Media News 2021

 

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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2021

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

October

Oct. 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple fires employee who raised awareness of workplace misconduct allegations at the company, Reed Albergotti, Oct. 16, 2021 (print ed.).  apple logo rainbowJanneke Parrish said Apple’s global security division informed her she was suspected of leaking details about a meeting. Parrish alleges she was fired in retaliation for her involvement in #AppleToo.

Janneke Parrish, a product manager on Apple Maps who is based in Texas, was involved in #AppleToo, a movement aimed at improving working conditions at the company, particularly for traditionally underrepresented groups. Parrish has been running the #AppleToo digest, a collection of anonymous stories from Apple employees who offered personal stories alleging discrimination and other labor violations at the company.

Parrish said in an interview with The Washington Post that she was under investigation by Apple’s global security division, which told her she was suspected of leaking details about Apple CEO Tim Cook’s Sept. 18 virtual Town Hall meeting, where he addressed allegations of workplace misconduct at the company in front of all employees.

Oct. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Microsoft will shut down LinkedIn service in China after facing criticism for censoring posts, Jeanne Whalen, Oct. 15, 2021. Microsoft said it will shut down its LinkedIn site inside China, days after facing public criticism for censoring the posts of several U.S. journalists.

china flag SmallIn announcing the decision Thursday, LinkedIn said it was facing “a significantly more challenging operating environment and greater compliance requirements in China.”

The news brings to an end the last major Western social media site operating in China, where the authorities have long blocked Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and other apps.

“Increased repression inside China, and greater criticism from Congress of going along with Chinese regulations, have made it unsustainable” for U.S. social media companies, said Adam Segal, an expert on China and technology at the Council on Foreign Relations.

LinkedIn said it will “sunset” its site later this year, but will launch a new site called InJobs that will not include a social media feed or the ability to share posts or articles.

microsoft logo Custom“Our new strategy for China is to put our focus on helping China-based professionals find jobs in China and Chinese companies find quality candidates,” LinkedIn said. It didn’t provide further details.

Chinese-owned social media apps, such as WeChat and Weibo, are heavily censored to delete content that the authorities deem sensitive. And U.S. users of LinkedIn in recent weeks said they have faced similar censorship on their profiles inside China.

Melissa Chan, an American journalist who has reported for Vice and the Atlantic, also disclosed that LinkedIn had blocked her profile in China over “prohibited” content.

“There remains a lot more questions than answers,” Chan said by email on Thursday. “Did some Chinese authority reach out to LinkedIn with a list of people and posts they had a problem with? Or did LinkedIn take the initiative and do it themselves? Knowing what happened matters.”

Oct. 14

The Atlantic, Investigation: Inside Alden Global Capital, McKay Coppins (at The Atlantic and the author of The Wilderness, a book about the battle over the future of the Republican Party), Oct. 14, 2021. A Secretive Hedge Fund Is Gutting Newsrooms.

The Tribune Tower rises above the streets of downtown Chicago in a majestic snarl of Gothic spires and flying buttresses that were designed to exude power and prestige.

atlantic logo horizontalWhen plans for the building were announced in 1922, Colonel Robert R. McCormick, the longtime owner of the Chicago Tribune, said he wanted to erect “the world’s most beautiful office building” for his beloved newspaper. The best architects of the era were invited to submit designs; lofty quotes about the Fourth Estate were selected to adorn the lobby. Prior to the building’s completion, McCormick directed his foreign correspondents to collect “fragments” of various historical sites—a brick from the Great Wall of China, an emblem from St. Peter’s Basilica—and send them back to be embedded in the tower’s facade. The final product, completed in 1925, was an architectural spectacle unlike anything the city had seen before—“romance in stone and steel,” as one writer described it. A century later, the Tribune Tower has retained its grandeur. It has not, however, retained the Chicago Tribune.

tribune publishing logoTo find the paper’s current headquarters one afternoon in late June, I took a cab across town to an industrial block west of the river. After a long walk down a windowless hallway lined with cinder-block walls, I got in an elevator, which deposited me near a modest bank of desks near the printing press. The scene was somehow even grimmer than I’d imagined. Here was one of America’s most storied newspapers—a publication that had endorsed Abraham Lincoln and scooped the Treaty of Versailles, that had toppled political bosses and tangled with crooked mayors and collected dozens of Pulitzer Prizes—reduced to a newsroom the size of a Chipotle.

Spend some time around the shell-shocked journalists at the Tribune these days, and you’ll hear the same question over and over: How did it come to this? On the surface, the answer might seem obvious. Craigslist killed the Classified section, Google and Facebook swallowed up the ad market, and a procession of hapless newspaper owners failed to adapt to the digital-media age, making obsolescence inevitable. This is the story we’ve been telling for decades about the dying local-news industry, and it’s not without truth. But what’s happening in Chicago is different.

In May, the Tribune was acquired by Alden Global Capital, a secretive hedge fund that has quickly, and with remarkable ease, become one of the largest newspaper operators in the country. The new owners did not fly to Chicago to address the staff, nor did they bother with paeans to the vital civic role of journalism. Instead, they gutted the place.

alden global capital logoTwo days after the deal was finalized, Alden announced an aggressive round of buyouts. In the ensuing exodus, the paper lost the Metro columnist who had championed the occupants of a troubled public-housing complex, and the editor who maintained a homicide database that the police couldn’t manipulate, and the photographer who had produced beautiful portraits of the state’s undocumented immigrants, and the investigative reporter who’d helped expose the governor’s offshore shell companies. When it was over, a quarter of the newsroom was gone.

The hollowing-out of the Chicago Tribune was noted in the national press, of course. There were sober op-eds and lamentations on Twitter and expressions of disappointment by professors of journalism. But outside the industry, few seemed to notice. Meanwhile, the Tribune’s remaining staff, which had been spread thin even before Alden came along, struggled to perform the newspaper’s most basic functions. After a powerful Illinois state legislator resigned amid bribery allegations, the paper didn’t have a reporter in Springfield to follow the resulting scandal. And when Chicago suffered a brutal summer crime wave, the paper had no one on the night shift to listen to the police scanner.

As the months passed, things kept getting worse. Morale tanked; reporters burned out. The editor in chief mysteriously resigned, and managers scrambled to deal with the cuts. Some in the city started to wonder if the paper was even worth saving. “It makes me profoundly sad to think about what the Trib was, what it is, and what it’s likely to become,” says David Axelrod, who was a reporter at the paper before becoming an adviser to Barack Obama. Through it all, the owners maintained their ruthless silence—spurning interview requests and declining to articulate their plans for the paper. Longtime Tribune staffers had seen their share of bad corporate overlords, but this felt more calculated, more sinister.

“It’s not as if the Tribune is just withering on the vine despite the best efforts of the gardeners,” Charlie Johnson, a former Metro reporter, told me after the latest round of buyouts this summer. “It’s being snuffed out, quarter after quarter after quarter.” We were sitting in a coffee shop in Logan Square, and he was still struggling to make sense of what had happened. The Tribune had been profitable when Alden took over. The paper had weathered a decade and a half of mismanagement and declining revenues and layoffs, and had finally achieved a kind of stability. Now it might be facing extinction.

  • “They call Alden a vulture hedge fund, and I think that’s honestly a misnomer,” Johnson said. “A vulture doesn’t hold a wounded animal’s head underwater. This is predatory.”

When Alden first started buying newspapers, at the tail end of the Great Recession, the industry responded with cautious optimism. These were not exactly boom times for newspapers, after all—at least someone wanted to buy them. Maybe this obscure hedge fund had a plan. One early article, in the trade publication Poynter, suggested that Alden’s interest in the local-news business could be seen as “flattering” and quoted the owner of The Denver Post as saying he had “enormous respect” for the firm. Reading these stories now has a certain horror-movie quality: You want to somehow warn the unwitting victims of what’s about to happen.

Of course, it’s easy to romanticize past eras of journalism. The families that used to own the bulk of America’s local newspapers—the Bonfilses of Denver, the Chandlers of Los Angeles—were never perfect stewards. They could be vain, bumbling, even corrupt. At their worst, they used their papers to maintain oppressive social hierarchies. But most of them also had a stake in the communities their papers served, which meant that, if nothing else, their egos were wrapped up in putting out a respectable product.

  • The model is simple: gut the staff, sell the real estate, jack up subscription prices, and wring out as much cash as possible.

The 21st century has seen many of these generational owners flee the industry, to devastating effect. In the past 15 years, more than a quarter of American newspapers have gone out of business. Those that have survived are smaller, weaker, and more vulnerable to acquisition. Today, half of all daily newspapers in the U.S. are controlled by financial firms, according to an analysis by the Financial Times, and the number is almost certain to grow.

What threatens local newspapers now is not just digital disruption or abstract market forces. They’re being targeted by investors who have figured out how to get rich by strip-mining local-news outfits. The model is simple: Gut the staff, sell the real estate, jack up subscription prices, and wring as much cash as possible out of the enterprise until eventually enough readers cancel their subscriptions that the paper folds, or is reduced to a desiccated husk of its former self.

  • John Temple: My newspaper died 10 years ago. I’m worried the worst is yet to come.

The men who devised this model are Randall Smith and Heath Freeman, the co-founders of Alden Global Capital. Since they bought their first newspapers a decade ago, no one has been more mercenary or less interested in pretending to care about their publications’ long-term health. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that Alden-owned newspapers have cut their staff at twice the rate of their competitors; not coincidentally, circulation has fallen faster too, according to Ken Doctor, a news-industry analyst who reviewed data from some of the papers. That might sound like a losing formula, but these papers don’t have to become sustainable businesses for Smith and Freeman to make money.

With aggressive cost-cutting, Alden can operate its newspapers at a profit for years while turning out a steadily worse product, indifferent to the subscribers it’s alienating. “It’s the meanness and the elegance of the capitalist marketplace brought to newspapers,” Doctor told me. So far, Alden has limited its closures primarily to weekly newspapers, but Doctor argues it’s only a matter of time before the firm starts shutting down its dailies as well.

This investment strategy does not come without social consequences. When a local newspaper vanishes, research shows, it tends to correspond with lower voter turnout, increased polarization, and a general erosion of civic engagement. Misinformation proliferates. City budgets balloon, along with corruption and dysfunction. The consequences can influence national politics as well; an analysis by Politico found that Donald Trump performed best during the 2016 election in places with limited access to local news.

  • margaret sullivan 2015 photoMargaret Sullivan (right): The Constitution doesn’t work without local news

With its acquisition of Tribune Publishing earlier this year, Alden now controls more than 200 newspapers, including some of the country’s most famous and influential: the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the New York Daily News. It is the nation’s second-largest newspaper owner by circulation. Some in the industry say they wouldn’t be surprised if Smith and Freeman end up becoming the biggest newspaper moguls in U.S. history.

They are also defined by an obsessive secrecy. Alden’s website contains no information beyond the firm’s name, and its list of investors is kept strictly confidential. When lawmakers pressed for details last year on who funds Alden, the company replied that “there may be certain legal entities and organizational structures formed outside of the United States.”

Smith, a reclusive Palm Beach septuagenarian, hasn’t granted a press interview since the 1980s. Freeman, his 41-year-old protégé and the president of the firm, would be unrecognizable in most of the newsrooms he owns. For two men who employ thousands of journalists, remarkably little is known about them.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senators aim to block tech giants from prioritizing their products over rivals,’ Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 14, 2021. A bill introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Charles Grassley is widely viewed as a bellwether for the bipartisan efforts to pass legislation regulating Silicon Valley giants.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on facebook logothe Senate Judiciary Committee, announced that they will introduce legislation early next week making it illegal for Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to engage in “self-preferencing,” the tech giants’ practice of giving their own products and services a boost over those of rivals on their platforms.

The bill would effectively outlaw an array of behaviors that lawmakers describe as anticompetitive, like Amazon sucking up data from sellers on its platform to copy the products in-house or Google prioritizing its own services over rivals’ in search results.

Press Run, Commentary: Bah humbug — media blaming Biden for Christmas gift shortage, Eric Boehlert, right, Oct. 14, 2021. Good will towards men. The political press found something new to blame on President Joe Biden. Itching to maintain the Dems in Disarray narrative, being egged on by Fox News, and stretching common sense to the breaking point, the press is claiming the Democrat faces a “Christmas crisis” of confidence over something he has no control — clogged supply chains.

“Holiday delays could prove politically problematic for the president,” ABC News claimed. “With global supply chain bottlenecks threatening the Christmas shopping season, President Joe Biden will…try to stave off the potentially politically explosive headaches Americans may face as delays threaten holiday gift-giving.”

According to ABC News, if Americans encounter gift-giving delays because retailers are not able to supply purchases in time, it’s going to cause “explosive headaches” because, apparently, voters will blame the West Wing if store shelves aren’t stocked with Barbies.

This twisted logic continues to spread. “White House Scrambles to Address Looming Christmas Crisis,” an ominous Politico headline announced. At Wednesday’s White House press briefing, CBS’s Ed O’Keefe demanded to know if the White House could guarantee that holiday packages will arrive on time.

“If you think President Biden's approval ratings are bad now, just watch what happens if Christmas turns out to be a huge national bummer,” warned The Week. Pointing to “supply chain snarls,” the outlet warned that, “If Americans find themselves unable to celebrate the holidays in the manner to which they've become accustomed they're probably going to be angry. And they're probably going to blame the president.”

Talk about torturous logic. If private suppliers cannot produce on-time goods this gift-giving season because of a Covid-fueled shipping backup, Americans are going to blame the president. “That means Biden must do everything in his limited power to save Christmas — if only to save his still-young presidency,” according to The Week. Now Biden’s entire presidency hangs in the balance.

When did the U.S. stop being a capitalist country? When did the press start assuming the White House controls private industries, including the shipping and handling operations for retailers and suppliers?

Oct. 13

The Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinin: Why the Mainstream Media Remains Silent on the JFK Records Deadline, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, Oct. 13, 2021. With the jacob hornberger newOctober 26 deadline only two weeks from now on releasing the 60-year secret records of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination, the silence from the mainstream press is deafening.

The great mainstream defenders of transparency and openness in government, at least when it comes foreign dictatorships, cannot bring themselves to openly advocate for the release of thousands of records relating to the JFK assassination that the CIA still insists on keeping secret.

Why the silence? I will explain the reason, but first please permit me to restate the prediction I have made regarding this matter.

I predict that within the next weeks, President Biden will grant a request by the CIA for continued secrecy of its assassination-related records. I predict that Biden will order the release of some of the records for appearance’s sake, but he will cite “national security” to justify continuing the secrecy of the vast majority of the records.

Why do I make this prediction? Because the reason that the CIA needed to keep these records secret 60 years ago still exists. That same reason was why it it future of freedom foundation logo squareneeded to keep them secret during the 1990s, when the Assassination Records Review Board was enforcing the JFK Records Act of 1992, which mandated the release of all federal records relating to the assassination.

Further, that same reason obviously caused the CIA, despite the law’s mandate, to continue keeping its records secret for another 25 years after the JFK Records Act was enacted. When that deadline came due in 2017, that same reason obviously motivated the CIA to petition President Trump for another extension of time for secrecy, which Trump dutifully granted. That deadline comes due on October 26, 2021 — two weeks from now — and mark my words: The same reason will cause the CIA to request that Biden grant another extension of time for secrecy, which Biden, like Trump, will dutifully grant.

What is the reason that has caused the CIA to want to keep these thousands of records secret from the American people. The reason, I am more convinced than ever, is that the CIA knows that those remaining records constitute more pieces to the overall puzzle of criminal culpability on the part of the CIA in the regime-change operation that took place on November 22,1963.

cia logoAfter all, let’s face it: No matter what definition is put on that nebulous and meaningless term “national security,” there is no possibility that anything bad will happen to the United States if those 60-year-old secret records are released to the American people. The United States will not fall into the ocean. The supposed international communist conspiracy to take over the United States that was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia (yes, that Russia!) during the Cold War won’t be reinvigorated. Communist Cuba will not invade the United States. The dominoes near North Vietnam will not fall to the communists. North Korea will not come and get us.

President Biden just ordered the release of President Trump’s secret records relating to the January 6 Capitol protests. Why not the same joe biden resized odecision with respect to those 60-year-old secret records of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination?

Why won’t the mainstream press call on Biden to enforce the JFK Records Act of 1992? They’re scared to do so.

In a remarkably candid and direct statement made to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow in 2017, New York Senator Charles Schumer explained why they are scared: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer said to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.

Schumer was referring to President Trump, but actually the admonition applies to everyone. The CIA, the Pentagon, the NSA, and the FBI — i.e., the entire intelligence community — has “six ways from Sunday at getting back” at anyone who takes it on, including newspaper owners, publishers, and editors.

Most people know about Operation Mockingbird, the top-secret operation of the CIA to acquire assets within the mainstream press to advance the CIA’s propaganda. Does anyone really think that the CIA would stop there in the quest to expand its power and influence?

dwight eisenhower mic speechNot a chance! For example, the entire national-security establishment would concentrate on acquiring, installing, and grooming assets in Congress, which sets the budgets. Does anyone think it’s just a coincidence that Congress gives the national-security establishment whatever it wants plus sometimes even more than what it wants? There is good reason why President Eisenhower planned to use the term “military-industrial-congressional” complex in his Farewell Address (shown at right). No one can reasonably deny that Congress is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the national-security establishment.

But they obviously would not stop there. They would also be acquiring assets within the IRS, one of the most powerful and tyrannical agencies within the federal government. There isn’t anyone, including newspaper owners, publishers, and editors, who isn’t afraid of receiving an audit notice from the IRS.

irs logoAnd if it happens, no one would ever be able to prove that it originated with the CIA or the rest of the national-security establishment. It would just look like it was occurring at random. If any victim of an IRS audit accused the CIA or the rest of the national-security establishment of being behind the audit, they would be ready to hurl the infamous “conspiracy theorist” label at him.

What newspaper owner, publisher, or editor wants to take that chance? They all know that the national-security establishment frowns very seriously on any mainstream media outlet that even remotely suggests that the Kennedy assassination was a regime-change operation, no different in principle from those in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, Congo, and Chile both before and after the Kennedy assassination. But they also do not want to take the chance of upsetting the CIA by simply calling on it to release its 60-year-old still-secret records relating to the assassination.

After all, everyone knows that if an entity is powerful enough to regime-change presidents and prime ministers, both foreign and domestic, with impunity, it can easily destroy any mainstream media executive who dares to buck the CIA on the assassination.

It’s just the way life works in a national-security state. It’s why the mainstream media is maintaining strict silence on the upcoming October 26 deadline on the release of those 60-year-old still-secret records of the CIA relating to the Kennedy assassination.

Palmer Report, Opinion: How Andrew Yang destroyed the New York City mayor race, Bill Palmer, right, Oct. 13, 2021. Andrew Yang is “quitting” the Democratic Party and bill palmerlaunching some new third party that’ll never gain any traction – but the controversy he’s creating will surely sell some copies of his divisive new book. Given that Yang is now trying to sabotage the Democratic Party on a national level, it’s time to talk about how he already did this same thing in New York.

I’m sure the nation is aware of how badly Andrew Yang destroyed the Democratic primary race for Mayor of New York City this year. His bumbling, no-effort vanity campaign got all the media attention, so qualified candidates got no attention, and corrupt candidates got no vetting. Then at the end Yang imploded in spectacular fashion.

The media deserves blame for sure. But Yang, left, knew what was going on. At some point he pretty clearly decided, consciously or subconsciously, that he andrew yang twitterdidn’t really want to win. But instead of dropping out, he kept hogging the media attention while saying increasingly stupid things that he had to know were going to tank his chances.

By the time everyone figured out Yang wasn’t going to win, it was too late for qualified experienced candidates like Garcia, Stringer, and Wiley to get traction. Contrary to popular belief, they ran solid campaigns, but the New York City media and the national media mostly just ignored them. Then, once Eric Adams pulled into the lead last minute, all kinds of scandals surfaced about him, but there wasn’t time for those to be properly covered or for voters to hear about it all.

eric adamsAnd so Eric Adams, left, accidentally won, even though the vast majority of people voted for someone else, and even a lot of Adams voters came to immediately regret it after hearing about his scandals and of his egregious past positions. He’ll probably be a lousy mayor, and with his scandals, will he even get to finish his term? We’ll see. For the sake of the city, one can only hope he can pull it together.

Right after Yang lost, he came out with a book attacking the Democrats, quitting the party, and starting his own third party. Does this sound like a guy who had any intention of really trying to win a Democratic primary for Mayor? When did he start writing this anti-Democrat book?

Being mayor is hard work, a thankless job, and unprofitable. Publishing a controversial high profile book makes you millions of dollars and you never have to work again. Was Yang’s entire NYC Mayor campaign all about setting up his book, or just the latter parts of it?

Was Andrew Yang always a con artist who was only ever looking to use politics to boost his ego and fortunes? Or did Yang start off meaning well, until he realized he was bad at politics but good for TV ratings, and the media corrupted him at that point? You’ll have to decide.

Either way, the Andrew Yang NYC Mayor debacle stands as Exhibit A of why it’s so dangerous for outsiders who are clueless about politics to just wander in and shit all over the election process, and for the media to see them as an opportunity to boost ratings.

Trump, Yang, Ben Carson, Marianne Williamson, JD Vance. We’re in a crisis where outsiders run stunt political campaigns to boost their wallets while willfully destroying the electoral process. But the media won’t expose this crisis, because the media benefits from this crisis.

What can be done? Stop letting the media feed you fake stunt candidates on a silver platter; change the channel so they’ll have to find some more legitimate way to get ratings. And stop supporting worthless outsider candidates just because you want to stick it to the system.

Also, stop pretending these outsider candidates have good ideas. They don’t. They have theoretical ideas that sound good in a debate soundbite but would never work in practice. Politics and governing are hard, even for qualified people. It’s impossible for unqualified amateurs.

Oct. 11

oan logo

 

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bobb are shown working in a Willard Hotel "War Room" near almost across the street from White House grounds with fellow Trump supporters on Jan. 6, 2021 in a photo by a fellow Trump supporter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Trump’s favorite channel, One America News, was never ‘news’ at all, Margaret Sullivan, right, Oct. 11, 2021 (print ed.). A stunning margaret sullivan 2015 photoReuters exposé demonstrates that for OAN, “it was never, never the full truth” when covering Trump.

The whitewashing and denialism of the Jan. 6 insurrection started at One America News on that very same day.

As President Donald Trump tried to overturn the legitimate results of the presidential election — inciting a deadly riot along the way — the cable robert herring sr croppedchannel’s brass were sending an all-too-clear message to their team about how to cover this horrifying event.

“Please DO NOT say ‘Trump Supporters Storm Capitol. . . .’ Simply call them demonstrators or protestors. . . . DO NOT CALL IT A RIOT!!!” came the impassioned email directive from a news director to the staff.

The next day, OAN’s top boss, founder Robert Herring Sr., left, ordered producers to get in line behind the president, as he floated the conspiracy theory that it wasn’t Trump supporters breaking those windows and storming those barricades — that it was the leftist movement reuters logoantifa instead.

When Reuters, the global news agency, published its two-part investigation last week of OAN, the most startling finding was that AT&T indirectly provided 90 percent of the channel’s revenue, after letting it be known that it was eager to host a new conservative cable network.

att logoYes, the world’s largest communications company played a major role in creating and sustaining the far-right channel that spins wacky ideas, promotes fraudulent covid-19 cures and, in its fervor, makes the pro-Trump market leader, Fox News, look almost reasonable. (AT&T has challenged aspects of Reuters’ reporting and said that the company, through its offshoot, DirecTV, provides “viewpoints across the political spectrum.”)

But just as noteworthy as AT&T’s involvement was the way Reuters’s John Shiffman pulled back the curtain on how the San Diego-based network operates, relying in part on court documents.

Oct. 9

 

maria ressa rappler

ny times logoNew York Times, The 2021 Nobel Prizes: Maria Ressa is only the 18th woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in its 126-year history, Shashank Bengali, Oct. 9, 2021 (print ed.). In receiving the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, the Philippine journalist Maria Ressa (shown via a Rappler file photo) became only the 18th woman to be selected for the award in its 126-year history.

philippines flagWith half the world made up of women, the obvious question arises: Why have so few been granted the committee’s most prestigious prize and, more broadly, been generally underrepresented across the Nobel prizes?

Addressing the criticism, the Nobel committee in 2017 acknowledged its poor track record.

“We are disappointed looking at the larger perspective that more women have not been awarded,” said Göran Hansson, vice chair of the board of directors of the Nobel Foundation.

“Part of it is that we go back in time to identify discoveries,” he said. “We have to wait until they have been verified and validated before we can award the prize. There was an even larger bias against women then. There were far fewer women scientists if you go back 20 or 30 years.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook and its apps suffer another outage, Mike Isaac, Oct. 8, 2021 (print ed.). Facebook and its family of apps were inaccessible for about facebook logotwo hours on Friday afternoon, the second time in a week that the social network experienced widespread problems with its services.

The site DownDetector.com, a service that relies on reports from users to determine whether websites are having problems, showed that all of Facebook’s main products — Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and the “big blue app” of Facebook — suffered downtime at around 3 p.m. Eastern time.

Oct. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Will you fall into the conspiracy theory rabbit hole? David Byler and Yan Wu, Oct. 7, 2021 (print ed.). Take our quiz and find out. Who believes in conspiracy theories? Statistically speaking: almost everyone.

A team of researchers recently showed several thousand Americans a list of 20 common conspiracy theories and asked if they believed them. These included false conspiracy theories about the John F. Kennedy assassination, 5G cellular wireless technology, Barack Obama’s birth certificate, covid-19 and climate change. The result: Nine in 10 Americans believed in at least one conspiracy theory.

The study — led by Adam Enders of the University of Louisville and Joseph Uscinski of the University of Miami — surveyed a representative sample of 2,023 Americans in March 2020 and 2,015 more in October 2020. This article uses questions from their surveys to test your knowledge — and your credulity.

JIP Editor's Note: We except this deceptive "quiz" above to illustrate how shoddy academic research parrotted by inexperienced graphic artists can continue reinforcing deceptive conventional wisdom that cannot withstand real reporting on controversial current and recent historical events.

ny times logoNew York Times, Barry Diller’s Dotdash Agrees to Buy Magazine Publisher Meredith, a Magazine Giant, Marc Tracy, Oct. 7, 2021 (print ed.). People, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and more than 40 other magazines would become part of the same company as Serious Eats and Investopedia.

A digital-age magazine giant was born on Wednesday with the announcement that Dotdash, a publishing unit of Barry Diller’s InterActiveCorp, had reached an agreement to acquire Meredith, the publisher of People, Better Homes & Gardens, InStyle, Entertainment Weekly and roughly 40 other titles and digital brands.

The purchase price is roughly $2.7 billion, or $42.18 per share, the companies said in a joint announcement. If the deal goes through, the new company will be called Dotdash Meredith, and it will be led by the Dotdash chief executive, Neil Vogel, the companies said.

Joey Levin, IAC’s chief executive, said in a statement that the combination of the two companies would “offer uniquely engaged audiences to advertisers and partners.” Tom Harty, the chief executive of Meredith, said in a statement, “We are thrilled to join forces to accelerate Meredith’s digital future.”

In an investor call on Wednesday, Mr. Vogel said he was not planning on “cost synergy” — that is, layoffs or other cuts as a result of the merger. “Our playbook is going to drive audience, performance, and help the brands maintain their stance in the digital world that they have in the print world,” Mr. Vogel said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Liberal Activist Who Targets Republicans With a MAGA Masquerade, Trip Gabriel, Oct. 7, 2021. Pretending to be like-minded, Lauren Windsor has generated headlines by coaxing conservatives into making revealing statements about their views. Mike Pence told her, “I love your heart.”

Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio confided in her that Donald J. Trump would soon announce he was running again for president in 2024.

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, revealed to her that he could not publicly press his anti-abortion agenda for fear of losing independent voters.

All of them made these comments to Lauren Windsor, a liberal activist who has turned a hidden camera, a Tennessee drawl and a knack for disarming her targets with words of sympathetic conservatism into a loaded political weapon.

Posing as a true believer — in Mr. Trump or a stolen 2020 election — Ms. Windsor approaches Republican leaders at party gatherings and tries to coax them into revealing things that they might wish to keep in the G.O.P. family.

Since late last year, as she has traveled widely around the country, several of her recordings have generated headlines.

Her encounter in December 2020 with Tommy Tuberville, then a senator-elect from Alabama, elicited the first real evidence that some Republicans in the Senate would reject the Electoral College votes certifying Mr. Biden’s victory, a move based on groundless claims of fraud. “We’re going to have to do it in the Senate,” Mr. Tuberville told Ms. Windsor after a speech, as an aide hustled him away.

“More Republicans should follow his lead,” Mr. Trump tweeted after the recording was uploaded. Eight G.O.P. senators including Mr. Tuberville ended up voting on Jan. 6 to overturn the election results, even after rioters stormed the Capitol that day.

Ms. Windsor, 40, calls herself an “advocacy journalist,” though her methods fall beyond the pale of mainstream journalism, where reporters generally shy away from assuming false identities and secretly recording conversations.

She says her stings are justified by Republicans’ efforts to spread disinformation about the election and to weaken the nation’s democratic underpinnings through restrictive new voting laws and measures taking greater control over how elections are run.

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures,” she said in an interview. Assuming a false identity, she argued, can produce a truer record of a politician’s views. “Acting like you’re one of them — you’re going to elicit different answers than if you have a reporter in somebody’s face and they know you’re a journalist.”

While Ms. Windsor’s videos are often picked up by left-leaning news outlets, the political impact of them can be limited. Some of her Republican targets dismiss her videos as nothing they haven’t said before, in so many words.

The bait she dangles to draw out a response can be highly tendentious. “This is a Christian state, and Democrats are not Christian,” she told a cowboy-hatted Texas legislator in the Capitol in Austin.

Claiming to have been at the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, she challenged Mr. Pence about why he didn’t “stop the election from being stolen.” The former vice president didn’t bite: “Read the Constitution,” he said, before offering parting praise of her “heart.”

A spokesman for Mr. Youngkin, the Republican candidate for governor in Virginia, denied he had said anything privately that he had not uttered publicly, even though he told Ms. Windsor that he had to be discreet about his anti-abortion views. “When I’m governor and I have a majority in the House, we can start going on offense,” he said to her in their encounter. “But as a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.”

Her practices have drawn inevitable comparisons to the right-wing gotcha squad Project Veritas, but she says there are crucial differences.

While Project Veritas has embedded moles in left-leaning groups and Democratic campaigns, Ms. Windsor says she avoids such methods.

She makes her undercover recordings at public events in brief encounters. She usually uploads the full interaction to her YouTube page, The Undercurrent, or in segments on Twitter (which limits a video’s length).

And while Project Veritas has often targeted unknown junior staff members, Ms. Windsor says she tends to set her sights on senior Republican officials.

Ms. Windsor also has a personal back story with Project Veritas — which is led by the conservative activist James O’Keefe — that hangs over her career.

oan logo

robert herring srReuters, Special Investigative Report: How AT&T helped build far-right One America News, John Schiffman, Oct. 6, 2021 (First of two stories). As it lauded former President Donald Trump and spread his unfounded claims of election fraud, One America News Network saw its viewership jump. Reuters has uncovered how America’s telecom giant nurtured the news channel now at the center of a bitter national divide over politics and truth.

One America News, the far-right network whose fortunes and viewership rose amid the triumph and tumult of the Trump administration, has flourished with support from a surprising source: AT&T Inc, the world's largest communications company.

reuters logoA Reuters review of court records shows the role AT&T played in creating and funding OAN, a network that continues to spread conspiracy theories about the 2020 election and the COVID-19 pandemic.

OAN founder and chief executive Robert Herring Sr., above, has testified that the inspiration to launch OAN in 2013 came from AT&T executives.

“They told us they wanted a conservative network,” Herring said during a 2019 deposition seen by Reuters. “They only had one, which was Fox News, and they had seven others on the other [leftwing] side. When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.”

att logoSince then, AT&T has been a crucial source of funds flowing into OAN, providing tens of millions of dollars in revenue, court records show. Ninety percent of OAN’s revenue came from a contract with AT&T-owned television platforms, including satellite broadcaster DirecTV, according to 2020 sworn testimony by an OAN accountant.

Herring has testified he was offered $250 million for OAN in 2019. Without the DirecTV deal, the accountant said under oath, the network’s value “would be zero.”

“They told us they wanted a conservative network. … When they said that, I jumped to it and built one.”
OAN founder Robert Herring Sr. in a 2019 deposition

Dallas-based AT&T, a mobile-phone and Internet provider, also owns entertainment giant Warner Media, which includes CNN and HBO. AT&T acquired DirecTV in 2015 and in August spun off the satellite service, retaining a 70% share in the new, independently managed company. AT&T’s total U.S. television subscriber base, including satellite and streaming services, fell from 26 million in 2015 to 15.4 million as of August.

AT&T spokesman Jim Greer declined to comment on the testimony about OAN’s revenue streams, citing confidentiality agreements. He said that DirecTV broadcasts “many news channels that offer viewpoints across the political spectrum.”

djt maga hat“We have always sought to provide a wide variety of content and programming that would be of interest to customers, and do not dictate or control programming on channels we carry,” Greer said. “Any suggestion otherwise is wrong.”

After this story was published, AT&T issued a statement saying it has “never had a financial interest in OAN's success and does not 'fund' OAN.”

Although the contracts are confidential, in court filings Herring cited monthly fees included in one five-year deal with AT&T. According to an AT&T filing citing Herring’s numbers, those fees would total about $57 million. Greer said that figure is inaccurate, but declined to say how much AT&T has paid to air OAN, citing a non-disclosure agreement.

Herring and his adult sons own and operate OAN, a subsidiary of their closely held San Diego-based Herring Networks. Their AT&T deal includes Herring’s other network, a little-watched lifestyle channel, AWE. The Herrings declined interview requests.

Herring, who just turned 80, is a self-made businessman who amassed a fortune in the circuit board industry, then turned to television and boxing promotion. OAN’s influence rose in late 2015, when it began covering Trump rallies live, at a time when some of the media still saw the New York celebrity businessman as a longshot presidential contender. The network continues to shower Trump with attention and often provides a friendly platform for his Republican allies.

As president, Trump frequently urged supporters to watch OAN. In his final two years in office, Trump touted the network, known as @OANN online, to his 88 million Twitter followers at least 120 times..

“Hope everybody is watching @OANN right now,” Trump tweeted on December 1, citing a dubious report about a truck carrying more than 100,000 fake ballots. “Other media afraid to show.”

The state and federal court documents reviewed by Reuters detail a lucrative relationship for OAN with AT&T, even as the two occasionally tangled in court.

The records include a reported offer by AT&T to acquire a 5% equity stake in OAN and AWE, though the two sides ultimately signed a different deal. The court filings also cite a promise by OAN to “cast a positive light” on AT&T during newscasts.

The confidential OAN financial records are drawn in part from testimony, including by Herring and the accountant, generated during a labor lawsuit brought against OAN by a former employee and unrelated to AT&T. When that case went to trial last year, the network’s lawyer told the jury that AT&T was keeping OAN afloat.

“If Herring Networks, for instance, was to lose or not be renewed on DirecTV, the company would go out of business tomorrow,” OAN lawyer Patrick Nellies told the court, a transcript shows.

Researchers who tracked the rise of conservative media pillars Rush Limbaugh and Fox News see similarities between those pioneers to One America News and other new rightwing networks, particularly during their formative years.

Oct. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Teenage girls say Instagram’s mental health impacts are no surprise, Erin Woo, Oct. 6, 2021 (print ed.). Annie Zhu got an Instagram account during her freshman year of high school. At first, she curated her profile carefully, showing off different outfits and looks. She followed body positivity and body neutrality accounts. But she still sometimes compared herself with others, and “it can make me feel bad,” she said.

instagram logoSo when she recently listened to a podcast revealing how Facebook’s research concluded that Instagram, which it owns, was toxic for teenage girls, she said, the findings “didn’t surprise me at all.”

“In my past experiences, it has been a huge struggle,” Ms. Zhu, an 18-year-old Stanford University freshman, said in an interview.

Among young people, the idea that Instagram can hurt someone’s self-image is widely discussed. Ms. Zhu said she and her friends talked about how social interactions on Instagram felt inauthentic. Some friends have deleted the app because they didn’t think it was contributing positively to their lives, she added. She said she now used Instagram largely as a messaging system and rarely posted on it.

“If you ask a young person, it’s something you deal with on a daily basis,” said Vicki Harrison, who directs the Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing at Stanford. “You don’t need this research to tell you this.”

Facebook has responded that the research did not show a causal link and that a majority of teenage girls experiencing body-image issues reported that Instagram either made their body image better or had no impact.

 

frances haugen robert fortunato cbs

Former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen, shown above in a CBS "60 Minutes" interview, testified on Tuesday before Congress after being revealed as the source behind tens of thousands of pages of leaked internal company research  (Photo by Robert Fortunato of CBS News 60 Minutes).

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Reports: Facebook whistleblower testifies at Senate hearing on kids’ safety online, Cat Zakrzewski, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Cristiano Lima
and Will Oremus, Oct. 5, 2021. Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen on Tuesday warned lawmakers that Facebook operates without oversight and issued a call to action from Congress to make social media safer.

The hearing with the Senate Commerce consumer protection, product safety and data security subcommittee marks Haugen’s first public appearance after she revealed herself Sunday evening as the source of thousands of pages of internal company research, leaked to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Wall Street Journal. Revelations from the documents have sparked renewed concern on Capitol Hill about Facebook’s influence, particularly on children’s and teens’ mental health. Her testimony will be an opportunity to publicly share her experience of working at Facebook and her vision of how the company might be regulated with lawmakers.

In an interview with The Washington Post Haugen said she was motivated to go public because she views Facebook in its current form as “dangerous.” Even policymakers tasked with regulating Facebook do not have the information they need to oversee the company and address its potential harms, she said.

“A lot of what Facebook is doing isn’t illegal because they hid the information that politicians would have needed to create regulations that addressed it,” she said in a recent interview.

Here’s what you need to know

  • Senators said Tuesday’s hearing is one in a series on child safety, following Haugen’s revelations to the Wall Street Journal that Facebook’s own research shows that Instagram makes teen girls’ body images worse.
  • The findings about Instagram’s impact on children’s and teens’ mental health have attracted the most attention among lawmakers, who last week hosted a hearing with Facebook head of safety Antigone Davis that devolved into heated confrontations.
  • Haugen’s leaks about the companies are wide-ranging, and she raised concerns in a “60 Minutes” interview about Facebook’s decision to disband its civic integrity team in the aftermath of the 2020 election ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. She has also raised concerns about the spread of misinformation on Facebook, particularly in non-English-speaking countries where the company has not invested as much in content moderation.
  • Facebook has sought to downplay the leaked research, saying the “60 Minutes” interview “disregards the significant investments we make to keep people safe on our platform.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg have not publicly commented on the revelations, which have plunged the company into public scandal in recent weeks.

ny times logoNew York Times, When Facebook’s Apps Went Down, the World Saw How Much It Runs on Them, Raymond Zhong, Oct. 5, 2021. For more than five hours, facebook logopeople got a taste of life without the social media network, and many discovered how much they depended on it. The outage disrupted the digital lives of small-business owners, politicians, aid workers and more. But for some, it was a welcome reprieve.

For more than five hours on Monday, the world got a taste of life without Facebook and its apps.

People in many places discovered that Facebook and its apps had burrowed their way into nearly every facet of existence.

In Mexico, politicians were cut off from their constituents. In Turkey, shopkeepers couldn’t sell their wares. And in Colombia, a nonprofit organization that uses WhatsApp to connect victims of gender-based violence to lifesaving services found its work impaired.

 

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I told the Trumps my relationship with a White House staffer had turned abusive. They didn’t seem to care, Stephanie Grisham, Oct. 5, 2021. Stephanie Grisham served as chief of staff to the first lady, press secretary and communications director in the Trump White House. Her book “I’ll Take Your Questions Now: What I Saw at the Trump White House” publishes Tuesday.

stephanie grisham coverAfter being by their sides for almost six years, I knew Donald and Melania Trump about as well as anyone, or so I thought. And they knew me. A hungry gossip, the president showed an ongoing interest in my relationship with my boyfriend, a fellow White House staffer, and asked intimate questions about our relationship.

He and the first lady invited us as a couple to events, with Trump conferring on us his stock compliment, “right out of central casting.” They knew when we got a dog for my birthday. They knew when we broke up.

They also knew when the relationship turned abusive — and they didn’t seem to care.

One day, while meeting with Mrs. Trump alone, she asked how I was holding up after our breakup. My eyes started to well up. I had been holding in the fact that the end of our relationship had become violent, reaching its worst point on the day I left. I told the first lady that he got physical with me.

She asked me if I had called the police and I said no, explaining that this close to the election, it wouldn’t be good to have yet another domestic abuse scandal hanging over the administration. I also had no proof. She nodded and did not push the matter further. As far as I know, she told no one.

A few weeks later, after the first presidential debate, I was with President Trump on Air Force One. Noting that my ex was also in our entourage, the president asked me if it was tough to have seen him at the debate. He then began to tell me how broken up my ex had been about the split and expressed sympathy for him.

CNBC, Dallas Morning News rejects ad hammering AT&T for backing sponsors of Texas abortion bill, Democratic super PAC says, Brian Schwartz, Oct. 5, 2021.  The Dallas Morning News won’t run an ad taking aim at AT&T for backing Texas lawmakers who supported the state’s strict anti-abortion law, according to the Democratic super PAC behind the spot.

cnbc logoThe ad was supposed to run on the paper’s website Tuesday. The newspaper said it had a policy against ads that call out companies by name, according to American Bridge, which paid for the ad. American Bridge said it submitted the spot to the newspaper last week.

The Dallas Morning News’ decision came after CNBC reported Monday that the PAC, which is co-chaired by former Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, was aiming to run spots blasting AT&T for supporting lawmakers who co-sponsored the Texas bill, also known as SB 8.

AT&T is headquartered in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News is owned by DallasNews Corporation.

att logoAn American Bridge spokeswoman forwarded to CNBC what she said was text from an email from a Dallas Morning News account representative.

“I just heard back from the ad approval department. I am sorry for the late notice but once it made it to the final approval, it was decided to ask for another revision. There is a history (before me) that The Dallas Morning News will not run advertising calling out specific companies by name,” the text of the Dallas Morning News agent’s email reads.

“I have gone to my President to see if we can change it around to run if we refer to AT&T without actually saying the name. I am so sorry about any and all inconveniences this causes you and your client. Unfortunately, I am not the final say, and am at the mercy of others. I will let you know once I hear back,” the email says.

The PAC’s final submission to the paper, which was reviewed by CNBC, did not include the AT&T logo but did mention the telecommunications giant by name. The PAC representative said they had yet to pay the newspaper for the ad placement. She later noted that “this publisher actually did request that we prepay. We gave them our payment information, but they haven’t processed it so no funds have been released.”

“AT&T helped fund the anti-abortion politicians who wrote the dangerous law,” says a copy of the final digital ad that was intended to be placed within the online version of The Dallas Morning News. A picture of Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is depicted on screen.

Oct. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook apps start to come back online after widespread outage, Rachel Lerman, Oct. 4, 2021. Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger also went down. Facebook apps slowly came back online Monday following a prolonged, global outage, one of the largest disruptions to the social facebook logomedia sites’ billions of users in years.

Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger were unreachable for many users for hours, who instead saw a spinning wheel on their apps that never loaded. The outages caused widespread chaos for those who use it for communication — particularly for WhatsApp users globally instagram logo— as well as companies and people who rely on the sites to conduct business.

“Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger are coming back online now,” chief executive Mark Zuckerberg posted late Monday. “Sorry for the disruption today — I know how much you rely on our services to stay connected with the people you care about.”

The hours-long outage again shed light on the company’s huge swaths of power, something regulators and lawmakers are scrutinizing in the wake of new revelations from a whistleblower about the company that she alleges proves it has been negligent in eliminating violence and misinformation from its platform.

washington post logoWashington Post, Zuckerberg apologies have been a staple for Facebook. Now it offers defiance instead, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, Oct. 4, 2021. The company has deployed its executives to mount a public defense while quibbling with the allegations from a whistleblower.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wAfter four years of almost continuous scandal, Facebook is approaching its latest controversy over political polarization and the toxic effects of social media in a more aggressive and defiant way than it has previously, say current and former employees, including executives who helped shape the company’s earlier responses.

Gone is the familiar script in which chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, right, issues a formal apology — sometimes in long blogs on his personal Facebook page or over live-streamed video for a Congressional hearing — then takes responsibility and promises change.

In its place, the company has deployed a slate of executives to mount a public defense while quibbling with the details of allegations from Frances Haugen, the former project manager who left Facebook with tens of thousands of documents detailing the company’s research into how it spreads hate, incites violence, and, through its Instagram subsidiary, contributes to teenage girls’ negative body images and suicidal thoughts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook and All of Its Apps Go Down Simultaneously, Mike Isaac and Sheera Frenkel, Oct. 4, 2021. The outage took out a vital communications platform used by more than three billion people and added heat to a company already under intense scrutiny. Inside Facebook, workers scrambled because their internal systems also stopped functioning. The cause of the issue remained unclear. Here’s the latest.

facebook logoFacebook and its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, went down at the same time on Monday, taking out a vital communications platform used by more than three billion people around the world and adding heat to a company already under intense scrutiny.

Facebook’s apps — which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Oculus — began displaying error messages around 11:40 a.m. Eastern time, users reported. Within five minutes, Facebook had disappeared from the internet. Hours later, the sites were still not functioning, according to Downdetector, which monitors web traffic and site activity.

Technology outages are not uncommon, but to have so many apps go dark from the world’s largest social media company at the same time was highly unusual. Facebook’s last significant outage was in 2019, when a technical error affected its sites for 24 hours, in a reminder that even the most powerful internet companies can still be crippled by a snafu.

This time, the cause of the outage remained unclear. Several hours into the incident, Facebook’s security experts were still trying to identify the root issue, according to an internal memo and employees briefed on the matter. Two members of its security team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said it was unlikely that a cyberattack had taken place because one hack was unlikely to affect so many apps at once.

Security experts said the problem most likely stemmed instead from a misconfiguration of Facebook’s server computers, which were not letting people connect to its sites like Instagram and WhatsApp. When such errors occur, companies frequently roll back to their previous configuration, but Facebook’s problems appeared to be more complex and to require some manual updating.

Los Angeles City News Service, LA actor pleads guilty to running a $650 million Ponzi scheme, Staff Report, Oct. 4, 2021. A Los Angeles actor who appeared in low-budget horror and science-fiction movies pleaded guilty Monday to running a $650 million Ponzi scheme.

Zachary Joseph Horwitz, who used the name Zach Avery in film credits, formally entered his plea to one federal count of securities fraud, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years behind bars, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 3. Horwitz, who lives in the Beverlywood area, bilked investors who thought their money would finance distribution rights for movies that would run on HBO and Netflix.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also sued Horwitz and his firm, 1inMM Capital LLC, in civil court over the scam, which involved the sales of film-licensing rights, primarily in Latin American markets. Horwitz, 34, operated 1inMM Capital as a Ponzi scheme, using victims’ money to repay earlier investors and to fund an “opulent” lifestyle, including the purchase of a $6 million Beverlywood home, federal prosecutors said.

The scheme began in October 2014, when investment firms began entering into a series of six- or 12-month promissory notes with 1inMM Capital based on Horwitz’s statements. The funds supplied under each note were supposed to provide money for 1inMM Capital to acquire the rights to a specific film, according to papers filed in Los Angeles federal court.

Prosecutors said that to persuade investors he was legitimate, Horwitz provided fake license agreements, as well as fake distribution agreements with Netflix and HBO, all of which allegedly contained forged or fictional signatures.

Oct. 3

 

Chris Mora of California sits amid the art installation “In America: Remember,” which features flags representing every death from covid-19 in the United States, on the National Mall on Sept. 24. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post)

Chris Mora of California sits amid the art installation “In America: Remember,” which features flags representing every death from covid-19 in the United States, on the National Mall on Sept. 24. (Craig Hudson/For the Washington Post). The symbolic heart of Washington has been covered by nearly 700,000 white flags, each about a foot tall, representing the American lives lost to covid-19 and holding written memories from loved ones. The flags have been packed tightly into 60-foot-by-60-foot quadrants on 20 acres near the Washington Monument and the National Museum of African and African American History and Culture.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What the 700,000 flags I put on the National Mall really mean, Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg (a social practice artist), Oct. 1, 2021. Twenty-five years of hospice volunteering has taught me that the most important thing we can afford people is their dignity.

That lesson formed the backbone of “In America: Remember,” my art installation that for the past three weeks blanketed Washington’s National Mall with 700,000 fluttering white flags, each one representing an American lost to the coronavirus pandemic. The art is an effort to reclaim the dignity of 700,000 people who have become reduced to a single number, a number too large to fathom.

My project began with outrage. I was outraged we had elected officials who would devalue the lives of the elderly, the poor and people of color in their approach to managing the pandemic. I was outraged we had allowed the death toll here in the United States to become so large as to be incomprehensible.

But the deeper meaning came when I heard the stories. In person, they poured out. Many visitors used the Sharpies we offered them to write their own dedications directly onto the flags. With each of their stories, my anger gave way to their outcries of grief.

 

vaxxers headlights

Logic of the Anti-Vaxxers (illustrated).

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Covid Death Toll Surpasses 700,000 Despite Wide Availability of Vaccines, Julie Bosman and Lauren Leatherby, Oct. 3, 2021 (featured electronically). An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months were unvaccinated, with the latest Covid-19 deaths concentrated in the South. The new and alarming surge of deaths this summer means that the coronavirus pandemic has become the deadliest in American history.

The United States surpassed 700,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, a milestone that few experts had anticipated months ago when vaccines became widely available to the American public.

An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months, a period in which the country has offered broad access to shots, were unvaccinated. The United States has had one of the highest recent death rates of any country with an ample supply of vaccines.

The new and alarming surge of deaths this summer means that the coronavirus pandemic has become the deadliest in American history, overtaking the toll from the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which killed about 675,000 people.

“This Delta wave just rips through the unvaccinated,” said Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan. The deaths that have followed the wide availability of vaccines, he added, are “absolutely needless.”

Justice Integrity Project Editor's Note: This site has been tracking U.S. and global death totals on a daily basis for more than a year, with the U.S. death total surpassing 700,000 a week ago, according to the Worldometer calculations that we cite below in our ongoing "Virus Victims, Responses" segment. Researchers in such statistics have long noted that precise daily totals vary somewhat between research organizations but that trends and major landmarks, such as the 700,000 U.S. death figure cited above, are nonetheless worth highlighting as important news.

 

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

I’LL TAKE YOUR QUESTIONS NOW: What I Saw at the Trump White House
By Stephanie Grisham. Harper. 329 pp. $28.99

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: An aide dishes on the Trump White House. But what does she say for herself? Carlos Lozada, Oct. 3, 2021 (print ed.). One of the saddest and cringiest moments — out of many — in Stephanie Grisham’s memoir of her years in the Trump White House occurs at Mar-a-Lago, in the middle of the Stormy Daniels scandal. Grisham, then communications director for first lady Melania Trump, felt sorry for her boss and proposed that the two take a stephanie grisham coverwalk along the beach. Grisham hoped to “comfort her as a friend,” she writes, to “hang out woman to woman,” to give Melania a chance to unburden herself.

“And there will be photographers?” the first lady asked. Melania, Grisham realized, assumed it was just another press event that her aide was setting up. She did not acknowledge, or even recognize, the overture of friendship. “I felt like such an ass to have offered,” Grisham admits.

In that exchange, Grisham committed a mistake that so many Trump acolytes make, and one she would repeat in her years working for the first lady and the president. She thought she belonged. “Everyone just loves you,” Donald Trump assured Grisham when he named her White House press secretary. She came to believe that she was “a trusted and valued member of Trump World.” Right up until she wasn’t.

It’s not easy writing a White House tell-all when it feels like so much about this White House has already been told. The substantive revelations in Grisham’s “I’ll Take Your Questions Now” are matters of detail, coloring in a picture whose contours have long been clear.

Oct. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Whistle-Blower to Accuse Facebook of Contributing to Jan. 6 Riot, Memo Says. Mike Isaac, Oct. 2, 2021. In an internal memo, Facebook defended itself and said that social media was not a primary cause of polarization.

Facebook, which has been under fire from a former employee who has revealed that the social network knew of many of the harms it was causing, was bracing for new accusations over the weekend from the whistle-blower and said in a memo that it was preparing to mount a vigorous defense.

facebook logoThe whistle-blower, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed, planned to accuse the company of relaxing its security safeguards for the 2020 election too soon after Election Day, which then led it to be used in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the internal memo obtained by The New York Times. The whistle-blower planned to discuss the allegations on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, the memo said, and was also set to say that Facebook had contributed to political polarization in the United States.

The 1,500-word memo, written by Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of policy and global affairs, was sent on Friday to employees to pre-empt the whistle-blower’s interview. Mr. Clegg pushed back strongly on what he said were the coming accusations, calling them “misleading.” “60 Minutes” published a teaser of the interview in advance of its segment on Sunday.

“Social media has had a big impact on society in recent years, and Facebook is often a place where much of this debate plays out,” he wrote. “But what evidence there is simply does not support the idea that Facebook, or social media more generally, is the primary cause of polarization.”

Facebook has been in an uproar for weeks because of the whistle-blower, who has shared thousands of pages of company documents with lawmakers and The Wall Street Journal. The Journal has published a series of articles based on the documents, which show that Facebook knew how its apps and services could cause harm, including worsening body image issues among teenage girls using Instagram.

Facebook has since scrambled to contain the fallout, as lawmakers, regulators and the public have said the company needs to account for the revelations. On Monday, Facebook paused the development of an Instagram service for children ages 13 and under. Its global head of safety, Antigone Davis, also testified on Thursday as irate lawmakers questioned her about the effects of Facebook and Instagram on young users.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for “60 Minutes” did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Inside Facebook, executives including Mr. Clegg and the “Strategic Response” teams have called a series of emergency meetings to try to extinguish some of the outrage. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer, have been briefed on the responses and have approved them, but have remained behind the scenes to distance themselves from the negative press, people with knowledge of the company have said.

The firestorm is far from over. Facebook anticipated more allegations during the whistle-blower’s “60 Minutes” interview, according to the memo. The whistle-blower, who plans to reveal her identity during the interview, was set to say that Facebook had turned off some of its safety measures around the election — such as limits on live video — too soon after Election Day, the memo said. That allowed for misinformation to flood the platform and for groups to congregate online and plan the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol building.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump asks court to force Twitter to reinstate his account, Adela Suliman, Oct. 2, 2021. The former president seeks a preliminary injunction while his lawsuit against the social media giant proceeds.

Former president Donald Trump has asked a court to mandate that Twitter restore his social media account.

donald trump twitterIn a filing late Friday, Trump asked a federal district judge for a preliminary injunction enabling his return to Twitter while his lawsuit against the social media giant continues.

“Plaintiff Donald J. Trump respectfully moves for a preliminary injunction directing, inter alia, Defendant Twitter, Inc. and all persons acting in concert with Defendant, to reinstate Plaintiff’s access to Defendant’s social media platform(s),” the filing said.

twitter bird CustomIt argued that Twitter was “censoring” Trump by indefinitely banning him from the platform, adding that the company “exercises a degree of power and control over political discourse in this country that is immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate.”

The filing also argued that Twitter had suspended Trump’s account after being “coerced” by his political rivals in Congress.

Twitter banned Trump from its platform on Jan. 8, stating that two of his tweets had violated the company’s policies and citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” The unprecedented move came after the riot on Jan. 6 in which hundreds of Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attack that resulted in five deaths and left about 140 police officers injured.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: An Erotica Pioneer Goes From Hero to Villain for Dozens of Authors, Alexandra Alter, Oct. 2, 2021. In the constantly evolving romance landscape, Blushing Books has long occupied a specific niche: spanking erotica. Now some of its most successful writers just want their books back.

Anne Wills was a mother of four who doted on her children, was an active volunteer with a youth swim team, loved animals and was known to those around her as a generous, nurturing, motherly figure in her small town in rural Virginia.

When that life felt too tame for her, she became Bethany Burke, a bawdy, kink-loving erotica author who also made low-budget spanking films. She wrote them and occasionally even directed them.

She was an early online erotica entrepreneur with her subscription spanking site, Bethany’s Woodshed, and a hero and mentor to dozens of authors, most of them women, whom she published for the first time through Blushing Books, the company that grew out of her original site. Some of those authors started earning tens of thousands of dollars a year from what they had thought of as a secret hobby, not a profession.

Now, to many of those same writers, she is a villain.

“She has you, she owns you,” said Barbara Carey LaPointe, a retired social worker in Camden, N.Y., who writes romance under the pen name Stevie MacFarlane and who, like dozens of other authors, is fighting Ms. Wills to reclaim the rights to the stories she created.

In interviews with The New York Times, a dozen Blushing authors and seven former employees described a haphazardly run business that frequently failed to pay authors on time, and threatened them with lower royalties and defamation lawsuits if they defected. Some writers who spoke to The Times discovered they were not being paid for books that Blushing was selling through certain online vendors or in audio format. Others were locked into contracts that gave Blushing “permanent and exclusive” rights to their books and pen names, which publishing experts called onerous and outside of industry standards.

When asked by authors about the missing payments, Ms. Wills, 63, the chief executive, often called it an oversight or a glitch in the system. But several former employees said that delayed payments to authors were a result of Blushing’s routine mismanagement of finances.

In December 2020, the Romance Writers of America, a trade group, announced that, following an ethics investigation, it had suspended the publisher’s membership for three years and barred Blushing from attending its conferences. The Authors Guild, an advocacy group, is representing 30 writers seeking to reclaim rights to their work from Blushing. So far, one of those authors has stopped Blushing from selling her books after filing copyright-infringement notices with retailers, showing that Blushing did not hold contracts for them. Umair Kazi, director of policy and advocacy at the Authors Guild, said that some of Blushing’s contract provisions and its treatment of some authors go against industry standards and raise “many red flags.”

In a statement to The Times, Ms. Wills declined to address specific allegations from authors, and said that her company’s policy was not to speak publicly about any “author’s contractual obligation with Blushing.” She also noted that Blushing had paid “millions of dollars in royalties just in the past five years.”

The enormous appetite for erotica, a nearly $1.5 billion industry, has stoked a feeding frenzy among publishers for new content. Romance sales exploded in the past 15 years, following the rise of e-books and self-publishing, and the commercial and cultural juggernaut “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which brought hard-core erotica from the fringes into the mainstream. Romance readers — a majority of them women — tend to be voracious consumers who buy dozens of books a year. Romance accounts for nearly 20 percent of the overall adult fiction market, drawing the largest audience of any genre, according to NPD BookScan. Around 60,000 romance and erotica books were published in 2020, up from nearly 35,000 a decade earlier, according to data from Bowker, which tracks publishing trends.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ozy Media, Once a Darling of Investors, Shuts Down in Swift Unraveling, Ben Smith and Katie Robertson, Oct. 1, 2021. The digital media start-up had come under scrutiny for its business practices after articles in The Times.

The abrupt collapse riveted media observers not because Ozy had a large number of loyal readers — that, in the end, was the problem — but because many had wondered how the company had managed to survive. The answer had to do with a charismatic and relentless founder, a great story and a slick brand that was perfectly tuned to appeal to noted Silicon Valley investors and powerful advertising executives.

Its founder, Mr. Watson, was an investment banker who dreamed of having his own talk show. When that eluded him, after a brief stint in 2009 as a host on MSNBC, he built a media company in his own image as a politically moderate, upwardly mobile son of teachers, one who had gotten degrees at Harvard and Stanford and worked at Goldman Sachs.

Mr. Watson and his partner, another Goldman alumnus, Samir Rao, raised more than $80 million from some of the biggest names in finance. The company debuted in 2013, backed by investors including Emerson Collective, the organization run by the billionaire philanthropist and media entrepreneur Laurene Powell Jobs, and Marc Lasry, a hedge fund manager and a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball franchise.

Ozy, whose motto was “the new and the next,” had its headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., not far from the start-ups that had built themselves into multibillion-dollar giants. It employed roughly 75 people to create articles, videos, podcasts and newsletters on a range of topics, from espionage to the appeal of Grandma’s kitchen. Many of the videos and television shows that Ozy also sold starred Mr. Watson in conversation with politicians and pop culture celebrities, a group that included Joseph R. Biden Jr., Hillary Clinton and John Legend.

While the Times article was being reported, Emerson Collective distanced itself from the company, saying it “did not participate in Ozy’s latest investment round and has not served on its board since 2019.” (Emerson Collective added in a statement on Friday morning that it was “troubled” by the allegations concerning Ozy.)

On Tuesday, the Ozy board said it had hired the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison to investigate the company’s “business activities” and leadership team.

On Thursday, another shoe dropped: Mr. Lasry resigned as the chairman of the Ozy board, saying in a statement, “I believe that going forward Ozy requires experience in areas like crisis management and investigations, where I do not have particular expertise.” Another sign of the end came when Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley investor and an early Ozy backer, said this week that he had returned his shares to the company.

 

September

Sept. 30

Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). Trump-supporting former law school dean John Eastman, left, helps Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani inflame pro-Trump protesters in front the White House before the insurrection riot at the U.S. Capitol to prevent the presidential election certification of Joe Biden's presidency on Jan. 6, 2021 (Los Angeles Times photo). 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A Trump lawyer wrote an instruction manual for a coup. Why haven’t you seen it on the news? Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 30, 2021 (print ed.). margaret sullivan 2015 photoIn a normal world, the “Eastman memo” would be infamous by now, the way “Access Hollywood” became the popular shorthand in 2016 for the damning recording of Donald Trump’s bragging about groping women.

But it’s a good bet that most people have never even heard of the Eastman memo.

That says something troubling about how blasé the mainstream press has become about the attempted coup in the aftermath of the 2020 election — and how easily a coup could succeed next time.

The memo, unearthed in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, is a stunner. Written by Trump legal adviser John Eastman — a serious Establishment Type with Federalist Society cred and a law school deanship under his belt — it offered Mike Pence, then in his final days as vice president, a detailed plan to declare the 2020 election invalid and give the presidency to Trump.

In other words, how to run a coup in six easy steps.

Pretty huge stuff, right? You’d think so, but the mainstream press has largely looked the other way. Immediately after the memo was revealed, according to a study by left-leaning Media Matters for America, there was no on-air news coverage — literally zero on the three major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC and CBS. Not on the evening newscasts watched by more than 20 million Americans, far greater than the audience for cable news. Not on the morning shows the next day. And when Sunday rolled around, NBC’s “Meet the Press” was the only broadcast network show that bothered to mention it. (Some late-night hosts did manage to play it for laughs.)

The Washington Post reviewed the memo that was obtained for the Woodward-Costa book and wrote about it in a broader news story about the book’s revelations and in a news analysis. CNN got a copy, too, and more than most, gave it its due.

But largely, it fell upon a handful of opinion writers to provide the appropriate outrage.

“The Horrifying Legal Blueprint for Trump’s War on Democracy” read the headline on Jonathan Chait’s piece in New York magazine’s Intelligencer section. And in the New York Times, columnist Jamelle Bouie took it on with “Trump Had a Mob. He Also Had a Plan.” The Post’s Greg Sargent hammered away at it.

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

Alex Jones, host and founder of the Texas-based Infowars show (file photo).

huffington post logoHuffPost, Alex Jones Just Lost 2 Sandy Hook Cases, Sebastian Murdock, Sept. 30, 2021. A judge issued default judgments — a rarity in the legal world — against Jones and Infowars after the conspiracy theorist failed to produce discovery records.

Infowars host Alex Jones has lost two of several lawsuits filed against him by relatives of Sandy Hook victims after he routinely failed to comply with requests to produce documents related to his involvement in spreading lies about the deadly shooting.

Judge Maya Guerra Gamble on Monday issued her ruling for default judgments against Jones in two different cases, which means he and the conspiracy-theory-spewing outlet Infowars have been found liable for all damages and a jury will now be convened to determine how much he will owe the plaintiffs. The new rulings became public Thursday.

In the filings, Gamble eviscerated Jones and reasoned that default judgments should be ordered because “an escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties, and non-dispositive sanctions have all been ineffective at deterring the abuse,” caused by Jones’ unwillingness to turn over documents related to the cases, the Texas judge ruled.

The ruling — which is often referred to in Texas as a “death penalty sanction” for a party unwilling to comply with court orders — is a rarity in the legal world. Jones, who is now on his seventh lawyer in these cases, had years to provide documentation requested by the court, including internal company emails.

HuffPost was the first to report the start of Jones’ Sandy Hook legal woes in 2018 when parents Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa filed a defamation lawsuit related to Jones’ continued lies that the 2012 school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead was a “false flag” hoax filled with “crisis actors.”

Pozner and De La Rosa’s 6-year-old son, Noah, was killed in the shooting. In the years since, the parents have dealt with continued harassment from those who followed Jones’ lead and claimed the shooting was faked.
Alex Jones has lost two court cases against Sandy Hook parents.

They’re not the only ones. In total, nine families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook shooting have leveled lawsuits against Jones and Infowars for the damage he and his outlet caused. Since then, Jones has lost multiple legal battles in his many lawsuits and was ordered to pay nearly $150,000 in legal fees in 2020 for failing to provide discovery documents for the plaintiffs.

It was Jones’ continued refusal to hand over discovery documents that led to Monday’s rulings against him in a lawsuit brought on by Pozner and a separate lawsuit by parent Scarlett Lewis, whose 6-year-old son, Jesse, was also killed in the shooting. Pozner, De La Rosa, and Lewis are being represented by Texas law firm Farrar & Ball, who told HuffPost that they are “not surprised by the Court’s decision.”

Jones’ most recent lawyer, Brad Reeves, told the Austin-American Statesman earlier this month that a default judgment against Jones would be a “hugely excessive” response to his discovery failures. Judge Gamble felt otherwise:

“Furthermore, in considering whether lesser remedies would be effective, this Court has also considered Defendants’ general bad faith approach to litigation, Mr. Jones’ public threats, and Mr. Jones’ professed belief that these proceedings are ‘show trials’,” the court rulings read.

Sept. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube is banning prominent anti-vaccine activists and blocking all anti-vaccine content, Gerrit De Vynck, Sept. 29, 2021. The Google-owned video site previously only banned misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. Facebook made the same change months ago.

YouTube is taking down several video channels associated with high-profile anti-vaccine activists including Joseph Mercola and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., below right, who experts say are partially responsible for helping seed the skepticism that’s contributed to slowing vaccination rates across the country.

youtube logo CustomAs part of a new set of policies aimed at cutting down on anti-vaccine content on the Google-owned site, YouTube will ban any videos that claim that commonly used vaccines approved by health authorities are ineffective or dangerous. The company previously blocked videos that made those claims about coronavirus vaccines, but not ones for other vaccines like those for measles or chickenpox.

robert f kennedy jr gage skidmoreMisinformation researchers have for years said the popularity of anti-vaccine content on YouTube was contributing to growing skepticism of lifesaving vaccines in the United States and around the world. Vaccination rates have slowed and about 56 percent of the U.S. population has had two shots, compared with 71 percent in Canada and 67 percent in the United Kingdom. In July, President Biden said social media companies were partially responsible for spreading misinformation about the vaccines, and need to do more to address the issue.

Analysis: ‘YouTube magic dust’: How America’s second-largest social platform ducks controversies

The change marks a shift for the social media giant, which streams more than 1 billion hours’ worth of content every day. Like its peers Facebook and Twitter, the company has long resisted policing content too heavily, arguing maintaining an open platform is critical to free speech. But as the companies increasingly come under fire from regulators, lawmakers and regular users for contributing to social ills — including vaccine skepticism — YouTube is again changing policies that it has held onto for months.

YouTube didn’t act sooner because it was focusing on misinformation specifically about coronavirus vaccines, said Matt Halprin, YouTube’s vice president of global trust and safety. When it noticed that incorrect claims about other vaccines were contributing to fears about the coronavirus vaccines, it expanded the ban.

“Developing robust policies takes time,” Halprin said. “We wanted to launch a policy that is comprehensive, enforceable with consistency and adequately addresses the challenge.”

Facebook and YouTube spent a year fighting covid misinformation. It’s still spreading.

joseph mercolaMercola, an alternative medicine entrepreneur, and Kennedy, a lawyer and the son of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy who has been a face of the anti-vaccine movement for years, have both said in the past that they are not automatically against all vaccines, but believe information about the risks of vaccines is being suppressed.

facebook logoFacebook banned misinformation on all vaccines seven months ago, though the pages of both Mercola and Kennedy remain up on the social media site. Their Twitter accounts are active, too.

In an email, Mercola said he was being censored and said, without presenting evidence, that vaccines had killed many people. A spokesperson for Kennedy did not return a request for comment.

More than a third of the world’s population has been vaccinated and the vaccines have been proven to be overwhelmingly safe.

YouTube, Facebook and Twitter all banned misinformation about the coronavirus early on in the pandemic. But false claims continue to run rampant across all three of the platforms. The social networks are also tightly connected, with YouTube often serving as a library of videos that go viral on Twitter or Facebook. YouTube has removed over 133,000 videos for broadcasting coronavirus misinformation, Halprin said.

The companies have hired thousands of moderators and used high-tech image- and text-recognition algorithms to try to police misinformation. There are also millions of people with legitimate concerns about the medical system, and social media is a place where they go to ask real questions and express their concerns and fears, something the companies don’t want to squelch.

Washington Post, A major founder of the anti-vaccine movement has made millions selling natural health products

In the past, the company’s leaders have focused on trying to remove what they call “borderline” videos from its recommendation algorithms, allowing people to find them with specific searches but not necessarily promoting them into new people’s feeds. It’s also worked to push more authoritative health videos, like those made by hospitals and medical schools, to the top of search results for health-care topics.

Sept. 28

 

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

Former Trump White House Press Secretary and First Lady Chief of Staff and Communications Director Stephanie Grisham in a CNN interview (File photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump played tough with Putin in front of cameras, while Putin toyed with his insecurities, says book by Trump press secretary Stephanie Grisham, Jada Yuan and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 28, 2021. Little is known about what happened in the 90-minute conversation between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Osaka, Japan, two years ago. But as journalists were quickly ushered out of the room at the 2019 Group of 20 Summit, Stephanie Grisham once again found herself with a close-up view of the action.

She saw Trump lean toward Putin that day and tell him: “Okay, I’m going to act a little tougher with you for a few minutes. But it’s for the cameras, and after they leave, we’ll talk. You understand.”

stephanie grisham coverIt’s just one of many telling interactions detailed by Grisham in her new book, titled, I’ll Take Your Questions Now. One of the most senior and longest-serving Trump advisers, she worked as the president’s third press secretary and as first lady Melania Trump’s chief of staff and communications director before she resigned on Jan. 6 during the Capitol riot.

Her 352-page book — obtained by The Washington Post — alleges a litany of misdeeds by the 45th president: from ogling a young female staffer, to orchestrating lies for the public, to attempting to ban the news media from the White House compound. It also gives a rare firsthand look at Melania Trump, who craved her privacy, and a blow-by-blow of how she wound up wearing that “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” jacket.

Grisham even claims to know dirt on Trump’s hair, which she says he cuts himself with “a huge pair of scissors that could probably cut a ribbon at an opening of one of his properties.”

“The intent behind this book is obvious,” Melania Trump’s office said in a statement after a passage leaked comparing the former first lady to Marie Antoinette. “It is an attempt to redeem herself after a poor performance as press secretary, failed personal relationships, and unprofessional behavior in the White House. Through mistruth and betrayal, she seeks to gain relevance and money at the expense of Mrs. Trump.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Stephanie Grisham’s Book Details Trump’s ‘Terrifying’ Temper, Katie Rogers, Sept. 28, 2021. The former press secretary is reflective in her tell-all: “I should have spoken up more.” Stephanie Grisham’s book was kept a secret from her closest allies in the White House.

President Donald Trump officialStephanie Grisham, the former Trump White House press secretary perhaps best known for never holding a televised briefing with reporters, plans to release a tell-all book next week that accuses President Donald J. Trump of abusing his staff, placating dictators like Vladimir Putin of Russia, and making sexual comments about a young White House aide.

In her book, titled I’ll Take Your Questions Now, Ms. Grisham recalls her time working for a president she said constantly berated her and made outlandish requests, including a demand that she appear before the press corps and re-enact a certain call with the Ukrainian president that led to Mr. Trump’s (first) impeachment, an assignment she managed to avoid.

“I knew that sooner or later the president would want me to tell the public something that was not true or that would make me sound like a lunatic,” Ms. Grisham writes, offering a reason for why she never held a briefing.

After serving as press secretary, Ms. Grisham worked in Melania Trump’s office. She resigned on Jan. 6 as a horde of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol. Her book was kept a secret from her closest allies in the White House, though by the time she departed Washington that number had dwindled. (She writes that, months before the election, she had moved to Kansas.) Her publisher, HarperCollins, calls the book “The most frank and intimate portrait of the Trump White House yet.”

omarosa manigault newman unhinged Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Loses N.D.A. Case Against Omarosa Manigault Newman, Maggie Haberman, Sept. 28, 2021. Donald Trump had filed the case against Ms. Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and “Apprentice” star, after she wrote a tell-all book (shown above) about serving in his administration.

Former President Donald J. Trump has lost an effort to enforce a nondisclosure agreement against Omarosa Manigault Newman, a former White House aide and a star on “The Apprentice” who wrote a tell-all book about serving in his administration.

The decision in the case, which Mr. Trump’s campaign filed in August 2018 with the American Arbitration Association in New York, comes as the former president is enmeshed in a number of investigations and legal cases related to his private company.

“Donald has used this type of vexatious litigation to intimidate, harass and bully for years,” Ms. Manigault Newman said in a statement. “Finally the bully has met his match!”

The decision, dated on Friday and handed down on Monday, calls for her to collect legal fees from the Trump campaign.

Mr. Trump’s campaign filed the case shortly after Ms. Manigault Newman published her book, Unhinged. It claimed that she violated a nondisclosure agreement she had signed during the 2016 campaign stipulating that she would not reveal private or confidential information about his family, business or personal life.

djt ivanka trump jared palmer CustomThe book paints a picture of an out-of-control president who is in a state of mental decline and is prone to racist and misogynistic behavior. Ms. Manigault Newman’s book also casts the former president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner (shown at left in a file photo), in a negative light. When Trump advisers tried to cast doubt on Ms. Manigault Newman’s accounts, she released audio recordings that backed up several of her claims.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Mr. Trump said nothing about the arbitration case, and instead attacked Ms. Manigault Newman in personal terms.

The media- and image-obsessed Mr. Trump has for years used nondisclosure agreements as a way to prevent staff members from speaking about him publicly, and to deter them from making disparaging comments or writing books like Ms. Manigault Newman’s.

The arbitration is confidential, meaning that only the parties involved can release information about the case. In papers made available by Ms. Manigault Newman’s lawyer, John Phillips, the arbitrator, Andrew Brown, said that the definition of the type of comment protected by the nondisclosure agreement was so vague that it had been rendered meaningless. What was more, he wrote, the statements Ms. Manigault Newman had made hardly included privileged information.

“The statements do not disclose hard data such as internal polling results or donor financial information,” Mr. Brown wrote. “Rather, they are for the most part simply expressions of unflattering opinions, which are deemed ‘confidential information’ based solely upon the designation of Mr. Trump. This is exactly the kind of indefiniteness which New York courts do not allow to form the terms of a binding contract.”
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At another point, Mr. Brown wrote that the agreement “effectively imposes on Respondent an obligation to never say anything remotely critical of Mr. Trump, his family or his or his family members’ businesses for the rest of her life.”

The arbitrator added, “Such a burden is certainly unreasonable.”

Mr. Phillips, who is based in Florida, said the lawsuit had been an abuse of power by a sitting president. “It’s over,” he said. “We’ve won in Donald Trump and the Trump campaign’s chosen forum.”

Arbitration decisions do not create a precedent, according to Shira A. Scheindlin, a retired Federal District Court judge for the Southern District of New York. That means that there is no potential impact from the Manigault Newman case on ones filed against other Trump employees.

However, a ruling in one case “may be persuasive” in another, said Cliff Palefsky, a lawyer in San Francisco who is an expert in the arbitration process. In the decision in Ms. Manigault Newman’s case, the arbitrator referred to a ruling in a class-action suit filed in New York by a former Trump campaign aide, Jessica Denson. In that case, a judge ruled that the Trump campaign’s nondisclosure agreements were not enforceable.

Charles Harder, the defamation lawyer who had represented the Trumps over the years and who was handling Ms. Manigault Newman’s arbitration case, parted ways with the Trumps before the decision was issued.

Press Run, Commentary: Headlines you won’t see: “GOP votes to derail U.S. economy,” Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 28, 2021. Embracing their ever-expanding nihilist streak, eric.boehlertRepublicans remain committed to forcing the U.S. government to default on key payments by refusing to join with Democrats in lifting the debt ceiling this week.

Walking away from what had been a long-standing tradition of bipartisan votes in order to ensure a functioning government, regardless of which party was in power, the GOP is purposely creating a looming economic crisis for the Biden administration, and for America.

And the press, led by the New York Times, is helping the GOP get away with it.

The party’s unanimous vote on Monday against raising the ceiling signaled its obstructionist strategy. The government’s funding is now set to expire 12:01 a.m. on Friday.

The United States could plunge into an immediate recession thanks to Republicans’ refusal, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, who warns that 6 million jobs could be wiped out, sending the unemployment rate surging to 9 percent.

If the limit is not raised the government won’t be able to borrow more money, forcing officials to choose between missing payments on military salaries for more than one million troops, Social Security benefits for 50 million recipients, and the interest it owes to investors. (Trump’s massive 2017 tax cut means the government has fewer funds today, and therefore needs to borrow more.)

kevin cramerRepublicans also filibustered the debt ceiling vote, which meant Democrats needed to meet a 60-vote threshold. “It’s sort of fun to watch their chaos,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), left, said of the Democrats.

Starting from the assumption that of course the party out of power is in favor of creating K2 financial collapse, the press continues to normalize radical, internal attacks on U.S. security.

“Mainstream media outlets have been treating the potential U.S. debt default as “good news” or an “opportunity” for the very Republicans who are provoking the fight — or chalking it up to “congressional dysfunction” and a problem for the Biden administration to solve,” Media Matters recently noted.

Retreating to its preferred "Both Sides" starting point, the Beltway press coverage often makes sure not to single out the GOP and its radical behavior. Refusing to publish accurate headlines such as, “Republicans Vote to Derail U.S. Economy,” news outlets prefer to dance around the disturbing truth by spreading the blame around and claiming the looming debt crisis is really “legislative gamesmanship,” as the New York Times recently stressed.

That newspaper has also covered the crisis as simply “a stalemate,” suggesting that “Congress” needs to act. The paper even claimed Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has been “thrust into a political role,” when she, along with business leaders, have simply beseeched Republicans not to create an unnecessary crisis this week. The whole spectacle was, “a standoff between Democrats and Republicans,” the Times assured readers, while uncritically quoting Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who claimed Democrats were the ones “playing a dangerous political game with our economy and it’s absolutely unnecessary.”

Sept. 28

R. Kelly during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on September 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois (Pool photo by Antonio Perez via Getty Images).

R. Kelly during a hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse on September 17, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois (Pool photo by Antonio Perez via Getty Images).

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Black Women Around R. Kelly’s Case Feel About His Conviction, Troy Closson, Sept. 28, 2021. The case could represent a turning point for the Me Too movement, which some women felt had not focused much attention on crimes against people of color.

When the singer Sparkle testified in a Chicago courtroom 13 years ago, she offered jurors a jarring account of sexual abuse: A man seen in a video urinating on and having sex with her teenage niece was R. Kelly, one of the biggest names in R&B music.

But even after others shared similar stories during Mr. Kelly’s first criminal trial, in Chicago in 2008, jurors acquitted him of the child pornography charges against him.

And so, a decade later, when the Me Too movement’s reckoning around sexual misconduct swept the country, Sparkle said she did not feel that it represented her experience. That changed on Monday, when Mr. Kelly, on trial in New York, was convicted of all nine counts against him.

“I didn’t even know that the Me Too movement was for us, Black women,” Sparkle, whose real name is Stephanie Edwards, said in an interview after the singer’s conviction. “Back then — and still today — Black women aren’t really cared about.”

Mr. Kelly’s case has been widely viewed as a crucial moment for Me Too, serving as the first high-profile trial since the movement took hold to feature an accuser whose victims were primarily Black women.

In the days and weeks that preceded the jury’s verdict, many observers said they feared the stories from a group of Black accusers, no matter how harrowing, might be dismissed.

Instead, Mr. Kelly’s conviction on Monday was viewed by many as a powerful validation of the accounts of both those who took the stand against him and others whose stories have never been made public.

But whether Mr. Kelly’s conviction represents a broader shift toward better treatment of Black victims of sexual abuse is still unknown.

“This moment will go one of two ways,” said Mikki Kendall, an author from Chicago who has written about feminism and intersectionality. “Either we will finally say that Black women and girls deserve to be protected. Or we’re going to say again, as we have, this idea that Black girls are ‘unrapeable’ because of their skin color.”

When Tarana Burke, a Black woman, started the original iteration of “Me Too” around 2007, she hoped to use the phrase to raise awareness of sexual assault and connect victims to resources.

Sept. 27

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Biden Versus the Rip Van Winkle Caucus, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 27, 2021. Political reporting often portrays progressives as paul krugmanimpractical and intransigent, unwilling to make the compromises needed to get things done, while centrists are realistic pragmatists. What’s happening in Congress right now, however, is just the opposite.

The Democratic Party’s left wing is advancing sensible, popular policies like negotiating on drug prices and cracking down on wealthy tax cheats, and has shown itself willing to make major compromises to advance President Biden’s agenda. In particular, the $3.5 trillion in spending Biden is asking for over the next decade is much less than progressives originally wanted. The party’s conservative wing, however, seems willing to risk blowing up its own president’s prospects rather than give an inch.

What’s going on? Contrary to legend, many of the balking Democrats don’t come from swing districts; anyway, the Biden economic agenda is popular almost everywhere. For example, its main elements command overwhelming support in West Virginia. Furthermore, does anyone really imagine that the outcome of the midterm elections will depend on whether the eventual package, if there is one, is $3.5 trillion or $1.5 trillion?

We can, of course, invoke the usual suspects: Corporate money and wealthy donors are surely having an impact. But I was struck by something Eric Levitz of New York magazine said in a recent article on this subject, which helped clarify a point I’ve been groping toward. Namely, some Democrats seem to have formed their perceptions about both economics and politics during the Clinton years and haven’t updated their views since.

That is, it makes a lot of sense to see Biden’s problems getting his plans across the finish line as being caused by the Rip Van Winkle caucus, Democrats who checked out intellectually a couple of decades ago and haven’t caught up with America as it now is.

djt handwave file

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Red Covid, David Leonhardt, Sept. 27, 2021. Covid’s partisan pattern is growing more extreme. During the early months of Covid-19 vaccinations, several major demographic groups lagged in receiving shots, including Black Americans, Latino Americans and Republican voters. More recently, the racial gaps — while still existing — have narrowed. The partisan gap, however, continues to be enormous. A Pew Research Center poll last month found that 86 percent of Democratic voters had received at least one shot, compared with 60 percent of Republican voters.

The political divide over vaccinations is so large that almost every reliably blue state now has a higher vaccination rate than almost every reliably red state. Because the vaccines are so effective at preventing serious illness, Covid deaths are also showing a partisan pattern. Covid is still a national crisis, but the worst forms of it are increasingly concentrated in red America.

It’s worth remembering that Covid followed a different pattern for more than a year after its arrival in the U.S. Despite widespread differences in mask wearing — and scientific research suggesting that masks reduce the virus’s spread — the pandemic was if anything worse in blue regions. Masks evidently were not powerful enough to overcome other regional differences, like the amount of international travel that flows through major metro areas, which tend to be politically liberal.

Vaccination has changed the situation. The vaccines are powerful enough to overwhelm other differences between blue and red areas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Kyrie Irving wants to leave a legacy. With his stance on vaccination, he just might, Sally Jenkins, right, Sept. 27, 2021. The Nets’ Kyrie sally jenkinsIrving wants to keep his vaccination status “private,” he said Monday. Kyrie Irving is too smart for you. He’s so smart, he can outwit germs and governments. He’s so smart, you can’t understand a word he’s saying. That’s how smart he is. His genius is utterly indecipherable to you and me, and while you may wish for some insight into the exquisite, diamond-chip workings of his multifaceted mind, you are not entitled to them because he prefers to keep them “private.”

Irving is so smart that everything he says sounds like a mystery unless it’s a contradiction. “I’m a human being first,” he said in refusing to share whether he is vaccinated against the coronavirus or to comment on whether he is anti-vaccine, as has been reported, a stance that could imperil other human beings because the vaccines reduce the chance of spread.

Given that New York City requires vaccination for indoor events, including sports arenas, will Irving be vaccinated for the opening of the season? “There’s just a lot of questions about what’s going on in the world of Kyrie, but I would like to keep that private,” Irving responded with a sense of his own unique and unquestionable importance. His remarks came via Zoom at the Brooklyn Nets’ media event Monday, presumably because he is unvaccinated and thus by law could not join the proceedings.

“Obviously I’m not able to be present there today,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m putting any limits on the future on my being able to join the team. And I just want to keep it that way.”

I’m sorry — keep it which way? Present or non-present?

 

 Federal prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes points to R. Kelly during closing arguments in the trial in a courtroom sketch, Sept. 22, 2021 (Jane Rosenberg for Reuters).

Federal prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes points to R. Kelly during closing arguments in the trial in a courtroom sketch, Sept. 22, 2021 (Jane Rosenberg for Reuters).

Huff Post, R. Kelly Found Guilty On All Counts In Sexual Abuse Trial, Alanna Vagianos and Taryn Finley, Sept. 27, 2021. This is the first time the R&B singer has been convicted for sex crimes against minors and young women.

r kelly twitterR. Kelly, right, the R&B singer who rose to fame in the 1990s, has been found guilty on all counts by a jury in the Brooklyn federal case against him for racketeering and charges relating to sex trafficking.

After nine hours of deliberation, a jury of seven men and five women found Kelly guilty on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits transporting individuals across state lines for the purpose of prostitution. The verdict came in around 3:15 p.m. Eastern on Monday afternoon during the seventh week of the trial.

The sentencing is set for 10 a.m. Eastern on May 4, 2021.

The trial, which began mid-August, lasted six weeks. The jury heard testimony from 50 witnesses; 45 were called by the prosecution and only five were called by the defense. Out of the 45 witnesses who testified for the prosecution, 11 were accusers, six of whom testified they were underage at the time of their alleged sexual encounter with Kelly. Witnesses for the defense included a former security guard, Kelly’s accountant and an up-and-coming artist who says he worked with Kelly for over a decade.

The testimonies of the eight Jane Does and two John Does were the most memorable parts of the trial. Nearly all of the accusers described a terrifying environment of control and fear when they were in a sexual relationship with the R&B singer. Several testified that Kelly implemented strict rules that included calling him “Daddy,” subjected them to physical beatings, and controlled the clothes they wore, what they ate and where they were allowed to travel. One Jane Doe said Kelly punished her by making her smear her own feces on her face and in her mouth as he recorded her.

“He could put the fear of God in me very quickly,” one victim said of Kelly during her testimony.

Sept. 24

 

john_f_kennedy_smiling

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Biden Will Continue the JFK Cover-Up, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, (foundation founder, author, book publisher and attorney), Sept. 24, 2021. On October 26, the deadline for the public Jacob Hornbergerdisclosure of the CIA’s still-secret records relating to the Kennedy assassination comes due. At that point, the issue will be: Will President Biden order the National Archives to release the CIA’s long-secret records or will he continue the U.S. national-security establishment’s almost 60-year-old cover up of its regime-change operation in Dallas on November 26, 1963?

Make no mistake about it: Biden, like his predecessor President Donald Trump, will continue the cover-up. That’s because the CIA will demand it.

future of freedom foundation logo squareMind you, this is just my prediction. I don’t know as a fact that the CIA has even asked Biden to continue shielding its long-secret records from the American people. When I asked the National Archives to identify any agencies that have expressed an interest in another extension of time for secrecy, they refused to provide an answer to my question.

But consider this: Whatever reason that the CIA had for requesting Trump to continue the secrecy, that reason would continue through today. If they were scared to have the American people see those records 60 years ago, and then again 30 years ago during the ARRB years, and then 5 years ago, I will guarantee you that they are just as scared today.

Let’s get one thing clear: Whatever definition one wants to put on that nebulous and meaningless two-word term “national security,” there is no possibility that the release of 60-year-old records is going to threaten “national security.” In other words, if the CIA’s records are disclosed, the United States won’t fall into the ocean. The Reds won’t succeed in taking over America’s public schools. The Russians won’t come and get us. Cuba won’t invade and conquer the United joe biden resized oStates. Vietnam won’t start the dominoes falling.

The only thing that would happen is that more pieces to the assassination puzzle will be filled in, most likely relating to Lee Harvey Oswald’s purported trip to Mexico City, a part of the assassination scheme that clearly went awry.

Both the CIA and the Pentagon know what happened after the ARRB strictly enforced the JFK Records Act in the 1990s. Having been released from vows of secrecy that the military had imposed on them, people started talking, big time.

No, they didn’t start talking about the assassination. When people engage in murder, they don’t often talk freely about it. When the CIA and the Mafia engage in murder, they are very good about keeping secrets. We still don’t know, for example, who killed Jimmy Hoffa and Johnny Roselli, who was the liaison in the CIA-CIA LogoMafia partnership to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Where people started talking was with respect to the autopsy that the U.S. military conducted on President Kennedy’s body on the very evening of the assassination. Released from vows of secrecy that the military had forced them to sign, several enlisted personnel disclosed a mountain of evidence establishing a fraudulent autopsy.

Why is that important? One big reason: There is no innocent explanation for a fraudulent autopsy. None. No one has ever come up with one. No one ever will. The fraudulent autopsy is inextricably bound up with the assassination itself.

For example, as I pointed out in my recent article “The Kennedy Autopsy Selected for Amazon’s Prime Reading Program,” several enlisted personnel came forward in the 1990s and established that the national-security establishment sneaked President Kennedy’s body into the Bethesda morgue at 6:35 p.m., almost 1 1/2 hours before the official entry time of 8 p.m. Their statements were corroborated by a memorandum from Gawler’s Funeral Home, which conducted Kennedy’s funeral. They were further corroborated by statements made by Col. Pierre Finck, one of the three pathologists.

Whatever they were doing in that hour-and-half had to be rotten to the core. Otherwise, why the secrecy, the skullduggery, the deception, and the lies? If it hadn’t been for the ARRB, we would most likely never have known they had done that.

Unfortunately, the JFK Records Act permitted these people to keep many of their assassination-related records secret for another 25 years, long after the law forced the ARRB to go out of existence. The CIA took advantage of that loophole. Then when the deadline arrived under the Trump administration, Trump unfortunately granted their request for additional time for secrecy.

Given that Trump surrendered to the CIA in its demand for further secrecy, one thing is certain: Biden will do so as well. That’s my prediction. While Trump continually deferred to the national-security establishment, in my opinion Biden is effectively owned, lock, stock, and barrel, by the national-security establishment. That means he, like Trump, will do as they say.

Oh, they’ll release some of the records in the hope of skating by without much notice from the mainstream press. But I predict that the most incriminating evidence will continue to be shielded from public view — on grounds of “national security” of course.

anita hill 2013 documentary poster

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford have a lot to talk about. A new podcast lets us listen in, Margaret Sullivan, right, Sept. 24, 2021. margaret sullivan 2015 photoTheirs is a club of two. A club that neither of them ever would have asked to join.

Thirty years ago next month, Anita Hill (shown above in a poster for a 2013 documentary) testified before the all-White, all-male Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing her when he was her boss in two federal workplaces.

Twenty-seven years later, Christine Blasey Ford, below left, testified before the committee that another Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, had sexually assaulted her when they were teenagers.

christine blasey ford oath uncreditedIn both cases, the testimony riveted the nation. Hill’s was televised and seen by a huge audience. Ford’s, taking place in a thoroughly transformed media environment, was the focus of nonstop cable TV and social media coverage and partisan commentary that was as immediate as it was intense. Both Thomas and Kavanaugh denied the women’s statements, and Thomas called the committee proceedings “a high-tech lynching for uppity Blacks.”

During a recent conversation recorded for a new podcast, Hill, now 65 and a Brandeis law professor, told Ford, 54 and a psychology scholar at Stanford and Palo Alto University, that she felt a sense of overwhelming kinship as she watched the 2018 testimony — a feeling that she knew was shared by a large community of like-minded women.

“A spiritual solidarity,” Hill called it.

Their conversation is a high point in “Because of Anita,” a new four-part podcast series that debuts in October. I listened to a segment of it Thursday and found it moving, instructive and — as podcasts sometimes can be — surprisingly intimate. The two had met and spoken before but not, until now, for the public to hear.

The conversation took place on Zoom in late August with Hill and Ford in their home offices in Massachusetts and California. The podcast hosts — activist and scholar Salamishah Tillet and journalist Cindi Leive, longtime editor of Glamour magazine — were in San Diego and Brooklyn.

Hill and Ford discussed the intensity of their experiences, and how it lingered far beyond their moments in the harsh spotlight — moments remembered by many Americans as a still image of each woman with her right hand raised.

They also agreed on their motivation: that it was not, at heart, to persuade those who would vote for or against the nominees but rather, a desire to be clear and honest about their experiences — to simply say what they knew and not to be attached to the outcome.

The most obvious outcomes, of course, were similar. Thomas and Kavanaugh both were confirmed by narrowly divided Senate votes: 52 to 48, and 50 to 48, respectively.

But both Hill and Ford sound as if they have made their peace with that — and say they would do it again, though they acknowledge how much the searing experiences have changed their lives.

Sept. 23

 

steve bannon billionaire guo wenguiWayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: The billionaire wanted by China who funded insurrection propaganda and a near Sino-U.S. nuclear war, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, Sept. 23, 2021. Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire wanted by the government of China for bribery, kidnapping, money laundering, fraud and rape, sits comfortably in New York City in his penthouse in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel overlooking Central Park, sipping $1 million-a-kilogram rare tea, all the while under the umbrella of U.S. political asylum protection status.

Meanwhile, through his GTV Media Group conglomerate, Guo is simultaneously funding propaganda supporting the January 6th insurrection in Washington and wayne madesen report logothe overthrow of the government giving him political asylum. Specifically, Guo funds, through his Guo Media company, Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast and "Real America's Voice" Internet television broadcast. The two are shown above in a file photo.

In a recent Real America's Voice segment, Bannon claimed that on the night of January 5, 2021, he, Rudolph Giuliani, and senior members of the Trump administration plotted from the Willard Hotel in Washington the January 6th attempted coup d'état to "kill the Biden presidency in the crib." Moreover, Guo's media influence operations in calling for the overthrow of the government of China -- words heeded by then-President Donald Trump -- almost ended up in a nuclear war between the U.S. and China.

Why are two Green Card holders from China permitted to wage a war of insurrection and sedition against the United States from New York City? More importantly, why is Bannon permitted to reprise the wartime treasonous roles of Tokyo Rose, Axis Sally, Lord Haw-Haw, Seoul City Sue, and Sister Mary in sowing sedition, insurrection, and treason?

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is shown encouraging insurrectionists outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 before they invaded the Capitol as senators were seeking to certify the U.S. 2020 presidential election vote (Photo by Francis Chung).

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is shown encouraging insurrectionists outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 before they invaded the Capitol as senators were seeking to certify the U.S. 2020 presidential election vote (Photo by Francis Chung).

washington post logoWashington Post, Tucker Carlson is taking aim at his own book publisher, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The Fox News host has been calling out Simon & Schuster, which published his most recent book, to anyone who will listen.

tucker carlsonCarlson, right, called Simon & Schuster’s president a “cartoonish corporate censor” and used the introduction to attack the company for canceling a book deal with one of his regular guests: Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). In a promotional interview this month, where another author might have thanked his publisher, Carlson called it “a disgusting company run by disgusting people.”

ny times logoNew York Times, R. Kelly’s Trial Is Captivating a Black Audience Online. Here’s Why, Troy Closson, Sept. 23, 2021. On the internet, both supporters and detractors of the singer have shown intense interest in the criminal trial in Brooklyn.

The trial of the R&B superstar R. Kelly, right, has featured some 50 witnesses across more than a month of testimony — a blizzard of sordid and sometimes grotesque r kelly twitteraccusations and counterclaims.

For help making sense of it all, hundreds of thousands of viewers have turned to YouTube, where a host who posts videos as thePLAINESTjane offers near-daily recaps that sometimes stretch 90 minutes long and include the same images and documents seen in the courtroom.

“Come on in, have a seat on my bus,” the presenter said at the outset of one recent video, sitting next to a house plant, a collage featuring a courtroom sketch of Mr. Kelly superimposed over her shoulder. “I’m going to pick you up and give you the rundown.”

The channel is just one cog in an expansive online ecosystem that has grown around Mr. Kelly as the accusations against him gained intense public attention in recent years. Now, his criminal trial in Brooklyn is at the center of a swirling social media world centered in Black communities where fierce critics of Mr. Kelly squabble with steadfast supporters, digging into details from the courtroom.

Thousand-member Facebook groups dissect PDF transcriptions of each individual witness’s testimony; accounts on Instagram post updates on the court day against colorful backgrounds; TikTok users break down the legal underpinnings of the racketeering charge against Mr. Kelly.

The online interest in Mr. Kelly’s trial stands apart from earlier high-profile cases involving rich and famous men accused of sexual misconduct and underscores the unique racial and generational dynamics at the center of the case.

The singer’s smooth melodies and charismatic persona captivated many Black households from the mid-1990s to early 2000s. And the majority of Mr. Kelly’s accusers are Black women — many of whom were adolescents or young adults when they say Mr. Kelly abused them.

“R. Kelly had a particular talent to make songs that resonated with Black audiences,” said Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of Black popular culture at Duke University. “When you think about a song like ‘Step in the Name of Love,’ that’s something you were apt to hear at a 5-year-old’s birthday party and also a 50th wedding anniversary party.”

He added: “Many Black folks grew up in a context where R. Kelly was literally the soundtrack of their lives.”

In previous high-profile Me Too cases — the downfall of the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, which helped ignite a national reckoning, and the conviction of the comedian Bill Cosby that unfolded in its aftermath — most of the accusers were white women.

ny times logoNew York Times, Melvin Van Peebles, Champion of New Black Cinema, Dies at 89, Sept. 23, 2021 (print ed.). The filmmaker was praised as the godfather of modern Black cinema and a trailblazer in American independent movies. A fertile creative force, he wrote fiction and musicals but is best known for a breakthrough movie that heralded the genre known as blaxploitation.

Melvin Van Peebles, the filmmaker praised as the godfather of modern Black cinema and a trailblazer in American independent movies, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 89.

A Renaissance man whose work spanned books, theater and music, Mr. Van Peebles is best known for his third feature film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, which drew mixed reviews when it was released in 1971, ignited intense debate and became a national hit. The hero, Sweetback, starred in a sex show at a brothel, and the movie sizzled with explosive violence, explicit sex and righteous antagonism toward the white power structure. It was dedicated to “all the Black brothers and sisters who have had enough of The Man.”

Mr. Van Peebles’s fiercely independent legacy can be seen in some of the most notable Black films of the past half-century, from Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (1986) to Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight (2016). His death arrives at a moment when Black storytelling has belatedly become ascendant in Hollywood.

Sept. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, No More Apologies: Inside Facebook’s Push to Defend Its Image, Ryan Mac and Sheera Frenkel, Sept. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s chief executive, has signed off on an effort to show users pro-Facebook stories and to distance himself from scandals.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, signed off last month on a new initiative code-named Project Amplify.

The effort, which was hatched at an internal meeting in January, had a specific purpose: to use Facebook’s News Feed, the site’s most important digital real estate, to show people positive stories about the social network.

facebook logoThe idea was that pushing pro-Facebook news items — some of them written by the company — would improve its image in the eyes of its users, three people with knowledge of the effort said. But the move was sensitive because Facebook had not previously positioned the News Feed as a place where it burnished its own reputation. Several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal, one attendee said.

Project Amplify punctuated a series of decisions that Facebook has made this year to aggressively reshape its image. Since that January meeting, the company has begun a multipronged effort to change its narrative by distancing Mr. Zuckerberg from scandals, reducing outsiders’ access to internal data, burying a potentially negative report about its content and increasing its own advertising to showcase its brand.

The moves amount to a broad shift in strategy. For years, Facebook confronted crisis after crisis over privacy, misinformation and hate speech on its platform by publicly apologizing. Mr. Zuckerberg personally took responsibility for Russian interference on the site during the 2016 presidential election and has loudly stood up for free speech online. Facebook also promised transparency into the way that it operated.

But the drumbeat of criticism on issues as varied as racist speech and vaccine misinformation has not relented. Disgruntled Facebook employees have added to the furor by speaking out against their employer and leaking internal documents. Last week, The Wall Street Journal published articles based on such documents that showed Facebook knew about many of the harms it was causing.

So Facebook executives, concluding that their methods had done little to quell criticism or win supporters, decided early this year to go on the offensive, said six current and former employees, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Those Fancy Cars He Flaunted on YouTube? A $30 Million Fraud Scheme Paid for Them, U.S. Says, Michael Levenson, Sept. 22, 2021. A flamboyant YouTuber known as Omi in a Hellcat was charged with illegally selling copyrighted TV shows and movies through an online service, prosecutors said.

On YouTube, he was known as Omi in a Hellcat, a flamboyant business mogul in diamond-studded jewelry who commanded a fleet of luxury cars including Lamborghinis and ran his own clothing line and restaurant.

But even as he lounged in his sprawling suburban home and showed off his rotating collection of high-end sports cars, he acknowledged that the federal government was closing in.

On Wednesday, federal prosecutors said that they had charged Omi, whose real name is Bill Omar Carrasquillo, and two of his associates, in a scheme that involved illegally selling copyrighted video content to thousands of subscribers on Mr. Carrasquillo’s own online service, which was called, at various times, Reboot, Gears TV, Reloaded and Gears Reloaded.

The scheme netted Mr. Carrasquillo and his associates more than $30 million from about March 2016 until at least November 2019, according to prosecutors. Mr. Carrasquillo, 35, of Swedesboro, N.J., used the money to buy houses and dozens of cars, including the ones that he regularly flaunted on his YouTube channel, prosecutors said.

Digital piracy schemes have proliferated in recent years, and a 2019 report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that they cost the American economy at least $29.2 billion a year.

Donte Mills, Mr. Carrasquillo’s lawyer, said his client denied the charges.

“Mr. Carrasquillo tapped into a brand-new, unregulated industry and was very successful,” Mr. Mills said in a statement. “Most people are called pioneers when they do that; Omar is called a criminal."

Sept. 21

megyn kelly fox newsPalmer Report, Commentary: Megyn Kelly flips out, Bocha Blue, Sept. 21, 2021. I want to start this article with a quote: “O serpent heart, hid with a flowering face! Did ever a dragon keep so fair a cave?” This is a quote from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. There are many quotes that hold so much meaning within the sparse but poetic words. This is one such quote. There seem to be certain people whose serpent hearts have indeed been hidden away, but one cannot ignore their manifestations now. One such person is Megyn Kelly.

bill palmer report logo headerI have written about her before and that is because her behavior must be called out. She is doing much to divide us, just like her former coworkers at FOX are. Kelly went off the rails this week. Declaring that most News Networks are not to be trusted, Kelly launched a series of vile attacks on several anchors. They include Joy Reid, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon. Notice how two of the three are people of color.

I believe it is jealousy that is playing a huge role in the cancelled Kelly’s anger. Obviously, she cannot find a respectable job. Who would have her? But I also want to tell you about a beautiful article I once read. It was actually all about Lemon.

It was written by a good friend of Lemon’s, and one of its quotes is this: “We were destined to like each other.” It was a lovely article. You know who wrote it? Megyn Kelly. That’s right. The two were good friends. But now Kelly is out of the mainstream news. When people get bitter that is often when the serpent rears its ugly head. And each time it does, it’s essential that the hissing serpent gets called out.

Sept. 20

Palmer Report, Opinion: The part everybody got wrong about the California recall race, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 20, 2021. Sometimes all you can do is chuckle at the bill palmerpredictability of it all. If Gavin Newsom had lost the California recall race, or if he had even come remotely close to losing, every major media outlet would have run headlines about how it spelled doom for the Democrats in the 2022 midterms. But with Newsom having won by about twenty-seven points, the mainstream media was quick to stress that this didn’t mean anything positive for the Democrats in 2022.

bill palmer report logo headerWe see these kinds of slanted headlines time and again from the media, nearly always insisting that every new development is somehow bad for the Democrats. Even when the Democrats score an obvious victory, the media nearly always downplays it. There’s a reason for this, and it has absolutely nothing to do with the media favoring the Republicans.

danny fenster

ny times logoNew York Times, An American Journalist Sits in Prison as Myanmar Suppresses Dissent, Richard C. Paddock, Sept. 20, 2021. Danny Fenster, an American journalist who was arrested in May as he prepared to leave Myanmar, was ordered Monday to remain in prison as police investigate a vague accusation that he disseminated information that could be harmful to the military.

The court hearing marked his 120th day in custody. Mr. Fenster, shown above in a file photo, is the only American known to be under arrest in Myanmar, and has become an international symbol of the military junta’s crackdown on free expression.

No formal charge has been filed against the Detroit native. No evidence has been presented against him at any of his eight court appearances, which are conducted by video and last only a few minutes. He is not permitted to speak or ask questions and has rarely met with his attorney since his arrest on May 24.

Mr. Fenster, the managing editor of Frontier Myanmar magazine, is accused of disseminating information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties, a charge often brought against journalists in the Southeast Asian nation. He faces three years in prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos pledges $1 billion to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea, Jay Greene and Steven Mufson, Sept. 20, 2021.Bezos’s large donations are transforming climate philanthropy — even as Amazon’s cloud-computing business and shipping operations have a significant carbon footprint.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos earmarked $1 billion of his $10 billion environmental philanthropy to conservation efforts Monday afternoon, aiming to protect 30 percent of the Earth’s land and sea by 2030 in an effort to prevent mass extinctions.

amazon logo smallThe Bezos Earth Fund, which he formed in 2020, did not identify any of the groups or initiatives it intends to back with the new donations. It said, in a news release, only that it will prioritize “areas that are important for biodiversity and carbon stocks and will give emphasis to the central role of local communities and Indigenous peoples in conservation efforts.” It added that the philanthropy will focus on the Congo Basin, the tropical Andes and the tropical Pacific Ocean.

“By coming together with the right focus and ingenuity, we can have both the benefits of our modern lives and a thriving natural world,” Bezos said in a statement. “I hope this commitment inspires others to make their own pledges to protect and conserve nature and help in the fight against climate change. A job this big needs many allies.”

Sept. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Facebook, Google and Twitter are the new ‘oligarchy of speech,’ George F. Will, right, Sept. 19, 2021 (print ed.). As the price of something george f willprecious, the dissemination of speech, declines steeply, society is facing some disquieting consequences of the cheap speech that the Internet enables. Among the anomalous responses are conservatives demanding new government regulations of privately owned but liberal-leaning businesses (Facebook, Google, Twitter). And liberals, who excoriated the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that corporations and unions have a constitutional right to fund speech about political candidates (independent of the candidates’ campaigns), are defending the freedom of some enormous corporations to influence political speech.

Such oddities are explored by Eugene Volokh in “What Cheap Speech Has Done: (Greater) Equality and Its Discontents” in the UC Davis Law Review. Volokh, law professor at UCLA, notes that the Internet, by making it possible for almost anyone to speak to many others, has radically reduced the importance of the “oligarchy of speech” that existed when large media entities acted as gatekeepers to the public forum.

Says Volokh, “Oligarchy, how quickly many have come to miss you!” Here are some reasons why.

facebook logoWhile the “old expensive-speech system” may have seemed “undemocratic,” at least the media owners were disciplined by market forces (loss of their audience’s confidence could be costly), they valued their reputations, and because they had financial assets, they were disciplined by the risk of liability for, say, libel. The democratic and egalitarian Internet has, Volokh says, “the vices of those virtues.” The mainstream media had defects, but, says Volokh, they “didn’t offer much of a voice to people obsessed with private grievances, or to outright kooks, or to the overly credulous spreaders of conspiracy theories.”

Many people who spread hoaxes and “fake news” with a few clicks have no significant assets, financial or reputational, that are risked by issuing, say, defamatory falsehoods. The First Amendment generally protects reckless speech by the credulous or malicious from criminalization. And a controversial 1996 statute stipulates that Internet content and service providers do not have the legal status of publishers or speakers of material posted by others.

Hence, says Volokh, “for much online material, there is no potential institutional defendant who might be held accountable.” Thus there is no “incentive to police speech.”

So, “courts have shifted to a remedy that had long been seen as categorically forbidden — injunctions against libel,” whereby continuing to libel someone becomes criminal contempt. Although modern laws against “criminal harassment” and “cyberstalking” were written to prohibit unwanted speech to a person (e.g., telephone harassment), some courts have used them — this is constitutionally problematic — against speech about a person.

Laws also can protect against invasions of privacy. North Dakota criminalizes intentionally or recklessly engaging in “harassing conduct by means of intrusive or unwanted … words” that annoy or alarm a person by affecting his or her privacy. Minnesota lets judges enjoin “repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted” words intended to adversely affect a person’s privacy. Volokh says “the era of ‘cheap speech’ has pushed courts and legislatures to criminalization — either through specific statutes or through the use of injunctions backed by the threat of criminal contempt — in order to deal with the danger posed by judgment-proof speakers,” of whom “there are millions.”

Newspapers, which cost money to publish and make money from advertisers and subscribers, are accountable in multiple ways. But because Internet users can speak cheaply and without persuading “any intermediary about the worth of their speech, judges are likely to see much more speech that seems pointless and ill-motivated.” Volokh is rightly uneasy about courts enforcing such judgments. Today, however, three non-government intermediaries — Facebook, Google, Twitter — mean that control “is more oligarchical than ever.”

Sept. 16

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washington post logoWashington Post, Microsoft is going password-free for consumer accounts, Sept. 16, 2021. You’ve got a lot of passwords to keep track of for your online bank account, insurance company, social media profiles and even your kid’s school software. But starting today, your Microsoft account doesn’t have to be one of them.

The company said Wednesday that it is officially retiring written passwords for personal accounts, including Outlook, OneDrive and Family Safety. Corporate accounts have been eligible for password-free sign-on since March.

The change comes as the entire IT industry rethinks its decades-long reliance on “shared secret” passwords — or the kind you have to remember. People have a tendency to lose and forget them, creating extra costs and headaches for companies and customers alike.

“We know people hate passwords,” Vasu Jakkal, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of security, compliance and identity, said in an emailed statement. “Thirty percent of people said they just have stopped using an account or service they were trying to log into rather than deal with a password reset. I’ve even done that. Imagine the shopping carts, memberships or accounts that have been abandoned because of password issues.”

pennsylvania map major cities

washington post logoWashington Post, Pennsylvania GOP lawmakers approve wide-ranging subpoenas for personal information of 2020 voters, Elise Viebeck and Rosalind S. Helderman, Sept. 16, 2021 (print ed.). Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania on Wednesday approved subpoenas for a wide range of data and personal information on voters, advancing a probe of the 2020 election in a key battleground state former president Donald Trump has repeatedly targeted with baseless claims of fraud.

The move drew a sharp rebuke from Democrats who described the effort as insecure and unwarranted and said they would consider mounting a court fight. Among other requests, Republicans are seeking the names, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, last four digits of Social Security numbers, addresses and methods of voting for millions of people who cast ballots in the May primary and the November general election.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) called Wednesday’s vote “merely another step to undermine democracy, confidence in our elections and to capitulate to Donald tom wolf o CustomTrump’s conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.”

Wolf, right, added in a statement, “Election security is not a game and should not be treated with such carelessness. Senate Republican[s] should be ashamed of their latest attempt to destabilize our election system through a sham investigation that will unnecessarily cost taxpayers millions of dollars.”

But Sen. Cris Dush, the Republican chairman of the committee that approved the subpoena, argued during the hearing that the information is needed because “there have been questions regarding the validity of people who have voted — whether or not they exist.”

“Again, we are not responding to proven allegations. We are investigating the allegations to determine whether or not they are factual,” he said, adding that the vetting process for outside vendors will be “rigorous.”

Judges, including on the Pennsylvania and U.S. Supreme Courts, have denied bids by Trump and his allies to overturn President Biden’s win in the state or invalidate millions of ballots.

Yet in Pennsylvania and other battleground states, Republican legislators have bowed to pressure from Trump and his base to investigate the results, despite a consensus among judges, election officials and experts that there was no widespread fraud in the election.

In Wisconsin, protesters gathered at the state Capitol last week to call for a ballot review like the one conducted in Arizona and push for an examination of voting machines. As of late last month, multiple reviews were ongoing in the state — including one by the nonpartisan Legislative Audit Bureau and one led by former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Michael Gableman, whose approach recently raised fresh concerns with some election clerks.

In Pennsylvania’s state Senate on Wednesday, the Intergovernmental Operations Committee voted 7 to 4 to subpoena Wolf’s administration after a testy debate. In addition to voters’ records, the subpoenas for the Pennsylvania Department of State also request all guidance issued to counties, as well as communications between the Department of State and county election officials, for the period covering the two votes.

Wednesday’s party-line vote advanced the GOP probe, which state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman (R) has promised will be a “full forensic investigation” of the 2020 election.

After the vote, Corman sought to allay fears that Pennsylvania voter information could be vulnerable if obtained by the committee.

“Every necessary step will be taken to ensure this information is secure, including making any vendor personnel sign non-disclosure agreements to make sure the data are protected under penalty of law,” he said in a statement.

Republicans also emphasized that the subpoena would not seek information about voters’ party affiliation. But Dush declined to answer further questions from Democrats, including about the outside vendors he is considering to handle the data.

“What you’re now describing sounds very much to me like a partisan investigation,” said state Sen. Steven Santarsiero (D), noting that the subpoenas could cover information for “nearly 7 million Pennsylvanians.”

That hearing’s only witness — Stuart Ulsh, chairman of the county commission in rural Fulton County where Trump’s margin of victory was larger than anywhere else in the state — testified that people in his community had vowed never to vote again because of what they had heard about the 2020 election.

Neither Ulsh nor the committee’s Republican senators acknowledged that Trump has been responsible for spreading misinformation about the election or that many previous reviews of Pennsylvania’s results have confirmed Biden’s victory.

In an interview, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) called the hearing “a dud.” Shapiro said his office would carefully review any election-related subpoenas issued by the legislature, particularly any that sought tabulating machines or ballots. “I would expect a subpoena like that to face litigation,” he said.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Battle That Is Reshaping the Internet, Brian X. Chen, Sept. 16, 2021. As Apple and Google enact privacy changes, businesses are grappling with the implications, Madison Avenue is fighting back and Facebook has cried foul. Apple introduced a pop-up window for iPhones in April that asks people for their permission to be tracked by different apps.

twitter bird CustomGoogle recently outlined plans to disable a tracking technology in its Chrome web browser.

And Facebook said last month that hundreds of its engineers were working on a new method of showing ads without relying on people’s personal data.

The developments may seem like technical tinkering, but they were connected to something bigger: an intensifying battle over the future of the internet. The struggle has entangled tech titans, upended Madison Avenue and disrupted small businesses. And it heralds a profound shift in how people’s personal information may be used online, with sweeping implications for the ways that businesses make money digitally.

facebook logoAt the center of the tussle is what has been the internet’s lifeblood: advertising.

More than 20 years ago, the internet drove an upheaval in the advertising industry. It eviscerated newspapers and magazines that had relied on selling classified and print ads, and threatened to dethrone television advertising as the prime way for marketers to reach large audiences.

google logo customInstead, brands splashed their ads across websites, with their promotions often tailored to people’s specific interests. Those digital ads powered the growth of Facebook, Google and Twitter, which offered their search and social networking services to people without charge. But in exchange, people were tracked from site to site by technologies such as “cookies,” and their personal data was used to target them with relevant marketing.

Now that system, which ballooned into a $350 billion digital ad industry, is being dismantled. Driven by online privacy fears, Apple and Google have started revamping the rules around online data collection. Apple, citing the mantra of privacy, has rolled out tools that block marketers from tracking people. apple logo rainbowGoogle, which depends on digital ads, is trying to have it both ways by reinventing the system so it can continue aiming ads at people without exploiting access to their personal data.

If personal information is no longer the currency that people give for online content and services, something else must take its place. Media publishers, app makers and e-commerce shops are now exploring different paths to surviving a privacy-conscious internet, in some cases overturning their business models. Many are choosing to make people pay for what they get online by levying subscription fees and other charges instead of using their personal data.

djt evander holyfield vitor belfortMediaite, Trump-Announced Evander Holyfield Boxing Match Reportedly a Box Office Dud, Nets a Paltry 150k Pay-Per-View Buys, Brandon Contes, Sept. 16, 2021. Former US President Donald Trump poses for a photo prior to the fight between Evander Holyfield and Vitor Belfort during Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort presented by Triller at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on September 11, 2021 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)

In a fight that never should have happened, Evander Holyfield was embarrassed in his return to the ring last week against Vitor Belfort, getting KO’d in the first round. But the real loser might be Triller Fight Club.

According to boxing journalist Dan Rafael, sources say the fight generated around 150,000 PPV buys. If that number holds, it will represent a massive fail for Triller, who promoted and sold the PPV event for $49.99.

Per sources, #HolyfieldBelfort event totaled about 150k PPV buys between linear & digital platforms, which would make it a massive $ loser for Triller. At 150k it would gross about $7.5M from ppv, not remotely close to covering even the purses, not to mention rest of expenses.

— Dan Rafael (@DanRafael1) September 16, 2021

In comparison, Mike Tyson’s return to the ring against Roy Jones Jr. last year surpassed a reported 1.6 million PPV buys, or more than 10 times the reported amount of Triller’s Holyfield bout.

Triller brought former president Donald Trump on board last week, in a desperate attempt to add juice to the fight and provide alternate commentary of the event. The former president’s boxing prowess dates back decades, having welcomed some of the world’s best fighters to Trump Plaza in Atlantic City long before the dying venue imploded earlier this year.

But even Trump, who loves to falsely criticize other sports for their dwindling popularity by invoking the “go woke, go broke” narrative, wasn’t enough of a draw to help this dud of a boxing match. While the NBA and NFL watch their TV ratings start to bounce back from a deplorable 2020, the Triller-Trump partnership just oversaw an epic fail for boxing.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Donald Trump’s boxing match stunt was a money losing disaster for everyone involved, Bill Palmer, Sept. 16, 2021. Given Donald Trump’s treasonous acts against the United States, anyone who even tries to do business with him should be financially shunned by every mainstream American on principle alone. Even as we continue working toward that goal, it turns out Trump’s own inherent toxicity and crappiness is working to make sure his financial partners end up punished.

bill palmer report logo headerTake for instance, the disgusting decision to allow career criminal Donald Trump to provide pay per view commentary for a boxing match this past week. Mediaite is reporting that just a relative handful of people paid to tune in for Trump’s incoherent commentary, and the whole thing has apparently turned into a major financial loss for the promoters. In other words, the promoters got exactly what they deserved.

Hopefully this will send a message to anyone else who thinks about partnering with anti-American traitor Donald Trump going forward. His base is comparatively small, and even they seem increasingly uninterested in his ramblings. And the vast majority of the country wants nothing to do with Trump, or with anyone disgusting enough to partner with Trump. The traitor is a terrible financial bet. Then again, he always has been.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘CUT HIM OFF NOW!’ Newsmax Host Short-Circuits After Guest Commits Unforgivable Sin of Criticizing Trump, Ken Meyer, Sept. 16, 2021. Newsmax’s Grant Stinchfield had a major-league meltdown where he screamed and cut off a guest on his show for mildly criticizing Donald Trump over the former president’s approach to Afghanistan.

Stinchfield spoke on Wednesday night with Joe Saboe, an Iraq War veteran who recently made headlines for his efforts to help people flee Afghanistan in light of the Taliban’s national takeover.

During the interview, Stinchfield and Saboe had a dispute about whether the current state of affairs in Afghanistan is a “hostage situation,” and the Newsmax host eventually made the argument that Trump would’ve never let this happen.

I can tell you, this didn’t happen under President Trump, and I know there’s a lot of people on the Left that want to try to blame President Trump. He wanted out of Afghanistan real bad. He was real frustrated, not being able to get out, but he didn’t pull out because he knew this would happen. In fact, we all did.

Stinchfield moved to dismiss Saboe from the show, but before he could, Saboe offered a counterpoint by saying “we followed this closely from multiple administrations. We know that Trump’s administration’s efforts here were fairly weak, that they were trying to limit the number of people that would get out…”

At that moment, Stinchfield claimed he was “low on time” and once again moved to terminate the segment. Saboe kept on speaking though, which caused Stinchfield to repeatedly shout “Cut him off now!”

“You’re not gonna blame this on President Trump on my show!” He exclaimed. “Don’t come on this program and take the talking points of the left and blame President Trump! That’s not helping anybody!”

Stinchfield concluded by shouting that “the Biden administration screwed this up from the very start,” and he also took some parting shots at Saboe for disagreeing with his “hostage situation” commentary.

Daily Beast, Facebook Boots Anti-Vax Group With New 'Social Harm' Rules, Adam Rawnsley, Sept. 16, 2021. Facebook’s “Coordinated Social Harm” policy ratchets up the pressure on some of the most extreme, anti-vax, hate speech, and election misinformation groups.

daily beast logoIn a move that will crack down on some of the most extreme and well-organized extremist groups, Facebook’s security team said Thursday that it will more aggressively go after groups that engage in “Coordinated Social Harm”—a term aimed at online clubs that are evading the company’s existing rules while engaged in threatening offline behavior.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, outlined a three-part test in a phone call with reporters to define what qualifies as coordinated social harm under the new enforcement regimen. First, groups must “have a systemic history of violations on our platform,” are “tightly coordinated on our platform working together to either evade our enforcement or maintain their persistence on our platform,” and are contributing to or driving significant social harm.”

facebook logoExamples of the kinds of “significant social harm” that could violate the policy, according to Gleicher, include “accelerating violence or undermining trust in critical medical understanding or could include presenting violence as a legitimate response to address government programs.”

While the new policy applies to a range of groups involved in offending behaviors, anti-vax activists served as the first case for enforcement under the new policy.

A case in point is the German group “Querdenken,” a conspiracy movement that protested lockdown rules and vaccines, and is known for organizing protests which frequently turn violent and attract members of the country’s far-right and QAnon conspiracy theorists.

Querdenken served as the first case for the rollout of the new policy, Gleicher said. And while the definition of coordinated social harm is broad enough to encompass groups involved in a range of activities, the new policy is likely to cause problems for the most severe anti-vaccine groups, many of which have already repeatedly tangled with the company’s moderation and security teams.

Gleicher said Querdenken activists “typically portrayed violence as the way to overturn the pandemic-related government measures limiting personal freedoms” and “engaged in physical violence against journalists, police, and medical practitioners in Germany.”

Sept. 15

Politico, Court reinstates Nunes suit over reporter's tweet, Josh Gerstein, Sept. 15, 2021. 8th Circuit says journalist Ryan Lizza republished story about lawmaker's family by highlighting it on social media.

A federal appeals court has rejected Rep. Devin Nunes' defamation suit over a magazine story about his relatives in Iowa, but the court revived the lawmaker's claim that he was libeled when a reporter linked to the story in a tweet more than a year after it was first published.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that a lower court judge correctly sided with reporter Ryan Lizza over the 2018 Esquire article, "Milking the System," about how members of Nunes' family quietly moved their farming operations to Iowa. However, the three-judge panel said that when Lizza tweeted out a link to the story late the following year, he essentially republished the story after Nunes (R-Calif.) had filed suit over it, rejecting what he said was an implication that the Iowa farm employed undocumented immigrants.

"The complaint here adequately alleges that Lizza intended to reach and actually reached a new audience by publishing a tweet about Nunes and a link to the article," Judge Steven Colloton wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Lavenski Smith and Ralph Erickson. "Lizza tweeted the article in November 2019 after Nunes filed this lawsuit and denied the article’s implication. The pleaded facts are suggestive enough to render it plausible that Lizza, at that point, engaged in 'the purposeful avoidance of the truth.'"

Colloton acknowledged that other courts have ruled that merely posting a new link to an old story doesn't necessarily constitute republishing it, but he said those decisions didn't foreclose the possibility it could sometimes be a republication.

Nunes' suit against Lizza and Esquire's publisher, Hearst Magazine Media, was one of a flurry of defamation cases he filed in 2019 against reporters, media entities and others, arguing that he was being trashed because of his support for President Donald Trump in ongoing investigations of Trump's ties to Russia. Many of the cases have been dropped or dismissed.

Lizza, who joined POLITICO as chief Washington correspondent in August 2019, declined to comment. Attorneys for Hearst who have represented Lizza in the suit did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Nunes' attorney, Steven Biss of Charlottesville, Va., did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the decision.

One First Amendment expert expressed concern about the decision and said the case would merit review by the full bench of the 8th Circuit.

"It’s certainly a novel application of a couple of important libel doctrines, and a potentially troublesome one if the 8th Circuit’s ruling is allowed to stand," said Chip Stewart, a professor at Texas Christian University. "It’s an odd kind of bootstrapping argument. Nunes claims the underlying article is false. He sues over it. Lizza tweets the exact same story after the lawsuit is filed. And what was originally not actual malice now all of a sudden is, at least plausibly enough for a lawsuit to advance to further costly litigation. All over a tweet that changed nothing about the original story."

One curious aspect of the ruling is that it appears to open the door to lawsuits against anyone who tweeted or retweeted the original story with knowledge of Nunes' lawsuit, and to similar claims over members of the public or those with significant social media followings tweeting or retweeting stories after learning that the subject of the story is disputing it in some way.

If the decision stands, the suit would be returned to a district court judge for further proceedings. The appeals court decision did not find Lizza or Hearst liable for the retweet but left those issues for the district judge to revisit.

Stewart said the appeals court's ruling is also disturbing because it allows Nunes, a sitting member of Congress, to press on with his legal campaign against his critics.

Colloton and Smith are appointees of former President George W. Bush. Erickson was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

Sept. 14djt melania trump filePalmer Report, Opinion: Melania Trump just got sold out, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 14, 2021. It’s exceedingly rare that I write about Melania Trump these days because, well, bill palmerwhy would I write about her? She’s simply no longer relevant in almost anything she says or does. But there was one development yesterday that’s notable not so much because it involves Melania, but because it’s yet another example of what happens to rats on a sinking ship.

If you’re not exactly sure what Stephanie Grisham did in the Trump White House, that’s because she never really did whatever it was she was supposed to be doing. For instance, she was White House Press Secretary for a good amount of time, but never held a single press briefing. Mostly she worked for Melania Trump, doing everything she could to cover for Melania’s inherent crappiness.

bill palmer report logo headerSo you’d expect Grisham to remain personally loyal to Melania to the end, right? After all, her entire Trump White House career was based on her personal loyalty to Melania. But no, that’s not how anything works when it comes to terrible people.

With Donald and Melania Trump now both out of a job, it seems Stephanie Grisham has also found that her career viability in politics is at an end. So she’s doing what crappy political figures do when their viability is over: they cash out with a lucrative book deal. And in Grisham’s case, she’s cashing out at Melania’s expense.

stephanie grisham unsourced CustomIn her upcoming book, Stephanie Grisham (shown at right in a file photo) reportedly says that when the January 6th Capitol attack was happening, she texted Melania and asked her if she wanted to put out a statement condemning the criminality and violence. Melania’s response: “No.”

Why should we care about this? It serves to underscore what a terrible and pathetic person Melania Trump is – but we already knew that. The real story here is that yet another Trump underling is selfishly selling out the Trumps, now that it’s obvious to everyone involved that Team Trump has no future anyway. The ship is sinking, and the rats are eating each other.

Sept. 13

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ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Issues Emergency Security Updates to Close a Spyware Flaw, Nicole Perlroth, Sept. 13, 2021. Apple issued emergency software updates for a critical vulnerability in its products on Monday after security researchers uncovered a flaw that allows highly invasive spyware from Israel’s NSO Group to infect anyone’s iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch or Mac computer without so much as a click.

Apple’s security team had worked around the clock to develop a fix since Tuesday, after researchers at Citizen Lab, a cybersecurity watchdog organization at the University of Toronto, discovered that a Saudi activist’s iPhone had been infected with an advanced form of spyware from NSO.

The spyware, called Pegasus, used a novel method to invisibly infect Apple devices without victims’ knowledge. Known as a “zero click remote exploit,” it is apple logo rainbowconsidered the Holy Grail of surveillance because it allows governments, mercenaries and criminals to secretly break into someone’s device without tipping the victim off.

Using the zero-click infection method, Pegasus can turn on a user’s camera and microphone, record messages, texts, emails, calls — even those sent via encrypted messaging and phone apps like Signal — and send them back to NSO’s clients at governments around the world.

“This spyware can do everything an iPhone user can do on their device and more,” said John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who teamed up israel flagwith Bill Marczak, a senior research fellow at Citizen Lab, on the finding.

The discovery means that more than 1.65 billion Apple products in use worldwide have been vulnerable to NSO’s spyware since at least March. It signals a serious escalation in the cybersecurity arms race, with governments willing to pay whatever it takes to spy on digital communications en masse, and with tech companies, human rights activists and others racing to uncover and fix the latest vulnerabilities that enable such surveillance.

 

george soros uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, The Great Read, George Soros Is Making Changes at His Foundation While He Still Can, Nicholas Kulish, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The result at his left-leaning foundation is a painful restructuring to focus on the fight against rising authoritarianism around the world.

The mass email that went out to Open Society Foundations’ grant recipients in the United States in March began with an upbeat note about “how resistance is translating into real progress.”

The bad news was buried farther down. The left-leaning foundation — started by the billionaire investor George Soros (above) and today the second-largest private charitable foundation in the United States — was beginning a transformation, as officials there refer to their restructuring plan. So, the email said, “the nature of many partnerships will shift.”

What that actually meant in practice only became clear amid a flurry of phone calls between concerned nonprofit leaders and foundation staff in the days that followed. Many of the nonprofit groups that relied on support from Open Society were getting what were called “tie-off grants,” a final year or so of funding to ease the blow of getting cut off. The foundation set aside an enormous $400 million for what amounted to severance payments to organizations around the world, and more than 150 foundation employees took buyouts as part of the restructuring.

Grant recipients in public health said they were stunned to be told during a global pandemic that they would be losing funding. Others supporting refugees were similarly surprised given the worldwide needs of the refugee population and the fact that Mr. Soros himself was a refugee from communism.

For years, Mr. Soros watched the world march in fits and starts toward the vision of open, pluralistic democracy that he has embraced since he was a young Hungarian Holocaust survivor studying philosophy.

The changes at the Open Society Foundations are a painful but necessary adjustment, its leaders say, because that march has halted. Now, with its founder in his 90s, the foundation — and the world — confronts rising authoritarianism and deeply divided civil societies. In the United States, that means that Mr. Soros’s work on progressive causes has made him a target of right-wing conspiracy theories.

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ny times logoNew York Times, The F.E.C. dismisses claims that Twitter illegally blocked a Hunter Biden article, Shane Goldmacher, Sept. 13, 2021. The commission’s ruling provides further flexibility to social media giants to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The Federal Election Commission has dismissed Republican accusations that Twitter violated election laws in October by blocking people from posting links to an unsubstantiated New York Post article about Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden, in a decision that is likely to set a precedent for future cases involving social media sites and federal campaigns.

The F.E.C. determined that Twitter’s actions regarding the Hunter Biden article had been undertaken for a valid commercial reason, not a political purpose, and were thus allowable, according to a document outlining the decision obtained by The New York Times.

twitter bird CustomThe commission’s ruling, which was made last month behind closed doors and is set to become public soon, provides further flexibility to social media giants like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat to control what is shared on their platforms regarding federal elections.

The suppression of the article about Hunter Biden caused an avalanche of conservative criticism in October and prompted accusations that the tech company was improperly aiding the Biden presidential campaign, including a formal complaint by the Republican National Committee that said Twitter’s actions amounted to an “illegal in-kind contribution” to the campaign.

But the F.E.C. disagreed. The commission said Twitter had “credibly explained” that blocking the article’s distribution was a commercial decision and that the move followed existing policies related to hacked materials, according to the “factual and legal analysis” provided to the parties involved in the complaint.

Twitter actually reversed course within a day of its decision to block distribution of the Hunter Biden article, and its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, has called the initial move a “mistake.”

The F.E.C.’s official vote on the case — the commission is split equally between three Democratic-aligned commissioners and three Republicans — is not yet public, nor are any additional statements written by commissioners. Such statements often accompany the closure of cases and can provide further insight into the commission’s reasoning.

 

Best-selling author Michael Wolff's two 2021 books:

Best-selling author Michael Wolff's two 2021 books: "Landslide" and "Too Famous."

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Why Our Monsters Talk to Michael Wolff, Ben Smith, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). In his new book, the author of “Fire and Fury” continues his specialty: teasing out stories from men in power, our media columnist Ben Smith writes.

It’s early 2019, a few months before Jeffrey Epstein will be arrested on sex charges, and he is sitting in the vast study of his New York mansion with a camera pointed at him as he practices for a big “60 Minutes” interview that would never take place.

The media trainer is a familiar figure: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s campaign guru and onetime White House adviser. Mr. Bannon is both conducting the interview and coaching Mr. Epstein on the little things, telling him he will come across as stupid if he doesn’t look directly into the camera now and then, and advising him not to share his racist theories on how Black people learn. Mainly, Mr. Bannon tells Mr. Epstein, he should stick to his message, which is that he is not a pedophile. By the end, Mr. Bannon seems impressed.

“You’re engaging, you’re not threatening, you’re natural, you’re friendly, you don’t look at all creepy, you’re a sympathetic figure,” he says.

This explosive, previously unreported episode, linking a leader of the right with the now-dead disgraced financier, is tucked away at the end of a new book by Michael Wolff, Too Famous: The Rich, the Powerful, the Wishful, the Notorious, the Damned. Mr. Bannon confirmed in a statement that he encouraged Mr. Epstein to speak to “60 Minutes” and said that he had recorded more than 15 hours of interviews with him.

michael wolff folded armsMr. Wolff, 68, left, has been at this since before I had a byline, infuriating his rivals by the access he gets, the stories he tells and the gleeful way he tells them. And he has been the subject of pieces like this one — scolding profiles of the journalist enfant terrible and New York media scenester — for decades.

He has managed to stay at the top of his game because of his undying interest and expertise in a particular subject: big, bad men. What Oprah Winfrey is to tearful celebrities and earnest royals, Mr. Wolff is to louche power players. The litany is astounding: Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, Harvey Weinstein, Boris Johnson, Mr. Bannon, Mr. Trump. All appear in his new book, a collection of profiles, some previously published, some not.

Magnates seem to think Mr. Wolff gives them their best shot at a sympathetic portrait. He writes, in “Too Famous,” that Mr. Weinstein called him during his 2020 rape trial to propose a biography. “This book is worth millions,” Mr. Weinstein told him, according to Mr. Wolff. “You keep domestic, I’ll take foreign.” As for Mr. Epstein? “He wanted me to write something about him — a kind of a book — it wasn’t clear why,” Mr. Wolff told me.

Few women appear in “Too Famous.” Tina Brown, Arianna Huffington and Hillary Clinton are the exceptions. “These are the women, and there are not too many, who have done exactly what men would do,” he said. And Democrats rarely talk to him. “They don’t have a sense of play,” he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news networks started the ‘crawl’ on 9/11 to feed us constant information. It never went away, Paul Farhi, Sept. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Even after the news cycle slowed down, the constant scroll of headlines stokes a perpetual sense of potential crisis.

Fox News was the first that day. Some 50 minutes after the first tower collapsed, it cranked up a whizzing scroll of text across the bottom of the screen, fox news logo Smallsummarizing the horror of the morning for those still catching up.

A day of terror in the United States … it began. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York … WTC towers collapsed … Manhattan is sealed off …

CNN and MSNBC launched their crawls minutes later. NBC and CBS jumped in briefly. Local stations did so, too.

“It was an overwhelming story and people were desperate to know more,” said Jonathan Glenn, a vice president at Fox News who oversees the network’s news writing.

CNNFaced with a traumatized public that sought news and community in the hours and days after the attacks, the national broadcast and cable news networks dispensed with commercials and reported round-the clock for days on end. The crawls were an improvisational addition.

The crawl introduced viewers to a new, busier visual landscape long before there were smartphones, Twitter and Facebook and “second screens” to distract from the first screen. Bewildering as 9/11 was, TV news became even more frenetic and cluttered in its wake.

In the years after the terrorist attacks, the crawls remained, becoming little conveyor belts of doom and dread: Airstrikes resume Wednesday in Afghanistan … Two Washington postal workers die of anthrax … Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody … Washington area on edge as sniper manhunt continues …

Sept. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: A make-or-break moment for our democracy, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Sept. 12, 2021. It’s a habit of journalism to declare nearly every ej dionne w open neckimpending period as a turning point, a “defining moment” that will set a nation or even the world on a course for years or decades to come.

The routinization of the momentous is mostly harmless, but over time it has a cost. Declaring too many junctures as decisive can lead us to overlook the ones that genuinely are.

Thus the importance of recognizing that the next month is make-or-break not only for President Biden and the future of American social policy but also for the right to vote and our democracy itself.

Failing to enact Democrats’ social policy plan would be a big problem. Failing to protect democratic rule would be catastrophic.

 

djt evander holyfield vitor belfort

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Trump Talked as Holyfield Got Pummeled. Just Another Day in Boxing’s Absurd Summer, Kevin Draper, Sept. 12, 2021. Of course it was a circus (shown in a promotional ad above) — the kind that makes sense in boxing these days.

In a single zany sentence, this is how the once-promising summer of boxing ended: Triller, a social video app that is a much less popular version of TikTok, put on a pay-per-view fight between a 58-year-old Evander Holyfield (who hasn’t fought in a decade) and a 44-year-old mixed martial artist, Vitor Belfort — and paid former President Donald J. Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to serve as live commentators, all on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The result of the (legally) professional fight is mostly beside the point — Belfort won by a technical knockout in the first round, after the referee stopped the bout because of how clear it was that Holyfield never should have been allowed into the ring — but it served to underscore what could have been.

Earlier this year, Triller won the right to promote Teófimo López’s lightweight title defense against George Kambosos Jr. The app paid more than $6 million for the privilege, after the fight went to an open bid because López and his promoter, Top Rank, could not agree on a deal.

Triller had burst onto the boxing scene last winter, with an exhibition fight between Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr. The internet celebrity Jake Paul knocked out a former N.B.A. player, Nate Robinson, on the undercard, and the rappers Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and French Montana all performed between fights.

An optimist could see an evolution in how boxing was being presented: a brash entrant aiming to attract a new type — and a new generation — of fans to a sport that has been the subject of a thousand obituaries.

The López-Kambosos fight, then, was Triller’s chance to show that it was serious. That its foray into boxing was not just an expensive, attention-grabbing marketing strategy for its app — though it was definitely that — and that its flashy presentation would work for real fights, too, and that it had figured out something that traditional promoters like Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions had not.

As if to punctuate its seriousness, on June 1, Triller announced that it had hired the Boxing Hall of Fame announcer Jim Lampley to call the fight. Cast aspersions on Triller all you want, but Lampley calling a López title bout is a strong way to present a legitimate draw.

Alas, that announcement would be the high point.

The fight, scheduled for June 19, was pushed back to August after López tested positive for the coronavirus. It was moved again, to September, onto the same card featuring Oscar De La Hoya — who has not fought since George W. Bush was president — fighting Belfort. But that date did not work out — in theory, López will now fight in October — and then, last week, De La Hoya was hospitalized with the coronavirus, in what he said was a breakthrough infection.

On a week’s notice, Holyfield stepped in to fight Belfort instead. The bout, originally to take place in Los Angeles, was moved across the country to Florida after the California State Athletic Commission refused to sanction it — even as an exhibition. (In Florida, it counted as a pro fight.)

But we are not done yet. On Tuesday, Triller announced that Trump and Trump Jr. would commentate the fight. The next day, Lampley, objecting to the presence of the Trumps even though they were to be on a separate commentating stream, pulled out.

That is how Triller’s big summer showcase, to be voiced by Lampley, became three hours of Trump recalling different boxers he’d known and been friends with, before two depressing top bouts, both over in the first round, each of which featured one washed-up fighter beating another.

“They say there is a lot of people watching,” the former president said with a smile between fights. “I can’t imagine why.” The night was one of Trump’s highest-profile, and lengthiest, public appearances since leaving office, and a fairly rare event in light of his suspension from a number of social media sites.

 

evander holyfield vitor belfort cbs boxingCBS Boxing, Analysis: Holyfield vs. Belfort fight results: Ex-MMA star knocks out Evander Holyfield, while Anderson Silva shines, Brian Campbell, Sept. 12, 2021. The two quick fights headlined an event that will also be remembered for some odd moments.

Well, the good news is that no one got seriously injured. That's about the best thing one can say about Saturday's Triller Fight Club pay-per-view card from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida.

MMA legend Vitor Belfort, above right, knocked out 58-year-old former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, left, in the main event and Anderson Silva continued to raise his stock on the boxing side of his post-UFC combat career in one of the most bizarre fight cards in recent memory.

Let's take a closer look at what we learned following this circus from south Florida.

  1. Triller is the bottom of the combat sports food chain
  2. Let's be happy for Holyfield it wasn't much worse
  3. Consider Anderson Silva the new face of the celebrity boxing era

washington post logoWashington Post, TV news networks started the ‘crawl’ on 9/11 to feed us constant information. It never went away, Paul Farhi, Sept. 12, 2021 (print ed.). Even after the news cycle slowed down, the constant scroll of headlines stokes a perpetual sense of potential crisis.

Fox News was the first that day. Some 50 minutes after the first tower collapsed, it cranked up a whizzing scroll of text across the bottom of the screen, summarizing the horror of the morning for those still catching up.

A day of terror in the United States … it began. Two planes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York … WTC towers collapsed … Manhattan is sealed off …

CNN and MSNBC launched their crawls minutes later. NBC and CBS jumped in briefly. Local stations did so, too.

“It was an overwhelming story and people were desperate to know more,” said Jonathan Glenn, a vice president at Fox News who oversees the network’s news writing.

Faced with a traumatized public that sought news and community in the hours and days after the attacks, the national broadcast and cable news networks dispensed with commercials and reported round-the clock for days on end. The crawls were an improvisational addition.

The crawl introduced viewers to a new, busier visual landscape long before there were smartphones, Twitter and Facebook and “second screens” to distract from the first screen. Bewildering as 9/11 was, TV news became even more frenetic and cluttered in its wake.

In the years after the terrorist attacks, the crawls remained, becoming little conveyor belts of doom and dread: Airstrikes resume Wednesday in Afghanistan … Two Washington postal workers die of anthrax … Shoe bomb suspect to remain in custody … Washington area on edge as sniper manhunt continues …

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, center, performing in Accra.Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, center, performing in Accra.

The Guardian, Louis Armstrong and the spy: how the CIA used him as a ‘trojan horse’ in Congo, Jason Burke, Sept. 12, 2021. Book reveals how the jazz musician unwittingly became party to secret cold war manoeuvres by the US in Africa.

It was a memorable evening: Louis Armstrong, his wife and a diplomat from the US embassy were out for dinner in a restaurant in what was still Léopoldville, capital of the newly independent Congo.

The trumpeter, singer and band leader, nicknamed Satchmo as a child, was in the middle of a tour of Africa that would stretch over months, organised and sponsored by the State Department in a bid to improve the image of the US in dozens of countries which had just won freedom from colonial regimes.

CIA LogoWhat Armstrong did not know was that his host that night in November 1960 was not the political attaché as described, but the head of the CIA in Congo. He was also totally unaware of how his fame had allowed the spy who was making small talk across the starters to gain crucial information that would facilitate some of the most controversial operations of the entire cold war.

“Armstrong was basically a Trojan horse for the CIA. It’s genuinely heartbreaking. He was brought in to serve an interest that was completely contrary to his own sense of what was right or wrong. He would have been horrified,” said Susan Williams, a research fellow at London University’s School of Advanced Study and author of White Malice, a new book which exposes the astonishing extent of the CIA’s activities across central and west Africa in the 1950s and early 60s.

Documents found by Williams in the archives of the UN during five years of research strongly suggest that the Armstrongs’ host, CIA station chief Larry Devlin, and other US intelligence officers posted to Congo used the cover of the musicians’s visit to get access to the strategically important and very wealthy province of Katanga, which had recently seceded. The US, though sympathetic to the agenda of the province’s leader, had not officially recognised the self-declared government there.

There was much of interest to the CIA in Katanga, ranging from senior officials with whom they could not otherwise meet to crucial mining infrastructure, with 1,500 tons of uranium and vast potential to procure more. Armstrong’s tour to Katanga was the perfect opportunity, so Devlin and others flew down from the capital with the musician and his famous band. “They needed a cover and this gave them one,” said Williams.

There was something else that Armstrong, who had pulled out of a similar tour to the Soviet Union three years earlier in protest at racism in the US, did not know. The CIA in the Congo, led by Devlin, was trying to kill the Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister, 35-year-old Patrice Lumumba, fearful that he would lead the country into the Soviet camp. Historians now believe the nationalist leader wanted his country to remain neutral in the cold war.

patrice lumumba raising arms 1960Just a mile or so from where Armstrong and Devlin had dined, the charismatic Lumumba was being held prisoner in his official residence by soldiers loyal to Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, the young military chief with a close working relationship with the CIA, who had effectively seized power some weeks earlier.

Within two months of Armstrong’s tour, Lumumba (shown at left in a 1960 file photo) was murdered in Katanga by officials of the breakaway province and police officers from Belgium. Mobutu would later consolidate his hold on Congo, and become a loyal US client.

Devlin later claimed that the CIA was responsible, telling a US Congressional investigation “that the coup of Mobutu … was arranged and supported, and indeed, managed, by the CIA”.

Daily Beast, Pranksters Dupe Newsmax Into Interviewing Fake Paul Wolfowitz—Twice, Justin Baragona, Updated Sept. 12, 2021. Three weeks after falling for an obvious prank, right-wing cable news outlet Newsmax was embarrassingly duped by the same trick when they interviewed someone they believed was former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz—who promptly called the conservative network “a much bigger threat to America than the hijackers of 9/11.”

Following the fall of Kabul and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, cable news has been flooded with commentary from the original architects of the War on Terror. In that same vein, on August 21, Newsmax sought out an interview with Wolfowitz to discuss the end of the war in Afghanistan, only to get in touch with a group of pranksters known as The Yes Men.

daily beast logoAs first reported by Mediaite, according to the pranksters, Newsmax anchor Tom Basile and his producers ended up chatting online with Yes Men member Andy Bichlbaum, whose original plan was to pose as a “colleague” of Wolfowitz’s from the American Enterprise Institute. (Wolfowitz is a senior fellow at the think tank.)

Citing “internet trouble” as the reason the ex-Bush administration official supposedly couldn’t take part in the interview, Bichlbaum attempted to convince Basile’s team to interview him as Wolfowitz’s fake colleague instead. The producers, however, declined that offer and “suggested just patching Wolfowitz through on the phone.” What resulted was an 11-minute on-air interview with Basile, with Bichlbaum impersonating Wolfowitz.

Basile, who claims he knows Wolfowitz personally, never noticed or acknowledged that Bichlbaum’s voice didn’t sound anything like his supposed friend’s. On top of that, the fake Wolfowitz was purposely pushing a new “conservative angle,” as Bichlbaum later described it, throughout the entire conversation.

Claiming that Americans had “nothing else to be proud of” due to the end of the 20-year-war, the Wolfowitz impersonator then suggested that the next time the United States thinks of spending $2 trillion on fighting overseas it instead invests that money into domestic infrastructure and health care. Despite these positions being completely contradictory to Wolfowitz’s actual views, Basile ate it all up and never caught on that he was speaking to a phony.

Fast forward three weeks and Newsmax decided to once again call up “Wolfowitz,” this time to talk about the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. Even though The Yes Men had immediately publicized their Aug. 21 prank after it occurred, and the real Wolfowitz has recently granted interviews to other networks, the network apparently contacted the group to patch in Wolfowitz to take part in their special coverage.

“This time we were determined to stop them from calling again,” the pranksters wrote on their website shortly after the Saturday interview.

Wasting no time once he was on air, Bichlbaum warned the network’s viewers that there’s a “different kind of terrorism, much worse than 9/11,” adding that the “new master terrorists” make the 9/11 hijackers look like “rank amateurs.”

Bichlbaum then called for the Newsmax panel—which included Basile—“to make an ‘X’ over your head with your hands,” resulting in at least one panelist actually doing so.

“Great. You’re under arrest. As a friend of this station I’ve got to tell you, Newsmax is a much bigger threat to America than the hijackers of 9/11,” the imposter Wolfowitz said, prompting the hosts to cut the interview short.

“Thank you for your service—what was that?!” Basile exclaimed after they dropped the prankster, seemingly still unaware that “Wolfowitz” wasn’t the real deal.

Fellow anchors Heather Childers and Rob Schmitt, meanwhile, lamented over his “embarrassing” remarks, chastising him for sowing division on a day that was about “unity and bringing people together.” Childers also grumbled that the “former Deputy Secretary of Defense” didn’t want to “share some real thought” with the panel.

“He was at the Pentagon that day and you would think that he wouldn’t choose this moment to be, frankly, hateful and intolerant,” Basile added.

Childers would also declare that “Wolfowitz” had “dishonored” the memory of late Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld with his comments while Schmitt claimed the former Bush administration official was just looking for a “viral moment” [because] he’s “probably not very important anymore.”

A day after being duped for the second time by The Yes Men, Newsmax provided the following statement to The Daily Beast over the prank.

“While we were covering special 9/11 remembrances and honoring those who had lost their lives, including heroic police officers and firefighters, horribly there were others whose only goal is to lie, deceive, and destroy,” the network said. “They dishonored the memories of true heroes.”

Sept. 10

 

supreme court resized 2021

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Breyer’s airbrushed portrayal of the judicial process, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 10, 2021. Could the timing of Supreme Court Justice ruth marcus twitter CustomStephen G. Breyer’s new book be any worse? It’s hard to imagine.

Breyer’s latest — an earnest testament to the nonpartisanship and professionalism of his conservative colleagues — comes on the heels of the decision by five of them to let a blatantly unconstitutional Texas abortion law take effect.

Breyer dissented from that move, saying it undermined “the ability to ask the Judiciary to protect an individual from the invasion of a constitutional right — an invasion that threatens immediate and serious injury.”

He dissented a few weeks earlier, when a six-justice majority rejected the Biden administration’s bid to extend the eviction moratorium. And again, a few days before that, when the same six justices rejected the Biden administration’s effort to undo the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers.

Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

Breyer’s book, loftily titled The Authority of the Court and the Peril of Politics, is an earnest plea to preserve the former and avoid the latter, a paean to the rule of law and a warning against precipitous steps — such as expanding the size of the court — that might undermine its legitimacy.

“Under the law, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; and the same is true of the public’s willingness to accept judicial decisions with which it disagrees,” Breyer writes. “The rule of law is not a meal that can be ordered à la carte.”

Except that the goose and gander seem to be treated awfully differently these days. Conservative justices insist on strict adherence to statutory text, except when they don’t: See the court’s evisceration of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Conservative justices lunge to prevent the perceived infringement of some constitutional rights — stepping in to block pandemic restrictions that limit religious observance — while insisting that procedural hurdles make it impossible to halt the Texas abortion law. They praise the importance of precedent, then casually toss it aside.

And the conservative justices are increasingly ordering off-menu, using their “shadow docket” to make decisions without the fig leaf of full briefing and oral argument. When the conservative justices leap to employ their power to issue emergency orders at the behest of the Trump administration but then act differently when the Biden administration comes calling, that sauce has a bitter aftertaste.

When it comes to politics, Breyer sees plenty of blame to go around — just not among his colleagues. Journalists, for one, who routinely identify the political party of the president appointing the justices when reporting on the court, a change from decades past. “Going further, they systematically label judges as conservative or liberal,” Breyer laments.

Guilty as charged — and it’s because times, and the court, have changed. To take one salient example: Four of the seven justices in the majority in Roe v. Wade were named by a Republican president; one of the two dissenters was nominated by a Democrat. Today, except in unusual and increasingly infrequent circumstances, the justices’ votes can be reliably predicted by looking at party affiliation. The labels are accurate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Describes Life Inside R. Kelly’s Orbit of Live-in Girlfriends, Troy Closson, Emily Palmer and Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Sept. 10, 2021 (print ed.). The second woman to testify on Thursday said Mr. Kelly was violent and possessive, following a witness who described being raped by the singer. These are the key moments from the 13th day of testimony:

r kelly twitterOne woman accused R. Kelly, right, of locking her in his Chicago studio in 2003 and raping her while she was unconscious, and a second woman described the strictures and abuse she endured as one of the singer’s live-in girlfriends, as Mr. Kelly’s racketeering trial continued Thursday in Brooklyn.

The two women were the eighth and ninth accusers to take the stand against the R&B singer, who prosecutors say used his fame to build and operate a criminal organization of associates and employees to prey on women and girls. And while accusations of sexual misconduct have long trailed Mr. Kelly, witnesses at the trial have described sexual and physical abuse beyond what has previously been made public.

Mr. Kelly has denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, which include a single count of racketeering and eight counts of violating an interstate anti-sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act.

The first witness Thursday, who testified using only the name Sonja, said she was about 21 years old and an intern at a radio station in Utah when she was given a chance to interview Mr. Kelly, then an R&B superstar. She told jurors that she had hoped to “kick-start” her career, but was instead imprisoned in his home for days and assaulted.

And the second witness, who testified as Anna, described a budding relationship with Mr. Kelly that turned abusive, as the singer slapped and humiliated her if she failed to adhere to his strict rules for the women in his orbit.

R. Kelly was so jealous and controlling that he smacked a girlfriend in the face when she happened to glance in the direction of other men, the woman testified on Thursday.

Anna — who testified in a voice sometimes so soft the judge had to ask her to speak up — said she met Mr. Kelly at a concert in South Carolina in 2016, when she was 19 or 20 years old. They exchanged numbers and met up a few months later in Atlanta, she said.

Within weeks, Anna said, she had moved in with the R&B singer and was traveling with him to concerts across the country.

“It was cool,” she testified. “We would always go out and have a good time. It was always fun in the beginning.”

 

jacob chansley shaman costume and mugJacob Chansley is seen at the U.S. Capitol in a Jan. 6, 2021 (Getty Images photo). He is also seen in a Feb. 4, 2021 mugshot released by the Alexandria, Va. Detention Center.

Law&Crime, Judge Refuses to Let Jacob Chansley Out of Jail Ahead of Sentencing, Calls Him a ‘Mascot’ for QAnon and ‘Hopes’ He’s Really Had a Change of Heart, Matt Naham, Sept. 10, 2021. The federal judge who has presided over Jacob Chansley’s criminal case doesn’t appear to be entirely convinced that the so-called “QAnon Shaman” of Jan. 6 has had a change of heart and renounced the sprawling conspiracy theory for which he is a “mascot.”

Senior Judge Royce Lamberth, a Ronald Reagan appointee, said in a memorandum opinion and order unsealed Friday that Chansley will not be allowed to get out of jail ahead of sentencing for obstruction of an official proceeding.

“Upon consideration of the parties’ briefs, the arguments offered at the hearing, and the record herein, the Court will DENY Chansley’s motion for release from custody pending sentencing,” Lamberth wrote.

Just one week ago, Chansley, perhaps the most unique Jan. 6 defendant out of the hundreds of people charged, pleaded guilty in Lamberth’s court.

Defense lawyer Albert Watkins has gone out of his way to argue that his client has repudiated QAnon.

“Mr. Chansley, a long-avowed and practicing Shaman, has repudiated the ‘Q’ previously assigned to him and requests future references to him be devoid of use of the letter ‘Q’,” Watkins recently wrote in a statement.

But Judge Lamberth said Friday that he hasn’t heard that from Chansley’s own mouth.

“Chansley is a mascot of ‘QAnon,’ an active conspiracy group,” wrote Lamberth, before tacking on the footnote (citation to NY Times removed) pointing out that Chansley’s plea hearing was interrupted by random people screaming “Freedom”:

Chansley’s counsel said in a statement that Chansley “repudiated” QAnon. Chansley has not personally indicated as such to this Court. Still, regardless of any potential repudiation, there is no doubt that he is a mascot for the QAnon movement. Hundreds of attendees joined Chansley’s September 3, 2021 plea-agreement hearing on the public access line, and at least once this Court’s proceedings were interrupted with shouts of “Freedom!”

Lamberth said that Chansley has ultimately “failed” to persuade the court with “clear and convincing evidence” that he is not a flight risk. The judge also expressed skepticism about whether Chansley has really had a change of heart.

Chansley memo

Again, the judge tacked on a footnote pointing out that his “hopes” for Capitol siege defendants who pleaded guilty in his courtroom have been “dashed” before. Though he did not name Anna Morgan-Lloyd, Lamberth was clearly referring to the Fox News interview she did after she was sentenced to probation. During that appearance, Morgan-Lloyd downplayed her actions.

Lamberth on Anna Morgan-Lloyd

Lamberth took Morgan-Lloyd’s words as being in direct conflict with the “contrite statements she made to the undersigned.”

As for Chansley, the judge had twice denied already his requests for release from jail. Because the third time was not the charm, Chansley will have to remain jailed ahead of his Nov. 17 sentencing.

The government has said that Chansley’s sentencing range has been calculated between 41 and 51 months in prison. The judge can go higher or lower, so Chansley’s behavior between now and Nov. 17 could prove crucial.

Sept. 9

ed henry former chief white house correspondent

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Ex-Fox News Anchor Ed Henry Must Face Sex Trafficking Suit, as Judge Advances Multiple Claims Against Him and Network, Adam Klasfeld, Sept. 9, 2021. Ex-Fox News anchor Ed Henry (shown above in a file photo) cannot dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of sex trafficking, as a federal judge advanced several claims against him and the network in a ruling on Thursday.

The developments came in a lawsuit filed by ex-associate producer Jennifer Eckhart roughly a year ago, which opened with a “Trigger Warning” cautioning readers with blaring red text in block capital letters that the complaint contained “Highly Graphic Information of a Sexual Nature, Including Sexual Assault.”

“She asserts that [Henry] is liable for sex trafficking because she says he used empty promises of career advancement to defraud her into coming to his hotel room, then used force to cause her to have sexual intercourse with him,” U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams summarized in a 52-page opinion and order.

The judge, who is the sister of Law&Crime’s founder Dan Abrams, noted that Eckhart’s allegations are not what traditionally comes to mind when the public thinks of the statute.

fox news logo Small“To be sure, this is not a conventional claim of sex trafficking,” the judge wrote. “Eckhart has not alleged, for example, that Henry forced her into prostitution or sexual slavery.”

During oral arguments in July, Eckhart’s lawyer Michael John Willemin described Henry’s conduct as “Weinstein-esque, but worse.”

“He hit her,” Willemin said, referring to Henry and his client. “He handcuffed her. He bruised her up. He called her a ‘whore.’ He told her she doesn’t have a choice.”

Ultimately, Judge Abrams found that Eckhart’s allegation fell under the “relatively broad language of the applicable statute,” classifying sex trafficking as the use of “force” or “fraud” to cause a person to “engage in a sex act” for a “thing of value.”

The judge also advanced multiple harassment-related counts against Fox News, though not the sex-trafficking one.

“At this juncture, the Court concludes that Eckhart has plausibly alleged that the network knew or should have known about Henry’s sexually harassing behavior but not necessarily the specific conduct that amounts to sex trafficking,” Judge Abrams found.

Eckhart’s lawyer said he and his client are “very pleased with the Court’s decision.”

“Neither Fox News nor Ed Henry succeeded in their early attempts to escape liability as to Ms. Eckhart’s allegations of rape, sexual assault and unlawful termination,” Willemin told Law&Crime in an email.

Sept. 8

Press Run Podcast, Opinion: Sorry Chuck Todd, America is not hopelessly “divided” over Covid, Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 8, 2020. Both Sides nonsense. Delivering this eric.boehlertSunday’s morning update like a disappointed dad, Meet the Press’ (MTP) Chuck Todd conveyed distressing news about how America is split down the middle over Covid, causing cultural and political fissures.

“The U.S. enters this Labor Day weekend suffering from two viruses: Covid and polarization,” the host lamented. “Covid has become an MRI of America's soul. Who would have imagined that masks -- wearing or refusing them -- would become such a political statement?”

This week’s MTP episode was built around the “divided” theme, with Covid being a prism used to view it. “It is not an exaggeration to say that we are more divided than at any time perhaps since the 1960s, and frankly, maybe since the Civil War,” Todd announced.

Except that premise is false and it reflects a misguided brand of Both Sides journalism. Instead of the country being “divided” over Covid, including whether to get vaccinated and wear masks, 75 percent of eligible Americans have received at least one shot, and 70 percent support mask mandates in schools. Just “17 percent of adults say they probably or definitely will not get vaccinated,” according to a recent ABC-Washington Post survey.

Meanwhile, a strong majority of Americans support requiring proof of vaccination to travel by airplane, according to Gallup. (39 percent oppose.) And the percentage of parents who plan on vaccinating their kids has climbed to nearly 70 percent.

We’re only truly “divided” when it comes to the Covid carnage in this country. In blue states in the Northeast the pandemic remains essentially over. That’s where low case, death, and hospitalization numbers remain the norm. In Florida and Texas, the virus is claiming victims at will, as Republican governors do everything in their power to put citizens at risk. Soon, the number of Covid deaths in both Florida and Texas could surpass the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.

The press ought to focus on that divide, and detail how the Republican Party and its leaders have made a conscious decision to prolong a deadly pandemic, even though a free and effective vaccine is available to stop it. It represents a stunning chapter in American history. Instead of focusing its attention on a conservative movement that is quite clearly killing its own, the press wallows in the shallow confines of its Divided narrative.

The Intercept, Press Freedom Bill Would Protect Journalists Facing Persecution — but Not Julian Assange, Rose Adams, Sept. 8 2021. Senators say they want to protect foreign journalists from government aggression. But what happens when the U.S. is the aggressor?

Earlier this year, just days before World Press Freedom Day, Sens. Tim Kaine, D-Va., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined forces to introduce the International Press Freedom Act of 2021, a bipartisan bill to protect at-risk journalists working in highly censored countries. The legislation is predicated on the idea that the United States is a uniquely safe place for journalists — but that notion doesn’t always hold up under scrutiny.

Introduced on April 29, the International Press Freedom Act is one of at least three press freedom bills that Congress has considered since Saudi authorities killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

But while other bills have proposed piecemeal protections — such as sanctions on restrictive governments or a government office for threatened journalists — Kaine and Graham’s bill takes a more comprehensive approach. In addition to directing State Department funds toward investigating and prosecuting crimes against journalists abroad, the law would create a new visa category for threatened reporters and open a State Department office with a $30 million annual fund to help journalists report safely or relocate.

Press advocacy groups such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have praised Kaine and Graham’s bill, claiming that the legislation would “bolster U.S. foreign diplomacy on global press freedom.” In a statement, Kaine emphasized the U.S.’s responsibility to spread its free speech ethos.

“Enshrined in both our Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, press freedom is a core American value that we must constantly promote around the globe,” he said in a press release. “With this bill, our country will let journalists know that we will protect their right to report and offer safe harbor when they are threatened.”

But that safe harbor doesn’t seem to apply to foreign journalists the U.S. government itself has threatened. For years, the Justice Department has worked to extradite and prosecute WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing Army war logs provided by Chelsea Manning in 2010, and increased the pressure following his 2016 publication leaked Democratic Party emails that the Justice Department said were hacked by Russia. And though the government’s extradition efforts are inching closer to fruition amid several U.S. appeals, Kaine and Graham have remained silent.

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the U.K. but was arrested in 2019 on an extradition warrant under charges related to his 2010 publication of military documents. Assange’s charges — which include one count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 17 counts under the Espionage Act for exposing national defense information — could land him in prison for a maximum of 175 years.

Of Assange’s many critics, Kaine and Graham have been some of the loudest. In the years since the publication of the military war logs and the Democratic National Committee’s emails, the senators have taken to cable news to air their contempt. “[WikiLeaks] released classified information between our government and foreign leaders that embarrassed foreign leaders and our government,” Graham said on CNN in 2017, after former President Donald Trump tweeted support for Assange. “So Mr. Assange is a fugitive from the law hiding in an embassy who has a history of undermining American interests.”

Kaine, whose vice presidential hopes may have been hampered by the 2016 email leak, celebrated Assange’s arrest in 2019. “It’s something that we expected, we knew the day would come, and justice has to be done,” he told CNN anchors in 2019. “The thing that I’m most interested in is, when you get to the bottom of this story, how do we learn enough to protect sensitive information from vandals like Julian Assange?” (Graham, meanwhile, tweeted his approval of the arrest.)

Over a year after Assange’s detainment, England’s High Court held a series of hearings about his case, which culminated in a January 2021 ruling that blocked Assange’s extradition. But in August, the court expanded the grounds on which the U.S. could appeal the decision, flooding the court with a wave of appeals. (The U.K.’s extradition procedure requires British prosecutors to represent the U.S. in court, meaning that U.K. taxpayers are footing the prosecution’s bill.)

“It’s fine to offer visas to persecuted journalists, but … it’s immensely hypocritical for the U.S. to do this at the same time it is seeking to extradite Julian Assange.”

“It’s clear they’re out to get him,” said Chip Gibbons, policy director for Defending Rights & Dissent, who has covered Assange’s case for Jacobin. “It’s fine to offer visas to persecuted journalists, but … it’s immensely hypocritical for the U.S. to do this at the same time it is seeking to extradite Julian Assange.”

Assange isn’t the only publisher or whistleblower the bill sponsors have targeted. Graham, one of loudest critics of government leakers in Congress, championed the imprisonment of Edward Snowden and slammed Obama for commuting Manning’s prison sentence in 2017. Kaine has occasionally taken a softer stance, although he also opposed Manning’s commutation and said that Reality Winner “has got to suffer the consequences” for leaking a classified document pertaining to the 2016 election. Still, the senators bemoaned the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide in the press release for their bill.

A spokesperson for Kaine said that he introduced the International Press Freedom Act because of his “long-standing support for human rights inspired by Kaine’s long-standing support for human rights … and in particular his outrage over the death of Jamal Khashoggi” but did not answer questions about Assange’s extradition. Representatives for Graham and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., a co-sponsor of the bill who has also voiced support for Assange’s extradition, did not respond to requests for comment.

And press freedom advocates, while supportive of the press freedom bill, said that the legislation would yield the biggest impact if the U.S. followed its own policies.

“Anytime we, or the U.S. government, or members of Congress are talking about press freedom internationally, it’s, in my mind, a good thing,” said Trevor Timm, co-founder and executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “But for any of that advocacy to be remotely effective, it’s important for the U.S. to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.”

Sept. 7

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion:The hypnotic effects of news intros have lulled us into wars, complacency, and worse, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 7, 2021. For the last 30 wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallor so years, it has not mattered whether you tune into the televised news in Kansas City or Khartoum or Denver or Dar es Salaam. A few seconds of viewing and hearing news introductions have had the same effect: you are mesmerized by techniques developed by psychiatrists, psychologists, and psychological warfare experts to keep your attention and lure you into the trance-like state.

wayne madesen report logoOnce you are hypnotized, you will have the tendency to believe whatever is being transmitted to you by news readers who are merely following what they are seeing on teleprompters.

fox news logo SmallFox News was the first major network to rely on such psychological gimmickry, in its coverage of Desert Storm, the first Gulf War.

Below are compilations of news intros from around the world.

 fcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Where are President Biden’s telecom picks? Cristiano Lima with Aaron Schaffer, Sept. 7, 2021. President Biden has been historically slow to appoint officials to the federal government’s top telecommunications agencies, and advocacy groups say the vacancies are preventing the administration from carrying out key agenda items, such as reinstating net neutrality rules killed during the Trump administration.

Nearly eight months into his presidency, Biden has yet to pick permanent leaders for the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which together oversee and set policy for the broadcast and Internet service industries.

For the FCC, that’s slower than any president since Jimmy Carter in 1977 — just by a few days — and for NTIA, it’s the longest ever since the agency’s founding in 1978.

The picks have seemingly taken a back seat to other items on Biden’s agenda, from dealing with the coronavirus pandemic to handling the military withdrawal from Afghanistan to grappling with competition concerns in the tech sector.

Only two other presidents, Carter and Richard M. Nixon, went this deep into their first full term without naming or having a permanent chair at the FCC since its founding in 1934. (Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson, who took over the presidency midterm after their predecessors' deaths, kept their FCC chairs after winning full terms, while Gerald Ford never won one.)

That means the agencies are being steered by acting chiefs who experts say aren’t empowered to fully implement long-term policies due to the interim nature of their gigs.

“At the FCC, the chair really has the predominant role in setting the agenda, setting priorities, and while an acting chair can do that to some degree, over the long term, you don't know the priorities of whoever the permanent chair is going to be,” said Samir Jain, director of policy at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).
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The vacancies are likely to hamper the agencies as they prepare to disburse funding aimed at boosting Internet connectivity nationwide that is expected to come from the bipartisan infrastructure package making its way through Congress. And they could bog down initiatives to make broadband more affordable and expand subsidies, at a time when the pandemic has laid bare the U.S.'s connectivity gaps.

Pivotally, Biden has yet to nominate a fifth commissioner at the FCC, a set that would give Democrats a 3-2 majority on the five-seat commission and enable them to advance more controversial items with a party-line vote. That includes a surefire Democratic effort to reinstate the Obama-era net neutrality rules, which dictate that Internet providers should treat all Web traffic equally.

The delay is a win for the telecom industry and for Republicans, who have long opposed the net neutrality rules, arguing that such heavy-handed regulation harms innovation and the economy.

“The commission can't really move forward on that until it gets the fifth Commissioner in place,” said Jain, whose group sued the Trump-era FCC — then controlled by a Republican majority — over its plan to repeal the Internet protections.
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More than 50 groups including CDT and Public Knowledge wrote to Biden in June urging him to appoint a fifth FCC commissioner, citing “growing urgency” and a need to “ensure a fully functional Federal Communications Commission.”

Nearly three months later, those groups are still waiting for Biden to announce his picks, and some of them said the absence is becoming more glaring.

“We've had a lost year in policymaking because of the slowness of the Biden administration to name a full FCC,” said Christopher Lewis, president and CEO of consumer group Public Knowledge, which backs reinstating the Obama-era net neutrality rules. “It's probably the biggest missed opportunity we have had in communications policy this year.”

After taking office in January, Biden swiftly designated then-FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chair of the agency. Evelyn Remaley, who was first named acting administrator of NTIA in January 2020 during the Trump administration, has remained in the role under Biden.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s fake 2024 candidacy lurches forward, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 7, 2021. If Donald Trump were actually looking to become President bill palmeragain in 2024, he wouldn’t be selling off the lease and naming rights to his DC hotel. He’s only looking at pretending to be a 2024 candidate in 2021, so he can raise campaign funds and use them to service his debts.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump wants everyone to buy into the false premise that he’s actually going to be a candidate in 2024. If you go the route of “we must take him seriously and cower to him or we’re not being vigilant enough,” then you’re gullibly playing right into his hands.

Our job is to make sure everyone knows that, no matter what Trump claims in 2021, he won’t really be a candidate in 2024. He’ll be in a New York prison, or too senile to leave the house, or deceased from his worsening health ailments.

Trump is a washed up joke who is barely able to appear in public, can’t afford to keep his name on his properties, and has an approval rating too low to compete in any election. He’s only leaning toward “running” because he’s broke, and perhaps because he mistakenly thinks it’ll somehow magically keep him from being indicted in New York (it won’t). Our job is to make sure everyone knows he’s a washed up joke, and that’s he’s not really running; rather he’s just screwing with us.

Most or all of the media will try to play the ratings game by pretending that Trump’s obviously fake 2024 campaign is real, and is a threat, and he’ll magically win. Our job is to not give into that. In fact our job is to loudly push back against the media for peddling this crap. Don’t let the media give Trump what he wants, which is legitimacy for his fake candidacy.

Sept. 6

 

brett kavanaugh confirmation

Press Run, Commentary: We still don’t know who paid Kavanaugh’s $92,000 country club fee, Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 6, 2021. An incurious press. By joining his fellow eric.boehlertconservatives on the Supreme Court in declining to block one of the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, a Texas statute that bans the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, Justice Brett Kavanaugh (shown above during his Senate confirmation hearing) made good on his unspoken pledge to demolish Roe v. Wade. Kavanaugh’s actions could change the fabric of this country for decades, and empower radicals within the Republican Party to strip away more rights of Americans.

Against that dystopian backdrop let’s not forget two crucial historic facts. Kavanaugh lied his way through his confirmation hearings. Facing multiple and credible allegations of sexual assault, Kavanaugh lied about witnesses; he lied about corroboration; he lied about friendships; he lied about parties. He also lied about an array of other topics, including state drinking ages, vomiting, his yearbook, and his accusers. Kavanaugh lied about his grandfather, federal judges, warrantless wiretaps, and stolen emails.

Second, some deep-pocketed patron, or patrons, over the years have clearly covered Kavanaugh’s personal finances. Someone erased all of the many financial pitfalls he faced, including tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt, while setting up him for a luxurious lifestyle well beyond what he could afford on the salary of a federal judge. We still don’t know which benefactors paid for Kavanaugh’s $92,000 country club initiation fee in 2016 for the Chevy Chase Club while he was making $225,000 a year, had two children in private school, and was saddled with the most debt of his life, approximately $100,000.

The staggering country club fee, which Kavanaugh plainly could not cover himself, represented the most egregious hole in Kavanaugh’s make-no-sense financial disclosure made during his nomination. For instance, in 2006, he bought a $1.2 million home in a tony suburb of Washington, D.C. and made tens of thousands of dollars of upgrades while earning $175,000 and sitting on a modest savings account.

The disclosures should have been a huge red flag for the press. “The personal finances of Supreme Court nominees regularly come under scrutiny during the congressional vetting process,” the Washington Post reported in 2018. And Kavanaugh’s finances were by far the most befuddling of any Supreme Court nominee in modern history. But the press mostly yawned through the story.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rupert Murdoch’s Australia News Outlets to Ease Their Climate Denial, Damien Cave, Sept. 6, 2021. The campaign, if sustained, could put pressure on Fox News, though critics were skeptical that a sea change was in store.

After years of casting doubt on climate change and attacking politicians who favored corrective action, Rupert Murdoch’s media outlets in his native Australia are planning an editorial campaign next month advocating a carbon-neutral future.

Depending on its content, the project, described by executives at Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp on Monday, could be a breakthrough that provides political cover for Australia’s conservative government to end its refusal to set ambitious emission targets. If sustained, it could also put pressure on Fox News and other Murdoch-owned outlets in the United States and Britain that have been hostile to climate science.

But critics, including scientists who have been a target of News Corp’s climate combat, warned that the effort could be little more than window dressing that leaves decades of damage intact.

“Color me skeptical,” said Michael E. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “Until Rupert Murdoch and News Corp call off their attack dogs at Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, who continue to promote climate change disinformation on a daily basis, these are hollow promises that should be viewed as a desperate ploy to rehabilitate the public image of a leading climate villain.”

As broadly outlined by News Corp executives, the project will include features and editorials across the company’s influential newspapers, along with Sky News, its 24-hour news channel. They will explore a path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 — a target, set by dozens of countries, that scientific studies show is crucial to averting some of the most disastrous effects of global warming.

ny times logoNew York Times, TV Commentary: Is 9/11 a Day, or Is It an Era? James Poniewozik, Sept. 6, 2021 (print ed.). After 20 years, it’s time for TV to treat Sept. 11 as serious, even divisive history, not just dutiful remembrance.

The TV specials for the Sept. 11 anniversary offer any number of ways to return to hell. There are wrenching interviews with survivors and with those whose loved ones died; uplifting stories of rescues and agonizing stories of those who perished in the attempt; footage of the conflagration, chaos and shock, as seen on morning newscasts and in the ash-blanketed streets; images of the first responders and volunteers digging through wreckage.

In documentary after documentary, on cable, streaming and broadcast, you can hear, over and over, the air-traffic-control distress calls. You can see, again and again, the stunning footage of an airliner slamming into the north tower of the World Trade Center, captured by a documentary filmmaker accompanying firefighters on a routine call. You can be reminded, time after heartbreaking time, what a beautiful, blue-sky September morning it was.

The interview subjects have aged. Time has passed. The children who fled schools or lost parents that morning are now grown adults. (Two different documentaries, on the History Channel and Discovery+, focus on them.) But the story, as told, is mostly the same.

Twenty years later, is there anything still to say about Sept. 11? Of course; it would be unimaginable to simply ignore it. A tougher question is: Is there anything more to say than there was five, 10, 15 years ago?

There is. But actually saying it can be riskier.

TV’s treatment of Sept. 11 has changed over the years, in bits and pieces. The adrenaline rush of “24” gave way to the moral grayscale of “Homeland.” MSNBC finally ended its grim tradition of replaying the live coverage of the attacks. But the general approach of the memorial specials, tightly focused on honoring the loss and sacrifice of one discrete day, has kept a kind of ritual familiarity.

For 20 years, the refrain has been: Remember, remember, remember. Memory is so ingrained in the language of Sept. 11 — “Never forget” — as to imply that it is obligatory, and sufficient, for future generations merely to remember by revisiting the narrative and imagery of one terrible day, rather than to connect it to the years of history that followed.

But is Sept. 11 simply a day, or is it an era? Was it the beginning of something or a continuation? You can divide most of the anniversary specials between those that focus closely on the day that the towers fell and those that pull back, way back, to look at what emerged from the dust.

Sept. 11 is not only in the past, as you can see in the bloody news from Afghanistan. For viewers who want to unpack how the attacks led to two decades of military entanglements, there’s Netflix’s five-part “Turning Point: 9/11 and the War on Terror,” which looks unsparingly at the intelligence failures before Sept. 11 and the mission creep through multiple administrations. Enlighteningly, it includes the voices of Afghan leaders and civilians. Sept. 11, as an epoch, meant upheaval for more than one nation.

But the history of Sept. 11 goes far beyond war and foreign policy. It affected domestic politics, domestic enmities and even American culture.

That last is the subject of the smart and surprisingly cathartic “Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11,” premiering Wednesday on Vice. The attacks have lately breached the tragedy-plus-time barrier on sitcoms — this year, both “Dave” and “Girls5Eva” featured jokes about album releases poorly timed around Sept. 11 — but “Too Soon” digs into comics’ early attempts to engage the shock of the moment and the divisiveness of the war on terror. Its voices include Gilbert Gottfried, who famously stunned his audience with a 9/11 joke at the 2001 roast of Hugh Hefner, taped only a few weeks after the attacks. “Comedy and tragedy are roommates,” he says.

And two of the anniversary’s most striking documentaries present Sept. 11 as an event that struck at America’s democracy and even its soul.

The “Frontline” special “America After 9/11,” premiering Tuesday on PBS, is driven by a striking video juxtaposition. First, on the Capitol steps the day of the attacks, a chorus of members of Congress, Republican and Democratic, senators and representatives, join to sing “God Bless America.” Two decades later, on the same site, a mob besieges Congress in an attempt to overturn the results of an election.

It’s a provocative connection, but the filmmaker Michael Kirk lays it out economically: The attacks set off a chain of action and changes — military quagmires, suspicion and racism at home, the loss of trust in institutions — that demagogues used to undermine democracy, and that fulfilled Osama bin Laden’s goal of dividing and weakening America.

From the beginning, the special argues, America’s response was driven by paradox: the moral rhetoric of President George W. Bush and the strategies of his vice president, Dick Cheney, who said that America would need to work with “the dark side” to survive.

The dark side won, “America After 9/11” argues. It won when specious claims of weapons of mass destruction rationalized war in Iraq; when images of torture emerged from Abu Ghraib prison; when illustrations of Barack Obama as bin Laden circulated; when the media fed hysteria about terror threats; and when the 2016 election was won by a candidate who said, “I think Islam hates us” and used similar rhetoric for people he labeled domestic enemies.

In this light, the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol — with its racist language and its fantasy of reclaiming America from a shadowy existential threat — was, says the former Obama aide Ben Rhodes, “the logical endpoint” of the 9/11 era.

But the most sweeping — and, I expect, ultimately the most memorable — of this year’s documentaries is Spike Lee’s elegiac, messy and feisty “NYC Epicenters: 9/11-2021½,” airing in four parts on HBO.

As the title suggests, “Epicenters” is only partly about 9/11, and it makes a strong case that the 9/11 era can only be captured with the widest lens. It works backward, starting from the Covid-19 pandemic and moving — through Black Lives Matter, the 2016 and 2020 elections and more — to its starting point. In Lee’s telling, Sept. 11 is not just a matter of terrorism but also the opening act to decades of calamity and uproar.

If it seems like a stretch, “Epicenters” soon makes it difficult to see the subject otherwise, drawing connection after connection across the years. There is Rudy Giuliani, “America’s Mayor” in the days after the towers fell, spouting election-hoax fan fiction at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. There is the rash of Islamophobic attacks after Sept. 11, echoing in the xenophobia of the Trump era. There are emergency medical workers suffering from 9/11-related illnesses that loom as pre-existing conditions during the pandemic.

spike lee imdbSept. 11, in Lee’s telling, is itself a pre-existing condition. It is not a one-time injury but a chronic affliction, and other, pre-pre-existing conditions express themselves through it as well. New York came back from it, and, “Epicenters” insists, it will come back from Covid. But in his crowning image, Lee, right, likens that comeback to Marlon Brando’s bloodied stagger at the end of “On the Waterfront.” Each blow leaves a mark.

“Epicenters” uses clips from a lot of films to evoke the city, from “On the Town” to the 1976 remake of “King Kong” to Lee’s own work. Lee’s memory of New York, like many people’s, is a blend of lived experience and fantasy. And sometimes the exaggerated language of film is the only thing that can capture larger-than-life experience; as the series notes, people describe Sept. 11, over and over, as being “like a movie.”

Lee’s interviews — with hundreds of people, from high elected officials to heavy-equipment operators at ground zero — are warm, emotional, sometimes sparring. He ribs every Red Sox fan he talks to; when his subjects need time to collect themselves, he lets the moments play out. For politicians, he lets the raspberries fly freely (the captions refer to Donald J. Trump, in the words of the rapper Busta Rhymes, as “President Agent Orange”).

One could argue over which director is most essentially New York. But Lee’s passionate heckler’s breed of New York-ness may be the best suited to this subject. He is loving and critical, impulses that New Yorkers know as synonyms. And his focus on diversity and race helps him find less-heard voices in a much-told story, like those of the Vulcan Society for Black firefighters, or of the Black flight attendant who guiltily recalls “racially profiling” a Saudi passenger after Sept. 11.

Unfortunately, “Epicenters” has made the most news for what you won’t see in it: an extended, bizarre section in the original final episode that gave credence to the conspiracists who theorize that the towers were brought down by a controlled explosion. Lee snipped the entire section, and despite the blunt edit, the shorter final cut, which premieres on Sept. 11, actually flows better.

I could imagine a version of “Epicenters” that still covered the conspiracy theories, not to legitimize them but as an example of the paranoia that thrives in a country lacking social trust — which Lee rightly deplores when it comes to anti-vaccine theories and the election hoaxes that drove some of the Capitol assailants.

There’s a sobering meta-lesson in the fact that the most artful of this season’s Sept. 11 documentaries became an example of one of the very problems it diagnosed. But at least the resolution shows that criticism can make a difference, and that it’s not too late to look at history seriously and make a change.

Sept. 5

ny times logohong kong flagNew York Times, Hong Kong Media Company That Criticized China Moves to Close, Austin Ramzy, Sept. 5, 2021. Next Digital, which has published criticism of China for decades, said a crackdown had left it with no way to operate. Its main newspaper, Apple Daily, closed in June.

Sept. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden signs executive order requiring review, release of some classified 9/11 documents, Amy B Wang and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 4, 2021 (print ed.). President Biden on Friday signed an executive order that would require the review, declassification and release of classified government documents related to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In doing so, Biden said he was fulfilling a promise he had made while campaigning for president, in which he had vowed, if elected, to direct the U.S. Attorney General to “personally examine the merits of all cases” where the government had invoked state secrets privilege and “to err on the side of disclosure in cases where, as here, the events in question occurred two decades or longer ago.”

“When I ran for president, I made a commitment to ensuring transparency regarding the declassification of documents on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America,” Biden said in a statement Friday. “As we approach the 20th anniversary of that tragic day, I am honoring that commitment.”

Justice Department log circularThe executive order directs the Justice Department and other relevant agencies to oversee a declassification review of documents related to the FBI’s Sept. 11 investigations. The order also requires the U.S. Attorney General to release the declassified documents publicly over the next six months, Biden said.

Families of hundreds of 9/11 victims had told Biden last month that he would not be welcome at this year’s memorial events marking the 20th anniversary of the attacks unless he declassified government evidence beforehand that could link Saudi Arabia to the attack, according to a letter sent to the White House in August.

Shortly afterward, the Justice Department pledged to review evidence related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a move that an advocate for some of the families criticized as insufficient. In a court filing last month, the Justice Department already had said the FBI was reviewing the materials for possible public disclosure.

But Biden’s executive order imposes new conditions and timetables on that process, commanding the bureau to review some materials by Sept. 11 and others on staggered deadlines over the next 180 days.

Biden also seemed to direct the bureau to favor disclosure in questionable calls, writing that material should not stay secret if there was “significant doubt” about the need for it to remain classified, and that the attorney general and others should determine “whether the public interest in disclosure of the information outweighs the damage to the national security that might reasonably be expected from disclosure.”

The FBI said in a statement reacting to the order: “The FBI will continue to work in coordination with the Department of Justice and other agencies to declassify and release documents related to the 9/11 investigation.” The Justice Department declined to comment to The Washington Post.

In the shadow of the towers: Five lives and a world transformed

Some 9/11 families immediately praised the executive order Friday. One group, 9/11 Families United, which represents more than 10,000 people affected by the attacks, said in a statement that Biden’s order “looks like a true turning point.”

“We have been fighting the FBI and intelligence community for too long,” said Terry Strada, whose husband, Tom, was killed in the World Trade Center. “There is much more work to be done to secure justice for our murdered loved ones and to rectify the immense damage the 20-year shroud of secrecy has caused, but we now are optimistic that President Biden will be helping us achieve those goals.”

Brett Eagleson, who lost his father, Bruce Eagleson, in the 9/11 attacks, commended Biden for signing the executive order, calling it “a critical first step” to a full accounting.

“We will closely watch this process to ensure the Justice Department and FBI follow through, act in good faith, and help our families uncover the truth in our pursuit of justice against the Saudi government,” Brett Eagleson said in a statement. “The first test will be on 9/11, and the world will be watching.”

Several members of Congress, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), said they supported Biden’s decision to order the declassification review of 9/11 documents. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Friday the committee would closely oversee the review process “to ensure that all agencies adhere to the president’s guidance to apply the maximum degree of transparency allowed by law when conducting the review.”

Biden has not yet made public his plans for the 20th anniversary of the attacks. Last year, while campaigning for president, he attended Sept. 11 memorial events in Lower Manhattan and Shanksville, Pa.

“My heart continues to be with the 9/11 families who are suffering, and my Administration will continue to engage respectfully with members of this community,” Biden said Friday. “I welcome their voices and insight as we chart a way forward.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Why is the media ignoring the fact that a Texas Judge has already blocked key aspects of the anti-abortion law? Bill Palmer, Sept. 4, 2021.  The Texas anti-abortion law is an abomination. It’s a stunning attack on women’s rights, the rule of law, and democracy itself. If you’re fired up about it, you should be. And the media is right for giving the story a ton of attention these past few days. But here’s the thing.

A Texas Judge has already stepped in and temporarily blocked any lawsuits from being filed under the new law, pending a hearing. In other words, this judge basically did what the Supreme Court refused to do, and as of now, the anti-abortion law is not actually up and running. Curiously, this development has received almost no media coverage at all.

In fact, when we ran an article about it yesterday, someone replied by asking “Why is it that I have not read about this anywhere except the Palmer Report?” That’s a really good question. Some local Texas news outlets have covered it, as has The Hill. But beyond that, the media is treating this judge’s ruling as if it didn’t exist. Why is that? Planned Parenthood even put out a statement praising the ruling, yet the media has still largely decided that this judge’s ruling didn’t really happen.

This gets into one of the mainstream media’s most disturbing habits. The media is right to sound the alarm about this Texas anti-abortion law, and the Supreme Court’s refusal (thus far) to block it. We should all be talking about this. We should be marching in the streets. This should be the focus of the 2022 midterms.

But let’s be real here: the media is hyping this story because it’s scary enough to keep people tuned in, which means it’s good for ratings. If the media were to acknowledge that a judge has in fact already put key parts of the law on hold pending a hearing later this month, some folks might tune out until the hearing happens. And the media can’t have that, now can it?

Again, we should all be focused on this Texas anti-abortion law. It should be our rallying cry. It should be the reason we fight. But in order to win these kinds of battles, we need to start with an accurate understanding of what’s actually going on. The public deserves to know that Texas courts are already clamping down on this law. It helps demonstrate that this is a winnable battle.

And on a more basic level, you don’t leave out a key piece of the story like this just because it doesn’t fit the ratings-friendly narrative you’re chasing. The mainstream media owes us the entire story on these things, not just the most doomsday way they can spin it. We need to hold the media accountable on these things, so the media will do better.

washington post logoWashington Post, Misinformation on Facebook got 6 times as many clicks as factual news during election, study says, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Sept. 3, 2021. facebook logoRight-leaning pages also produce more misinformation, the forthcoming study found.

The new study of user behavior is likely to bolster arguments that the company’s algorithms fuel the spread of misinformation.

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huffington post logoHuffPost, The FCC Commissioner Echoing Kevin McCarthy Is Married To McCarthy’s Counsel, Jennifer Bendery, Sept. 4, 2021. Brendan Carr didn’t mention this as he defended the GOP leader’s dubious claim that it would be illegal for telecom companies to preserve call records.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) threatened this week to retaliate against telecom and tech companies that comply with a House committee’s request to preserve call records for certain people connected to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. McCarthy also warned ― incorrectly, according to legal experts ― that preserving such records would be illegal.

One of the few voices publicly defending McCarthy’s dubious claim is Federal Communications Commission member Brendan Carr, who has oversight over telecom companies.

kevin mccarthyBut neither Carr nor McCarthy, right, have mentioned their clear conflict of interest as they echo each other’s arguments: Carr is married to McCarthy’s general counsel, Machalagh Carr.

She has been McCarthy’s general counsel since March 2019, per her account on Legistorm, a database of biographical information on Capitol Hill staffers. And as the GOP leader’s counsel, she almost certainly had a hand in crafting a statement by McCarthy on Tuesday claiming that the telecom companies would be engaging in illegal behavior ― the same claim her husband has echoed in his capacity as an FCC commissioner.

Companies that comply with the House committee’s request “are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy tweeted Tuesday. “If companies still choose to violate a federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law,” he threatened.

McCarthy didn’t cite any statute supporting his contention that this is illegal. In fact, several experts have said it is perfectly legal for Congress to ask companies to preserve records of calls and that they don’t know what McCarthy is talking about. The House committee didn’t ask for call logs to be turned over, either; it asked companies to avoid destroying records in the event there are future subpoenas for them.

Still, on Thursday, McCarthy pressed on with his legal claim. He retweeted a Wall Street Journal editorial board piece featuring comments from Brendan Carr backing up his argument.

Sept. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Joe Rogan has covid-19, is taking unproven deworming medicine, Elahe Izadi and Emily Yahr, Sept. 1, 2021. Joe Rogan, host of a wildly popular podcast who has downplayed the need for coronavirus vaccines, announced Wednesday he tested positive for the coronavirus.

In a brief video, Rogan told his 13.1 million Instagram followers that he returned home from the road Saturday night — he’s currently on tour and just performed a series of comedy shows in Florida — feeling weary with a headache.

“Just to be cautious, I separated from my family, slept in a different part of the house, and throughout the night I got fevers and sweats. And I knew what was going on,” Rogan said. “So I got up in the morning, got tested — and turns out I got covid.”

joe rogan twitterRogan, right, said he was now feeling “great” after “one bad day” on Sunday. After his diagnosis, he said he “immediately threw the kitchen sink” at the virus, and listed a litany of therapeutics and treatments he tried, including ivermectin, a medicine used to kill parasites in animals and humans but best known as a horse dewormer.

The treatment is one that has been promoted by conservative media figures, politicians and some doctors, but also carries a warning from the Food and Drug Administration, which has advised against using it as a treatment for covid-19. Poison control centers have reported huge spikes of calls about ivermectin exposure.

“You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it,” the FDA tweeted last month amid an increase of people getting sick from the medicine.

Doctors dismayed by patients who fear coronavirus vaccines but clamor for unproven ivermectin

“The Joe Rogan Experience” is the most popular podcast in the country, according to tracking firm Edison Research. In 2020, Spotify acquired Rogan’s podcast library in a reported $100 million deal and now exclusively licenses the series. Before he moved to Spotify, Rogan’s show had about 190 million monthly downloads.

Rogan, a stand-up comedian, is a lightning rod with a huge following. He’s hosted controversial figures on his show, including Alex Jones, who has pushed the false theory that the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a hoax.

 

marc bernier

washington post logoWashington Post, Four conservative radio talk-show hosts bashed coronavirus vaccines. Then they got sick, Paul Farhi, Sept. 1, 2021. All four died over the past month, highlighting talk radio’s often overlooked role as a vector of coronavirus misinformation.

Marc Bernier was adamant: He was not going to get a coronavirus vaccination.

“I’m Mr. Anti-Vax,” he told listeners of his talk-radio program in Daytona Beach, Fla., after the federal government provisionally approved the first vaccines in December. He later declared that the government was “acting like Nazis” in urging people to get vaccinated.

But in early August, WNDB AM-FM, Bernier’s radio home for more than 30 years, announced that the 65-year-old host was being treated in a hospital for covid-19. On Saturday, the station said that Bernier had died.

Bernier was at least the fourth talk-radio host who had espoused anti-vaccine and anti-mask sentiments to succumb to the virus in August. There was also Phil Valentine, 61, a popular host in Tennessee; Jimmy DeYoung, 81, a nationally syndicated Christian preacher also based in Tennessee; and Dick Farrel, 65, who had worked for stations in Miami and Palm Beach, Fla., as well as for the conservative Newsmax TV channel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Facts are finally starting to penetrate bad Afghanistan punditry, Jennifer Rubin, right, Sept. 1, 2021. Media coverage of the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan has been characterized by hyperbolic commentary and conjecture — driven in part by former officials for the quagmire who were jennifer rubin newest circularquick to weigh in on the matter in interviews. One day, some in the pack would holler for the administration to extend the withdrawal day beyond Aug. 31; the next day, others would demand the United States leave before any more service members died.

One of the constant themes of coverage was scorn, bordering on contempt, for the notion that the Taliban might cooperate with the U.S. government in the evacuation. No matter how many times press secretaries for the Pentagon, White House and State Department explained that the administration was in constant conversation to “deconflict” with the Taliban, and no matter how many thousands of evacuees went through Taliban checkpoints, reporters sneered. Why are we trusting the Taliban? Who decided to outsource our protection to the Taliban?

Certainly, the Taliban has been a vicious group trying to enforce religious fanaticism by force. But it now also has to fight off Islamic State-Khorasan and figure out how to run a fractured country. Measured voices — including Aaron David Miller, former Middle East negotiator for the State Department — patiently explained that no one really knows if we are dealing with Taliban “1.0, 2.0 or 3.0.” Wait, facts should inform our opinions and decisions? What a concept.
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Press secretaries, generals, the national security adviser and others explained again and again that the administration doesn’t trust the Taliban, but that the United States and the Taliban have a mutual interest in a successful withdrawal. Despite obvious evidence of cooperation, former administration officials denounced the suggestion that practical self-interest (getting the United States out) could trump ideology. H.R. McMaster, retired Army lieutenant general and national security adviser to President Biden’s predecessor, scorned the idea.

In fact, the commentary was off-base. Now actual reporting is filling in the gaps to provide a fuller picture of the Taliban’s actions. CNN reported, “The U.S. military negotiated a secret arrangement with the Taliban that resulted in members of the militant group escorting clusters of Americans to the gates of the Kabul airport as they sought to escape Afghanistan, two defense officials told CNN.” The report continued: “The officials said Americans were notified to gather at preset ‘muster points’ close to the airport where the Taliban would check their credentials and take them a short distance to a gate manned by American forces who were standing by to let them inside amid huge crowds of Afghans seeking to flee.” No wonder military officials described the Taliban’s conduct as “professional.”

Press Run, Commentary: Why Politico's about to get worse, Eric Boehlert, right, Sept. 1, 2021. New conservative owners. The influential bible for savvy-obsessed Beltway eric.boehlertinsiders, Politico already has a strong tendency to disappoint by viewing the world through a Republican prism. Eagerly propping up Dems in Disarray storylines, Politico remains committed to portraying Republicans as being forever shrewd, and stands at the ready to amplify whatever phony outrage the GOP is pushing.

Politico’s hallmark, clickbait failures are likely to become more pronounced because the publication was just sold for $1 billion to an openly conservative media giant based in Germany, Axel Springer. Named after the company’s founder who has been referred to as Germany’s Rupert Murdoch, all Springer employees must pledge their allegiance to the company’s “Essentials”:

1. We stand up for freedom, the rule of law, democracy and a united Europe.

2. We support the Jewish people and the right of existence of the State of Israel.

3. We advocate the transatlantic alliance between the United States of America and Europe.

4. We uphold the principles of a free market economy and its social responsibility.

5. We reject political and religious extremism and all forms of racism and sexual discrimination.

Politico employees will not have to sign the pledge, according to the New York Times. Still, they will understand what the clear political leanings of their German owners are and that they demand fealty, which could lead American journalists to pander to their bosses. (News reporters signing any kind of worldview “pledge” is a bad idea.)

In a strange, collective oversight though, virtually none of the mainstream media coverage about the blockbuster, $1 billion deal has mentioned the proud conservative preferences of Politico’s new owner. That salient fact regarding the purchase of a powerful political media outlet in Washington, D.C., has been conveniently ignored. Reuters, CNN, CNBC, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal all covered the Politico sale without mentioning the buyer’s politics.

If an unabashedly liberal, international publisher that demanded its employees sign an oath supporting socialism had swooped in to buy a mainstay of American political journalism, do you think its partisan DNA would be mentioned in the news coverage? I certainly do. In fact, it would be mentioned in every headline.

In 1952, Springer founded Bild, a national tabloid daily that soon became the most-read newspaper in Europe, with a circulation that peaked at 6 million. Der Spiegel once characterized the paper as “serv[ing] up tripe, trash, tits and, almost as an afterthought, a healthy dose of hard news seven days a week.” It added that Bild, “has taken on the role of a right-wing populist party, which does not yet exist in Germany."

 

August

Aug. 31

robert david steele collageRobert David Steele, who recently led a nationwide tour that generated $1.2 million for his anti-mask, anti-vaxx messaging, is shown in a promotional photo at left and at right in a Florida hospital shortly before his deatho on Sunday from Covid-19. Although the news report below, like most, assumes the truth of Steele's claim that he had been a "CIA officer" earlier in his career, the Justice Integrity Project we has received information from a trusted source that he had been a contractor for the agency, not an officer. His claim was part of a pattern of absurd drama he used for fund-raising and ego-centric politicking, such as his repeated allegation that sex traffickers were keeping children as sex slaves on the planet Mars.

New York Daily News, ‘Hoax’ kills Covid-denying anti-vaxxer who worked for the CIA: report, Brian Niemietz, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). A former CIA agent (shown above who bought into QAnon conspiracy culture has seemingly died from Covid.

The death of Robert David Steele, a guest on the far right-wing program “Infowars,” was confirmed by a friend of his on social media Sunday. Steele prided himself as one of the first people to identify COVID — which Vice reports caused his death — as a “hoax.”

The 69-year-old ex-marine was reportedly hospitalized in Florida earlier this month, but remained skeptical about the virus that was killing him until his dying breath.

“I will not take the vaccination, though I did test positive for whatever they’re calling ‘COVID’ today,” he blogged on Aug. 17. “The bottom line is that my lungs are not functioning. The good news is that I will survive with a few days off.”

Steele optimistically called his fatal illness a “near death experience” that mirrored what he thought was happening in the United States. He believed he’d pull through, thanks to a sound network of friends.

“We will never be the same because now we know that we’ve all been lied to about everything,” he claimed. “But, now we also know that we can trust each other.”

Fellow conspiracy theorist Mark Tassi confirmed his pal’s death on Sunday, claiming Steele was fine until he was treated with an antiviral medication. Tassi claims Steele’s family gave into “shaming” and put the former Marine on a ventilator. According to Tassi, ventilators kill people.

“They are trying to make Florida look bad, why?” he asked rhetorically. “Why? Because (Ron) DeSantis is not going along with agenda so they are targeting Florida. Open your eyes. Don’t take my word for it. Do the research as I have done.”

While DeSantis’ plan to push through the pandemic without locking down Florida was initially praised, the conservative leader has come under fire since COVID infection rates in the Sunshine State began skyrocketing in recent weeks.

Tassi said Steele was touring the country to push claims that Donald Trump was the real winner of the 2020 presidential election when he got sick. Steele had allegedly spent all his money promoting that narrative.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Snake Oil Theory of the Modern Right, Paul Krugman, right, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Right-wing extremists, and to some extent paul krugmaneven more mainstream conservative media, rely on financial support from companies selling nutritional supplements and miracle cures — and that financial support is arguably a significant factor pushing the right to become more extreme.

Indeed, right-wing extremism isn’t just an ideological movement that happens to get a lot of money from sellers of snake oil; some of its extremism can probably be seen not as a reflection of deep conviction, but as a way of promoting snake oil.

Consider where we are right now in the fight against Covid-19. A few months ago it seemed likely that the development of effective vaccines would soon bring the pandemic to an end. Instead, it goes on, with hospitalizations closing in on their peak from last winter. This is partly due to the emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant, but it also crucially reflects the refusal of many Americans to take the vaccines.

And much of this refusal is political. True, many people who are refusing to get vaccinated aren’t Trumpists, but there’s a strong negative correlation between Donald Trump’s share of a county’s vote and vaccinations. As of July, 86 percent of self-identified Democrats said they had had a vaccine shot, but only 54 percent of Republicans did.

But vaccine refusers aren’t just rejecting lifesaving vaccines, they’re also turning to life-threatening alternatives. We’re seeing a surge in sales of — and poisoning by — ivermectin, which is usually used to deworm livestock but has recently been touted on social media and Fox News as a Covid cure.

As the historian Rick Perlstein has pointed out, there’s a long association between peddlers of quack medicine and right-wing extremists. They cater to more or less the same audience.

That is, Americans willing to believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya and that Italian satellites were used to switch votes to Joe Biden are also the kind of people willing to believe that medical elites are lying to them and that they can solve their health problems by ignoring professional advice and buying patent medicines instead.

Once you’re sensitized to the link between snake oil and right-wing politics, you realize that it’s pervasive.

This is clearly true in the right’s fever swamps. Alex Jones of Infowars has built a following by pushing conspiracy theories, but he makes money by selling nutritional supplements.

It’s also true, however, for more mainstream, establishment parts of the right. For example, Ben Shapiro, considered an intellectual on the right, hawks supplements.

Put it this way: There are big financial rewards to extremism, because extreme politics sells patent medicine, and patent medicine is highly profitable. (In 2014 Alex Jones’s operations were bringing in more than $20 million a year in revenue, mainly from supplement sales.) Do these financial rewards induce pundits to be more extreme?

The extremism of media figures radicalizes their audience, giving politicians an incentive to become more extreme.

None of this would be happening if there weren’t a climate of anger and distrust for unscrupulous pundits and politicians to exploit. But the fact that extremism sells patent medicine creates a financial incentive to get more extreme.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The Rand Paul clown show crashes and burns, Bocha Blue, Aug. 31, 2021. What is going on with Rand and Ron? I refer to a couple of our nation’s worst “leaders.” There is number one — Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. And number two — Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.

rand paul presser 6 2 15Apparently, R&R are fiercely fighting for the right of humans everywhere to take horse dewormer. I suppose it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. After all, Republicans have politicized everything else — why not animal medication?

bill palmer report logo headerRand Paul (shown in a file photo) is now saying that “hatred of” the former guy is to blame for the lack of studies of Ivermectin. No, it’s not Rand. The fact is the FDA had to put out a statement TELLING people they’re not horses and cows. Perhaps you think you are?

Don’t get me started on Ron Johnson, who has latched into so many conspiracy theories. I would not be surprised if he announced little aliens were living behind his ears. This would explain so much.

The fact is this drug should not be taken for COVID, and anyone who says otherwise is either delusional or lying to you.

So far, the right to consume horse dewormers hasn’t spread to many other republicans, but I predict that will change.

Why? Because the GOP isn’t a party anymore — it’s a cult, and no doubt if the former guy tells them to talk about Ivermectin, they will. In the meantime, sane people like us will continue to at least try to make people aware that they are indeed human, and horse and cow anti-parasite medication is not meant for them.

ny times logoNew York Times, First Male Accuser at Trial Says R. Kelly Promised Fame for Sex, Troy Closson, Aug. 31, 2021 (print ed.). Ex-Assistant Describes R. Kelly’s Anger When His Strict Rules Were Broken.

r kelly twitterFive accusers — four women and one man — have now testified that the singer (shown in his Twitter photo) had sexual contact with them when they were underage, including a woman who described being raped.

One of R. Kelly’s former assistants described the singer’s system of strict rules for the women in his orbit — and the anger he displayed when those rules were broken — as his racketeering trial resumed Tuesday in Brooklyn.

The new testimony came a day after Mr. Kelly’s first male accuser testified that the R&B star offered help with his music career in exchange for sexual favors. The man, who testified under the pseudonym Louis, told jurors that he was 17 when Mr. Kelly began making sexual advances toward him.

Four women have also testified that they were underage when their encounters with Mr. Kelly began, including a woman identified only as Addie who on Monday described being raped by the singer in a dressing room after a concert.

Mr. Kelly has denied the accusations and pleaded not guilty to a racketeering charge and eight counts of violating an interstate anti-sex trafficking law.

Prosecutors have accused Mr. Kelly, 54, of running a decades-long criminal plot to prey on women and girls for sex with the help of a network of associates and employees.

Mr. Kelly is not charged with rape or sexual assault, and many of the specific accusations against him fall outside the statute of limitations for those crimes. But a racketeering charge allows prosecutors to present evidence of any related potential crimes.

 mike richards

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Richards out as ‘Jeopardy!’ executive producer after podcast controversy, Emily Yahr, Aug. 31, 2021. Mike Richards, above, is no longer the executive producer of “Jeopardy!" and “Wheel of Fortune,” Sony Pictures Television announced on Tuesday. The announcement comes less than two weeks after Richards stepped down as the new “Jeopardy!” host following the revelation of his many offensive comments on his former podcast.

Aug. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Fact Checker Analysis The false claim that the fully-approved Pfizer vaccine lacks liability protection, Glenn Kessler, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.).

“The little trick that they have done here: They have issued two separate letters for two separate vaccines. The Pfizer vaccine which is currently available is still under emergency use authorization and it still has the liability shield … The product that’s licensed … it’s called Comirnaty. … that’s the one that liability waiver will no longer apply to.”

Robert Malone, interview on Bannons War Room, Aug. 24

Malone, a physician who bills himself as having played a key role in creation of mRNA vaccines, is a prominent skeptic of the coronavirus vaccines that have been crafted using the technology. Shortly after the Food and Drug Administration fully authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, he appeared on a program hosted by Stephen K. Bannon, a one-time adviser to former president Donald Trump, and claimed that the full authorization was a bait-and-switch game played by the FDA.

“One again the mainstream media has lied to you,” he said. “Sorry to say that. I know it’s a shock to this viewership.”

In essence, his argument was that the approved vaccine would no longer have liability protections so Pfizer would simply keep distributing in the United States the product that had been authorized for emergency use.

A similar claim was made by Robert F. Kennedy, a leading anti-vaccine campaigner.

“Licensed adult vaccines, including the new Comirnaty, do not enjoy any liability shield,” Kennedy wrote with a co-author in an Aug. 24 post. “Just as with Ford’s exploding Pinto, or Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, people injured by the Comirnaty vaccine could sue for damages. And because adults injured by the vaccine will be able to show that the manufacturer knew of the problems with the product, jury awards could be astronomical. Pfizer is therefore unlikely to allow any American to take a Comirnaty vaccine until it can somehow arrange immunity for this product.”

These claims are false, based on a misunderstanding of the law, as Malone acknowledged after we contacted him.

Malone quickly conceded his statement on the Bannon show was wrong. “When one is doing rapid analysis on the fly, one does not always get everything right,” he told The Fact Checker. “On this particular legal liability issue I did not hunt down the details myself, and relied on comments from a third party lawyer which were not fully correct.” He said the statements we received from Pfizer and HHS “are consistent with my current understanding.”

As regular readers know, we generally do not award Pinocchios when a person admits error. Otherwise, this would be a Four-Pinocchio claim. Malone was too quick to embrace false information (while bashing the mainstream media at the same time). The liability protection for Comirnaty is the same as the vaccine that was previously approved under emergency authorization, so that is not a bar to distributing the fully-approved vaccine in the United States.

 

marc bernierPalmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, right, Aug. 30, 2021. He’s the guy who calls himself “Mr. Anti-vax.” He tweeted a prediction that four robert harringtnn portraitmonths after the 2020 election people would be saying, “Coronavirus, what’s that?” In his most recent tweet to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who likened getting vaccinated against coronavirus to fighting the Nazis only much, much easier, Mr Anti-vax said, “Should say, ‘Now the US Government is acting like Nazi’s[sic]. Get the shot.’”

bill palmer report logo headerMeet Marc Bernier, above, another Florida “radio personality” who thinks you’re stupid for wearing a mask, who thinks it’s anti-American to get vaccinated, who has been an anti-vaxxer and Pro-Trumper and spreader of the Big Lie from the very first. He’s interested in your civil rights and he wants to make sure that America remains free from all this scientific coronavirus nonsense.

I would love to debate Mr. Bernier on these issues on Twitter but unfortunately I can’t. It’s not because his Twitter account has been taken down, not because he said something that violated Twitter’s terms of service (though he probably has), but because Marc Bernier died this weekend. On Saturday to be precise. Of coronavirus.

I’m afraid I played a little joke on you, brothers, and sisters. In my first two paragraphs I spoke of Bernier in the present tense — as a sort of polemical “Weekend at Bernier’s,” if you will. I did it because I wanted to illustrate in a shocking way how quickly coronavirus kills people.

Yes, the self-styled “Mr Anti-vax” has gone to that great lib-owning radio show in the sky. He took Patrick Henry’s thundering admonition, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” to its ultimate conclusion. You might say he owned himself in the most humiliating way possible. He became the ultimate rube cliche, the guy whose famous last words were, “Hey everybody, watch this!”

This is how stupid people die. This is what Drs Dunning and Kruger meant when they said the dumber some people are the more confident they become in their own beliefs. This is the price of ignoring science and believing your own thin, easily refuted propaganda. This is why wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and getting vaccinated isn’t a political issue, it isn’t open for debate, it isn’t a martyr’s hill to die on, it’s a scientific fact and a matter of life and death.

If it was just people like Mr. Bernier who died from their own stupidity then I couldn’t care less. Like the guy who killed himself in a homemade rocket to “prove” the earth was flat. But unfortunately people like Mr. Bernier take innocent people with them, innocent bystanders who become infected because some moron without a mask infected them. They are provoking anger in some people where no anger would have existed at all had they been left alone to decide for themselves. They are turning a health issue into a political one. It’s not.

Coronavirus isn’t a member of any party. It will kill you, your children, your friends and neighbors and it doesn’t give a crap what you think or what you believe. It behaves exactly like scientific truth, like the law of gravity, and all the propaganda and lies and government decrees on earth won’t change it one little bit. And it’s getting nastier, more virulent, more deadly every day.

Marc Bernier’s state (excuse me, former state) of Florida leads the nation in hospitalizations, with more than 16,000 Floridians hospitalized. Ninety five percent of the state’s ICU beds are now filled. For the 3rd straight week in a row Florida has had more than 150,000 new cases of coronavirus, including 26,000 children under twelve years of age.

There have been a total of more than 43,000 deaths in the state. Marc Bernier’s death is another one, but it’s far, far from the last. Despite the evidence of their own eyes, with people dropping dead right in front of them, the literally terminally stupid will continue to spread this anti-science excrement until millions have died. When they finally wake up to scientific reality it will be too late.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Inside Politico’s Billion-Dollar Drama, Ben Smith, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). A mogul in his own right: Robert Allbritton just became the unlikeliest winner of the new media sweepstakes, our media columnist, Ben Smith, writes.

The Washington heir, whose Georgetown existence and mild affect put him at a considerable distance from the larger-than-life characters in the red-hot center of digital media, has scored the kind of deal his counterparts in New York and Los Angeles only dream about: a billion-dollar sale.

politico CustomOn Thursday he reached an agreement to sell Politico (the “the” got dropped early on) for a billion dollars in cash to the German media company Axel Springer, meaning that he had pulled off what is probably the most successful exit in its generation of new media, in pure business terms. Mr. Allbritton, who had sunk more than $50 million of family money into Politico by 2018, is now among the most successful media investors of the century — although Politico, which never entered the buzzy venture capital fray, had rarely been mentioned among hot media start-ups.

“We kind of disadvantaged ourselves by not taking V.C. money because we just weren’t part of the conversation,” Mr. Albritton said.

Now, he added, he’s pleased to be handing his company over to Axel Springer, a swashbuckling outfit whose Berlin tower long stood as a gleaming middle finger to the Communist East.

“In some ways, they’re more American than most Americans are these days,” he said. “They’re about freedom of the press, they’re about freedom of thought, they are blatantly pro-Translantic alliance.”

Axel Springer publishes the confrontational German tabloid Bild, but its chief executive, Mathias Döpfner, told me the Politico deal cemented the company’s American future. Mr. Allbritton noted that the Politico staff will not be subject to one notable feature of the German company — a mission statement employees are required to sign in support of the trans-Atlantic alliance and Israel, among other favored values.

I spoke to Mr. Allbritton, 52, by phone for about 90 minutes Saturday. I’d been promised his first interview since the sale became public, and I should admit I came for the drama. His story had long intrigued me. When he started Politico, he was known as the scion of an upstart D.C. dynasty that had been gunning for the more patrician Graham family, which owned The Washington Post. His father, Joe, was a television mogul from Houston who bought The Washington Star in 1975, hoping to make it into a feisty, right-leaning competitor to the main paper in town.

ed asner mtm lou grant

washington post logoWashington Post, Ed Asner 1929–2021: Actor who twice had the role of a lifetime as newsman Lou Grant dies at 91, Emily Langer, Aug. 30, 2021 (print ed.). Mr. Asner starred on the TV comedy “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (shown in a scene above) and later on the spin-off series “Lou Grant.”

Ed Asner, an actor and liberal activist who twice had the role of a lifetime in the character of Lou Grant, the irascible newsman he played first on the hit 1970s sitcom “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and then on an acclaimed spinoff series, died Aug. 29 at his home in Tarzana, Calif. He was 91.

The son of an immigrant junk dealer, Mr. Asner had a fireplug build, jowly countenance and workingman’s appearance that are not traditionally considered the raw materials of stardom. Those attributes were perfect, however, for the gruff, middle-aged news director of WJM-TV, the fictional Minneapolis television station at the center of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Widely regarded as one of the finest sitcoms in TV history, the program aired on CBS from 1970 to 1977 and starred Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, an earnest assistant producer who became a generational ideal of the single working woman. Mr. Asner, then in his 40s, played Mary’s crusty boss and was catapulted to fame in the midst of a decades-long acting career that would include hundreds of TV and movie credits.

Besides Mr. Asner and Moore, the cast included a host of first-rate character actors: Gavin Mac­Leod as Murray Slaughter, the long-suffering news writer; Ted Knight as Ted Baxter, the pompous anchor; Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, hostess of the TV station’s “Happy Homemaker” program; and Valerie Harper as Mary’s self-deprecating neighbor and friend Rhoda Morgenstern.

Between its original broadcast and reruns, the show endeared itself to millions and ended with a plotline in which new management fires the newsroom crew, with the ludicrous exception of Ted. After a tearful speech by Lou — “I treasure you people” — the staff shuffles in a group hug to a box of Kleenex and then files out, with Mary left to turn off the lights.

When “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” ended in 1977, Mr. Asner’s character was reimagined as a hard-charging Los Angeles newspaper editor in“Lou Grant,” a CBS drama that addressed issues such as overseas dictatorship, nuclear power and the mental health of Vietnam War veterans. Nancy Marchand played a fictional publisher modeled in part on Katharine Graham of The Washington Post.

Mr. Asner’s comedic role turned into one with serious themes and dramatic nuance. He received five Primetime Emmy Awards as Lou Grant — three for supporting actor in a comedy and two for lead actor in a drama.

CBS canceled “Lou Grant” in 1982, citing declining ratings. Many observers, including Mr. Asner, suspected that the true cause was his real-world political activism.

ed asner smileMr. Asner, left, was prominently involved in the Screen Actors Guild strike over wages and profit-sharing in 1980 and was SAG president from 1981 to 1985. During that time, he criticized President Ronald Reagan for sending military aid to the right-wing government in El Salvador and helped raise funds for medical supplies for leftist rebels there.

Those activities, Newsweek magazine reported in 1982, “stirred up the hottest Hollywood political dispute since Jane Fonda’s wartime visit to North Vietnam.”

Reagan, a former actor and head of SAG, said that he was “very disturbed” by Mr. Asner’s work. Another erstwhile SAG chief, the actor and future National Rifle Association president Charlton Heston, accused Mr. Asner of injecting politics into the union and using it “like some Mafia don.”

Mr. Asner helped raise money to support the high-profile legal defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted in 1982 of killing a Philadelphia police officer. He later questioned widely accepted explanations of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and appeared in advertisements by the liberal group ­MoveOn.org targeting then-President George W. Bush.

In a foreword to a book about “Lou Grant” by author Douglass K. Daniel, Mr. Asner wrote that the drama was one of his proudest accomplishments as an actor.

“I knew, at the time, that we were doing exceptional and important work that had the power to make changes in our world. That may sound egotistical; it was, after all, just a television show,” he wrote.

“Consider, though, that a prime-time show reaches 40 million homes,” he continued. “ ‘Lou Grant’ has been seen in 72 countries; in many of them, the very idea of freedom of the press is amazing. That kind of power gives my industry an obligation to be responsible for what we produce, and, in that regard, ‘Lou Grant’ was exemplary.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, right, Aug. 30, 2021. He’s the guy who calls himself “Mr. Anti-vax.” He tweeted a prediction that four robert harringtnn portraitmonths after the 2020 election people would be saying, “Coronavirus, what’s that?” In his most recent tweet to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, who likened getting vaccinated against coronavirus to fighting the Nazis only much, much easier, Mr Anti-vax said, “Should say, ‘Now the US Government is acting like Nazi’s[sic]. Get the shot.’”

bill palmer report logo headerMeet Marc Bernier, another Florida “radio personality” who thinks you’re stupid for wearing a mask, who thinks it’s anti-American to get vaccinated, who has been an anti-vaxxer and Pro-Trumper and spreader of the Big Lie from the very first. He’s interested in your civil rights and he wants to make sure that America remains free from all this scientific coronavirus nonsense.

I would love to debate Mr. Bernier on these issues on Twitter but unfortunately I can’t. It’s not because his Twitter account has been taken down, not because he said something that violated Twitter’s terms of service (though he probably has), but because Marc Bernier died this weekend. On Saturday to be precise. Of coronavirus.

I’m afraid I played a little joke on you, brothers, and sisters. In my first two paragraphs I spoke of Bernier in the present tense — as a sort of polemical “Weekend at Bernier’s,” if you will. I did it because I wanted to illustrate in a shocking way how quickly coronavirus kills people.

Yes, the self-styled “Mr Anti-vax” has gone to that great lib-owning radio show in the sky. He took Patrick Henry’s thundering admonition, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” to its ultimate conclusion. You might say he owned himself in the most humiliating way possible. He became the ultimate rube cliche, the guy whose famous last words were, “Hey everybody, watch this!”

This is how stupid people die. This is what Drs Dunning and Kruger meant when they said the dumber some people are the more confident they become in their own beliefs. This is the price of ignoring science and believing your own thin, easily refuted propaganda. This is why wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and getting vaccinated isn’t a political issue, it isn’t open for debate, it isn’t a martyr’s hill to die on, it’s a scientific fact and a matter of life and death.

If it was just people like Mr. Bernier who died from their own stupidity then I couldn’t care less. Like the guy who killed himself in a homemade rocket to “prove” the earth was flat. But unfortunately people like Mr. Bernier take innocent people with them, innocent bystanders who become infected because some moron without a mask infected them. They are provoking anger in some people where no anger would have existed at all had they been left alone to decide for themselves. They are turning a health issue into a political one. It’s not.

Coronavirus isn’t a member of any party. It will kill you, your children, your friends and neighbors and it doesn’t give a crap what you think or what you believe. It behaves exactly like scientific truth, like the law of gravity, and all the propaganda and lies and government decrees on earth won’t change it one little bit. And it’s getting nastier, more virulent, more deadly every day.

Marc Bernier’s state (excuse me, former state) of Florida leads the nation in hospitalizations, with more than 16,000 Floridians hospitalized. Ninety five percent of the state’s ICU beds are now filled. For the 3rd straight week in a row Florida has had more than 150,000 new cases of coronavirus, including 26,000 children under twelve years of age.

There have been a total of more than 43,000 deaths in the state. Marc Bernier’s death is another one, but it’s far, far from the last. Despite the evidence of their own eyes, with people dropping dead right in front of them, the literally terminally stupid will continue to spread this anti-science excrement until millions have died. When they finally wake up to scientific reality it will be too late. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Aug. 28

President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after being asked about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints.

President Biden lowerered his head for a prolonged pause during his Aug. 26 White House news conference after a Fox News reporter asking about deaths in Kabul from an ISIS suicide attack outside U.S. checkpoints declined to respond with specifics to Biden's question to the reporter.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Biden escalates his efforts to puncture the Fox News bubble, Philip Bump Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). The network's Peter Doocy gave the president an opportunity to make a broader point.

In a sense, Peter Doocy’s arrival in the White House press briefing room has been to his employer’s detriment. It used to be that Fox News could spend days condemning Democratic presidents for not responding to whatever controversy its hosts had been tumbling around in their rhetorical rock polishers. Now, though, there’s Doocy, who is regularly selected by White House press secretary Jen Psaki to ask questions probably in part so that the familiar process can be beheaded early. Her exchanges with Doocy drop into the political conversation like bang snaps, crackling with life for an instant before being forgotten, the gotcha almost always redirected to the junkyard.

That’s at least in part because the questions often reflect a network or right-wing consensus that hasn’t been exposed to any significant scrutiny. Little grains of ice snowball into scandals, with Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino and whoever else packing on more and more — and then they get removed from the cooler and placed on the sidewalk. It often doesn’t take long for it to melt.

fox news logo SmallAt other times, the inflection of Doocy’s question itself gets at the point. As was the case Thursday evening, when President Biden called on Doocy after brief remarks about the suicide bombing outside the airport in Kabul.

“Let me take the one question,” Biden said, “from the most interesting guy that I know in the press.”

This was not really meant as a compliment.

“Mr. President, there had not been a U.S. service member killed in combat in Afghanistan since February of 2020,” Doocy said. “You set a deadline. You pulled troops out. You sent troops back in. And now 12 Marines are dead. You said the buck stops with you. Do you bear any responsibility for the way that things have unfolded in the last two weeks?”

When Donald Trump was asked a similar question in March 2020 about the failure of coronavirus testing, he answered like Donald Trump: “No, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a — a set of circumstances, and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.” Rejection of the idea that he deserved blame and a pivot to his predecessor.

Biden's been doing this longer, so he accepted blame — and then pivoted to his predecessor.

“I bear responsibility for, fundamentally, all that’s happened of late,” Biden said. “But here’s the deal: You know — I wish you’d one day say these things — you know as well as I do that the former president made a deal with the Taliban that he would get all American forces out of Afghanistan by May 1. In return, the commitment was made — and that was a year before — in return, he was given a commitment that the Taliban would continue to attack others, but would not attack any American forces.”

This is a fair description. A deal struck between the U.S. government and the Taliban in February 2020 included the trade-off outlined by Biden.

At that point, though, Biden went in a different direction: He challenged Doocy to admit that he knew that his own framing of the question was unsound.

“Remember that? I’m being serious,” Biden said to Doocy.

Doocy tried to interject that Trump was no longer the president, but Biden kept at it.

“Now wait a minute,” he said. “I’m asking you a question. Is that — is that accurate, to the best of your knowledge?”

“I know what you’re talking about,” Doocy conceded, before then trying to get Biden to opine on why Americans might be frustrated with the situation in the country. Biden, after resting his head on his hands in apparent frustration, replied that Americans “have an issue that people are likely to get hurt” as they had that day.

He then returned to the prior point: that U.S. forces had avoided attack thanks to the deal made by Trump that had included a withdrawal pledge. This was the case, he said, “whether my friend will acknowledge it” or not — his friend being Doocy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon Web Services disables ISIS propaganda website it had hosted since April, Craig Timberg and Jay Greene, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). AWS took the action after The Post reported that the site relied on Amazon's cloud services.

amazon logo smallAmazon late Friday disabled a website used by a propaganda arm of the Islamic State that celebrated the suicide bombing that killed at least 170 people in Kabul on Thursday after The Washington Post reported the extremists relied on the company’s technology to promote extremism.

Nida-e-Haqq, an Islamic State media group that distributes Islamist content in the Urdu language, had been using the company’s dominant cloud-computing division, Amazon Web Services, to host its content, despite company policies against working with terror groups.

Some of that content included messages about the Islamic State-Khorasan offshoot that claimed responsibility for the lethal attack, said Rita Katz, executive director of SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online extremism and discovered the link with Amazon Web Services. Urdu is widely spoken in neighboring Pakistan and occasionally in Afghanistan itself.

washington post logoWashington Post, Settlement in Apple developers’ court case won’t stop the push for App Store deregulation, Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Critics deride the deal as a publicity stunt. ‘It’s not real change,’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

apple logo rainbowApple’s olive branch to small developers, announced late Thursday night as a proposed lawsuit settlement, is unlikely to shield it from the growing regulatory heat in Washington and around the world, interviews indicated on Friday.

Democrats who have proposed a bill to regulate both Apple and Google’s app stores say the company’s proposed changes — which must still be approved by the federal judge hearing the case — are insufficient, and they still want to push ahead with legislation to ensure there’s fair competition on smartphones.

European regulators who announced antitrust action against Apple for its alleged stifling of competition in the music streaming business said it will assess Apple’s announcement with that in mind. That comes amid broader regulatory efforts abroad, as legislators in South Korea recently advanced a bill that would prohibit Apple and Google from forcing developers to pay commissions on in-app purchases.

Associated Press via Detroit News, Reporter punched in face while covering anti-mask event near Traverse City, Staff Report, Aug. 28, 2021. A newspaper reporter said he was punched in the face while covering an anti-mask event near Traverse City. The Grand Traverse County sheriff’s office is investigating.

“I know the concern you have,” Sheriff Tom Bensley told the Traverse City Record-Eagle. “There are some people out there that are not happy with the news outlets. We’ve had two incidents in a short period of time.”

Record-Eagle reporter Brendan Quealy went to Silver Lake Recreation Area to check an event organized by a group called Citizens Liberating Michigan and promoted by local allies on a Facebook page.

Heather Cerone introduced herself to a crowd of 80 to 100 people Thursday and said there would be no recording of the event.

“There’s no reporting, Brendan,” Cerone said. “We don’t authorize that. So, you guys feel like standing in front of him?”

Quealy said two men confronted him and one of them shoved him into a fence and punched him in the face with both fists.

Cerone claimed the event was private because the pavilion had been rented. But prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said the area around the pavilion is “open to anyone.”

“My job is to chase the news, to accurately report it and that’s what I was doing,” Quealy said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Lawyer for Afghan girls’ robotics team tells Oklahoma woman to stop taking credit for rescue, Sarah Ellison and Elahe Izadi, Aug. 28, 2021 (print ed.). Several media outlets covered Allyson Reneau’s efforts to “save” the girls.

A lawyer for the famed all-girls Afghan robotics team has sent a cease-and-desist letter to an Oklahoma woman, telling her to stop taking credit for the girls’ escape from Kabul and warning that her numerous media appearances endanger their organization’s remaining members in Afghanistan.

The woman, Allyson Reneau, spoke last week to Today.com and then to several other media outlets, telling a story of her supposed involvement in the evacuation of several members of the robotics team, known internationally as the “Afghan Dreamers.” These outlets reported that she had “saved” the girls from probable oppression under the Taliban.

But a lawyer for the team’s parent organization, the Digital Citizen Fund, said that Reneau has overstated her role and has, in fact, put the girls and their families at risk because her repeated claims are undermining ongoing rescue efforts in the country.

“Continuingly recycling old pictures with the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, many of whom are minors, as validation that you had anything to do with their immensely stressful and dangerous escape not only impacts the safety of the girls but it also significantly affects the safety of the members of the team who still remain in Afghanistan,” wrote Kim Motley, a lawyer for the group and a Digital Citizen Fund board member, in a letter sent to Reneau just after midnight Wednesday. “It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain.”

A spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry, which helped evacuate many Afghans, including the robotics team members, also accused Reneau of taking credit for a rescue she had little to do with — and lambasted the U.S. media for making her a “White savior.”

Reneau denied that she has done anything but tell the truth. “‘I’m above board, and if you don’t tell the truth, then you have nothing else to show for it,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview Wednesday. She said she was perplexed but undeterred by the “blowback” against her efforts.

ny times logoNew York Times, The 20th Anniversary of 9/11: Spike Lee Removes Conspiracists From HBO 9/11 Series After Criticism, Julia Jacobs and Reggie Ugwu, Aug. 28, 2021. The filmmaker edited his documentary after critics said it provided a platform for discredited theories purporting that the towers had been secretly blown up.

Quickly responding to criticism that an episode of his HBO documentary series on the Sept. 11 attacks gave credence to conspiracy theories, the filmmaker spike lee imdbSpike Lee, right, on Thursday released to the media a new final cut that removes all interviews about what caused the World Trade Center buildings to collapse.

Mr. Lee’s series, “NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½,” explores how the city weathered both the terrorist attacks and the coronavirus pandemic through interviews with New Yorkers and footage from the crises. The first part of the four-episode eight-hour series debuted on Sunday. The final segment — which was the subject of the criticism — is scheduled to air on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

The episode, which was cut down from two hours to 90 minutes, had prominently featured interviews with members of the conspiracy group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth — who push the debunked view that the buildings were brought down by a controlled demolition, not by terror attacks. Arguments from the conspiracy group had been juxtaposed with interviews of experts who had studied the collapse as part of a government inquiry, including S. Shyam Sunder, who led a yearslong investigation into the disaster for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the new edit, the entire 30-minute discussion is removed.

After The New York Times published an interview with Mr. Lee in which he defended the episode, he and HBO were denounced online by journalists who criticized them for appearing to give equal voice to both sides.

On Wednesday, Mr. Lee said he had gone back to the editing room, and the episode was removed from an HBO platform that is used to stream previews for members of the news media. HBO did not provide a rationale for the new edit. A representative for Mr. Lee declined to comment.

Ronald Hamburger, who investigated the collapse of the towers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and also appeared in the original cut of the episode, said in an interview on Thursday that Mr. Lee interviewed him for the series about two months ago. The interview, which Mr. Hamburger said lasted about 10 minutes, revolved around the conspiracy theories about controlled demolition.

Mr. Hamburger, who no longer appears in the episode, said he explained to Mr. Lee that based on his work at the site and hundreds of hours of analysis, he had concluded that the cause was not controlled demolition.

“I did get the understanding in my discussions with him that he wanted to give them credence,” Mr. Hamburger said of the conspiracy theories.

In his earlier interview with The New York Times, Mr. Lee seemed to cast doubt on the official explanation of the collapse of the buildings, including 7 World Trade Center, which investigators determined had been brought down by fire. They concluded that heat from the fire caused girders in the steel floor to expand, and steel beams underneath the floors that provided lateral support for the tower’s structural columns began to buckle or put pressure against the vertical structural columns.

“The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached,” Mr. Lee told The Times, alluding to a popular conspiracy theory. “And then the juxtaposition of the way Building 7 fell to the ground — when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it’s like you’re looking at the same thing. But people going to make up their own mind.”

Aug. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Spike Lee reediting 9/11 docuseries after backlash for including conspiracy theorists, Sonia Rao, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Spike Lee's HBO docuseries “NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” was criticized for featuring debunked theories about why the twin towers collapsed.

Spike Lee announced he would be reediting an episode of his new HBO documentary series about New York City amid criticism over his decision to feature 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

“I’m Back In The Editing Room And Looking At The Eighth And Final Chapter Of NYC EPICENTERS 9/11➔2021½,” he wrote in a statement shared Wednesday afternoon with members of the media. “I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgement Until You See The FINAL CUT.”

spike lee imdb“NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” premiered Sunday and will air two episodes each week until its finale on Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Produced and directed by one of the city’s most prolific filmmakers, the series explores the resilience of New Yorkers and how they have grappled over the past two decades with the effects of landmark events like 9/11 and the coronavirus pandemic.

In the original cut, Lee, right, reportedly allotted a significant portion of the eighth episode to interrogating why the twin towers collapsed as they did — even interviewing members of the conspiracy-theorist group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, including founder Richard Gage. Asked about his decision to include these theories in the series, Lee told the New York Times, “I mean, I got questions.”

“And I hope that maybe the legacy of this documentary is that Congress holds a hearing, a congressional hearing about 9/11,” he said.

Pushed to expand upon whether that meant the filmmaker didn’t accept the official explanation for the collapse — which a years-long investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology attributed to fires weakening the floors and already impacted steel support columns — Lee said, “The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached.”

“And then the juxtaposition of the way Building 7 fell to the ground — when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it’s like you’re looking at the same thing,” he continued. “But people going to make up their own mind. My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves. I respect the intelligence of the audience.”

Lee’s comments sparked backlash as they circulated online this week, given that, as Variety’s Caroline Framke wrote of the series, he seemed to be “in clear agreement with the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth calling for a new investigation.” Although the original cut of the episode also included an interview with Shyam Sunder, who led 200 technical experts in conducting the NIST investigation over a three-year period, some critics argued Lee’s approach seemed to grant equal weight to the conspiracy theorists’ perspectives.

“Lee and HBO are offering Gage and his conspiracy theories the biggest and most mainstream platform they’ve ever had, pointing their viewers directly toward a bog of heinously dangerous ideas,” wrote Slate’s Jeremy Stahl. “Like other conspiracy theorists, Gage doesn’t just stick to 9/11, and if Lee’s viewers follow Gage down the rabbit hole, they likely won’t, either.”

This isn’t the first time Lee has nodded toward a conspiracy claim. In a 2005 interview with CNN, ahead of his HBO documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Lee said: “I don’t put anything past the United States government. I don’t find it too far-fetched that they tried to displace all the Black people out of New Orleans.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Sexual assault lawsuit against former ABC News producer prompts call for probe of company culture, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). The network, which largely avoided the scrutiny placed on other media organizations during the MeToo movement, now finds itself under the microscope. The president of ABC News told staffers Thursday that she has requested an independent investigation into how the network responded to allegations of sexual assault and harassment by a prominent former producer, placing the network’s culture and treatment of women under scrutiny it had largely avoided until now.

The announcement comes a day after news of a bombshell lawsuit filed against ABC and Michael Corn, the former executive producer of “Good Morning America” who left the network abruptly in April with no explanation from ABC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple loosens rules for developers in major concession amid antitrust pressure, Rachel Lerman, Cat Zakrzewski and Heather Kelly, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). Apple has faced accusations that it has monopoly powers through its App Store.

Apple announced it would make major changes to its App Store as part of a proposed lawsuit settlement with developers, following years of mounting regulatory scrutiny and legal challenges.

apple logo rainbowThe company will let developers tell its iPhone and iPad customers about ways to pay outside the official App Store, it said in a news release late Thursday. It also expands the types of prices that developers can offer for subscriptions, in-app purchases and paid apps, among other initiatives. The settlement still needs to be approved by the court.

The change is in response to a suit brought by small app developers, in which they alleged Apple’s pricing tiers and lack of outside purchasing options were monopolistic. Apple is also expecting an imminent judgment in a suit by Epic Games over similar allegations in front of the same judge in federal court in the Northern District of California.

jeopardy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Is Mayim Bialik’s dubious science going to be ‘Jeopardy!’s’ next big headache? Emily Yahr, Aug. 27, 2021 (print ed.). This past October, actress and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik released a YouTube video in which she told viewers that she was going to do something she hadn’t done in 30 years: Get a vaccine. Specifically, vaccines for the coronavirus and flu.

“Now you might be saying, ‘Hey wait a second, Dr. Mayim Bialik, you don’t believe in vaccines. You’re one of those anti-vaxxers! I know it because I read it online,’ ” Bialik said in a jovial tone, waving her hand dismissively. “Well folks, let’s finally talk about it.”

mayim bialik twitterBialik, right, was referring to the many headlines that have appeared since her 2012 parenting book revealed her two sons were not on the “typical” vaccine schedule — and when she has offered quotes such as one to People magazine in 2009, saying “we are a non-vaccinating family.” While Bialik has long fought back against the anti-vaccine label, this video was the most in-depth defense yet. “I have never once said that vaccines are not valuable, not useful or not necessary — because they are,” she said, adding her children did receive some vaccinations, which she delayed for reasons she doesn’t want to share publicly.

But her comments are making the rounds once again as Bialik is suddenly in a bigger spotlight in 2021 than anyone could have predicted. Bialik, who drew rave reviews when she guest-hosted “Jeopardy!” earlier this year, was tapped on Aug. 11 as the host for the show’s prime-time specials and spinoffs alongside executive producer Mike Richards as the daily syndicated host. When Richards was forced to step down days later after the revelation of his offensive comments on his former podcast, Sony Pictures Television announced that Bialik would fill in and film 15 episodes this week as executives continue their search for a permanent host.

Now that Bialik is officially embedded in a legendary television institution, “Jeopardy!” fans and social media users are digging into her past: Her 2017 New York Times op-ed about disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein that was criticized for victim-blaming, or her book that promoted the hotly debated attachment parenting philosophy (“Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way”).

Aug. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, New York’s Legendary Literary Hangouts, Tina Jordan, Aug. 26, 2021 (Interactive). You might think of them as solitary creatures, furiously scribbling or typing alone, but as long as there have been writers in New York City, they have socialized together in an assortment of bars, restaurants, apartments and clubs.

The Times began writing about these places in its very first issues. In 1910, it published an article lamenting “the passing of the literary haunts of New York,” noting that many once-famous gathering spots were being razed as the city grew and modernized.

“Number 19 West 24th is gone,” the piece began. “At least the old 19 is gone, and … no account has been made of the fact that it at one time housed the Author’s Club, and that its rakish stairs were somewhat worn away by the feet of Matthew Arnold, Whittier, Lowell and Field.” The article went on to list more than a dozen locations that were no more, including Pfaff’s beer cellar, where Walt Whitman liked to drink, an unnamed restaurant at 5 Barclay Street where Edgar Allan Poe ate with fellow writers and The Den, where James Fenimore Cooper and friends gathered.

Pfaff’s, The Den and the rest may be long gone, but over the decades, dozens, if not hundreds, of other establishments popped up to take their places. Here, we celebrate a few of the most memorable ones.

Aug. 24

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

Alex Jones, host and founder of the Texas-based Infowars show (file photo).

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Is Qanon driven by military-grade PSYOPs subliminal programming? Wayne Madsen, left (author of 20 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst), Aug. 24, 2021. There remains an wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalluncomfortable fact with Qanon. The amorphous freewheeling cult is not losing adherents but, in fact, gaining them as a result of the Covid pandemic.

Qanon might be dismissed if its only followers were uneducated individuals prone to believing whatever nonsense was slickly-presented to them by conniving masters of deception -- those like the charlatans who sell "prosperity gospel" religion and miracle "medical" cures. But that is not the case. Qanon believers include those with college educations, including people with advanced degrees, military and intelligence community veterans, and, yes and very wayne madesen report logounfortunately, journalists.

There are some indications that Qanon is the product of those who have expertise in military psychological warfare operations (psyops) and that large masses of people around the world are being manipulated and coerced for some end game. What is the goal?

Judging from the effects this potential psyop is having on political stability, the ultimate target may be democratic governance.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Study finds sites that mislead, not flat-out lie, attract record share of Facebook interactions, Cristiano Lima, Aug. 24, 2021. As overall engagement on Facebook dropped this year, sites that share news misleadingly are attracting a record-level share of the platform’s audience, according to a study shared exclusively with The Technology 202.

More than 1 in 5 interactions — such as shares, likes or comments — with U.S. sites from April to June happened on “outlets that gather and present breitbart logoinformation irresponsibly,” according to a report by the German Marshall Fund.

This includes outlets such as the Daily Wire, TMZ, the Epoch Times and Breitbart that researchers say “distort or misrepresent information to make an argument or report on a subject,” a metric determined by NewsGuard, a website cited in the study that rates the credibility of news sources. Researchers say these epoch timessources, which they argue spread subtler but still harmful forms of misinformation, are decidedly different from sites that publish overtly false news.

“These are the kinds of sites that will cherry pick anecdotes and are giving rise to vaccine hesitancy and other kinds of conspiracy theories,” said Karen Kornbluh, director of the German Marshall Fund’s Digital Innovation and Democracy Initiative, a public policy think tank.

Researchers highlighted articles that they say “disproportionately amplify vaccine-hesitant voices over experts” and “fail to mention risks of not being vaccinated against covid-19,” such as a June story on football, titled, “NFL Wide Receiver Refuses Vaccine, Wants To ‘Represent’ Other Silent Players.”

While platforms have cracked down on black-and-white cases of fiction masquerading as fact, they are still grappling with how to handle murky yet wide-reaching cases that stop short of falsehood.

Larry Elder Screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, How Did Elder Become a Front-Runner in California’s Governor Race? Shawn Hubler, Aug. 24, 2021. Larry Elder, a conservative radio host who paints himself as the native son of a safer California, has drawn criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

For a generation, Larry Elder, right, has been an AM radio fixture for millions of Californians, the voice they could count on when they were fed up with liberal Democratic politics. Undocumented immigrants? Deport them. Affirmative action? End it. Equal pay? The glass ceiling doesn’t exist.

Now Mr. Elder, a Los Angeles Republican who bills himself as “the sage from South Central,” could end up as the next governor of the nation’s most populous state. As the campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom has become a dead heat among likely voters, Mr. Elder has emerged almost overnight as the front-runner in the campaign to replace him.

Fueled by a combination of arcane recall rules, name recognition and partisan desperation, his rise to the top of a pack of some four dozen challengers has stunned and unnerved many in both parties.

Democrats call him the agent of a far-right power grab. Republican rivals say he is an inexperienced, debate-dodging opportunist. Orrin Heatlie, the retired sheriff’s sergeant who is the recall’s lead proponent, said he and his fellow activists were voting for someone else.

This month, The Sacramento Bee and two Republican candidates — Kevin Faulconer, the former San Diego mayor, and Caitlyn Jenner, the television personality and former Olympian — demanded that Mr. Elder drop out of the race after an ex-girlfriend of his said he brandished a gun at her while high on marijuana during a 2015 breakup.

“We were having a conversation and he walked to the drawer and took out a .45 and checked to see that it was loaded,” Alexandra Datig, 51, said in an interview. Ms. Datig, who worked as an escort in the 1990s and now runs Front Page Index, a conservative website, said: “He wanted me to know he was ready to be very threatening to me. He’s a talented entertainer, but he shouldn’t be governor.”

Mr. Elder, 69, did not respond to requests for comment about Ms. Datig’s claims, but he did tweet that he has “never brandished a gun at anyone,” adding, “I am not going to dignify this with a response.”

The onslaught has come as a Sept. 14 election deadline nears. Ballots have been mailed to all active registered voters, asking whether the governor should be replaced, and, if so, by whom.

Constitutional scholars say Mr. Elder’s sudden ascent is an example of all that is wrong with the recall process, which requires a majority to oust a governor but only a plurality to replace one. Polls show a rout by Mr. Newsom among all Californians but a far tighter race among likely voters. Mr. Elder leads 46 challengers on the ballot with about 20 percent of the likely vote.

Mr. Newsom, whose fate rides on turnout, has made a foil of Mr. Elder, a “small-l libertarian” who reliably agitates the governor’s base with claims, for instance, that the minimum wage should be zero, the “war on oil” should be ended and racial preferences are destructive.

“The leading candidate thinks climate change is a hoax, believes we need more offshore oil drilling, more fracking, does not believe a woman has the right to choose, actually came out against Roe v. Wade, does not believe in a minimum wage,” Mr. Newsom has told supporters.

“Don’t paint me as some wild-eyed radical,” Mr. Elder said in a recent interview. “I’m running because of crime, homelessness, the rising cost of living and the outrageous decisions made during Covid that shut down the state.”

Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, center, with businessman Lev Parnas, above right, and their colleague Ignor Fruman, with Parnas and Fruman arrested while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles Airport.

Palmer Report, Opinion: This is what you’ve been waiting for, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 24, 2021. During a stretch of just a few hours yesterday, several big names in Trump bill palmerworld suddenly decided to loudly turn against several other big names in Trump world. It might have caught you off guard if you haven’t been paying attention these past few months. But in reality, everything we saw yesterday was the direct or indirect result of the incremental collapse of Trump world that we’ve been seeing throughout 2021.

bill palmer report logo headerYesterday it was revealed in court filings that Igor Fruman has decided to plead guilty, meaning he’s very likely going to cooperate in the prosecution of Rudy Giuliani. This didn’t come out of nowhere. Last week we brought you the news that the court-appointed special master phase of the criminal case against Giuliani was nearing completion, meaning his arrest could come within weeks. This meant that if Fruman was ever going to get a favorable deal, he’d have to do it now – and so he’s apparently doing just that.

Yesterday we also saw Alex Jones suddenly lash out at his hero Donald Trump, calling him a “dumbass.” Jones claimed it was in reference to Trump’s recent decision to finally recommend the COVID vaccine to his supporters. But given the timing, this is more likely about the fact that Jones’ top lieutenant Owen Shroyer was indicted over the weekend for his role in the insurrection that Trump incited. Now that Jones has to worry he’s about to be the next to get indicted for Trump’s insurrection, suddenly he’s lashing out at Trump in frustration. In other words, these past months of the Feds bringing January 6th-related charges against people incrementally further up the chain is finally prompting movement at the top.

Yesterday we also saw Roger Stone suddenly decide to reignite his long standing feud with Steve Bannon. But this probably didn’t just come out of nowhere, either. Stone now has to worry about Shroyer flipping on him, or Shroyer flipping on Jones who in turn could flip on Stone. And so now Stone is trying to change the subject by calling for Bannon’s arrest. Or just maybe this is Stone’s way of offering himself up as a witness against Bannon, in case Stone ends up needing to curry favor with prosecutors.

The thing is, the big movement we saw yesterday – the kind of stuff you’ve been waiting for – wasn’t spontaneous. It wasn’t as if these ongoing criminal cases and investigations were sitting dormant until they suddenly came to life yesterday. Rather, the details we’ve been steadily bringing you about these probes all year are what led to yesterday’s big fireworks. Even as the defeatists insist on referring to incremental progress as “nothing being done,” the reality is that Trump world is now eating itself alive, as a direct result of everything that has been done thus far in 2021.

Poynter Institute, CNN is hiring 200 journalists for CNN+. Here’s what the network is looking for, Al Tompkins, Aug. 24, 2021. The hiring surge for CNN’s new streaming subscription service is the largest since CNN began in 1980.

“We are trying to hire 200 journalists,” he told me. “We need everything, from top management to executive producers, producers, editors, reporters, you name it.”

cnn logoRamon is the senior vice president for talent recruitment and development at CNN. What he was describing to me is the largest hiring surge since CNN began in 1980. CNN is launching CNN+, a subscription streaming service for news that it says “will exist side by side with CNN’s existing television networks and will feature eight to twelve hours of live programming a day.”

CNN says the project launches in the first quarter of 2022 and, in addition to journalists, the network will hire hundreds of specialists in production, engineering, technology, marketing and analytics.

The CNN+ effort follows others — including NBC and Fox — but none of them is even close in scope to CNN’s. Cord-cutting has cost cable networks access to millions of potential viewers as they are replaced by services like Netflix that put the user in control of content.

CNN is handcuffed by agreements with cable companies so it cannot just stream its current offerings to people who do not have cable. Instead, it had to create a totally new product. According to CNN, people who have cable or satellite service will also get expanded news coverage through CNN+. All of these subscription services have to take care not to undercut the legacy over-the-air or cable operations that are their foundations.

CNN+ will be headed by chief digital officer Andrew Morse who said, in addition to about a half days’ worth of live programming, CNN+ will offer a range of special programs focused on topics featured in recent special reports: climate change, Middle East politics, the Jan. 6 insurrection and race relations. CNN said it is producing a two-hour documentary on the transition of power in Afghanistan, another example of the kind of in-depth programming that CNN+ will offer.

Morse also envisions something he calls an “interactive community” that will give subscribers the ability “to engage directly with our talent and experts about the issues that matter most to them.”

CNN has experimented with the concept in town halls with candidates and political leaders. But Escobar said CNN+ will go beyond the town hall concept.

“Imagine that we have someone representing the Afghan government. We see an opportunity to directly connect the newsmakers to the audience. It is like a town meeting but in a streaming setting. If you are a subscriber of CNN+, you could participate in what could be an interaction with the ambassador to the UN about Afghanistan,” he said. “Everyone in the news industry has streaming, but this is more than that. It is interaction.”

Escobar insisted that the innovations ahead will not be about technology, but will instead focus more on content creation and interactivity that could attract new, nontraditional news audiences, especially those that do not have cable TV.

Variety reported that insiders are speculating that “there’s a strong probability that CNN Plus would be bundled in some fashion with HBO Max and Discovery+” once the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery is completed next year.

Escobar said the people he is helping to recruit will work in New York, Washington, D.C., and other spots, depending on the job. He is scouting for talent in local and network TV but also has a history of hiring former print and online journalists. Some of his most fertile scouting groups are CNN journalism workshops at major journalism conferences, including the National Association of Black Journalists, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian American Journalists Association and NLGJA, the Association of LGBTQ Journalists.

“In the last nine years, we have hired more than 50 people that we came to know through those workshops,” he said. (I have been a volunteer teacher in those sessions every year.)

CNN+ will launch in the U.S. and later expand to global markets. “Our efforts will be to make sure the workforce reflects the world that it is going to service. We are a global news organization and CNN+ will look global,” Escobar said.

Variety reported that the subscription news service business is getting crowded. CNN is just the latest in a long string of big plans from the biggest players:

CBS News, which got in early to the game with CBSN, has been combined with its parent company’s local TV stations, and the combined entity has already begun producing special reports led by local-news anchors on the ground at events of great interest, like the collapse of the Surfside condominium in Florida.
MSNBC is developing programs from top anchors like Mika Brzezinski and Nicolle Wallace for its parent company’s Peacock outlet.

ABC News has broken down walls between streaming and linear programming, enlisting producers from its streaming efforts for its “GMA3” on ABC and elevating streaming anchor Linsey Davis to anchor a weekend broadcast of “World News Tonight.”

Fox News continues to bolster its Fox Nation streaming outlet with additional content — and in May announced it would make its linear primetime opinion broadcasts available on the service the day after they air.

CNN+ announced its first big-name hire in Kasie Hunt, a veteran of NBC News, who will be a CNN+ anchor and national affairs analyst. Hunt left MSNBC last month. The network is posting other jobs now on its employment website.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge wants Justice Dept. to detail decision on charging Infowars host accused in Jan. 6 riot, Rachel Weiner, Aug. 24, 2021. Prosecutors say guidelines involving the media were followed in charging Jonathan Owen Shroyer.

A federal judge wants prosecutors to explain whether they considered a correspondent for the right-wing website Infowars a member of the media when charging him with participating in the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui said in an order Tuesday that he is not questioning the decision to prosecute Jonathan Owen Shroyer, only whether the Justice Department followed its own protocols in doing so.

“The events of January 6 were an attack on the foundation of our democracy,” Faruqui wrote. “But this does not relieve the Department of Justice from following its own guidelines, written to preserve the very same democracy.”

Shroyer was arrested this week on charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct on the Capitol grounds. Shroyer, prosecutors say, violated an agreement not to engage in such behavior that he signed after being removed from a 2019 impeachment hearing for heckling a Democratic lawmaker.

On the day of the riots, he marched with a crowd toward the Capitol shouting, “We aren’t going to accept it!” and later appeared on the building’s steps, prosecutors allege in court records.

Several people charged in the Capitol riot have described themselves as members of the press, but prosecutors have argued in the past that there is no evidence those defendants engaged in journalism. The government did not explain whether it concluded that Shroyer was not a member of the media.

Shroyer hosts a talk show on Infowars, which is banned by major social media platforms for promoting conspiracy theories. Like founder Alex Jones, he has falsely accused a pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington of harboring pedophiles and the parents of children killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting of lying.

Justice Department guidelines require approval from the attorney general to investigate or charge a member of the news media with a crime, to ensure that law enforcement does not impinge upon freedom of the press. Those guidelines were recently strengthened after the Justice Department revealed that under President Donald Trump, records were secretly subpoenaed from several news organizations.

In a letter to the court, prosecutors say guidelines protecting the media have been “scrupulously followed.” But the government said the Justice Department is not required to detail that process for the court.

“Such inquiries could risk impeding frank and thoughtful internal deliberations within the Department about how best to ensure compliance with these enhanced protections for Members of the News Media,” wrote John Crabb, who leads the Criminal Division of the U.S. attorney’s office in D.C.

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, He Was the ‘Perfect Villain’ for Voting Conspiracists, Susan Dominus, Aug. 24, 2021. Eric Coomer had an election-security job at Dominion Voting Systems. He also had posted anti-Trump messages on Facebook. What happened next ruined his life.

dominion voting systemsThe Trump campaign and its allies have introduced more than 60 lawsuits claiming election fraud in this country, but no court has found persuasive evidence to support the idea that Coomer, Dominion or anyone else involved in vote-counting changed the election results.

Bipartisan audits of paper ballots in closely contested states such as Georgia and Arizona confirmed Biden’s victory; and prominent Republicans, including Attorney General Bill Barr and Trump’s official in charge of election cybersecurity, have reaffirmed the basic facts of the election: Over all, the results were accurate, the election process was secure and no widespread fraud capable of changing the outcome has been uncovered.

Joe.My.God, FCC Fines Jacob Wohl And Jack Burkman $5.1 Million, Joe MG, Aug. 24, 2021. First, a reminder about the case:

jacob wohl aug 2020Jacob Wohl, left, a conservative activist known for his largely bumbling attempts to stage political scandals, has been charged with running a robocalling scheme to spread false election information. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed four felony charges today against Wohl and his partner Jack Burkmanjack burkman w. They’re accused of targeting Detroit residents with calls that discouraged voting, including false claims that mail-in ballots would let health agencies “track people for mandatory vaccines.”

Wohl and Burkman allegedly targeted voters in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois, making a total of around 85,000 calls in August. The calls claimed to come from a group called “Project 1599, a civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl,” and they were aimed at areas with large Black populations, urging them to not “be finessed into giving your private information to the man.”

And today, this.

‼️ Whoa! The FCC just announced a massive $5 million fine for illegal robocalling against conspiracy theorists John Burkman and Jacob Wohl pic.twitter.com/6ZPgpV0tLu

— Cristiano Lima (@viaCristiano) August 24, 2021

The pair are also facing a $2.75 million lawsuit from the NY AG https://t.co/IXQZydavHt

— Tonya Riley (@TonyaJoRiley) August 24, 2021

Aug. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative Bill Kristol endorses McAuliffe in race for Virginia governor, Laura Vozzella, Aug. 23, 2021. The longtime commentator and Trump critic calls Republican Glenn Youngkin too “Trumpy.”

Bill Kristol is just like all the other disaffected Virginia Republicans whom gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin needs to win over, only famous.

The longtime conservative commentator, who settled in Northern Virginia three decades ago to join the Reagan administration, split with the GOP over President Donald Trump. With Trump out of the White House, Kristol says he’s ready to support “non-Trump Republicans.” But Kristol does not put Youngkin, a former terry mcauliffe oCarlyle Group executive, in that category. On Tuesday, he will formally endorse Democrat Terry McAuliffe, right, a former governor seeking a comeback.

“He’s a moderate Democrat, and he’s not going to shut down Virginia’s business success, economic success and so forth. He’s the kind of Democrat I’m comfortable supporting,” Kristol said in an interview Monday, when he criticized Youngkin’s “reckless” public health and tax policies as much as his embrace of Trump.

Kristol is one of 17 Republicans who endorsed McAuliffe on Tuesday in a coordinated rollout that the campaign bills as a sign of the former governor’s bipartisan appeal.

“I am proud to be building an unmatched, broad coalition of leaders who share my vision to move Virginia forward,” McAuliffe, who held the office from 2014 to 2018, said in a written statement.

Youngkin’s campaign was dismissive of Kristol’s endorsement. “A 43-year political boss like Terry McAuliffe trotting out the endorsements of fellow political grifters is neither impressive nor surprising,” Youngkin spokesman Matt Wolking said in a statement. “It exemplifies McAuliffe’s old and tired way of doing things that has failed Virginia.” Wolking said Youngkin has “tremendous support from Republicans AND Democrats, along with 16 different coalitions including Latinos, Blacks, Farmers, Firefighters, and Students.”

Youngkin has found himself in a corner when it comes to Trump, who lost the state by 10 points but remains highly popular with the GOP base. Trump endorsed Youngkin after he won the Republican nomination in May and followed up with two statements lauding him. Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, headlined a fundraiser for Youngkin in Virginia Beach last week.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Ron DeSantis goes Lord of the Flies, Bocha Blue, Aug. 23, 2021. Have you seen the excellent film, Lord of the Flies? Or perhaps you’ve read the book of the same title. No book or film does it better in showing the horrific consequences of groupthink (although another film, The River’s Edge, is also quite powerful on the subject.)

bill palmer report logo headerGroupthink can and is often deadly. All we have to do is look back in time to see that. We saw it in Germany with Hitler. We saw it in Salem, Massachusetts, with the witch trials. I could go on. But now we see it in the form of loathsome politicians who seem to be spreading their angry and destructive rhetoric to others, and nobody is safe from it. Just ask America’s worst Governor, Mr. Ron DeSantis.

twitter bird CustomDeSantis (incompetent, insurrection party, Florida) is all over the news and not in any good way. But now, his press secretary is making her own news, proving the unique and evil power of groupthink once again.

Christine Pushaw is the bombastic Governor’s press secretary. And right now, she is in a bit of trouble. An AP reporter had written a story on Regeneron that apparently irked the DeSantis crowd. So Pushaw, proving what an idiot she is, promptly tweeted to her supporters about AP and told them to “light them up.”

Of course, the reporter started receiving threats from Pushaw’s good little foot soldiers. Pushaw did eventually delete the tweet, but it was too late. The damage had been done. Twitter got involved and suspended the vile woman. Good for them!

Of course, expulsion would have been better, but at least there were some consequences.

Aug. 22

phil valentine

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Phil Valentine, a radio host who scoffed at Covid then urged his followers to get vaccinated, has died, Traci Carl, Aug. 22, 2021 (print ed.). Phil Valentine, a prominent conservative radio host in Tennessee who refused to get vaccinated, then urged his followers to get a shot after being hospitalized with Covid-19, has died, his station said on Saturday.

Mr. Valentine scoffed at the need for vaccines, writing on his blog that his chances of dying from the virus, should he become infected, were “way less than one percent.”

He announced his Covid-19 diagnosis on July 11 and pledged to return to his show within a day or two.

“Unfortunately for the haters out there, it looks like I’m going to make it,” he wrote. “Interesting experience. I’ll have to fill you in when I come back on the air. I’m hoping that will be tomorrow, but I may take a day off just as a precaution.”

Less than two weeks later, his radio station, 99.7 WTN, announced that the Nashville host was hospitalized “in very serious condition, suffering from Covid pneumonia.” The statement said Mr. Valentine had had a change of heart and urged others to get a vaccine.

“Phil would like for his listeners to know that while he has never been an ‘anti-vaxer’ he regrets not being more vehemently ‘pro-vaccine,’ and looks forward to being able to more vigorously advocate that position as soon as he is back on the air, which we all hope will be soon,” the station said.

Some people responded to the announcement with words of support for Mr. Valentine, while others said he deserved to get sick.

On Saturday, the station announced on Twitter that Mr. Valentine had died, urging followers to “keep the Valentine family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Another one bites the dust, Robert Harrington, Aug. 22, 2021. Conservative talk radio show host Phil Valentine certainly stood his ground. After he announced testing positive for Covid-19 on July 11th he said he was “doing my patriotic duty for natural herd immunity.” Phil’s idea was that he was going to acquire natural immunity by acquiring antibodies the old-fashioned way. Once he had the disease, his theory went, his body would create its own vaccine. He taught his listeners to mistrust the “artificial” vaccines and follow his “patriotic” example.

Phil died on Saturday of Covid-19, aged 61. Valentine, whose nationally syndicated “Phil Valentine Show” aired on 100 stations from 2007 to 2019, recently questioned the efficacy of vaccines on his Nashville, Tennessee show aired on SuperTalk 99.7 WTN and online, where he mocked America’s inoculation campaign in the song “Vaxman,” a parody of the Beatles’ “Taxman.” “I certainly am not getting the vax now,” he replied to a commenter on Facebook on July 14th. “I have full immunity.” And it worked, too, except the part about being dead, of course.

bill palmer report logo headerPhil encouraged treatment over prevention. “You need to have a plan in case you get COVID,” Valentine wrote. “Make SURE you get your vitamin D3 level checked … And then have a doctor on speed dial who will write you a prescription for ivermectin.” How exactly some of his poorer Tennessee listeners who didn’t have health insurance and couldn’t afford to “have a doctor on speed dial” were supposed to do this Valentine didn’t say. As in the other 49 states, on the other hand, the Covid-19 vaccine is free and readily available in Tennessee.

“[Phil] wishes he could do it over,” Valentine’s brother Mark told Nashville public radio station WPLN in a late July interview. “His regret [was] ‘I made the decision [not to get vaccinated] based on my situation, but I know now that a lot of people didn’t get the vaccine because I didn’t get the vaccine. And that is what I would like to correct.’”

It is doubtful Phil’s too-little-too-late message will carry much weight. For some reason victims of the anti-vaxxer movement have to find out for themselves how bad Covid is before they change their minds about the vaccine, if they do at all. By that time many of them have “infected” other people with their ignorant opinions. By that time many of them are dead.

So why are many conservatives so slow to learn from the experiences of others? Lack of empathy. Just as the “[expletive] your feelings” crowd sees no irony in their over-the-top emotional response to Donald Trump losing the 2020 election, many are incapable of understanding what’s so bad about Covid-19. Until they get it themselves, of course.

How many times have we seen Republican politicians take inflexible stands against the rights of the LGBT community until they find out their son is gay or their granddaughter is trans? How many times have we seen Republicans, who arrogantly make decisions about a woman’s right to choose, become all about “my body my choice” when told they must wear a mask?

Until an issue becomes important to them personally Republicans cannot see past their own selfish little universe. So the Phil Valentines of the world will continue to have little impact on them. They must get sick and die first, or someone close to them must get sick and die and take others with them, before any lesson is learned. And by then, of course, it’s too late.

The tide is turning, however, and more and more Republicans are finally coming around to understanding the dangers of the Covid threat and the efficacy of the vaccine. But the delay comes at a price so terrible that their final surrender to the inexorable logic of science may be too late and make no difference at all. Thanks to them and their ignorance, it’s now become a possibility that the pandemic will never end. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Aug. 20

Proof via Substack, Investigation: New Pre-Insurrection Strategy Meetings #1: Reps. Mo Brooks and Jim Jordan, Mark Meadows, Donald Trump, and 50 seth abramson graphicHouse Republicans, Seth Abramson, left, Aug. 19-20, 2021. In this new entry in a Proof series focused on lightly or non-reported pre-insurrection meetings involving insurrectionist kingpins, we discuss a secretive GOP-caucus call no one seems to be aware of.

Introduction: Most Americans don’t yet realize how much planning Congressional Republicans did prior to January 6 to ensure that that seth abramson proof logoterrible day would be as chaotic as possible.

The lightly and in some cases unreported meetings that top Washington Republicans held between January 2 and January 5—including White House meetings—explain why the Republican Party writ large can under no circumstances cooperate with the new House January 6 Committee. It is now a certainty that if that committee conducts a comprehensive review of top Republicans’ movements in the 120 hours preceding the January 6 attack on the Capitol, it will discover an institutionalized insurrectionist conspiracy the GOP must hide from voters if it is to take back the House in late 2022.

Proof previously began the process of reporting on largely or entirely unreported pre-insurrection strategy sessions with this article, among whose stunning revelations was a national conference call held by Donald Trump with state GOP officials on January 2. That call, which included nearly 300 such officials and was both highly irregular and conducted on a weekend, would have been more than enough covert insurrectionist business for a President of the United States to conduct a single day. But it turns out that it wasn’t the only major pre-insurrection meeting Donald Trump chaired that day.

This article is about a second such meeting.

Read more at the Proof site to see the revelations....

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

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

owen shroyerPalmer Report, Opinion: Alex Jones’ top sidekick has just been criminally indicted in January 6th Capitol attack, Bill Palmer, right, Aug. 20, 2021. Earlier today Reuters bill palmerpublished a bizarre report – complete with suspect sourcing and misleading article construction – which essentially claimed that Roger Stone and Alex Jones were in the clear when it came to the January 6th Capitol attack. Not only did Palmer Report pick it apart in detail, we asked why allies of Stone and Jones were choosing now to call in whatever favors necessary to get such an article published. Now we’re apparently getting our answer.

InfoWars host Owen Shroyer, above, a sidekick of Alex Jones (and a host of "Warroom" on the Jones InforWars show, has just been criminally charged for his actions in the January 6th attack, according to multiple major news outlets including the Washington Post. So this explains the timing of the misleading article that was planted in Reuters early today.

bill palmer report logo headerBy getting the Reuters article planted this morning, allies of Stone and Jones managed to lay the groundwork such that some observers will mistakenly view this evening’s indictment of Jones sidekick Shroyer as a standalone thing that Jones and Stone are insulated from. We say “mistakenly” because, now that the Feds are going as far as arresting Shroyer, it’s obvious that they intend to do the same to Jones. In fact they’ll surely push Shroyer hard to flip on Jones.

Now we know a few things. First, those who took the Reuters report at face value, and began calling for the resignation of the Director of the FBI, once again jumped the gun. Second, these kinds of complex multi-layered investigations really do take time to work their way toward the top. Third, it’s now clear that the probe is indeed getting close to to the top; if the flipping is successful, Shroyer gets you to Alex Jones, who gets you to Roger Stone, who gets you to Donald Trump. Finally, Reuters sure has a lot of explaining to do.

 

"Stop the Steal" organizer Ali Akbar Alexander, center, with his hand in the air, and Infowars host and Trump ally Alex Jones standing next to him.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Something doesn’t add up about this report that Roger Stone and Alex Jones are off the hook for January 6th, Bill Palmer,  right, Aug. 20, bill palmer2021. We’ve all spent months watching the FBI indict and arrest several Roger Stone and Alex Jones associates on charges of conspiracy to attack the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Some of the arrestees were even Stone’s personal hired help on that day. It’s fairly obvious that these types are being squeezed to flip on bigger fish, so conspiracy charges can be brought against those bigger fish.

Yet today we all woke up to “exclusive” reporting from Reuters, claiming that the FBI has found little to no evidence that the Capitol attack was in any way coordinated, and implying that the likes of Stone and Jones are simply off the hook. When an “inside sourced” article like this seems to be at odds with everything else we know about a story, and something seems, well, wrong, it usually means there is something wrong. So let’s dive in and see if we can figure out what’s wrong here.

bill palmer report logo headerFor starters, the Reuters article is sourced to “four current and former law enforcement officials.” Well there’s a red flag. How many of these law enforcement officials are current, and how many of them are former? This phrasing suggests that all but one of them are former.

And why cite any former officials at all? They’re not involved in the probe, and therefore don’t officially know anything. The only way former officials could have inside knowledge of this case would be if a current official improperly gave them details of the case, which they then improperly gave to Reuters.

In other words, it feels like the “sourcing” here is just one current law enforcement official, and the only reason Reuters included the former officials is so that it could avoid presenting this article as a single-sourced story. So it’s not off to a great start. But this alone doesn’t prove that the article is illegitimate.

Of course the real problem is this. It’s not uncommon for investigators or prosecutors to strategically leak details to the media about how ugly the evidence is, or about how indictments are coming, to try to scare the suspect into cooperating. But there’s no strategic reason for officials to leak that an investigation isn’t going anywhere, or that the targets are off the hook. This kind of leak only makes the FBI’s job harder.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Would-be terrorist at the Library of Congress not to be taken lightly, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 20, 2021. Floyd Ray Roseberry of North wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallCarolina may appear to be a character out of television's fictional Mayberry, but the aspirational bomber of the Library of Congress's Jefferson Building and surrounding structures, including the Supreme Court, is but one of many foot soldiers willing to die for Donald Trump.

Most of the major media, including Facebook and YouTube, have refused to publish or air Roseberry's sometimes incoherent and meandering verbal manifesto, orated over a five-hour period via a Facebook live stream on August 19 as he drove through Virginia and later sat in his pickup truck parked outside the Library of Congress.

wayne madesen report logoPerhaps Roseberry is not the most articulate of Trump supporters willing to die for their political führer -- few of them are -- but his intentions in wanting to decimate several city blocks in Washington, DC should be taken seriously. Many of these far-right seditionists see January 6 insurrectionist Ashli Babbitt as their Horst Wessel-like martyr, someone whose death must be avenged.

The lackluster and mealy-mouthed Attorney General, Merrick Garland, left, should be immediately replaced by someone like former federal prosecutor Glenn merrick garlandKirschner, who has called for Trump to be prosecuted for, among other things, his repeated calls for insurrection. The next time, it may not be some deluded cosplaying redneck from North Carolina who decides to kill a bunch people in downtown DC, but the real thing.

A rough and incomplete transcript of Roseberry's five-hour Facebook broadcast follows:

"I've cleared my conscience with God. I just love America, boy. I have no fear. None. The cracking you hear in my voice is passion for the land that I love. Somebody needs to tell Joe Biden. We're here. The fuckin' revolution starts today Joe Biden. And before you go crackin' any pops on me, you better get your military experts out and ask them motherfuckers what a seven-pound keg of gunpowder will with two-and-a-half pound of tannerite motherfucker!"

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Apple delays office return until at least 2022, as delta scrambles employers’ plans, Adela Suliman and Bryan Pietsch, Aug. 20, 2021 (print ed.).

Tech giant Apple will delay the planned return of its employees to its offices until January 2022 at the earliest, The Washington Post has confirmed.

The iPhone maker was due to welcome staff back into offices by early September, which was pushed to mid-October, before the delay to next year due to concerns over rising coronavirus cases and the delta variant, Bloomberg News reported. It’s the latest move that could signal a more complex return-to-work plan for major U.S. companies.

Tech giants were some of the first companies to send workers home at the start of the pandemic in early March 2020, and they remain divided on how and when to bring back employees. Unlike Google and Facebook, Apple does not yet have a coronavirus vaccine mandate in place for its staff. Amazon and Facebook are also delaying plans to return staff to offices to early 2022.

 

mike richards

washington post logoWashington Post, Mike Richards steps down as ‘Jeopardy!’ host in wake of resurfaced offensive comments, Emily Yahr, Aug. 20, 2021. Mike Richards is stepping down as host of “Jeopardy!” effective immediately, he confirmed Friday morning.

Richards, above, the show’s executive producer who was just named as Alex Trebek’s replacement on the iconic game show, came under fire after the Ringer published an in-depth report that revealed he made disparaging remarks about women, Jewish people and Haiti.

“I was deeply honored to be asked to host the syndicated show and was thrilled by the opportunity to expand my role” Richards wrote in a note to his staff Friday. “However, over the last several days it has become clear that moving forward as host would be too much of a distraction for our fans and not the right move for the show. As such, I will be stepping down as host effective immediately. As a result, we will be canceling production today.”

Aug. 19

lina khan resized ftc

washington post logoWashington Post, FTC refiles antitrust case against Facebook, says no other social network comes close to its scale, Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 19, 2021. Federal Trade Commission chair Lina Khan, above, was given a Thursday deadline to refile the lawsuit. The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday refiled a bolstered version of its antitrust case against Facebook in a last-ditch effort to save what has been described as its most important competition lawsuit in decades.

ftc logofacebook logoSeeking to overcome a judge’s stunning dismissal of its original lawsuit because the FTC had not presented ample evidence that Facebook is a monopoly, the FTC argues in its new filing that Facebook is in a class of its own and shouldn’t be compared to popular apps such as TikTok, Twitter and Pinterest, which attract a public-facing audience. The complaint argues that Snapchat, with tens of millions fewer monthly users than either Facebook or Instagram, is the company’s next-closest competitor.

“Without meaningful competition, Facebook has been able to provide lower levels of service quality on privacy and data protection than it would have to provide in a competitive market,” the FTC said in the complaint.

  • Washington Post, Only Facebook knows the extent of its misinformation problem. And it’s not sharing, even with the White House, Aug. 19, 2021.

jeopardy logo

washington post logoWashington Post, New ‘Jeopardy!’ host made disparaging comments about women, Jewish people and Haiti on podcast, report says, Julian Mark, Aug. 19, 2021. Even years before Mike Richards was named the new host of “Jeopardy!”, he was the host of another program, a podcast called “The Randumb Show.”

In one episode that aired on Sept. 4, 2014, after an iCloud hack led to intimate images of female celebrities being disseminated online, Richards asked his co-host if she had ever taken nude photos of herself, according to an in-depth report published in the Ringer, which included audio clips.

Richards frequently made such inappropriate comments about women and their bodies, as well as disparaging remarks about Jewish people and poor people, on the podcast that he hosted between 2013 and 2014, according to a review of all 41 episodes by the Ringer’s Claire McNear.

The release of the podcast clips comes only a week after “Jeopardy!” announced that Richards, who became the show’s executive producer in May 2020, will succeed Alex Trebek, the trivia show’s longtime host who died in November.

Richards’s coronation as “Jeopardy!” host, along with actor Mayim Bialik for prime-time specials, followed a lengthy tryout period that saw guest hosts including NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers, former “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton and former “Jeopardy!” champion Ken Jennings vie for the coveted role.

Because he was the executive producer of the show, Richards’s appointment raised questions about the role he played in the selection process, such as his ability to influence which appearances by each guest host were sent to focus groups that weighed in on the decision, the New York Times reported.

Aug. 18

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Covering the Taliban just prior to 9/11 -- A retrospect, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 18, 2021. This editor was interviewed for a wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallprogram about Afghanistan and its women a week prior to the 9/11 attack. Eerily, the program aired on many National Pubic Radio stations on September 12, 2001.

The interview follows: "Beyond the Burqa: The Taliban, Women and the C.I.A."

Stephanie Welch: The information provided in this edition of Making Contact is relevant to current allegations against Osama bin Laden, and discussions about Afghanistan. This program's guests were interviewed, and the show was produced before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

This week on Making Contact.... Afghanistan is a country devastated by many years of war, a serious drought, and the dictatorial rule of the Taliban, a group that claims to be bringing the country back to the purity of Islam. Women are suffering most as a result. On this program we take a look at U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, and at how Afghan women are dealing with rule under the Taliban.

I'm Stephanie Welch -- your host this week on a special Women's Desk edition of Making Contact -- an international radio program seeking to create connections between people, vital ideas and important information...

During the Reagan administration in the 1980s, the Central Intelligence Agency ran covert operations in countries all over the world -- operations that involved assassinations, arms deals and drug-running. The C.I.A. also trained mercenary armies to overthrow governments it deemed unfriendly to U.S. corporate and military interests. One of the largest and most expensive covert operations involved Afghanistan.

Like many countries, Afghanistan was a battleground in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Bordering the USSR as well as Iran and Pakistan, it was an important area of conflict between the two superpowers. The Soviet Union feared the growing influence of what it viewed as anti-Communist Islamic Fundamentalism, which was spreading to Afghanistan from Pakistan. To stamp out this threat, the USSR used its troops to overthrow Afghan president Hafizullah Amin, who they charged was a C.I.A. agent.

Wayne Madsen is a senior fellow at the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, D.C., and deals with intelligence and military issues. He says the C.I.A. was involved months before the Soviet occupation, training Islamic fundamentalist Afghan exiles at the southern border, in Pakistan....

washington post logoWashington Post, Afghan reporter makes heartfelt plea during exchange with NATO chief: ‘Please don’t recognize the Taliban,’ Julian Mark, Aug. 18, 2021. During a news conference with NATO’s top leader on Tuesday, Afghan journalist Lailuma Sadid broke down in tears.

She questioned NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the coalition’s rapid withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years, which allowed the Taliban to seize control of the country in a matter of days.

“Thousands of women already don’t know … wha

t is going on and what should happen for them, and they are always asking, ‘What does it mean?’ ” she said in impassioned comments that were also posed as questions. After 20 years, she added, “we are going back [to Taliban rule] again?”

Appearing to sympathize, Stoltenberg told Sadid it was an “extremely difficult” decision to make.

“And it was difficult because I share your pain, I understand your frustration,” he said.

Sadid pleaded with Stoltenberg: “Please don’t recognize the Taliban and don’t put us again in the same situation.”

 

New York Observer Editor Ken Kurson, left, is joined by the newspaper's owner, Jared Kushner, son-in-law to Donald Trump at a 2015 book launch for Kurson (Photo by J. Grassi / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images).

New York Observer Editor Ken Kurson, left, is joined by the newspaper's owner, Jared Kushner, son-in-law to Donald Trump at a 2015 book launch for Kurson (Photo by J. Grassi / Patrick McMullan via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Kushner friend Ken Kurson charged in N.Y. eavesdropping case after Trump pardon, Shayna Jacobs, Aug. 18, 2021. Ken Kurson, a close friend of former president Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, was charged Wednesday in a state eavesdropping and computer-trespass case months after receiving a federal pardon while facing similar harassment allegations.

The former New York Observer editor’s arrest marks what is likely the first instance of a local prosecutor pursuing state-level charges against a person after that individual was given a pass by Trump for the same alleged conduct that federal authorities had pursued. A president’s clemency grants apply only in federal cases.

“We will not accept presidential pardons as get-out-of-jail-free cards for the well-connected in New York,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. said in announcing Kurson’s arrest.

Vance’s office is investigating the Trump Organization and its executives. The former president’s company and its Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg have been indicted in a wide-ranging tax fraud scheme. Kurson’s case is unrelated to that matter.

Kurson, 52, appeared briefly before a Manhattan judge Wednesday. He was handcuffed during the arraignment and later released without bail.

Kurson was ordered to return to court Sept. 28. He and his attorney, Marc Mukasey, declined to speak to the media as they left the courthouse.

At the time of his first arrest by federal authorities in Brooklyn, Mukasey called his client “an honorable man” and said the case was “hardly the stuff of a federal criminal prosecution.”

A political consultant who co-authored a book with Trump’s personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, Kurson made headlines in October when he was accused of stalking his wife years prior while the couple was going through a divorce.

Prosecutors handling the state case described a new narrative Wednesday in which Kurson allegedly used spyware between September 2015 and March 2016 to monitor his then-wife, obtaining her passwords so he could access her Gmail and Facebook accounts. His former wife, to whom he was still married at the time, told police in South Orange, N.J., that Kurson “terrorized her through email and social media causing her problems at work and in her social life,” according to his criminal complaint.

Kurson is accused of spying on her computer from the Observer Media Group’s office in Manhattan while serving as editor of the publication, which was formerly owned by Kushner, according to court papers.

Using tracking software called WebWatcher, Kurson allegedly monitored keystrokes and then private communications, including between his wife and a friend who worked with her at a summer camp, authorities contend. Transcripts of their Facebook chats were sent to the camp’s director, according to the complaint, which does not disclose the nature of the conversations.

Kurson also is accused of trying to cover his tracks by contacting customer support at WebWatcher to evaluate how he could delete the software undetected. “I need to uninstall it PERFECTLY,” he wrote to the company on Oct. 17, 2015, court documents say. “So that not even an expert can detect that it had been there.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York indicts and arrests Jared Kushner associate, Bill Palmer, Aug. 18, 2021. Earlier this week we reminded everyone that just because the public isn’t aware of the ongoing developments behind the scenes in any given criminal case, it doesn’t mean that case isn’t progressing. In a timely example of how true this is, New York just arrested a guy named Ken Kurson on state level cyberstalking charges – and this is notable in Trump world for a few reasons.

bill palmer report logo headerFirst, Kurson was previously pardoned by Donald Trump on federal charges. But because presidential pardons don’t apply to state charges, the Manhattan District Attorney was able to indict and arrest Kurson today in spite of his pardon. It’s a reminder that no one pardoned by Trump is necessarily safe from criminal prosecution. It’s also a reminder of why Trump didn’t even bother trying to preemptively pardon himself, his family, or some of his associates.

jared kushner Custom CustomSecond, Kurson is a close associate and former employee of Jared Kushner, right. He also did work for Rudy Giuliani. If Kurson ends up having to cut a plea deal on the cyberstalking charges, his only way out will be to flip on the bigger fish around him. So if Kurson happens to have dirt on Kushner, Giuliani, or anyone else in Trump world, those people should be sleeping rather poorly tonight.

Third, it turns out the criminal investigation into Ken Kurson only began when Donald Trump nominated him for the National Endowment for the Humanities. This triggered a criminal background check, which ultimately led to his arrest today. Trump was presumably attempting to reward Kurson. But as so often tends to be the case, Kurson’s downfall will end up being because he got too close to Trump.

washington post logoWashington Post, R. Kelly’s trial begins today. He faces sex trafficking and racketeering charges, Sonia Rao, Aug. 18, 2021. Opening statements and testimony begin Wednesday in the federal trial of R. Kelly, the disgraced R&B singer facing sex trafficking and racketeering charges in New York. If convicted, Kelly, 54, is looking at decades in prison.

r kelly twitterIn addition to the New York charges, Kelly (shown in a Twitter photo) faces numerous counts of sexual assault and abuse in Illinois. Both sets of legal proceedings were sparked by two decades’ worth of sexual misconduct allegations against Kelly, who was previously acquitted of child pornography charges in 2008.

Here’s what to know about the case. (This post will be updated as the trial progresses.)

Aug. 17

News and Guts, One America News Owes Rachel Maddow $250,000, Edited by Dan Rather, Aug. 17, 2021. Well, that backfired. In 2019, One America News sued MSNBC and star anchor Rachel Maddow for defamation, seeking $10 million after she called the right-wing outlet “paid Russian propaganda.” She explained why: the network employed a journalist, Kristian Rouz, who was simultaneously on the payroll of Sputnik, a media outlet owned by the Kremlin.

OAN’s suit was subsequently dismissed. On Tuesday, an appeals court reaffirmed that earlier ruling and said OAN has to cover at least $247,000 of the legal bills incurred by Maddow and MSNBC.

The amount of legal fees is actually going to be more than $250,000. That was the amount set by the lower court, but the appeal dragged out the process. Adam has more info, and a link to the decision.https://t.co/6H1UBUMLyc
— Jan Wolfe (@JanNWolfe) August 17, 2021

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr ruled that the Maddow statement in question was “an obvious exaggeration, cushioned within an undisputed news story.”

“The statement could not reasonably be understood to imply an assertion of objective fact, and therefore, did not amount to defamation,” the judge wrote in his opinion.

OAN did not deny that they shared a reporter with a well-known peddler of Russian disinformation.

The Hill explains Maddow’s defense:

Ted Boutrous, who represented Maddow, NBCUniversal, MSNBC and other defendants in the case, said in an appeals hearing late last month that OAN parent company Herring Networks improperly isolated a few words of Maddow’s commentary about OAN, adding that restrictions on words “stripped out of context” would “destroy the breathing space for lively and informative debate about public issues that the First Amendment protects.”

“We can’t have speech police parsing the words they way Herring is doing,” the attorney continued. “It would really chill valuable speech.”

The Daily Beast, which Maddow cited in her report on Rouz, provides more details on OAN’s legal woes:

This is not the only bad legal news OAN has received in recent days. Dominion Voting Systems recently filed a $1.3 billion defamation suit, alleging the network has purposely peddled false claims that the company’s voting machines rigged the election against Donald Trump. The network has recently doubled down on pushing election fraud conspiracies, promoting and giving uninterrupted live coverage to the “cyber symposium” hosted by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell—who is also being sued by Dominion.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Afghans scramble to escape the Taliban, Fox News hosts lean into anti-refugee rhetoric, Katie Shepherd, Aug. 17, 2021. On his Monday tucker carlsonevening show, Tucker Carlson, right, went so far as to compare Afghan refugees, who aided U.S. military troops and now face grave risk from the Taliban, to an invading force.

“If history is any guide, and it’s always a guide, we will see many refugees from Afghanistan resettle in our country, and over the next decade, that number may swell to the millions,” Carlson said. “So first we invade, and then we are invaded.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Theater Director With Exaggerated Résumé Quits, Citing Mental Illness, Rebecca J. Ritzel, Updated Aug. 17, 2021. Christopher Massimine found success as a theater executive in New York and Utah, but resigned after facing questions about errors on his résumé, saying he had mental illness. Massimine announced his resignation shortly after The New York Times published an article about his career, and the discrepancies and errors on the résumé that had helped him win the position at the Pioneer, the largest professional theater company in Salt Lake City.

“Despite many good things that have happened over the last two years under my direction, effective Aug. 20, 2021, I will resign my position at Pioneer Theater Company in order to address issues in my personal and professional life, stemming from untreated and at times an incorrectly treated mental health condition,” he said in a statement.

Massimine, who said that he had battled with mental illness for his entire life, and that most of his friends and colleagues had not known of his condition, had come to the Pioneer Theater from the National Yiddish Theater Folksbiene in New York.

Working from public records and tips, Salt Lake City’s Fox affiliate KSTU-TV reported earlier this year that Massimine did not have a master’s degree from New York University, as asserted on his résumé. The station said his claims to have helped develop popular video games and some major advertising campaigns did not check out.

And, though he said he had received a national arts advocacy award — and released a picture of himself wearing the medal — the bestowing organization does not appear to exist.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hachette to Buy Workman for $240 Million as Publishing Continues Consolidation, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, Aug. 17, 2021 (print ed.). Hachette Book Group said on Monday that it had agreed to buy Workman Publishing, an independent company known for titles like “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and the “Brain Quest” workbooks, the latest expected acquisition in an industry whose power is increasingly concentrated in a handful of major companies. The cost of the deal was $240 million.

Workman is one of the largest independent publishers in the United States and is appealing to its new parent for, among other reasons, its lucrative backlist. Backlists include books published years ago that continue to sell — as opposed to the front list of new titles — and at Workman, they are a major focus and a steady stream of reliable income. Michael Pietsch, the chief executive of the Hachette Book Group, said that three-quarters of Workman’s revenue comes from those older titles.

mike lindell screengrab

Right Wing Watch, Mike Lindell Accuses TruNews of Being a ‘Fake News’ Front Established by Media Matters, Kyle Mantyla, Aug. 17, 2021. MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell (shown above in a file photo) hosted a three-day “cyber symposium” in South Dakota last week that he claimed would provide irrefutable proof that the 2020 presidential election was hacked by foreign actors and stolen from former President Donald Trump. Lindell was so confident that he boldly offered $5 million to anyone who could disprove the legitimacy of the data he presented while predicting that the evidence would be so overwhelming that Trump would be restored to office by August 13.

Needless to say, none of that happened, as Lindell’s symposium was such an utter debacle that even his own experts were forced to admit that they had no proof of anything that Lindell had been claiming.

Predictably, Lindell reacted to the fiasco by spreading new conspiracy theories alleging that left-wing reporters worked with “antifa” activists to sabotage his event, going so far as to accuse the far-right outlet TruNews of being an “antifa” front group funded by Media Matters.

TruNews—an anti-vaccine, anti-semitic, End Times conspiracy theory network—was among the media organizations granted credentials to cover Lindell’s event. TruNews was so sympathetic to Lindell’s claims of massive voter fraud that the network sent two correspondents to broadcast from the symposium and streamed the entire event live on its website for three days.

None of that seemed to matter to Lindell. Broadcasting on his Frank Speech platform Monday, Lindell took aim at TruNews.

“I have a report from from our counter-intelligence on the people that were there,” Lindell said. “Antifa individuals were working with TruNews, which is a fake news site established by Media Matters for America.”

TruNews played Lindell’s comments on its program Monday night, and the hosts were understandably mystified by Lindell’s allegations, declaring that if he can be this wrong about them, then nobody should believe anything that he says about any subject.

“It really is sad,” said TruNews founder Rick Wiles. “Somebody is feeding Mr. Lindell a lot of bad information, and I think he should wise up and take a look at who he has surrounded himself with and whether somebody has gotten inside his group and they are now turning him into a clown. They’re destroying his credibility.”

“If his sources of information are so faulty that he accuses TruNews of being a Media Matters puppet and that we smuggle antifa terrorists into meetings, if his information is that faulty, then I can’t trust anything Mike Lindell says,” Wiles added. “I’ve been one guy here through this whole thing that has said, ‘Let’s hear him out. Let’s not attack him. Let’s give the man a fair chance to present his information.’ That’s why we sent Edward [Szall] and Lauren [Witzke], but now I wouldn’t waste a dime on anything Mike Lindell says.”

Aug. 16afghanistan trump troops 2020

Palmer Report, Opinion: CNN and MSNBC are failing us today, Bill Palmer, Aug. 16, 2021. Today is not exactly a banner day for the media. MSNBC’s Mika msnbc logo CustomBrzezinski and CNN’s Jake Tapper have spent the day inaccurately trying to put all the blame on President Biden for the Afghanistan debacle, while essentially pretending that Bush, Cheney, and Trump didn’t set up this outcome long ago. Meanwhile NPR is giving airtime to John Bolton, the last guy who should be given a voice when it comes to Middle East war fallout.

bill palmer report logo headerToday is a sad reminder that while Fox News and other right wing propaganda outlets are by far the most egregious about it, mainstream media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are also TV ratings factories that are at times willing to push dishonest or even false narratives in the CNNhope of hitting their ratings marks for the day.

We urge the media to do better. Of course better journalism often doesn’t translate to better ratings, so it makes for a conundrum. Keep in mind that you, the audience, have the final vote: your remote control. If you simply turn off any coverage that you know is dishonest, it’ll hit the media in the ratings department, and they’ll be forced to adjust accordingly.

 

bob dylan recent uncredited showbiz411Showbiz411, Opinion: Bob Dylan Hit With Bogus Lawsuit Claiming Molestation in NYC April-May 1965: Not Possible, He Wasn’t There, Roger Friedman, Aug.t 16, 2021. “Swanky room at the Chelsea Hotel? Bob couldn’t afford a room at the Chelsea Hotel!”

TMZ described the legal papers filed by “JC” below and said it happened in Dylan’s “swanky hotel room.” A friend of Dylan (shown above) from that time was who around 24/7 laughed when he heard this. He also reminded me to look at the calendar and schedule of Dylan shows. Bob and Joan Baez, who were a couple, were on the road together for all of the time “JC” says she was with Dylan at the Chelsea. This fellow was with him the whole time.

I told JC’s lawyer, Daniel Isaacs, about the schedule and asked to respond. I’m waiting for an answer.

EARLIER: On April 26, 1965 Bob Dylan arrived in London. He didn’t return to the United States until June 2nd. In April. he was mostly on the West Coast. All of this is recorded in calendars tracking Dylan’s whereabouts because he was a young superstar.

Yet this afternoon comes news of a complaint filed by a 68-year-old woman who says Dylan groomed and molested her in New York at the Chelsea Hotel in April and May 1965 when she was 12 years old. TMZ called it his “ritzy apartment” at the Chelsea, a notably run down place even in 1965.

But the calendars speak for themselves. And in London, Dylan was filmed on tour by DA Pennebaker for the famous documentary, “Don’t Look Back.”

So the lawsuit or complaint or whatever it is is bogus. But this is the environment we’ve created, where accusations fly and celebrities are dubbed guilty before anyone checks the facts.

Despite the travel schedule being easily available, the “victim” — who calls herself “JC” — says she was “groomed” by Dylan in April and May 1965 at the Hotel Chelsea.The complaint states: “between April and May of 1965 the defendant, Dylan, exploited his status as a musician by grooming J.C. to gain her trust and to obtain control over her as part of his plan to sexually molest and abuse J.C.”

Um, not possible if Dylan wasn’t even there. He was singing “It Ain’t Me, Babe” in London.

Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. He wrote the Intelligencer column for NY Magazine in the mid 90s, reporting on the OJ Simpson trial, as well as for the real Parade magazine (when it was owned by Conde Nast), and has written for the New York Observer, Details, Vogue, Spin, the New York Times, NY Post, Washington Post, and NY Daily News among many publications. He is the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Aug. 15

Unz Review, Opinion: The Covid Debate: to Vaxx or Not to Vaxx, Ron Unz (Founder, Publisher and Editor), Aug. 15, 2021. Beginning late last year, several of our regular columnists became vocal anti-vaxxers with regard to the new Covid vaccines, and as a result our website was swarmed by their zealous adherents, who soon began pushing their determined message on entirely unrelated threads. This greatly irritated me, and I made increasing efforts to drive them away. This is not an anti-vaxx webzine, and I was concerned that it might become perceived as such.

I didn’t know or care anything about the vaxx issue one way or the other, and was disturbed that so many seemingly rational people had suddenly become obsessed by that topic. Eventually I agreed to do a lengthy Q&A with longtime columnist Mike Whitney, one of our strongest anti-vaxx voices, which ran 9,000 words and was published two weeks ago:

• Unz Review, Opinion-Debate: Are the Opponents of the Covid Injections "Anti-Vaxx Crackpots"? Vaccine skeptic Mike Whitney interviews Unz Review publisher and vaccine proponent Ron Unz, Aug. 1, 2021 (9,000 Words).

The piece proved extremely popular, not only generating strong traffic, but quickly accumulating a huge number of comments. Many of the anti-vaxxers naturally didn’t appreciate my position and why I’d published such a long and harsh critique of their views, so I tried to explain my motives in one of my comments:

Hordes of anti-vaxxers had begun descending upon this website a few months ago, probably because some of my regular columnists had begun running anti-vaxx articles. As a result, those same anti-vaxxers began cluttering up the comment-threads of other articles, including my own, that had absolutely no connection to vaxxing. So I told them to get lost and had their off-topic comments trashed to drive them away, telling them they were all a bunch of nuts, and saying the same thing, somewhat more politely, to my anti-vaxx columnists.

Mike Whitney, who’s very strongly in the anti-vaxx camp, was disturbed at my views and suggested he do a Q&A with me to thrash things out, and I said I’d be glad to do that.

When I write my own articles, especially the long ones that run 9,000 words or more, they require an enormous amount of reading and thought, and usually take weeks of sustained effort. But with the Q&A I didn’t bother with any of that, but just replied straight away to his questions. The whole thing only took me a few hours, and now gives me a perfect excuse to henceforth trash all the off-topic anti-vaxx comments everywhere else.

Although I’d viewed the article and its accompanying discussion as a long-term holding-pen for the anti-vaxxers, their energetic response soon overwhelmed my plans, with nearly 1,700 comments and over 280,000 words making the thread so huge and sluggish that I had to close it down a couple of days ago. This partially defeated my original purpose, and while awaiting some new article on their favored topic, the agitated anti-vaxxers have once again begun spilling over into other, mostly unrelated threads, including those of my own articles.

I also finally had a chance to take a closer look at more of the original thread, and although a large fraction of the material appeared as worthless as I’d expected, some of it seemed much more reasonable. In particular, the discussion had attracted the focused attention of a very erudite moderate anti-vaxxer calling himself “Raches,” who personally contributed dozens of rather long comments, totaling a remarkable 23,000 words. Much of his effort was soon directed towards rebuking and debunking the more extreme, ignorant, and conspiratorial anti-vaxxers, and he seemed to establish amicable relations with several well-informed and moderate pro-vaxxers.

Early on, he urged me to allow our publication to become an important resources in the vaxxing controversy, allowing an informed debate between the more reasonable pro- and anti-vaxxers:

In both the pro-vaxx and anti-vaxx camps, there are those who are most interested in leveraging the vaccine issue to grind a political axe, or in winning a debate at all costs. In both camps, there are also those who are sincerely interested in factually correct information, in objective, dispassionate science, and in protecting their and their families’ health. If you cut diagonally across both camps, then you can draw together the latter, and knock the fulcrum out from beneath the political lever being exercised by the former.

So, depoliticize the Covid vaccine debate. Run a series of feature articles from level-headed authors summarizing the best scientific arguments from both sides, at a level that is accessible to intelligent people who are neither medical experts nor biological researchers—with suitably cited references for those who wish to seek more in-depth information. You do need to bring out the best: I think that persons who are capable of comprehending a myriad-word American Pravda article can probably see through the old propaganda trick of pitting the best from one side against mediocre strawmen on the other.

In the ensuing discussions, impose a moderation policy that excludes empty invective and ad hominem fallacies—while recognizing that cogently presented ad hominem arguments are not always fallacious.

At the time, I summarily rejected the proposal, since my original intent had been to drive away the anti-vaxxers, or at least confine them to a sharply restricted area:

Absolutely not. The last thing I want is to attract more crazy anti-vaxxers to this website. Frankly, I wish they’d all go away to LifesiteNews or wherever. The main reason I agreed to this Q&A was that the anti-vaxxers were angry that their off-topic nonsense was getting trashed on other threads, so I thought it only fair to occasionally given them a thread where they could rant and rave a little.

But in reading through portions of the very long thread, I also noticed his appraisal of other issues of much greater interest to me, which I’ll admit I found both quite acute and obviously rather gratifying.

And after thinking things over a bit, I decided that perhaps the suggestion would be the best approach after all, just as long as the number of vaxxing threads remains sufficiently small as to not overshadow the main issues covered by the website. Such articles would also make it much easier to reasonably restrict discussions of the vaxxing topic to these particular locations, preventing them from creeping into other, unrelated topics.

Moreover, since I personally don’t know or care much about the topic, I won’t be contributing much myself, and can just allow the various flavors of vaxxers and anti-vaxxers to try to settle their own differences, in effect making this a dedicated open thread.

So those interested in arguing about vaxxing should feel free to congregate here and debate the topic to their heart’s content, or at least until the thread becomes so extremely long and sluggish I have to close it down in turn. However, please be warned that the ensuing discussion will be moderated much more strictly than usual, with crude insults, totally ignorant nonsense, or crazy remarks considerably less likely to be published.

tucker carlson gage skidmorePalmer Report, Opinion: This alone should get Tucker Carlson canceled, Bocha Blue, Aug. 15, 2021. I have seen, from Palmer report readers, a sort of frustration that the GOP does not hold their own accountable. I believe they used to. But things have changed, and denials and smug non-apologies seem to be the way of the world for most Republicans. It is getting worse in that regard.

bill palmer report logo headerThe latest GOP member I am about to call out isn’t in Congress. His psychotic mug is featured on television nightly, where he sneers, makes faces, and does everything humanly possible to show the world what an asshole he is.

Tucker Carlson (shown above in a Gage Skidmore photo) is his name. I have been saying for quite a while that the horrible little man will at some point be canceled. I still believe that, but I must admit that what he did this week should have been enough to happen.

It was barely even talked about, which gave me an odious feeling because the last thing we want is to normalize this jerk.

alexandra ocasio cortes instagram attack croppedWhen the American terrorists stormed the Capitol on January 6th, it left many with severe PTSD. And even now, many are struggling. One of those people is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez.

In an interview with Dana Bash of CNN, AOC (shown in an Instagram photo soon after the Jan. 6 attack) admitted that she feared sexual assault from the terrorists.

For some reason, this interview drove Tucker crazy. Because on his show the other night, he proceeded to mock her mercilessly.

Referring to her as “Sandy” and dripping contempt, Carlson proceeded to say this:

fox news logo Small“Get a therapist, honey. This is crazy.”

“Sexualizing the violence? I was going to be raped by Ashli Babbit?” Tucker laughed.

It made me sick, and the fact that this is not part of the top two or three stories all over television is also bothering me.

I do believe Tucker has stepped over the line with these comments. I have a goal for 2021: to do everything humanly possible to get this cretin off the air. Tucker is a money-making machine for the heartless corporation, but he can be canceled with enough outcry. But people have to be aware of the stories before they can act in any way.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Backlash to Racial Reckoning, Conservative Publishers See Gold, Elizabeth A. Harris, Aug. 15, 2021. Books on race and antiracism have sold well over the past year. Now, titles like “I Can’t Breathe: How a Racial Hoax Is Killing America” are coming.

Aug. 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Snopes Retracts 60 Articles Plagiarized by Co-Founder: ‘Our Staff Are Gutted,’ Heather Murphy, Aug. 13, 2021. The fact-checking site has banned David Mikkelson, who owns half the company, from writing articles after a BuzzFeed News investigation prompted an internal review.

Snopes, which has long presented itself as the internet’s premier fact-checking resource, has retracted 60 articles after a BuzzFeed News investigation found that the site’s co-founder plagiarized from news outlets as part of a strategy intended to scoop up web traffic.

“As you can imagine, our staff are gutted and appalled by this,” Vinny Green, the Snopes chief operating officer, said on Friday. He said the Snopes editorial team was conducting a review to understand just how many articles written by David Mikkelson, the site’s co-founder and chief executive, featured content plagiarized from other news sites.

As of Friday afternoon, the team had found 60, he said. By Friday morning, dozens of articles had been removed from the site, with pages that formerly featured those articles now showing the word “retracted” and an explanation that “some or all of its content was taken from other sources without proper attribution.” Ads have been removed from these articles, according to Mr. Green.

Mr. Mikkelson, who owns 50 percent of Snopes Media Group, will continue to be Snopes’s chief executive, but his ability to publish articles has been revoked, Mr. Green said.

In a statement, Mr. Mikkelson acknowledged he had engaged in “multiple serious copyright violations of content that Snopes didn’t have rights to use” and praised the work of the 20 or so “dedicated, professional journalists” employed by Snopes.

“There is no excuse for my serious lapses in judgment,” he wrote, adding, “I want to express how sorry I am to those whose copyright I violated, to our staff, and to our readers.”

Doreen Marchionni, the managing editor, has been given “full authority” to address these issues, he said.

washington post logoWashington Post, What Rosen told U.S. senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election, Ann E. Marimow and Josh Dawsey, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Former president Donald Trump’s last attorney general has told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the jeffrey rosenJustice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

In closed-door testimony Saturday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer.

According to a person familiar with the testimony, Rosen’s opening statement also characterized as “inexplicable” the actions of his Justice Department colleague, Jeffrey Clark, who was willing to push Trump’s false claims of election fraud and whom Trump considered installing as acting attorney general to replace Rosen.

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis alleged 2020 election fraud during a post-election hearing before Michigan's legislature.

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis alleged 2020 election fraud during a post-election hearing before Michigan's legislature.

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani told agents it was okay to ‘throw a fake’ during political campaign, Devlin Barrett, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Rudolph W. Giuliani’s promise of a “big surprise” to help Donald Trump’s election in October 2016 led to Democratic accusations the FBI was feeding him secrets about an investigation of Hillary Clinton.

But a newly obtained transcript shows the former New York mayor, right, told federal agents it was okay to “throw a fake” when campaigning, to which his then-law partner added, “there’s no obligation to tell the truth.”

rudy giuliani recentGiuliani’s comments came in a 2018 interview with agents for the Justice Department inspector general, conducted in a room at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington. The Project on Government Oversight, a government watchdog group, sued for a copy of the interview transcript and provided it to The Washington Post on Wednesday.

djt maga hatGiuliani’s private defense of his actions has come to light as he and other Trump lawyers face discipline and possible court sanctions for their unfounded statements surrounding the 2020 election, raising questions about lawyers’ integrity in a democracy.

During the February 2018 interview to try to determine if FBI agents had leaked him sensitive information, Giuliani’s then-law partner and counselor, Marc Mukasey, opined that the standards for truth-telling are different in electoral politics than in legal matters.

“In the heat of a political campaign, on television, I’m not saying Rudy necessarily, but everybody embellishes everything,” Mukasey said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The spectacular implosion of Mike Lindell, Aaron Blake, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). On Tuesday, my colleague Philip Bump wrote about the three-day symposium being put on by stolen-election fantasist and Trump ally Mike Lindell, with the apt headline, “The con is winding down.”

It might now be more apt to say the con has imploded spectacularly.

Lindell has pushed many false, baseless and crazy theories about voter fraud, but the symposium was billed as focusing on one in particular: “irrefutable” proof that hackers backed by China stole the election for Joe Biden. Lindell had the data, and he was going to show it to you over 72 hours. What’s more, his website promised to give $5 million to anybody who could “prove that Mike’s cyber data … is not valid.”

Well, someone has stepped forward to debunk the data — or at least the claims Lindell is making about it. And it’s none other than the cyberexpert Lindell himself hired.

Josh Merritt, also known as “Spider” or “Spyder” and who was hired by Lindell for his “red team,” told the Washington Times on Wednesday at the symposium that, effectively, Lindell has sold his adherents a bill of goods. Lindell claimed that intercepted network data obtained by other hackers, also known as “packet captures,” could be unencrypted to reveal evidence of vote-switching by the Chinese-backed hackers.

But Merritt has now said that’s just not true.

  • Washington Post, Election officials fear for their safety amid false claims on voting, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman and Amy Gardner, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.).
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: This is just ugly for Rudy Giuliani, Bocha Blue

washington post logoWashington Post, The Afghanistan Papers Book Excerpt: The grand illusion: Hiding the truth about Afghanistan war’s ‘conclusion,’ Craig Whitlock, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). The Obama administration declared an end to combat in 2014, but U.S. troops kept fighting and dying, as detailed in this excerpt from Craig Whitlock’s afghanistan papers craig whitlock coverbookThe Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, right, (Excerpt Part Two).

President Barack Obama had promised to end the war, so on Dec. 28, 2014, U.S. and NATO officials held a ceremony at their headquarters in Kabul to mark the occasion. A multinational color guard paraded around. Music played. A four-star general gave a speech and solemnly furled the green flag of the U.S.-led international force that had flown since the beginning of the conflict.

In a statement, Obama called the day “a milestone for our country” and said the United States was safer and more secure after 13 years of war. “Thanks to the extraordinary sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, our combat mission in Afghanistan is ending and the longest war in American history is coming to a responsible conclusion,” he declared. Army Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces, also hailed the purported end of the “combat mission” and embellished some of its achievements. Since the start of the war, he asserted falsely, life expectancy for the average Afghan had increased by 21 years.

“You times that by about 35 million Afghans represented here in the country, that gives you 741 million years of life,” he added, crediting U.S., NATO and Afghan forces for what sounded like a remarkable improvement. (A federal audit later discredited the figures as based on spurious data; life expectancy for Afghans had actually increased by about seven years, not 21).

But for such a historical day, the military ceremony seemed strange and underwhelming. Obama issued his statement from Hawaii while he relaxed on vacation. The event took place in a gymnasium, where several dozen people sat on folding chairs. There was little mention of the enemy, let alone an instrument of surrender. Nobody cheered.

In fact, the war was nowhere near a conclusion, “responsible” or otherwise, and U.S. troops would fight and die in combat in Afghanistan for many years to come. The baldfaced claims to the contrary ranked among the most egregious deceptions and lies that U.S. leaders spread during two decades of warfare.

  • Part 1 of The Afghanistan Papers: U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan

Obama had scaled back military operations over the previous three years, but he failed to pull the United States out of the quagmire. At the time of the ceremony, about 10,800 U.S. troops remained, a decrease of almost 90 percent from the surge of forces that he had sent to Afghanistan in his first term. Obama promised to withdraw the rest of the troops by the end of 2016, coinciding with the end of his term in office, save for a residual force at the U.S. Embassy.

He knew most Americans had lost patience. Only 38 percent of the public said the war had been worth fighting, according to a December 2014 Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Yet the president faced countervailing pressures to stay put from the Pentagon and hawks in Congress. Obama had tried a similar staged approach to end the war in Iraq, where the U.S. military ceased combat operations in 2010 and exited entirely a year later. But those moves soon backfired.

In the absence of U.S. troops, the Islamic State — an al-Qaeda offshoot — swept through the country and seized several major cities as the U.S.-trained Iraqi army put up scant resistance.

Obama wanted to avoid the same fate in Afghanistan, but he needed to buy more time for U.S. forces to build up the shaky Afghan army so it would not afghanistan papers lenny frank 2010collapse like the Iraqi forces had. He also wanted to create leverage for the government in Kabul to persuade the Taliban to negotiate an end to the conflict.

To make it all work, Obama conjured up an illusion. He and his administration unveiled a messaging campaign to make Americans think that U.S. troops still in Afghanistan would stay out of the fight, with duties that relegated them to the sidelines.

_____

This account is adapted from The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War, a Washington Post book, which will be published Aug. 31 by Simon & Schuster. A narrative history of what went wrong in Afghanistan, the book is based on interviews with more than 1,000 people who played direct roles in the war, as well as thousands of pages of documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. It is a different book than one with a similar title, The Afghanistan Papers, shown above right that was edited by Lenny Frank and published in 2010.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Lawyer's Deathbed Confession About a Sensational 1975 Kidnapping, Alex Traub, Aug. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Samuel Bronfman, heir to the Seagram fortune, was abducted by two men who confessed to the crime. But then their story evolved wildly, and the jury believed it. Was it all a lie?

Before dawn on Aug. 17, 1975, about 60 police officers and F.B.I. agents charged into the Brooklyn apartment of a fireman named Mel Patrick Lynch. The living room was dimly lit; its blinds were drawn. Mr. Lynch sat on the couch next to the unshaven, foul-smelling, bound and blindfolded 21-year-old scion of one of America’s richest families, Samuel Bronfman II, who had been missing for nine days.

The authorities arrested Mr. Lynch and an accomplice, Dominic Byrne. The men confessed to abducting Mr. Bronfman, describing the planning and execution of the crime and identifying the hiding spot of two garbage bags containing a $2.3 million ransom.

That seemed like the end of the drama. Actually, it was only a first act. The kidnapping trial turned out to have more narrative twists than the crime itself. Mr. Lynch and Mr. Byrne would be convicted of an extortion charge, but incredibly, after it seemed they had been caught red-handed, a jury pronounced them not guilty of kidnapping, a charge that could have put them in prison for life. They and their defense lawyers managed to convince jurors that there was, in fact, no kidnapping.

This miracle was pulled off in large part by Mr. Byrne’s attorney, Peter DeBlasio, who called the case “the greatest trial victory of my career.”

The Bronfman kidnapping is one of the stranger tales of New York’s criminal history, but over the following decades, hardly anyone had reason to recall the intricacies and mysteries — except Mr. DeBlasio. Even as he reveled in his triumph, he worried until the end of his life about what he had done to secure it.

Mr. DeBlasio’s mix of pride and unease combusted in July 2020, when he self-published a memoir, Let Justice Be Done. His book, which went largely unnoticed, reveals what he long told his two daughters was the secret of the Bronfman trial.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Another Republican pol charged with underage sex trafficking, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 13, 2021. A top wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallRepublican Party donor, Fox News and RT (Russia Today) pundit, and political strategist was arrested by the FBI in Minneapolis on August 12 and charged with "recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts."

tony lazarro mike penceThe arrest and indictment of Anton ("Tony") Lazarro on federal charges comes on the heels of federal investigators obtaining "years of Venmo and Cash App transactions and thousands of photos and videos, as well as access to personal social media accounts" from former Seminole County, Florida Tax Collector Joel Greenberg as part of his cooperation agreement in the investigation for underage sex trafficking of Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

Lazzaro's website has photos of him with Donald Trump, Mike Pence (right), Tucker Carlson, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, and Mike Huckabee.

Aug. 12

 

jeopardy logoMother Jones, Commentary: Who Is Mayim Bialik? A Terrible Choice for Jeopardy Host, Kiera Butler, Aug. 12, 2021. Bialik hawks nootropics, questions vaccines, and dabbles in warning the pill is dangerous.

Yesterday, the producers of the long-running gameshow "Jeopardy!" announced two new co-hosts to replace the late Alex Trebek: the show’s executive producer Mike Richards and actress Mayim Bialik.

mayim bialik twitterI’ll focus on Bialik, right. On paper, she seems like a great choice for a show that celebrates the human intellect: Most famous for her starring roles in the TV sitcoms Blossom and The Big Bang Theory, she also has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Yet despite her scientific bonafides, Bialik has dabbled in realms that are distinctly anti-science.

Let’s take a look at her track record.

First, there’s Bialik’s mixed messages on vaccines. Back in 2009, she told People magazine that her family was “non-vaccinating.”

Bialik is also a longstanding proponent of the pseudoscientific field of naturopathy. She has hawked a questionable supplement that claims to enhance brain function, including in an ad that’s on air right now, and in which she leverages her degrees.

But wait, there’s more: Abundant research shows that birth control pills and devices are safe and effective. Still, Bialik has joined forces with actress Ricki Lake on her crusade against hormonal contraception.

It’s incredibly depressing that someone as accomplished as Bialik promotes medical and scientific misinformation. But it’s beyond disappointing that Jeopardy! — a show that is literally about facts — would choose her to be its public face. I’ll take “someone else, please” for $1,000.

 

Matthew taylor coleman

washington post logoWashington Post, A QAnon-obsessed father thought his kids would destroy the world, so he killed them with a spear gun, FBI says, Jonathan Edwards, Aug. 12, 2021. Matthew Coleman, above, was supposed to go on a camping trip with his wife and their two young children last weekend. But evil was in his midst and threatened to bring about the end of the world, he told investigators.

He had to do something.

So, with sunrise still an hour away on Saturday morning, Coleman loaded his two children — a 2-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter — into a Mercedes Sprinter camper van, an FBI agent said in court documents filed Wednesday. Coleman didn’t have a car seat for his daughter, so he put her in a box.

From his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., investigators say Coleman drove south.

Coleman said he had been enlightened by QAnon and the Illuminati, both baseless theories that claim secret elites are maliciously controlling national and world affairs from the shadows. He had received visions and signs revealing his wife “possessed serpent DNA,” which she passed on to their children, according to the affidavit.

By killing them, he allegedly said, “he was saving the world from monsters.”

Instead of the family camping trip he had planned, Coleman took his children some 250 miles to Rosarito, a resort city on the Pacific coast in Mexico, just south of the U.S. border, FBI agent Jennifer Bannon said in a nine-page sworn affidavit. Then, he shot each of them in the chest with a spearfishing gun, the agent said.

On Wednesday, federal authorities charged Coleman, 40, with the foreign murder of U.S. nationals. Court records did not list an attorney for Coleman.

Daily Beast, Commentary: MAGA Fraudster Smears Dems Using Decoy TMZ, Roger Sollenberger, Aug. 12, 2021. "That is not our site nor part of the TMZ brand and they are not authorized to use our name or logo. We have sent a cease and desist letter to the website," a TMZ spokesperson.

daily beast logoSerial MAGA fraudster Jack Burkman, shown at right in a 2020 photo via Flckr from a press conference, has embarked on a new political venture: a website styled after celebrity gossip outlet TMZ — right down to the trademarked logo — that is smearing Democratic Reps. Conor Lamb and Eric Swalwell.

jack burkman wFlyers posted Thursday around Capitol Hill and the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., offer a $10,000 reward for information about an unsubstantiated affair between Swalwell and Lamb’s wife. (Swalwell and Lamb both emphatically deny the allegation.)

A photo of one of the flyers was tweeted Thursday morning by right-wing conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec. The notice directs prospective tipsters to a hotline with a D.C. area code, as well as a website called “TMZ-DC dot com.”

djt maga hatThe site, which according to webpage metadata appears to have been created on Tuesday, bears the TMZ media group’s trademarked logo and bills itself as “a news and gossip site specifically for Washington DC.”

“From Capitol Hill office drama, to meaningful developments taking place deep within the annals of the Executive Branch, TMZ-DC.com relies on the most well-placed sources to deliver information to the public,” the site says.

After The Daily Beast inquired with TMZ, a spokesperson disavowed the TMZ-DC site. “That is not our site nor part of the TMZ brand and they are not authorized to use our name or logo. We have sent a cease and desist letter to the website,” the spokesperson said.

 washington post logoWashington Post, NSA quietly awards $10 billion cloud contract to Amazon, drawing protest from Microsoft, Aaron Gregg, Aug. 12, 2021. The National Security Agency has quietly awarded a contract worth up to $10 billion to Amazon Web Services, setting off another high-stakes fight among rival tech giants over national security contract dollars.

nsa logo 2On July 21 the Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft filed a formal bid protest with the Government Accountability Office, an independent federal agency that handles contract disputes, after Microsoft applied for the opportunity and was rejected. A decision is expected by Oct. 29.

amazon logo smallThe contract award comes on the heels of a protracted and bitter dispute over a Pentagon contract, also worth up to $10 billion, which was given to Microsoft before getting bogged down in lawsuits and ultimately scrapped. If the NSA can fight through an often bruising bid protest process, the new contract could extend Amazon’s lead in the fast-growing cloud computing market where rivals are gaining on it.

The NSA has offered few details about the purpose of the contract. An NSA spokesman said the agency had awarded a contract for “cloud computing support services,” but declined to elaborate or specify who won it. “The agency will respond to the protest in accordance with appropriate federal regulations,” the spokesman said.

 

fcc logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Emergency Alert test had mixed results, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 12, 2021. If 2:20 pm Eastern Daylight Time passed you by on wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAugust 11 without you realizing anything special was taking place, you were not alone.

At that time, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) conducted national simultaneous tests of the Emergency Alert System (EAS), the first since Covid-19 hit the United States, and the Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA). EAS broadcasts an emergency tone over the nation's television, radio, and cable stations. For those with smartphones who have opted into the system, they should have received the following WEA text message: "THIS IS A TEST of the National Wireless Emergency Alert System. No action is needed.”

wayne madesen report logoInitial results are that many Americans did not even realize there was a national test of the emergency warning system taking place. Not tested was the Presidential Alert system, which sends a text message to every cell phone in the nation. Users do not have the choice of opting out of the Presidential Alert system. FEMA's system for transmission of emergency alerts is known as the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS).

FEMA, the FCC, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), all of which suffered in terms of readiness and accountability during the disastrous Trump administration, clearly must improve their emergency notification systems.

While there me be some reticence by some in the administration against conducting a full national emergency test, including the Presidential Alert system, such concerns over alarming a public -- some 30 percent of which believe in Qanon conspiracy nonsense -- pale in comparison to the twin global emergencies now faced by the entire planet. One is the ever-mutating Covid-19 virus and the other is a recently released United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the planet already going past the tipping point of irreversible damage to the climate.

In terms of impending disaster, this is the movie "Contagion" meeting "The Day After Tomorrow." An ever-mutating virus coupled with extreme disastrous weather conditions around the world is no longer a future scenario but is happening right this very minute.

As a result of the lackluster performance of the national emergency alert systems, the Biden administration should not hesitate to use the full testing capability of such alerts, including Presidential Alerts, in view of the ongoing worldwide epidemiological and meteorological disasters.

 liz willner lea suzuki san francisco chronicle via getty images facebook

Liz Willner runs OpenVAERS, a huge anti-vax website based in Piedmont, California. (Photos by LEA SUZUKI/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images and Facebook)

VICE, This Woman Secretly Runs One of the World's Biggest Anti-Vax Websites From Her House, David Gilbert, Aug. 12, 2021. By presenting unverified data as fact, OpenVAERS has become one of the most powerful tools in the anti-vaxxer community. ​Liz Willner runs OpenVAERS, a huge anti-vax website based in Piedmont, California.

An anti-vaxxer website which scrapes and misrepresents data from a government-run database has been spreading misinformation like wildfire through anti-vax communities for the last month. Now for the first time, the identity of the woman running the site has been revealed.
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OpenVAERS, a site set up in early 2021 to spread vaccine misinformation by misusing federal data, is being operated by Liz Willner, 55, who lives in the wealthy enclave of Piedmont, a community completely surrounded by Oakland, California, according to new research conducted by AI-powered misinformation tracking group Logically, and shared exclusively with VICE News.

Willner, who did not respond to VICE News’ repeated efforts to contact her by phone, email and social media, admitted this week to Logically researchers that she was operating the site, though claimed she was one of a team of people behind it.

By presenting unverified data as fact, OpenVAERS has become one of the most powerful tools in the anti-vaxxer community. For example, the site on Thursday declared that over 12,000 people had died as a result of taking a COVID-19 vaccine. While that many deaths may have been reported to VAERS, the figure is completely unverified and proves no connection between the vaccine and the subsequent fatalities.

But the site’s slick design breaks down the data into easily digestible pieces of information, allegedly showing the breakdown for each vaccine, gender and age range, all perfectly designed for sharing online.

 

Anton

Anton "Tony" Lazzaro, shown above in a screenshot from Fox News, has been Fox News pundit and GOP strategist who recently worked on the 2020 campaign for Republican candidate Lacy Johnson in Minneapolis.

Bring Me MN News, Minneapolis Man Charged in Child Sex Trafficking Conspiracy, Adam Uren, Aug. 12, 2021. A Minneapolis man has been arrested and indicted on federal sex trafficking charges for allegedly recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts, announced Acting United States Attorney W. Anders Folk.

fox news logo SmallAccording to court documents, from May 2020 through December 2020, Anton Joseph Lazzaro, a/k/a “Tony Lazzaro,” 30, conspired with others to tony lazarro djtrecruit and solicit six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts. Lazzaro, who was taken into custody earlier today by FBI agents, made his initial appearance in United States District Court before Magistrate Judge Becky Thorson.

The indictment charges Lazzaro, shown at right with Donald Trump in an unrelated photo, with one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of minors, five counts of sex trafficking of minors, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor, and three counts of obstruction. Lazzaro will remain in custody pending a formal detention hearing on August 16, 2021.

Based on the evidence obtained in this investigation, authorities believe there may be additional victims of the alleged conduct. Anyone with information about this matter is encouraged to call the FBI Minneapolis Division at 763-569-8000.

This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, the Minneapolis Police Department, the West Hennepin Public Safety Department, and the Wright County Sheriff’s Office.

Aug. 11

Former Trump 2016 Campaign CEO Steve Bannon with one of his main funders, fugitive Chinese bllionaire Guo Wengui

Former Trump 2016 Campaign CEO Steve Bannon with one of his main funders, fugitive Chinese bllionaire Guo Wengui.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: Bannon continues to unite global fascists against free and fair elections, Wayne Madsen, left, Aug. 11, 2021. Escaping a possible wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallfederal prison term thanks to a presidential pardon from Donald Trump, far-right political strategist Steve Bannon continues to engage in promoting international fascist solidarity, thumbing his nose at the 1799 Logan Act, which prohibits American citizens from engaging in their own foreign policy making.

Bannon’s international fascism was on full display on August 10, 2021, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota at a “Cyber Symposium” on "election fraud" sponsored by the conspiratorial pillow huckster, Mike Lindell. The symposium was carried live by the far-right conspiracy network One America News (OAN), founded in San Diego by right-wing businessman Robert S. Herring, Sr. In the aftermath of the 2020 election, OAN has kept alive spurious claims of election fraud and has wayne madesen report logohelped to fan the flames of insurrection for Trump loyalists nationwide.

oan logoDuring the Sioux Falls conference, which trafficked in all sorts on fringe theories about a “stolen election” in 2020, Bannon introduced Eduardo Bolsonaro, the third son of Brazil’s fascist president and a member for São Paulo of the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies and the chair of that body’s important International Affairs and National Defense Committee.

Bannon's dalliances with Brazil's Bolsonaro family comes just after Fox News's Tucker Carlson attended a neo-fascist gabfest in Hungary sponsored by that nation's authoritarian prime minister, Viktor Orban. Carlson used the occasion to spread on Fox News to an American audience Orban's form of "illiberal democracy," which is another word for right-wing dictatorship.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Afghanistan Papers, Deceptions and lies: What really happened in Afghanistan, Craig Whitlock, Aug. 11, 2021 (print ed.). Part one of an excerpt from “The Afghanistan Papers: A Secret History of the War.” Whitlock will discuss the book during a Washington Post Live event on Aug. 31.

The suicide bomber arrived at Bagram air base in a Toyota Corolla late in the morning on Feb. 27, 2007. He maneuvered past the Afghan police at the first checkpoint and continued a quarter-mile down the road toward the main gate. There, the bomber approached a second checkpoint, this one staffed by U.S. soldiers. Amid mud puddles and a jumble of pedestrians and vehicle traffic, he triggered his vest of explosives.

afghanistan papers craig whitlock coverThe blast killed 20 Afghan laborers who came to the base that day looking for work. It also claimed the lives of two Americans and a South Korean assigned to the international military coalition: Army Pfc. Daniel Zizumbo, a 27-year-old from Chicago; Geraldine Marquez, an American contractor for Lockheed Martin who had just celebrated her 31st birthday; and Staff Sgt. Yoon Jang-ho, the first South Korean soldier to die in a foreign conflict since the Vietnam War.

Unharmed by the explosion was a VIP guest at Bagram who had been trying to keep a low profile: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Cheney had slipped into the war zone the day before on an unannounced trip to the region. Arriving on Air Force Two from Islamabad, Pakistan, he intended to spend only a few hours in Afghanistan to see President Hamid Karzai. But bad weather prevented him from reaching Kabul, so he spent the night at Bagram, an installation with personnel numbering 9,000 about 30 miles from the capital.

Within hours of the bombing, the Taliban called journalists to claim responsibility and to say Cheney was the target. U.S. military officials scoffed and accused the insurgents of spreading lies. The vice president, they said, was a mile away at the other end of the base and never in danger. They insisted the Taliban could not have planned an attack against Cheney on such short notice, especially given that his travel plans had changed at the last minute.

“The Taliban’s claims that they were going after the vice president were absurd,” Army Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for U.S. and NATO forces, told reporters.

But the U.S. military officials were the ones hiding the truth.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: America Needs to Start Telling the Truth About Israel’s Nukes, Peter Beinart, Aug. 11, 2021. American politicians often warn that if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon, it will spark a nuclear stampede across the Middle East. Allowing Tehran to get the bomb, Senator Robert Menendez, the current chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, predicted in March 2020, could “set off a dangerous arms race in the region.” In an interview in December, President-elect Joe Biden cautioned that if Iran went nuclear, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt might too, “and the last goddamn thing we need in that part of the world is a buildup of nuclear capability.”

Such statements are so familiar that it’s easy to overlook their artifice. In warning that Iran could turn the Middle East nuclear, American politicians imply that the region is nuclear-free now. But it’s not. Israel already has nuclear weapons. You’d just never know it from America’s leaders, who have spent the last half-century feigning ignorance. This deceit undercuts America’s supposed commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and it distorts the American debate over Iran. It’s time for the Biden administration to tell the truth.

American officials began hiding the truth about Israeli nuclear weapons after Israeli leaders hid the truth from them. In the early 1960s, writes Avner Cohen in his book “The Worst Kept Secret,” Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion repeatedly told President John F. Kennedy that the reactor Israel was building in the desert town of Dimona “was for peaceful purposes only.” When the United States sent inspectors to the site, the Israelis concocted an elaborate ruse, which included building fake walls to conceal the elevators that led to an underground reprocessing plant. By decade’s end, the die was cast. The C.I.A. concluded that Israel already possessed nuclear warheads.

marc bernierThe Wrap, Anti-Vax Radio Host Marc Bernier Hospitalized With COVID-19, Alex Noble, Aug. 11, 2021. Right-wing radio host Marc Bernier, who has spoken out at length against the coronavirus vaccine, has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

The longtime Florida-based commentator was admitted to a Daytona Beach area hospital on Saturday, a top official at his radio station, WNDB, confirmed to the Daytona Beach News Journal on Monday.

"I don't have an update on him at this point, other than he has been hospitalized," Mark McKinney, the station's operations director, told the outlet.

Bernier had been sick at home and off the air for the week leading up to his hospitalization. As host of "The Marc Bernier Show," Bernier had expressed anti-vaccine sentiment less than a week before his hospitalization. On July 30, he quote-tweeted a Fox News PSA urging people to be vaccinated with, "Should say, 'Now the US Government is acting like Nazi's. Get the shot!'"

The news of his hospitalization arrives amid a spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida (breaking the daily record of 22,783 new coronavirus cases on Friday), as well as among anti-vax media personalities.

Dick Farrel, another radio host from the Sunshine State, died last week due to complications from the coronavirus. Farrel had been a vocal opponent of the coronavirus vaccine and a vehement critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Aug. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Apple plans to scan iPhones to find sexual predators. Some fear the software could be weaponized, Reed Albergotti, Aug. 5, 2021. The new push pits Apple against civil liberties activists and appears to contradict some of the company’s own assertions about privacy.

Apple unveiled a sweeping new set of software tools Thursday that will scan iPhones and other devices for child pornography and text messages with apple logo rainbowexplicit content and report users suspected of storing illegal pictures on their phones to authorities.

The aggressive plan to thwart child predators and pedophiles and prohibit them from utilizing Apple’s services for illegal activity pitted the tech giant against civil liberties activists and appeared to contradict some of its own long-held assertions about privacy and the way the company interacts with law enforcement.

The move also raises new questions about the nature of smartphones and who really owns the computers in their pockets. The new software will perform scans on its users’ devices without their knowledge or explicit consent, and potentially put innocent users in legal jeopardy.

Aug. 4

Future of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: Why People Don’t Trust the Mainstream Media, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, Aug. 4, 2021. An article in the Washington Post about Jacob Hornbergerthe January 6 protests at the Capitol goes a long way toward explaining why people do not trust the mainstream media. The article, written by a Post reporter named Mike DeBonis, focuses on allegations that the FBI infiltrated the ranks of the protestors and actually helped to incite them to illegally enter the Capitol and engage in mayhem after doing so.

future of freedom foundation logo squareThe overall tone that DeBonis sets forth is one that is oftentimes found in the mainstream media when it comes to alleged wrongdoing by the federal government. The article has a mocking tone to it, suggesting that the people who are making this allegation are conspiracy theorists for actually believing that federal officials would do such a horrible thing.

There is a critical sentence in DeBonis’s article: “The FBI declined to comment.”

Why is that line important? Because there are two ways that a reporter can go when he is writing a story about this type of allegation.

On the one hand, he can mock and ridicule those who are making the allegation, pointing out that they haven’t produced any evidence to support their “unfounded claim.”

On the other hand, he can aggressively go after FBI officials and demand a definitive yes-or-no answer instead of simply settling for a “no comment” by the FBI and also engage in an aggressive investigative effort to determine whether there is evidence to support the allegation.

DeBonis chose the first route. But why? After all, a “no comment” answer by the FBI is about as incriminating as an answer can be, short of an outright admission of wrongdoing. That’s because if the FBI were not guilty of the wrongdoing, it would undoubtedly simply say, “The allegation is false.” The FBI clearly did not do that with its “no comment” answer. It’s “no comment” answer leaves open the possibility — perhaps even the likelihood — that the FBI was involved in wrongdoing.

DeBonis makes a big issue of out of the fact that the people who are making this allegation have not provided any evidence to support their allegation. But what people have pointed out is a similar course of conduct by the FBI in other cases, which would be enough to cause any reasonable person to assume that it might have engaged in the same course of conduct with respect to the January 6 protests.

For example, consider the case that involves the alleged kidnapping of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. DeBonis is aware of that case because he links to an article from BuzzFeedNews.com about the case. That article alleges that the FBI played a major role in inducing the defendants in the case to commit the kidnapping. Even if what the FBI allegedly did wasn’t enough to support a defense of entrapment, its alleged actions are nonetheless enough to cause any reasonable citizen, including investigative journalists, concern.

But that’s not all. As journalist Glenn Greenwald has documented, the FBI has a long history of inciting people to commit acts of domestic terrorism. The idea is to incite people to commit crimes so that the FBI can then be praised and glorified for busting them up. See Greenwald’s July 24 article “FBI Using the Same Fear Tactic From the First War on Terror: Orchestrating its Own Terrorism Plots.” Also, see the July 31 article “Will More Media Bias Save Democracy?” by James Bovard.

Given the history of the FBI engaging in this type of misconduct, you would think that any journalist worth his salt would say, “I need to get to the bottom of this latest assertion. I need to know whether the FBI did the same thing here. Rather than mocking and ridiculing these people by pointing out that they have furnished no evidence to support their allegation, I need to do my job and go after the FBI to see if there is any evidence to support the allegation.”

Rather than do that, DeBonis goes off on the other track by implicitly assuming that the FBI would never do such a thing and implicitly assuming that those who are making the allegation are nothing more than “conspiracy theorists.”

That’s why so many people don’t trust the mainstream media.

This is not a recent phenomenon.

We can go all the way back to Operation Mockingbird, the CIA’s secret program in the 1960s and 1970s whose aim was to acquire CIA assets from within the mainstream press, whose secret job would be to come to the defense of the national-security establishment whenever necessary, including calling people “conspiracy theorists” whenever they allege wrongdoing on the part of CIA officials.

 

July 

July 31

olympics japan logo

 washington post logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Games went on. But American viewers aren’t coming along, Ben Strauss, July 31, 2021. Leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, a group of NBC executives held a news conference to talk about their approach to these unusual Games.

“I really believe this is going to be the most meaningful Olympics of our lifetime,” said NBC Olympics executive producer Molly Solomon. "After everything the world has gone through … I do think that people are craving the shared experience. What better way to come together than through the stories of these athletes?”

The message was hope, as it is for every Olympics, but NBC also wanted these Games to mark the symbolic end of the global pandemic — a return to everyday life and a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit after a difficult 18 months. The sales pitch, from NBC’s perspective, made sense: the network is paying around about $12 billion to televise 10 Olympic Games from 2014 through 2032. But the network’s narrative was also running headlong into a state of emergency in Japan due to rising coronavirus cases and opposition to the Games on the ground there. When it was announced that there would be no fans, the television presentation suddenly became more challenging, too.

Indeed, the Games so far suggest that NBC overestimated America’s appetite for the Games and their pomp. Viewership is down significantly; public polling shows Americans are not enthusiastic about these Olympics; and the plight of Olympians and their mental health struggles have become the dominant story lines after Simone Biles withdrew from the gymnastics competition.
“We’ve had some bad luck,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said during an earnings call with investors this week in which he admitted that the linear TV ratings were lower than the network expected.

According to Nielsen, the opening ceremony in Tokyo drew 16.7 million viewers on NBC on July 23, accounting for both the live morning broadcast and the replay in prime time — the smallest audience for an opening ceremony in the past 33 years. It was down from 26.5 million who watched the event in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and 40.7 million people who watched London’s ceremony.

Through the first four nights of the Games, according to Sportico, viewership of NBCUniversal’s Olympics coverage, across its networks, is down 43 percent compared with Rio de Janeiro, to 17.5 million viewers from 30.7 million. Primetime coverage on the NBC is down nearly 50 percent.
Any viewership numbers must take into account that the number of homes with cable TV or satellite subscriptions has fallen significantly since 2016, from 86 million to 77 million. There is also the splintering of TV audiences with access to so much on-demand entertainment, as well as the time difference with Tokyo which puts many events on tape delay during prime time. And NBC is showing events on its streaming service, Peacock.

“You’ve got the normal head winds from an Olympics on that side of the world,” said former Fox executive and industry consultant Patrick Crakes. “It’s a year delayed and it feels in some ways like we’re getting this out of the way because we have to.”

washington post logoolympics tokyo logoWashington Post, The Tokyo Olympics schedule, day by day, Staff Report. The Tokyo Olympics officially begin Friday with the Opening Ceremonies and end Aug. 8 with the Closing Ceremonies. Some events, such as softball and the men’s and women’s soccer tournaments, began Wednesday, before the official start of the Games.

The first medals will be handed out Saturday, followed by more than two weeks of dizzying action. Swimming and gymnastics likely will take center stage in the opening week. Many Olympic tournaments run nearly the duration of the Games, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer and beach volleyball, and medals aren’t awarded until the final days.

Here’s the complete schedule of Olympic events, day by day.

July 30

mike lindell screengrab

Wall Street Journal, MyPillow to Pull Ads From Fox News in Disagreement With Network, Alex Corse and Benjamin Mullin, July 30, 2021 (print ed.). The chief executive of MyPillow Inc., one of Fox News’s big advertisers, said he is pulling his ads from the network after a disagreement over a proposed commercial.

fox news logo SmallMike Lindell, shown above in a file photo, said he made the decision after Fox News declined to run a commercial linked to his efforts to promote his claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Security and election officials have said there is no proof of widespread election fraud.

“It’s unfortunate Mr. Lindell has chosen to pause his commercial time on FOX News given the level of success he’s experienced in building his brand through advertising on the number one cable news network,” Fox News said in a statement.

July 29

BBC, Inquiry On Daphne Caruana Galizia: Malta responsible for journalist death, Staff report, July 29, 2021. A public inquiry into the assassination of Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia has found the state responsible for her death.

daphne caruana galizia croppedThe report, quoted by Maltese media, said the state had failed to recognise risks to the reporter's life and take reasonable steps to avoid them.

Caruana Galizia died in a car bomb attack near her home in October 2017. An investigation led to PM Joseph Muscat's resignation in 2019 after his close associates were implicated. However, he has denied corruption allegations. 

bbc news logo2Called a "one-woman Wikileaks", Caruana Galizia, right, uncovered networks of corruption in the country and abroad. 

Aged 53 when she died, she spent 30 years as a journalist. She relentlessly accused Maltese politicians and other officials of corruption in her popular Running Commentary blog.

She was a harsh critic of government. In 2017 she effectively triggered an early election by publishing allegations linking Mr Muscat to the Panama Papers scandal, which exposed the use of tax havens by the rich.

Caruana Galizia's family sought an independent public inquiry into her murder. Mr Muscat gave it the go-ahead, a few months before he resigned.

In the last two years, the inquiry has heard from dozens of witnesses, including investigators, politicians and journalists. In its conclusions, written up in a 437-page report, it said the state had "created an atmosphere of impunity, generated by the highest echelons".

It cited an "unwarranted closeness" between big business and government. So far only a handful of individuals have been charged. In February, one of three men accused of murdering Caruana Galizia pleaded guilty and was jailed for 15 years. The others are yet to go to trial.

A fourth person, Maltese businessman Yorgen Fenech, has also been charged with complicity over the killing -- an allegation he denies.

He was arrested in November 2019 as he tried to sail away from Malta on a yacht, and is now awaiting trial.

After Caruana Galizia's assassination, her son Paul hit out at what he called the country's "mafia state." His mother had been killed "because she stood between the rule of law and those who sought to violate it", he said.

July 28

Justice Integrity Project, Whistleblower Summit This Week Highlights 50 Years of the Pentagon Papers and Investigative Journalism, Andrew Kreig, Updated July 28, 2021. The annual Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival this week continues to empower whistleblowers and advocates and encourages others to stand for truth. Film presentations began July 23 and the panel program begins Sunday with the program extending to Aug. 1.

The event presents more than 50 film screenings and panel presentations over ten days.

The films focus on whistleblowing, free speech/press freedom, civil and human rights, or social justice themes. Check out Film Festival Flix to see the titles, which are also listed below.

daniel ellsberg umassThis year's keynote speaker on July 30 will be former U.S. Department of Defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, thereby marking the 50th year anniversary of his courageous release of what are now known as "The Pentagon Papers" disclosing scandalous aspects of the Pentagon's secret operations during the then-raging Vietnam War.

Ellsberg, shown at left in a photo by the University of Massachusetts, which now houses his collected papers, made disclosures first via the New York Times and later via other news organizations that risked federal prosecution, as mike gravel offical photoendured by Ellsberg. The late U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), right, who died last month, helped publicize the revelations by reading excerpts on the Senate floor.

This year's Summit and Festival includes more than 30 documentary films and shorts, plus special segments. The segments include sessions led by the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), a co-host of the event, and the Government Accountability Project and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), both long-time partners at the Summit. A day-long segment on July 30 by the National Whistleblower Center, another major partner, features prominent U.S. elected and appointed officials regarded as welcoming to whistleblowers and their causes.

This year's expanded Pillar Award ceremony recognizes notable civil and human rights champions among  politicians, community activists and journalists — including documentary filmmakers.

The main organizers of the event are former ACORN whistleblowers Michael McCray and Marcel Reid, who were both honored earlier this year by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners at the world's largest anti-fraud conference. The two were among the "ACORN 8" activists who helped expose gross corruption and self-dealing in the inner circle of leadership at the community activist organization ACORN.

The Summit is organized in collaboration with such longtime partners as the Pacifica Foundation.

  • Click here for schedule and ticket information for the sessions. Please note that this is a corrected link, https://filmfestivalflix.com/Whistleblower/Purchase-Tickets/%20, from one previously published here. The panels may all be accessed for free, with film views purchased either individually or with a full-conference pass for $150. To access the panels, register and then locate the panels section at the top of the next page. Click on your preferred panel. Registration is for functionality and security purposes. So, you have to be registered and logged into your Film Festival Flix (FFF) account to activate the Zoom links. Here is a short video that informs you how to create a Film Festival Flix account if you have a problem: https://vimeo.com/578502564

Our Justice Integrity Project, a member of the Summit host committee for a half dozen years, opened the panel segment at noon EDT on Sunday, July 25, with a major panel on Watergate that featured former Washington Post editor Barry Sussman and two critics of the Post's coverage, authors Jim Hougan and John O'Connor.

The session title is Pentagon Papers and Watergate Revelations After Five Decades: What’s the Rest of the Story? The session remains available for viewing after its start time, like all Summit sessions.

barry sussmanSussman, right, was Washington Post city editor when DC police arrested burglars for breaking into a suite of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office and residential complex in Washington, DC. Sussman was soon named special Watergate editor, helping direct the coverage that won a Pulitzer grand prize for the newspaper. In 1974, he authored The Great Cover-up: Nixon and the Scandal of Watergate, a best-seller and widely praised account whose fifth edition will be published at the end of this year with an update focused on the enduring lessons for today of the abuses of presidential power that the scandal uncovered.

This panel is rare because critics such as Hougan and O'Connor of the Post's coverage almost never appear alongside the most noted Watergate-era journalists or officials.

Hougan, former Washington editor of Harper's Magazine, and O'Connor, a prominent San Francisco attorney who represented the late former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, are at jim hougan photo2the forefront of such criticism, which tends to focus on the role of the CIA and on other elements of the scandal that critics regard as under-reported by major news organizations.

In 1984, Hougan, shown at left, authored Secret Agenda: Watergate, Deep Throat and the CIA. By then, he had authored two previous books, with one focused on private spies affecting American civic and government operations. In Secret Agenda, he reported that "accounts of the break-in have been deliberately falsified by a CIA cover story" and that "The President was spied upon by his own intelligence agents." He reported also, CIA Logo"False evidence was planted for the FBI to find...Sexual espionage and not election politics was at the heart of it all."

Hougan's book is one of a score or so volumes since then illuminating such themes. Another pioneering effort was Silent Coup by the late Len Colodny and his co-author Robert Gettlin in 1991 (republished in 2015). These books included accounts by CIA-affiliated burglary participants such as G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord, and accounts by whistleblowers and historians. One multi-year research project by USA Today DC Enterprise Editor Ray Locker, who as a Tampa-based reporter had met Colodny, resulted in Nixon's Gamble (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016) and Haig's Coup: How Richard Nixon's Closest Aide Forced Him From Office (University of Nebraska Press, 2019). Both Gettlin, now retired from a career in journalism and as an executive in a federal inspector general's office, and Locker have spoken at previous Whistleblower Summit conferences.

In O'Connor's Postgate published in 2019, he argued that famed Washington Post reporter and editor Bob Woodward and his powerful allies within the news and publishing industries "betrayed" Woodward's' source Mark Felt, who became O'Connor's client beginning in 2005 after O'Connor confirmed that the aging and memory-impaired former FBI executive had been "Deep Throat."

O'Connor, left, argues that John OConnor headshot high resWoodward and his allies have sought to diminish Felt through malicious tactics to preserve what O'Connor describes as "historically significant misrepresentations woven throughout the Post's Watergate journalism."

The 64-minute panel was organized and moderated by this editor (Andrew Kreig), a former newspaper reporter during the 1970s and more recently director of the Justice Integrity Project, and, among other civic volunteer efforts, a member of the Colodny Collection Board of Advisors at Texas A & M University. The advisory board includes the university's liberal arts college dean, Dr. Jerry Jones, among the 24 author, historian and other research members. The collection houses some 500 tape-recorded interviews by Colodny len colodny croppedand his co-author Gettlin of key figures in the scandal and its follow-ups.

Colodny died last month in Florida after working exhaustively for many years to help new researchers, including this editor and the university. Colodny and the university have been digitizing the research to make the materials more widely available, including via the site Watergate.com.

Shown below at the bottom of an appendix is additional information on this panel's participants, their credentials and their views.

More generally, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) published on Friday a lengthy account of the program, including a special focus on its own SPJ panel presentation July 27. That panel describes new government restrictions on reporters' access to newsmaking officials and public records. The SPJ account, a listing of the films being shown and other event details are provided on a runover-page below.

The film program began on July 23 and continues through the weekend before the opening plenary session July 26. The schedule is here. Each film will be available at the scheduled release time and date, and available for viewing also 72 hours after its release window.

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Is Gone, but the Media’s Misinformation Challenge Is Still Here, Marc Tracy, July 28, 2021 (print ed.). Should news outlets contextualize false claims made by powerful people? Or ignore them completely? There is no consensus in the industry, but its thinking continues to evolve.

In American life, truth is now contested. And while this has profoundly affected the country’s politics, and so much else, it has raised unique challenges for one group in particular: journalists.

After all, the high-profile Republicans who are obfuscating the events of Jan. 6 are undeniably newsworthy. Ms. Stefanik is the third-ranking House Republican; Mr. Johnson may seek re-election in a pivotal Senate race; polls indicate that Mr. Trump would be the commanding front-runner if he seeks the Republican presidential nomination in three years.

Their political influence would normally demand coverage. Yet journalists will never feel comfortable publishing anything they know to be false. Social media has also raised the stakes of airing misleading statements, even in the service of conveying the news. If a lie can make it halfway around the world before the truth can get its pants on, then maybe the act of printing a falsehood and debunking it in the next sentence is just giving the falsehood a head start.

Mainstream outlets have tried to square this circle by contextualizing problematic quotes and allegations. But this is difficult to do well, and it may be impossible to strike the exactly correct balance.

July 26

Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative via Poynter Institute, More chain-owned news organizations are returning to local ownership, Mark Jacob, July 26, 2021. From New England to Arkansas, local investors are buying news outlets from large chains and seek to reverse what they see as decades of disinvestment.

As chain consolidation brings new uncertainty to an already fluid news landscape, another trend is emerging in which local investors buy news outlets from large chains and seek to reverse what they see as decades of disinvestment.

Media acquisitions lawyer Sara April expects to see more news outlets go into local hands as some big chains focus on their larger products and spin off their smaller ones.

“It’s definitely safe to say that there is a trend of some newspapers returning to local ownership,” said April, a partner in Dirks, Van Essen & April. “… It made sense for these large newspaper companies to build when they did, but now it’s making sense for them to peel off these papers and put them in the hands of people who can really operate them in this day and age.”

In some ways, large chains can be beneficial for local news consumers. They often bring website expertise, technical support and consistent business practices. And they may have a greater ability to recruit talent.

But local owners’ strong presence in the community may be more important, according to Penny Abernathy, creator of the influential “news deserts” reports and visiting professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

“All things being equal,” Abernathy said, “local ownership is always best for the community where the newspaper is located. That’s because a local owner is going to know that market and know the residents.”

As Tim Schmidt, who is building a small newspaper group in central Missouri, put it: “The newspaper has to care about the community. I think local ownership plays a huge part in that.”

In the wake of the Gannett-GateHouse merger in November 2019, Gannett is selling off some of its smaller news outlets. And industry observers are watching for what comes out of Alden Global Capital’s recent acquisition of Tribune Publishing and whether any of Tribune’s news outlets will end up in the hands of local owners. 

Hedge funds such as Alden now control about half of daily newspapers in the United States. Does this suggest greater volatility, with hedge funds likely to sell their news outlets to local owners?

“Every newspaper publisher is constantly looking at their options,” April said. “Are they financial owners known to be long-term holders of newspaper assets? Historically, no.”

Tim Franklin, senior associate dean and John M. Mutz Chair in Local News at Medill, said acquisitions by local investors make sense under the right conditions.

“After decades of consolidation in local news ownership, we could be on the cusp of a back-to-the-future moment with more local operators, especially in smaller communities,” Franklin said.

Fredric Rutberg has been both a buyer and a seller of local news outlets. In 2016, he was part of a group that bought New England Newspapers from Digital First Media, owned by Alden. This May, Rutberg and other owners kept the flagship Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, from that deal while selling off three Vermont newspapers and a magazine to tech entrepreneur Paul Belogour.

“This is my retirement project,” Rutberg said. “I was a judge in the local Massachusetts state court, and Massachusetts judges have mandatory retirement at age 70.”

So he and his partners went into the newspaper business.

July 25

washington post logoWashington Post, A Catholic newsletter promised investigative journalism. Then it outed a priest using Grindr data, Michelle Boorstein, Marisa Iati and Elahe Izadi, July 25, 2021. A report that identified a senior official in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as having visited gay nightclubs led to his resignation — and a loud debate on ethics and morals.

In January, when Ed Condon and JD Flynn broke off from their jobs at a long-standing Catholic news agency, they promised readers of their new newsletter that they would deliver reporting without an agenda, or a foregone conclusion. “We aim to do serious, responsible, sober journalism about the Church, from the Church and for the Church. . . . We want The Pillar to be a different kind of journalism.”

Six months later the Pillar broke the kind of story mainstream news organizations would be unlikely to touch: They said they had obtained commercially available data that included location history from the hookup app Grindr, and used it to track a high-ranking priest from his offices and family lake house to gay nightclubs.

Now Condon and Flynn, two 38-year-old canon lawyers-turned-muckrakers, are at the center of both a global surveillance-ethics story as well as a mud fight among their fellow Catholics over whether this week they served or disgraced the church. One Catholic writer described it as “a witch hunt aimed at gay Catholic priests.”

  • jeffrey burrillWashington Post, Top U.S. Catholic Church official resigns after cellphone data used to track him on Grindr and to gay bars

In some ways the Pillar story and reaction to it feels almost like a throwback: Conservative Catholics who point to the 1960s and liberalizing sexual mores for society’s troubles and focus on gay priests. But in 2021 the availability of personal digital data and the use of smartphones for surveillance are far bigger fears for the vast majority of Americans than is news about a member of the clergy possibly using a hookup app.

Flynn and Condon’s story also punctuates how America’s religious and journalistic landscapes have changed. Institutions and hierarchies now have to contend with scrappy start-ups taking matters into their own hands.

And in the growing conservative Catholic media scene, their newsletter and its takedown of Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill, right, represents a new power and boldness of those demanding their church be purged of leaders who they see as too permissive on issues like abortion, gender norms and sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

July 23

Media, Whistleblower News

daniel ellsberg umass

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival, virtual events, begins with screenings starting Friday, July 23, and panel discussions starting Sunday, July 25; DC Pro president joins opening plenary July 26, Staff Report, July 23, 2021. SPJ DC Pro Chapter is a co-sponsor of the Whistleblower Summit and Film Festival this year, with a panel presentation on July 27. A chapter board member and a chapter Distinguished Service Award honoree will be participating on another panel July 30.

Here is a schedule for panels and screenings (subject to updates). All sessions will be held via Zoom; the film screenings will be streamed online.

Keynote speaker is whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg (shown above in a University of Massachusetts photo), at noon on July 30, in recognition of his role in releasing documents that led to the publication of excerpts in The New York Times of what came to be called the Pentagon Papers, 50 years ago this summer.

DC Pro Chapter President Randy Showstack will represent the chapter during the opening plenary on Monday, July 26, at 10 a.m., joining other sponsors or collaborators. They include:

Panelists:

  • Marcel Reid, Pacifica Foundation
  • Michael McCray, ACORN 8
  • Andrew Kreig (also a DC Pro Chapter member), Justice Integrity Project
  • Randy Showstack, Society of Professional Journalists Washington, D.C., Pro Chapter
  • Liz Hemperwitz, Project on Government Oversight
  • Tom Devine, Government Accountability Project
  • Siri Nelson, National Whistleblower Center

Indefatigable chapter Recording Secretary and FOI advocate Kathryn Foxhall will moderate the 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 27 panel, "The Perils of PIO," which is described thus: "Over 20-30 years, it’s become a cultural norm for various entities, public and private, to prohibit staff from communicating with reporters without oversight by authorities, often through public information officers (PIO). The basic part of this is quite fearsome: prohibition against any contact without notifying authorities. However, the rules also create a chokepoint severely limiting the number of contacts. They are also used to deliberately block unwanted contacts and constrain what can be said.

"This hampers whistleblowing by massively reducing reporters’ ability to get to know and be educated by staff; have staff come to trust them; and have confidential conversations. The Society of Professional Journalists has said it believes secrecy caused by these controls led to significantly higher COVID-19 death toll. An analysis by First Amendment attorney Frank LoMonte says the restrictions are unconstitutional and many courts have said so."

Panelists:

  • Kathyrn Foxhall (Moderator) The SPJDC.org website has articles about "Censorship by PIO" and resources.
  • Frank LoMonte, head of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida
  • Haisten Willis, freelance journalist and chair of national SPJ's Freedom of Information Committee

Ahead of the keynote speech by Ellsberg -- at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 30 -- DC Pro Chapter board member and attorney Kenneth Jost will join chapter DSA awardee Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Institute and the institute's First Amendment Center, on a panel looking at the "Ramifications of the Pentagon Papers Today." The panel description says that the July 3, 1971, publication in The New York Times of what is now known as the Pentagon Papers prompted a series of events that ultimately resulted in the resignation of President Richard Nixon and changed the landscape for American journalism due to a landmark decision on freedom of the press (New York Times Co. v. United States). This informative panel will examine the long-term impact of the publishing of the Pentagon Papers on free speech, whistleblowing, investigative journalism and American society overall.

Panelists:

  • Gene Policinski, JD (Moderator)
  • Mark Zaid, JD
  • Kenneth Jost, JD

Access to streaming of panels and the films is here. More information on the Summit can be found here. Specific questions may be directed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling (202) 370-6635. July 30 also is National Whistleblower Appreciation Day. The National Whistleblower Center invites you to register here for its virtual all-day event marking the occasion.

July 20

 ny times logoNew York Times, Bezos and Blue Origin Crew Land After Short Flight to Space, Staff Reports, July 20, 2021. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, lifted off from Texas with three other people in a spacecraft built by his rocket company. Watch and follow updates.

jeffrey bezos washington postAnother week, another billionaire with a rocket company going to space.

amazon logo smallLast week, it was Richard Branson earning his astronaut wings riding a space plane from Virgin Galactic, a company he founded 14 years ago, to an altitude of more than 50 miles above the skies of New Mexico.

On Tuesday, it was Jeff Bezos, left, the richest human being in the universe, who strapped into a capsule built by his rocket company, Blue Origin, and blasted off even higher, to more than 62 miles above West Texas.

July 19

 

Top Stories

twitter bird Custom

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Trump Has Found a Way to Circumvent His Twitter Ban — and Twitter Has Done Nothing About It, Seth Abramson, left, July 18-19, seth abramson graphic2021. A few weeks ago, Trump initiated a craven scheme that effectively undid his Twitter ban. But most Americans don't yet realize that the domestic terror leader again has access to millions via Twitter.

Introduction: On June 18, CNN reported that Donald Trump had hired former Republican National Committee spokeswoman Liz Harrington to replace Jason Miller as his spokesperson.

Spyware Scandals

nato logo flags name

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., allies accuse China of hacking Microsoft and condoning other cyberattacks, John Hudson and Ellen Nakashima, July 19, 2021. The United States, European Union, NATO and other world powers on Monday accused the Chinese government of a broad array of malicious cyber activities, blaming its Ministry of State Security and affiliated criminals for a sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used email server software earlier this year.

China FlagThe condemnations represent the first time NATO, a 30-nation alliance, has called out Beijing’s cyber activities following the Biden administration’s pledge in June to rally U.S. allies against malign Chinese behavior. The number of nations involved amounts to the largest condemnation of China’s cyber aggressions to date, U.S. officials said.

The joint statements stopped short, however, of punishing China for its alleged actions, exposing the challenge of confronting the world’s second largest economy by an alliance with deep business ties there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chinese security officers charged in hacking scheme targeting companies, universities, and government entities in other countries, Devlin Barrett, July 19, 2021.  Three Chinese security officials have been indicted by a U.S. grand jury as part of what authorities say was a far-reaching hacking scheme targeting companies, universities, and government entities in other countries — the latest in American efforts to “name and shame” hacking by foreign state actors.

The Justice Department unsealed an indictment charging four individuals in China, saying they worked together to try to steal data that would benefit Chinese companies, particularly research and development work.

The two-count indictment, which was returned in May and kept under seal until now, charges Ding Xiaoyang, Cheng Qingmin, and Zhu Yunmin were officers with the Hainan State Security Department, a provincial branch of China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS.

A fourth charged individual, Wu Shurong, was charged as a computer hacker who created malware and hacked into computers run by foreign governments, companies and universities, and supervised other hackers engaged in such work. The indictment charges that hacking stretched from 2011 to 2018, targeting entities in the U.S., Austria, Cambodia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, and Britain.

The indictment was unsealed on the same day the U.S., European Union, and NATO accused the Chinese government of a wide range of malicious cyber activities, blaming the MSS for a sophisticated attack on Microsoft’s widely used mail server earlier this year — the first time NATO has called out Beijing’s cyber activities following the Biden administration’s pledge last month to rally U.S. allies against malign Chinese behavior. U.S. officials said the number of nations involved in Monday’s criticism represents the largest condemnation to date of China’s cyber aggressions.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus Project Investigation: Despite the hype, iPhone security no match for NSO spyware, Craig Timberg, Reed Albergotti and Elodie Guéguen, July 19, 2021. International investigation finds 23 Apple devices that were successfully hacked. The text delivered last month to the iPhone 11 of Claude Mangin, the French wife of a political activist jailed in Morocco, made no sound. It produced no image. It offered no warning of any kind as an iMessage from somebody she didn’t know delivered malware directly onto her phone — and past Apple’s security systems.

Once inside, the spyware, produced by Israel’s NSO Group and licensed to one of its government clients, went to work, according to a forensic examination of her device by Amnesty International’s Security Lab. It found that between October and June, her phone was hacked multiple times with Pegasus, NSO’s signature surveillance tool, during a time when she was in France.

The examination was unable to reveal what was collected. But the potential was vast: Pegasus can collect emails, call records, social media posts, user passwords, contact lists, pictures, videos, sound recordings and browsing histories, according to security researchers and NSO marketing materials. The spyware can activate cameras or microphones to capture fresh images and recordings. It can listen to calls and voice mails. It can collect location logs of where a user has been and also determine where that user is now, along with data indicating whether the person is stationary or, if moving, in which direction.

And all of this can happen without a user even touching her phone or knowing she has received a mysterious message from an unfamiliar person — in Mangin’s case, a Gmail user going by the name “linakeller2203.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The spyware is sold to governments to fight terrorism. In India, it was used to hack journalists and others, Joanna Slater and Niha Masih, July 19, 2021. The confirmed infections of seven phones represent a tiny fraction of what may be a vast surveillance net in Modi’s India.

A powerful surveillance tool licensed only to governments was used to infiltrate mobile phones belonging to at least seven people in India and was active on some of their devices as recently as this month.

india flag mapThe hacks — confirmed by forensic analysis of the phones — represent a tiny fraction of what may be a vast surveillance net, intensifying concerns about the erosion of civil liberties in India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Hundreds of Indian phone numbers appeared on a list that included some selected for surveillance by clients of NSO Group, an Israeli firm. The list contained numbers for Rahul Gandhi, India’s main opposition leader; Ashok Lavasa, a key election official considered an obstacle to the ruling party; and M. Hari Menon, the local head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Others included on the list were journalists, activists, opposition politicians, senior officials, business executives, public health experts, Tibetan exiles and foreign diplomats. A group of Modi critics accused of plotting to overthrow the government also appeared on the list.

The spyware that infiltrated seven of the analyzed phones is called Pegasus. It secretly unlocks the contents of a target’s mobile phone and transforms it into a listening device. NSO says it licenses the tool exclusively to government agencies to combat terrorism and other serious crimes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pegasus Project Investigation: Jamal Khashoggi’s wife targeted with spyware before his death, Dana Priest, Souad Mekhennet and Arthur Bouvart, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware was used to secretly target the smartphones of the two women closest to murdered Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to digital forensic analysis.

The Android phone of his wife, Hanan Elatr, was targeted by a Pegasus user six months before his killing, but the analysis could not determine whether the hack was successful. The iPhone of his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, was penetrated by spyware days after the murder, the forensics showed.

Their cellphone numbers appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to spy on their citizens and also known to have been NSO clients.

Another of Khashoggi’s close associates was successfully hacked after the journalist’s murder. Two other associates and two senior Turkish officials involved in his homicide investigation appear on the list.

NSO executives have asserted that its spyware was not used to monitor Khashoggi or his family.

washington post logoWashington Post, Key takeaways from the Pegasus Project, Staff Report, July 19, 2021. Military-grade spyware leased by the Israeli firm NSO Group to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and the two women closest to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners led by the Paris-based journalism nonprofit Forbidden Stories.

Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International, a human rights group, had access to a list of more than 50,000 numbers and shared it with the news organizations, which did further research and analysis. Amnesty’s Security Lab did forensic examination of the phones.

Wayne Madsen Report, Pegasus and NSO at center of sweeping and dangerous Mossad surveillance operation, Wayne Madsen, left, July 19, 2021. A joint wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallreport by several media organizations around the world and Amnesty International has revealed that the Israeli intelligence-linked NSO Group has provided an invasive smart phone tracking software known as Pegasus to some of the world's most brutal regimes to spy on wayne madesen report logojournalists, politicians, human rights advocates.

The conclusions about NSO Group and Pegasus provide addition proof that Israel's intentions are predominantly malign in the area of intelligence and security operations.

U.S. Law, Courts, Media, Education 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: As the Press Weakens, So Does Democracy, Charles M. Blow, July 19, 2021 (print ed.). I came to The New York Times in 1992, 29 years ago this summer, as the first intern in its graphics department. I arrived in Manhattan, a little Black boy from a hick town in Louisiana, and it blew my mind.

charles blow customIn those first months I saw how one of the best newsrooms in the country covered some of the biggest stories of the era, and it shaped me as a journalist and in my reverence for the invaluable role journalists play in society.

Newsroom employment was at a high, and throughout the 1990s, and even into the early 2000s, a slight majority of Americans still had a great deal or fair amount of trust in the news media to report the news “fully, accurately and fairly,” according to Gallup.

Since 2004, the United States has lost one-fourth — 2,100 — of its newspapers. This includes 70 dailies and more than 2,000 weeklies or nondailies.

At the end of 2019, the United States had 6,700 newspapers, down from almost 9,000 in 2004.

Today, more than 200 of the nation’s 3,143 counties and equivalents have no newspaper and no alternative source of credible and comprehensive information on critical issues. Half of the counties have only one newspaper, and two-thirds do not have a daily newspaper.

Many communities that lost newspapers were the most vulnerable — struggling economically and isolated.

The news industry is truly struggling, but the public is oblivious to this. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2018 found that “most Americans think their local news media are doing just fine financially.

I share all that to say this: Democracies cannot survive without a common set of facts and a vibrant press to ferret them out and present them. Our democracy is in terrible danger. The only way that lies can flourish as they now do is because the press has been diminished in both scale and stature. Lies advance when truth is in retreat.

July 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook hit back at President Biden’s criticism of social media for spreading vaccine misinformation, Cecilia Kang, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). Facebook pushed back on Saturday against the Biden administration’s denouncing of the social media giant for spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccines, escalating tensions between the Silicon Valley company and the White House.

facebook logoIn a blog post, Facebook called for the administration to stop “finger-pointing” and laid out what it had done to encourage users to get vaccinated. The social network also detailed how it had clamped down on lies about the vaccines, which officials have said led people to refuse to be vaccinated.

“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in the post. “The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased.”

Mr. Rosen added that the company’s data showed that 85 percent of its users in the United States had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. While President Biden had set a goal of getting 70 percent of Americans vaccinated by July 4, which the White House fell short of, “Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed,” Mr. Rosen said.

Facebook’s response follows a forceful condemnation of the company by Mr. Biden. When asked on Friday about the role of social media in influencing vaccinations, Mr. Biden declared in unusually strong language that the platforms were “killing people.”

“Look,” he added, “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that — and they’re killing people.”

Other White House officials have also become increasingly vocal about how social media has amplified vaccine lies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide, Dana Priest, Craig Timberg and Souad Mekhenne, July 18, 2021. Military-grade spyware licensed by an Israeli firm to governments for tracking terrorists and criminals was used in attempted and successful hacks of 37 smartphones belonging to journalists, human rights activists, business executives and two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and 16 media partners.

israel flagThe phones appeared on a list of more than 50,000 numbers that are concentrated in countries known to engage in surveillance of their citizens and also known to have been clients of the Israeli firm, NSO Group, a worldwide leader in the growing and largely unregulated private spyware industry, the investigation found.

The list does not identify who put the numbers on it, or why, and it is unknown how many of the phones were targeted or surveilled. But forensic analysis of the 37 smartphones shows that many display a tight correlation between time stamps associated with a number on the list and the initiation of surveillance, in some cases as brief as a few seconds.

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot

Sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, left, and Miami Herald investigative reporter and author Julie Brown, right.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Reporter’s Fight to Expose Epstein’s Crimes — and Earn a Living, Michelle Goldberg, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). At a news michelle goldberg thumbconference for Jeffrey Epstein’s 2019 sex trafficking indictment, a reporter asked Geoffrey Berman, then the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, if new information had prompted his office’s inquiry. The F.B.I., after all, had investigated Epstein’s sexual predation more than a decade earlier, and the crimes in the 2019 indictment took place between 2002 and 2005. Berman revealed little about what went on inside his office, but said that his team was helped by “some excellent investigative journalism.”

He was clearly referring to Julie K. Brown’s 2018 Miami Herald series “Perversion of Justice.” Brown had delved into how prosecutors led by Alex Acosta, who would later become Donald Trump’s secretary of labor, went behind the backs of Epstein’s victims to give the pedophile financier a scandalously lenient deal.

She has now written a book with the same title, which both expands on the Epstein story and explains all that went into writing it. It’s a gripping journalistic procedural, sort of “Spotlight” meets “Erin Brockovich.” It also shows just how close Epstein came to getting away with his industrial-scale sexual exploitation.

Brown’s book, which comes out on Tuesday, is about a mind-blowing case of plutocratic corruption, full of noirish subplots that may never be fully understood. But it’s also about the slow strangulation of local and regional newspapers. Reading it, I kept thinking of all the malfeasance likely to go unexposed as many once-formidable newspapers outside of New York and Washington either shrink or disappear altogether.

Thanks to Brown, the basic outlines of the Epstein scandal — at least the part that preceded his baffling death — are well known. As she summarizes it in her book, “A supremely wealthy money manager with political connections wrestled an incredible immunity agreement out of the federal government — despite having molested, raped and sexually abused dozens of girls.” Rather than decades in federal prison, Epstein served only 13 months — with daily work release — in a county jail, where his cell door was left unlocked and a TV was installed for his entertainment.

Because of Brown’s reporting, Epstein seemed on the verge of real legal accountability when he died in his cell, apparently by suicide, in 2019. That reporting was done in the face of powerful headwinds. She was up against Epstein’s intimidating legal team and fears about her safety.

But Brown also had to contend with the punishing economics of the contracting newspaper industry, which for the last decade has been shedding experienced reporters and forcing those who remain to do much more with much less.

Brown is finally in a better place financially. She’s working with Adam McKay, the director of “The Big Short,” to turn “Perversion of Justice” into an HBO mini-series. After years of renting, she was recently able to buy a condo. “I’ve been able to pay down some of my horrible debt that I have accumulated,” she said. But she’s 59 and still doesn’t have a retirement account.

The more newspapers collapse, the more such stories there are likely to be.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Poland’s attack on an American-owned TV network requires a strong U.S. response, Editorial Board, July 18, 2021 (print ed.). Poland’s right-wing nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice, has been steadily losing ground in recent months. Its parliamentary majority has dwindled to one seat amid rising public discontent over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and passage of new restrictions on abortion.

Following the return to domestic politics of former prime minister and European Council president Donald Tusk, polls are showing his opposition Civic Platform party could defeat Law and Justice in the next election, which is due by 2023 but could come earlier.

polish flag wavingIt should be no surprise, then, that Law and Justice is reviving an effort to neuter the country’s highest-rated news station, TVN24, which unlike state-owned channels broadcasts independent news and critical commentary about the government. This week the head of the state broadcast regulator, a former Law and Justice member, told Reuters that the station was in violation of foreign ownership rules, and that its license might not be renewed by a Sept. 26 deadline.

Meanwhile, the party’s legislators were pushing a new rule that would tighten the regulations further; a sponsor said the aim was to force a sale to a Polish state company. That is the strategy Poland and the like-minded government of Hungary have been using to silence critical media; last year the Polish state oil refinery bought a chain of regional newspapers from a Germany company, ending their independence.

July 17

washington post logoWashington Post, The media scramble within Trump Book Summer, Paul Farhi, July 17, 2021. The peak of Trump Book Summer, the moment of maximum media intensity, may have come last Wednesday, when reporters scrambled to match a story about a story contained in one of those books.

Around 3 p.m. that day, New York magazine published an article based on a revelation its writer had discovered in the pages of I Alone Can Fix It, one of the entries in the current spate of Trump Studies, a copy of which the magazine said it had “obtained” before its official release.

The gist of the magazine’s report — that the book would reveal that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, feared Trump would precipitate a coup to maintain power — was so hot that it in turn triggered a nearly immediate follow-up report on CNN.com, written by no less than five reporters. Which in turn prompted The Washington Post to chase down the same nugget — which was kind of ironic considering the book that produced the scoop was written by two Post reporters and had already generated a prominent excerpt in the paper, with a second to come days later.

michael wolff landslideThe media-on-media scramble, a kind of Russian nesting doll of reportage, attested to both the profound import of the Milley anecdote and the cultural heat of the new syllabus of Trump books.

On the same day, I Alone, written by The Post’s Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, was the best-selling book on Amazon, which includes preorders for not-yet-released books.

The third and fourth bestsellers were also dishy Trump titles, Landslide, by the independent journalist Michael Wolff, and Frankly, We Did Win This Election, by the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender, respectively.

A fourth book, Nightmare Scenario, about Trump’s handling of the pandemic by two other Post reporters, Damian Paletta and Yasmeen Abutaleb, had climbed up the lists the week before.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fox News’s embarrassing blunder in the White House briefing room, Aaron Blake, Updated July 17, 2021. The White House press briefing room has been a little more boring over the past six months, which is probably a good thing. But there are occasional fireworks, mostly when Fox News’s Peter Doocy asks press secretary Jen Psaki to comment on the culture-war issue du jour on his network.

But seldom has that effort been as poorly conceived as it was Friday.

Psaki had offered a statistic Thursday in her daily briefing: “There’s about 12 people who are producing 65 percent of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. All of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms, including Facebook.”

When Friday’s briefing began, Doocy was raring to go. He accused the government of spying on people to obtain this factoid.

fox news logo SmallIt wasn’t exactly clear what Doocy was talking about. But after Psaki responded that his premise was inaccurate, he made clear that this was about the “12 people” stat. Doocy cited the number and suggested that the government must have been snooping around people’s Facebook pages to arrive at it. He even specifically cited the surgeon general’s office specifically as having done so, for some reason.

“But, okay, so these 12 people who you have on a list — 12 individuals — do they know that somebody at the surgeon general’s office is going through their profile?” Doocy asked. He went on to compare the situation to “Big Brother.”

I, like Doocy, was intrigued by where this number came from Thursday. I, unlike Doocy apparently, actually did 30 seconds of research on it. That’s all the time it took to find the publicly available study — which even has the number Psaki cited in its title, “The Disinformation Dozen” — from the Center for Countering Digital Hate. The study was picked up by the likes of NPR and others in May.

Nor did anything in Psaki’s comments Thursday suggest that this was from some kind of government study or research project.

This continues a long-standing, often tortured search on Fox for government spying on their allies.

Doocy’s claim that the stat Psaki cited was proof of yet more supposed spying is just nonsensical, as he might have found had he done even the slightest bit of due diligence.

July 17

ny times logoNew York Times, The New Magazines and Journals Shaping Africa’s Literary Scene, Abdi Latif Dahir, July 17, 2021. Lolwe, Doek and other digital publications are helping to amplify new voices from the continent.

While he was finishing his master’s degree in creative writing in England two years ago, Troy Onyango remembers, he lamented with his friends about how few literary outlets were devoted to Black writers, poets and photographers like them.

For Onyango, he said, it was about, “How do we just find a space where we can all congregate?”

That question led to Lolwe, an online literary magazine he launched in 2020 with the aim of publishing Black people in Africa and around the world. Lolwe — which draws its name from the Luo name for Lake Victoria, whose waters hug this city in western Kenya, and means “endless lake or water body” — has published dozens of works of fiction, nonfiction, poetry and photography from over 20 countries.

In June, as the magazine prepared to release its third issue, it also bagged a coveted recognition: “The Giver of Nicknames,” a story about students at an elite Namibian private school, made the shortlist for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing, awarded annually to the best short fiction by an African writer in English.

Onyango, 28, was also shortlisted for his story “This Little Light of Mine,” written from the perspective of a recently disabled man attempting to cure his loneliness with online dating apps. It was published last year in Doek, a literary magazine based in Namibia. Its co-founder: Rémy Ngamije, the author of “The Giver of Nicknames.”

“When I got the news, I felt as if it was a prank,” Onyango said of the cross nominations. When Ngamije heard that both stories and both magazines received nominations, “it gave me a quiet comfort, because it let me know we were doing something right,” he said in a phone interview from Windhoek.

July 16

tejinder singh ravi batra chair nat ad cou s asian affairs

At a memorial service for journalist Tejinder Singh, shown at left, who prominently covered the White House and U.S. Departments of State and Defense, Ravi Batra, Chairman, National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, helped lead the tributes.

tejinder singh colleagues friends admirers july 12 2021

 Shown above, celebrants of the life of India America Today Editor Tejinder Singh, including the Justice Integrity Project's editor in the back row, gathered at the National Press Club after the ceremony on July 12, 2021 (photos courtesy of The Indian Panorama and India America Today.)

tejinder singh indian panorama front pageThe Indian Panorama, Rich Tributes Paid to Veteran Journalist Tejinder Singh, I. S. Saluja, July 17, 2021. Indian-origin journalist Tejinder Singh, who passed away on May 29 this year, was fondly remembered by friends, colleagues and admirers at a well-attended memorial meeting at National Press Club, Washington on July 12.

Tejinder Singh was a veteran White House correspondent and founder and editor of the India America Today newswire. He was the Vice-President (Print) for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA-DC) 2011-12.

Attorney Ravi Batra, Chairman National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, a friend to Tejinder, was filled with emotion when he paid his tribute to his friend. who he described as “a firebrand of a journalist.”

“He was a John Wayne kind of a reporter, with true grit. He was a proud and active member of the National Press Club,” Batra added.

 

william regnery will vragovic

William H. Regnery II, one of the men who bankrolled the far-right, is photographed outside his home in Boca Grande, Florida (Will Vragovic).

HuffPost, Commentary: William Regnery II, Reclusive Millionaire Who Financed American Fascists, Dead At 80, Christopher Mathias, July 16, 2021. The avowed huffington post logowhite nationalist inherited millions from his prominent Republican family and used the money to fund the rise of the so-called alt-right.

William H. Regnery II, one of the men who bankrolled the far-right, is photographed outside his home in Boca Grande, Florida, in 2017. He died earlier this month at the age of 80.

William H. Regnery II, a racist, reclusive multimillionaire who used his inherited fortune to finance vile white supremacist groups in the hopes of one day forming an American whites-only ethnostate, died earlier this month, his family and associates confirmed. He was 80 years old.

Regnery, whose family amassed riches from its right-wing publishing empire, died on July 2 in Florida after a “long battle with cancer,” his cousin Alfred, the former head of Regnery Publishing, confirmed to HuffPost.

Asked if he’d like to comment on his cousin’s life and legacy, Alfred Regnery replied: “No, it’s all been said before.”

In the final two decades of his life, William Regnery funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars — and likely much more — to extremist groups. He is often credited with being one of the main funders of the so-called alt-right, the resurgent fascist movement that gained momentum during the rise of former President Donald Trump.

“William Regnery’s sordid influence was felt from the deadly Charlottesville Unite the Right rally to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol,” said Tarso Luís Ramos, executive director of Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank that monitors the far right.

“His patronage of white nationalists over more than two decades helped popularize a genocidal vision for a white ethnostate on North American soil and sinking fear of racial replacement in the hearts of a growing portion of the white American population,” Ramos added. “This vision will not prevail, but it won’t either be easily extinguished.”

HuffPost first learned of Regnery’s death on Twitter, where some of the many avowed white nationalists permitted on that platform mourned their benefactor’s passing.

“Bill Regnery was a good man, who cared about the future, and, as they say, ‘did something’ about it,” tweeted Richard Spencer, the racist who led the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist organization Regnery founded.

Kevin MacDonald — perhaps America’s foremost anti-Semite, who authored a series of books claiming that Jews are genetically hard-wired to destroy Western civilization — also tweeted that he hoped Regnery would “rest in peace.”

MacDonald and Spencer are both members of the Charles Martel Society, a secretive organization of prominent American fascists founded and funded with nearly $90,000 donated from family charities and other tax exempt organizations affiliated with Regnery. (Nonprofits are not legally required to identify individual donors, so it’s possible Regnery personally donated much more.) The society publishes The Occidental Quarterly, a journal for which MacDonald serves as editor.

Other white nationalists who weren’t direct beneficiaries of Regnery’s largesse also expressed sadness at his passing.

Regnery, who went by Bill, was born Feb. 25, 1941, into a prominent Republican family.

His grandfather and namesake, textile magnate William H. Regnery I, was a founding member of the infamous America First Committee. The organization, led by anti-Semitic aviator Charles Lindbergh, opposed America’s intervention in World War II and counted many Nazi sympathizers among its ranks.

In 1947, Bill Regnery’s uncle, Henry, founded Regnery Publishing, which would grow into one of the most influential right-wing media dynasties in America. In its early years, the company published prominent conservative thinkers, including William F. Buckley, a racist and segregationist, and Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society, the anti-communist conspiracist group.

More recently it has published anti-Muslim bigots Robert Spencer and David Horowitz, and anti-immigrant crusaders Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, as well as books from Republican senators and other politicians ― including Donald Trump’s 2015 “Time to Get Tough.”

When Henry Regnery died in 1996, The New York Times eulogized him as “the godfather of modern conservatism.”

The Regnery family’s influence extended beyond the publishing world. Bill Regnery’s cousin Alfred Regnery was an official at the Department of Justice under President Ronald Reagan before eventually taking over the family publishing company.

Bill Regnery started showing an interest in politics while a student in the early 1960s at the University of Pennsylvania, where he launched a conservative student magazine. He never graduated from Penn, however, telling BuzzFeed News in an extensive 2017 interview that he was “still a couple credits short of a degree.”

He said he left to work for the 1964 presidential campaign of Republican Barry Goldwater, the far-right senator from Arizona. As BuzzFeed News described, Regnery claimed to have hatched a bizarre scheme to suppress Democratic votes on Election Day that year:

His most memorable effort, he claimed, was a convoluted scheme called Operation Dewdrop, intended to suppress Democratic voters in Philadelphia. At the time, he explained, the theory was that Democrats voted less in the rain. So on election day, he said, he tried to seed rain clouds by using dry ice and a twin-engine airplane. It didn’t rain, he recalled, but he burned his fingers from the dry ice canisters, a detail that helps add a ring of authenticity. Goldwater lost to Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.

Such bizarre failures and embarrassments seem to have marked Regnery’s life. According to Alfred and another cousin, Frederick Meyers, he nearly ruined the family’s textile business, and the family forced him to resign as president in 1981, court records show.

In the early 1990s, Regnery became disillusioned with mainstream American conservatism, seeing it as insufficiently concerned about race, according to a memoir he published in 2015, “Left Behind,” a copy of which Mother Jones reviewed. It horrified him that whites might one day be a minority in America.

In December 1999, Regnery convened a conference for prominent white nationalists at a hotel in Florida, where he declared his belief in breaking up the United States into a series of enclaves based on race and religion, a plan that would undoubtedly involve the violent ethnic cleansing of nonwhites.

“In closing, I charge the participants of this conference with the sacred task of beginning to secure for our children’s children a proper home,” Regnery said at the conference.

Two years later, in 2001, he founded the Charles Martel Society, named for the 8th century Frankish ruler the modern far-right often glorifies for defending Gaul, in modern-day France, from an invading Arab army. Regnery staffed the organization with a who’s who of infamous white supremacists, including Sam Francis, who once suggested “imposing adequate fertility controls on nonwhites.”

In 2004, Regnery tried to launch a whites-only dating website, an effort he hoped would increase the number of white families, “since the survival of our race depends upon our people marrying, reproducing and parenting.”

And in 2005, he founded the innocuous-sounding National Policy Institute (NPI), a white nationalist think tank on a mission “to elevate the consciousness of whites” by studying “the consequences of the ongoing influx that non-Western populations pose to our national identity.”

This paranoia over immigration from nonwhite countries into America and Europe — often called the “great replacement” theory — has animated multiple white supremacist massacres in recent years, including those in Pittsburgh, El Paso and Charleston, South Carolina.

According to a BuzzFeed News tally, nonprofits and other tax-exempt organizations affiliated with Regnery poured nearly half a million dollars into NPI’s coffers from 2005 to 2015. (Though William Regnery himself could have personally donated more.)

Regnery seemed content to be the moneyman behind NPI and the Charles Martel Society, working quietly behind the scenes.

“Where his relatives have headed corporations, held public office, and run high-profile civic groups, the younger William works hard to keep his activities out of the public eye,” the Southern Poverty Law Center once wrote of Regnery, adding that while his family members “worked to cultivate an air of mainstream respectability, William ran headlong into the fever swamps of white nationalism, where his familial and financial clout allowed him to set himself up as a major force shaping the entire movement.”

richard spencer CustomRegnery tapped Richard Spencer, right, to lead NPI in 2011. In Spencer, Regnery found someone who relished the limelight. Also from a wealthy conservative family, Spencer had pursued a doctorate at Duke University while making inroads among right-wing extremists, writing for numerous publications, including The American Conservative.

Spencer launched two websites, AlternativeRight.com and RadixJournal.com, which eventually became important propaganda outlets for the so-called alt-right, a term Spencer claims to have coined himself to describe a growing online coalition of racists, including trolls and shitposters, neo-Nazis and Klansmen, Holocaust deniers and suit-and-tie fascists.

When Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015, he often mimicked “alt-right” talking points, such as calling Mexican immigrants rapists and proposing a ban on Muslims entering the United States. The chief executive of Trump’s campaign, Steve Bannon, had previously run Breitbart News, which he described as a “platform for the alt-right.”

As Trump’s poll numbers rose and the size of his rallies swelled, the media clamored to explain what the alt-right was and often found a willing spokesman in Spencer, who gave interviews to almost anyone who would ask. He quickly became the face of the far right in America.

In 2016, Regnery boasted in a speech that tapping Spencer to lead the NPI “secured my place in history.”

Regnery and the American white nationalist movement were jubilant when Trump was elected president. At an NPI conference in Washington, D.C., a few weeks after the election, Spencer shouted “Hail Trump!” and “Hail victory!” — the English translation of the Nazi cry “Sieg Heil!”

His supporters responded with Nazi salutes.

Cassie Miller, a research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center, told HuffPost that Regnery’s “material contributions helped to build networks of racist activists and a large body of pseudoscientific literature that, he hoped, would legitimize his calls to build a white ethnostate.”

Miller said the two major organizations he built, the Charles Martel Society and the NPI, were “once highly influential” but noted that the NPI is now “in disarray.”

“It appears to no longer be operational, and its death knell likely came earlier this year when a judge ordered NPI to pay $2.4 million in damages to an Ohio man injured at the Unite the Right rally for his physical and emotional suffering,” Miller said.

Spencer and the NPI helped organize the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, where some 1,000 white nationalists marched through the streets as clashes became increasingly violent. In the most vicious attack, a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

washington post logoWashington Post, Dutch crime reporter Peter R. de Vries dies after being shot in the head, Sammy Westfall, July 16, 2021 (print ed.).  Peter R. de Vries, a Dutch crime journalist known for tireless investigations shedding light on the criminal underworld, has died after being shot in the head July 6. He was 64 years old.

De Vriespete de vries 2017, shown at left, in a 2017 photo, spent decades focused on crime, including cold-case murders and mob hits. He investigated more than 500 murder files and played a role in solving several of them. Despite regular death threats, he didn’t live in fear.

“Peter has lived by his conviction: ‘On bended knee is no way to be free’. We are unbelievably proud of him and at the same time inconsolable,” family members wrote in a statement, reported RTL News.

He was shot five times after leaving a TV studio in Amsterdam, where he regularly appeared as an expert on “RTL Boulevard,” a Dutch TV news program.

Videos shared on social media showed the journalist lying on the street bleeding from his head after the shooting. He died Thursday alongside loved ones, after spending days in the hospital in critical condition.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters photojournalist killed in Afghanistan, Ezzatullah Mehrdad, July 16, 2021. A Reuters photojournalist was danish siddiquikilled in southern Afghanistan while covering the fight between Afghan government forces and the Taliban, Reuters confirmed Friday.

Danish Siddiqui, right, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer from India, was embedded with Afghan forces attempting to retake a handful of districts that recently fell to the militants.

He described intense clashes and a near miss on his Twitter account. “I was lucky to be safe and capture the visual of one of the rockets hitting the armour plate overhead,” he tweeted Tuesday. Siddiqui was with an Afghan special forces unit attempting to retake the district of Spin Boldak, southeast of Kandahar city along the border with Pakistan. He was killed along with a senior Afghan officer, according to the Reuters report.

Daily Beast, NY Times Suspends Sports Reporter Who Failed to Disclose Her Michael Phelps Book Deal, Lachlan Cartwright and Lloyd Grove, July 16, daily beast logo2021. After her ethical conflict was revealed, Crouse was yanked off the paper’s Olympic coverage team and taken off the swimming beat, multiple sources told The Daily Beast.

The New York Times has suspended star sports journalist Karen Crouse, and her future at the paper is being heatedly debated among the paper’s top editors, three people familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast, following revelations she failed to disclose her deal to write a book with Michael Phelps while reporting on the Olympic swimming icon.

ny times logoLast month, Crouse wrote a glowing piece on Phelps’ retirement from the sport and his reinvention as a mentor for young athletes. As The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple first reported, the Times quietly added an editor's note to the piece on Tuesday revealing the ethical violation.

“After this article was published, editors learned that the reporter had entered an agreement to co-write a book with Michael Phelps,” the note read. “If editors had been aware of the conflict, the reporter would not have been given the assignment.”

The reporter inked her deal to co-author the book earlier this year but failed to inform Times management. In fact, Crouse’s editors only learned of the publishing deal after reading about it in Sports Illustrated and were “livid,” according to the people familiar with the situation.

Crouse, one of the foremost swimming reporters in the world who has extensively written about Phelps over the years, did not return a request for comment. Publishing insiders told The Daily Beast that she is likely to earn high six figures for the book that will detail Phelps’ mental-health struggles outside of the pool.

“Our guidelines state that no staff member may serve as a ghost writer or co-author for individuals who figure or are likely to figure in coverage they provide, edit, package or supervise,” a spokesperson for The New York Times told The Daily Beast. “As the editors’ note makes clear, the arrangement was a conflict of interest. This was a significant lapse in judgment. We are reviewing this matter and will take appropriate action.”

July 15

Capital Gazette, Capital Gazette shooting trial verdict: Jury finds gunman criminally responsible in killing five people in newsroom, Alex Maqnn and Lilly Price, July 15, 2021. Three years and 17 days after the mass shooting, an Anne Arundel County jury ruled Thursday the man who killed five Capital Gazette employees was sane, and therefore criminally responsible, during the attack that shocked the tight-jarrod ramosknit town of Annapolis and that he is culpable for his crimes.

Their verdict brings closer to a conclusion the legal case stemming from the June 28, 2018, murders of Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Six people survived the attack, which has been billed as the deadliest attack ever on an American newsroom.

Now, Jarrod Ramos, 41, will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison. At sentencing, prosecutors are seeking at least five life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess stood outside the courthouse Thursday and said prosecutors showed he was responsible and knew what he was doing. She said the verdict means everything to the community, which she said “has been seriously injured.”

JIP Editor's Note: Columnist Wayne Madsen has documented in the Wayne Madsen Report published social comments by the defendant voicing Trump-style language denouncing the so-called fake news and media.  

 ny times logoNew York Times, Book Reviews: Two Accounts of Donald Trump’s Final Year in Office, One More Vivid and Apt Than the Other, Dwight Garner, July 15, 2021. Two new books about the final year of Donald J. Trump’s presidency are entering the cultural bloodstream. The first, Landslide,”by the gadfly journalist Michael Wolff, is the one to leap upon, even though the second, I Alone Can Fix It, from the Washington Post journalists Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker, is vastly more earnest and diligent, to a fault.

michael wolff landslideThis is Wolff’s third book about Trump in as many years. It’s Leonnig and Rucker’s second, after the excellent A Very Stable Genius, which appeared in early 2020. This one, alas, reads like 300 daily newspaper articles taped together so that they resemble an inky Kerouacian scroll. Each article longs to jump to Page A28 on a different scroll, in another room.

Perhaps it’s not the authors’ fault that I Alone Can Fix It is grueling. It may be that a reader, having survived Covid-19, “stop the steal” and the bear-spray wielders, and feeling carol leonnig philip rucker trump2 covera certain amount of relief — relief, John Lanchester has said, is the most powerful emotion — is uneager to rummage so soon through a dense, just-the-facts scrapbook of a dismal year.

A primary and not insignificant achievement in I Alone Can Fix It, however, is its bravura introduction of a new American hero, a man who has heretofore not received a great deal of attention: Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A better title for this book might have been “Mr. Milley Goes to Washington.”

There tend not to be a lot of people to root for in Trump books. Reading them is like watching WWE fights in which all the wrestlers are heels, smashing each other with folding chairs. Milley provides Leonnig and Rucker not just with an adult in the room, but a human being with a command of facts, a long view of history, a strong jaw and a moral center.

Milley (shown at right in uniform in a previous post as Army chief of staff) explains the Constitution to Trump. He delivers cinematic, Eisenhower-worthy monologues, such as: “Everything’s going to be OK. We’re going to have a peaceful transfer of power. We’re going to land this plane safely. This is America.” In one meeting he tells the egregious Stephen Miller to “shut the [expletive] up.”

mark milley army chief of staffWe were, Milley suggests, closer than we knew to the precipice. A crucial moment in this book details the final weeks of Trump’s presidency, when the stitching was really coming off the ball. Milley told aides he feared a coup, and, Leonnig and Rucker write, “saw parallels between Trump’s rhetoric of election fraud and Adolf Hitler’s insistence to his followers at the Nuremberg rallies that he was both a victim and their savior.” Milley told aides: “This is a Reichstag moment.”

About the Proud Boys and their ilk, he tells military and law enforcement leaders: “These are the same people we fought in World War II.”

There’s a vast amount more in I Alone Can Fix It. It’s an almost day-by-day accounting of Trump’s last year in office, from the fumbled Covid response to the second impeachment to Rudy Giuliani’s public self-immolations. There are apocalyptic scenes of Trump dressing down and humiliating those around him, including former Attorney General William P. Barr.

A final scene worth mentioning occurred during the siege on January 6. The congresswoman Liz Cheney called Milley the following day to check in. She described being with the Trump dead-ender Representative Jim Jordan during the attack on the Capitol, and how he said to her, “We need to get the ladies away from the aisle. Let me help you.” Cheney responded, the authors write, by slapping his hand away and telling him, “Get away from me. You [expletive] did this.”

Wolff has scenes Leonnig and Rucker don’t. These include election night details, such as the freak-out in Trump world when Fox News called Arizona early for Biden. Wolff, who wrote a biography of Rupert Murdoch, describes the frantic phone calls that flew back and forth before the word came down from the old Dirty Digger himself: “[Expletive] him.”

In this accounting, Trump belittles his followers. “Trump often expressed puzzlement over who these people were,” Wolff writes, “their low-rent ‘trailer camp’ bearing and their ‘get-ups,’ once joking that he should have invested in a chain of tattoo parlors and shaking his head about ‘the great unwashed.’”

July 14

washington post logotucker carlsonWashington Post, How Tucker Carlson became the voice of White grievance, Michael Kranish, July 14, 2021. ith the defeat of former president Donald Trump and the death of Rush Limbaugh, the Fox News host has emerged as a dominant force shaping a Republican Party energized by racial resentment.

washington post logoWashington Post, Iranian intelligence agents plotted brazen abduction of Brooklyn journalist, U.S. prosecutors say, Rachel Pannett, July 14, 2021.Iranian intelligence agents plotted to abduct an Iranian American journalist living in Brooklyn and spirit her away to the Middle Eastern country, possibly via a daring maritime evacuation, the Justice Department alleged in an indictment unsealed Tuesday.

Four Iranians were charged in federal court in Manhattan with conspiring to kidnap the exiled journalist and women’s rights activist, Masih Alinejad, who has long been critical of the regime in Tehran. Alinejad was not identified by prosecutors, but she confirmed on Twitter that she was the intended target.

“I am grateful to FBI for foiling the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry’s plot to kidnap me. This plot was orchestrated under Rouhani,” she wrote on Tuesday, referring to outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Several exiled Iranian dissidents have recently disappeared in mysterious circumstances, though an abduction on U.S. soil would have been especially brazen. In her tweet, Alinejad referred to Ruhollah Zam, a journalist who lived in exile in France but was lured to Iraq in 2019; he was later executed. She also noted the case of Jamshid Sharmahd, a California-based member of an Iranian militant opposition group who was abducted last year while traveling abroad and is now in an Iranian prison.

Alinejad, a longtime critic of the theocratic government in Tehran, received a human rights award in Geneva in 2015 for creating a Facebook page inviting women in Iran, where hijabs are mandatory, to post pictures of themselves without their headscarves. She is a prominent figure on Farsi-language satellite channels abroad that critically view Iran, according to the Associated Press.

 ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P. Lawmakers Question Amazon’s Connections on Pentagon Contract, Kenneth P. Vogel and Kate Conger, July 14, 2021 (print ed.). Newly released emails show praise of Amazon among top Defense Department officials during the Trump administration amid competition for a $10 billion award.

amazon logo smallAs the Defense Department prepares to solicit bids for cloud-computing work that could yield billions of dollars for Amazon, members of Congress are raising new questions about the company’s efforts to win a $10 billion contract during the Trump administration.

Previously unreleased emails show that Pentagon officials in 2017 and 2018 lavished praise on several of the tech executives whose companies expressed interest in the original contract, especially Amazon, while concerns about the company’s access appear to have been glossed over, according to the emails, other documents and interviews.

Two Republican lawmakers who have pushed to rein in the dominance of Amazon and other tech companies in consumer markets are seizing on the emails as evidence that Amazon unfairly used its influence in competing for taxpayer-funded contracts.

Representative Ken Buck of Colorado and Senator Mike Lee of Utah called for Amazon to testify under oath about “whether it tried to improperly influence the largest federal contract in history,” the $10 billion project called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, that would move the Pentagon’s computer networks into the cloud.

July 13 

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Investigation: Bill O’Reilly’s Accuser Finally Breaks Her Silence, Diana Falzone and Lloyd Grove, July 13, 2021. In an exclusive interview, Andrea Mackris reveals the full scope of Bill O’Reilly’s alleged harassment of her—and why she doesn’t care if telling all means blowing up her NDA.

“This is as good as it gets!” New York litigator David Ratner shouted at his client, Andrea Mackris, slapping both hands on the highly polished conference table. “Take the money,” Ratner yelled, “and move on with your life!”

andrea mackrisThat was almost 17 years ago, on the evening of Oct. 28, 2004, in the imposing boardroom of celebrity lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz, on an upper floor of the Paramount Building boasting vertiginous views of Manhattan.

Mackris, right, then a 33-year-old Fox News producer on the cusp of a promising career, didn’t want to accept her boss Bill O’Reilly’s offer to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit against him for $9 million—$3 million of which would be pocketed by her legal team, Ratner and Benedict Morelli.

fox news logo SmallThe money, along with a draconian non-disclosure agreement that Mackris said she has no memory of being shown until more than a decade later, was designed to buy her eternal silence about her headline-making lawsuit’s allegations. Backed up by audio recordings of O’Reilly’s late-night phone calls, the suit detailed the Fox News star’s persistent and menacing verbal assaults during her nearly four years of working for him. They included unwelcome demands for phone sex and mutual masturbation, as well as O’Reilly’s infamous alleged fantasy of soaping her down in the shower with either a “loofah” or a “falafel thing.”

Today, Mackris recalls to The Daily Beast for the first time intimate and graphic details of O'Reilly’s alleged harassment, including lewd, menacing telephone calls and conversations in which she says he forced her to listen to his sexual fantasies about her.

 

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot
The Guardian, Ken Starr helped Jeffrey Epstein with ‘scorched-earth’ campaign, book claims, Ed Pilkington, July 13, 2021. Book by Miami Herald journalist details extraordinary efforts by special prosecutor who hounded Bill Clinton to aid sex trafficker.

Ken Starr, below, the lawyer who hounded Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, waged a “scorched-earth” legal campaign to persuade federal ken starr baylorprosecutors to drop a sex-trafficking case against the billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein relating to the abuse of multiple underaged girls, according to a new book.

In Perversion of Justice, the Miami Herald reporter Julie K Brown (shown above in an interview screenshot) writes about Starr’s role in securing the secret 2008 sweetheart deal that granted Epstein (shown above in a file photo) effective immunity from federal prosecution. The author, who is credited with blowing open the cover-up, calls Starr a “fixer” who “used his political connections in the White House to get the Justice Department to review Epstein’s case”.

The book says that emails and letters sent by Starr and Epstein’s then criminal defense lawyer Jay Lefkowitz show that the duo were “campaigning to pressure the Justice Department to drop the case”. Starr had been brought into “center stage” of Epstein’s legal team because of his connections in Washington to the Bush administration.

Perversion of Justice will be published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.

When Epstein’s lawyers appeared to be failing in their pressure campaign, with senior DoJ officials concluding that Epstein was ripe for federal prosecution, Starr pulled out the stops. Brown discloses that he wrote an eight-page letter to Mark Filip, who had just been confirmed as deputy US attorney general, the second most powerful prosecutor in the country.

Filip was a former colleague of Starr’s at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis. Brown writes that Starr deployed “dramatic language” in the letter reminiscent of the Starr report, his lurid and salacious case against Clinton that triggered the president’s 1998 impeachment.

perversion of justice miami herald logoIn the letter Starr begins affably, invoking the “finest traditions” of fairness and integrity of the DoJ. He then goes on to deliver what Brown calls a “brutal punch”, accusing prosecutors involved in the Epstein case of misconduct in trying to engineer a plea deal with the billionaire that would benefit their friends.

Brown reports that Epstein’s legal team also went after Marie Villafaña, the lead federal prosecutor in the case, accusing her of similarly distorting negotiations to benefit a friend of her boyfriend – an allegation she denied.

Brown cites an unnamed prosecutor linked to the 2008 case who said of the legal campaign in which Starr was central that “it was a scorched-earth defense like I had never seen before. Marie broke her back trying to do the right thing, but someone was always telling her to back off.”

The prosecutor added that someone in Washington – the book does not specify who – was “calling the shots on the case”. Villafaña warned fellow prosecutors at the time that Epstein was probably still abusing underaged girls, but according to the unnamed prosecutor quoted by Brown “it was clear that she had to find a way to strike a deal because a decision had already been made not to prosecute Epstein.”

The outcome of this process was a secret deal that only became public years later, largely through Brown’s own reporting. Given the number of victims and the severity of the allegations, Epstein got off exceptionally lightly with a sentence that saw him serve just 13 months in jail. During his sentence, Epstein was allowed out to work in his private office for 12 hours a day, six days a week, in a breach of jail norms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amid calls to defund VMI, superintendent calls alleged attacks on female cadets ‘unacceptable,’ Ian Shapira, July 13, 2021.  Cedric Wins responded to a Post report about sex assaults and misogyny at Virginia Military Institute that prompted demands for the state to defund the school.

virginia military institute logoThe new superintendent of Virginia Military Institute issued a withering warning to the school’s 1,700 students Monday night, condemning online attacks and sexual assaults against female cadets chronicled by The Washington Post earlier that day.

“The allegations contained within the story are unacceptable of any VMI cadet and no one — VMI cadet, faculty, staff, nor civilian — should be subjected to the type of behavior detailed in the article,” retired Army Maj. General Cedric Wins wrote in an email to the student body. “The fact that this type of behavior is reported to have come from individuals who have worn the VMI uniform is repugnant.”

Derision, misogyny, sexual assault: VMI women face attacks on campus and online

More than a dozen women at VMI described an atmosphere of hostility at the nation’s oldest state-supported military college and an expectation of backlash from male cadets if they reported being groped or raped. Five of the women were sexually assaulted at VMI. And female cadets are targets of constant ridicule on an anonymous, widely used social media app called Jodel, where they are derided as “shedets” or “sheeds.” Male students unleashed a torrent of abuse aimed at Kasey Meredith after the school announced in the spring that she would be the first woman to lead the Corps of Cadets in VMI’s 182-year-old history.

The Post’s article led to outrage online and consternation within VMI’s alumni community. On Twitter, the hashtag #DefundVMI circulated. The school received about $21.6 million in state funding for fiscal 2022 — a 12 percent increase from the previous year — which follows a recent allotment of $33 million toward a new aquatics center.

VMI didn’t accept women at its Lexington campus until 1997, and only after a Supreme Court decision compelled it to do so. Since then, the college’s treatment of women, who make up just 13 percent of the student body, has come under investigation by the U.S. Education Department and this year by the state of Virginia.

July 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Outbreaks Among Unvaccinated, Fox News Hosts Smear Shots, Tiffany Hsu, July 12, 2021 (print ed.). rupert murdoch 2011 shankbone Back in December, before the queen of England and the president-elect of the United States had their turns, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, right, received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Afterward, he urged everyone else to get it, too.

Since then, a different message has been a repeated refrain on the prime-time shows hosted by Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham on Mr. Murdoch’s Fox News Channel — a message at odds with the recommendations of health experts, even as the virus’s Delta variant and other mutations fuel outbreaks in areas where vaccination rates are below the national average.

fox news logo SmallMr. Carlson, Ms. Ingraham and guests on their programs have said on the air that the vaccines could be dangerous; that people are justified in refusing them; and that public authorities have overstepped in their attempts to deliver them.

Mr. Carlson and Ms. Ingraham last week criticized a plan by the Biden administration to increase vaccinations by having health care workers and volunteers go door to door to try to persuade the reluctant to get shots.

“Going door-to-door?” Ms. Ingraham said. “This is creepy stuff.”

Mr. Carlson, the highest-rated Fox News host, with an average of 2.9 million viewers, said the Biden plan was an attempt to “force people to take medicine they don’t want or need.” He called the initiative “the greatest scandal in my lifetime, by far.”

Mr. Carlson’s guest on that episode, the veteran Fox News political analyst Brit Hume, pushed back slightly, saying, “What they’re trying to do is make it as easy as possible for people to get the vaccine and, for people who are hesitant, to perhaps encourage them that they have nothing to fear.” Mr. Hume was quick to add that “vaccines do have side effects” and said those who are hesitant “should be respected.”

Opposition to vaccines was once relegated to the fringes of American politics, and the rhetoric on Fox News has coincided with efforts by right-wing extremists to bash vaccination efforts.

July 11 

Editor's Note: The death on July 7 of author and longtime Harvard University fellow Priscilla Johnson McMillan has prompted two starkly different reactions summarized below, both linked to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy and media coverage then and now. Those different views are summarized below.

For mainstream publications, such as the Washington Post in its McMillan obituary excerpted below, she provided go-to expertise that the 1964 Warren Commission was correct in concluding that accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole killer of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, and that Oswald had no co-conspirators or other accomplices.

McMillan, below, known by her maiden name Priscilla Johnson at the time, had been extensively interviewed by the Warren Commission staff in 1964, based in part on her rare if not unique priscilla johnson mcmillan headshot recentvantage point of having known Kennedy as one his senate staffers in the early 1950s and then interviewing Oswald in Moscow in 1959 after he claimed he wanted to defect from the United States.

Holder of a master’s degree from Harvard University in Soviet studies and later a translator working for the U.S. embassy in Moscow, Johnson McMillan's reputation as an expert on the Oswalds and the assassination was enhanced by her exclusive research access to Oswald’s widow Marina Oswald beginning in 1964, resulting in a 1977 biography, Marina and Lee, right, priscilla johnson mcmillan me lee resized IMG 8031published by the prestigious Harper & Row. It had previously published her translation of letters by Svetlana Alliluyeva, daughter of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

For many years, she was an Associate at the Russian Research Center at Harvard — and was published in such prestigious periodicals as the New York Times and Harper’s.

For critics of the Warren Report such as those excerpted below, she was a cog in the U.S. Cold War intelligence apparatus that has consistently sought to misinform the public about the Oswalds and the Kennedy assassination, in part to obscure the true reasons for the murder and responsibility for the action and cover-up  continuing to the present.

In that view, articulated below by encyclopedia creator John Simkin and attorney Bill Simpich, each authors of JFK-related books, many of McMillan’s supposed breakthrough career achievements were orchestrated in advance to position her as an “expert” and / or were provided to her as rewards for her continued cooperation in advancing false history.

These critics draw for their conclusions on the vast literature about the assassination that for decades has persuaded at least sixty percent of the American public and sometimes even higher percentages, not to believe the Warren Report's main findings, according to public opinion polls. An estimated three thousand books have been published in whole or part about the assassination, plus some five million declassified U.S. documents, according to Washington attorney James Lesar, who along with his late partner Bernard “Bud” Fensterwald obtained many of those documents via Freedom of Information Act litigation and helped various archive centers make them available. 

Among key disclosures: Kennedy had forced the resignations of the three top CIA leaders, including pioneering and well-connected Director Allen Dulles, as well as the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff because of Kennedy's fury at their duplicitious and in his view war-mongering policies seeking a U.S. invasion of Cuba without presidential approval, among other goals. Dulles would, of course, not only go on to join the seven-member Warren Commission but would be its most influential member because of his presumed expertise and the fact that he did not hold a fulltime job elsewhere, as did U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren, for whom the commission was named but who, like other commissioners, seldom had time to hear witnesses talking primarily to staff.

allen dulles time coverOne shocking disclosure from declassified documents is the transcript of a 1964 super-secret closed session of commissioners and their chief counsel. During it, Dulles, portrayed separately on a Time Magazine cover, persuaded the others to keep secret forever what he described as unfounded reports from Dallas authorities that Oswald had been working as a covert government asset. Time's sister publication, led at the time by psychological warfare and propaganda expert Charles "CD" Jackson, would prove to be an important player in the cover-up by acquiring and suppressing the Zapruder film of the assassination and acquiring exclusive rights to Marina Oswald's memoirs and then never providing a go-ahead to publish.

Much more information about such media manipulation and suppression is now available:

Oswald, a U.S. Marine who had worked as a radar technician in Japan on the ultra-secret 1950s U-2 spy flights over China and the Soviet Union, had travelled in 1959 to the Soviet Union in what some regard as, in effect, a secret assignment from the U.S. government to pretend to defect and thereby infiltrate the enemy. Adding credence to such an interpretation were his many interactions with anti-communist FBI and military upon his return to the United States in 1962, including his remarkable six months of work on classified U.S. intelligence materials for the contractor Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall during the height of near-nuclear war against the Soviet Union during the so-called Cuban Missile Crisis that year. 

That was part of a pattern whereby Oswald, notorious in the public view as a supposed Marxist and purported defector, was hired upon his return to the United States by entities well-known for their fierce anti-lee harvey oswald uniformcommunism. These 1960s Oswald employers included the Reilly Coffee Company in New Orleans and the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas. The latter business was part of the defense contracting empire of D.H. Byrd, owner of the LTV warplane manufacturing company. Byrd, a close friend of then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, had founded the Civil Air Patrol, which during the 1950s helped guide patriotic teenagers into military careers. Oswald had been a Civil Air Patrol member in New Orleans. The media seldom show Oswald in his Civil Air Patrol or Marine uniforms, as at right, and instead typically portray him as in mug shots or other crime-linked photos looking arrogant, haggard or otherwise unpleasant.

Among critics of the Warren Commission, many of whom like Simkin and Simpich share their insights on a near-daily confidential, invitation-only email exchange that includes experts who are well-known pro-Commission advocates, it remains an open and divisive question whether Oswald played a role in assassination operations orchestrated by others or was a complete patsy who never fired a shot.

Whatever the case on that, his widow's role also has come under great scrutiny, including her unsuccessful efforts to recant her original testimony and cooperation with McMillan. Author Dick Russell describes in his On the Trail of the JFK Assassins (Skyhorse, 2008) how she sought to correct the record in the early 1990s, saying that she had been frightened into cooperating in a "frame-up" of her husband, who she described as innocent and as having "loved President Kennedy."

Russell's account of her call to him included the following.

"I am completely helpless," she said, continuing, "It is not important to me who did the shooting but the reasons behind it and the cover-up. This is not good for the nation. America is dying because this was allowed to happen thirty years ago. I cannot understand the apathy."

dickrussellHer call to Russell, left, had come because he had authored The Man Who Knew Too Much (Carroll & Graf, 1992), which alleges that deep cover intelligence agent Richard Case Nagell had been assigned by the Soviets to kill Oswald in 1963 to stop the assassination plot but chose instead to warn both the FBI and CIA and avoid further involvement by creating a disturbance in El Paso so that he would be arrested and held there in the fall of 1963. Nagell found himself imprisoned instead for years in maximum security conditions for harmlessly discharging a gun into a bank ceiling and then awaiting arrest. Nagell died in suspicious circumstances in 1995 once he cooperated with Russell in limited fashion as investigative interest revived in the assassination following Oliver Stone's blockbuster film JFK

Russell arranged for Marina Oswald to fly from Dallas to Boston to meet privately with eminent lawyers and researchers, who included Jim Lesar and his colleague Daniel Alcorn, founders and still leaders of the Assassination Archives Research Center in Washingon, D.C. 

But Russell reported in his book a chapter-length account of how these sympathetic authors and legal experts advised after hearing her out that her options were so limited as to be almost impossible. She concluded that her search for truth and justice would be without legal remedy even if she argued that she, a single mother of two young children in a foreign land, had been intimidated into cooperating in a false narrative. 

"Some of the finest legal minds in the country had come together, with the widow of the accused assassin" Russell wrote, "to find some way -- any way -- to reopen the case. Thirty years after the fact, it seemed pretty hopeless, short of someone's deathbed confession."  

Yet many critics still regard it as their civic obligation to challenge the official story.

They argue that certain major academic institutions, publishers and news outlets damage their credibility by touting those like McMillan almost uncritically and without noting their demonstrable connections to an intelligence sector that continues to thwart investigations of Kennedy's death despite such measures as the JFK Records Act passed three decades ago requiring full release of assassination records. The Biden Administration is scheduled to release a final tranche of the most sensitive documents this fall, unless release is again postponed as much of it was four years ago by the Trump Administration. 

You can judge the facts for yourself based on the material below.

-- Andrew Kreig

Justice Integrity Project Editor

Author, attorney and publisher of Oswald: Russian Episode by Ernst Titovets, M.D., Ph.D. (Eagle View Books, 2021). The 500-page illustrated memoir by Oswald's English-speaking close friend in the Soviet Union, a guest at the wedding of Lee and Marina Oswald and friend during their courtship, was first published privately in 2010. Dr. Titovets, who is granting interviews on the book and who is still publishing peer-reviewed research in his field of brain science, argues that the Oswald he knew was an idealist who never would have killed anyone, much less Kennedy, a leader he admired. 

 

lee harvey oswald minsk radio factory friends no glasses

Lee Harvey Oswald, an accused but never convicted assassin of President John F. Kennedy, is shown at front center in an undated 1960 photo with fellow workers in a radio factory in Minsk, in the Soviet Union. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Priscilla Johnson McMillan, historian who knew both JFK and Oswald, dies at 92, Harrison Smith, July 10 (print ed.). Just out of graduate school in 1953, Priscilla Johnson McMillan joined the Senate staff of John F. Kennedy, then a newly elected Democrat from Massachusetts. He was “mesmerizing,” she later said; while she worked only briefly on Capitol Hill, she visited him in the hospital when he underwent spinal surgeries, and posed as one of his sisters to get past a line of nurses and bring newspapers to his bedside.

Mrs. McMillan, who was then known as Priscilla Johnson, later went into journalism and moved to Moscow, where she drew on her fluency in Russian to file stories for the North American Newspaper Alliance. In November 1959, a friend at the U.S. Embassy mentioned that “a boy named Oswald” was in town trying to defect. He was staying at her hotel, the Metropol, where she spent five hours interviewing him over tea.

priscilla johnson mcmillan recentThe young man seemed excited, nervous, a little frightened. He was 20, a former Marine with a light Southern accent, and wanted to talk about Marxist economics and complain about the U.S. Embassy, which he said had tried to dissuade him from renouncing his citizenship. “I want to give people in the United States something to think about,” he said.

Four years later, on Nov. 22, 1963, Mrs. McMillan was suddenly jolted back to their conversation, not long after learning that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. Walking through Harvard Square, near the university where she was a visiting scholar, a friend told her that authorities had arrested the shooter. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald.

“My God,” Mrs. McMillan recalled saying. “I know that boy.”

Indeed, she was one of the only people who knew both Kennedy and his killer, who died two days later after being shot by nightclub owner Jack Ruby in the basement of Dallas police headquarters. Their deaths launched her on a 14-year odyssey, as she tried to find out why the quiet young man she met in Moscow had decided to shoot the president.

Mrs. McMillan persuaded Oswald’s Soviet-born widow, Marina, to sit for an exclusive book interview in exchange for a share of the royalties. They wound up speaking for nearly seven months, providing Mrs. McMillan with the core of Marina and Lee (1977), a critically acclaimed account of the Kennedy assassination, told through the lens of Oswald and his wife.

In a review for the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Powers wrote that Mrs. McMillan’s book “achieves with art what the Warren Commission failed to do with its report,” offering a persuasive case that Oswald acted alone as the assassin.

priscilla johnson mcmillan me lee resized IMG 8031“It is far better than any book about Kennedy,” he added, “with the unsettling result that the assassination is experienced from the wrong end. . . . If you can find the heart to read it, you may finally begin to forget the phantom gunmen on the grassy knoll.”

Mrs. McMillan, who went on to an accomplished career as a historian of the Cold War and U.S. nuclear weapons policy, was 92 when she died July 7 at her home in Cambridge, Mass. Her health had declined after a fall about eight weeks ago, said her niece and biographer, Holly-Katharine Johnson.

While writing her Oswald book, Mrs. McMillan translated Twenty Letters to a Friend, a 1967 memoir by Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, who had defected to the United States earlier that year. She later spent more than two decades researching and writing The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer (2005), about the father of the atomic bomb, whose career unraveled after he was accused of being a Soviet spy during the McCarthy era.

But she remained best known for her book on Oswald. His widow, who remarried and went by Marina Oswald Porter, described him as a fame-obsessed liar with a short temper and violent mood swings. “He was a lonely person,” she told Mrs. McMillan. “He trusted no one. He was too sick. It was the fantasy of a sick person, to get attention only for himself.”

By the time Mrs. McMillan published her book, conspiracy theories had proliferated about the killing. There seemed to be little appetite for her relatively straightforward account of a wayward, self-described Marxist; sales were modest, although Marina and Lee was reissued in 2013.

“The argument over Kennedy was a kind of national madness for decades — but that is largely over now, and I would argue that Priscilla’s book stands firm as balanced and persuasive,” Powers wrote in an email. Mrs. McMillan’s interviews with Marina and Lee Harvey Oswald, he added, formed a key part of the historical record.

“Imagine that some Roman had done the same with Brutus before the assassination of Julius Caesar, and then followed it with a similar history of the countdown to the killing — if you wanted to understand the politics and the life of Rome in those years, that is where you would start.”

Priscilla Mary Post Johnson was born in Glen Cove, N.Y., on July 19, 1928, and raised in nearby Locust Valley, on the North Shore of Long Island. Her father was a financier who inherited a textile company, and her mother was a homemaker.

After graduating from the private Brearley School in Manhattan, she studied Russian at Bryn Mawr College, receiving a bachelor’s degree in 1950. Three years later, she earned a master’s in Russian studies from Radcliffe College, now part of Harvard.

Mrs. McMillan translated Russian newspaper articles before traveling to the Soviet Union for the first time, in 1955, paying her way by working as a translator for the New York Time. In Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, she palled around with newspaper columnist Leonard Lyons and novelist Truman Capote, who recounted some of their experiences in a 1956 nonfiction book, The Muses Are Heard.

In 1966, she married George McMillan, an author and journalism instructor. They later divorced. She had no immediate survivors but had a vast “chosen family,” often letting near-strangers and mutual friends stay at her home in Cambridge, where she was an associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies.

“More than anyone I’ve ever met, she created something like a 19th-century European salon at her home,” said Steven Aftergood, the director of the Government Secrecy Project at the Federation of American Scientists. “You’d never know who you’d meet — government officials, academics, writers, artists. It was a kind of intellectual chemistry experiment.”

In recent years, Marina Oswald insisted that her husband was actually innocent, and blamed the Mafia and CIA for Kennedy’s killing. Mrs. McMillan remained convinced that Oswald acted alone, telling the Atlantic that “Marina’s change of views may stem from her daughters’ reluctance to accept their father as the assassin.”

She had long believed that the assassination would prompt conspiracy theories, in part for psychological reasons. “The killing of a President, or a king or father, is the hardest of all crimes for men to deal with,” she wrote in a 1975 Washington Post essay. “As Freud pointed out, it is this crime that stirs the deepest guilt and anxiety. . . . No matter what steps are taken, what investigation may be authorized or what autopsy material made public, I suspect that the doubts about President Kennedy’s murder are going to be with us forever.”

Priscilla Johnson (later McMillan) is shown at left with Marina Oswald, widow of Lee Harvey Oswald, in a 1964 photo in Santa Fe, New Mexico. McMillan had met her husband in the Soviet Union and later authored a book, Marina and Lee, published by Harper & Row in 1977.

Priscilla Johnson (later McMillan) is shown at left with Marina Oswald, right, widow of Lee Harvey Oswald, in a 1964 photo in Santa Fe, New Mexico. McMillan had met her husband Lee Oswald in the Soviet Union in 1959 and later authored a book, "Marina and Lee," published by Harper & Row in 1977.

Spartacus Educational, Encyclopedia: Priscilla Johnson McMillan, John Simkin (The UK-based researcher, right, created the Spartacus Educational online encyclopedia and authored the book john simkinAssassination of John F. Kennedy, shown below at left), updated July 10, 2021. The author of Marina and Lee (1977) has died after a fall at her home in Cambridge, Massachusetts (7 July, 2021).

In July 1964 Johnson moved to Texas and befriended Marina Oswald, and the two spent considerable time together. In November 1964, Johnson signed a contract with Harper & Row for a book to be published about the Oswalds. The book was expected to be published in 1965. However, Marina and Lee did not appear until 1977. In the book, she argued that Oswald had assassinated the president and had acted alone.

In an interview published 36 years later, she said: "I'm just as sure now as I was then that he did it, and also that he couldn't have done it with anybody else. He wasn't somebody who, in his life, had ever done anything with anybody else."

john simkin coverIn the article that appears in Wikipedia, nothing is said about her CIA background. This has been revealed in recent years by declassified CIA files. While studying Russian literature at Radcliffe College, Harvard University, she became a member of the United World Federalists, an organization run by Cord Meyer. After graduating with a master's degree in 1952 she applied to join the CIA.

According to CIA files she was rejected because some of her associates would require more investigation. The document was signed by Cord Meyer, below right, who was now chief of CIA Investigations and Operational Support. On 17th March 1953, W. A. Osborne, sent a memo to Sheffield Edwards, head of CIA security, that after checking out cord meyerJohnson's associates he "recommended approval." However, on 23rd March he sent another memo saying that "in light of her activities in the United World Federalists" he now "recommended that she be disapproved".

In 1953, Johnson went to work for Senator John F. Kennedy. (It is claimed that Johnson was the only person who knew both JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald). The following year she worked as a translator for the Digest of Soviet Press. In 1955, Johnson moved to the Soviet Union where she worked as a translator for the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. This time, the CIA made no objection to Johnson having access to classified information.

Priscilla Johnson returned to the United States in April 1957. The CIA continued to take an interest in Johnson. In a CIA document dated 23rd August 1957, it stated that during the Second World War she was "utilized by OSO (Office of Special Operations) in 1943 and 1944". As she was only 15 at the time, this is clearly inaccurate. John M. Newman has speculated that Johnson was being given a cover story of someone who had a "good security record".

In February 1958, Johnson travelled to Cairo. The following month she was in Paris. According to her own testimony she worked for "someone I knew either for Radio Liberty or the Congress for Cultural Freedom." While in France she applied to the USSR consulate to go to the Soviet Union. On 6th May 1958, the Chief of CI/OA submitted a request for operational approval on Johnson. The operation for which she was being considered is still classified.

Johnson arrived in Moscow for the third time on 4th July 1958. She did not stay for long and returned to the United States. Soon afterwards she obtained employment as a reporter for the North American News Alliance (NANA). Johnson arrived back in Moscow soon after Arline Mosby had interviewed Lee Harvey Oswald (13th November 1959).

On her arrival Johnson checked into the same hotel as Osward. The following day, she visited the American Embassy to pick up her mail (16th November 1959). According to Johnson, John McVickar approached her and told her that "there's a guy in your hotel who wants to defect, and he won't talk to any of us here". She later told the Warren Commission: "John McVickar said she was refusing to talk to journalists. So I thought that it might be an exclusive, for one thing, and he was right in my hotel, for another." As Johnson was leaving the American Embassy McVickar told her "to remember she was an American."

lee harvey oswald minskLee Harvey Oswald, shown at left in a photo from that period, agreed to be interviewed by Priscilla Johnson. She later testified that they talked from between nine until one or two in the morning. Oswald told her: "Once having been assured by the Russians that I would not have to return to the United States, come what may, I assumed it would be safe for me to give my side of the story."

Johnson's article appeared in the Washington Evening Star. Surprisingly, the article did not include Oswald's threat to reveal radar secrets. Nor was it mentioned in any other article or book published by Johnson on Oswald. However, under oath before the Warren Commission, she admitted that Oswald had told her that "he hoped his experience as a radar operator would make him more desirable to them (the Soviets)".

cia logoOn 11th December 1962, a CIA memo written by Donald Jameson (declassified in August 1993) reported: "I think that Miss Johnson can be encouraged to write pretty much the articles we want. It will require a little more contact and discussion, but I think she could come around... Basically, if approached with sympathy in the cause she considers most vital, I believe she would be interested in helping us in many ways. It would be important to avoid making her think that she was being used as a propaganda tool and expected to write what she is told."

After the assassination of JFK Johnson wrote an article for the Boston Globe where she described Lee Harvey Oswald as a classic example of an "embittered psychological loner". She added: "I soon came to feel that this boy was of the stuff of which fanatics are made."

Another CIA document dated dated 5th February 1964, reports on a 11-hour meeting with Johnson. The main objective of the meeting was to debrief Johnson "on her flaps with the Soviets when she was in the USSR, notably at the time of her last exit." She was also asked if she "would be interested in writing articles for Soviet publications." Gary Coit, the CIA officer who conducted the interview with Johnson reported that "no effort was made to attempt to force the issue of a debriefing on her contacts". However, Coit told her he would "probably be back to see her from time to time to see what she knows about specific persons whose names might come up, and she at least nodded assent to this."

Priscilla Johnson’s Wikipedia article points out she married George McMillan in 1965. He is described as a freelance writer. However, in his obituary in the New York Times in 1985 it states he was also the author of The Making of an Assassin (1976), a book that claims that James Earl Ray worked alone in the killing of Martin Luther King Jr.

bill simpichBook Excerpt, "The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend," Bill  Simpich, a San Francisco attorney and historian shown at right, provided this perspective via email, on July 10, 2021. "I offer evidence that Priscilla was not only used by the CIA as a 'spotter,' but that they confused the records on her for purposes of cover. Now that she is deceased, more records will emerge. We should stay tuned."

The Twelve Who Built the Oswald Legend is the back story to the Simpich book State Secret: Wiretapping in Mexico City, Double Agents, and the Framing of Lee Oswald, published online by the Mary Ferrell Foundation and available for free. Simpich introduces what he calls the back story, or epilogue, this way:

Let's wrap up the story of the twelve who built the Oswald legend -- and see how we can make this story plain in the modern world.

bill simpich state secret 12 who built the legendThis wrap-up will focus on the milieu of the legend makers and Oswald, not on those that planned 11/22. (For my thoughts on that subject, see the Conclusion of State Secret.) Here's my analysis, based on the facts as I see them.

I think these thoughts also offer a path toward historical resolution of the JFK case. This case is not nearly as mysterious as many people like to portray it. The most important thing to do? Take a flinty-eyed look at the people around people like the Paines [Ruth Paine and her husband Michael]. People leading to people like FBI agent Bardwell Odum. 

...

 

Legend Maker #3: Priscilla Johnson

Johnson was presented with a suitable gift for her hard work. When Stalin's daughter defected to the United States in 1967, James Angleton made arrangements for Miss Svetlana Alliloueva to "be the guest of Mr. Stewart Johnson, Locust Valley Farm, Nassau County, New York. Mr. Johnson is a relative of Priscilla Johnson McMillan, who has been commissioned to write a book priscilla johnson mcmillan headshot recentof Mme. Alliloueva's memoirs for Harper & Row publishers..." Mr. Johnson was Priscilla's father.

Years later, Svetlana Alliluyeva said that the book she wrote on her arrival in New York was "a collective creative production...(due to a contract with) a powerful American law firm with close links to the State Department". (Guardian, 11/17/84)

By the mid-1970s, the American people made it clear that they did not believe the official story of the assassination. There was widespread public outrage when the Zapruder film was finally shown on television. Millions of people finally saw Kennedy shot in the forehead, while Oswald was supposedly firing from well behind the president. Congress was forced to form the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA).

After fourteen years of working on her book, Johnson released Marina and Lee just as the HSCA was starting its review of the work done by the Warren Commission. Priscilla is the only one of the twelve legend makers still alive to this day.

...

Simpich summarized some of his more notable findings about Johnson this way:

Priscilla Mary Post Johnson was identified with a CI/OA (counter-intelligence/operational approval) number in a 1956 CIA application (C-52373) four years after her initial 1952 application.

The response from the Office of Security in 1956 was odd, because it stated that C-52373 was "Priscilla Livingston Johnson", not "Priscilla R", and that "she was apparently born 23 September 1922 in Stockholm, Sweden, rather than 19 July 1928 at Glen Cove, New York."

During the formation of the HSCA (House Select Committee on Assassinations), Johnson wanted to review what was in the records. "Priscilla Johnson McMillan aka Priscilla Mary Post Johnson" submitted a sworn FOIA request to the FBI asking for all records "indicating my employment in your agency". This statement revealed not only her previously unknown relationship with the Bureau, but also that the 1928/Glen Cove data is her authentic birthdate and birthplace. Now we have some reliable data on Johnson that should offer light when studying her path.

When Johnson's 1956 application was withdrawn in 1957, the memo from SR/10 contradicted the 1956 application with the claim that the birthdate for C-52373 was 19 July 1928. A game is being played with Johnson's identity and birthdates, a game that continues to this day. It's probably a holding action to protect Johnson's reputation, because her book Marina and Lee is now a central pillar in the continuing political battle about what happened in Dallas that day. (I would agree with Thomas Powers' assessment in the New York Times Book Review that Marina and Lee is a "miraculous book".)

cord meyer2What we do know is that on April 10, 1958, Cord Meyer, right, sent a cable to Western Europe expressing interest in Johnson, right after Johnson applied for a Soviet visa in Paris. A couple weeks later, a request went out seeking approval for Johnson to become a "REDSKIN traveler and informant", and that "SR/2 (Soviet Russia Division #2) will have primary responsibility of handling agent."

Johnson was supposedly rejected in June 1958 because her "past activity in USS4, insistence return and indefinite plans inside likely draw Sov suspicions". Nonetheless, she decided to return to Moscow and study Soviet law under a fellowship grant from either Columbia or Harvard universities. By 1962, she was being vetted by the notorious anti-communist professor Richard Pipes and the CIA's Office of Security for a position in a "Soviet survey".

cia logoOther memos, one sent by "SR/RED/O'Connell", illustrate that three Priscillas have now emerged: Besides the original Priscilla Mary Post Johnson,, we now also see the names "Priscilla McClure Johnson, Priscilla McCoy" that are not identical with the original. To top it off, if you add in the references to "Priscilla Livingston Johnson" and "Priscilla R. Johnson", there are now five Priscillas competing for space in the same case file.

These five Priscillas are corroborated by the four CI/OA numbers for Priscilla Johnson seen on her "approval work record" form. 

After all this smoke and fog, the American public has no reason to assume that the US government has done anything but confuse everyone about the role of Johnson.

I did find what is described as a "true name dossier" in the Office of Security files that lists Priscilla Johnson with the biographical file number 201-102798. Furthermore, the Office of Legal Counsel made it plain that it had reviewed "documents from Priscilla Johnson McMillan's 201 file (201-102798)." By the 1970s, Priscilla Johnson McMillan was her married name. We can see with our own eyes that a close-out document for the CIA's 201-102798 file describes "Johnson" as a "witting collaborator" in 1975.

Is it any surprise that Johnson responded in an interview with Anthony Summers and his wife Robbyn that "the Johnson in the 1975 document is someone other than herself?"

Under her married name of Priscilla Johnson McMillan, she muddied the waters further by releasing her book Marina and Lee -- after fourteen years of writing and re-writing -- in the midst of the reopened investigation of the JFK case by the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1978.

This exercise in game-playing will probably continue with the CIA refusing to reveal Johnson's files until after her death. Johnson could easily resolve these questions by releasing her own copies of the files to the public -- and by squarely addressing further questions while she is still alive.

Related commentary about Priscilla Johnson McMillan includes:

Justice Integrity Project, Medical Expert, Oswald's Friend, Debunks Accused JFK Killer’s Portrayal, Andrew Kreig, May 6, 2021. A new book disputes false portrayals of Lee Harvey Oswald, whom officials promptly named in 1963 as the sole assassin of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas.

ernst titovets new coverOswald: Russian Episode reveals Oswald’s true character and rebuts claims that his personality made him a likely assassin of JFK.

ernst titovets book back cover portrait new“The real Oswald,” concludes the author, Professor Ernst Titovets, M.D., Ph.D., below at right, based on his close friendship with the American six decades ago, “had no reason whatsoever – either political or personal – to murder John F. Kennedy.”

This book culminates the scientist’s painstaking research conducted over many years to reveal the character of Oswald, which is still largely unknown to the general public.

The book, initially privately published, has been updated and is now widely available in Western nations for the first time. This follows publication on May 6 by Eagle View Books, based in Washington, DC. The book launch was timed for continuing interest in both the JFK assassination, as indicated by a continued publication of new books in recent months, as well as ramped up interest in so-called "conspiracy theories."

Wikipedia, as reported by Helen Dudar of the Arizona Republic, "Svetlana's Translator Is Seasoned Student, Reporter of Russian Affairs," May 21, 1967 (citations omitted). In 1967, McMillan translated the memoirs of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Stalin's daughter, who had gained much attention that year by defecting to the United States. There was considerable competition among translators and publishers for the assignment, but a recommendation from former U.S. Ambassador and foreign policy legend George F. Kennan helped her get it. She had first encountered Svetlana twelve years earlier, during her first visit to the Soviet Union, when under the name Stalina, she had taught a class at Moscow State University. Svetlana spent her first weeks in America staying at McMillan's father's estate in Locust Valley.

The Atlantic, The Only Person Who Knew Both Kennedy and His Killer, John Meroney, Nov. 21, 2013.  While in the Soviet Union, Priscilla Johnson McMillan met a young American in her hotel who was trying to defect. His name was Lee Harvey Oswald.

lee harvey oswald collage warren ex 386The 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination has drawn all manner of retrospectives. But for one woman, the memory of tuning in to the news coverage is particularly poignant. Priscilla Johnson McMillan is the only person who knew both President Kennedy and his killer.

McMillan worked for Kennedy on Capitol Hill in the mid-1950s, when he was a U.S. Senator, advising him on foreign policy matters. She then moved into journalism and in 1959 was stationed in the Soviet Union, reporting for The Progressive and the North American Newspaper Alliance. It was there that she met a 20-year-old American called Lee Harvey Oswald [shown at right in a collage of photos assembled in 1964 as Exhibit No. 386 in the Warren Report]. He was staying in her hotel while trying to defect to the Soviet Union.

McMillan interviewed him. Oswald proceeded to critique the American system and informed her that he was a follower of Karl Marx. “I saw,” he said, explaining why he left the U.S., “that I would become either a worker exploited for capitalist profit or an exploiter or, since there are many in this category, I’d be one of the unemployed.” On that night in Moscow, Oswald also told McMillan that he had a life mission: “I want to give the people of the United States something to think about.”

July 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: A top columnist who exposed corruption — and sometimes betrayed his principles, Matthew Pressman (an assistant professor of journalism at Seton Hall and the author of On Press: The Liberal Values That Shaped the News), July 9, 2021 (July 11 print ed.). Ask people what’s wrong with political journalism in America, and you’re likely to get a long list: a focus on personalities instead of policy, an obsession with scandal, too much reliance on anonymous sources, liberal bias.

Drew Pearson, arguably the most influential political columnist in U.S. history, could be faulted for all those shortcomings and more. And yet, it’s hard not to admire Pearson after reading Donald A. Ritchie’s engaging new biography, The Columnist: Leaks, Lies, and Libel in Drew Pearson’s Washington.

As a radio commentator and co-creator of the daily column “Washington Merry-Go-Round” — which appeared under Pearson’s name from 1932 to 1969 and at its height ran in more than 600 newspapers — Pearson was zealously devoted to the principle that Americans had a right to know what their leaders were doing, planning and, above all, hiding.

He carried the torch of muckraking journalism during an era when most reporters simply published what politicians said, without questioning or challenging them. As one newspaper wrote of Pearson in 1961: “Regardless of party he went after the crooks at the public trough. He has been, in his day, responsible for sending more dishonest Congressmen to jail, for exposing more shady practices in our nation’s capital than perhaps any other single individual.”

drew pearson time cover 1948 customIronically, this tribute to Pearson came as part of an editorial explaining that the newspaper was dropping his column. The conservative editors considered him too left-wing, and the sympathetic hearing he gave Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev during a series of interviews was the last straw.

Pearson (shown on a 1948 Time Magazine cover) knew that his reputation as a liberal would cost him, but he consistently put principles over profit. His relentless criticism of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s caused the sponsors of his radio show to desert him and many papers to stop publishing the “Merry-Go-Round” (it also caused a drunken McCarthy to physically assault Pearson in the cloakroom of a Washington club; then-Sen. Richard Nixon broke them up).

And throughout his career, Pearson refused to carry libel insurance or to have his syndicate agree to pay any libel judgments against him, as did other scandalmongering columnists such as Walter Winchell and Westbrook Pegler. If the syndicate knew that it would be on the hook for lawsuits, Pearson reasoned, it would force him to cut controversial accusations and to issue retractions in response to legal threats.

This earned Pearson editorial freedom, and he used it. He was sued at least 120 times but paid out only one settlement. In all of the other cases, he won or had the complaint withdrawn — an impressive record considering that most of these cases came before the landmark New York Times v. Sullivan Supreme Court decision (1964), which made it harder for public figures to win libel claims against journalists.

Although Pearson was denounced as a liar by numerous politicians — including Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, whose policies he generally supported — The Columnist shows his uncanny knack for getting stories right. “If something smells wrong, I go to work,” he said, and his nose rarely led him astray.

July 7

nikole hannah jones cbs

Press Run via Substack, Opinion: The anti-Clinton donor who just wrecked UNC’s reputation, Eric Boehlert, July 7, 2021. In a surprise checkmate move, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones informed the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that she would not be accepting its delayed offer to join its journalism school, and would instead become a tenured professor at Howard University.

The announcement came after the school stumbled through an extended public controversy over Hannah-Jones’ hiring, and revelations that a conservative mega-donor to the journalism school, Walter Hussman, had worked behind the scenes to make sure the overqualified Jones wasn’t initially offered a tenured position, unlike her white predecessors at the school.

UNC’s journalism school was renamed the Hussman School of Journalism and Media in 2019, after the wealthy media magnate and publisher of the anti-Clinton Arkansas Democrat-Gazette committed to donating $25 million to UNC, although most of the money from the gift has not yet been given. The school had recruited Hannah-Jones, a MacArthur “genius” and the driving force behind the New York Times’ “1619 Project,” an ambitious journalistic reexamination of American history that focused on the central role slavery had in shaping the nation and its institutions.

howard university logoHannah-Jones has since become the target of right-wing media wrath for discussing racism honestly and openly, and conservatives immediately began trying to scuttle her UNC hiring.

Hussman the ideologue joined that fray, contacting an array of senior university officials to express his objections, even though as a donor he had no say in the hiring of faculty. “I worry about the controversy of tying the UNC journalism school to the 1619 project,” Hussman wrote to several officials in late December.

The anti-Hannah-Jones pressure campaign ran counter to how universities are supposed to deal with mega-donors, as they protect academic freedoms. In fact, by so clearly using his privilege and overstepping his bounds by inserting himself directly into university hiring protocols, Hussman violated the journalistic ethics that he claims to support.

“He’s completely outside this process and he’s contacting the people who are involved with financial giving over his concerns about university hires,” one UNC board of trustees member told NC Policy Watch. “That’s throwing your weight around because you know you can exercise your influence, based on your gifts to the school. It is a threat. I don’t see how you can see that any other way.”

After an extended public outrage, led by UNC students and faculty, the university’s trustees last week finally voted, behind closed doors, to offer Hannah-Jones the position as the school’s Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism, complete with tenure. The insulting way the hiring was handled though, made her acceptance impossible. Now the elite journalist is heading to a historically black university in Washington, D.C., where she will assume that same Knight-sponsored position.

“I cannot imagine working at and advancing a school named for a man who lobbied against me, who used his wealth to influence the hires and ideology of the journalism school, who ignored my 20 years of journalism experience, all of my credentials, all of my work, because he believed that a project that centered Black Americans equaled the denigration of white Americans,” Hannah-Jones said in a stinging rebuke to UNC and Hussman published yesterday.

For the journalism school, the sad episode will leave a permanent stain. “Nikole Hannah-Jones is one of the most prominent journalists in the United States, frankly in the world, today,” according to UNC journalism professor Daniel Kreiss. Yet bowing to right-wing pressure, the university shrank from its responsibilities. Across the campus, some acclaimed UNC professors are already heading for the exits in the wake of the controversy, which they say broke their trust in the university’s commitment to academic freedom.

You know who probably wasn’t surprised by Hussman’s meddling in the hiring of a prominent black journalist and consequently damaging the reputation of a journalism school?

Bill and Hillary Clinton. For years they tangled with Hussman’s conservative Arkansas Democrat, which later took over a more liberal rival to become the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. (Hussman’s family bought the Arkansas Democrat in the 1970’s and he was installed as publisher at age 27, so that’s his journalism resume.)

According to Arkansas newsroom veteran Max Brantley, Hussman’s daily had been “incredibly critical of Bill Clinton.” Clinton himself agreed, once telling biographer Taylor Branch that the newspaper had been his "chief tormentor for decades,” concocting “Faulknerian plots” of intrigue about him and his family. And it was the paper’s editorial page editor who first dubbed Clinton “Slick Willy,” a moniker the right-wing media relished for years.

More recently, Douglas Blackmon, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who once worked for Hussman’s daily, called out the publisher for being a cog in the right-wing noise machine.

“Hussman’s family bought the dying Arkansas Democrat in the ’70s & installed him as boy-publisher, still in his 20s,” Blackmon tweeted. “He hired extremist conservative editors who made war on the truth, and in the 80s begin spinning bogus ‘Whitewater’ conspiracy tales about Bill & Hillary Clinton.”

Added Blackmon, “He’s been a mini-Rupert Murdoch for 40 yrs. Walter Hussman is a founding father of the fake news/Trump-lies era.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A Dutch journalist exposed the mob and defied death threats. Now he’s been shot in the head, Michael E. Miller, July 7, 2021. Peter R. de Vries, one of the country’s most famous investigative journalists, was “fighting for his life” after the shooting in downtown Amsterdam.

It was evening in Amsterdam when Peter R. de Vries stepped out of the television studio and into the busy downtown streets. Decades of investigating cold-case killings and mob hits had earned the silver-haired 64-year-old accolades and a reputation as one of the most famous journalists in the Netherlands.

His career in crime reporting had also earned him death threats, but friends said he laughed off the danger, claiming recently that the last time he was scared was as a schoolboy.

Shortly after leaving the TV studio on Tuesday, de Vries was shot.

Videos on social media showed him lying on the street in Amsterdam’s canal district with blood coming from his head.

“He was seriously wounded and is fighting for his life,” Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema told reporters. “He is a national hero to us all. A rare, courageous journalist who tirelessly sought justice.”

ny times logoNew York Times, USA Today will make readers pay for its website, joining other top news outlets, Marc Tracy, July 7, 2021. USA Today is one of the most-read news outlets in the country.

When USA Today was introduced nearly 40 years ago, its short articles, copious charts and detailed weather coverage were disdained by the staid newspaper industry, which nonetheless quickly found itself copying many of the upstart’s novel features.

But on Wednesday, USA Today announced it was playing catch-up with its contemporaries, becoming the final major national daily to require readers to pay to read news online.

usa today logoIn a note to readers published Wednesday online and in the print edition, two executives at Gannett, the newspaper chain that owns USA Today, laid out their pitch.

“This is a big change; our digital news has always been free,” wrote Maribel Perez Wadsworth, USA Today’s publisher and the director of news across Gannett, and Nicole Carroll, the editor in chief of USA Today. “But USA Today was founded on boldness. Your subscription is an investment in quality journalism that’s worth paying for, journalism that strengthens our communities and our nation.”

USA Today’s shift to a digital subscription model, which comes after the rest of Gannett’s roughly 250 daily newspapers already made that change, signals the definitive end of an era when newspapers relied primarily on advertisements in its print edition for revenue. As readers have flocked to smartphones, laptops and tablets, causing print readership and the overall value of advertising to decline, newspapers’ most important revenue stream increasingly consists of charging digital readers.

The announcement could prove just the beginning of USA Today’s transition into a subscription company, Mayur Gupta, Gannett’s chief marketing and strategy officer, said in an interview, pointing to USA Today-branded destinations for sports betting and games. It might also make sense in the future for Gannett to offer subscriptions that bundle USA Today and a local newspaper, he said.

July 6

washington post logoWashington Post, Pentagon cancels $10 billion JEDI contract challenged by Amazon, ending long-contested cloud procurement deal, Aaron Gregg, July 6, 2021. The Defense Department will restart the procurement process for its enterprise cloud-computing system rather than wait for the $10 billion Microsoft contract known as JEDI to fight its way through a contentious Amazon bid protest.

The Defense Department announced the cancellation of the long-awaited procurement on Tuesday. It will instead start a new procurement, open to multiple cloud vendors, though only Amazon and Microsoft will be allowed to compete initially.

microsoft logo Custom“The Department has determined that, due to evolving requirements, increased cloud conversancy, and industry advances, the JEDI Cloud contract no longer meets its needs,” a Defense Department spokesperson said in an unsigned release distributed to reporters.

With a $10 billion cloud-computing deal snarled in court, the Pentagon may move forward without it

amazon logo smallThe department wants to create a massive cloud-based central operating system for the U.S. military, harnessing the technological capabilities of a major private-sector cloud provider to create new battlefield applications. The Defense Department started the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, known as JEDI, nearly four years ago under then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. He and other officials had hoped that JEDI could serve as a springboard for the department’s adoption of artificial intelligence in a geopolitical race with China.

But the Pentagon’s steadfast insistence that the contract should go to just one company, rather than spread the work among multiple providers, made it a lightning rod from the start. Oracle and IBM lodged protests before the bids were due, arguing that such an approach ran counter to the business world’s best practices.

The Pentagon awarded the contract to Microsoft in 2019 shortly after President Donald Trump took an interest in it. Trump had cited complaints against Amazon from “some of the greatest companies in the world,” specifically referencing Oracle, Microsoft and IBM. Trump’s interest in the contract ― along with his repeated public broadsides against Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post ― became a key part of the tech giant’s challenge.

That bid protest forced the Defense Department to halt its work with Microsoft and reevaluate its decision after the Court of Federal Claims concluded that the Pentagon’s evaluators had made a mistake on one aspect of how it evaluated bids. The agency re-awarded the contract to Microsoft after correcting its mistake.

July 2

supreme court resized 2021

ny times logoNew York Times, 2 Justices Say Landmark Libel Decision Should Be Revisited, Adam Liptak, right, July 2, 2021. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch added his voice to that of Justice Clarence Thomas in questioning adam liptakthe longstanding standard for public officials set in New York Times v. Sullivan.

Two justices on Friday called for the Supreme Court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling interpreting the First Amendment to make it hard for public officials to prevail in libel suits.

One of them, Justice Clarence Thomas, repeated views he had expressed in a 2019 opinion. The other, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, offered fresh support for the view that the Sullivan decision and rulings extending it warranted a reassessment.

They made their comments in dissents from the court’s decision not to take up a libel case brought by the son of a former prime minister of Albania.

Both justices said the modern news media landscape played a role in their thinking about the actual malice doctrine announced in the Sullivan case. That doctrine required a public official suing for libel to prove that the offending statements were made with the knowledge they were false or with serious subjective doubt about their truth — a stricter standard than is applied to cases brought by ordinary people. The doctrine was expanded in later court rulings to cover public figures, not just public officials.

Justice Thomas denounced the explosion of conspiracy theories and other disinformation. He cited a news report on “the shooting at a pizza shop rumored to be ‘the home of a Satanic child sex abuse ring involving top Democrats such as Hillary Clinton’” and a New York Times article on “how online posts falsely labeling someone as ‘a thief, a fraudster and a pedophile’ can spark the need to set up a home-security system.”

“The proliferation of falsehoods is, and always has been, a serious matter,” Justice Thomas wrote. “Instead of continuing to insulate those who perpetrate lies from traditional remedies like libel suits, we should give them only the protection the First Amendment requires.”

Justice Gorsuch wrote that much had changed since 1964, suggesting that the actual malice doctrine might have made more sense when there were fewer and more reliable sources of news, dominated by outlets “employing legions of investigative reporters, editors and fact checkers.”

“Large numbers of newspapers and periodicals have failed,” he wrote. “Network news has lost most of its viewers. With their fall has come the rise of 24-hour cable news and online media platforms that ‘monetize anything that garners clicks.’

“What started in 1964 with a decision to tolerate the occasional falsehood to ensure robust reporting by a comparative handful of print and broadcast outlets,” he wrote, “has evolved into an ironclad subsidy for the publication of falsehoods by means and on a scale previously unimaginable.”

The two justices made their comments in dissenting from the court’s denial of review in Berisha v. Lawson, No. 20-1063, a libel case brought by Shkelzen Berisha, the son of Albania’s former prime minister. He sued the author and publisher of “Arms and the Dudes: How Three Stoners From Miami Beach Became the Most Unlikely Gunrunners in History,” a 2015 book that examined weapons procurement and was the basis of the movie “War Dogs.”

Mr. Berisha said the book, written by Guy Lawson and published by Simon & Schuster, falsely linked him to an illicit arms deal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, in Atlanta, relying on decisions extending the Sullivan case from public officials to public figures, ruled that Mr. Berisha was a public figure.

July 1

lina khan resized ftc

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon seeks recusal of FTC Chair Khan, a longtime company critic, Jay Greene and Rachel Lerman, July 1, 2021 (print ed.). The e-commerce giant said in a motion that the agency’s new chair, shown above, can’t operate with an ‘open mind’ regarding the company.

Amazon moved to bar the head of the Federal Trade Commission from overseeing antitrust matters regarding the e-commerce giant, citing her long-running criticism of the company.

amazon logo smallNew FTC Chair Lina Khan is unable to oversee matters regarding Amazon with “an open mind,” the company alleged in a filing to the commission. It asked that Khan recuse herself from issues involving the company.

Khan’s public criticism of Amazon started when she was a Yale University law student, where she wrote a 2017 paper, “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox,” that argued a new antitrust standard needed to be applied to the company. She subsequently served as legal director for the Open Markets Institute, an advocacy group that has called for Amazon’s breakup. And Khan worked as counsel for the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, investigating anti-competitive behavior from Amazon and other tech giants.

The FTC declined to comment. But Khan noted in her confirmation hearing before the Senate that she had “none of the financial conflicts or personal ties that are the basis of recusal under federal ethics laws.”

“I would be approaching these issues with an eye to the underlying facts and the empirics and really be following the evidence,” she said in response to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asking if her work on an extensive House investigation into the monopoly power of Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon would be a basis for recusal.

 

June

June 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Bill Cosby to be released from prison after sexual assault conviction vacated by Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Sonia Rao and Paul Farhi, June 30, 2021. Bill Cosby will be released from prison after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced Wednesday that his sexual-assault conviction was to be overturned. The entertainer had served more than two years after being convicted of sexual assault in one of the most high-profile trials of the #MeToo era.

The court issued an opinion written by Justice David Wecht that, according to the Associated Press, said Cosby, 83, could not be charged in the case because of a previous agreement with a prosecutor.

bill cosby“Everyone’s mind is blown right now,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahman told The Daily Beast. “This is extremely rare. This is unprecedented.”

Cosby was convicted on three counts of sexual assault in April 2018 and sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison that September. The charges stemmed from a 2004 incident in which he was accused of drugging and assaulting Andrea Constand, an operations director for women’s basketball at Temple University. She testified that Cosby, who served on Temple’s board of trustees, had given her a pill that made her unable to control her limbs, and that he violated her at his estate in the Philadelphia suburbs.Advertisement

Dozens of women have alleged Cosby sexually assaulted them, dating back as far as the 1960s, when Cosby was a rising young comedian and co-star of the TV program “I Spy.” Cosby’s early stardom made him a breakthrough figure, one of the first Black performers to achieve mass popularity.

He went to star in a long series of humorous TV commercials, write best-selling books dispensing fatherly advice and headline other TV shows. The peak of his national acclaim was between 1984 and 1992, the years in which he appeared as Cliff Huxtable on “The Cosby Show” on NBC. The sitcom dominated TV ratings and helped revive its ailing network.

It also was a breakthrough of its own kind, portraying a Black upper-middle class family in the same familiar and heartwarming ways that family sitcoms had long portrayed White families. Some critics later drew a straight line between the fictional Huxtables and the real-life Obama family when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Associated Press via U.S. News, Lawyer: Newspaper Gunman Insane, Not Criminally Responsible; Md. Capital Gazette News Case, Staff Report, June 30, 2021.  The man who killed 5 people at a Maryland newspaper was delusional and believed the state's judicial system was conspiring with the Capital Gazette to persecute him and ruin his life, his attorney told a jury Tuesday, trying to make the case that Jarrod Ramos, right, is not criminally responsible for the crimes due to mental illness.

jarrod ramosHours after hearing that, jurors saw photographs of the dead from shotgun blasts in their own newsroom. They saw Wendi Winters collapsed in a hallway after she had just charged at Ramos with a trash can. They saw Gerald Fischman crumpled under his desk. They saw Rob Hiaasen dead in his cubicle. They also saw John McNamara dead at the back of the newsroom. Rebecca Smith died later at a hospital.

They also saw an officer's body camera video, showing Ramos emerging from under a desk in the newsroom and police officers later leading him out. Three years and a day after the attack on the newspaper, the 2nd phase of a trial started for Ramos, who pleaded guilty- but not criminally responsible- to the June 28, 2018 slayings. The plea is Maryland's version of an insanity defense.

Katy O'Donnell told jurors her client "is guilty of having committed these offenses, and his act was willful, deliberate and premeditated.” But, she said, mental health experts for the defense will tell them he is not criminally responsible under the law due to mental illness. “Mr. Ramos is guilty, and he is also not criminally responsible,” she said. Ramos believed that he was being intentionally persecuted after the newspaper wrote about a case in which he pleaded guilty to harassing a former high school classmate.

Mediaite, Ed Henry Sues Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, Alleging She Covered Up Affair Between Network President and Employee, Josh Feldman, June 30, 2021. Former Fox News anchor Ed Henry, who was fired from the network after being accused of rape, is suing Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, accusing her of defaming him “as a sex criminal.”

Henry’s suit also alleges that Scott accused him of sexual misconduct while covering up an affair between the president of Fox News and a subordinate.

Henry was fired from the network in 2020 following an allegation of rape by a former network staffer. At the time, Scott and Fox News president Jay Wallace put out a statement saying, “On Thursday, June 25, we received a complaint about Ed Henry from a former employee’s attorney involving willful sexual misconduct in the workplace years ago… Based on investigative findings, Ed has been terminated.”

fox news logo SmallHenry’s lawsuit claims that Scott “sandbagged” him with her statement and “lending credence to the false allegations because she was trying to save her own career and burnish her image as a tough, no nonsense female executive who cleaned up Fox News.”

It accuses Scott of being “an instrument to cover up the existence of sexual misconduct at Fox News” and charges that she “had such a well-known history of whitewashing actual instances of ‘willful sexual misconduct’ by Fox News employees, including a widely-known affair between a subordinate and Fox News President Jay Wallace, i.e. the same Jay Wallace who co-signed the public statement that defamed Mr. Henry.”

Henry alleges that Wallace was investigated over “an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate” but it was “covered up by Ms. Scott.”

Henry was fired “in order to divert attention from Ms. Scott’s long history of covering up actual misconduct,” the lawsuit claims. He even accuses the network of an “unabashed focus on money, at the expense of legitimate news stories.”

Henry has vehemently denied the allegations of sexual misconduct.

UPDATE Fox News has responded to the lawsuit.

In a statement obtained by Mediaite, a Fox News Media spokesperson said, “As we stated one year ago, FOX News Media conducted a thorough independent investigation into Ed Henry immediately after we were made aware of a serious misconduct claim against him by a former employee. Based on the results of those findings, we promptly terminated Mr. Henry’s employment for willful sexual misconduct and stand by the decision entirely. We are fully prepared to vigorously defend against these baseless allegations as Mr. Henry further embarrasses himself in a lawsuit rife with inaccuracies after driving his personal life into the ground with countless extramarital affairs in a desperate attempt for relevance and redemption.”

Regarding both Scott and Wallace:

Under the leadership of CEO Suzanne Scott, FOX News Media has worked tirelessly to transform the company culture, implementing annual, mandatory in-person harassment prevention training, creating an entirely new reporting structure, more than tripling the size of our HR footprint, conducting quarterly company meetings and mentoring events, as well as executing a zero tolerance policy regarding workplace misconduct for which we engage outside independent firms to handle investigations. No other company has enacted such a comprehensive and continuous overhaul, which notably, earned FOX News Media recognition as a “Great Place to Work” for the first time in its existence, a testament to the many cultural changes that Ms. Scott has instituted during her incredibly successful tenure as CEO.

FOX conducted a full and independent investigation of the claims against Jay Wallace — he was cleared of any wrongdoing and the allegations are false.

June 29 

washington post logoWashington Post, Court dismisses FTC antitrust complaint against Facebook, says agency can refile, Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman, June 29, 2021 (print ed.). A district court in D.C. said the Federal Trade Commission failed to offer enough facts to prove Facebook has monopoly power, immediately sparking calls for a rewrite of antitrust law.

ftc logoThe court also dismissed a similar lawsuit brought by a group of state attorneys general against the company that challenged the company’s acquisitions of photo-sharing service Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp. The court ruled that the states waited too long to challenge Facebook’s acquisition of the companies in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

It was a major victory for Facebook, which has long argued that it was just one option in a burgeoning universe of social media companies, citing the rise of such services as TikTok, facebook logowhich claims 50 million daily users in the United States.

In its complaint, the FTC alleged that Facebook controls more than 60 percent of the social media market. The commission argued that “no other social network of comparable scale exists in the United States,” citing a redacted figure of the daily and monthly users on the company’s flagship service. The FTC alleged that Facebook has had monopoly power since at least 2011, but it defined the market it said Facebook monopolizes very narrowly, excluding professional social networks like LinkedIn and video streaming players such as YouTube.

June 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Fox News polling shows majority approval for Biden — not that you’ll hear about it much on Fox News, Philip Bump, June 26, 2021 (print ed.). The exclusive polling was buried in the network's online and on-air coverage. Some good news for President Biden from an unexpected source this week: Polling from Fox News put his approval rating at 56 percent. That’s fox news logo Smallabove the president’s current average, as calculated by FiveThirtyEight, and, while not historically jaw-dropping, it is noteworthy in a deeply polarized political moment.

It’s largely a function of three things. The first is overwhelming support from Democrats, 60 percent of whom approve of him strongly and more than 9-in-10 who approve at least somewhat. The second is that a majority of independents at least somewhat approve of his performance. The third, and perhaps most unexpected, is that a fifth of Republicans say they at least somewhat approve — including 13 percent of those who also say they voted for former president Donald Trump last year.

Those are striking results in the details. But if you are an avid consumer of Fox News’s programming and online content, you’d be forgiven for not having heard about them.

June 21

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Trump's connection to the KGB highlighted in full-page ads in 1987, Wayne Madsen, left, June 21, 2021. Donald Trump's role as an intelligence asset for the wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSoviet Committee for State Security (KGB) and Czechoslovak State Security (StB) in the 1970s and 80s was revealed in WMR's August 19, 2020 article, "Trump likely a KGB/Czechoslovak StB intelligence asset as early as 1976."

wayne madesen report logoFurther information revealed to The Guardian of the UK by former KGB agent Yuri Shvets indicates that the Trump Organization's full-page ad run in the September 2, 1987 editions of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe was actually crafted and paid for by the KGB.

At a critical time for U.S. foreign policy, with the Soviet bloc showing significant signs of unraveling and Iran posing a threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, Trump's full-page ad was titled "There's nothing wrong with America's Foreign Defense Policy that a little backbone can't cure."

The current probe of the Trump Organization's finances, particularly the firm's longtime chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, by the Manhattan District Attorney's office, may yield information on Trump's receipt of KGB financing for the three newspaper ads and other purposes via a KGB business front on Fifth Avenue, Joy-Lud electronics store, run by Soviet Ukrainian emigré Semyon Kislin, a "spotter agent" or recruiter for the KGB.

Axios, Scoop: Trump works refs ahead of book barrage, Mike Allen, June 21, 2021. Former President Trump has given at least 22 interviews for 17 different books since leaving office, with authors lining up at Mar-a-Lago as he labors to shape a coming tsunami of Trump tomes, Axios has learned.

axios logoWhy it matters: Trump advisers see the coming book glut as proof that interest in "POTUS 45," as they call him, has never been higher. These advisers know that most of the books will paint a mixed picture, at best. But Trump is working the refs with charm, spin and dish.

Offering Diet Cokes and dressed in suit and tie, Trump spent an average of about 90 minutes with each of the authors, some of whom were invited to stay and eat dinner at Mar-a-Lago (although not with him).

The interviews are mostly on the record, for use when the books publish. So Trump, who has rarely been heard on non-Fox outlets since leaving office, will see himself quoted constantly over the next year.

Between the lines: Sources tell me Trump makes each author feel they're getting something special. And some of them are: Many of the nuggets will definitely make news. But there appears to be quite a bit of overlap in the "scoops" Trump is dishing out.

There's intense jockeying among the authors over several publishing-date logjams in the coming 18 months, with Michael Wolff's Landslide currently in pole position (July 27). The book many Trump insiders are awaiting most is Maggie Haberman's, due next year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Commentary: Tucker Carlson Calls Journalists ‘Animals.’ He’s Also Their Best Source, Ben Smith, Updated June 21, 2021. His platform on Fox News made him a big player in Donald Trump’s circle. Off camera, he shapes the coverage of Trump’s world and Fox’s own internal politics.

Mr. Carlson, right, a proud traitor to the elite political class, spends his time when he’s not denouncing the liberal media trading gossip with them. He’s the go-to guy for sometimes-unflattering stories about tucker carlsonDonald J. Trump and for coverage of the internal politics of Fox News (not to mention stories about Mr. Carlson himself). I won’t talk here about any off-the-record conversations I may have had with him. But 16 other journalists (none from The Times; it would put my colleagues in a weird position if I asked them) told me on background that he has been, as three of them put it, “a great source.”

“In Trump’s Washington, Tucker Carlson is a primary supersecret source,” the media writer and Trump chronicler Michael Wolff writes in his forthcoming collection of essays, “Too Famous.” Mr. Wolff, who thanked Mr. Carlson in the acknowledgments of his 2018 book, “Fire and Fury,” explained, “I know this because I know what he has told me, and I can track his exquisite, too-good-not-to-be-true gossip through unsourced reports and as it often emerges into accepted wisdom.”

Mr. Carlson was particularly well positioned to be a source about the Trump administration. His Fox platform, where in May he had a nightly average of three million viewers, made him someone who mattered to Mr. Trump, a close follower of television ratings. He has a former reporter’s eye for detail and anecdote, and his observations can be detected in the lurid tales of Mr. Trump’s chaotic court and Fox’s own tumultuous internal politics.

fox news logo SmallA coming book by the Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender, Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, includes a moment in which Mr. Carlson sends Mr. Trump’s calls to voice mail after the first presidential debate last fall, when he was criticized for repeatedly interrupting Joe Biden. When Mr. Trump finally reaches the Fox host, the book describes, verbatim, an exchange between the two men that casts Mr. Carlson in a flattering light. (“Everyone says I did a good job,” Mr. Trump tells Mr. Carlson. “I don’t know who told you that was good,” Mr. Carlson says. “It was not good.”) Mr. Bender declined to comment on the sourcing that allowed him to so precisely reconstruct a conversation between the two men.

And Brian Stelter, the host of the CNN program “Reliable Sources,” told me that “you can see Tucker’s fingerprints all over the hardcover” edition of his 2020 book Hoax, which excoriates Fox News for amplifying Mr. Trump’s falsehoods. He said that he “couldn’t stomach” talking to Mr. Carlson, who has grown ever more hard-line, for the updated paperback version that was just released.

Mr. Carlson was born to a world of insiders and story shapers, and makes no secret of it. His father was a reporter in Los Angeles and San Diego before Ronald Reagan appointed him director of the Voice of America, and the son grew up with a generation of elite Washington journalists. “I’ve always lived around people who are wielding authority, around the ruling class,” he said in a 2018 interview.

A former New York Observer media writer, Sridhar Pappu, recalled to me that when he first traveled to Washington to cover the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in the early 2000s, it was Mr. Carlson who asked him, “Do you have an invitation to Tammy’s?” referring to the annual brunch for media insiders co-hosted by Tammy Haddad, the well-connected former MSNBC producer.

Mr. Carlson has said he turned against his fellow elites after the 2008 financial crisis. His political shift also transformed his long journeyman’s career as a magazine writer and MSNBC conservative, and made him Fox’s leading tribune of the pro-Trump masses.

But his decades of Washington relationships have produced a tiresome conversation among Mr. Carlson’s old friends about what he really stands for, whether he’s really a racist or whether he cynically plays one on TV. Who knows, and what does it matter anyway? Mr. Carlson’s recent fixations include suggesting that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was, in fact, a provocation staged by the F.B.I. and that making children wear masks is abuse. The Anti-Defamation League recently called for him to be fired from Fox News for warning that Democrats are plotting to “replace” the current electorate with “more obedient voters, from the third world.” The Pentagon rebuked him for a sexist riff on women in the military.

And then there are his stated views on the media. “I just can’t overstate how disgusted I am,” he told the Fox-owned sports media site Outkick in April. “The media is basically Praetorian Guard for the ruling class, the bodyguards for Jeff Bezos. That’s the opposite of what we should have. I really hate them for it, I’ll be honest.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Vance Trimble 1913–2021, Matt Schudel, June 21, 2021. Journalist who won Pulitzer Prize by exposing congressional corruption dies at 107. He wrote about rampant nepotism, hidden payrolls and self-dealing.

Vance H. Trimble, a journalist who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960 for exposing rampant nepotism, hidden payrolls and financial self-dealing among members of Congress, died June 16 at his home in Wewoka, Okla. He was 107.

The death was confirmed by the Stout-Phillips Funeral Home in Wewoka. The cause was not disclosed.

Mr. Trimble began his career as a cub reporter in the 1920s and was still publishing books in the 21st century. He was 77 when in 1990 he wrote a best-selling biography of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart.

When Mr. Trimble won his Pulitzer Prize, he was a news editor in the Washington bureau of the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain, working from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. He had previously been the managing editor of the Houston Press, then a fast-growing metropolitan daily in a booming city with more than its share of crime and natural disasters.

June 19 

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005. Credit Joe Schildhorn/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell in 2005 (Joe Schildhorn / Patrick McMullan,via Getty Images)

Daily Beast, New Docuseries Suggests Jeffrey Epstein Was a Government Informant, Nick Schager, June 19, 2021. The Plot Thickens. The Peacock docuseries “Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell” traces the life of the late sex trafficker’s right-hand woman, with victims speaking out about the damage they wrought.

Ghislaine Maxwell has a name that many can’t pronounce and a backstory that’s shrouded in mystery. Epstein’s Shadow: Ghislaine Maxwell seeks to rectify the latter by investigating the life of Jeffrey Epstein’s notorious girlfriend and co-conspirator, who currently resides in a Brooklyn jail awaiting trial for a variety of sex-trafficking charges that were levied against her by the U.S. federal government daily beast logoin 2020. Informative and comprehensive, it paints a portrait of a woman who was groomed at an early age for her eventual role as a madame for her pedophilic partner—a cretin for whom she herself groomed countless underage girls for his perverse sexual pleasure.

Peacock’s three-part docuseries (premiering June 24) is a no-frills non-fiction affair, and all the better for it. A raft of interviews with acquaintances, authors, journalists, and more provide the narrative spine for an archival footage-heavy investigation into Maxwell’s saga, which has ensnared the many rich and powerful people whom she brought into Epstein’s orbit.

Those include, most infamously, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, whose damningly clumsy BBC interview receives some airplay here, as well as Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and various celebrities—Elon Musk, Mick Jagger, Joan Rivers—whom she was photographed with at one gala event or another. Maxwell was the conduit between Epstein and high society’s cream of the crop, and though this overview presents no new bombshells about her A-list relationships, her intimate ties to dignitaries, politicians, artists, and other notable names is made definitively clear.

Those links are central to Maxwell’s fate, since it’s apparent she and Epstein made secret surveillance videos (and photographs) of visitors to their NYC townhouse home—meaning they potentially have blackmail material on a host of global big shots.

These incriminating recordings have been fingered as the reason Epstein received a “sweetheart deal” from U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida (and Secretary of Labor under Trump) Alexander Acosta in 2008, when the feds had Epstein dead-to-rights on sex-trafficking crimes, and yet offered him a plea agreement that put him behind bars for 15 months—he could even come and go during the day from prison—and provided immunity to anyone related to his infractions, at least in Palm Beach. It’s also been suggested that they’re the cause of his much-debated suicide; as the conspiracy theory goes, he may have been murdered by forces that wanted to keep what he knew—and had—from seeing the light of day.

June 18

Techdirt,  Commentary: Devin Nunes' Family's Bizarrely Stupid Defamation Lawsuit Goes Off The Rails, Mike Masnick, June 18 2021. As you may recall, Rep. Devin Nunes has been involved in a bunch of totally frivolous SLAPP suits that seem designed to try to intimidate journalists from writing stories criticizing Devin Nunes. A key one that seems to have gotten deeply under Nunes' skin is an Esquire piece devin nunes grimacingfrom a few years ago entitled Devin Nunes’s Family Farm Is Hiding a Politically Explosive Secret written by reporter Ryan Lizza. In the fall of 2019 he sued over that article, and a few months later his family sued over it as well.

To say it hasn't gone well for Nunes, left, would be an understatement.

As a reminder, the article claims that the "politically explosive secret" is just the fact that, despite Nunes repeatedly pitching himself as a California farmer, his family packed up the farm and moved it to Iowa a while back. Much of the article is about how they appear to have worked over time to try to hide that:

So here’s the secret:

The Nunes family dairy of political lore—the one where his brother and parents work—isn’t in California. It’s in Iowa. Devin; his brother, Anthony III; and his parents, Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, sold their California farmland in 2006. Anthony Jr. and Toni Dian, who has also been the treasurer of every one of Devin’s campaigns since 2001, used their cash from the sale to buy a dairy eighteen hundred miles away in Sibley, a small town in northwest Iowa where they—as well as Anthony III, Devin’s only sibling, and his wife, Lori—have lived since 2007. Devin’s uncle Gerald still owns a dairy back in Tulare, which is presumably where The Wall Street Journal’s reporter talked to Devin, and Devin is an investor in a Napa Valley winery, Alpha Omega, but his immediate family’s farm—as well as his family—is long gone.

The article also discusses a bunch of other oddities about the Nunes' farm in Iowa, and while it never comes out and directly claims that the farm hires undocumented workers, it does note that most other farms in the area do. This point has become somewhat important in the case.

Devin Nunes' own part in the case is effectively over as the judge dismissed it last summer, pointing out absolutely nothing Nunes claimed was defamatory actually was defamatory (Nunes is appealing, because of course he is, but it's hard to see much of a chance of the case being reinstated). And while the judge had made it clear that the lawsuit by Nunes' family was on shaky ground, the Nunes' family and their lawyer, the infamous Steven Biss, decided to keep the case going.

The only claim that has survived in the case is the one where Nunes' family says it is defamatory due to the implication that the farm has employed undocumented workers. So, as would be expected, one of the things that Esquire's publisher, Hearst, wished to do was to depose the workers on the farm to establish their documentation. Last month, it became clear that something nutty was going on after Hearst filed quite a document with the court, about its efforts to depose the workers from NuStar farms. Much of the filing is redacted, but you can still get a sense of the frustration:

This Motion comes in the wake of an unusual and troubling series of events in this case, which were previewed for the Court during last week’s telephone conferences with Judge Roberts....

Reading through the details (and especially the declaration of one of Esquire's lawyers) strongly suggests (though the redactions make it a little tricky to parse out) that Biss has played games to try to keep NuStar's employees from giving depositions. This includes questions about whether or not Biss would accept service on behalf of those employees and also whether or not he would represent those employees.

Reading those links suggests the case was already turning into something of a clusterfuck, and apparently on Thursday it all blew up as the magistrate judge on the case benchslapped Biss and told him to stop playing games (first reported by the Fresno Bee, whose parent company was also sued by Nunes, and which has done some great reporting on these cases).

The order from the magistrate judge details what happened when Hearst's lawyers were finally able to depose the NuStar employees and... um... wow.

June 17 

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb are shown working in a Willard Hotel

Trump attorney and former Justice Department Deputy Attorney Gen. Rudy Giuliani, his colleague and significant other Maria Ryan, and One America Network White House correspondent Christina Bogbb 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.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: We Now Know What the Willard Hotel War Room Was For—and You're Not Going to Believe It, Seth Abramson, June 16-17-2021. The revelation of the seventh person in seth abramson graphicTrump's Willard Hotel war room leads to the strangest discovery of the January 6 investigation so far, one so bizarre that it must be read to be believed.

When I discovered that the seventh identifiable figure in the photographs of Donald Trump’s Willard Hotel command center (photographs which had been posted on Instagram by Trump associate Robert Hyde) was Rudy Giuliani girlfriend Maria Ryan, the news meant little to me. It would, I felt, merit little interest from anyone else, either.

I now realize that I couldn’t have been more mistaken, as sometimes mundane discoveries lead to appalling ones—something you’d think I’d recall from my experience as a federal-system criminal investigator and then a state criminal defense attorney.

seth abramson proof logoAs the identification of Maria Ryan as the seventh entrant into the Willard war room was underway, a Proof reader sent me a January 5 “interview” Ryan had conducted with One America News (OAN) propagandist Christina Bobb. I put the word “interview” in quotes here because, as the above photo confirms, and as Proof has already reported at great length, Bobb was, with Ryan, a member of Trump’s secretive insurrection-week team at the Willard — and therefore her on-air discussion with Ryan on January 5 was in no way a real interview. Note: Bobb didn’t disclose her association with Ryan during their chat.

Even odder than the truth of the Bobb-Ryan “interview” was its timing: Insurrection Eve.

Indeed (and this was the first sign of the strange story I was about to find myself immersed in as a journalist and researcher) on January 5, 2021, Maria Ryan was being interviewed from the very war room that Bobb was a member of—meaning that Bobb had at some point left the war room, gone in to work at OAN’s television studio, and then conducted an “interview” with the very legal team she was a part of with a fellow team member who was sitting in the very war room that Bobb herself had been using.

john bolton djt palmer images Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. drops John Bolton book lawsuit, won’t charge ex-security aide who became Trump’s scathing critic, Spencer S. Hsu and Josh Dawsey, June 17, 2021 (print ed.).The Justice Department has abandoned its effort to claw back profits of a book by former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, above left, and closed a grand jury investigation into whether he criminally mishandled classified information without charging him, according to court filings and Bolton’s defense attorney.

In a one-sentence court filing Wednesday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit it filed in a failed attempt to block the release last June of Bolton’s White House memoir, The Room Where It Happened. The filing indicated each side would pay its own legal fees.

charles cooperJustice Department officials also notified Bolton’s defense team that it was closing all aspects of his case, his attorney said.

Lead Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper, right, called the dismissal a complete vindication for the veteran diplomat, repudiating what Bolton said was the Trump White House’s politically motivated attempt to stifle the pre-election publication of his scathingly critical memoir before the 2020 presidential election, using security as a pretext.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hong Kong police raid newspaper offices, arrest editors, Shibani Mahtani, June 17, 2021. The early morning operation underscored the lengths that authorities will go to shut down any remaining space for dissent, including the silencing of media.

Police on Thursday raided the Apple Daily newspaper, known for its support for Hong Kong's democracy movement, and arrested five executives, including three top editors, on suspicion of violating the city's national security law. Authorities also froze the tabloid's assets.

The early-morning operation highlighted the authorities’ resolve to shut down any residual space for dissent, including silencing media critical of the Chinese government. Press freedom is supposed to be guaranteed under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

The police warrant allowed officers to seize “journalistic materials” — the first time they have exercised such powers under the security law. Police scoured reporters’ computers, files and notes, and cited as the basis for the arrests dozens of Apple Daily articles that called for Western sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials. The United States last year imposed sanctions on city leader Carrie Lam and other figures for eroding freedoms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden apologizes for snapping at CNN reporter over Putin questions: ‘I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,’ Katie Shepherd, June 17, 2021. As President Biden turned to walk off the stage following a news conference in Geneva after his summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a reporter shouted out one final question.

“Why are you so confident [Putin] will change his behavior, Mr. President?” CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked.

The president, who had already turned away from the clutch of journalists, threw up his hands and started back toward the reporters while wagging his finger.

“What the hell? … When did I say I was confident?” Biden said as he headed back toward Collins, before launching into a tense back-and-forth with the reporter while defending his approach with the Russian president.

cnn logoBiden’s flash of frustration briefly revived memories of president Donald Trump’s frequent heated exchanges with the White House press corps, though Biden’s staid summit with Putin was in stark contrast to the deference Trump brought to his interactions with the Russian leader. As his exchange with Collins went viral, some critics jumped to defend the reporter, while others argued that her question unfairly reflected the president’s earlier statements.

Soon after the exchange, Biden issued a mea culpa for his tone.

“I owe my last questioner an apology,” the president told reporters on the tarmac as he readied to board Air Force One on Wednesday afternoon. “I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy with the last answer I gave.”


Brazil Cases:   17,629,714, Deaths:    493,837

romano didulo recent screenshots

The Canadian agitator Romana Didulo who is threatening health care workers, shown in two screenshots from her recent videos on YouTube.

Vice, Investigation: The woman whom thousands of Canadians believe is their secret ruler isn't afraid to tell her followers she's calling for the executions of the health-care workers and politicians behind the vaccination rollout, Mack Lamoureux, June 17, 2021. QAnons Are Harassing People at the Whim of a Woman They Say Is Canada’s Queen. A woman who claims she is the secret ruler of Canada has, thanks to QAnon influencers, thousands of followers, some of which are extremely active offline and harassing Canadians.

The woman whom thousands of Canadians believe is their secret ruler isn’t afraid to tell her followers she’s calling for the executions of health care workers and politicians behind the vaccination rollout.

canadian flag“At the firing squad, the military firing squad, you will receive not one, but two bullets on your forehead for each child that you have harmed as a result of injecting this experimental vaccine,” said Romana Didulo to those involved in vaccination efforts in a recent video on Telegram. “So when you go home tonight, think about how many bullets.”

Didulo, a B.C.-based woman in her 50s, has recently built up a following of thousands of people who listen to her claims of having been put in control of the Great White North by the same forces that QAnon believers think are fighting the deep state in America. QAnon, for the uninitiated, is a wide-ranging, wildly unfactual conspiracy centred upon Donald Trump’s secret fight against an international cabal of elitist pedophiles. Didulo was recently thrust into her position by several well-known QAnon figures who helped anoint her as a leader and in turns sent a swarm of followers her way.

But despite her following being only weeks old, Didulo has rallied her Canadian followers to real-life action. They’re in the midst of filing hundreds of “cease and desist” notices demanding businesses, governments, and police forces stop all activities related to combating the pandemic. They have organized themselves into localized groups to email their demands out en masse, send them via registered letter, or simply make their way to stores or police stations in order to physically hand them out.

One particularly riled-up group of conspiracy theorists in Cochrane, Alberta, went to over 30 businesses last week to hand out the notices. On June 10 they decided to go to a K-8 school—while children were present—and hand the notices and anti-vax flyers out. They eventually were kicked out and Cochrane RCMP confirmed to VICE World News that two people received trespassing tickets for their actions. The group complained about its mistreatment by police inside its Telegram chat and mulled over “bombarding” the school’s principal with letters.

Didulo has said that if the people who received the cease and desist orders from her followers break them, they will be executed.

“Peace, prosperity, or perish,” is one of her slogans, after all.

It’s not Didulo who is necessarily important, but her growing and active audience.

QAnon, which may, according to a recent poll, have as many as 30 million followers in the U.S. as well as more outside of it, has contributed to real-world violence, including the Capitol Hill uprising. Only a few short years ago, Didulo could have been simply ignored as someone with a grift or a tenuous grip of reality posting videos, but now, thanks to the new QAnon ecosystem, she’s a figure of consequence. In this modern environment, someone claiming to be the secret ruler of Canada and to be holding military tribunals and executions can rapidly gain thousands of followers, some willing to follow her off the deepest creases of the internet and into the real world.

To know the volatility of her followers, however, you must first know who they’re following. Didulo is the “leader” of an online political party called the Canada1st Party of Canada—which does not appear to have been officially registered anywhere but has been turned into a corporation by Didulo. She began posting about the party and making videos about her policy in late 2020, during the second wave of the pandemic. However, the party never took off, and she languished in obscurity for some time.

That all changed in May when she changed tactics and switched her rhetoric to fit several popular QAnon narratives. After getting noticed by a couple of well-known QAnon figures, her profile has been growing rapidly.

She now has almost 20,000 followers on Telegram, her primary channel, and a growing and engaged audience. The audience consists of an intersection of QAnon believers, anti-lockdown zealots, and “sovereign citizens” (people who think government laws do not apply to them, especially ones related to taxes). And her audience is not a passive one.

“Hello, Canada, I’m Ramona Didulo, I'm the founder and leader of Canada1st. As of February this year, 2021, I am the head of state and commander in chief of Canada, the Republic,” she said in her announcement video. “The people who appointed me are the white hats and the U.S. military, together with the global allied troops and their governments—the same group of people who have helped President Trump.”

She speaks to her audience either through Telegram posts or via poorly produced videos in which she sits on a couch in front of an empty beige wall. In a follow-up video to her initial decree, Didulo declares herself not only the “the head of state,” “commander in chief,” and “head of government,” but also the “Queen of Canada, replacing Queen Elizabeth II of England who has now been executed for crimes against humanity.”

Athens News, Ohio University’s student newspaper The Post faces existential threat in the face of administrative defunding, Ben Peters, June 17, 2021. Ohio University student news organization The Post is at risk of losing its sole full-time employee who raises money for the publication, posing a potential existential threat to a 100-year-old legacy newspaper that’s historically served as a primary source of information in the area.

The publication’s business manager role, currently held by Andrea Lewis who oversees advertising sales as its exclusive source of revenue, has been on thin ice for nearly a decade with its oversight being shifted between administrative offices, culminating to this point where it will no longer exist in a year if the organization isn’t able to independently procure funding for her $45,000 salary.

Without somebody working in that role full-time, The Post’s editorial operations could be devastated, dampening news coverage of the university amid a period of significant upheaval and turmoil.

Prior to the recent rise of alternative on-campus publications, The Post historically operated as the main competitor of both professional local newspapers, The Athens News and The Athens Messenger, providing critical coverage of university and regional affairs.

June 16 

lina khan resized ftc

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden taps Big Tech critic Lina Khan to chair the Federal Trade Commission, Cat Zakrzewski and Tyler Pager, June 16, 2021 (print ed.). The appointment came shortly after the Senate voted 69-28 to confirm her for a seat on the 5-member commission.

In a move that heralds a growing effort to check the power and influence of Big Tech, President Biden on Tuesday appointed Lina Khan, a top antagonist of the tech industry, to chair the Federal Trade Commission, the federal government’s primary antitrust watchdog.

Biden’s decision to put Khan in charge of the FTC’s agenda is the clearest sign yet that his administration will take a drastically different approach to regulating the tech giants than did President Barack Obama, whose administration took a largely hands-off approach toward Silicon Valley.

Reaction from both supporters and detractors reflected that expectation.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who launched her failed presidential campaign pledging to break up the tech companies, hailed the move as “a huge opportunity to make big, structural change by reviving antitrust enforcement and fighting monopolies that threaten our economy, our society, and our democracy.”

Critics were equally adamant.

chuck grassley o“Lina Khan’s antitrust activism detracts from the Federal Trade Commission’s reputation as an impartial body that enforces the law in a nondiscriminatory fashion,” the tech industry group NetChoice, which counts Amazon, Facebook and Google among its members, said in a statement. It described itself as “disheartened” by the development.

News of Khan’s elevation to the top spot at the FTC came shortly after the Senate, in a rare show of bipartisanship, confirmed her appointment to a seat on the five-member commission on a vote of 69 to 28. Twenty-one Republicans joined 46 Democrats and two independents in backing Khan — another signal of the growing bipartisan interest in reining in tech companies’ power.

Sens. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), right, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and Roger Wicker (Miss.), the top Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, were among her supporters.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Publisher Says It Welcomes Conservative Writers Rejected Elsewhere, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, Updated June 16, 2021. All Seasons Press, started by former executives from Simon & Schuster and Hachette, plans to publish books by the former Trump officials Mark Meadows and Peter Navarro.

Jared Kushner, right, has a book deal, joining former White House officials like Kellyanne Conway and Mike Pence who are also writing books.

But others from the Trump administration have had a tougher time with mainstream publishers. Those companies have struggled to find a balance between promoting a range of voices — including conservative authors who can sell a lot of copies — and heeding their employees, readers and authors who consider it morally unacceptable to publish them.

Now there is a new publishing company, All Seasons Press, that wants those conservative authors and is pitching itself as an alternative to mainstream houses.

Donald Trump“The company is open to welcoming those authors who are being attacked, bullied, banned from social media, and, in some cases, outright rejected by politically correct publishers,” it said in a news release on Tuesday.

It isn’t the only outlet for former Trump officials. Mr. Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law and former senior adviser, has signed with Broadside, a conservative imprint at HarperCollins. His memoir, which his publisher says will be “the definitive, thorough recounting of the administration,” is due out early next year, and will cover his work on issues such as Middle East diplomacy, criminal justice reform and the administration’s pandemic response. Simon & Schuster has acquired Mr. Pence and Ms. Conway’s books, and Betsy DeVos, the former education secretary, has also sold a book.

But All Seasons is staking out territory that some mainstream publishers are wary to venture into, by courting former Trump officials who staunchly supported the president through the bitter end of his administration, including those who echoed the president’s false claims that the election was rigged. The company plans to release a book in the fall by Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, and another by Peter Navarro, Mr. Trump’s former trade adviser. Its founding was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion: The press no longer interested in informing the public, Wayne Madsen, left, June 16, 2021. There is a reason why newspapers, even in their digital formats, are going out of wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbusiness at a breakneck speed across the country. Newspapers once strove to keep the public, particularly their regional area readership, as informed as possible.

wayne madesen report logoToday, the press kowtows so much to corporate special interests, it is impossible to distinguish between actual newsworthy items and “infomercials” placed by public relations firms or, even worse, political action committees.

June 15

ny times logoNew York Times, Power and Peril: 5 Takeaways on Amazon’s Employment Machine, Jodi Kantor, Karen Weise and Grace Ashford, June 15, 2021 Outsiders see a business success story for the ages. Many insiders see an employment system under strain.

amazon logo smallAn Amazon worker tries to return from a Covid-related leave and is mistakenly fired. A wife panics as disability benefits halt for her gravely ill husband. An employee is fired for having a single underproductive day.

An examination by The New York Times into how the pandemic unfolded inside Amazon’s only fulfillment center in New York City, known as JFK8, found that the crisis exposed the power and peril of Amazon’s employment system. The company famously obsessed with satisfying customers achieved record growth and spectacular profits, but its management of hundreds of thousands of warehouse workers was marked at times by critical mistakes, communication lapses and high turnover.

  • New York Times, Here are five takeaways on what The Times learned about a part of Amazon that customers don’t see..

 ny times logoNew York Times, MacKenzie Scott Reveals Another $2.74 Billion in Giving, Nicholas Kulish and David Gelles, June 15, 2021. Ms. Scott’s wealth has continued to grow thanks to Amazon’s soaring stock price. Forbes estimates her net worth at roughly $60 billion. Charitable giving in the U.S. rose to a record level in 2020. Here’s the latest business and economy news.

MacKenzie Scott, one of the richest women in the world, forged ahead with her highly unconventional approach to philanthropy on Tuesday, using a blog post to announce that she and her husband, Dan Jewett, had given away $2.74 billion to 286 organizations including arts nonprofits and groups working to combat racial discrimination.

amazon logo smallMs. Scott was married to Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, for 25 years. When they divorced in 2019, her share of the settlement, 4 percent of Amazon’s stock, was valued at around $36 billion. Despite the huge sums she has given away since then — the latest round brings her total to more than $8 billion — her wealth has only continued to grow, thanks to Amazon’s soaring stock price. Forbes’s most recent estimate of her net worth was roughly $60 billion.

Though Ms. Scott did not list the amount she gave each organization, her blog post included a list of those receiving funds. They included well-known arts groups such as the Apollo Theater and Ballet Hispánico; higher education institutions including schools in the University of California and the University of Texas systems; organizations focused on racial justice, such as Race Forward and Borealis Philanthropy; and groups focused on empowering women and combating domestic violence.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Barbara Starr question: Why did Trump’s Justice Department want CNN Pentagon reporter’s emails? Paul Farhi, June 15, 2021. Barbara Starr of CNN. “I don’t know what the government was looking for when it snuck into my life,” the Pentagon reporter wrote.

Regular CNN viewers know Barbara Starr as the network’s veteran Pentagon reporter, a straight-shooting correspondent who delivers periodic news reports on topics like NATO, counterterrorism efforts, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CNNSo it was striking when Starr was revealed last month as one of the journalists whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Justice Department amid a Trump administration push to discover who was providing classified information to journalists.

Striking because Starr isn’t like the others: She wasn’t involved in reporting or investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia during the 2016 campaign, as were seven journalists from The Washington Post and New York Times and two Democratic congressmen, Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell, all of whom were also the targets of secret Justice Department record seizures.
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That disconnect has left a mystery. Why did the Justice Department go after Starr, given that she wasn’t involved in the Russia story and that her stories don’t appear to have been based on leaks of classified material, the crime prosecutors were ostensibly investigating?

Politico via Yahoo News, Publishing houses 'wary' of acquiring a Trump memoir: 'A fact-checking nightmare,' Brendan Morrow, June 15, 2021. Former President Donald Trump claims he has turned down not one, but two book deals. But according to a new report, he remains "radioactive in the Manhattan publishing world."

Major publishing houses "still are wary of publishing a book" by the 45th president, Politico reported Tuesday, despite the fact that former Vice President Mike Pence has two books on the way from Simon & Schuster. The prime concern, the report says, is that Trump's book "wouldn't be truthful."

"[I]t would be too hard to get a book that was factually accurate, actually," a publishing industry source told Politico. "That would be the problem. If he can't even admit that he lost the election, then how do you publish that?"

Keith Urbahn, president of the literary agency Javelin, also told Politico that the "headaches" such a book would present a publisher would "far outweigh the potential" upside, as "any editor bold enough to acquire the Trump memoir is looking at a fact-checking nightmare, an exodus of other authors, and a staff uprising in the unlikely event they strike a deal with the former president."

Trump, though, claimed last week that he has "turned down two book deals" because he doesn't "want to do such a deal right now," and he reiterated this assertion to Politico, saying the offers came from "two of the biggest and most prestigious publishing houses." Still, Politico reported that after reaching out to sources at Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, and Simon & Schuster, no one had heard about this happening.

"I'm skeptical," an insider told Politico. "He's screwed over so many publishers that before he ran for president none of the big 5 would work with [him] anymore.

Others said it's possible offers were indeed made, but a source told Politico that one of them might have been "for $100."

June 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The secret gag orders must stop, Brad Smith, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). Brad Smith, right, is the president of Microsoft. The past seven days marked another bad week for the brad smith microsoftcollision between technology and democracy. We live in an era when private emails and text messages typically are backed up and stored in the cloud by tech companies. When it comes to cybersecurity, the cloud bolsters protection.

But now we’ve learned that the Trump Justice Department exploited this feature as part of a secret effort to obtain emails in investigations of the media and Congress, two institutions where transparency is essential.

microsoft logo CustomThe government cannot justify secrecy in such probes. The abuse of secrecy orders is neither new nor confined to a single administration, and certainly not limited to investigations involving members of Congress or the news media. Democracy rests on a fundamental principle of government transparency. Secrecy should be the rare exception — not the rule.
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Not long ago, if the government wanted to serve a search warrant as part of a criminal investigation, it had to do so in person, with notice. An agent or officer needed to bring a signed warrant to a house or building and hand it to the target of the probe at the front door; only then could the government search the premises for documents, records and computer files. This was true for individuals, businesses and governments alike. If secrecy required getting a “sneak and peek” warrant because evidence would be destroyed in advance or a witness’s safety would be jeopardized, this required a heightened showing, beyond mere probable cause.

Those principles still hold true today. Yet with the expansion of cloud computing in every industry, the federal and state governments know they quickly can obtain data electronically from sources other than the target. So that’s what they do. In secret. By serving search warrants on companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft to obtain emails and messages that belong to our customers. Government prosecutors also ask courts to impose gag orders on companies such as ours that prevent us from letting people know that copies of their emails are now in the government’s hands. 

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There’s no escape from holding Trump accountable, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). It was inevitable that the Trump administration’s politically motivated misuse of the investigative arms of government would burst into public view and demand accountability. That moment is upon us.

ej dionne w open neckThe revelation that the Trump Justice Department secretly sought the phone records of two Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee who were among President Donald Trump’s sharpest critics (along with those of their aides and family members) was the shock that the system needed.

It underscored the tension between two essential goals for the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland: how to depoliticize a department that effectively became an arm of the White House under Trump without evading the imperative of requiring a lawless presidency to answer for its abuses.

My hunch is that President Biden hoped that legal accountability for at least some of Trump’s abuses would be enforced by state and local prosecutors, saving his Justice Department from having to take the sorts of steps against a predecessor that friends of constitutional democracy try to avoid.

But as the flare-up over the investigation into Schiff and Swalwell made clear, the Biden administration may not have this luxury. Garland is right to do all he can to keep his department out of politics. Unfortunately, the nature of Trump’s presidency will complicate any path back to the old ways and the old rules. It’s Trump’s poisoned chalice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Secret recordings, leaked letters expose backroom dealings and rock the Southern Baptist Convention, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, June 14, 2021 (print ed.). On Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

Demands for political loyalty. Disputes about racism. A fight between conservatives and ultraconservatives. It sounds like current debates within the Republican Party, but on Tuesday, thousands of Southern Baptists will gather in Nashville to vote on issues that will shape the massive denomination’s future, including the choice of its next president.

More than 16,000 people are expected to attend the denomination’s annual meeting, probably the largest religious gathering since the pandemic, as well as the biggest Baptist meeting in decades.

What is especially unusual about the meeting is infighting at the highest levels of leadership that has become public in recent weeks. New details released to news media outlets have shined a light on the backroom dealings of several of its high-profile leaders

NBC News, Former NSA contractor Reality Winner, jailed for leaking secrets about Russian hacking, released early from prison, Ben Kesslen, June 14, 2021.Winner, 29, was sentenced to five years and NBC News logohree months in prison in 2018 after leaking classified information to The Intercept news outlet.

Reality Winner, the former National Security Agency contractor who was jailed for leaking secrets about Russian hacking, has been released early from prison, her lawyer said Monday.

"I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison," Alison Grinter Allen, her lawyer, said in a statement posted on Twitter.

reality winner mug CustomWinner, 29, was sentenced to more than five years in prison in 2018 after she leaked classified information to The Intercept news outlet about Russia's attempts to hack the 2016 presidential election. She pleaded guilty to leaking a classified report that detailed the Russian government's efforts to penetrate a Florida-based voting software supplier. At the time, the sentence was the longest ever for a federal crime involving leaks to the media.

Her lawyers filed a formal petition for commutation with the Department of Justice in February 2020, saying she had "suffered enough" and called on then-President Donald Trump to "do the right thing."

The former NSA translator was released for good behavior and is still in custody amid the “residential re-entry process,” Allen said.

“We are relieved and hopeful,” she wrote. “Her release is not a product of the pardon or compassionate release process, but rather time earned from exemplary behavior while incarcerated.”

While Trump did not commute Winner’s sentence, he did say on Twitter in 2018 her punishment was “so unfair...."Gee, this is 'small potatoes' compared to what Hillary Clinton did," he had tweeted.

June 13

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Is Said to Have Turned Over Data on Trump’s White House Counsel, Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage, June 13, 2021. The company notified Donald McGahn last month that it had been subpoenaed for his account information three years ago and was barred from telling him. Apple told Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel to former President Donald J. Trump, last month that the Justice Department had subpoenaed information about an account that belonged to him in February 2018, and that the government barred the company from telling him at the time, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Mr. McGahn’s wife received a similar notice from Apple, said one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

FBI logoIt is not clear what F.B.I. agents were scrutinizing, nor whether Mr. McGahn was their specific focus. In investigations, agents sometimes compile a large list of phone numbers and email addresses that were in contact with a subject, and seek to identify all those people by using subpoenas to communications companies for any account information like names, computer addresses and credit card numbers associated with them.

Still, the disclosure that agents secretly collected data of a sitting White House counsel is striking as it comes amid a political backlash to revelations about Trump-era seizures of data of reporters and Democrats in Congress for leak investigations. The president’s top lawyer is also a chief point of contact between the White House and the Justice Department.

apple logo rainbowApple told Mr. McGahn that it complied with the subpoena in a timely fashion but declined to tell him what it provided the government, according to a person briefed on the matter. Under Justice Department policy, gag orders for subpoenas may be renewed for up to a year at a time, suggesting that prosecutors went to court several times to prevent Apple from notifying the McGahns earlier.

Spokespeople for Apple and the Justice Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Mr. McGahn declined to comment.

Apple told the McGahns that it received the subpoena on Feb. 23, 2018, according to a person briefed on the matter. The other person familiar with the matter said the subpoena had been issued by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia.

It is not clear why prosecutors obtained the subpoena. But several notable events were occurring around that time.

One of the roughly concurrent events was that the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia was the center of one part of the Russia inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that focused on Paul Manafort, the onetime chairman of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign.

Because Mr. McGahn had been the top lawyer for the Trump campaign in 2016, it is possible that at some earlier point he had been among those in contact with someone whose account the Mueller team was scrutinizing in early 2018.

dan mcgahn djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: The real reason the Trump DOJ was spying on White House Counsel Don McGahn, Bill Palmer, right, June 13, 2021. Back in late 2017 and early 2018, various major news outlets bill palmerpublished a series of inside-sourced articles which depicted Donald Trump repeatedly ordering people in the White House to commit obstruction of justice, and White House Counsel Don McGahn, above right, heroically stepping in each time to stop it from happening. Based on the structure of these articles, it wasn’t difficult to figure out that McGahn was very likely the source; these kinds of leakers always paint themselves as the thinly veiled hero of their own story.

Now it turns out I may not be the only one who spotted the pattern. It turns out that in February of 2018, the Trump DOJ subpoenaed the personal data of McGahn and his wife, according to a new report from the New York Times. The reasoning behind this spying isn’t being revealed. But it wouldn’t be a stretch to hypothesize that someone in the Trump regime suspected McGahn was the source for these various media articles, and went after his personal communications to try to prove as much.

Even if this is the case, then the Trump DOJ’s actions against McGahn were totally unwarranted. Leaking embarrassing true things about your boss to the media might be a fireable offense, but it’s certainly not a criminal offense – meaning the Trump DOJ had no business pursuing it. In fact the DOJ committed a crime against McGahn by spying on his personal data, and particularly his wife’s personal data, just as the DOJ committed a crime by spying on multiple House Democrats.

It’s worth noting that when it comes to today’s New York Times bombshell, Don McGahn once again appears to be the source. How else would the authors of the article know that McGahn and his wife recently received notices from Apple that their personal data had been seized? If this is the case, then let’s hope that McGahn keeps talking, and reveals more about the Trump regime’s criminal antics. McGahn recently testified to Congress about Trump’s obstruction of justice crimes. Let’s hear even more from him.

Pentagon Papers 50th Anniversary 

ny times logoNew York Times, Special Report: The Secrets and Lies of the Vietnam War, Exposed in One Epic Document, Elizabeth Becker, June 13, 2021 (print ed.).  With the Pentagon Papers revelations, the U.S. public’s trust in the government was forever diminished.

Brandishing a captured Chinese machine gun, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara appeared at a televised news conference in the spring of 1965. The United States had just sent its first combat troops to South Vietnam, and the new push, he boasted, was further wearing down the beleaguered Vietcong.

“In the past four and one-half years, the Vietcong, the Communists, have lost 89,000 men,” he said. “You can see the heavy drain.”

That was a lie. From confidential reports, McNamara knew the situation was “bad and deteriorating” in the South. “The VC have the initiative,” the information said. “Defeatism is gaining among the rural population, somewhat in the cities, and even among the soldiers.”

Lies like McNamara’s were the rule, not the exception, throughout America’s involvement in Vietnam. The lies were repeated to the public, to Congress, in closed-door hearings, in speeches and to the press. The real story might have remained unknown if, in 1967, McNamara had not commissioned a secret history based on classified documents — which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

By then, he knew that even with nearly 500,000 U.S. troops in theater, the war was at a stalemate. He created a research team to assemble and analyze Defense Department decision-making dating back to 1945. This was either quixotic or arrogant. As secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, McNamara was an architect of the war and implicated in the lies that were the bedrock of U.S. policy.

daniel ellsberg umassDaniel Ellsberg (shown in a recent University of Massachusetts photo), an analyst on the study, eventually leaked portions of the report to The New York Times, which published excerpts in 1971. The revelations in the Pentagon Papers infuriated a country sick of the war, the body bags of young Americans, the photographs of Vietnamese civilians fleeing U.S. air attacks and the endless protests and counterprotests that were dividing the country as nothing had since the Civil War.

The lies revealed in the papers were of a generational scale, and, for much of the American public, this grand deception seeded a suspicion of government that is even more widespread today.

Officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” the papers filled 47 volumes, covering the administrations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Their 7,000 pages chronicled, in cold, bureaucratic language, how the United States got itself mired in a long, costly war in a small Southeast Asian country of questionable strategic importance.

They are an essential record of the first war the United States lost. For modern historians, they foreshadow the mind-set and miscalculations that led the United States to fight the “forever wars” of Iraq and Afghanistan.

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Insider: Thinking Often of the Pentagon Papers, Terence McGinley, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). This weekend, a special section in The Times commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers. Here, contributors to the project reflect on how the secret study’s publication influenced their careers.

Fifty years ago today, The Times published the first article in its series on the Pentagon Papers, the Defense Department’s secret study of the United States’ role in Vietnam. The papers, including private revelations that ran counter to the public optimism of leaders, changed American journalism and a nation’s relationship with its government. The Nixon administration’s attempt to stop The Times from printing its series, and the Supreme Court decision that allowed the paper to continue, is a landmark First Amendment case. In a special section, rolled out online last week and in newspapers this weekend, Times journalists and contributors wrote about these themes. Here’s what they think about when the Pentagon Papers come to mind.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Leaking the Pentagon Papers Was an Assault on Democracy, Gabriel Schoenfeld (author of “Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law”), June 13, 2021 (print ed.). The way we control secrets has been established by Congress and the executive branch, both accountable to the public and the courts. Daniel Ellsberg, accountable to no one, took it upon himself to steer the ship of state.

It is an axiom that governmental secrecy is antithetical to democratic self-rule. But it is also an axiom that secrecy is crucial to the conduct of statecraft. The 50th anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers by The New York Times provides an occasion to consider what happens when the two axioms collide. The case of Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the most celebrated leaker in our history, reveals the ambiguities stemming from a tension that can never be satisfactorily resolved.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Secrets That Were No Secret, Lessons That Were Not Learned, Andrew J. Bacevich, June 13, 2021 (print ed.). As a soldier in Vietnam, I already knew what the Pentagon Papers revealed. In the years since, America's leaders have repeated the same mistakes.

When The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers 50 years ago, I don’t recall giving the story much attention. As a young Army lieutenant serving in South Vietnam, I did not need a classified account of America’s reckless involvement in the war to tell me that I was participating in a misbegotten enterprise. Abundant evidence was in plain sight.

In the field, a dangerous and elusive enemy lurked. Hardly less dangerous were pathologies imported from a radicalized and bitterly divided home front: drug use, a poisonous racial climate and contempt for authority. Equally disturbing was the average G.I.’s palpably low regard for the Vietnamese people on whose behalf we were ostensibly fighting.

In the ensuing decades, my appreciation for the revelations of the Pentagon Papers has grown. The portrait of fallible policymakers at the highest levels of government rendering judgments based on little more than ill-informed conjecture, while concealing their ignorance behind a veil of secrecy, has lost little of its ability to shock.

Mr. Bacevich is a veteran of the Vietnam War, a retired Army colonel, an emeritus professor at Boston University and the president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He is the author of “After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed” and has written extensively on the misuse of American military power.

June 11 

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 to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Lawmakers, Taking Aim at Big Tech, Push Sweeping Overhaul of Antitrust, Cecilia Kang, June 11, 2021. A bipartisan group of House members introduced five bills that take direct aim at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

House lawmakers on Friday introduced sweeping antitrust legislation aimed at restraining the power of Big Tech and staving off corporate consolidation across the economy, in what would be the most amazon logo smallambitious update to monopoly laws in decades.

The bills — five in total — take direct aim at Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google and their grip on online commerce, information and entertainment. The proposals would make it easier to break up businesses that use their dominance in one area to get a stronghold in another, would create new hurdles for acquisitions of nascent rivals, and would empower regulators with more funds to police companies.

“Right now, unregulated tech monopolies have too much power over our economy. They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices on consumers and put folks out of work,” said Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and chairman of the antitrust subcommittee. “Our agenda will level the playing field and ensure apple logo rainbowthe wealthiest, most powerful tech monopolies play by the same rules as the rest of us.”

The introduction of the bills, which have some bipartisan support, represents the most aggressive challenge yet from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley’s tech giants, which have thrived for years without regulation or much restraint on the expansion of their business. Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have a combined market capitalization of $6.3 trillion, four times more than the value of the country’s 10 largest banks.

June 10

djt william barr doj photo march 2019

ny times logoNew York Times, Hunting Leaks, Trump Officials Focused on Democrats in Congress, Katie Benner, Nicholas Fandos, Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman, June 10, 2021. The Justice Department seized records from Apple for metadata of House Intelligence Committee members, their aides and family members.

As the Justice Department investigated who was behind leaks of classified information early in the Trump administration, it took a highly unusual step: Prosecutors subpoenaed Apple for data from the accounts of at least two Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, aides and family members. One was a minor.

adam schiff squareAll told, the records of at least a dozen people tied to the committee were seized in 2017 and early 2018, including those of Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, right, then the panel’s top Democrat and now its chairman, according to committee officials and two other people briefed on the inquiry. Representative Eric Swalwell of California said in an interview Thursday night that he had also been notified that his data had subpoenaed.

american flag upside down distressProsecutors, under the beleaguered attorney general, Jeff Sessions, were hunting for the sources behind news media reports about contacts between Trump associates and Russia. Ultimately, the data and other evidence did not tie the committee to the leaks, and investigators debated whether they had hit a dead end and some even discussed closing the inquiry.

But William P. Barr, shown above, revived languishing leak investigations after he became attorney general a year later. He moved a trusted prosecutor from New Jersey with little relevant experience to the main Justice Department to work on the Schiff-related case and about a half-dozen others, according to three people with knowledge of his work who did not want to be identified discussing federal investigations.

The zeal in the Trump administration’s efforts to hunt leakers led to the extraordinary step of subpoenaing communications metadata from members of Congress — a nearly apple logo rainbowunheard-of move outside of corruption investigations. While Justice Department leak investigations are routine, current and former congressional officials familiar with the inquiry said they could not recall an instance in which the records of lawmakers had been seized as part of one.

Moreover, just as it did in investigating news organizations, the Justice Department secured a gag order on Apple that expired this year, according to a person familiar with the inquiry, so lawmakers did not know they were being investigated until Apple informed them last month.

Prosecutors also eventually secured subpoenas for reporters’ records to try to identify their confidential sources, a move that department policy allows only after all other avenues of inquiry are exhausted.

Proof via Substack, Investigation: Trumpist Insurrectionists Have Now Created a Systematized Mechanism for "Cancelling" People and Groups—and It's the Most Comprehensive Cancel Culture America seth abramson graphicHas Ever Seen, Seth Abramson, left, June 10, 2021. The number of brands explicitly targeted for cancellation by Patriot.Win is staggering, representing a cultist/militant rejection of both the American free-market system and American democracy itself.

The most ardent adherents to a self-described billionaire’s “populist” movement claim to be animated by what they say is the worrying spread of “cancel culture” in America. If their complaint seems not just hypocritical but even delusionally self-contradictory, do remember that that’s the point: Trumpism is about attributing to one’s opponents whatever it is one is doing oneself that one cannot defend, whether it’s encouraging violent attacks on persons and property, undermining U.S. elections, or “cancelling” so many companies, websites, media outlets and persons through concerted digital action and even (see below) a systematized protocol for cancelling entities that there can no longer be any doubt that Patriot.Win is now the chief “canceller” in the United States.

The Patriot.Win Website: Patriot.Win is an insurrectionist outgrowth of the now-defunct pro-sedition website TheDonald.Win, which latter address now redirects to America.Win. Patriot.Win has two badges it uses to warn its users about companies, sites, media outlets and persons:

    • The Orange “Warning” Badge
    • The Red “Cancellation” Badge 

dan mcgahn djt

Palmer Report, Opinion: Don McGahn has finally publicly confessed to Donald Trump’s obstruction of justice crimes, Bill Palmer, right, June 10, 2021. It shouldn’t have taken this long. It’s been sabotaged by bill palmercorrupt bad actors at every turn for years. But once Donald Trump lost the election, it was always going to happen inevitably. And sure enough, former White House Counsel Don McGahn has finally publicly confessed to Trump’s obstruction of justice crimes.

McGahn (above right) testified about these crimes to the Mueller team long ago – but as we all remember – the most important parts of the Mueller report were illegally buried by Bill Barr and then the media inexplicably took Barr at his word. But now McGahn has testified about Trump’s obstruction crimes to Congress, and while it took place behind closed doors, McGahn knew the transcript would be released shortly after his testimony.

bill palmer report logo headerSure enough, that happened yesterday. The public transcript reveals that while Don McGahn wasn’t the most cooperative of witnesses, he did specifically state that Donald Trump ordered him to do things to interfere with the Mueller probe that he refused to do, because he viewed the orders as illegal. This is a confession on McGahn’s part that he witnessed Trump commit felony obstruction of justice.

Why does this matter? Here’s the thing. Donald Trump is already facing grand jury indictment in New York, and he’s on a glide path to state prison. But that will be for his financial crimes, many of which took place before he took office. The big question is whether Trump will also be federally criminally charged for the crimes he committed in his role as President.

McGahn’s confession to Trump’s guilt will make it a heck of a lot easier for the Feds to criminally charge Trump with obstruction of justice, if they want to. Also, the public release of this testimony should help ramp up public demand for Trump’s federal prosecution, which will help put pressure on the Feds to charge him even if they’d rather not.

Because McGahn’s testimony emerged as a transcript and not live on television (something that McGahn would never have agreed to and would have instead fought in court for another few years), the impact of his testimony won’t be immediate. But we’re already seeing the McGahn transcript filter its way into media coverage, which will help gradually educate the public about Trump’s obstruction crimes, which could finally get the ball rolling on obstruction charges.

Again, Donald Trump is already earmarked for prison for financial crimes in New York. And frankly, it’ll be infinitely easier to get a jury to convict Trump for straightforward financial crimes than it will be to get a jury to convict Trump for something as qualitative as obstruction of justice. But if you believe that the Feds must criminally charge Trump for his crimes in office, suffice it to say that those odds – while still unknown – certainly just went up

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Tweaks Its Formula, Seeking to Curb Online Slander, Kashmir Hill and Daisuke Wakabayashi, June 10, 2021. In response to Times articles, the search giant is changing its algorithm, part of a major shift in how Google polices harmful content.

For many years, the vicious cycle has spun: Websites solicit lurid, unverified complaints about supposed cheaters, sexual predators, deadbeats and scammers. People slander their enemies. The anonymous posts appear high in Google results for the names of victims. Then the websites charge the victims thousands of dollars to take the posts down.

This circle of slander has been lucrative for the websites and associated middlemen — and devastating for victims. Now Google is trying to break the loop.

google logo customThe company plans to change its search algorithm to prevent websites, which operate under domains like BadGirlReport.date and PredatorsAlert.us, from appearing in the list of results when someone searches for a person’s name.

Google also recently created a new concept it calls “known victims.” When people report to the company that they have been attacked on sites that charge to remove posts, Google will automatically suppress similar content when their names are searched for. “Known victims” also includes people whose nude photos have been published online without their consent, allowing them to request suppression of explicit results for their names.

The changes — some already made by Google and others planned for the coming months — are a response to recent New York Times articles documenting how the slander industry preys on victims with Google’s unwitting help.

That represents a momentous shift for victims of online slander. Google, which fields an estimated 90 percent of global online search, historically resisted having human judgment play a role in its search engine, although it has bowed to mounting pressure in recent years to fight misinformation and abuse appearing at the top of its results.

 

seth pendley facebook

washington post logoWashington Post, He brought a sawed-off rifle to the Capitol on Jan. 6. Then he plotted to bomb Amazon data centers, Katie Shepherd, June 10, 2021. For weeks this spring, 28-year-old Seth Aaron Pendley had plotted an attack on Amazon data centers in Virginia. He had already taken a sawed-off rifle to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Now, he hoped to cripple much of the Internet and take down government networks.

Last April, he finally arranged a meeting with a man promising to provide the C-4 explosive devices. When they met in Fort Worth, Tex., the man showed Pendley how to arm and detonate the powerful bombs.But just as Pendley placed the devices into his Pontiac, federal agents swarmed in and arrested him. The bomb seller was actually an FBI plant who had helped unravel a plan Pendley believed could “kill off about 70 percent of the internet.”

On Wednesday, Pendley (shown above in a Facebook photo) pleaded guilty to planning to bomb Amazon facilities in an attempt to undermine the U.S. government and to spark a rebellion against the “oligarchy” he believed to be running the country.

amazon logo smallThe case underscores the dramatic rise in domestic terrorism driven by right-wing extremists and raises concerns about those who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection plotting new attacks. Domestic attacks peaked in 2020, mostly driven by white-supremacist, anti-Muslim and anti-government extremists. Those far-right attacks have killed 91 people since 2015, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Justice Department officials on Wednesday said Pendley’s plans could have injured or killed workers at the Amazon facilities if the FBI hadn’t intervened.

“Due in large part to the meticulous work of the FBI’s undercover agents, the Justice Department was able to expose Mr. Pendley’s twisted plot and apprehend the defendant before he was able to inflict any real harm,” Prerak Shah, the acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement. “We may never know how many tech workers’ lives were saved through this operation — and we’re grateful we never had to find out.”

Pendley’s plot against the government began to take shape in January, according to investigators. He said he traveled to D.C. on Jan. 6 with a sawed-off rifle concealed in a backpack. As a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, he decided to leave the gun in his car and never entered the building, according to court records. But he later boasted about taking a piece of broken glass from the federal building home to Texas with him.

Under his plea agreement, Pendley faces between five and 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of probation and will be banned from owning firearms.

June 9 

sherri tenpenny ohio

Ohio Capital Journal, ‘5G towers,’ other conspiracies flourish at hearing on vaccine bill, Jake Zuckerman, June 9, 2021. Supporters crammed into the House Health Committee room June 8 in support of House Bill 248, which weakens state vaccination laws.

A doctor warned that vaccinated people might be magnetized and pose a health risk to unvaccinated people around them.

A pastor said vaccines contain ingredients like formaldehyde and fetal cells.

A nurse sought to prove the truth of “magnetic vaccine crystals.”

These statements — none of which are true — came during the Ohio House Health Committee’s review Tuesday of House Bill 248, a broad weakening of state vaccination laws. The five-hour hearing, limited to proponent testimony, devolved into a forum of fear-stoking, speculation, and conspiracy theorizing around the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, shown above, a board-certified physician from the Cleveland area, repeatedly raised unfounded claims of deaths, strokes and other “horrendous side effects” from the vaccine. The Center for Countering Digital Hate identified Tenpenny as one of a dozen of the most prolific anti-vaccination disinformers “who play leading roles in spreading digital misinformation about Covid vaccines.” The report is linked here and excerpted below:  Advocacy Special Report: The Disinformation Dozen: Why Platforms Must Act On Twelve Leading Online Anti-Vaxxers

At one point, Tenpenny made a claim to lawmakers, with no evidence behind it, that vaccinated people are somehow magnetized.

“They can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick, because now we think there’s a metal piece to that,” she said. “There’s been people who have long suspected that there was some sort of an interface, yet to be defined interface, between what’s being injected in these shots and all of the 5G towers.”

Shortly thereafter, Tom Renz, a lawyer, testified in support of the bill as well. Renz has filed lawsuits in states around the U.S. crying foul of an array of government practices related to COVID-19 and vaccination.

He filed one such case in Ohio, which he withdrew after U.S. District Judge James Carr called Renz’s arguments nearly “incomprehensible” and his supporting evidence “a jumble of alleged facts, conclusory and speculative assertions, personal and third-party allegations, opinions, and articles of dubious provenance and admissibility.”

Renz, like several other witnesses, accused health officials of secretly profiting from vaccines while covering up their dangers.

House Bill 248, co-sponsored by 16 House Republicans, would prohibit any of the following institutions from mandating, incentivizing, or “otherwise requesting” their employees, customers or students get vaccinated: businesses, hospitals, nursing homes, colleges, day-care centers, and insurers.

It also:

  • Prohibits a person from mandating, requiring, or otherwise requesting that an individual receive a vaccine.
  • Compels public schools, which already accept exemptions for non-medical and medical reasons, to emphasize vaccine exemptions “in the same timing and manner, including text size and font, as it
  • provides notice of the requirements.”
  • Blocks businesses from separating patrons by vaccination status or asking whether they’ve been vaccinated.

Rep. Jennifer Gross, R-West Chester, the bill’s lead sponsor, has said she isn’t opposed to vaccination, but people should have the right to choose. “This is not a scientific bill,” she said last month. “This is a freedom bill.”

Several public health experts have warned in interviews that the legislation will likely lead to sagging vaccination rates, and in turn, outbreaks of infectious disease.

mike dewine oIn the last two weeks, Gov. Mike DeWine, right, Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud, and ODH Medical Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff declined to comment on the legislation.

At a press call last week, a physician joined Vanderhoff for a largely unrelated press conference encouraging vaccination against COVID-19. When asked by a reporter about the bill, she didn’t share Vanderhoff’s reticence.

“I’ll be very direct and say this bill threatens how we take care of children, and how we keep them healthy, and how we keep them alive,” said Dr. Patty Manning-Courtney, the chief of staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“To limit and restrict the ability to require vaccinations in schools or to check vaccination status, it’s almost unthinkable in a pediatric community to think that one of the best tools we have at prevention would be limited, restricted, or discussed in a way that is negative.”

Similarly, a “vaccine coalition” of business groups along with the largest medical groups and associations in the state — including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Hospital Association, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, Anthem, OhioHealth, and others — issued a public letter warning the legislation puts all children at risk.

“At its core, this proposal would destroy our current public health framework that prevents outbreaks of potentially lethal diseases, threaten the stability of our economy as it recovers from a devastating pandemic, and jeopardize the way we live, learn, work and celebrate life,” the coalition wrote.

An item that fully escaped the committee’s attention: during the hearing itself, the CDC published an early release of a report analyzing COVID-19 infections by age group and vaccination status.

The researchers found occurrences of COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death plummeted among Americans aged 65-and-up (about 82% of whom are vaccinated) compared to those aged 18-49 (about 42% of whom are vaccinated).

The finding builds on mounting evidence of the COVID-19 vaccines’ safety and efficacy.

The legislation drew immense support including more than 800 pieces of written testimony. The hearing room was virtually full, requiring two overflow rooms for supporters. At a lunch recess, a man stood outside the statehouse passing out faux vaccination cards with a vulgarity on the flip side.

“Mandatory vaccines and masks are a joke … much like this card!” it states.

In an interview after the hearing, House Health Chairman Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, said it’d be tough but possible to see the bill passed out of committee before lawmakers break for summer recess at the end of the month.

He indicated looming amendments might narrow the bill, possibly restricting its focus solely to the flu or COVID-19 vaccine as opposed to its current form of all vaccinations.

“If you could trim this bill down, you could pass it,” he said.

During the hearing, Lipps tried to steer witness testimony and lawmakers’ inquiries toward the philosophical questions about the role of government in public health as opposed to litigating the safety and efficacy of vaccines. The attempts were largely unsuccessful with both proponents and opponents.

He distanced himself from Tenpenny’s remarks.

“I do believe Representative Gross requested Dr. Tenpenny to speak, and she got a little off balance, I think she got a little outside the lines of what we were intending or hoping to keep her in,” he said. “I hope that didn’t harm her credibility, but I think some committee members walked away with big questions.”

Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), Advocacy Special Report: The Disinformation Dozen: Why Platforms Must Act On Twelve Leading Online Anti-Vaxxers, Imran Ahmed, March 24, 2021. The Disinformation Dozen are twelve anti-vaxxers who play leading roles in spreading digital misinformation about Covid vaccines. They were selected because they have large numbers of followers, produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content or have seen rapid growth of their social media accounts in the last two months.

Analysis of a sample of anti-vaccine content that was shared or posted on Facebook and Twitter a total of 812,000 times between 1 February and 16 March 2021 shows that 65 percent of anti-vaccinecontent is attributable to the Disinformation Dozen.

Despite repeatedly violating Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s terms of service agreements, nine of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three platforms, while just three have been comprehensively removed from just one platform.

This is the product of a series of failures from social media platforms

a. Research conducted by CCDH last year has shown that platforms fail to act on 95 percent of the Covid and vaccine misinformation reported to them.
b. CCDH’s recent report, Malgorithm, uncovered evidence that Instagram’s algorithm actively recommends similar misinformation.
c. Tracking of 425 anti-vaccine accounts by CCDH shows that their total following across platforms now stood at 59.2 million in December, an increase of 877,000 more than they had in June.
d. CCDH’s ongoing tracking shows that the 20 anti-vaxxers with the largest followings account for over two-thirds of this total cross-platform following of 59.2 million.

Analysis of anti-vaccine content posted to Facebook over 689,000 times in the last two months shows that up to 73 percent of that content originates with members of the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers.

facebook logoFacebook’s own internal analysis of vaccine hesitant content on its platform is likely to underestimate the influence of leading anti-vaxxers by failing to address the ultimate source of this content, and by the recorded failure of its algorithms to identify content concerning vaccines.

Analysis of over 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets collected in the last two months shows that up to 17 percent feature the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers.

The most effective and efficient way to stop the dissemination of harmful information is to deplatform the most highly visible repeat offenders, who we term the Disinformation Dozen. This should also include the organisations these individuals control or fund, as well as any backup accounts they have established to evade removal.

Platforms should establish a clear threshold for enforcement action, such as two strikes, after which restrictions are applied to accounts short of deplaforming them.

Users should be presented with warning screens when attempting to follow links to sites known to host vaccine misinformation, and users exposed to posts containing misinformation should be shown effective corrections.

Facebook should not allow private and secret anti-vaccine Groupswhere dangerous anti-vaccine disinformation can be spread with impunity.

The Disinformation Dozen are responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine contentAt the outset of this research, we identified a dozen individuals who appeared to be extremely influential creators of digital anti-vaccine content.

These individuals were selected either because they run anti-vaccine social media accounts with large numbers of followers, because they produce high volumes of anti-vaccine content or because their growth was accelerating rapidly at the outset of our research in February.Full profiles of each are available at the end of this report.


1. Joseph Mercola
robert f kennedy jr gage skidmore2. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore portrait)
3. Ty and Charlene Bollinger
4. Sherri Tenpenny
5. Rizza Islam
6. Rashid Buttar
7. Erin Elizabeth
8. Sayer Ji
9. Kelly Brogan
10. Christiane Northrup
11. Ben Tapper
12. Kevin Jenkins

The Disinformation Dozen are responsible for up to 65% of anti-vaccine content.

Our analysis of over 812,000 posts extracted from Facebook and Twitter between 1 February and 16 March 2021 shows that 65 percent of anti-vaccine content is attributable to the Disinformation Dozen.This shows that while many people might spread anti-vaccine content on social media platforms, the content they share often comes from a much more limited range of sources.

Exposure to even a small amount of online vaccine misinformation has been shown by the Vaccine Confidence Project to reduce the number of people willing to take a Covid vaccine by up to 8.8 percent.

Platforms have failed to act on the Disinformation Dozen

Despite repeatedly violating Facebook, Instagram and Twitter’s terms of service agreements, nine of the Disinformation Dozen remain on all three platforms, while just three have been comprehensively removed from just one platform. This is an extension of platforms’ failure to act on vaccine misinformation. Research conducted by CCDH last year has shown that platforms fail to act on 95 percent of the Covid and vaccine misinformation reported to them, and we have uncovered evidence that Instagram’s algorithm actively recommends similar misinformation.

Tracking of 425 anti-vaccine accounts by CCDH shows that their total following across platforms now stands at 59.2 millionas a result of these failures.

The 20 anti-vaxxers with the largest followings account for over two-thirds of this total.

Up to 17% of anti-vaccine tweets feature the Disinformation Dozen

Analysis of over 120,000 anti-vaccine tweets collected in the last two months shows that up to 17 percent feature the Disinformation Dozen of leading online anti-vaxxers. This analysis is based on a representative sample of 123,494 anti-vaccine tweets identified by analysis of their text contents.

We collected this sample using Brandwatch, an enterprise social listening tool, to extract anti-vaccine tweets posted between 1 February and 16 March 2021 based on text analysis.

Retweets and quote tweets were also extracted to discover which pieces of anti-vaccine content were shared most frequently.

Tweets were selected based on their use of anti-vaccine keywords, phrases and hashtags, as well as selecting tweets about vaccines from known anti-vaxxers including those who are not members of the Disinformation Dozen. This process selected tweets using phrases commonly used by anti-vaxxers such as “informed consent” and “casedemic” in combination with more common terms regarding Covid vaccines.

This sample was then analysed using an automated set of rules to tag those that featured the name or username of a member of the Disinformation Dozen, or contained a link to a website controlled by or related to one of them.Tweets that were extracted and tagged using these methodswere then checked by researchers on a daily basis to maintain the quality of our data.

This analysis showed that 21,351 of the tweets in our sample featured members of the Disinformation Dozen equivalent to 17.3% of the whole sample.

The Center for Countering Digital Hate is a not-for-profit NGO that seeks to disrupt the architecture of online hate and misinformation. Digital technology has changed forever the way we communicate, build relationships, share knowledge, set social standards, and negotiate and assert our society's values.

Digital spaces have been colonised and their unique dynamics exploited by fringe movements that instrumentalise hate and misinformation. These movements are opportunistic, agile and confident in exerting influence and persuading people. Over time these actors, advocating diverse causes --from anti-feminism to ethnic nationalism to denial of scientific consensus -- have formed a Digital Counter Enlightenment. Their trolling, disinformation and skilled advocacy of their causes has resocialised the offline world for the worse.

The Center's work combines both analysis and active disruption of these networks. CCDH's solutions seek to increase the economic, political and social costs of all parts of the infrastructure -- the actors, systems and culture -- that support, and often profit from hate and misinformation.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden will revoke former President Trump’s executive order that sought to ban TikTok, Katie Rogers, June 9, 2021. President Biden on Wednesday will revoke a Trump-era executive order that sought to ban the popular app TikTok and replace it with one that calls for a broader review of a number of foreign-controlled applications that could pose a security risk to Americans and their data.

tiktok logo square CustomAccording to a memo circulated by the Commerce Department and obtained by The New York Times, the order will address a number of applications and bolster recent actions the Biden administration has taken to curb the growing influence of Chinese technology companies.

It is the first significant step Mr. Biden has taken to address a challenge left for him by President Donald J. Trump, whose administration fought to ban TikTok and force its Chinese-owned parent company, ByteDance, to sell the app. Legal challenges immediately followed and the app is still available as the battle languishes in the courts.

Mr. Biden’s order “will direct the secretary of commerce to use a criteria-based decision framework and rigorous, evidence-based analysis to evaluate and address the risks” posed by foreign-operated applications, according to the memo. “As warranted, the secretary will determine appropriate actions based on a thorough review of the risks posed by foreign adversary connected software applications.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Major websites experience outages, including the New York Times, CNN and Amazon Web Services, Timothy Bella and Jacob Bogage, June 9, 2021 (print ed.).  A massive outage struck large swaths of the Internet early Tuesday, causing the New York Times, CNN, BBC, Amazon, Hulu and other high-traffic websites and platforms to temporarily shut down.

The problems appeared related to San Francisco cloud services company Fastly, which many companies use to help their websites load faster. Just before 7 a.m. Eastern time, Fastly said it had found the problem and applied a fix. It remains unclear what caused the outage, which was largely resolved within an hour.

The outage underscores how important little-known Internet infrastructure companies like Fastly are to the normal functioning of the web, and how even isolated disruptions can bring huge parts of online life to a halt. Pandemic-era restrictions that forced more people to turn to the web for groceries, work, school and health care has heightened the risk that broad shutdowns could cause real-world harm.

June 7

 

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ny times logoNew York Times, Jeff Bezos Says He Will Go to Space, Derrick Bryson Taylor, June 7, 2021. Mr. Bezos, shown above left with his Amazon successor as CEO Andy Jassy, will be on board when his rocket company, Blue Origin, launches its first human spaceflight next month, shortly after he steps down as chief executive of Amazon.

amazon logo smallJeff Bezos said on Monday that he would be on board when his rocket company, Blue Origin, conducts its first human spaceflight next month. He said his brother Mark Bezos would join him on the flight.

Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Mr. Bezos in 2000, is also auctioning off a passenger seat on the New Shepard, a suborbital spacecraft that is set to take off on July 20. Bidding has reached almost $3 million with nearly 6,000 participants from 143 countries, the company said.

The flight is set to carry six passengers on a short trip to the edge of outer space on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Blue Origin’s tourist rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space, in 1961. It has undergone 15 test flights, none of which had passengers aboard.

 

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The GOP superspreaders of Trump’s contagion, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, June 7, 2021 (print ed). Donald Trump took his campaign against American democracy to North Carolina on Saturday and offered a rambling, grievance-laden harangue that ought to catalyze Republican leaders to repudiate a man whose lies, bigotry and irrationality are turning their party into a moral ej dionne w open necksinkhole.

Fat chance, I know. But Republicans should watch Trump’s 90-minute diatribe in its entirety. They might realize that tying their fate to a washed-up demagogue and the extremists he cultivates is not only an affront to decency. It could also be a colossal political mistake.

Most Washington Republicans say they want to “move on” from Trump. But they avoid anything that might offend his delicate sensibilities or those of his supporters.

Sorry, guys, but you won’t be able to “move on” to the responsible governing you purport to believe in until you confront the anti-democratic virus in your party and the vile man spreading the contagion.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happened When Donald Trump Was Banned on Social Media, Davey Alba, Ella Koeze and Jacob Silver, June 7, 2021. Since Facebook and Twitter banned him, the former president has posted fewer online statements, but some of them have traveled just as far and wide on social networks.

facebook logoThe New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s nearly 1,600 social media posts from Sept. 1 to Jan. 8, the day Mr. Trump was banned from the platforms. We then tracked the social media engagement with the dozens of written statements he made on his personal website, campaign fund-raising site and in email blasts from Jan. 9 until May 5, which was the day that the Facebook Oversight Board, which reviews some content decisions by the company, said that the company acted appropriately in kicking him off the service.

Before the ban, the social media post with the median engagement generated 272,000 likes and shares. After the ban, that dropped to 36,000 likes and shares. Yet 11 of his 89 statements after the ban attracted as many likes or shares as the median post before the ban, if not more.

How does that happen?

washington post logoWashington Post, Consumer Tech Perspective: Amazon is about to share your Internet connection with neighbors. Here’s how to turn it off, Geoffrey A. Fowler, June 7, 2021.
You have no control over what sort of data flows over Amazon’s new Sidewalk wireless network, which has been lying dormant in Echo smart speakers and Ring cameras ... until now

There’s an eyebrow-raising technology buried inside millions of Amazon Echo smart speakers and Ring security cameras. They have the ability to make a new kind of wireless network called Sidewalk that shares a slice of your home Internet connection with your neighbors’ devices.

amazon logo smallAnd on Tuesday, Amazon is switching Sidewalk on — for everyone.

I’m digging into my settings to turn it off. Sidewalk raises more red flags than a marching band parade: Is it secure enough to be activated in so many homes? Are we helping Amazon build a vast network that can be used for more surveillance? And why didn’t Amazon ask us to opt-in before activating a capability lying dormant in our devices?

I recommend you opt out of Sidewalk, too, until we get much better answers to these questions.

How to turn off Sidewalk.

Sidewalk will blanket urban and suburban America with a low-bandwidth wireless network that can stretch half a mile and reach places and things that were once too hard or too expensive to connect. It could have many positive uses, such as making it easier to set up smart-home devices in places your WiFi doesn’t reach. (That can help your neighbors, and you.) But by participating, you also have no control over what sort of data you’re helping to transmit.

 ny times logoamazon logo smallNew York Times, Why Amazon Is Confronting the Richest Man in India, Aman Sethi, June 7, 2021. The American company sees big potential in the country’s nascent e-commerce market. Both sides view a troubled grocery store chain as the key to success.

ny times logoNew York Times, Google will pay $270 million to settle antitrust charges in France over its ad technology, Adam Satariano, June 7, 2021. French regulators said the settlement was the first time a government authority had taken aim at Google’s online advertising infrastructure.

Google has agreed to pay roughly $270 million in fines and change some business practices as part of a settlement announced on Monday with French antitrust regulators who had accused the company of abusing its dominance of the online advertising market.

google logo customThe French competition authority said the agreement was the first time an antitrust regulator had taken direct aim at Google’s online advertising infrastructure, a platform that scores of websites worldwide rely on to sell ads.

The fine is pittance compared to Google’s overall business — its parent company, Alphabet, earned $41 billion last year — but the French authorities hailed the concessions they got from Google because they affect technology and practices at the heart of the company’s business.

In the United States, Google is facing similar antitrust scrutiny over its online advertising technology from a group of state attorneys general, as well as from Britain’s antitrust regulator.

June 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Plans to End Hands-Off Approach to Politicians’ Posts, Mike Isaac, June 3, 2021. The social network, under pressure since barring former President Donald J. Trump, will no longer automatically give world leaders special treatment. The policy change is a stark one for Facebook, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, previously said he didn’t want the company to be an arbiter of speech.

Facebook plans to announce on Friday that it will no longer keep posts by politicians up on its site by default if their speech breaks its rules, said two people with knowledge of the company’s plans, reversing how it has allowed posts from political figures to remain untouched on the social network.

The change, which is tied to Facebook’s decision to bar former President Donald J. Trump from its site, is a retreat from a policy introduced less than two years ago, when the company said speech from politicians was newsworthy and should not be policed.

Under the change, politicians’ posts will no longer be presumed newsworthy, said the people with knowledge of the plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Politicians will be subject to Facebook’s contentfacebook logo guidelines that prohibit harassment, discrimination or other harmful speech, they said.

If Facebook does decide speech from politicians is newsworthy, it can be exempt from being pulled down, under a standard the company has used since at least 2016. Starting on Friday, the people with knowledge of the plans said, Facebook will disclose when it has applied the newsworthiness clause to rule-breaking posts.

Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, declined to comment. The Verge reported earlier on Facebook’s change.

The change is stark because of how Facebook’s leaders previously pledged not to interfere with political speech. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive, said in a 2019 speech at Georgetown University that the company wouldn’t be an arbiter of speech “because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression.” Nick Clegg, who leads Facebook’s public affairs, has also said all speech from politicians “should, as a general rule, be seen and heard” on the platform.

Yet Facebook has grappled with a backlash against that stance by lawmakers, civil rights activists and even its own employees, especially when Mr. Trump used social media to rally a crowd that ended up storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. A day after the riot, Facebook said it would block Mr. Trump because the risks of allowing him to use the platform were too great.

Since then, Mr. Trump’s allies and supporters have challenged the company, saying Facebook engaged in censorship and had too much power over who could say what online. To defuse the situation, the social network sent its decision to block Mr. Trump to a company-appointed oversight board for review. Last month, the board upheld the ban of Mr. Trump but also kicked the case back to the company.

The board said that an indefinite suspension of Mr. Trump was “not appropriate” because it was not a penalty defined in Facebook’s policies and that the company should apply a standard punishment, such as a time-bound suspension or a permanent ban. The board also said Facebook must respond by Friday to its recommendations for how to handle potentially dangerous posts from world leaders.

Around the world, political leaders have also tried to curtail Facebook’s power over online speech, while using social media to advance their own agendas. Russia, India and other countries have recently ordered Facebook to pull down posts, even as some of their own politicians have tried to influence citizens with Facebook posts.

In the United States, Florida last month became the first state to regulate how companies like Facebook moderate speech online, by imposing fines on companies that permanently bar political candidates in the state.

June 2

538.com, Commentary: Local News Coverage Is Declining — And That Could Be Bad For American Politics, Joshua Darr, June 2, 2021. The laws of supply and demand aren’t working for local news.

The local news business was devastated by COVID-19, even though consumers wanted more of its product. Visits to local news websites spiked by 89 percent from February to March 2020, but newspapers did not profit from having more readers: Ad revenues for the largest newspaper publisher in the nation, Gannett, dropped 35 percent from 2019 to 2020. Journalists were laid off, furloughed or forced to accept early retirements or pay cuts.

The pandemic, however, merely accelerated a crisis in local journalism that is now at least two decades old. From 2000 to 2018, weekday newspaper circulation fell from 55.8 million households to an estimated 28.6 million; between 2008 and 2019, newsroom employment fell by 51 percent; and since 2004, more than 1,800 local newspapers have closed across the nation.

Perhaps even more alarming is that the public is largely unaware of this crisis. In late 2018, 71 percent of Americans told the Pew Research Center that their local news media was doing very or somewhat well financially, even though only 14 percent said they had paid for local news in the past year. But if local newspapers go away or are weakened beyond recognition, a real possibility given their steep decline and Americans’ lack of awareness of it, we won’t just feel nostalgic for them — we’ll feel actual consequences.

A growing body of research has found that government is worse off when local news suffers. In fact, inadequate local news has been linked to more corruption, less competitive elections, weaker municipal finances and a prevalence of party-line politicians who don’t bring benefits back to their districts. It’s not just government performance, however. My research with Matthew Hitt of Colorado State University and Johanna Dunaway of Texas A&M University shows that when local newspapers close, people don’t find another local option. Instead, they get their news from national outlets, and in the absence of local news, people are more likely to vote for one party up and down the ballot.1

What explains this change? Local political news offers Americans what political scientist Lilliana Mason calls a “cross-cutting identity” — or something that connects partisans on a different dimension instead of further dividing them along party lines. Put another way, when people read news about their neighborhoods, schools and municipal services, they think like locals. When they read about national political conflict, they think like partisans.

In our research we found that less local news meant more polarization. Then, with a little luck, we were also able to study the other side of the coin — whether more local news could actually bring people together.

In July 2019, Julie Makinen, the executive editor of The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, California, came up with her own experiment after reading our article: She decided to drop national politics from the opinion page for a month. Nothing on then-President Donald Trump, nothing on the Democratic presidential primaries — just op-eds and letters about California, Palm Springs and the surrounding Coachella Valley.

In our book about this experiment, we measured how banning national politics affected the topics on the opinion page and the attitudes of people in the Palm Springs area, and we found a dramatic change. Pieces about Trump dropped from one-third of all content to zero; mentions of political parties fell by more than half; and op-eds and letters about local issues like architectural preservation and traffic congestion increased.

This may sound trivial, but these were serious, contentious issues for the Palm Springs community at the time. One architectural landmark was at the center of a corruption scandal that culminated in an FBI raid on City Hall in 2015 and felony charges against the mayor at the time. Meanwhile, concern over traffic and the environmental impact from a plan to build a new downtown arena on the land of the Agua Caliente tribe spurred discussions on the city-tribe relationship.2 But importantly, these topics were not about Democrats and Republicans — they were about Palm Springs issues.

To measure whether this change in news coverage affected how people said they felt about members of the opposing political party, we fielded surveys in Palm Springs and Ventura — a city about 62 miles northwest of Los Angeles whose newspaper, the Ventura County Star, did not change its opinion section. According to our research, polarization slowed down in Palm Springs compared with Ventura, particularly among those who read the newspaper, know a lot about politics and participate in politics regularly.3 Polarization is a tough trend to slow down in American politics, but we found that The Desert Sun was able to do just that by changing one page of its paper per day. What’s more, per the paper’s internal tracking, online readership of opinion content nearly doubled during the local-only July.

The economics of local news makes experiments like The Desert Sun’s difficult to replicate, however. More than half of the daily newspapers in circulation in the U.S. are owned by a private equity firm or hedge fund, which infamously cuts staff and other costs as much as possible. In 2020, even The Desert Sun lost its longtime opinion editor, Al Franco, who accepted a buyout from the newspaper’s owner, Gannett, along with hundreds of its other newspaper employees nationwide.

The market is simply not providing local newspapers the resources they need to deliver the civic benefits they’re capable of, which raises the question as to what extent the government should step in to help. People have long debated whether freedom of the press means freedom from government assistance, but on this point, history is clear: Government policies like tax breaks and exemptions from some labor laws and minimum wage and overtime rules have benefited newspapers since the 18th century. And as such, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to find modern solutions to the local media industry’s current problems.

In March, Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and John Kennedy of Louisiana co-sponsored the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.4 This bill, if passed, would empower news organizations to collectively bargain with tech companies with the aim of helping smaller local publications earn back the much-needed online advertising dollars currently going to Facebook and Google. In fact, even bolder policies have been proposed to help local news, such as giving direct payments to news organizations to hire reporters or offering Americans vouchers to spend on local nonprofit media.

Ultimately, the stakes for local journalism are high. If the current bipartisan efforts to assist local news become defined along party lines and fail, future generations may not be able to depend on local news as we know it, and if our research is any indication, America’s political divides will continue to deepen as a result.

Joshua Darr is an assistant professor of political communication in the Manship School of Mass Communication and the Department of Political Science at Louisiana State University. His research focuses on campaign strategy. 

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Administration Secretly Seized Phone Records of Times Reporters, Charlie Savage and Katie Benner, June 2, 2021. The admission by the Biden Justice Department followed similar recent disclosures to The Washington Post and CNN.

The Trump Justice Department secretly seized the phone records of four New York Times reporters spanning nearly four months in 2017 as part of a leak investigation, the Biden administration disclosed on Wednesday.

It was the latest in a series of revelations about the Trump administration secretly obtaining reporters’ communications records in an effort to uncover their sources. Last month, the Biden Justice Department disclosed Trump-era seizures of the phone logs of reporters who work for The Washington Post and the phone and email logs for a CNN reporter.

Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, condemned the action by the Trump administration.

“Seizing the phone records of journalists profoundly undermines press freedom,” he said in a statement. “It threatens to silence the sources we depend on to provide the public with essential information about what the government is doing.”

Last month, after the disclosures about the seizures of communications records involving Post and CNN reporters, President Biden said he would not allow the department to take such a step during his administration, calling it “simply, simply wrong.”

Referring to that declaration, Mr. Baquet added: “President Biden has said this sort of interference with a free press will not be tolerated in his administration. We expect the Department of Justice to explain why this action was taken and what steps are being taken to make certain it does not happen again in the future.”

Anthony Coley, a Justice Department spokesman, said that law enforcement officials obtained the records in 2020, and added that “members of the news media have now been notified in every instance” of leak investigations from the 2019-2020 period in which their records were sought.

The department informed The Times that law enforcement officials had seized phone records from Jan. 14 to April 30, 2017, for four Times reporters: Matt Apuzzo, Adam Goldman, Eric Lichtblau and Michael S. Schmidt. The government also secured a court order to seize logs — but not contents — of their emails, it said, but “no records were obtained.”

The Justice Department did not say which article was being investigated. But the lineup of reporters and the timing suggested that the leak investigation related to classified information reported in an April 22, 2017, article the four reporters wrote about how James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director, handled politically charged investigations during the 2016 presidential election.

Discussing Mr. Comey’s unorthodox decision to announce in July 2016 that the F.B.I. was recommending against charging Hillary Clinton in relation to her use of a private email server to conduct government business while secretary of state, the April 2017 article mentioned a document obtained from Russia by hackers working for Dutch intelligence officials. The document, whose existence was classified, was said to have played a key role in Mr. Comey’s thinking about the Clinton case.

The document has been described as a memo or email written by a Democratic operative who expressed confidence that the attorney general at the time, Loretta Lynch, would keep the Clinton investigation from going too far. Russian hackers had obtained the document, but it is apparently not among those that Russia sent to WikiLeaks, intelligence officials concluded.

Mr. Comey was said to be worried that if Ms. Lynch were to be the one who announced a decision not to charge Mrs. Clinton, and Russia then made the document public, it would be used to raise doubts about the independence of the investigation and the legitimacy of the outcome.

The Times reported in January 2020 that Trump-era investigators had pursued a leak investigation into whether Mr. Comey had been the source of the unauthorized disclosure in that 2017 article.

Mr. Comey had been under scrutiny since 2017, after Mr. Trump fired him as the director of the F.B.I. After his dismissal, Mr. Comey engineered — through his friend Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor — the disclosure to The Times of accounts of several of his conversations with the president related to the Russia investigation.

The inquiry into Mr. Comey, according to three people briefed on that investigation, was eventually code-named Arctic Haze. Its focus was said to evolve over time, as investigators shifted from scrutinizing whether they could charge Mr. Comey with a crime for disclosing his conversations with Mr. Trump, to whether he had anything to do with the disclosure of the existence of the document.

As part of that effort, law enforcement officials had seized Mr. Richman’s phone and computer, according to a person familiar with the matter. They are said to have initially searched them for material about Mr. Comey’s conversations with Mr. Trump, and later obtained a court’s permission to search them again, apparently about the Russia document matter.

Separately, according to a person briefed on the investigation, the F.B.I. is also said to have subpoenaed Google in 2020, seeking information relevant to any emails between Mr. Richman and The Times. A spokesman for Google did not respond to a request for comment.

But by November 2020, some prosecutors felt that the F.B.I. had not found evidence that could support any charges against Mr. Comey, and they discussed whether the investigation should be closed.

At the beginning of this year, prosecutors were informed that the F.B.I. was not willing to close the case — in part because agents still wanted to interview Mr. Comey, according to a person familiar with the F.B.I.’s inquiry. Interviewing the subject of an investigation is typically considered a final step before closing a matter or bringing charges.

Last month, the F.B.I. asked Mr. Comey’s lawyer whether he would be willing to sit down for an interview, a request that Mr. Comey declined, according to a person familiar with the case.

Starting midway through the George W. Bush administration, and extending through the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations, the Justice Department became more aggressive about pursuing criminal leak investigations.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s blog just shut down. Without the mainstream media, he’s starving, Paul Waldman, right, June 2, 2021. The heyday of blogging may have been 15 years ago or so, but paul waldmanthere are always those who try to find success in the old forms. Alas, it doesn’t always work out, as a certain prominent media figure just discovered:

Former president Donald Trump’s blog, celebrated by advisers as a “beacon of freedom” that would keep him relevant in an online world he once dominated, is dead. It was 29 days old.

Upset by reports from The Washington Post and other outlets highlighting its measly readership and concerns that it could detract from a social media platform he wants to launch later this year, Trump ordered his team Tuesday to put the blog out of its misery, advisers said.

On its last day, the site was shared or commented on on Facebook and Twitter just 1,500 times — a staggering drop for someone whose every tweet once garnered hundreds of thousands of reactions.

Maybe he should have tried Substack? I hear that’s the next big thing.

Through Trump’s presidency, it was often noted that he had a unique ability to command the nation’s attention, even more so than previous presidents. He was a constant presence in our consciousness, every hour and every minute, forcing himself in front of our eyes with a barrage of tweets, outrageous comments and never-ending controversies.

But his current travails demonstrate how much Trump was always dependent on the mainstream media he both hated and sought the approval of. Like a tree falling in the forest, Trump barely makes a sound unless those supposedly stodgy legacy outlets are there to amplify him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump has grown increasingly consumed with ballot audits as he pushes falsehood that election was stolen, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman, June 2, 2021. Former president Donald Trump remains relentlessly focused on the false claim that the November election was stolen from him and is increasingly consumed with the notion that ballot reviews pushed by his supporters around the country could prove that he won, according to people familiar with his comments.

Trump has rebuffed calls from some advisers to drop the matter, instead fixating on an ongoing Republican-commissioned audit in Arizona and plotting how to secure election reviews in other states, such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and Georgia, according to advisers. He is most animated by the efforts in Fulton County, Ga., and Maricopa County, Ariz., according to two advisers who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations.

Trump’s interest has been fueled by conversations he has had with an array of figures who have publicly touted false claims of election fraud. Among them, according to advisers, is Christina Bobb, a host at the One America News network who has privately discussed the Arizona audit with the former president and his team; Mike Lindell, the chief executive of the company MyPillow; and Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), who urged the state’s congressional delegation to reject Biden’s victory there last fall.
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Trump has become so fixated on the audits that he suggested recently to allies that their success could result in his return to the White House this year, according to people familiar with comments he has made. Some advisers said that such comments appear to be just offhand musings.

Trump’s deepening preoccupation with post-election audits has created a singular situation, one in which a former president is regularly attacking the electoral legitimacy of his successor. And it comes as a coterie of his most devoted supporters have intensified their own rhetoric, making allusions to undemocratic actions that could result in Trump’s return.

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report, Opinion:( WMR), Think tank wars and the enforcement of thought crime laws, Wayne Madsen, below left, June 2, 2021. The United States, Russia, Britain, and other countries are waging a wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallwar that pits think tank against think tank and criminalizes ideas and opinions.

That war heated up on April 15 when the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed financial sanctions on the Moscow-based think tank, strategic culture logoStrategic Culture Foundation (SCF), for whom this editor has written for over ten years.

OFAC alleged, without much in the way of any hard evidence, that SCF was an arm of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the SVR. Treasury's sanctions came after a 2020 State Department Global Engagement Center (GEC) report that illustrated the opinions being expressed by SCF and other Russian think tanks and news organizations as similar to Covid-19 virus microbes.Neither State nor Treasury could make up their minds about what Russian government entity allegedly controls SCF, with both the SVR and Russian Foreign Ministry being the accused controllers of the puppet strings.

In the information dictatorship of today's America, the citizenry may only place their trust in outlets like the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and other "Pravda on the Potomac" media courtiers for the Washington establishment, which includes the useless paper pushers, dispatchers of bovine excrement, and keyboard jockeys at State and Treasury.

There is one inconvenient truth about the censors of State and Treasury. Not once did SCF, Press TV of Iran, TeleSur of Venezuela, or CCTV of China caution me about referring on air or in writing about the creeping doctrinaire fascism that began taking over the United States during both Republican and Democratic administrations, going back to that of Ronald Reagan.

steve bannon sofa shotOnly until recent times have the corporate media of the United States and other Western industrialized nations began tolerating the use of the terms "fascism," "neo-Nazism," and "white nationalism" to describe authoritarian political movements. Fascism is what's now for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the U.S. Republican Party, the British Conservative Party, and various other far-right movements associated with international fascists like Steve Bannon, left, and his Chinese financier Guo Wengui, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, Michael Flynn, Li Hongzhi and his Falun Gong and Epoch Times newspaper, Nigel Farage, and other malcontents of fascist fringe politics.

The real threats to U.S. national security do not come from SCF or other think tanks supported by Russia, Iran, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria, or Serbia but from homegrown think tanks of the right-wing.

The Hindu, Veteran Indian-origin journalist Tejinder Singh passes away, Staff Reports, June 2, 2021. Pentagon Press Secretary John F Kirby condoled his death at a press briefing on Tuesday. Tejinder Singh, a veteran White House correspondent and founder and editor of the India America Today newswire, has passed away in the U.S., the publication has announced.

tejinder singhSingh, left, founded India America Today, an independent media organisation and news provider based in Washington, DC.

“India America Today is deeply grieved to announce the passing of our Founder and Editor @tejindersingh. He launched IAT in 2012, and we will continue to carry on the work that he started. RIP Editor,” the publication said on Twitter on May 29.

john kirbyPentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby (shown in a file photo) condoled his death at a press briefing on Tuesday.

“We here at the Pentagon would like to take a moment to express our condolences and sympathies for the passing of Mr. Tejinder Singh, who many of you know was the founder and editor of India America Today,” he said.

“He was a Pentagon Correspondent since 2011, and I dealt with him from this podium, I’ve dealt with him when I was at the State Department podium, and the one word, I mean, the word one that comes to mind when you think of Tejinder is gentleman,” Mr. Kirby said.

“He was a real gentleman, good reporter, damn good reporter. Asked tough questions and produced good stuff, but he was a heck of a man… a gentleman as I said. And we’re going to miss him, we’re all going to miss him, and I know you guys feel the same way,” he said.

He was the Vice-President (Print) for the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA-DC) 2011-12. 

OpEdNews, Commentary: Red Alert: Progressives, Democrats Must Confront Republican "Trigger Words" or Lose Seats and Both Houses in 2022, Robert Weiner and Adjanni Ramos, June 2, 2021. oenearthlogoDemocrats are slowly moving toward losing to Republicans in the House or Senate during Biden's first off-year election, as they did during Clinton and Obama.

As sure as day, Republicans will say: "Police Defunding," "Socialism," "Big Spenders," "Government Overreach," "Over-regulation," "Tax Increases", and "Hyping the Capitol Riots."
These are Republican trigger words that voters historically react to, and Democrats repeatedly fail to give good counterpoints to. Democrats must have short, punchy, pithy, persuasive counterattacks.

Words matter.

On Socialism

Argument:

"Democrats are socialist." Republicans love calling Democrats and their agendas socialists. Sen. Mitch McConnell and his team (R-KY) want to say they're going to stop Democrats from passing their "socialist" bills. After President Biden offered his Infrastructure Plan, Republicans began accusing it of being a calling it a "Soviet-style...wish list"

Solution:

Every time Republicans talk about socialism amongst Democrats, which this is not, Democrats can point out the fascist tendencies in Trump's language and actions.

Republicans want to lower taxes on the rich and wealthy and pass voting laws that restrict voting. President Joe Biden has openly said, "I beat the socialists. That's how I got elected. That's how I got the nomination." But he and all Democratic and progressive candidates need to say they are supporting "people programs, which are what Republicans oppose." Are libraries, Medicare, pubic colleges and school education and K-12 schools, food security, fire departments, drug treatment, assistance to hospitals, needed housing assistance, working roads/bridges/tunnels/electric grids/updated computer systems, even aid to small businesses and restaurants devastated by Covid, "socialist?" or self interested help by the nation to people to help the country work better?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have both self-identified as socialists but base their belief system on programs for people rather than dictators.

Nonetheless, Biden and Congressional candidates have to say, "I own the middle which most Democrats want, and define the middle as fixing the services -- like infrastructure -- that polls show the vast majority of Americans want."

Palmer Report, Opinion: Predicting the apocalypse, Robert Harrington, right, June 2, 2021. Armageddon dates come and go and are as quickly forgotten as they are quickly invented. And yet the people and the robert harringtnn portraitpoliticians and the religious nut jobs who make such predictions seem to do all right after their doomsday adventisms fall flat, for the most part. It’s partly what keeps them coming back. There are no significant consequences for such predictions.

While it isn’t precisely an end of the world scenario, Donald Trump’s insistence that he will somehow be miraculously “reinstated” into the office of the president of the United States in August might as well be. Such a thing would mean the end of America as we know it, of course. But it’s not going to happen. I’m pretty sure about that.

bill palmer report logo headerBut it’s interesting how Trump and his loony followers keep getting away with such nonsense with very little embarrassment or pushback. Who recalls that March 4, 2021, was supposed to be the date for Trump’s second inaugural? In fact, January 20 2021 was soberly posited as the date for Trump’s second inaugural by Kayleigh McEnany and many conservative TV pundits even after the election. That was when a bona fide loony member of the Trump squad even blithely and personally informed me about how sorry I was going to be when Trump became “my” president again.

Of course, this is Trump trying to stir up another insurrection without actually coming right out and saying it. Like the apocalyptic doomsayers of the past he’s hoping he gets lucky. If not he believes he has plausible deniability in that he never actually called specifically for an insurrection. He left all that up to Michael Flynn. Just as Flynn lacks the courage to take responsibility for his words, Trump lacks the courage to say such a thing openly in the first place.

Anyway, you need not fear such a thing. Trump and his followers are no match for the American army in the capable hands of the Biden administration. Even so, it’s troubling that there are so many stupid people willing to believe that democracy is somehow best served by a usurping tyrant. That is the failure of education and the inadequate distribution of common sense.

June 1 

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ny times logoNew York Times, A Rural-Urban Broadband Divide. Not the One You Think Of, Eduardo Porter, June 1, 2021. Many more people in cities lack broadband access than in rural areas, but lawmakers are focused on extending high-speed access to remote areas.

Whom should the government help get superfast internet access?

The question is not addressed directly in President Biden’s multibillion-dollar infrastructure plan, which devotes tens of billions of dollars to expanding access to broadband but does not provide much detail about how the money will be spent.

But veterans of the nation’s decade-long efforts to extend the nation’s broadband footprint worry that the new plan carries the same bias of its predecessors: Billions will be spent to extend the internet infrastructure to the farthest reaches of rural America, where few people live, and little will be devoted to connecting millions of urban families who live in areas with high-speed service that they cannot afford.

“From an economic and society perspective, the most important thing to do is to get online everybody who wants to be online,” said Blair Levin, who oversaw a broadband project at the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama administration and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “From a political perspective, the biggest political capital is behind accelerating deployment where there is none, which means in rural areas.”

There is a political and economic logic to devoting billions of taxpayer dollars to bringing broadband to the rural communities that make up much of former President Donald Trump’s political base, which Mr. Biden wants to win over. But some critics worry that the capital-heavy rural-first strategy could leave behind urban America, which is more populous, diverse and productive.

About 81 percent of rural households are plugged into broadband, compared with about 86 percent in urban areas, according to Census Bureau data. But the number of urban households without a connection, 13.6 million, is almost three times as big as the 4.6 million rural households that don’t have one.

“We also have to be careful not to fall into the old traps of aggressively solving for one community’s problem — a community that is racially diverse but predominantly white — while relying on hope and market principles to solve for another community’s problem — a community that is also racially diverse but disproportionately composed of people of color and those earning lower incomes,” Joi Chaney, senior vice president for policy and advocacy at the National Urban League, recently told the House Appropriations Committee.

 

May

May 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump-era work on ‘lab leak’ theory led to Biden’s surprising order to probe coronavirus origins, Shane Harris and Yasmeen Abutaleb, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). In the spring of 2020, as the coronavirus ripped through U.S. cities on its way to claiming more than 592,000 American lives, a group of senior U.S. national security officials warily eyed a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

ny times logoNew York Times, As G.O.P. Blocks Inquiry, Questions on Jan. 6 Attack May Go Unanswered, Luke Broadwater, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). Republicans united in large numbers against a panel to investigate the Capitol riot, moving to shift an unwelcome spotlight away from former President Trump. The result is that key details about a shocking act of domestic extremism against the federal government are likely to remain shrouded in mystery.

In blocking the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, Republicans in Congress have all but closed off the possibility of a full and impartial accounting for one of the most serious assaults on American democracy in history, leaving unanswered critical questions with broad implications for politics, security and public trust.

Fearing political damage from any sustained scrutiny of the attack, Republicans united in large numbers against the inquiry, moving to shift an unwelcome spotlight away from former President Donald J. Trump, his election lies that fueled the attack, and the complicity of many G.O.P. lawmakers in amplifying his false claims of widespread voter fraud.

The result is that key details about a shocking act of domestic extremism against the United States government are likely to remain shrouded in mystery, and anything new that may be revealed about the assault at the Capitol will most likely be viewed through a partisan lens, with a substantial proportion of the country rejecting the reality of what transpired.

The public may never know precisely what Mr. Trump and members of his administration did or said as a throng of his supporters stormed the Capitol while Congress met to formalize President Biden’s victory, threatening the lives of lawmakers and the vice president. The full story may never be revealed of why security officials were so unprepared for the breach of the building, supposedly one of the most secure in the nation, despite ample warnings of potential violence. The extent of the role of Republican lawmakers closely allied with Mr. Trump in planning the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that spiraled into a brutal onslaught may remain unexplored

washington post logoWashington Post, Postal Service raises stamp prices, sends layoff notices as part of restructuring plan, Jacob Bogage, May 30, 2021 (print ed.). The postmaster general’s plan calls for additional price increases on package products and slower mail service.

us mail logoThe U.S. Postal Service is raising rates on letters, magazines and marketing missives by as much as 6.9 percent this summer, sending the cost of a first-class stamp from 55 to 58 louis dejoy Customcents, as it leans into an expansive restructuring plan that codifies slower mail delivery and streamlines agency operations.

The rate structure announced Friday is the latest installment of the plan of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’ (shown at left) to erase a projected $160 billon in liabilities over the next decade.

The agency has struggled for the better part of a year with inconsistent delivery service and soaring package volumes that have gridlocked its processing network. The Postal Service’s on-time delivery scores have not topped 90 percent since July 2020.

Actor James Stewart, at right, as a freshman congressman in an iconic scene from the film

Actor James Stewart, at right, as a freshman congressman in an iconic scene from the film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."

WMR's Hollywood, Memorial Weekend Commentary: Those who actually fought in combat, Wayne Madsen, left, May 30, 2021. Movies depicting war have featured actors whose film careers were buoyed by wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalltheir being typecast as the heroic warfighter. John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Randolph Scott, and Robert Mitchum all spring to mind. While none of these actors had any actual combat experience -- Wayne, Scott, and Mitchum not serving in the military for various reasons and Reagan consigned to the back lot at Warner Brothers making training films while an Army Reservist -- others saw actual wartime combat.

wayne madesen report logoJimmy Stewart flew his B-24 on several bombing missions over Germany in World War II. In 1944, Stewart's plane was hit by German anti-aircraft fire but he managed to fly his B-24 back to England with the plane breaking apart upon landing but with his crew unscathed. Stewart was promoted to colonel in 1945.

....

There are many other Hollywood actors and actresses who served in combat during wartime situations in Korea, Vietnam, and other theaters. The next time some cowardly draft dodger like Donald Trump or Rudy Giuliani or lily-livered avoiders of military service like Ted Cruz or Rand Paul criticize the "liberal elite" of Hollywood, they should be reminded that many of Hollywood's greatest served in uniform while they hid behind fake medical conditions or claims of being "too busy" for military service.

An Especially Good View: Watching History Happen
Peter L.W. Osnos
Platform 
389 pp. $25.95

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Dispatch from the front lines of war and publishing, Steven V. Roberts, May 30, 2021. Peter L.W. Osnos was a reporter and editor at the Washington Post for 18 years before becoming a book publisher, and the title of this memoir is accurate.

He did have An Especially Good View of many historical events, and so did his parents, Józef and Marta. They were Polish Jews who escaped the Holocaust by fleeing eastward through Romania and on to India, where Peter was born in October 1943. Four months later his parents emigrated to America and eventually settled on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Osnos’s father flourished in the booming new business of air conditioning, and by the early 1950s his parents were building a lakefront vacation home in New Jersey. But their Old World origins, he writes, still shaped his outlook: “Too often in memoirs, the protagonist takes pride in being ‘an outsider,’ ” he writes. “I really was. I came of age in a world completely different from that of the first half of my parents’ lives.”

While he was an undergraduate at Brandeis, a trip to Mississippi in 1962 accelerated his trajectory. Journalists are often outsiders, professional observers rather than participants, and Osnos wrote about the rural poverty and systemic segregation he’d witnessed for the school paper. “Nothing in my life up to that point had made so deep an impression on me,” he recalls.

Less than three years later he was headed for Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, and by the fall of 1970 The Post had sent him to Vietnam. His Russian background served him well, and he eventually worked on four books with Natan Sharansky, the noted Soviet dissident, but it was not always an easy relationship. Osnos recalls a moment when he was suggesting cuts in one of Sharansky’s manuscripts: “He refused, and finally declared: ‘The KGB couldn’t break me, and you won’t either.’ ”

The editor faced an equally thorny problem when he worked with Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter on a book about combining “social responsibility with a healthy lifestyle.” The former president and his wife had very different work habits, and Osnos had to broker a Camp David-like peace treaty between them. Carter, notes Osnos, “even wrote somewhere that an editor came down from New York and saved their marriage.”

After leaving Random House, Osnos went on to found PublicAffairs, a small but successful publishing venture that produced an “instant book” version of the Starr report detailing Bill Clinton’s dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. The New York Times quoted him saying, “I didn’t know when we chose Public­Affairs for this company’s name that we literally meant public affairs, but that’s the way it worked out.”

This book has many flaws, and Osnos admits that. A “friendly” literary agent warned him that his old friends in the publishing world might not be interested in his project, and he wrote on the website Medium last fall, “I realized that I couldn’t stand the prospect of being put up for auction, let alone outright rejections.” So he created a company, called Platform, to publish this book — the first and only volume it has produced so far.

One problem is endemic to books of this sort. Many Washington luminaries think their memoirs are worth writing, and reading, but they’re often wrong. I think of these as “Dinner With Dean” books, in which the author — with a healthy measure of self-satisfaction — describes meals he (and occasionally she) shared with the noteworthy and notorious, as in “Then I had dinner with Dean Acheson.” (My reference to Acheson, secretary of state under Harry Truman, serves to date me, but the point is still valid.) Osnos falls frequently into this trope, describing for instance a dinner in Leningrad attended by the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov and the novelist David Cornwell, who used the pen name John le Carré. “There is a photograph of us all at the table,” he gushes. “What a night!”

More serious is the lack of compelling insights into the people and events described here. Yes, Osnos had a good view of history in the making. But what did it all mean? Of his college years, which spanned the Kennedy presidency, the author writes, “Having the Kennedys coming into the White House made the era seem glamorous, especially in contrast to the Eisenhower years.” Okay, but I am Osnos’s age, and there is a great deal more to be said about John Kennedy’s impact on our generation’s value systems and career choices.

Writing about his Vietnam War experience, he reflects: “Did these near-death experiences have any lasting impact on us? I really have no idea.” The young journalists who covered Vietnam changed the entire relationship between working reporters and government officials, making it far more skeptical and less cozy, a tectonic shift that led to The Post’s courageous coverage of Watergate a few years later. Osnos has little to say on the matter. One editor warned him that his memoir had to tell readers “why they should bother.” He never really answers her question.

Reviewer Steven V. Roberts, who teaches journalism and politics at George Washington University, spent 25 years reporting for the New York Times.

May 29

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: It was already tough to fight disinformation. Then UFO news came along, Charlie Warzel (a journalist who writes “Galaxy Brain,” a newsletter about technology, media and politics), May 29, 2021. It’s a weird time to be alive.

Covid cases in the United States are declining, but vaccination rates are stalling, too. In places such as India, the pandemic rages almost unabated. Parody cryptocurrencies and meme stocks, driven by billionaire tweets and Reddit threads, have flummoxed Wall Street and minted and destroyed fortunes by the second. Hackers hijacked regional pipelines, causing a gas shortage and demanding a crypto ransom. The government is reexamining previously dismissed coronavirus origin theories.

Then, of course, there are UFOs. The sci-fi fliers have gone from fringe conspiracy theory to legitimate matter of national security in just months. Even former president Barack Obama has admitted the existence of recordings of flying objects that experts cannot explain.

Put together, these disorienting events can create precisely the sense of confusion that disinformation researchers, fact-checkers and swaths of the mainstream media try to bulwark against. Lately, the task feels increasingly difficult as many of the world’s biggest real-life stories are complex and constantly evolving topics, where today’s fantastical theory could become tomorrow’s truth. Perhaps the best answer for now is to slow down and learn to live in a bit of uncertainty.

 

May 28

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Appears to Carry Out Hack Through System Used by U.S. Aid Agency, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth, May 28, 2021. Hackers linked to Russia’s main intelligence agency surreptitiously seized an email system used by the State Department’s international aid agency to burrow into the computer networks of human rights groups and other organizations of the sort that have been critical of President Vladimir V. Putin, Microsoft Corporation disclosed on Thursday.

Vladimir PutinDiscovery of the breach comes only three weeks before President Biden is scheduled to meet Mr. Putin, right, in Geneva, and at a moment of increased tension between the two nations — in part because of a series of increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks emanating from Russia.

microsoft logo CustomThe newly disclosed attack was also particularly bold: By breaching the systems of a supplier used by the federal government, the hackers sent out genuine-looking emails to more than 3,000 accounts across more than 150 organizations that regularly receive communications from the United States Agency for International Development. Those emails went out as recently as this week, and Microsoft said it believes the attacks are ongoing.

The email was implanted with code that would give the hackers unlimited access to the computer systems of the recipients, from “stealing data to infecting other computers on a network,” Tom Burt, a Microsoft vice president, wrote on Thursday night.

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Perspective: Emily Wilder’s firing is a story of bad faith, not bad tweets. Newsrooms must do better, Margaret Sullivan, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). The AP should have guided a young reporter through a crisis — not caved to a right-wing mob.

  • Washington Post, Associated Press tells staff it made mistakes in firing of Wilder

washington post logoWashington Post, When plagiarism was reported to Voice of America, managers delayed action for months, Paul Farhi, May 28, 2021 (print ed.). Last summer, a Voice of America staffer noticed something odd in the radio scripts that a Paris-based freelancer was submitting to editors at the international broadcast service: They were flawless. Despite the fact that the native French speaker stumbled in his second language, his text rendered complicated details in crisp, precise English.

voice of america logoSuspicious, Jason Patinkin started looking more deeply — and found that phrases, sentences and even multiple paragraphs in freelancer Nicolas Pinault’s stories matched those published by other news organizations word for word.

But when Patinkin began sounding the alarm about plagiarism, supervisors at Voice of America took several months before acting on what he had found.

The reaction within VOA was much the same when another staff journalist raised a separate set of plagiarism allegations early last year. Ayen Bior alerted senior officials that scripts submitted by Deirdre Murray-McIntosh, the executive producer of a TV news program Bior co-hosted, used long passages from various websites without credit. The scripts were used in episodes of “Our Voices,” a public affairs and culture program VOA broadcasts to countries in Africa.

May 26

 ny times logoNew York Times, James Bond, Meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon Makes $8.45 Billion Deal for MGM, Brooks Barnes and Nicole Sperling May 26, 2021. The deal will give the e-commerce giant access to the James Bond franchise as it seeks to bolster its Prime membership offering.

amazon logo smallIn the ultimate symbol of one Hollywood era ending and another beginning, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, home to James Bond, “Thelma & Louise” and Rocky, finally found a buyer willing to pay retail: Amazon.

The e-commerce giant said on Wednesday that it would acquire the 97-year-old film and television studio for $8.45 billion — or about 40 percent more than other prospective buyers, including Apple and Comcast, thought MGM was worth.

The studio, which had been shopped around for months, was once home to “more stars than the heavens,” as Louis B. Mayer liked to brag. But its vast production lot and pre-1986 film library were sold off decades ago. (Sony Pictures now occupies the lot, and Warner Bros. owns classic MGM films like “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Wizard of Oz,” and “Gone With the Wind.”)

 

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 to the U.S. Congress (Photos via House Energy and Commerce Committee).

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia Raises Heat on Twitter, Google and Facebook in Online Crackdown, Adam Satariano and Oleg Matsnev, May 26, 2021. The country’s campaign is part of a global wave of actions by governments that are testing how far they can go to control online speech.

twitter bird CustomRussia is increasingly pressuring Google, Twitter and Facebook to fall in line with Kremlin internet crackdown orders or risk restrictions inside the country, as more governments around the world challenge the companies’ principles on online freedom.

Russia’s internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, recently ramped up its demands for the Silicon Valley companies to remove online content that it deems illegal or restore pro-Kremlin material that had been blocked. The warnings have come at least weekly since services from Facebook, Twitter and Google were used as tools for anti-Kremlin protests in January. If the companies do not comply, the regulator has said, they face fines or access to their products may be throttled.

The latest clashes flared up this week, when Roskomnadzor told Google on Monday to block thousands of unspecified pieces of illegal content or it would slow access to the company’s services. On facebook logoTuesday, a Russian court fined Google 6 million rubles, or about $81,000, for not taking down another piece of content.

On Wednesday, the government ordered Facebook and Twitter to store all data on Russian users within the country by July 1 or face fines. In March, the authorities had made it harder for google logo custompeople to see and send posts on Twitter after the company did not take down content that the government considered illegal. Twitter has since removed roughly 6,000 posts to comply with the orders, according to Roskomnadzor. The regulator has threatened similar penalties against Facebook.

May 25

Melinda Gates, left, and Bill Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson of the Associated Press).

Melinda Gates, left, and then-husband Bill Gates (2019 photo by Elaine Thompson of the Associated Press).

Unz Review, Investigation: The Cover-Up Continues: the Truth About Bill Gates, Microsoft, and Jeffrey Epstein, Whitney Webb, below right, May 25, 2021. While more revelations about the Bill Gates–Jeffrey Epstein relationship have begun trickling out following the Gates’s divorce announcement, the strong evidence pointing to their relationship beginning decades prior to 2011 continues to be covered whitney webb newer smileup by the media—not necessarily to protect Bill but to protect Microsoft.

In early May, the announcement that Bill and Melinda Gates would be divorcing after twenty-seven years of marriage shocked both those that praise and those that loathe the “philanthropic” power couple.

Less than a week after the initial announcement of the divorce, on May 7, the Daily Beast reported that Melinda Gates had allegedly been “deeply troubled” by Bill Gates’s relationship with child sex trafficker and intelligence asset Jeffrey Epstein. The report suggested that Melinda was a major reason for her husband’s decision to distance himself from Epstein around 2014 because of her discomfort with Epstein after they both met him in 2013. That previously unreported meeting had taken place at Epstein’s mansion on New York’s Upper East Side.

The Daily Beast also revealed that the details of the Gates’s divorce had been decided several weeks prior to the official announcement. Then, on May 9, the Wall Street Journal published a report suggesting that the plans for divorce went back even farther, with Melinda having consulted divorce lawyers in 2019. Allegedly, that consultation was made after details of Bill Gates’s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein had gained considerable mainstream media attention, including from the New York Times.

While mainstream media outlets apparently agree that Jeffrey Epstein was a likely factor in the Gates’s recently announced split up, what these same outlets refuse to cover is the real extent of the Bill Gates–Jeffrey Epstein relationship. Indeed, the mainstream narrative holds that Gates’s ties to Epstein began in 2011, despite the evidence pointing to their relationship beginning decades earlier.This blanket refusal to honestly report on the Gates-Epstein ties likely is due to Gates’s outsized role in current events, both in terms of global health policy as it relates to COVID-19 and in his being a major promoter and funder of controversial technocratic “solutions” to a slew of societal problems.

What is more likely, however, is that the nature of the relationship between Gates and Epstein before 2011 is even more scandalous than what transpired later, and it may have major implications not just for Gates but for Microsoft as a company and for some of its former top executives.

microsoft logo CustomThis particular cover-up is part of an obvious tendency of mainstream media to ignore the clear influence that both Epstein and members of the Maxwell family wielded—and, arguably, continue to wield—in Silicon Valley. Indeed, the individuals who founded tech giants such as Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Microsoft, Tesla, and Amazon all have connections with Jeffrey Epstein, some closer than others.

This investigation is adapted from my upcoming book One Nation Under Blackmail, which will be released early next year and will include a more complete investigation into Epstein’s ties to Silicon Valley, scientific academia, and intelligence agencies.

The Evening Standard Mystery

In 2001, perhaps the most important article ever written about Jeffrey Epstein was published. The article, which focused mainly on Ghislaine Maxwell’s and Epstein’s relationship with Prince Andrew, was published on January 22, 2001, in London’s Evening Standard. The article, written by Nigel Rosser, was never retracted and was published well before Epstein’s first arrest and the onset of his public notoriety. It has, nevertheless, since been removed from the Evening Standard’s website and can now only be found on professional newspaper databases. I made a PDF of that article and several other scrubbed Epstein-related articles publicly available in October 2019.

The full article here can also be accessed here: Download

Key statements made in the article make it clear why it was removed from the internet, apparently in the wake of Epstein’s first arrest in Florida. Rosser introduces Epstein as “an immensely powerful New York property developer and financier,” a nod to Epstein’s past in the New York real estate market. Later in the article, he notes that Epstein “once claimed to have worked for the CIA although he now denies it,” one of several likely reasons why the article was removed from the internet well before Epstein’s second arrest in 2019.

prince andrew jeff epstein news syndication CustomMuch of the article notes the closeness of Epstein and Maxwell to Prince Andrew (shown at left with Epstein, right) and suggests that both wielded considerable influence over the prince, largely due to Maxwell’s role as his “social fixer.” It states that Maxwell was “manipulating” the prince and that “the whole Andrew thing is probably being done for Epstein.”

One line stands out, however, as the first major clue toward demystifying the true origin the of the Gates-Epstein relationship. Soon after Rosser introduces Epstein in the article, he states that Epstein “has made many millions out of his business links with the likes of Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner, whose trust he runs.”

Both Wexner’s and Trump’s relationships with Epstein prior to 2001 are well known and date back to 1985 and 1987, respectively. Mainstream media, however, continue to report that Gates and Epstein first met in 2011 and have declined to follow the leads laid out by Nigel Rosser. I am personally aware of this withholding of information to a degree as a BBC reporter contacted me in 2019 for details about this 2001 Evening Standard article, which I provided. To date, the BBC has never reported on the contents bbc news logo2of that article. Notably, the BBC has received millions in funding for years from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Not only was Rosser’s article never retracted, but neither Gates, Trump, nor Wexner disputed the claims made in the article at the time, which was well before Epstein became notorious. In addition, given that Gates is named alongside two known close Epstein associates at the time—Donald Trump and Leslie Wexner—it further suggests that Gates’s ties to Epstein prior to 2001 were considerable enough to warrant his mention alongside these two other men.

.....

The ties of Epstein and the Maxwells to Silicon Valley, not just to Microsoft, are part of a broader attempt to cover up the strong intelligence component in the origin of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies. Much effort has been invested in creating a public perception that these companies are strictly private entities despite their deep, long-standing ties to the intelligence agencies and militaries of the United States and Israel. 

The true breadth of the Epstein scandal will never be covered by mainstream media because so many news outlets are owned by these same Silicon Valley oligarchs or depend on Silicon Valley for online reader engagement.

Perhaps the biggest reason why the military/intelligence origins and links to the current Silicon Valley oligarchy will never be honestly examined, however, is that those very entities are now working with breakneck speed to usher in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which would make artificial intelligence, automation, mass electronic surveillance, and transhumanism central to human society. One of the architects of this “revolution,” Klaus Schwab, said earlier this year that rebuilding and maintaining trust with the public was critical to that project.

However, were the true nature of Silicon Valley, including its significant ties to serial child rapist and sex trafficker Jeffery Epstein and his network, to emerge, the public’s trust would be significantly eroded, thus threatening what the global oligarchy views as a project critical to its survival.

washington post logoWashington Post, E.U. agrees to impose sanctions on Belarus, bars E.U. airlines from country’s airspace, after authorities forced down a Ryanair jet, David L. Stern and Elahe Izadi, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). European leaders on Monday agreed to impose sectoral sanctions on Belarus and to bar European Union airlines from flying over the country’s airspace, dealing a potentially crushing blow to the economy, a day after Belarusian authorities forced down a civilian jet and pulled off a dissident journalist.

european union logo rectangleThe measures, backed by all 27 E.U. leaders, were an unusually fast and powerful response to the brazen move by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who on Sunday sent a MiG-29 fighter jet to snatch a Ryanair plane out of the sky as it was flying from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, and arrest one of its passengers, Roman Protasevich, the founder of an opposition media outlet. Protasevich faces 12 years or more in prison.

E.U. leaders meeting for a prescheduled summit in Brussels asked the bloc’s foreign policy team to draw up a list of targeted economic sanctions to impose “without delay," and said the country’s national airline would be barred from flying over or landing in E.U. territory. Officials involved in forcing down the plane will also face personal sanctions.

The Belarusian power play set a fearsome precedent for journalists and political dissidents, who must now worry about flying through the airspace of repressive regimes, even if they are moving from one free capital to another.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who is Roman Protasevich, the dissident journalist arrested in Belarus? May 25, 2021 (print ed.). The 26-year-old edited Nexta, the alternative news platform that provided crucial crowdsourced information during protests last year against the government of strongman Alexander Lukashenko. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Aung San Suu Kyi Makes First Court Appearance Since Coup, Hannah Beech, May 25, 2021 (print ed.). The leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government is facing a raft of charges. If she is found guilty, she could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

For the first time since Myanmar’s military locked her up in a pre-dawn raid as part of its coup on Feb. 1, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government, was seen in person on Monday when she sat briefly at a court hearing.

aung san suu kyi 2011 myanmar The short appearance at a special court in Naypyidaw, the Southeast Asian country’s capital, was also the first time that most of her legal team had caught a glimpse of their famous client. They have been defending her against a raft of criminal charges that the United Nations and foreign governments say are clearly politically motivated. Most of the country’s elected leadership has been jailed.

myanmar flagIn a 30-minute meeting with her lawyers before the hearing, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who had previously appeared by video link, seemed healthy and resolute, if unclear about just how Myanmar had changed since the coup, a member of her legal team said. Since the putsch, the military has imposed a reign of terror, isolating the country once more from the international community.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, shown in a 2011 photo, was determined to defend the integrity of her political party, the National League for Democracy, or N.L.D., her lawyers said.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said that the N.L.D. is the party of the people, and the party will exist as long as the people exist,” Daw Min Min Soe, a member of her legal team, said.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent the better part of two decades locked up by Myanmar’s generals for her campaign for democracy, has been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies, breaching coronavirus regulations and contravening the Official Secrets Act, among other crimes. Military-linked forces have also accused her of accepting bags of cash and 25 pounds of gold, although she has not been formally charged on those counts.

If she is found guilty of the charges — and Myanmar’s courts have a record of delivering guilty verdicts in political cases — Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

Although Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was initially held at her villa in Naypyidaw, she was moved to an undisclosed location a week later, blindfolded while in transit, her lawyer said.

“She doesn’t know where she is living now,” Ms. Min Min Soe said. “She doesn’t know anything about what is happening outside.

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