily Beast reported.

March 29

 

npc journalism institute logo

National Press Club Journalism Institute, Homeless man living in tree attacks New York Post reporter and photographer, according to NYPD, and is released without bail (New York Daily News/New York Post), National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, March 29, 2022  Lights. Camera. Crime: How a Philly-born brand of TV news harmed Black America. (Inquirer).

CNNCNN takes a $100 million step into streaming today (Washington Post) / Earlier: CNN+ readies for debut: Next news innovation or too late to the streaming wars? (Deadline)

■ Vogue, Bon Appétit and other Condé Nast staffers form union (Washington Post) / BuzzFeed Union votes to authorize newsroom strike amid escalating tensions; CEO Jonah Peretti was a no-show to Tuesday’s negotiations (The Wrap)

■ ‘White House comms director Kate Bedingfield says at the press briefing that the White House has "no official comment on the altercation" between Will Smith and Chris Rock, and says Biden did not watch the Oscars.’ (Max Tani) / White House ASL interpreters bring the president's message to a larger audience (CBS News) / Oscars American Sign Language live stream racks up 300,000 views, 1 million impressions (The Wrap) / Oscars: How 'CODA’ helped spotlight ASL interpretation, deaf community (The Hollywood Reporter) / Oscars audience grew by 555,000 after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock (New York Times) / How an Oscars photographer captured the moment Will Smith slapped Chris Rock (CNN) / Will Smith vs. Chris Rock through the eyes of an L.A. Times photographer (Los Angeles Times) / The real reason Will Smith's Oscars outburst was censored on US broadcasts (Washington Post) / Earlier: What was happening in the ABC control room as Will Smith slapped Chris Rock (Variety)

■ Cincinnati broadcast journalist says he's 'taking a break from sports reporting to focus on my mental health' (WVXU)

■ ‘If Alden is a cancer on journalism, Lee is COVID, MRSA and SARS’: Lee quietly slashes jobs following hostile takeover attempt (Axios)

■ CBS News under fire for hiring former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney (Mediaite) / Fox News’ ratings surprise: ‘The Five’ keeps outperforming primetime (Variety)

■ ABC News chief Washington correspondent Jon Karl talked with Fox about replacing Chris Wallace (Daily Beast)

■ 'Stupid of me:' Nick Lachey says he overreacted after incident with photographer (Cincinnati Enquirer)

■ Photographer captures photos of family hours before they died in Ohio car crash (WTVG/Gray News) / 4 women photographers on the hardest photo they ever took (WIRED)

March 28

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Kremlin tries to stifle Radio Free Europe — and its audience surges, Margaret Sullivan, right, March 28, 2022 (print ed.). As margaret sullivan 2015 photothe U.S.-funded broadcaster is forced to shut most of its Russian operations, its Web traffic indicates that Russian people are eagerly consuming its stories.

Radio Free Europe, the U.S.-funded operation that got its start by piping American-flavored news through the Iron Curtain in 1950 (and has been affiliated with Voice of America), could see big trouble brewing for its Russian operation in recent years.

The Kremlin kept putting the screws to its Russian-language broadcasts, throwing up ever more regulatory hurdles. But it was in late 2020 that the hammer really came down. The “media regulator” demanded that every broadcast, digital story and video carry an intrusive disclaimer at the top stating that what followed was the product of a foreign agent.

“Basically, it was like telling our audience to go away,” said Jamie Fly, the CEO of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as the organization has been known since a 1976 merger.

That labeling would interfere with the private nonprofit’s mission at a core level. So, Fly told me, “we refused to comply.”

ny times logoNew York Times, When Nokia Pulled Out of Russia, a Vast Surveillance System Remained, Adam Satariano, Paul Mozur and Aaron Krolik (the reporters, who report on technology, vetted more than 75,000 documents for this article), March 28, 2022. The Finnish company played a key role in enabling Russia’s cyberspying, documents obtained by The Times show, raising questions of corporate responsibility. Nokia said this month that it would stop its sales in Russia and denounced the invasion of Ukraine. But the Finnish company didn’t mention what it was leaving behind: equipment and software connecting the government’s most powerful tool for digital surveillance to the nation’s largest telecommunications network.

The tool was used to track supporters of the Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny. Investigators said it had intercepted the phone calls of a Kremlin foe who was later assassinated. Called the System for Operative Investigative Activities, or SORM, it is also most likely being employed at this moment as President Vladimir V. Putin culls and silences antiwar voices inside Russia.

For more than five years, Nokia provided equipment and services to link SORM to Russia’s largest telecom service provider, MTS, according to company documents obtained by The New York Times. While Nokia does not make the tech that intercepts communications, the documents lay out how it worked with state-linked Russian companies to plan, streamline and troubleshoot the SORM system’s connection to the MTS network. Russia’s main intelligence service, the F.S.B., uses SORM to listen in on phone conversations, intercept emails and text messages, and track other internet communications.

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Chris Wallace Says Life at Fox News Became ‘Unsustainable,’ Michael M. Grynbaum, Updated March 28, 2022. As he starts a new streaming show at CNN, the longtime TV anchor (shown above in a pool photo via Getty Images) reflects on his decision to leave Fox News after 18 years.

“I just no longer felt comfortable with the programming at Fox.”

Chris Wallace uttered those words matter-of-factly, in between bites of a Sweetgreen salad at his new desk inside the Washington bureau of CNN, the network he joined in January after nearly two decades at Fox News.

fox news logo SmallFor those on the left who admired him, and those on the right who doubted him, it’s a statement that was a long time coming.

A down-the-middle outlier at Fox News who often confounded conservatives by contradicting the network’s right-wing stars, Mr. Wallace CNNwas also one of the channel’s fiercest defenders, disappointing liberals who hoped he might denounce colleagues like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

But in December, Mr. Wallace, 74, issued a final verdict: He was done. In a surprise move, he declined to renew his contract as host of “Fox News Sunday” and jumped to archrival CNN. His daily interview show — “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace?” — starts Tuesday on the new CNN+ streaming service.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Slap Echoes the Morning After the Oscars, Raising Questions, Julia Jacobs, Matt Stevens and Nicole Sperling, March 28, 2022. When Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the Academy Awards for telling a joke about his wife, it divided Hollywood, sparking denunciations, defenses and debates. 

The morning after the Oscars tends to be dominated by lighthearted celebrations of the night’s winners and admiring chatter about the fashion on the red carpet, but on Monday it was given to a more somber discussion of the disturbing spectacle that dominated the night: Will Smith striking Chris Rock onstage after taking issue with one of his jokes.

On ABC’s “Good Morning America,” George Stephanopoulos described it as “something we have never seen before, something that is very hard to process: Will Smith, walking up onto that stage after Chris Rock told a joke about his wife — simply assaulting Chris Rock.”

The Academy put out a statement saying that they do not condone violence, but Stephanopoulos noted they “have not taken any other action yet.”

“It changed the entire night,” the anchor Robin Roberts said.

Rolling Stone, Fox News Host Lara Logan Suggests Theory of Evolution Is a Hoax Funded by Jews, Ryan Bort, March 28, 2022. Lara Logan’s latest anti-Semitic dog whistle is a claim that Charles Darwin only came up with the idea of evolution because Jews paid him to.

rolling stone logoIt wasn’t long ago that Lara Logan was a correspondent for CBS News, which is a little hard to believe considering the types of conspiracy theories she’s been pushing since she left the network. The latest came during an appearance on the right-wing podcast “And We Know,” during which Logan suggested that the theory of evolution is the result of a wealthy Jewish family paying Charles Darwin to devise an explanation for what gave rise to humanity.

“Does anyone know who employed Darwin, where Darwinism comes from?” Logan, recently (but perhaps no longer) with Fox News’ streaming service Fox Nation, asked. “Look it up: The Rothschilds. It goes back to 10 Downing Street. The same people who employed Darwin, and his theory of evolution and so on and so on. I’m lara logan screenshotnot saying that none of that is true. I’m just saying Darwin was hired by someone to come up with a theory — based on evidence, OK, fine.”

Logan rambled for a bit longer, but her point was that evolution is a “chicken or the egg” debate and “you can’t answer it scientifically” and, while we’re here, Jews are trying to control the world with their money. Media Matters caught the claim on Monday:

The Rothschilds, who Logan says is responsible for the theory of evolution, are a Jewish family that often shows up in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) famously wrote on Facebook that the Rothschilds funded a space laser that started the California wildfires.

Logan and Greene share more in common than anti-Semitic comments. Both the Fox Nation host and the bigoted, virulent conspiracy theorist lawmaker have pushed Russian propaganda since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine last month. Greene has blamed Ukraine for the invasion, while suggesting the nation’s military is rife with Nazis. Greene, however, at least made some sort of superficial effort to insist she’s not a Putin supporter. Logan made no such effort.

“Whether you like Putin or don’t like him, Putin is not willing to be a part of whatever global governing structure is coming our way,” Logan said last week on a right-wing podcast. “Vladimir Putin has been very calculating, he’s been very careful … he’s said for 15 years that he would not tolerate NATO expansion.”

“He’s the man standing between us and this New World Order,” she added after rambling about Ukrainian biolabs funded by Hunter Biden.

The idea of a “New World Order” constructed by Jews is a trope of anti-Semitic rhetoric. We’re starting to notice a pattern in Logan’s conspiracy theorizing.

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ny times logoNew York Times, Rumble, the Right’s Go-To Video Site, Has Much Bigger Ambitions, Jeremy W. Peters, March 28, 2022. The company, supported by Donald Trump, Peter Thiel and other prominent conservatives, wants to help build an internet free from Silicon Valley titans.

You won’t find Red Pill News or the X22 Report on YouTube anymore. The far-right online shows were taken down in the fall of 2020 after the major social media and tech companies started purging accounts that spread the QAnon conspiracy theory.

But you will find both of them on a video-sharing platform called Rumble, where their content ranks among the most popular on the site.

Over the last week, as Republicans opened a misleading attack on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as too lenient with criminals who sexually abuse children, Red Pill News and the X22 Report posted videos claiming that her nomination to the Supreme Court by President Biden was all the proof anyone needed that a cabal of pedophiles operated at the highest levels of the government, a belief QAnon adherents hold.

“Think about the bigger picture,” the host of the X22 Report, which has more than half a million Rumble subscribers, implored his viewers in an episode posted on Wednesday. “Right now, people are being taught about pedophilia. People are listening to this, and they’re seeing exactly how these people think and how they’re trying to normalize it.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Wartime news reporting is worse now than it was during World War II, Wayne Madsen, left, March 28, 2022. wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallThe news coverage of the current war in eastern Europe has generally been abysmal as compared to reporting during the last major ground conflict in Europe, the Second World War.

From the outset of the rise of fascist regimes in Italy, Japan, Germany, and Spain consumers of news in the United States and the West were much better informed about pre-war and wartime developments than their modern-day counterparts.

wayne madesen report logoThat was because newspapers, radio stations, and networks provided raw wire service reports with little in the way of editorializing, including the taking of their scissors to the teleprinter or radio-teletype feed.

Editors in the 1930s and 40s aired more on the side of inclusion than exclusion. If a wire service reporter was staking his reputation on a wire dispatch being correct, editors gave the green light for the copy to the printing press or over the airwaves. Obviously, in their minds, an informed public was better overall for national security and war preparedness than ignorant masses going about their daily routines.

Today, cable and broadcast news are more interested in ratings and a combination of Rupert Murdoch's infamous mantra of "if it bleeds, it leads" and a Hallmark television rendition of a tear-jerker family separation story from the battle zones. Reporters who may have been covering tornado damage in the South one week are virtually "parachuted" the next week into eastern European towns near the Ukrainian border. Their lack of knowledge about the local and regional situation is more than apparent in the first few days of their reporting, with the mangling of names of geographical locations and government officials more than apparent. Also, viewers back in the States do not need to know about reporters' spartan sleeping accommodations, lack of WiFi access, or the quality of local food. No one cares and it's not news at any rate.

In a long-forgotten 1952 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) report on the existing news agencies, World War II, rather than limit news sources, saw them increase in large numbers. With additional agencies came more sources for reporting on the war and other developments.

Press Run, Commentary: Media sleepwalks past Ginni Thomas’ treason, Eric Boehlert, right, March 28, 2022. Burying a blockbuster. The Sunday morning talk eric.boehlertshows sprinted into “gaffe” patrol mode after President Joe Biden made a 9-word, ad-libbed comment in Poland over the weekend about how Vladimir Putin should not be allowed to stay in power in Russia.

On “Meet the Press,” USA Today’s Susan Page emphasized Biden’s comment was “distracting” and “undisciplined.” The assembled pundits spent nearly ten minutes discussion the story, along with a new NBC poll that was bad news for Biden. (Inflation!)

What was mostly ignored by the round table was the blockbuster story about Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, wife of right-wing Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She had been texting unhinged QAnon-like messages to Trump’s chief of staff after the 2020 election, strategizing and urging that Biden’s victory be overturned, saving America from “the end of Liberty.” The NBC pundits on Sunday spent 45 seconds discussing that story.

Like when Trump was recently caught smuggling boxes of top-secret documents out of the White House, the Beltway press is treating Ginni Thomas’ seditious assault on democracy as a middling story; one that will likely receive little or no new coverage in coming days.

The revelation that Thomas’ plugged-in wife who enjoyed easy access to the Trump White House hoped that “Biden crime family & ballot fraud co-conspirators … will be living in barges off GITMO to face military tribunals for sedition,” came just after Republican Senators used QAnon signaling during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. She was smeared as a child pornography apologist.

“Meet the Press” was hardly alone in sleepwalking past the Ginni Thomas story, which represents another GOP direct assault on democracy and election integrity. “ABC This Week”s’ round table spent ten minutes dissecting Biden’s Putin “gaffe,” and just three minutes acknowledging the Supreme Court’s stunning setback in terms of its reputation for fairness. (The Court’s already at its lowest standing ever.)

Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal has yet to run a single page-one piece on the Thomas story and how she accused the “Left” of “attempting the greatest Heist of our History,” and complained about being “disgusted” with Vice President Mike Pence for approving the 2020 election results.

CNN announced Biden’s overseas Putin comment had set off “shock waves.” But I can find no CNN coverage that suggest the same thing occurred when we learned about Ginni Thomas’ relentless, high-level push to overturn the election (a “fight of good versus evil”) while Judge Thomas was the only justice who voted against allowing the release of records from the Trump White House related to the Jan. 6 attack. Thomas’ lone, radical dissent on another 2020 election case openly promoted Trump lies about mail-in ballots. Lies that sound a lot like Ginni’s.

Cable news in general has been slow walking the story. Look at how much TV attention the Thomas controversy received compared to how many hours this month were showered on the issue of rising gas prices in the U.S.

News organizations still see themselves primarily as witnesses in the anti-democracy drama, paid to document the beating it’s taking at the hands of radical Republicans who try to dismantle the concept of free and fair elections in America.

“The Thomases are a team. When I was a Heritage intern as a young conservative, Ginni brought in Clarence to visit with the interns. The idea that there’s some wall of separation btw their respective, uh, professional activities is willful naivety,” tweeted Matthew Sitman. He’s a co-host of the “Know Your Enemy” podcast, which spotlights the conservative movement. “One of the most important tasks of our time is to see extremely obvious things and not pretend they’re anything other than they are because our brains’ have been poisoned by the idea that telling the truth and holding corrupt, lawless actors accountable is “partisan.”

The press isn’t all that interested in telling the obvious truth about Ginni and Clarence Thomas.

March 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Putin Goes Into Battle on a Second Front: Culture, Anton Troianovski and Javier C. Hernández, March 26, 2022. Beyond Ukraine, President Vladimir V. Putin is also fighting cultural battles.

In a speech on Friday from the nondescript, beige-walled office in which he has been conducting much of his public business this month, Mr. Putin made no mention of Ukraine. Instead, he expanded upon a personal obsession: “cancel culture.”

Western elites “canceled” the author J.K. Rowling because she “did not please fans of so-called gender freedoms,” Mr. Putin said in his nationally televised remarks, flanked by two Russian flags. Ms. Rowling was widely criticized in 2020 after voicing support for a researcher whose views on transgender people had been condemned by a court.

Japan, he claimed, “cynically decided to ‘cancel’” the fact that it was the United States that dropped nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II. And now, he said, the West is busy “canceling” Russia, “an entire thousand-year-old country, our people.”

That the Russian president delivered a disquisition on Western public discourse on Friday may seem odd at a time when Russia is fighting what some analysts believe to be its bloodiest war since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. But it underscores how Mr. Putin tries to channel cultural grievances and common stereotypes for political gain — while using language that also allows him to speak directly to possible allies in the West.

“This is his cultural front,” said Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Moscow Center. “He’s also at war there.”

Speaking at the beginning of a videoconference with Russian cultural figures, Mr. Putin said “proverbial ‘cancel culture’ has become the cancellation of culture.”

And, as seems inevitable in Mr. Putin’s speeches these days, the Nazis came up, too.

“The names of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff are being removed from playbills. Russian writers and their books are being banned,” Mr. Putin said. “The last time such a mass campaign to destroy objectionable literature was carried out was by the Nazis in Germany almost 90 years ago.”

For the moment, Mr. Kolesnikov said, Mr. Putin’s main audience when railing against Western “cancel culture” is domestic, with the Kremlin intent on feeding the grievances against the West upon which Mr. Putin draws much of his support. But casting Russia as a protector of traditional values from the thrall of wanton liberalism is also a message that finds sympathy around the world — including among American right-wing commentators like Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, whose monologues are often shown on Russian state television.

“We have a constitutional right to a free press but we don’t have it,” Mr. Carlson, dubbed into Russian, said in a clip from his show that was played in a news segment on state-controlled Channel 1 this week. “And that is not Russian propaganda.”

Mr. Putin on Friday defined “cancel culture” as the “public ostracism, boycotting and even complete silencing” of people who “do not fit into modern templates, no matter how absurd they really are.”

It was at least the third time in recent months that he spoke about the subject, one that appears to encapsulate for him the hypocrisy and shallowness of Western elites.

 

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ap logoAssociated Press via Hartford Courant, Sandy Hook families seek Alex Jones arrest after 2nd no-show, Staff Report, March 26, 2022. Lawyers for relatives of Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims have asked a Connecticut judge again to order the arrest of Infowars host Alex Jones, shown above in a broadcast screenshot, after he defied a court order to attend a deposition as part of a lawsuit over his calling the massacre a hoax.

Jones missed both days of a scheduled deposition Wednesday and Thursday in Austin, Texas, home to Jones and Infowars. He cited a health problem that included vertigo and revealed Friday that it was a sinus infection. After he didn’t show up Wednesday on the advice of his doctors, Connecticut Judge Barbara Bellis ordered him to appear Thursday, noting he wasn’t hospitalized and had appeared in-person on his show Tuesday.

Bellis did not immediately rule on the new arrest request. She rejected a similar motion by the families’ lawyer seeking an arrest order after Jones failed to appear Wednesday. She has set a hearing by video conference for Wednesday next week.

The families’ lawyers filed a motion late Friday afternoon requesting that Jones be arrested and detained until he sits for a deposition, be fined $25,000 to $50,000 a day until he completes the questioning, be found in contempt of court and to pay their expenses for traveling to Austin this week.

“The plaintiffs subjected themselves to hours and hours of painful questioning by Mr. Jones’s lawyers — and Mr. Jones plays sick when it is his turn to tell the truth under oath,” Alinor Sterling, one of the families’ lawyers, wrote in the motion.

Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, called the request “an unprecedented overreach” and raised concerns about due process, in an email to The Associated Press.

Earlier Friday, Jones said on his website show that it was “absolutely preposterous” the families’ lawyers were trying to have him arrested for missing a deposition because of illness. He said the families’ lawyers had delayed depositions in the case several times and he didn’t complain.

In November, Bellis found Jones liable for damages, and his testimony is now being sought in a deposition ahead of a trial later this year to determine how much he should pay the families.

Twenty first graders and six educators were killed in the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The families of eight of the victims and an FBI agent who responded to school sued Jones, Infowars and others in Connecticut, saying they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy promoted on the show. Jones has since said he believes the shooting did occur.

Jones also was found liable for damages in similar lawsuits filed in Texas by relatives of Sandy Hook victims, and also faces trial later this year.

Jones returned to the Infowars studio on Friday for the first time since Tuesday and disclosed on the show that medical testing showed he had a sinus infection. He said he had experienced vertigo, and his doctors initially thought it was a serious heart problem and advised him to stay home and not go to the deposition.

March 24

BIG, Commentary: Judges Behaving Badly: Amazon Antitrust Suit Dismissed, Matt Stoller, right, March 24, 2022. It was a good week for Amazon, with the firm matt stolleralso closing on the MGM merger. But the antitrust meat grinder goes on.

Three items this week:

  • An incompetent judge let Amazon off the hook for monopolization.
  • Why hasn’t the FTC challenged the Amazon-MGM merger?
  • Is Congress about to fix our shipping mess? Sort of!

Last May, I wrote a long piece explaining the scam at the heart of Amazon Prime. When you think about it, Prime doesn’t really make any economic sense. Prime members pay a small annual or monthly fee, and in return get massively valuable and expensive benefits like free shipping, free movies and TV, video games, and so forth. Amazon likely gets between $10-20 billion a year in Prime fees, but delivering these services costs Amazon probably upwards of $80-100 billion a year. That means Amazon has to find $70 billion of cash somewhere as an endless subsidy. Yet, Amazon is profitable, and prices for goods on Amazon are almost always the lowest you can find online. How does Amazon pull this off?

amazon logo smallThere are three steps. First, Amazon acquired enough customers for its retail division to monopolize online buying and selling. It did this by offering free shipping and other benefits at a vastly subsidized rate to Prime members. For consumers, this seemed like a great deal. They got a very good reliable place to buy stuff online. But on the other side of the market, for sellers, many of whom sold 80-100% of their wares on Amazon’s Marketplace, Amazon acquired substantial market power. “[We] have nowhere else to go and Amazon knows it,” said one seller that sells products on Amazon.

Second, Amazon forced these captive sellers to pay massive fees to sell on its marketplace, by making them use its fulfillment and warehousing (as well as other services). Amazon took those fees, which brought in $121 billion in 2021, to pay for its various Prime benefits, including shipping. And third, and this is where it becomes brilliant, Amazon then forced those sellers to keep their prices high through non-Amazon sales channels. If they ever sold elsewhere for less, they would be de facto kicked off Amazon.

These three steps were each pivotal. Without the subsidy of Prime, it wouldn’t have been possible for Amazon to capture control over most online buying. Without the seller fees, Amazon couldn’t afford that subsidy. And without forcing sellers to raise their prices elsewhere to ensure Amazon had the lowest prices online, you’d see signs like ‘Buy cheaper at eBay.com’ or ‘Walmart.com costs less than Amazon’ everywhere, and Amazon would be undercut in the marketplace. But you don’t see such signs. Consumers think they are getting the best deal at Amazon, and they usually are.

It’s a genius scheme, because it gives the appearance that Amazon offers the lowest price and free shipping, when in fact consumers pay a higher cost karl racinefor products without realizing it. I first wrote about Prime because of an antitrust suit filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, right, who filed a case in district court spelling out this scheme in a rigorous and detailed way. There are a bunch of investigations going on into Amazon, and this was the first case filed that came out of them. Filing this case was a sort of loner approach by Racine, who is an aggressive and fearless litigator. It was an excellent complaint -- detailed, factually rigorous, and legally sound -- and a class action case with a very similar theory just passed the critical motion to dismiss stage in a Seattle courtroom with a Bush-appointee judge.

I thought it was going to be a titanic clash, and it brought critical legal questions into the courts to be hashed out by a jury. Unfortunately, the judge Racine got assigned to this case, Hiram Puig-Lugo, did not agree. Earlier this week, at what looked like a routine scheduling hearing, Puig-Lugo, whose expertise is in family law, shocked everyone involved by dismissing Racine’s Amazon complaint outright. That means the case is over, unless Racine appeals. And how Puig-Lugo dismissed the case was as odd as his choice to do so. For important complaints like this, judges almost always put down in writing their rationale for making decisions at key stages. But Puig-Lugo did not. He simply read from the bench that he didn’t think the claimed conduct violated the law.

The deeper you go, the more odd the decision. According to Law360, Puig-Lugo said in his ruling that maybe it was just a coincidence that merchants were raising prices on other channels. They could be engaged in “lawful, unchoreographed free-market behavior.” Such a statement makes no sense, because there were explicit contracts between Amazon and sellers mandating higher prices. And yet, the judge simply said when making his ruling from the bench, "That's how the market works.”

There are bad decisions in antitrust law, ones that make the law harder to enforce going forward. Usually bad decisions are on the outer edge of precedent, and have legal reasoning that is illogic but coherent. This, however, wasn’t just a bad decision. It was the decision of someone who didn’t care to learn the facts of the case before him, or even how antitrust law itself works. Frankly I’m not sure Puig-Lugo even read the complaints, though it’s also possible he’s just dumb. There are dumb judges. Or maybe he wanted the case to go away; his interest is in family law and trafficking, not complex business litigation. In any case, Puig-Lugo dismissed a well-prepared complaint on a very important part of the economy, without even explaining himself in writing.

Obviously, Racine should appeal.

Jezebel, Commentary: The Sordid History of Right-Wing Pedophilia Conspiracy Theories, Kylie Cheung, March 23, 2022. Republican attacks framing Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as "soft" on child sex offenders are part of a greater conservative trend to disrupt social progress.

Ahead of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic Senate confirmation hearings this week, Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri injected a predictable dose of nastiness into the dialogue when—sans evidence—he accused the Supreme Court nominee of enabling child sex offenders.

Hawley backed up his claim by misrepresenting Jackson’s record of sentencing offenders in several child pornography cases to less prison time than was recommended by federal sentencing guidelines, which is an ordinary practice within the federal judiciary. At Jackson’s Tuesday confirmation hearing, she clarified that she had ruled on 14 cases involving child pornography or sex crimes related to children, and in 10 of those cases, she imposed a sentence consistent with or greater than what was recommended by the government.

If Hawley and other Republicans’ bizarre fixation on framing Jackson as supposedly soft on child sex crimes feels like a twistedly familiar right-wing song and dance at this point, that’s because it is. There’s a reason 15% of Americans have said they believe Satan-worshiping pedophiles run the country. From Pizzagate—the viral 2016 conspiracy theory that the Hillary Clinton campaign ran a child sex trafficking ring at restaurants including a pizzeria in DC—to QAnon, the very online far-right has relied on equating the Democratic Party with pedophilia as its go-to smear. And actual prominent Republican politicians like Hawley, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and others have not-so-subtly been taking their cues from these conspiracy theorists.

None of this is new. Cultural panics involving child porn and pedophilia have long been weaponized to stymie social progress, Jeffrey Debies-Carl, a professor of sociology at the University of New Haven whose research has focused on online conspiracy theories, told Jezebel. “People often make these accusations kind of cynically, because they have an agenda, because they know a lot of people will believe them,” he said. “These theories are frequently reactionary, or there’s some sort of threat perception involved that’s usually progressive in some way.”

Historically, the rise of cultural lore about supposed pedophilia and child sexual abuse at daycare centers in the 1980s was deployed as part of anti-feminist backlash against mothers for supposedly endangering their kids by dropping them off at daycare to go to work. More recently, the right wing has used egregious sexual violence cases involving children to argue for more policing, despite lack of evidence that registries or expanding the carceral system keeps children safe at all.

March 23

Marilyn Monroe with her ear to a telephone receiver at a payphone in a scene from the film 'Niagara', 1952. By Michael Ochs Archives/20th Century-Fox/Getty Images.

Marilyn Monroe with her ear to a telephone receiver at a payphone in a scene from the film 'Niagara', 1952. By Michael Ochs Archives/20th Century-Fox/Getty Images.

Vanity Fair, Marilyn Monroe’s Final Hours: Nuke Fears, Mob Spies, and a Secret Kennedy Visitor, Anthony Summers, March 23, 2022. Sixty years ago, her death was ruled a “probable suicide,” but questions have persisted about the iconic actor’s relationships with JFK and RFK—and how they might have been exploited by the Mafia, the Soviet Union, and the FBI. New details from an updated investigative biography, soon to feature in a Netflix documentary, shed clarifying light on the turmoil swirling around Monroe on the last day of her life.

When Marilyn Monroe died, 60 years ago, people all over the world asked questions. How could it be that the gifted and phenomenally beautiful actress was dead—at just 36? The Los Angeles coroner’s verdict was “probable suicide,” but the nagging questions have never gone away. “Who killed Marilyn Monroe? That’s a question,” the dramatist Sean O’Casey mused soon after. Conspiracy theories have flourished ever since. Hollywood’s George Cukor, who had directed Monroe in two of her movies—including the last, unfinished one—had his own view. Her death, he said, was “a nasty business. Her worst rejection. Power and money. In the end she was too innocent.”

The author Anthony Summers has just updated GODDESS, his bestselling biography of the actress, for which he interviewed some 650 people. Publication coincides with the launch next month of a Netflix special that draws largely on his work. Inevitably, both book and film probe deeply into Monroe’s relationships with President John F. Kennedy and his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy—relationships that came close to destroying them politically.

‘Do you know who I’ve always depended on?’ Marilyn Monroe asked the British journalist W.J. Weatherby not long before she died. “Not strangers, not friends. The telephone! That’s my best friend.” Marilyn worked her phone hard in early August 1962, the final week of her life.

She was in a whirl of planning future projects, making arrangements to fly to New York for discussions about a new musical. Most of the people Monroe spoke with thought she seemed in good spirits. But there were glimpses of another mood. Kenny Kingston, a California psychic she had consulted over the months, remembered Monroe talking moodily about love. “Love,” she said, “is the one immortal thing about us. Without it, what can life mean?”

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National Press Club Journalism Institute, The Latest: Politico names new top editor; Journalist dies in Kyiv; ‘'This year has taken a bigger toll,' National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, March 23, 2022. Journalist Oksana Baulina died Wednesday under fire in Kyiv after a rocket strike on a shopping center (The Insider) / ‘Oksana was funny, dedicated and extremely brave. She was putting a new life together in Warsaw after having to flee Russia due to Navalny links and determined to do important journalism. Another victim of this awful senseless mess.’ (Shaun Walker)

■ ‘We knew that something big and awful was coming’: I was a reporter in Russia for 20 years—until I finally fled three weeks ago. I watched our press fall apart in real time. (Slate) / As risks for media rise in Ukraine, safety efforts ramp up (VOA)

■ Almost as many Americans getting Ukraine news from social media as TV, poll shows (The Hill)

■ Kirsten Allen to serve as Harris' new press secretary (CNN) / When Anna Wintour pissed off Kamala (POLITICO)

■ POLITICO names Dafna Linzer executive editor (POLITICO) / ‘Honored to join this stellar news organization at a time when POLITICO is expanding in scope and ambition, building upon its 15-year legacy of excellent political journalism and policy reporting. Excited to join talented colleagues and be part of a new era at POLITICO.’ (Dafna Linzer) / POLITICO's new administration is taking office (Puck)

■ 'I’ve decided it’s time to close this chapter. This industry can be tough’; 'This year has taken a bigger toll on me personally than I first realized' (News & Observer) / Four local TV reporters announce they're leaving (Times Union)

■ Inside the app Minnesota police use collect data on journalists at protests (MIT Technology Review) / Minneapolis city attorney subpoenas reporters in police brutality suit filed by photographer blinded by officer (MPR News)

■ BuzzFeed shares jump over 6% amid news of journalist job cuts (Insider)

■ Go big or go home: The Baltimore Banner readies for launch; 'Job No. 1 has been attracting top talent, which has gone slower than … anticipated' (Northwestern)

■ Doomscrolling got you down? Take a break at a digital rest stop. (Washington Post)

Press Freedom

■ Palin moves to disqualify judge in defamation case against NY Times (The Hill)

Vanity Fair, Marilyn Monroe’s Final Hours: Nuke Fears, Mob Spies, and a Secret Kennedy Visitor, Anthony Summers, March 23, 2022. Sixty years ago, her death was ruled a “probable suicide,” but questions have persisted about the iconic actor’s relationships with JFK and RFK—and how they might have been exploited by the Mafia, the Soviet Union, and the FBI. New details from an updated investigative biography, soon to feature in a Netflix documentary, shed clarifying light on the turmoil swirling around Monroe on the last day of her life.

The Daily Howler, Von Drehle profiles "Putin's brain!" Bob Somerby, March 23, 2022. In search of Putin's dream: Based on current tabulations, it's currently the fourth MOST READ piece in the whole of the Washington Post.

daily howler headlineWe recommend it strongly. It's David Von Drehle's profile of Aleksandr Dugin, the man who is apparently known as "Putin's brain."

VON DREHLE (3/23/22): Dugin’s intellectual influence over the Russian leader is well known to close students of the post-Soviet period, among whom Dugin, 60, is sometimes referred to as “Putin’s brain.” His work is also familiar to Europe’s “new right,” of which Dugin has been a leading figure for nearly three decades, and to America’s “alt-right.” Indeed, the Russian-born former wife of the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, Nina Kouprianova, has translated some of Dugin’s work into English.

It sounds to us like David Von Drehle may know what he's talking about.

VON DREHLE: A product of late-period Soviet decline, Dugin belongs to the long, dismal line of political theorists who invent a strong and glorious past—infused with mysticism and obedient to authority—to explain a failed present. The future lies in reclaiming this past from the liberal, commercial, cosmopolitan present (often represented by the Jewish people). Such thinkers had a heyday a century ago, in the European wreckage of World War I...

Dugin tells essentially the same story from a Russian point of view. Before modernity ruined everything, a spiritually motivated Russian people promised to unite Europe and Asia into one great empire, appropriately ruled by ethnic Russians. Alas, a competing sea-based empire of corrupt, money-grubbing individualists, led by the United States and Britain, thwarted Russia’s destiny and brought “Eurasia”—his term for the future Russian empire—low.

In his magnum opus, “The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia,” published in 1997, Dugin mapped out the game plan in detail. Russian agents should foment racial, religious and sectional divisions within the United States while promoting the United States’ isolationist factions. (Sound familiar?) In Great Britain, the psy-ops effort should focus on exacerbating historic rifts with Continental Europe and separatist movements in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. Western Europe, meanwhile, should be drawn in Russia’s direction by the lure of natural resources: oil, gas and food. NATO would collapse from within.

Putin has followed that counsel to the letter, and he must have felt things were going well when he saw window-smashing rioters in the corridors of the U.S. Congress, Britain’s Brexit from the European Union and Germany’s growing dependence on Russian natural gas. With the undermining of the West going so well, Putin has turned to the pages of Dugin’s text in which he declared: “Ukraine as an independent state with certain territorial ambitions represents an enormous danger for all of Eurasia” and “without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics.”

ny times logoNew York Times, How Russia and Right-Wing Americans Converged on War in Ukraine, Sheera Frenkel and Stuart A. Thompson, March 23, 2022. Some conservatives have echoed the Kremlin’s misleading claims about the war and vice versa, giving each other’s assertions a sheen of credibility.

After President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia claimed that action against Ukraine was taken in self-defense, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, below right, and the tucker carlsonconservative commentator Candace Owens repeated the assertion. When Mr. Putin insisted he was trying to “denazify” Ukraine, Joe Oltmann, a far-right podcaster, and Lara Logan, another right-wing commentator, mirrored the idea.

The echoing went the other way, too. Some far-right American news sites, like Infowars, stoked a longtime, unfounded Russian claim that the United States funded biological weapons labs in Ukraine. Russian officials seized on the chatter, with the Kremlin contending it had documentation of bioweapons programs that justified its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

As war has raged, the Kremlin’s talking points and some right-wing discourse in the United States — fueled by those on the far right — have coalesced. On social media, podcasts and television, falsehoods about the invasion of Ukraine have flowed both ways, with Americans amplifying lies from Russians and the Kremlin spreading fabrications that festered in American forums online.

By reinforcing and feeding each other’s messaging, some right-wing Americans have given credibility to Russia’s assertions and vice versa. Together, they have created an alternate reality, recasting the Western bloc of allies as provokers, blunderers and liars, which has bolstered Mr. Putin.

The war initially threw some conservatives — who had insisted no invasion would happen — for a loop. Many criticized Mr. Putin and Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Some have since gone on to urge more support for Ukraine.

But in recent days, several far-right commentators have again gravitated to narratives favorable to Mr. Putin’s cause. The main one has been the bioweapons conspiracy theory, which has provided a way to talk about the war while focusing criticism on President Biden and the U.S. government instead of Mr. Putin and the Kremlin.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Israel blocked Ukraine from getting potent Pegasus spyware out of fear of upsetting Russia, Craig Timberg, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Souad Mekhennet, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, March 23, 2022. Worries about Russia drove Israel’s decision to keep the surveillance technology out of the hands of the Ukrainian government

A Ukrainian effort to acquire the powerful Pegasus spyware system was blocked by Israeli defense officials out of fear that such a move would upset Russia, which in 2014 had seized Crimea and fomented separatist fighting in Ukraine’s eastern region, according to people familiar with the decision.

Ukraine’s efforts to bolster its surveillance capabilities, like its efforts to strengthen its military, had support from the United States, Israel’s closest ally.

But Israeli officials balked at any move that might provoke a confrontation with Russia, whose military at the time was aggressively helping Syria combat a rebellion beyond Israel’s northeastern border. The country’s Defense Exports Controls Agency rejected a possible license that would have allowed the NSO Group to offer Pegasus to Ukraine, said the people familiar with the decision, who included Western intelligence officials. These people believed this action happened as far back as 2019, but the exact timing was unclear.

Concerns about Russian reaction also affected NSO’s dealings with Estonia, a member of NATO, say people familiar with those actions. According to these people, NSO had licensed Pegasus to Estonia, which achieved independence from five decades of Soviet rule in 1991 and is known for its aggressive counterintelligence measures against Russia, but the company later imposed restrictions on the spyware’s use. The exact nature of those restrictions is not clear, though Estonia does not have the ability to target Russian phones, according to people familiar with its Pegasus license.

ap logoAssociated Press, Amid Russia's new crackdowns, small signs of defiance emerge, Staff Reports, March 23, 2022. When Alexei Navalny was arrested in January 2021, tens of thousands of Russians filled the streets in protest, demanding that the top Kremlin critic be released and chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin. Thousands were arrested.

Since then, Putin has unleashed the harshest crackdown since the era of the Soviet Union: Navalny was imprisoned and his organization outlawed. His associates and other activists were either prosecuted, fled the country or had their hands tied by draconian new laws. Independent news outlets were blocked and social media platforms banned.

And now, Russia has sent its military into Ukraine, the largest invasion in Europe since World War II.

But while the Kremlin has worked hard to crush political dissent and opposition to the war, flickers of defiance have emerged.

Antiwar marches of protesters chanting “No to war!” occurred in Moscow, St. Petersburg and elsewhere after the Feb. 24 invasion, with more than 15,000 people detained, according to the OVD-Info rights group that tracks political arrests.

A live evening news broadcast on Russia’s state TV was interrupted March 14 by a woman who walked behind the anchor and held up a handmade poster protesting the war in English and Russian. OVD-Info identified her as Marina Ovsyannikova, an employee of the station, who was taken into custody and fined.

Navalny remained unbowed at a trial held in the penal colony where he is serving a 2 1/2-year sentence. On Tuesday, he was convicted on fraud and contempt of court charges and given nine years — a move that was seen as an attempt to keep Putin’s biggest foe behind bars for as long as possible.

The 45-year-old corruption fighter, who in 2020 survived a poisoning with a nerve agent that he blames on the Kremlin, said on Facebook in a sardonic comment that was posted by his team: “My space flight is taking a bit longer than expected.”

Navalny ally Ilya Yashin, who has vowed to remain in Russia, also spoke out against the increased jail time.

“Of course, nine years is a stiff sentence,” Yashin said on Facebook. “Rapists, thieves and murderers in Russia often get less. ... But in reality (the sentence) doesn’t mean anything, because everyone understands: Alexei will spend as much time behind bars as Putin will sit in the Kremlin.”

Addressing Putin, Yashin added sarcastically, “You’re quite the optimist.”

Navalny’s trial, which began a week before Russian troops rolled into Ukraine, prompted a small act of defiance by one of the witnesses for the prosecution. Fyodor Gorozhanko, a former activist in Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, who has since left Russia, testified that he had been coerced to give evidence against the opposition leader.

Navalny’s foundation and a nationwide network of regional offices were outlawed last year as extremist and ceased operating. The Kremlin also turned up the heat on other opposition activists and groups, as well as on independent media and human rights organizations.

Dozens have been slapped with a crippling “foreign agent” label, which implies additional government scrutiny and scorn. Many have been forced to shut down under pressure.

Navalny’s team has been undeterred by both the war and the trial of its leader, announcing it was rebooting the foundation as an international organization.

“Corruption kills,” read its new website. “As Ukrainian cities are bombed by Putin, this has never been more obvious. Putin and his circle have done everything to stay in power — and steal, and steal, and steal some more. High on their own impunity, they unleashed a war.”

“We will find all of their mansions in Monaco and their villas in Miami, and when we do, we will make sure Putin’s elite loses everything it owns,” the statement said. “We have been fighting Putin since 2011. We will fight him until we win.”

The Navalny team also promoted a new YouTube channel it has launched, Popular Politics, that since March 5 has attracted more than 920,000 subscribers.

March 22

 

npc journalism institute logoNational Press Club Journalism Institute, White House press secretary Jen Psaki tests positive (again) for COVID (NPR), National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, and Julie Moos, March 22, 2022. Deputy Press Secretary fills in for Psaki after positive COVID test results (POLITICO) / 'No members of the press who attended the briefing yesterday are considered to be close contacts.’ (NBC News) / Psaki’s statement (The White House)

■ Journalist reportedly kidnapped and tortured by Russian soldiers in Ukraine (CBS News) / Ukrainian photographer missing following captured journalist’s release: report (New York Post) / In Ukraine, Russia is turning on journalists and the truth with personal & painful consequences (Deadline) / 'She loved every day of her life.' Family and friends pay tribute to Ukrainian journalist killed in Kyiv (CNN)

■ Fox News hosts thank Biden official John Kirby for helping evacuate Benjamin Hall from Ukraine (The Wrap) / 'Save Our Allies' helps rescue Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall from behind enemy lines in Ukraine (Fox News) / 'Post injury, I’ve covered conflicts again. Benjamin Hall, when he’s ready, if he chooses, may as well. We got into this job to speak for those who can't & to let the rest of the world know what's being done to those who can't escape it.' (Kim Dozier)

■ Russian journalist will auction his Nobel peace medal for Ukrainian refugees (CNN) / Facing Putin's wartime censorship, a Nobel laureate fights to keep truth in Russia alive (Washington Post)

■ BuzzFeed announces news cuts on first earnings call (Axios) / BuzzFeed investors have pushed CEO Jonah Peretti to shut down entire newsroom, sources say (CNBC) / Top editors to leave BuzzFeed News ahead of newsroom cuts (New York Times) / Read BuzzFeed editor-in-chief's resignation letter to staff (The Wrap) / BuzzFeed News deputy editor-in-chief Tom Namako joins NBC News as executive editor, digital (Adweek's TVNewser).

March 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: New Details Flesh Out How Project Veritas Acquired Ashley Biden’s Diary,  Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman, March 21, 2022 (print ed.). The right-wing group made a deceptive call to President Biden’s daughter to confirm the diary’s authenticity weeks after it was shown around at a Trump fund-raiser.

A month before the 2020 election, Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s daughter, Ashley, received a call from a man offering help. Striking a friendly tone, the man said that he had found a diary that he believed belonged to Ms. Biden and that he wanted to return it to her.

Ms. Biden had in fact kept a diary the previous year as she recovered from addiction and had stored it and some other belongings at a friend’s home in Florida where she had been living until a few months earlier. The diary’s highly personal contents, if publicly disclosed, could prove an embarrassment or a distraction to her father at a critical moment in the campaign.

She agreed with the caller to send someone to retrieve the diary the next day.

But Ms. Biden was not dealing with a good Samaritan.

The man on the other end of the phone worked for Project Veritas, a conservative group that had become a favorite of President Donald J. Trump, according to interviews with people familiar with the sequence of events. From a conference room at the group’s headquarters in Westchester County, N.Y., surrounded by other top members of the group, the caller was seeking to trick Ms. Biden into confirming the authenticity of the diary, which Project Veritas was about to purchase from two intermediaries for $40,000.

The caller did not identify himself as being affiliated with Project Veritas, according to accounts from two people with knowledge of the conversation. By the end of the call, several of the group’s operatives who had either listened in, heard recordings of the call or been told of it believed that Ms. Biden had said more than enough to confirm that it was hers.

The new details of Project Veritas’s effort to establish that the diary was Ms. Biden’s are elements of a still-emerging story about how Trump supporters and a group known for its undercover sting operations worked to expose personal information about the Biden family at a crucial stage of the 2020 campaign.

Drawn from interviews, court filings and other documents, the new information adds further texture to what is known about an episode that has led to a criminal investigation of Project Veritas by federal prosecutors who have suggested they have evidence that the group was complicit in stealing Ms. Biden’s property and in transporting stolen goods across state lines.

And by showing that Project Veritas employed deception rather than traditional journalistic techniques in the way it approached Ms. Biden — the caller identified himself with a fake name — the new accounts could further complicate the organization’s assertions in court filings that it should be treated as a publisher and granted First Amendment protections. Project Veritas regularly carries out undercover stings, surveillance operations and ambush interviews, mostly against liberal groups and journalists.

At the same time, new information about the case suggests that the effort to make the diary public reached deeper into Mr. Trump’s circle than previously known.

A month before the call to Ms. Biden, the diary had been passed around a Trump fund-raiser in Florida at the home of a donor who helped steer the diary to Project Veritas and was later nominated by Mr. Trump to the National Cancer Advisory Board. Among those attending the event was Donald Trump Jr., though it is not clear if he examined it.

james okeefe american pravdaFederal prosecutors have been investigating how Project Veritas obtained the diary, and last fall carried out searches at the homes of three of the group’s operatives, including that of its founder, James O’Keefe, shown at left on a book cover. In court filings, prosecutors have suggested that the organization was complicit in the theft of some of Ms. Biden’s other belongings, which interviews show the group obtained as it was seeking to confirm the diary’s authenticity.

Project Veritas — which is suing The New York Times for defamation in an unrelated case — has denied any wrongdoing or knowledge that the belongings had been stolen. It has portrayed itself as a media organization that is being unfairly investigated for simply doing journalism and has assailed the Justice Department and the F.B.I. for their handling of the case.

Prosecutors have signaled that they view the circumstances very differently, all but dismissing in one court filing the group’s defense that it was acting as a news organization, saying that “there is no First Amendment protection for the theft and interstate transport of stolen property.”

In response to a request to Project Veritas for comment, Mr. O’Keefe sent an email criticizing The Times. “Imagine writing so thoroughly divergent from reality and so mendacious with innuendo that there is literally no utterance that won’t make it worse,” he said.

Daily Howler, Commentary: Who is Tucker Carlson?: The latest episode began with a simple Q-and-A during a Senate hearing, Bob Somerby, March 21, 2022. The question was quite straightforward. At least on its face, the non-answer answer was not.

daily howler headlineThe question was asked by Marco Rubio. During a March 8 Senate committee hearing, he posed the question to Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs in the Biden administration.

Rubio's question was quite straightforward. At least on its face, Nuland's response was not.

marco rubio official.jpg SmallFor the record, Rubio, right, showed no sign of dissatisfaction with Nuland's response, nor did anyone else on the Senate committee. The Q-and-A went like this:

RUBIO (3/8/22): I only have a minute left. Let me ask you, does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?

NULAND: Ukraine has biological research facilities, which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to gain control of. So we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.

The next Q-and-A went like this:

RUBIO (continuing directly): I'm sure you're aware that the Russian propaganda groups are already putting out there all kinds of information about how they've uncovered a plot by the Ukrainians to release biological weapons in the country with NATO's coordination.

If there is a biological or chemical weapon incident or attack inside of Ukraine, is there any doubt in your mind that, 100 percent, it would be the Russians that would be behind it?

NULAND: There is no doubt in my mind, Senator. And it is classic Russian technique to blame on the other guy what they're planning to do themselves.

In that follow-up, Rubio lobbed the kind of softball question senators will frequently direct to allies, feeling confident of what they will hear in response. From there, Rubio moved on to one last question on a completely different matter.

All in all, he and Nuland seemed to be of one mind concerning events in Ukraine. All in all, they seemed to agree "100 percent."

There was no sign of any concern about what Nuland had said. Still, she'd been asked a very specific question—"Does Ukraine have chemical or biological weapons?"—and she hadn't said no.

In a rational world, Nuland's response, or lack of same, might have generated a bit of journalistic follow-up. It's normal for journalists to take note of "non-response responses"—misleading responses which may have been carefully couched by an evasive official.

In the world in which we live, Tucker Carlson hosts an hour-long TV program on the Fox News Channel.

tucker carlsonOn the following evening—on Wednesday, March 9—Carlson, right, opened his program with a lengthy monologue about what Nuland had said.

As is fairly common with Carlson's monologues, he made so many different statements during his lengthy cri de coeur that it remains hard to say exactly what he said.

What did Carlson say that night? We can't exactly tell you! But we can tell you this—this is what some editor or producer at Fox News apparently thought he said:

Tucker Carlson: Someone needs to explain why there are dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine. The Pentagon is lying about this—why?

Those are the headlines which sit above the official Fox News transcript of Carlson's March 9 monologue. They seem to represent what Fox News believes that Carlson said.

fox news logo SmallIs that what Carlson actually said? Did he actually say that "there are dangerous biological weapons in Ukraine?" Did he actually say that "the Pentagon is lying about this?"

Because of the shrieking hysterics which routinely appear in Carlson's monologues, we can't necessarily tell you what Carlson actually said. But it isn't hard to see why Fox News believes that Carlson said those things. Those headlines provide a perfectly reasonable account of what it sounded like Carlson had said.

Those headlines emerged from Carlson's shrieking monologue on Wednesday, March 9. Pushback quickly emerged, much of it as imprecise and as hard to parse as Carlson's monologue was.

Result! On Monday evening, March 14, Carlson returned to the issue in another opening monologue. On this garbled occasion, he seemed to deny that he and one of his guests had ever said that Ukraine had nuclear weapons, or any other such thing.

Quite routinely, Carlson's monologues are a garbled, barely coherent mess. His hysterical shrieking on March 9 provides a good case in point.

We're going to spend the rest of the week examining what Carlson did and didn't say on March 9, and then again on March 14. Two major questions arise at this point: Who in the world is Tucker Carlson? And what can be said about the news org which lets him shriek in such ways?

 ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, Anaïs Nin’s Los Angeles Hideaway Still Keeps Her Secrets, Kurt Soller, Photographs by Chris Mottalini, March 21, 2022, Shrouded by the pines of Silver Lake, the erotic writer’s minimalist, midcentury residence is a lasting monument to her life and legacy.

Among many writers, there’s a commonly held belief that a desk must be organized, an office must be tidy, an entire home must be cleaned, before one can finally sit down and fill the empty pages before them. One can’t help but think of such habits — the physical manifestation of routine and discipline — when visiting the completely preserved home of the midcentury French American eroticist Anaïs Nin, who died at 73 in 1977 in Los Angeles.

Here, hidden among pines overlooking the Silver Lake neighborhood’s reservoir, Nin envisioned a low, single-story aerie, which she called her “one large studio, no separate, small partitions.”

This description appeared in the first edition of her diary (originally published in 1966), which she began writing at 11 as a child traveling to America from the Parisian suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine and continued until her death.

Today, there are 18 volumes — with a final one left unpublished — comprising an oeuvre that also includes frank, feminist, sexually explicit, oft-censored essays about her various lovers; literary criticism (the English writer D.H. Lawrence was a favorite); and beloved works of fiction like “House of Incest” (1936) and “Delta of Venus” (1977), many of which she initially printed herself.

March 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP’s gibberish about ‘cancel culture’ never looked so dumb, Jennifer Rubin, right, March 20, 2022. The GOP’s profligate jennifer rubin new headshotuse of “cancel culture” — like its use of “critical race theory” and “wokeness” — has turned the phrase into an all-purpose epithet to be flung at the left. “Cancel culture” is a cry of victimhood and an accusation (the left is made up of intolerant bullies!). But it has no real meaning. It’s a way of escaping accountability or even mild public criticism for behavior that deserves social opprobrium.
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republican elephant logoWhen a right-wing politician who cheered on the Jan. 6 mob loses a book contract, he isn’t being “canceled”; his publisher is exercising good moral and business judgment. When Twitter and Facebook boots a defeated former president from their networks, they are not “canceling” him; they are forcing him to find his own platform from which he can undermine democracy.

The best proof that “cancel culture” is a vapid jibe comes from people who both the left and right can agree are immoral bullies. Russian President Vladimir Putin, widely seen as a war criminal, now whines that economic sanctions deployed in response to his brutal war of aggression amount to a campaign to “cancel” Russia.

When perpetrators of unacceptable conduct invoke “cancel culture” as their defense, they reveal not only their disgraceful character, but also the people they are trying to impress. They are appealing to the right-wing culture warriors in the United States who want to be free to insult, demean and bully others. This includes Republicans currying favor with the MAGA crowd who want to avoid criticism or the consequences of supporting an attempted coup, suppressing voting or spewing antisemitic conspiracy theories.

March 18

 

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, seen in this photograph from a state-run media organization, addressed a crowd at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Friday, March 18, 2022 (Photo by Ramil Sitdikov of Sputnik via AFP and Getty Images).

President Vladimir Putin of Russia, seen in this photograph from a state-run media organization, addressed a cheering crowd of tens of thousands at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, the city's largest, on Friday, March 18, 2022 (Photo by Ramil Sitdikov of Sputnik via AFP and Getty Images).

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Putin's many fifth columns constitute fascist toeholds around the world, Wayne Madsen, left, March 18-19, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2022. In many respects, there has not been a war in Europe like the current Russo-Ukrainian War since Adolf Hitler's armored divisions rolled across frontiers in Europe, sending millions of refugees scurrying for safety to countries around the world.

And there has not been such active fifth columns in support of fascism -- in the current situation, the Russian variety -- since Hitler's Nazis and Benito Mussolini's fascists co-opted international support from the likes of Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Father Charles Coughlin, Senator Theodore Bilbo, Oswald Mosley, Ezra Pound, and Errol Flynn.

wayne madesen report logoIn 1941, The New York Times referred to Germany's fifth column in the United States, among whose ranks included one Fred Trump, Sr., as "fools, madmen, and paid spies." That description fits nicely for Vladimir Putin's fifth column outside of Russia.

It is important to note that the very term "fifth column" was borne out of the fascist conquest of Spain by the army of General Francisco Franco, a prelude to Hitler's and Mussolini's occupation of most of Europe.

Putin's fifth column abroad can be separated into various categories, the first being those who are out-and-out fascists, Hitler admirers, and white nationalists. These include Putin's greatest asset recruiting triumph, Donald Trump.

The second fifth column includes those who claim they are progressive, Democrats, or Greens but have clearly sided with Putin because they have some tired old worn-out enmity toward NATO, the U.S. military, vaccinations, Corvairs, or sliced white bread. To these ranks we can include Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders, former U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard, perennial Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, and the cranky pedantic Trotskyists who comprise the Democratic Socialists of America.

The third set of fifth columnists are professional grifters, con men, and robber barons, including those who have profited handsomely from the largesse bestowed on them by Russian oligarchs and their money troughs. In this category we find Paul Manafort and his colleague, Rick Gates; Blackwater founder Erik Prince; retired U.S. Army Lieut. General and former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Mike Flynn; Charles Koch of Koch Industries; and Robert Herring, the founder and CEO of One America News (OAN).

March 17

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Unprecedented’ wave of hacking attacks hit Russian government websites, ministry says, Mary Ilyushina, March 17, 2022. Russian government websites and state-run media face an “unprecedented” wave of hacking attacks, the government said Thursday, prompting regulators to filter traffic coming from abroad.

In a statement, the Ministry of Digital Development and Communications said the attacks were at least twice as powerful as any previous ones. It did not elaborate on what filtering measures had been implemented, but in the past, this has often meant barring Russian government websites to users abroad.

“We are recording unprecedented attacks on the websites of government authorities,” the statement said. “If their capacity at peak times reached 500 GB earlier, it is now up to 1 TB. That is, two to three times more powerful than the most serious incidents of this type previously recorded.”

Wednesday evening, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry website was defaced by hackers, who altered its content. Notably, the hack replaced the department hotline with a number for Russian soldiers to call if they want to defect from the army — under the title “Come back from Ukraine alive.”

Computer programmers are taking aim at Russia’s propaganda wall, March 17, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon closes $8.45 billion acquisition of MGM, Cat Zakrzewski, March 17, 2022. Amazon on Thursday said that it closed its acquisition of MGM, in an $8.45 billion deal that will allow the e-commerce giant to expand its TV and movie offerings.

amazon logo smallThe deal underscores the limits of the mounting antitrust scrutiny of tech giants in Washington, with the closure happening after anti-monopoly groups and their allies pressed Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to block the deal to slow Amazon’s ftc logogrowth.

The FTC signaled it would take a tougher line on tech acquisitions under Khan’s leadership, but it is mired in a 2-2 partisan deadlock that has prevented key agenda items from moving forward.

(Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

“MGM has a nearly century-long legacy of producing exceptional entertainment, and we share their commitment to delivering a broad slate of original films and television shows to a global audience,” said Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios.

washington post logoWashington Post, Five people charged with acting as Chinese government agents to spy on and harass U.S. residents critical of Beijing, Ellen Nakashima and Shayna Jacobs, March 17, 2022. Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn have charged five people with acting on behalf of the Chinese secret police to stalk, spy on and harass U.S. residents critical of Beijing, officials announced Wednesday.

The defendants were charged in three separate cases brought by the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York as part of the Justice Department’s new strategy to counter nation-state threats.

A major focus of the strategy is fighting transnational repression by authoritarian governments. Its launch last month coincided with the shutting down of a program known as the China Initiative, following controversy fueled by what officials said was a misperception that the department was targeting ethnic Chinese for prosecution.

Justice Department officials stressed that prosecutors remained committed to cracking down on crimes such as espionage and cyberattacks, especially those directed by or benefiting foreign governments.

March 16

 

marina ovsyannikova afp via getty

Marina Ovsyannikova, the editor at the state broadcaster Channel One who protested against Russian military action in Ukraine during the evening news broadcast at the station, speaks to the media as she leaves the Ostankinsky District Court after being fined for breaching protest laws in Moscow on March 15, 2022 (AFP photo via Getty Images).

Truthout, Marina Ovsyannikova Refuses to Retract Antiwar Statements in Moscow Court, Chris Walker, March 16, 2022. Marina Ovsyannikova, a former employee of the state-run Channel One television station in Russia who protested the invasion of Ukraine by holding up a “No War” sign on the air, was offered the chance to retract her antiwar statements in a Moscow court on Tuesday.

She refused to do so, and pleaded not guilty to administrative law charges that were filed against her.

Those charges did not stem from her protest, but from the content of a pre-recorded video she made ahead of her action, in which she explained her antiwar views and how she was “embarrassed” for being part of the propaganda machine on Channel One.

“What’s happening in Ukraine right now is a true crime. And Russia is the aggressor,” she said in that video. “And the responsibility for this crime lies only on the conscience of one person, and that person is [Russia President] Vladimir Putin.”

Ovsyannikova was found guilty of violating the administrative law and fined 30,000 rubles (the equivalent of $280 USD). She could face future criminal charges for her on-air protest.

Ovsyannikova’s lawyers pointed out that her rights were being denied to her during her detainment — under Russian law, women who have children under the age of 14 cannot be detained for violating administrative laws (Ovsyannikova has two children under that age limit).

In addition to refusing to retract her statements and pleading not guilty, Ovsyannikova reiterated her viewpoints on the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine to the judge overseeing her case.

“I still believe that Russia committed a crime by attacking Ukraine,” she said. “I do not retract any of my words, it was indeed an antiwar statement.”

Speaking outside of the courthouse after being fined, Ovsyannikova shared her experience in detention, during which her lawyers presumed she was missing due to the fact that she wasn’t allowed to contact them. The dissident, whose father is Ukrainian and mother is Russian, explained that she was interrogated for more than 14 hours while under arrest, and wasn’t allowed to call any of her family to tell them what was going on.

“I spent two days without sleep,” she added.

Ovsyannikova’s protest is but one example out of thousands of Russians in the country speaking out against the Putin-ordered invasion of Ukraine. Protests have sprung up in dozens of cities across the nation, with dissidents risking their livelihoods to showcase their opposition to the war.

Earlier this month, the Kremlin made it illegal to independently report on the war or for citizens to protest against it, threatening those who violated the law with up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

As of last week, more than 13,000 Russians have been arrested for protesting the invasion of Ukraine, according to a protest monitoring group called OVD-Info.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why haven’t Apple and Google shut down their app stores in Russia? The U.S. doesn’t want them to, Joseph Menn, March 17, 2022 (print ed.). Cloudflare, Apple and Google provide ordinary Russians with the means to find independent news sources and to connect to activists and nonprofit organizations opposed to the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s digital officials and some tech-savvy expatriates in the United States have been calling for Apple and Google to cut Russia off from their app stores and for security company Cloudflare to stop protecting Pravda and Russian war propaganda sites from state-backed and activist hackers.

But civil liberties groups and American officials are pushing the other way, arguing that the three California companies provide ordinary Russians with the means to find independent news sources and to connect to activists and nonprofit organizations opposed to the war in Ukraine.

“It’s important for tech companies to maintain those channels,” said Natalia Krapiva, an attorney at digital rights group Access Now. “App stores are important alternatives for people to learn what is happening.”

Asked about the continued presence in Russia of Cloudflare, one of the world’s best-known providers of cybersecurity services, a State Department spokesperson said, “It is critical to maintain the flow of information to the people of Russia to the fullest extent possible.” The spokesperson agreed to speak only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

March 15

 

Oleksandra Kuvshynova and Pierre Zakrzewski cpj03 15 2022 washington post logoWashington Post, Fox News cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski, Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova killed near Kyiv, Jeremy Barr, March 15, 2022. Zelensky to family of slain U.S. journalist: ‘The people of Ukraine ... are mourning with you.’

Pierre Zakrzewski, a cameraman for Fox News, was killed Monday alongside a Ukrainian colleague, Oleksandra Kuvshynova (shown above), while reporting outside Kyiv, according to statements from Fox News and Ukrainian officials on Tuesday.

Both journalists were traveling in a car Monday with Fox News correspondent Benjamin Hall in the town of Horenka when the vehicle was struck by incoming fire. The network said on Monday that Hall, a State Department correspondent, has been hospitalized with his injuries, but no further update has been given on his condition.

fox news logo SmallZakrzewski, 55, an Irish citizen who was based in London, had been working in Ukraine since February. Kuvshynova, left, was serving as a consultant for Fox News in Ukraine, helping the network’s team navigate the area, gather news and speak with sources, the olelsandra kuvshynova fox pressnetwork said.

In a memo to employees Tuesday, Fox News Media chief executive Suzanne Scott said Zakrzewski had covered “nearly every international story for Fox News,” including dispatches from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. In December, Fox gave the cameraman the company’s “Unsung Hero” award for helping evacuate Afghan citizens who had worked for the network along with their families last summer.

“He was profoundly committed to telling the story and his bravery, professionalism and work ethic were renowned among journalists at every media outlet,” Scott wrote. “He was wildly popular — everyone in the media industry who has covered a foreign story knew and respected Pierre.”

Kuvshynova’s death was confirmed Tuesday afternoon by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense. A young native of Kyiv, she recently held jobs in public relations, filmmaking and the local music scene, according to her social media accounts. Yonat Friling, a senior field producer for Fox News, said that Kuvshynova worked with the network’s team for the past month and “did a brilliant job.”

 

omarosa djtPolitico, Judge imposes $61K penalty on Omarosa for failing to file financial disclosure, Josh Gerstein, March 15, 2022. The former Trump White House aide (shown above in a file photo) claimed officials held necessary files after she was fired.

A judge on Tuesday hit former White House official Omarosa Manigault Newman with a $61,585 penalty for ignoring her duty to file a financial disclosure report after she was fired from her post as a communications aide to President Donald Trump in December 2017.

politico CustomU.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon rejected Manigault Newman’s claims that her firing was so abrupt that she did not have a chance to collect her personal files, which contained financial details she said were necessary for the filing.

In an unsparing 15-page opinion, the judge also dismissed her assertion that the protracted delay in filing the report was due to a dispute over precisely which day was her final one on the White House staff.

“Manigault Newman was well aware of her obligation to file a Termination Report … having received countless reminders — but nevertheless failed to file her report for more than a year after the statutory deadline,” wrote Leon, an appointee of President George W. Bush. “This conduct establishes a willful violation.”

The Justice Department sued Manigault Newman over the missing form in June 2019. She finally filed the financial disclosure report in September of that year.

Leon agreed with Justice Department attorneys that the “egregiousness” of Manigault Newman’s actions merited the maximum allowable civil penalty under the Ethics in Government Act for the belated filing. “Manigault Newman’s years-long failure to comply with the EIGA after ‘many written and verbal reminders’ is a ‘flagrant’ violation warranting imposition of ‘the full civil penalty,’” Leon wrote.

Manigault Newman appeared as a contestant on several seasons of Trump’s TV show “The Apprentice” before taking a post as head of African-American Outreach for Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016. After Trump’s victory, she took a $179,000-a-year job as a communications adviser in the White House Office of Public Liaison. However, her relationship with other aides reportedly grew acrimonious, leading chief of staff John Kelly to fire her in a meeting in the situation room in December 2017.

Unknown to Kelly, Manigault Newman was recording the session.

“It’s important to understand that if we make this a friendly departure … you can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation,” Kelly said. He also offered to keep her on the government payroll for a month without her working, she said. She was later escorted out of the White House complex.

In heated social media exchanges about her firing and her surreptitious recordings, Trump later called her a “lowlife” and a “dog.”

Manigault Newman suggested on Tuesday that it was absurd she was being punished for failing to file a form on time, while others — perhaps alluding to her former boss or colleagues — had broken the law without consequence.

“The question remains … are there two systems of justice in this country,” she said in a message posted on Twitter. “One that allows those who violate the Hatch Act and Emoluments Clause a slap on wrist and the other that orders an unprecedented fine (highest in history) for an alleged unintentional failing to file a form?”

Manigault Newman’s attorney, John Phillips, expressed disappointment in the decision and in the Justice Department’s decision to keep pursuing the case even after President Joe Biden’s appointees took over last year.

“I’ve advised her to appeal. I’m frankly stunned by the ruling,” Phillips said in a statement sent via email. “They kept her boxes hostage, which contained the records she needed; while weaponizing litigation against her on multiple fronts. They played games with the system, which is laid out in our Motions and Responses. And a record setting fine as a penalty for public service is beyond inappropriate. Merrick Garland is supposed to be returning stability and reason back to government. This is the opposite of that. They wouldn’t even respond to my requests.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: The Case That Killed #MeToo in Sweden, Jenny Nordberg (a Swedish journalist and author based in New York), March 15, 2022. In 2017, Cissi Wallin, a Swedish journalist, posted a now infamous mirror selfie to her tens of thousands of followers on Instagram.“The powerful media man who drugged and raped me in 2006 is named Fredrik Virtanen.” She would soon learn how much trouble naming the man would cause. cissi wallinThe post led to a maelstrom on social media and in the news. Cissi Wallin convicted of gross libel.

As Flight SK946 rounded the southern tip of Greenland, with her husband and 2-year-old son quietly sleeping next to her, Cissi Wallin felt her resolve begin to harden. Two generations of silence was enough.

Her mother and her grandmother, too, told her they had mostly kept quiet when they’d been mistreated by men. It’s what women did back then, they’d said.

But as the plane carried Ms. Wallin, a Swedish writer and actor, from Chicago back to Stockholm that night in October 2017, her thoughts were on what was happening in America. Harvey Weinstein had just been exposed and was fired within days. Something seemed to be gathering momentum. Within a few weeks, women across the country and the world would be saying it out loud: Me Too.

A week after the flight, after working out, skipping her shower and drinking several mugs of strong coffee at a cafe near her house, Ms. Wallin posted a mirror selfie to her tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. “The powerful media man who drugged and raped me in 2006 is named Fredrik Virtanen,” the caption began.

Today — more than four years later — Mr. Virtanen has never been charged with any crime in connection to his encounter with Ms. Wallin. (He has denied her allegations.) She, meanwhile, is a convicted criminal, at risk of prison time.

In 2019 she was charged with and convicted of defamation, after Mr. Virtanen reported her to the police. Other Swedish men have pursued similar tactics: At least 12 criminal convictions have followed of women who had told their own stories since the #MeToo movement began.

And now, in what might be a low point in Ms. Wallin’s quest for the right to speak about what she says happened to her, she’s about to be prosecuted again — after self-publishing a memoir about her experience. Although the book doesn’t name the man, if she’s convicted, the government will seek to have all unsold hard copies of her book destroyed.

Even today, in the post-Stieg Larsson era, Sweden retains its reputation as the feminist capital of the world. Much of that reputation is deserved: In Sweden, 480 days of parental leave is standard; fathers can be spotted pushing strollers around on any given day in the capital’s parks; sexual encounters are — in theory, at least— governed by a consent law; the government even officially proclaims itself “feminist.”

And still, the outpouring of testimonials at the height of #MeToo was striking. More than 60,000 Swedish women signed appeals, many of which detailed personal stories ranging from sexual harassment to sexual assault at workplaces and beyond.

But what marked the Swedish version of #MeToo as unusual is that this outpouring of testimonials took place almost completely anonymously: few women were willing to come forward to be identified as the victims, and only a handful of the accused men were named.

March 14

Press Run, Commentary: Covid Nation — press shrugs as Biden restores "normalcy,” Eric Boehlert, right, March 14, 2022. Covid cases evaporate. The media’s eric.boehlertgoalpost moving on Covid has become exhausting.

For months, the press hammered President Joe Biden for not returning “normalcy” to America, especially as the Omicron variant surged. Thankfully, new cases have fallen 95 percent from a peak of 800,000. In New York City, which got pummeled by the surge, officials now count fewer than 700 new infections each day, down 99 percent from the winter spike. The pandemic is not over (Barack Obama just tested positive), but the news is mostly good these days.

That’s why so many mask mandates have been lifted nationwide, and virtually all schools are open.

What’s the media’s response to that long-awaited turn for the better? They shrug and move on. Instead of celebrating and crediting the Biden administration, returning towards normalcy has instead stirred “disappointment, frustration and queasy ambivalence,” according to a New York Times front-page piece on Sunday. Using anecdotes only, the article suggested that lots of residents in “Covid cautious cities” are reluctant to return to normal.

Talk about heads you lose, tails you lose. The Times somehow managed to frame Covid’s rapid decline in the U.S as upsetting news. (People are “bewildered.”) Can you imagine the coverage today if cases under Biden were still rising?

The press, which treated Covid as the most important news event for two years and hung it around Biden’s neck like a political anchor for the last nine months, suddenly thinks gas prices in the U.S. represents a bigger news story.

Americans have noticed the welcome Covid developments. Eight in ten acknowledge we are in a better place than we were a year ago. Approval for Biden’s handling of the pandemic jumped eight points in the most recent NPR poll. And Google searches of “Covid,” a good indication of public anxiety, are now at their lowest point of the two-year pandemic. (85 percent of Americans 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine.)

For months this winter, the press was adamant Covid represented the defining issue of the Biden administration. It was the “central crisis” according to NPR. Added Puck, “Presidencies are just as defined by events beyond one’s control as they are by promises, and the primary culprit for Biden’s woes is an unmistakable five-letter word that would slot nicely into the first row of a morning Wordle: COVID.”

CNN not long ago demanded Biden address his Covid “crisis,” stressing that the pandemic had led to a sense “that events at home and abroad are cascading out of control.” Covid this year spurred, “growing doubts over whether [Biden] can fulfill his promise to solve problems,” according to the network.

When the U.S. economy added nearly 700,000 new jobs in February, Politico announced it represented a “rare spot of bright news” for Biden’s “mired” presidency. Apparently, Covid cases plummeting to pandemic lows in 2022 doesn’t constitute a “bright” spot.

Today as infections plunge, the topic has virtually disappeared. “Covid” mentions on cable news during the first two weeks of March are down nearly 90 percent compared to the first two weeks of January, according to TVeyes. (References dropped nearly 95 percent on CNN, from 1,170 to 85.)

It’s true that the mainstream media are more interested in relaying bad news vs. good news, simply because it’s more compelling and likely more alluring to news consumers. But the Covid coverage represents a telling example of how an issue that the press itself claimed would define the Biden administration gets translated into no news when it turns towards positive territory. Look for the same look-away coverage when gas prices and inflation eventually go down.

Some might argue that Covid coverage has been thinned out because there’s an unprecedented land invasion taking place in Ukraine and the media are rightly focusing their time and resources on that life-and-death story. That argument would ring true if the same press corps — and especially TV news — didn’t lose its mind last week with its around-the-clock gas price coverage. ‘Breathless’ barely begins to describe the relentless, hyperbole-laced reportage that has dominated the airwaves in recent days.

In that environment, the good news about Covid — and the good news for the White House — has been treated as an afterthought.

Ukraine bumped lots of stories off the front page and off the airwaves, including Covid’s sharp decline in America. Still, the press made sure to carve out oceans of space to constantly remind news consumers that gas prices are up, and that is trouble for Biden. Over that same, recent seven-day period, “gas” was mentioned a total 1220 times on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC, compared to “Covid” being referenced just 205 times.

The salivating press lost touch with context and reality, last week treating the bloody, murderous war in Ukraine as being just slightly more pressing than the fact Americans are paying $10 more each week at the gas pump. (Fox News: 720 “Kyiv” mentions, 605 “gas” references.)

Covid remains a hugely important story today and should be covered that way, even if most of the news is good.

March 13

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How the right embraced Russian disinformation about ‘U.S. bioweapons labs’ in Ukraine, Glenn Kessler, March 13, 2022 (print ed.). Russia for years has been seeding the ground to claim that the United States set up bioweapons labs in Ukraine. The effort paid off when remarks by a State Department official were twisted to suggest the falsehood was confirmed.

maria zarkhova Custom“Bioweapon labs in Ukraine prove US criminal activity, diplomat says”

— headline of Tass news article, quoting Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, right, the morning of March 9

“Under oath in an open committee hearing, Toria Nuland just confirmed that the Russian disinformation they’ve been telling us for days is a lie and a conspiracy theory and crazy and immoral to believe is, in fact, totally and completely true.”

tucker carlsonTucker Carlson, right, remarks on his Fox News show, the evening of March 9

 

Russian disinformation often begins with a speck of fact, which is then twisted into a full-blown conspiracy theory. The technique makes it easier to spread and take root among the country’s supporters. Note how quickly the party line uttered by the Russian Foreign Ministry was embraced by Carlson.

In this instance, Russia for years has been seeding the ground to claim that the United States set up biowarfare labs in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics. Then, brief remarks by Victoria Nuland, the undersecretary of state for political affairs, were twisted to provide “confirmation” of the disinformation program.

The Facts

The Russian claims about Ukrainian labs bear the earmarks of the Soviet Union’s long-running campaign of false allegations that the United States used biological weapons. The KGB, for instance, in the early 1980s spread false claims that a U.S.-funded research project in Pakistan was sending “killer mosquitoes” into Afghanistan, leading to local outrage that ended the program.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, former officials admitted the fabrications. But Russian disinformation about biological weapons resumed again in earnest after Vladimir Putin took control in 1999, according to a 2021 article in the Nonproliferation Review by Milton Leitenberg of the University of Maryland. Leitenberg says the effort is designed to distract from Russian’s own biological weapons program.

Here are the specks of truth that Russian officials are using to spread their propaganda. The labs were initially funded by the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), as part of its cooperative biological engagement program. And the labs do study African swine fever — but with the aim of preventing its spread.

Nevertheless, despite the constant debunking, the Russian propaganda that the United States has bioweapons labs in Ukraine has taken root, robert malone headshotespecially on the right, with the hashtag #usbiolabs trending on Twitter as the Russian invasion of Ukraine commenced. “Would the Russian invasion of Ukraine be justified if it were for biodefense?” asked Robert W. Malone, right, a prominent vaccine skeptic, on March 9.

The latest iteration of this claim was sparked by a brief exchange during a Senate hearing on March 8 between Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Nuland. Rubio, left, asked whether Ukraine has biological or chemical weapons. Nuland responded by talking about the research marco rubio official.jpg Smalllabs and the U.S. concern that Russia would get access to them.

“Ukraine has biological research facilities, which, in fact, we are now quite concerned Russian troops, Russian forces, may be seeking to gain control of,” Nuland replied. “So, we are working with the Ukrainians on how they can prevent any of those research materials from falling into the hands of Russian forces should they approach.”

Following the lead of the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman — who asserted Nuland’s comment was proof of the United States’ “illegal and criminal activity on Ukrainian soil” — Carlson and many others on the right jumped to the conclusion that this meant the labs really were biological weapons facilities.

Carlson briefly acknowledged numerous fact checks that previously had debunked the claim but then embraced the latest Russian spin as the truth. Russian state TV then featured Carlson’s take the next day, completing the circle.

Donald Trump Jr. gleefully tweeted a clip of Nuland, saying: “Well that went from conspiracy theory to Senate testimony in about 6 days … It used to take six months to go from conspiracy theory to fact.”

fox news logo Small(Never mind that in 2020, during Trump’s father’s presidency, the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine expressly denied Russia’s renewed claim that Ukraine possessed U.S.-funded bioweapon labs after China’s Foreign Ministry echoed that falsehood to distract from scrutiny of the origins of the coronavirus.)

In reality, Nuland’s statement about “biological research facilities” did not confirm allegations of bioweapons labs. African swine fever, for instance, is not a human pathogen. But it does devastate pigs and can be used as an economic weapon, so it is considered by the United States to be a potential biowarfare agent — especially in countries (such as the United States) with little experience with it.

Asked on Thursday to expand on Nuland’s comment, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said medical facilities “all have equipment, pathogens or other things that you have to have restrictions around because you need to be sure it is being treated and handled appropriately.” She said there was a concern the Russians could misuse materials, even if not designed for weapons, “in dangerous ways or create challenges for the population.”

The Pinocchio Test

Under Putin, Russia has a biological weapons program, one that it has clearly used to target its opponents. Yet it tried to provide cover for its activities by repeatedly charging that the United States, through facilities it has funded in countries like Ukraine, has its own bioweapons program.

As we said, it’s straight out of the old Soviet playbook. But that doesn’t mean prominent commentators like Carlson should be so quick to fall for it.

 

Brent Renaud, right, and his brother Craig Renaud in Little Rock, Ark., in 2007 (Photo by Oscar Hidalgo for The New York Times).

Brent Renaud, right, and his brother Craig Renaud in Little Rock, Ark., in 2007 (Photo by Oscar Hidalgo for The New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, An award-winning American video journalist was killed while reporting in a suburb of Kyiv, a local official said, Michael Schwirtz, March 13, 2022. Brent Renaud, an award-winning American filmmaker and journalist, was killed in Ukraine on Sunday while reporting in a suburb of the capital, Kyiv, according to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry.

Mr. Renaud, 50, had worked for a number of American news and media organizations in the past, including HBO, NBC and The New York Times. The Ukrainian authorities said he was killed in Irpin, a suburb that has been the site of intense shelling by Russian forces in recent days, but the details of his death were not immediately clear. Ukrainian officials said another journalist was wounded as well.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, said in a statement that Mr. Renaud “paid with his life for attempting to expose the insidiousness, cruelty and ruthlessness of the aggressor.”

Mr. Renaud had contributed to The Times in previous years, most recently in 2015, but he was not on assignment for the company in Ukraine. Early reports that he was working for The Times in Ukraine circulated because he was found with a Times press badge that had been issued for an assignment years ago.

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ny times logoNew York Times, First Amendment Scholars Want to See the Media Lose These Cases, Jeremy W. Peters, March 13, 2022. Some legal experts say it is time to draw a sharp line between protected speech and harmful disinformation.

The lawyers and First Amendment scholars who have made it their life’s work to defend the well-established but newly threatened constitutional protections for journalists don’t usually root for the media to lose in court.

But that’s what is happening with a series of recent defamation lawsuits against right-wing outlets that legal experts say could be the most significant libel litigation in recent memory.

fox news logo SmallThe suits, which are being argued in several state and federal courts, accuse Project Veritas, Fox News, The Gateway Pundit, One America News and others of intentionally promoting and profiting from false claims of voter fraud during the 2020 election, and of smearing innocent civil servants and businesses in the process.

If the outlets prevail, these experts say, the results will call into question more than a half-century of precedent that created a clear legal framework for establishing when news organizations can be held liable for publishing something that’s not true.

Libel cases are difficult to prove in the United States. Among other things, public figures have to show that someone has published what the Supreme Court has called a “calculated falsehood” or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.

But numerous First Amendment lawyers said they thought the odds were strong that at least one of these outlets would suffer a rare loss at trial, given the extensive and well-documented evidence against them.

That “may well turn out to be a good thing,” said Lee Levine, a veteran First Amendment lawyer who has defended some of the biggest media outlets in the country in libel cases.

The high legal bar to prove defamation had become an increasingly sore subject well before the 2020 election, mainly but not exclusively among conservatives, prompting calls to reconsider the broad legal immunity that has shielded journalists since the landmark 1964 Supreme Court decision New York Times v. Sullivan. Critics include politicians like former President Donald J. Trump and Sarah Palin, who lost a defamation suit against The Times last month and has asked for a new trial, as well as two Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch.

Mr. Levine said a finding of liability in the cases making their way through the courts could demonstrate that the bar set by the Sullivan case did what it was supposed to: make it possible to punish the intentional or extremely reckless dissemination of false information while protecting the press from lawsuits over inadvertent errors.

 

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, volunteer Trump attorney John Eastman, a law professor, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bobb are shown working in a Willard Hotel "War Room" near almost across the street from White House grounds with fellow Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 in a photo by a fellow Trump supporter.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Major media outlets are finally warming up to the growing signs that the DOJ may be criminally targeting Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, bill palmerright, March 13, 2022. Signs have been brewing for months that the DOJ might be criminally targeting Trump, which we’ve been steadily documenting here at Palmer Report.

Now that major media outlets are finally waking up to this trend, it’s a good time to revisit what the DOJ would want to have in hand in order to charge Trump: one or more key co-conspirators flipping on him.

bill palmer report logo headerTo get a trial conviction against a crime boss like Trump who mostly doesn’t do his own dirty work, rarely uses email or texts, and often gives henchmen instructions in code words, you need one of those henchmen to testify that Trump really was instructing them to commit the crimes they committed.

Justice Department log circularThat’s why it’s so crucial that Roger Stone’s Oath Keeper driver cut a seditious conspiracy plea deal last week. If the DOJ can convince Stone that it has him nailed, and that he’s better off flipping now than going to trial, the DOJ gains a witness who can get Trump convicted.

It’s also why the DOJ case against Rudy Giuliani, which was stalled by the courts for about eight months in a battle over attorney-client privilege that was just recently resolved (largely in the DOJ’s favor), is now so relevant.

“So if the DOJ has Stone and Giuliani nailed already, why not just indict them?” Because it’s not about nailing them. It’s about nailing them so thoroughly, they REALIZE they’re nailed, and flip. Otherwise you have to wait a long time for their trial conviction, before they flip.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Whitmer Kidnapping Trial, Lawyers Debate Defendants’ Free Speech, Frances Robles, March 13, 2022. The case of what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to kidnap Gretchen Whitmer, Michigan’s governor, is testing the government’s ability to root out extremism.

Few people took the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions that swept the world in the spring of 2020 harder than the far-right extremist Adam Fox.

The burden of being unable to work out at shuttered gyms offended Mr. Fox to his core, so he took to recording Facebook videos to rant about what he viewed as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s tyrannical regime. Ms. Whitmer of Michigan, a Democrat, had mandated masks, canceled school and closed most commerce, and for militia movement members like Mr. Fox, she personified everything going so wrong in America.

He suggested a citizen’s arrest.

“We want her flex-cuffed on a table,” Mr. Fox, 38, said in a recording played in court.

Mr. Fox and three fellow militia members are now on trial at the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Michigan in connection with what prosecutors say was a conspiracy to kidnap Ms. Whitmer and blow up a bridge a few miles from her lakeside vacation cottage to delay the police response. The trial, which opened with jury selection on Tuesday and is expected to take up to six weeks, is an important and unusual domestic terrorism prosecution that will test the government’s ability to root out violent right-wing extremism on American soil, particularly in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol last year.

As the Covid-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections helped fuel a rise of extremism, the case offers a rare inside look at the secretive world of militia groups that use social media, encrypted apps, field training exercises and secret meetings to discuss violent uprisings.

The suspects — some survivalists, others who hoped to foment a new civil war — have framed the case as a critical examination of something entirely different: the country’s commitment to free speech. To them, the legal proceedings underway at the federal courthouse in Grand Rapids, Mich., before Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker put a spotlight on an overreaching government willing to manufacture plots to criminalize free speech and crack down on the government’s perceived enemies. Although Judge Jonker had initially ruled that he would limit the use of an entrapment defense, he changed course after opening statements.

But even as defense lawyers argue that the alleged conspiracy amounted to nothing more than trash talk from drug users, prosecutors contend that hundreds of hours of the defendants’ own words, surreptitiously recorded by informants and presented as evidence in support of the charges of kidnapping, conspiracy and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, are the very thing that will do them in. If found guilty, they potentially face life sentences.

“I’m going to do some of the most nasty, disgusting things that you have ever read about in the history of your life,” one of the defendants, Barry G. Croft Jr., 46, of Delaware, said as he was secretly recorded chronicling his plans to sow mayhem. He went on to explain how packing pennies in explosives could cause even more injuries and how he had thought about killing police officers and federal agents.

“They’re looking forward to the civil war,” Jonathan Roth, an assistant U.S. attorney, said. “They’re getting ready for it, and they’re looking for ways to start it.”

 

nicaragua map

daniel ortega composite

washington post logoWashington Post, Nicaraguan presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro convicted in crackdown on opposition, Ismael López Ocampo and Mary Beth Sheridan, March 13, 2022. Chamorro, the most prominent of dozens of political activists arrested by Nicaragua’s government, faces up to 13 years in jail.

Cristiana Chamorro, the most prominent of dozens of political activists arrested by Nicaragua’s government, has been found guilty of money-laundering and other charges, part of a judicial offensive that could derail any serious challenge to President Daniel Ortega for years. Ortega is shown above in file photos spanning his decades in power or as a left-wing opposition leader.

polish flag wavingChamorro, 68, is the daughter of former president Violeta Chamorro and a member of one of the best-known political dynasties in Central America. Cristiana Chamorro was placed under house arrest in June, as she was emerging as a leading candidate in presidential elections. After locking up his potential opponents, Ortega cruised to a fourth consecutive term in November.

Cristiana Chamorro, 68, had served as editor of the country’s largest newspaper, the family-run La Prensa, and as director of a press-freedom foundation named after her mother.

She, her brother Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, and three other people who were involved with the foundation were found guilty on Friday, at the end of a week-long trial, according to relatives. Prosecutors had maintained the organization received money from overseas to destabilize the government, a charge the defendants denied. Cristiana Chamorro faces up to 13 years in jail, while her brother, a former lawmaker, could get up to seven years.

“As my siblings said in court, this trial has the goal of staining the legacy of our parents — an objective that will not be achieved,” said Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a journalist, in a telephone interview from exile in Costa Rica. The Chamorros’ father, also named Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, was the best-known opposition figure confronting the right-wing Somoza dictatorship when he was shot dead in 1978.

Nicaragua's Ortega is strangling La Prensa, one of Latin America's most storied newspapers

Some analysts had expected Ortega to ease his crackdown on the opposition after his November reelection. Instead, the judicial system has convicted more than 30 opposition activists, many charged with treason.

ny times logoNew York Times, Former employees of RT America described what it was like to work for Russian state television, Cecilia Kang, March 13, 2022 (print ed.). For eight years, Lee Camp hosted a weekly show on RT America that aimed to satirize American politics, finding punchlines in subjects like sanctions against Afghanistan and student debt forgiveness. That ended unceremoniously on March 3, a week after Russian airstrikes began in Ukraine, when the Russian-state-funded network suddenly shut down.

Now, Mr. Camp is fuming about it.

He blamed the “U.S. government war machine” for RT America’s defeat and lamented what he saw as corporate media’s victory in squelching alternative views like his.

rt logoMore than 100 people lost their jobs at the network, which the Russian state media outlet RT created more than a decade ago to offer a counternarrative to CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. It had headquarters in Washington and bureaus in New York, Los Angeles and Miami, and produced a full slate of news, comedy and political commentary programs available on cable and satellite television and online.

A role at RT America was a rare job in an industry where if you had screwed up, were washed up or were completely new to the field, there weren’t many other options. RT America was where Rick Sanchez, who had lost his anchor gig at CNN, was given a second shot, and where Mr. Camp, a standup comedian, made his way to the television set with the potential to reach tens of millions of cable subscribers with RT America on their menus.

Opportunities abounded. Young reporters were promoted to anchors and teleprompter technicians to control room operators within months. Rachel Blevins co-hosted a show, “Boom Bust,” four years out of college.

For the employees who swiped into the second-floor office in downtown Washington, a few blocks from the White House, RT America offered good pay and benefits in the fiercely competitive cable news job market.

It looked and felt like a typical American cable news network, with flashy live studios ensconced in fishbowl glass walls, stylish leather furniture in the green room and free bagels with schmears on Fridays.

“It was actually so normal,” Ms. Blevins said.

In interviews with 11 former employees of RT America, some who were working there when it shut down and some who worked there in the network’s earlier days, many stressed that they were against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and some had criticized the invasion on air.

But they are now grappling with having worked at a company that American television distributors kicked off their platforms days before RT America closed down. Several former employees would discuss their experience only on the condition of anonymity for fear of drawing attention to the affiliation.

March 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Putin’s moves against U.S. tech giants set stage for crackdown on free speech, Greg Miller and Joseph Menn, March 12, 2022. Google and Apple blinked after direct threats from Russian agents.

Russian agents came to the home of Google’s top executive in Moscow to deliver a frightening ultimatum last September: take down an app that had drawn the ire of Russian President Vladimir Putin within 24 hours or be taken to prison.

google logo customGoogle quickly moved the woman to a hotel where she checked in under an assumed name and might be protected by the presence of other guests and hotel security, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The same agents — believed by company officials to be from Russia’s FSB, a successor to the KGB intelligence service — then showed up at her room to tell her the clock was still ticking.

Within hours, an app designed to help Russians register protest votes against Putin could no longer be downloaded from Google or Apple, whose main representative in Moscow faced a similarly harrowing sequence. Titans of American technology had been brought to their knees by some of the most primitive intimidation tactics in the Kremlin playbook.

apple logo rainbowThe unnerving encounters, which have not previously been disclosed, were part of a broader campaign that Putin intensified last year to erode sources of internal opposition — moves now helping him maintain his hold on power amid a global backlash over the invasion of Ukraine.

In a single year, Putin had his political nemesis Alexei Navalny imprisoned after a poisoning attempt failed to kill him; pushed independent news outlets to the brink of extinction; orchestrated a Kremlin-controlled takeover of Russia’s Facebook equivalent; and issued “liquidation” orders against human rights organizations.

Amid this internal offensive, Putin also moved to bring foreign technology companies to heel. Moscow deployed new devices that let it degrade or even block Russians’ access to Facebook and Twitter, imposed fines totaling $120 million on firms accused of defying Kremlin censors, and ordered 13 of the world’s largest technology companies to keep employees in Russia and thus exposed to potential arrest or other punishment for their employers’ actions — a measure that U.S. executives refer to as the “hostage law.”

March 11

 

World War

ukraine olena kurilo 52 teacher Russian missile Chuhuiv amazon

52 year-old Ukrainian teacher Olena Kurilo following a Russian missile strike in Chuhuiv, Ukraine.

Proof, The Ten Hardest Truths About the War in Europe, Seth Abramson, left, March 11, 2020. The author of a bestseller on Russia, Ukraine, and links seth abramson graphicbetween the Russia-Ukraine conflict and U.S. politics reveals 10 terrifying things about the worst military crisis in Europe since 1945.

Introduction: I’ve been nervous about publishing this article ever since I started writing it.

The reason for my anxiety will be familiar to anyone inside or outside the American government who has extensively researched Vladimir Putin and understands what the current atrocities in Europe represent: a terrifying new stage in the war against the West that Putin has been waging for twenty years, and that he’s been winning for at least half that time in part because many in the West remain unaware they’re at war.

seth abramson proof logoTo write at length about Putin and his twenty-first-century infiltrations of Western democracies and their institutions—as I did in the “Proof” trilogy—is to run the risk of seeming not just alarmist but almost ludicrously paranoid. It’s only the fact that all the warnings those who’ve written extensively about Putin have been giving for years are now coming to horrific fruition that it even feels safe to write candidly about what we’re all now experiencing.

Academics can debate whether our current period is in the umbra of the same Cold War that dominated the last century, or a new one; whether we’re on the doorstep of World War III, or are already in it; whether the conditions on the ground in Europe today are most reflective of the eve of World War I or World War II; but what no one can deny is that what is happening in Ukraine is not merely a “news story” or even a spate of well-televised war crimes but a fundamental shifting of our age toward chaos.

There is no need to rehash the core facts beyond this brief summary: Putin is a former KGB agent and current murderous autocrat who is almost certain to be a dictator over Russia until his death; he has repeatedly said that the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century was the 1991 fall of the Communist Soviet Union; he seeks to reconstitute the land area of the Soviet Union by whatever means necessary and over however long a period of time is required, though he understands that this cannot be accomplished without the dissolution or destruction of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization defensive alliance (NATO) and possibly both the European Union and the United States; the post-Soviet government in Russia, including (indeed perhaps especially) Putin’s KGB, began searching for ways to collapse American democracy through asymmetrical warfare from the moment the Soviet Union passed into history; and some significant portion of the current domestic political strife in the United States has been deliberately provoked by the Kremlin and its agents through acts of subterfuge, espionage, propaganda, and hacking that properly answer to the name war.

Yesterday, a former high-ranking official in the Donald Trump administration, Miles Taylor, said that the current Trumpist-Putinist Republican Party is far and away the greatest national security threat America has faced in his lifetime. That he is correct is confirmed not just by the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trumpist irregulars or the fact that former president Trump—to please Putin and ensure his own future business opportunities in Russia—put every U.S. alliance and interest lying beyond our shores at risk, but the fact that America is now in a global conflict (call it the Cold War, World War III, or Second Cold War, as you like) at a time when Trump and Trumpism have deliberately put our body politic at a point of permanent fracture. That most Americans still do not understand what Putin is trying to do and the cost that will be exacted upon the United States as he seeks to do it means that the coming months and perhaps years will be the darkest and most fraught in a century.

Because Putin has now advanced from waging a “hot” cyberwar on America’s sacred electoral infrastructure to waging a hot conventional war on the European continent, everything is now in play that was previously only a harrowing specter in books like Proof of Collusion (Simon & Schuster, 2018), Proof of Conspiracy (Macmillan, 2019), and Proof of Corruption (Macmillan, 2020). Putin has already threatened the world with nuclear war; facing the most comprehensive sanctions ever leveled against a major global power, he has categorized those sanctions as themselves an act of war (thus, at least theoretically, permitting an immediate military response from Russia); there are already significant signs that the war in Europe will destabilize Earth’s international economy for the foreseeable future; the war has also shifted global alliances in such an extraordinary fashion and to such a dramatic degree that America’s supposed allies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will not speak to the president of the United States, and the United States has now sent emissaries to negotiate with our long-time enemies in Venezuela. Gas prices just hit a historic high and show no signs of coming down rather than going up. Thousands of civilians are now being killed in Ukraine because they lack air cover, and yet the United States has just declared that it has no appetite for aiding Ukraine in rebuilding its air force via MiG-29s from Poland.

In short, we’re in the earliest days of a sequence of global events whose end none can know but whose present is a darkness deeper than anyone younger than 85 has known.

By and large, American media has so far done yeoman’s work covering the fighting in Europe. While certain news articles published in the United States have endangered the Ukrainian resistance by giving explicit descriptions of its defensive operations and placement, the fact that so many leading American journalists are now embedded in Ukrainian cities has given those of us who care about the indiscriminate killing of women and children—which at this point appears to be approximately half our nation at most—an unmistakable sense that the System of the World is unraveling. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who his aides say has survived more than a dozen assassination attempts in just the last two weeks, may be speaking first and foremost on behalf of the nation he leads when he says the Ukrainians are now fighting for the preservation of Western democracy—and against the global march of autocracy that our own president, Joe Biden, has so often spoken of—but his personal investment in this framing does not make the claim incorrect. While the NATO alliance has refused (and will continue to refuse) to deploy its forces into Europe’s current theater of war, this strategic decision in no way obviates the reality that right now the Ukrainians are indeed the world’s foremost proxies for capital-“d” Democracy.

In the coming weeks and months, Americans will be repeatedly confronted with the question of how much we’re willing to sacrifice to preserve our nation and preserve the very notion of democracy on the global stage. Unfortunately, during the COVID-19 pandemic we learned that at least half of America is unwilling to have its daily routine at all disturbed by a global or even domestic tragedy; there’s no reason to expect we’ll answer the call of history any more honorably now that it’s a political principle and the integrity of American democracy at stake rather than hundreds of millions of lives.

Of course, the impact of what’s happening now in Europe will fall upon the shoulders of hundreds of millions soon enough. Already we’re learning that the war in Ukraine is launching a refugee crisis the likes of which the West hasn’t seen since World War II, with the near certainty that at least 5 million Ukrainians will ultimately cross a national border to flee the war crimes Putin is presently inflicting on their homeland. But beyond this ever-expanding refugee crisis, and the morally intolerable civilian deaths in cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv and Mariupol, lies the fact that many millions in European democracies like Finland and Latvia and Estonia and Lithuania now feel under military threat from Russian aggression, as will those in Romania and Poland if (or more likely when) Ukraine is annexed in its totality by Russia. The economic and geopolitical effects of having the world’s largest country by land area—and its second-largest military—become a “pariah state” encompass the lives of hundreds of millions more than the tragedy in Ukraine has already affected. And that’s only in the medium term.

This essay seeks to speak candidly about this medium-range outlook, and to do so in terms that American media has so far eschewed—in part because it is habitually and temperamentally “present-oriented,” and in part because it has missed the fact, as have most Americans, that our country is, sadly, already implicitly at war with Russia.

While this may seem an inauspiciously hot-headed and alarmist start to what intends to be a sober essay on the very geopolitics that I wrote three national bestsellers about over the last forty months, understand that with the advent of the internet and the establishment of a global economy there was never a chance that World War III would look like World War II or World War I. The war we are in now is very much a twenty-first-century war, which doesn’t mean that there are no conventional components to it—as the Ukrainians are learning right now, with devastating consequences—but that if we fail to appreciate the unconventional components of international warfare in this century we are dooming ourselves to defeat at the very moment that the inchoate and unconventional aggressions of our enemies have become conventional and dire.

With all this said, here are ten truths that American media and American voters need to come to terms with immediately.

 

The Ten Hardest Truths About the War in Europe

(1) America is now in a world war.

If you’re one of those people who—like the notoriously geopolitically unsophisticated Trumpists, who speak so often of courage yet categorically oppose any instance of it—have always thought that World War III would feature the same sort of military, para- military, and asymmetrical logistics that World War I and World War II did, you need to rearrange your thinking immediately. While major international military conflicts always bear certain hallmarks—for instance, war crimes, so-called collateral damage, and the threatened use (or use) of weapons of mass destruction—the chances that a global military conflict in 2022 would look like a global military conflict that began on September 1, 1939 (let alone one that began on July 28, 1914) were always zero. Don’t be fooled by the fact that what’s happening now indeed exhibits certain similarities to what happened when Nazi Germany invaded Eastern Europe at the close of the 1930s, whether it’s the fact that Eastern Europe has again been invaded by a global military power with an autocratic leader, that fears of a genocide in Europe again dominate international political discourse, or that the use of nuclear weapons already hangs over the world like a glowering spectre. 2022 is, nevertheless, not 1939, and no amount of far-right Putin apologists whining about “liberals” wanting to drag America into a war with Russia will change the simple fact that America is already at war with Russia.

This war is a worldwide conflict that could last as many as a hundred years—think of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (1337-1453) rather than World War I or World War II—and began upon the conclusion of hostilities in the European theater of WWII in 1945. The principal disputants have from the start been the United States and Russia, and while one could certainly question the instances in which one or the other of the two parties pushed the dispute into outright military conflict (e.g., the Korean War, the disaster at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam War, or the 1979-to-1989 Soviet-Afghan War that the United States involved itself in by coordinating with men who’d later turn their violent attentions on America), one of the least-discussed errors that either side has made during this Second Hundred Years’ War was made by America: many of our diplomats, generals, and politicians believed the war had ended when the Soviet Union fell. By the time GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney was correctly telling Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama that the Russians were still America’s foremost geopolitical opponents, it was all then-President Obama could do not to laugh in Romney’s face. And back in 2012, U.S. media scored the point for Obama.....

(6) The costs of the current world war may well be more than Americans are willing to bear—and if a majority of Americans come to wrongly believe that it’s President Biden rather than Vladimir Putin and his allies (very much including Donald Trump) who’ve brought the world to its current pass, they’ll punish the Democrats and reward the Republicans. Yet doing so would play into Putin’s hands.

Seth Abramson, shown above and at right, is founder of Proof and is a former criminal defense attorney and criminal investigator who teaches digital journalism, seth abramson resized4 proof of collusionlegal advocacy, and cultural theory at the University of New Hampshire. A regular political and legal analyst on CNN and the BBC during the Trump presidency, he is a best-selling author who has published eight books and edited five anthologies.

Abramson is a graduate of Dartmouth College, Harvard Law School, the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the Ph.D. program in English at University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include a Trump trilogy: Proof of Corruption: Bribery, Impeachment, and Pandemic in the Age of Trump (2020); Proof of Conspiracy: How Trump's International Collusion Is Threatening American Democracy (2019); and Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018).

March 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: 4 Falsehoods Russians Are Told About the War, Stuart A. Thompson, March 10, 2022. Russia’s international disinformation campaign seemed to flounder in the early days of the invasion, as narratives about Ukrainian bravery dominated the internet. But in Russia, the country’s propaganda machine was busy churning out a deluge of misinformation aimed at its own citizens.

The narrative disseminated online through state-run and unofficial channels has helped create an alternate reality where the invasion is justified and Ukrainians are to blame for violence. To control the narrative at home, Russia also shut down access to several websites and threatened the news media with long prison sentences for criticizing the war. There’s some evidence that the effort has mollified at least some Russians.

Here is what the war looks like to Russians, based on a review of state news articles, channels on the popular chat app Telegram, and input from several disinformation watchdogs who are monitoring Russia’s propaganda machine.

Some of the most disturbing images from the war have come from Mariupol, a port city in the southeastern coast. Shelling battered the region, killing several civilians who were trying to flee the area, during what was supposed to be a cease-fire.

But Russians got a different explanation online: Ukrainians had fired on Russian forces during the cease-fire, and neo-Nazis were “hiding behind civilians as a human shield,” according to the Russian state news website Tass.

Neo-Nazis have been a recurring character in Russian propaganda campaigns for years, used to falsely justify military action against Ukraine in what Russian officials have called “denazification.” Those claims have only continued during the conflict. To explain away attacks on other Ukrainian apartment buildings, the same article by Tass claimed that neo-Nazis had placed “heavy weapons in apartment buildings, while some residents are forcibly kept in their homes,” providing no evidence.

Russian social media accounts have used a mix of fake and unconfirmed photos showing Ukrainian soldiers holding Nazi flags or photos of Hitler. An analysis by the Center for Information Resilience, a nonprofit focused on identifying disinformation, showed that the number of tweets connecting Ukrainians to Nazis soared after the invasion began.

“Propaganda works when it coincides with your existing assumptions,” said Pierre Vaux, a senior investigator at the Center for Information Resilience. “The stuff that chimes into the Nazi stuff is really effective.”

After Russia attacked an area near the nuclear complex in Zaporizhzhia, leading to a fire, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine called it “nuclear terrorism.”

But according to a Kremlin statement reported in Tass, the military seized the facility to prevent Ukrainians and neo-Nazis from “organizing provocations fraught with catastrophic consequences.” Even though Ukrainians heavily fortified the region against an attack, Russian officials claimed they already had control of the compound before Ukrainians opened fire. They added that Ukrainians set fire to an adjacent building before fleeing, providing no evidence. Western experts said controlling the Zaporizhzhia complex would allow Russia to trigger blackouts or shut down the entire power grid.

The image of Russia as a world protector surfaced again after the country’s officials claimed they discovered evidence that Ukraine was working on a nuclear bomb. According to Russian officials, plans for the bomb were uncovered at the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

“It doesn’t even make sense, because if you’re going to develop a nuclear weapon, you don’t do your secret development in a nuclear power plant,” Mr. Vaux said. “But that kind of thing is just being beamed out on Russian state TV.”
After Russia shelled a residential neighborhood, Russians claimed Ukrainians did it.

An attack on Kharkiv, a northeast Ukraine city bordering Russia, provided additional evidence that Russia had indiscriminately bombed residential neighborhoods and killed civilians, according to the Atlantic Council, an American research group. The International Criminal Court opened an investigation into war crimes after the assault.

In one attack that included heavy shelling, 34 civilians were killed and 285 were injured, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service.

March 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A judge uses Tucker Carlson’s own words against Fox News, Aaron Blake, right, But not like you might expect. It’s a pretty remarkable state of affairs when a judge is approvingly citing Tucker Carlson’s journalistic rigor, but that’s precisely the situation we find ourselves in now.

And rather ironically, that could be bad news for Fox News.

fox news logo SmallNew York Supreme Court Judge David B. Cohen has now ruled that voting-machine company Smartmatic’s $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News and Rudolph W. Giuliani can proceed. The case involved numerous false and baseless claims made on Fox about voter fraud involving the company’s voting machines.

In the ruling, the judge notably dropped Fox host Jeanine Pirro and former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell from the lawsuit — Pirro because her statements didn’t so directly accuse Smartmatic of illegality, and Powell because New York doesn’t have jurisdiction over her.

But the case against Fox, its other hosts and Giuliani can proceed. And in allowing it to, the judge previewed a tough road ahead for them in this monumental defamation case.

The ruling repeatedly says Fox hosts, Giuliani and Powell made claims “without any evidence” and “without any basis.” It also says that claims made by Giuliani, Fox host Maria Bartiromo and now-former Fox Business host Lou Dobbs could meet the legal standard of claims being “so inherently improbable that only a reckless person would have put [them] in circulation.”

But perhaps the ruling’s most biting — and also potentially legally important — section involves Carlson.

smartmaticIn the course of laying out the legal requirements for Smartmatic to prove its case, the judge noted that the company must prove Fox met the standard of acting with “actual malice” — i.e. not merely promoting false claims, but doing so with malice. And on that count, the judge says the best evidence that it did is Carlson.

That’s because Carlson, unlike the others, applied significant actual skepticism to the claims — and broadcast it.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why we need to keep protections for the news media, George Freeman and Lee Levine, March 9, 2022 (print ed.). In New York Times v. Sullivan, decided on March 9, 1964, the Supreme Court wisely recognized that news organizations need constitutional protection against libel suits to ensure “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” debate. Today, the safeguards established by that landmark case are under a dangerous two-pronged assault.

First, the past several years have seen a worrisome increase in libel lawsuits brought by a broad array of political candidates, elected officials and domestic corporate titans, not to mention foreign autocrats and oligarchs.

Second, despite this torrent of litigation, the Supreme Court might be poised to weaken constitutional protections for the news media — “opening up the libel laws,” as Donald Trump once urged.

Two justices have called for Sullivan to be reconsidered, and they might find takers among their colleagues. Justice Clarence Thomas wants to see the case overruled. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch has suggested that, given “momentous changes in the Nation’s media landscape,” Sullivan now incentivizes shoddy journalism and an “ignorance is bliss” mentality.

Reconsidering Sullivan and relaxing the “actual malice” standard imposed on public officials and public figures who claim they have been defamed would be a terrible mistake. The case was correct when it was decided; it remains equally correct — and at least as necessary — today.

George Freeman is executive director of the Media Law Resource Center. He was previously the in-house newsroom and First Amendment attorney for the New York Times. Lee Levine, a retired lawyer, served as managing editor of the MLRC report referenced in this column.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis: Pence-backed ad falsely blames Biden for hike in purchases of Russian oil, Glenn Kessler, March 9, 2022. “Before Russian bombs began to rain