Media News 2021-22

 

 JIPLogo

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

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

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2021-22

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

 

December

Dec. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Rivals Try to Capitalize on Musk-Induced Chaos, Kalley Huang, Dec. 7, 2022. New start-ups and other social platforms are racing to dethrone Twitter as questions swirl about how viable it might be since Elon Musk took over. Last month, employees at Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, joined a virtual brainstorming session to discuss how to build the next Twitter.

twitter bird CustomAmong the ideas Meta’s workers talked over was a more extensive rollout of a feature called Instagram Notes, where people can share short messages on the photo-sharing site with their followers and friends, according to posts of the conversation that were viewed by The New York Times. Others said Meta should build a text-focused app using Instagram’s technology or add another feed to Instagram. They floated names for the features such as Realtime, Real Reels and Instant.

“Twitter is in crisis and Meta needs its mojo back,” one Meta employee wrote in a post. “LET’S GO FOR THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER.”

A race is on to dethrone Twitter and capitalize on the chaos of its new ownership under Elon Musk, the tech mogul who bought the social media company for $44 billion in late October. Since then, questions have swirled about how viable Twitter might be as Mr. Musk has laid off thousands of employees, started changing the platform’s content rules and proclaimed that the company is in such dire financial shape that bankruptcy is possible.

Dec. 6

 

rupert murdoch 2009 world economic forumw

washington post logoWashington Post, Rupert Murdoch to be deposed in $1.6 billion defamation case against Fox, Jeremy Barr and Rachel Weiner, Dec. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The Fox Corp chairman, shown above at the 2009 World Economic Forum, is the highest-profile individual to be questioned in the case, which hinges on Fox’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

fox news logo SmallRupert Murdoch, the 91-year-old chairman of Fox News parent company Fox Corp, will be forced to answer questions under oath next week about his network’s coverage of the 2020 presidential election.

Murdoch will be deposed on the mornings of Dec. 13 and Dec. 14 as part of election technology company Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, according to a filing in Delaware’s Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that the network purposely aired false claims dominion voting systemsabout Dominion’s role in the 2020 presidential election to boost ratings and fight off competition from more-conservative-leaning television networks.

According to the filing, Murdoch’s deposition will be conducted remotely, via videoconference.

ny times logoNew York Times, Oversight Board Criticizes Meta for Preferential Treatment, Adam Satariano and Sheera Frenkel, Dec. 6, 2022. Influential users on Facebook and Instagram have been able to share posts that would otherwise be removed for violating company policies, the board said.

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, was harshly criticized on Tuesday by a company-appointed oversight board for policies that give celebrities, politicians and business partners special treatment compared with the vast majority of its users.

meta logoUnder a program called cross-check, people with a high number of followers were able to say and share things on Facebook and Instagram that would otherwise have been quickly removed for violating company policies, according to the Oversight Board, which Meta had created to adjudicate thorny policy questions related to free speech, human rights and content moderation.

“The board is concerned about how Meta has prioritized business interests in content moderation,” the board said in a report. The cross-check program, it said, “provided extra protection for the expression of certain users.”

The oversight board recommended that Meta overhaul its cross-check system by “radically” increasing transparency over who is on the program’s list of VIPs and hiding their posts while they are reviewed. Meta should prioritize speech, which is “of special public importance,” it added. Recommendations made by the board, which includes about 20 academics, human rights experts and lawyers, are nonbinding.

ny times logoNew York Times, Computer Science Students Face a Shrinking Big Tech Job Market, Natasha Singer and Kalley Huang, Dec. 6, 2022. A new reality is setting in for students and recent graduates who spent years honing themselves for careers at the largest tech companies.

Ever since she was a 10th grader in Seattle, Annalice Ni wanted to develop software for a prominent tech company like Google. So she went to great lengths to meet the internship and other résumé criteria that make students attractive hires to the biggest tech firms.

In high school, Ms. Ni took computer science courses, interned at Microsoft and volunteered as a coding teacher for younger students. She majored in computer science at the University of Washington, earning coveted software engineering internships at Facebook. After graduating from college this year, she moved to Silicon Valley to start her dream job as a software engineer at Meta, Facebook’s parent company.

Then last month, Meta laid off more than 11,000 employees — including Ms. Ni.

“I did feel very frustrated and disappointed and maybe a bit scared because all of a sudden, I didn’t know what to do,” Ms. Ni, 22, said of her unexpected career setback. “There’s not much I could have done, especially in college, more than I already did, better than I already did.”

Dec. 5

 

elon musk shadow cnnCNN, Opinion: Elon Musk’s Twitter is helping to normalize a neo-Nazi, Dean Obeidallah, Dec. 5, 2022. Elon Musk (shown above) apparently is trying his hand at creating a major media story by the release of what he called the “Twitter Files,” which included internal Twitter documents from October 2020 showing the social media company’s executives debating whether to allow postings on the platform of a New York Post article about a laptop Hunter Biden reportedly owned.

CNNAs CNN reported, Musk’s release on Friday pointed to tweets by journalist Matt Taibbi, who was provided “with emails that largely corroborated what was already known about the incident.”

But the Twitter story that demands coverage is not about something that happened more than two years ago but what we are seeing now on Twitter since Musk took control in October. There has been an “unprecedented” spike in hate speech as well as a resurgence of ISIS-linked accounts, The New York Times detailed in an article published Friday, citing findings from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups studying online platforms.

twitter bird CustomIn addition, Twitter just reinstated the account of self-professed White supremacist Andrew Anglin, founder of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. Anglin, who was banned from Twitter in 2013, has called for tearing down Berlin’s memorial to the Holocaust (which he despicably calls a “hoax”) and replacing “it with a statue of Hitler 1,000 feet tall.”

I have firsthand experience with the neo-Nazi just reinstated on Twitter. Anglin targeted me in 2017 in response to an article I wrote at that time slamming then-President Donald Trump for refusing to denounce White supremacist violence. (This was months before the August 2017 White nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.)

Anglin first posted fabricated tweets on his White supremacist website that appeared to have been written by me claiming responsibility for an ISIS terrorist attack. (I’m Muslim.) He then instructed his followers to “confront me.” Given that readers of The Daily Stormer had in the past committed acts of violence dylann roof pistol flag— including apparently Dylann Roof, left, who murdered nine Black people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 — they did what Anglin asked.

I was soon inundated with death threats. However, if Anglin thought I was going to cower in fear, he was wrong. I sued him in federal court for defamation and emotional distress, where I won a default judgment of $4.1 million. While I still have not recovered a penny, I have long pledged to donate all the proceeds to organizations that fight the type of hate Anglin spews.

I’m not alone. Anglin has orchestrated targeted harassment of other minorities, including African American student Taylor Dumpson who successfully sued Anglin, and Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent who also sued Anglin, resulting in a $14 million judgment.

In fact, the person who was reinstated on Twitter had an arrest warrant issued against him by a federal judge just last month over refusing to comply with court orders in the collection of those damages in Gersh’s lawsuit.

Alarmingly, Anglin’s dangerous influence continues. The White gunman who killed Black people in a Buffalo, New York, grocery store in a racist attack in May, reportedly cited Anglin’s Daily Stormer by name in a manifesto, crediting it as shaping his view that White people were being “replaced” by people of color.

Reinstating Anglin on Twitter not only helps normalize a neo-Nazi, but it also helps him recruit followers. One of Anglin’s first tweets on Friday said: “Trying to find my friends. I lost them in 2013.”

But Anglin is not the only problem. As laid out in the bone-chilling New York Times article, recent data from groups that study online platforms has documented that hate speech has exploded on Twitter in the first two weeks since Musk took over. Overall, the Times reported that researchers noted “they had never seen such a sharp increase in hate speech, problematic content and formerly banned accounts in such a short period on a mainstream social media platform.”

Some of the most jarring statistics include that slurs against Black Americans have tripled to 3,876 times per day, antisemitic posts are up more than 60% and slurs against gay men jumped from 2,506 a day to now nearly 4,000 comments per day, according to the article.

Forbes, Ex-Twitter Employees Begin Lawyering Up To Face Elon Musk, Cyrus Farivar, Dec 5, 2022. Judge Considers Whether To Hold Tesla Chief Executive forbes magazine l CustomElon Musk In Contempt Over Tweet

Tesla CEO Elon Musk arrives at federal court, April 4, 2019 in New York City. Getty Images

twitter bird CustomAfter a few tumultuous weeks since Elon Musk took over Twitter, fired former employees in ever-greater numbers are now taking the company to task over what they say are broken promises surrounding their severance from the company.

On Monday, Lisa Bloom, left, a well-known Los Angeles-based attorney, announced in a press conference that she is now representing three lisa bloomex-Twitter employees in arbitration claims — even going so far as to holding up a ceramic sink, nodding to the strange joke that Musk made when he took over the company in late October.

“Elon, you broke your promises and you violated the law, we are coming after you,” she said in a press conference held in her law offices and streamed online. “Let that sink in.”

Additionally, a New York-based lawyer is now threatening to bring new arbitration claims on behalf of 22 ex-employees, while a Boston-based lawyer has brought three lawsuits and claims before the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of three additional former Twitter workers.

Taken together, these represent a collective new legal front that the company must now face, given that Musk has fired more than half of the company’s workforce since he took over in late October.

At its core, the primary issue is that some employees say they are not receiving the level of severance and compensation, which includes bonuses and stock vesting, prior to the takeover. Additionally, others were given what Bloom called an “illegal ultimatum” — asking workers to take a three months severance deal if they weren’t willing to stay on as part of Musk’s “hardcore” workforce. Bloom said Twitter is in alleged violation of a federal labor law, known as the WARN Act, which requires advance notice of termination before separation from the company actually takes place. If found in violation of this law, Twitter could owe penalties of $500 per employee per day.

By seemingly evading the WARN Act and other alleged misdeeds, these lawyers say, the company seems to be trying to save tens or even hundreds of millions dollars in cash payments, bonuses, equity, vested stock and other payouts.

Dec. 4

 

Lachlan Murdoch with his wife, Sarah Murdoch, at the White House in 2019 (Pool photo by Ron Sachs).

Lachlan Murdoch with his wife, Sarah, at the White House in 2019 (Pool photo by Ron Sachs).

ny times logoNew York Times, Defamation Suit Against Fox Grows More Contentious, Jeremy W. Peters, Dec. 4, 2022. Lachlan Murdoch is set to be deposed on Monday, part of a flurry of activity in the high-stakes case.

dominion voting systemsLachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of the Fox Corporation, is expected to be deposed on Monday as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News for amplifying bogus claims that rigged machines from Dominion Voting Systems were responsible for Donald J. Trump’s defeat in 2020.

Mr. Murdoch will be the most senior corporate figure within the Fox media empire to face questions under oath in the case so far. And his appearance before Dominion’s lawyers is a sign of how unexpectedly far and fast the lawsuit has progressed in recent weeks — and how contentious it has become.

fox news logo SmallFox and Dominion have gone back and forth in Delaware state court since the summer in an escalating dispute over witnesses, evidence and testimony. The arguments point to the high stakes of the case, which will render a judgment on whether the most powerful conservative media outlet in the country intentionally misled its audience and helped seed one of the most pervasive lies in American politics.

Although the law leans in the media’s favor in defamation cases, Dominion has what independent observers have said is an unusually strong case. Day after day, Fox hosts and guests repeated untrue stories about Dominion’s ties to communist regimes and far-fetched theories about how its software enabled enemies of the former president to steal his votes.

“This is a very different kind of case,” said David A. Logan, dean of the Roger Williams School of Law, who has argued in favor of loosening some libel laws. “Rarely do cases turn on a weekslong pattern of inflammatory, provably false, but also oddly inconsistent statements.”

Dominion, in its quest to obtain the private communications of as many low-, mid- and high-level Fox personnel as possible, hopes to prove that people inside the network knew they were disseminating lies. Fox hopes to be able sow doubt about that by showing how its hosts pressed Trump allies for evidence they never produced and that Dominion machines were vulnerable to hacking, even if no hacking took place.

The judge, Eric M. Davis, has ruled in most instances in Dominion’s favor, allowing the voting company to expand the pool of potential evidence it can present to a jury to include text messages from the personal phones of Fox employees and the employment contracts of star hosts such as Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson, along with those of Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and her top corporate managers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Surging Twitter antisemitism unites fringe and encourages violence, officials say, Julian Mark, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Online comments often lead to real-world actions, social media experts warn.

Federal officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for Nazis by certain celebrities and the reemergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists.

twitter bird CustomCurrent and former federal officials are warning that a surge in hate speech and disinformation about Jews on Twitter is uniting and popularizing some of the same extremists who have helped push people to engage in violent protests including the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress.

The officials are predicting that Twitter will contribute to more violence in the months ahead, citing the proliferation of extreme content, including support for genocidal Nazis by celebrities with wide followings and the reemergence of QAnon proselytizers and white nationalists.

Since billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk bought Twitter just over a month ago, he has slashed more than half the staff, including most of the people who made judgment calls about what counts as impermissible slurs against religious or ethnic groups.

Musk announced a broad amnesty for most previously banned accounts and has personally interacted with fringe activists and white nationalists on the site in the weeks since he assumed ownership. Other actors have experimented with racist and antisemitic posts to test Musk’s limits as a self-declared “free speech absolutist.”

Even before Musk’s takeover, some Twitter users were encouraging confrontations with transgender people and others who were falsely depicted as “groomers,” or predators who sexually target underage victims. But the new wave of antisemitism has reached millions of people in just days, brought new followers, and helped galvanize a broader coalition of fringe figures.

 Dec. 3

 

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” on Friday, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” on Friday, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds, Cat Zakrzewski and Faiz Siddiqui, Dec. 4, 2022 (print ed.). It was billed as a bombshell: Elon Musk, after rifling through his new company’s internal files, would finally expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the critical run up to the 2020 election.

“This will be awesome,” Musk tweeted, teasing the announcement with a popcorn emoji.

But by the time the dust settled Saturday, even some conservatives were grumbling that it was a dud. Musk’s Twitter Files produced no smoking gun showing that the tech giant had bent to the will of Democrats.

twitter bird CustomA handful of screenshots from 2020, posted over the course of two hours Friday evening in a disjointed, roughly 40-tweet thread, show the San Francisco company debating a decision to restrict sharing of a controversial New York Post story about the son of then Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.

The Twitter thread, based on internal communications posted by Substack writer Matt Taibbi, showed the company independently decided to limit the spread of the article, without Democratic politicians, the Biden campaign or FBI exerting control over the social media network. In fact, the only input from a sitting politician that Taibbi noted was from Silicon Valley Rep. Ro Khanna (D), who told Twitter executives they should distribute the story, regardless of the potential consequences for his party.

“I’m not persuaded these are anything close to a bombshell,” said Jameel Jaffer, the director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, in an interview.

In the process, Musk took the extraordinary step of promoting the leak of internal company communications to Taibbi, exposing the names of several rank-and-file workers and Khanna’s personal email address.

The online mob descended on the Twitter workers on the chain, threatening them and circulating their photos online.

“Publicly posting the names and identities of front-line employees involved in content moderation puts them in harm’s way and is a fundamentally unacceptable thing to do,” former Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth, who was among the employees named in the tweets, said in a social media post.

Musk acknowledged on a Twitter Spaces audio chat Saturday afternoon some missteps, including “a few cases where I think we should have excluded some email addresses.”

“The idea here is to come clean on everything that has happened in the past in order to build public trust for the future,” Musk said during the Twitter Spaces which was plagued with technical difficulties. Musk said he joined via a Starlink satellite connection from his private jet.

Musk also criticized the media’s coverage of the files.

“Rather than admit they lied to the public they’re trying to pretend this is a nothingburger,” he said. “Shame on them.”

Musk and Taibbi both tweeted that they would reveal more information in a second chapter Saturday. Musk also said on the Spaces that he shared the documents with another Substack writer, Bari Weiss, and suggested he may share them with the public in the future.

The spectacle capped off another week of chaos at Musk’s Twitter, after the “chief Twit” spent Friday afternoon meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and batting back reports about the rise of hate speech on the Twitter platform.

 

 

Blogger Matt Taibbi and the erratic ultra-right corporate titan Elon Musk

Blogger Matt Taibbi and the increasingly erratic ultra-right corporate titan Elon Musk

Emptywheel, Analysis: Matty Taibbi’s Dick Pics, Emptywheel, (Marcy Wheeler, right), Dec. 3, 2022. Apparently, Elon Musk decided that the best person to marcy wheelerdisclose what he promised would show, “what really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter” was Matt Taibbi, someone who — by his own admission (an admission on which he has apparently flip-flopped) — apologized for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine because he was, “so fixated on Western misbehavior that I didn’t bother to take [the] possibility [of Russian invasion] seriously enough.”

Reverse chauvinism, Taibbi called it.

Taibbi’s own apologies for Russia didn’t just start with the Russian imperialism and war crimes, however.

He was long a critic of what he called “RussiaGate” based on the tried and true tactic of treating the Steele dossier and Alfa Bank allegations — and not the legal verdicts that confirmed Trump’s National Security Advisor, campaign manager, Coffee Boy, personal lawyer, and rat-fucker all lied to hide the true nature of their Russian ties — as the primary substance of the case.

Taibbi scolded others about shoddy reporting even while he adhered to the Single Server fallacy that not only assumed all the hacked material came from just one server, but ignored the hack of Amazon Web Services content and abundant other evidence attributing the hacks to Russia from other cloud companies. Then there was the time Taibbi tried to smack down on claims that Maria Butina used sex to entice targets, in which he made error after error, all without allowing his false claims to be disrupted by consulting the actual primary sources.

That’s the guy Elmo decided would be a credible voice to tell us what happened with the “Hunter Biden” “laptop” story.

That matters because, as Andy Stepanian explained last night, Twitter had advance warning of a Russian information operation targeting Hunter Biden during the summer of 2020, months before the release of the “Hunter Biden” “laptop.”

twitter bird CustomMatt Taibbi is either woefully misinformed about this or cynically lying. How do I know? Because I attended two meetings with Twitter representatives in July and August 2020 wherein the Hunter Biden story was discussed within the larger framework of election integrity.

Matt Taibbi’s analysis has myriad problems but the biggest problem is his failure to underscore what initially prompted Twitter staff to designate the content in the Post story as “stolen” or “hacked” material. This came from conversations with law enforcement in summer of 2020.

Taibbi claims that he’s concerned about First Amendment implications of the government pressuring Twitter about content. And then … he ignores the evidence he presents about (what is probably shorthand for) the Trump White House pressuring Twitter about content. Let’s see those specifics, Matty!
Or rather he excuses it, using the old charade of campaign donations which show what a small portion of Twitter employees spend.

As numerous people have laid out — most notably Free Beacon reporter Andrew Kerr — a number of these takedown requests were of dick pics and other personal porn, a celebrity kind of revenge porn. Others were of Hunter Biden smoking crack — at least a violation of law. But none so far identified pertain to allegations of influence peddling.

Tabbi’s smoking gun amounts to takedown requests of stolen dick pics, precisely the kind of thing that content moderation should be responsive to.
“Handled,” Elmo responded with glee about proof that his predecessors had seen fit to remove leaked porn and dick pics.

hunter biden beard

Hunter Biden (file photo).

The Bulwark, Commentary: No, You Do Not Have a Constitutional Right to Post Hunter Biden’s Dick Pic on Twitter, Tim Miller, right, Dec. 3, 2022. Elon Musk and Matt tim miller twitterTaibbi’s First Amendment follies.

While normal humans who denied Republicans their red wave were enjoying an epic sports weekend, an insular community of MAGA activists and online contrarians led by the world’s richest man (for now) were getting riled up about a cache of leaked emails revealing that the former actor James Woods and Chinese troll accounts were not allowed to post ill-gotten photos of Hunter Biden’s hog on a private company’s microblogging platform 25 months ago.

bulwark logo big shipNow if you are one of the normals—someone who would never think about posting another person’s penis on your social media account; has no desire to see politicians’ kids’ penises when scrolling social media; doesn’t understand why there are other people out there who care one way or another about the moderation policies surrounding stolen penis photos; or can’t even figure out what it is that I’m talking about—then this might seem like a gratuitous matter for an article. Sadly, it is not.

Because among Republican members of Congress, leading conservative media commentators, contrarian substackers, conservative tech bros, and friends of Donald Trump, the ability to post Hunter Biden’s cock shots on Twitter is the number-one issue in America this weekend. They believe that if they are not allowed to post porno, our constitutional republic may be in jeopardy.

I truly, truly wish I were joking.

Here’s a synopsis for the blessedly uninitiated:

The offending material that Taibbi revealed was removed by Twitter at the Biden campaign’s request turns out to have been a bunch of links to Hunter Biden, right, in the buff.

There was a tweet from a Chinese account featuring a naked woman on top of Hunter Biden, as well as a family photo. Two pictures of Hunter Biden’s penis, one with another woman in the background. Taibbi’s next list of material was removed by Twitter after being flagged by the Democratic National Committee. They include a picture of Hunter Biden smoking crack and getting his feet rubbed and a link to a Hunter Biden sex tape.

And that’s the big hubbub. Social media company removes unwanted dick pics: News at 11.

elon musk collage twitterOn Friday, Elon Musk promised to reveal “what really happened with the Hunter Biden story suppression by Twitter.” It turns out that he had provided a trove of internal corporate documents to the Tulsi Gabbard of Substack, Matt Taibbi, who said they amounted to a “unique and explosive story”—revealing the juicy details inside Twitter’s decision to suppress the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, which had previously been rejected by such liberal outlets as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal due to its suspicious provenance. Taibbi agreed to divulge these private emails on Twitter itself rather than via his Substack as part of a “few conditions,” which he does not detail, that were imposed on him, presumably by Musk or a Musk factotum.

The documents Taibbi tweeted on Friday were titillating in the way that reading private correspondence revealing what people were really saying around a controversial subject always is, but nothing new was learned about the contours of the story. The leak mostly relitigates two facts that have already received much ink across the media: 1) How Twitter throttled the New York Post’s initial story about Hunter’s laptop based on what we now know was an incorrect assessment of its source; and 2) How political campaigns and government agencies have worked with social media companies—in this case Twitter—to flag troubling content.

On the first point, the emails confirm the essential consensus that has come into focus in reporting on the matter: Twitter got out over its skis on the ban and a typical corporate bureaucratic goat rope ensued as the company tried to “unfuck” the situation, as one employee put it. To say that this is not a new revelation would be an understatement given that Twitter’s former CEO Jack Dorsey admitted that this was a mistake over a year ago.

As such it was the latter point that drove the most hysterical discussion online on Friday.

The most retweeted installment in Taibbi’s thread (so far) was this, which purported to show the Biden campaign directing Twitter to delete specific tweets:

twitter bird CustomThis supposed smoking gun resulted in Musk responding to his own journalistic stenographer on Twitter with a fire emoji and the comment “If this isn’t a violation of the Constitution’s first amendment, what is.” Musk was so impressed with this digital citizen’s arrest, that he made it his pinned tweet, after which the MAGA attaboys for Musky came hot and heavy.

Right-wing commentator Buck Sexton (real name), said this was a “bright red line violation” and that Biden, should be IMPEACHED for it. Rep. James Comer (R-TN) was on Fox promising that everyone at Twitter involved with this would be brought before the House Oversight committee. Rep. Billy Long retweeted several MAGA influencers praising Elon for, among other things, “exposing corruption at the highest levels of society” (Projection Alert). Meanwhile Kari Lake hype man Pizzagate Jack Posobiec declared this the “biggest story in modern presidential election history,” claimed that “we can never go back to the country we were before this moment,” and donned this “a digital insurrection.”

In reality, all they really had was a digital erection.

As someone who once consulted for social media companies on content moderation issues, let me tell you, the amount of eggplant-related terms of service violations that these platforms review in a given year is so voluminous that we have not yet invented an artificial intelligence machine capable of counting them.

Yet Taibbi and Musk are trying to turn this mundane moderation matter into the story of the century by emphasizing a few misconceptions about how platforms work with political campaigns and what First Amendment obligations they do or do not have. To debunk a few of them:

1. Campaigns of all ideological stripes have direct lines into social media companies and make requests about offending content. There is nothing at all strange about what is shown in these emails. If Jeb’s kid’s grundle was posted by a Chinese troll, we surely would’ve flagged that for the company in the hopes they deleted it, and I suspect their internal correspondence on the matter would’ve been identical. This would not have been a “demand” or a “dictate” from our campaign, mind you. Companies can do what they want.

2. In this specific instance, the requests came from a campaign that has absolutely no government authority at all. At the time of the correspondence in question, Joe Biden was a private citizen running for office, while Donald Trump was the president. Taibbi acknowledges that Trump’s White House made requests that “were received and honored” and that “there’s no evidence—that I’ve seen—of any government involvement in the laptop story.” So if there are any First Amendment issues at play here—and I don’t believe there are since neither Musk nor Taibbi have demonstrated that the government made any mandates on Twitter—they would, in this case, only relate to the material that Trump wanted removed.

3. Why MAGA Republicans and Elon Musk are so adamant that people be able to post photos of Hunter’s johnson is something that should probably be explored with their respective preachers or psychiatrists, but it is certainly not a matter for constitutional scholars or litigators.

To sum up what we learned: Big penis, little news, First Amendment not under threat.

Musk and Taibbi have promised more editions of the “Twitter Files” in the coming days, maybe next time they won’t come up so limp.

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large and the author of the best-selling book "Why We Did It: A Travelogue from the Republican Road to Hell." He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump and communications director for Jeb Bush 2016.

Dec. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says Kanye West suspended from Twitter after swastika tweet, Ellen Francis and Rachel Lerman, Dec. 2, 2022. Ye’s account was also restricted earlier this year after an antisemitic post.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, said Twitter suspended the rapper Ye on Friday after he shared an image of a swastika combined with the Star of David, weeks after his account was restored following a previous restriction.

It’s the latest fallout for Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after he began making frequent antisemitic comments online and in interviews, which also caused him to lose several lucrative business deals. His tweets were a highly visible test of what new Twitter twitter bird Customowner Musk — who has extolled his commitment to “free speech” — would allow on the site.

Musk and Twitter did not immediately say how long Ye would be unable to tweet on the social media site, where he had more than 31 million followers. Ye appeared to post a screenshot on Truth Social saying that he had been suspended from Twitter for 12 hours, using a recently created but verified account on the right-wing site, which is backed by former president Donald Trump.

His Twitter account appeared with a message saying “Account suspended” on Friday.

Musk had previously welcomed Ye back to Twitter, but this time the musician seemed to go too far.

“I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended,” Musk wrote overnight to a Twitter user telling him to “fix Kanye.”

Musk bought Twitter in October after months of legal wrangling, and his ownership so far has been marked by mass layoffs and upheaval within the company.

Infowars host Alex Jones at left, with (from left to right) guests Ye, formerly Kanye West, plus Nick Fuentes and Ali Alexander.

Infowars host Alex Jones at left, with (from left to right) ultra-right guests Ye, formerly Kanye West, Nick Fuentes and Ali Alexander.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rapper Ye draws fresh denunciation for Hitler praise in Alex Jones interview, Azi Paybarah, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The rapper Ye praised Adolf Hitler and Nazis in an interview Thursday with far-right provocateur Alex Jones, drawing a fresh round of condemnation for his incendiary antisemitism a week after he dined with former president Donald Trump alongside white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

kanye west twitter maga snl“I like Hitler,” a fully masked Ye told Jones. Minutes later, the rapper said, “I love Jewish people, but I also love Nazis.”

Elon Musk says Ye, shown at right, suspended from Twitter after swastika tweet

Jones laughed and quickly added, “Well, I have to disagree with that.”

Ye’s comments prompted sharp denunciations from across the political spectrum, including from some onetime supporters of the rapper, formerly known as Kanye West.

The House Judiciary GOP Twitter account on Thursday deleted a tweet it posted in October that said simply: “Kanye. Elon. Trump.”

A spokesman for Trump did not respond to a request for comment about Thursday’s show. Shortly after the Infowars segment ended, Ye’s Twitter account began retweeting posts about the “craziest interview in modern history.”

Trump’s dinner with antisemites provides test of GOP response to extremism

In a statement from the Republican Jewish Coalition, Chairman Norm Coleman, a former senator from Minnesota, and chief executive Matt Brooks called Jones, West and Fuentes “a disgusting triumvirate of conspiracy theorists, Holocaust deniers, and antisemites.”

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Alex Jones files for bankruptcy as he owes nearly $1.5B to Sandy Hook families, Justine McDaniel, Dec. 2, 2022. Infowars founder Alex Jones filed for bankruptcy Friday, weeks after courts ordered him to pay close to $1.5 billion in damages to the families of victims of the 2012 mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Jones, 48, has been ordered to pay $1.4 billion in a Connecticut case and $45.2 million in a Texas case for damage caused by his years of lies that the Sandy Hook massacre, in which 20 children and six adults were killed, was a hoax. Jones and his attorney have said he will appeal.

Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the southern district of Texas, Jones said his assets were worth between $1 million and $10 million and that his debts were between $1 billion and $10 billion. He said his debts were primarily business debts and estimated that he owed between 50 and 99 creditors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Washington Post lays off Pulitzer-winning dance critic in spate of cuts, Sarah Ellison, Dec. 2, 2022 (print ed.). The Washington Post has laid off Pulitzer Prize winner Sarah L. Kaufman, one of the last full-time dance critics in the country, as part of a spate of job eliminations announced this week.

Kaufman, who has held her position for a quarter-century, was told her job had been cut Wednesday — the same day Post leaders announced plans to shutter the newspaper’s stand-alone Sunday magazine and lay off its 10 employees. The paper has also eliminated its weekly Style Invitational humor contest, which involved ending the contract of former longtime Post editor and current contributor Pat Myers.

“By eliminating the dance critic position and all that dance coverage can be, The Washington Post is narrowing its arts journalism and its scope. I can’t fathom why this institution is shutting itself off to what dancers and choreographers have to say about our lives and the world we live in,” Kaufman said in an interview.

“My principal concern is what is going to happen to those artists and the wider public knowledge of them,” she added.

The cuts are part of an industry-wide trend, including hundreds of layoffs announced by CNN this week. The Post did not offer laid-off staffers other roles at the paper. Shani George, the newspaper’s vice president of communications, said no further layoffs were planned this week.

The Washington Post Guild responded to the cuts in a tweet, saying, “there is no justification for layoffs amid a year of record hiring and growth.” Despite the layoffs, The Post has lately been adding positions in the coverage of technology, the climate, health and wellness, and in overseas news hubs.

Dec. 1

kennedys king new logo

Kennedys & King, Analysis: JFK Assassination Records – A Watershed Moment? Mark Adamczyk, Dec. 1, 2022. A new lawsuit aimed at forcing the President and the National Archives to finally release JFK assassination records, as required by law, is before the courts. Mark E. Adamczyk, Esq., explains the issues involved.

On October 19, 2022, a lawsuit was filed by the Mary Ferrell Foundation against President Joseph R. Biden and the National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”) to enforce the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992. The lawsuit seeks to compel the President and NARA to finally perform their duties under the federal law that governs the final declassification of JFK assassination records.

Some historical context is important. The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (the “JFK Records Act”) was unanimously passed by Congress in 1992. President Biden, a Senator at the time, voted in favor of the JFK Records Act. The JFK Records Act was unanimously approved by Congress and signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. One can read the JFK Records Act in its entirety by searching “Public Law 102-526, 102d Congress, President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992.”

The JFK Records Act is extremely favorable to the American public in terms of transparency and declassification of assassination records. On reading the JFK Records Act one does not have to go past the first page of the statute to see what Congress intended and how strong of an impact it was meant to have. For example:

Section 2(a)(2), JFK Records Act: “all Government records concerning the assassination of President John F. Kennedy should carry a presumption of immediate disclosure, and all records should be eventually disclosed to enable the public to become fully informed about the history surrounding the assassination.”

[Snip]

This is what your Congress declared in 1992, 30 years ago, and with the strongest of language. Congress declared that records pertaining to the JFK assassination had already been unreasonably withheld from the public for 30 years. Even the CIA felt the JFK Records Act was a different breed of declassification law, that had the teeth to go much further than FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) or any previous effort to shed light on deep government secrets. In a 1998 internal CIA Memorandum titled JFK Records Review – Lessons Learned, the CIA stated that, “The level of evidence required by the Board [the Assassination Records Review Board or ARRB] to postpone what was generally considered protectable information was extremely high and usually required documentation of ‘current harm’. Defenses based on general principles such as official cover or sources and methods were not acceptable.”

The Board closed down in 1998. In 2022, after another 30 years, and in spite of the strongest possible legislation, the President and responsible agencies are still withholding almost 15,000 records that are relevant to the JFK Assassination. Many records are still withheld in full. Others have been “released” with significant redactions. The point of this article is not to analyze which specific records have been withheld in full, which records still have significant redactions, or which records have not been turned over to NARA for inspection and preservation. The point of this article is to explain why legal action was necessary and also unfortunately for the American public, the last and only choice.

The JFK Records Act established and created the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB). Upon creation of the JFK Records Act, agencies and government offices were ordered to deliver all assassination records to NARA. An assassination record is defined as any record related to the assassination of President Kennedy that was “created or made available for use by, obtained by, otherwise came into the possession of” (i) the Warren Commission; (ii) the Rockefeller Commission; (iii) the Church Committee; (iv) the Pike Committee; (v) the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA); (vi) any executive agency; and (vii) and other office of the Federal Government, or any state or local law enforcement office that performed work in connection with the federal inquiry in the Kennedy assassination. For anyone looking to understand the full scope of the JFK Records Act and the work of the ARRB, the ARRB’s Final Report is essential reading.

The above-defined assassination records became known as the JFK Records Collection, or the “Collection.” It was then the job of the ARRB, an independent body, to review the Collection and make legal determinations on which records might still qualify for classification under the standards of the JFK Records Act. What are those standards? For an agency or government office to request continued classification, section 6 of the JFK Records Act put the burden of proof on the objecting agencies. The burden of proof is not on researchers and the American public to demonstrate why an assassination record(s) should be released.

[Snip]

To its credit, the ARRB did a tremendous amount of work from 1994 to 1998, releasing more than 2 million pages of assassination records. In 1998, however, the ARRB’s authority had run its course according to its Congressional mandate and the ARRB was dissolved in late September of that year. NARA, and the American public, were then left with a Collection that still contained tens of thousands of classified records, totaling hundreds of thousands of pages. Agencies were required under the JFK Records Act to perform periodic review pursuant to the recommendations and Final Determinations of the ARRB in order to ensure timely declassification and release of the assassination records.

What happened after 1998? Virtually nothing. Without the independent ARRB to ensure that agencies and government offices continued their periodic review obligation, it was up to NARA to hope that agencies and government offices would finish the work on declassification. The intent of Congress is that maybe 1% (or less) of the Collection could plausibly still require classification as of 2017. Refer again to the declaration of Congress in the JFK Records Act: “most of the records related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy are almost 30 years old, and only in the rarest cases is there any legitimate need for continued protection of such records.” That declaration was made in 1992! Reflect on that for a moment.

October 26, 2017 was in fact the deadline for final declassification. Section 5(g)(2)(d) of the JFK Records Act required the President (Trump at the time) to take specific action to ensure that Congress’s mandate to release all assassination records by the deadline was completed. We are all aware of Trump’s tweets in which he committed to the final release of all assassination records on the eve of this deadline in 2017.

The President only has power to authorize continued classification of an assassination record if he certifies that “each” specific record continues to pose an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations, as required by the Act; and that such identifiable harm is of such gravity that it outweighs the public interest in disclosure. In other words, the President is required to make decisions with regard to each assassination record under the same constraints and authority as the ARRB. The President was therefore required to finish the ARRB’s job by October 26, 2017, or provide published unclassified reasons, based on clear and convincing evidence for each assassination record withheld under the criteria set out in section 6 of the JFK Records Act, as outlined in detail above.

What happened instead? President Trump initially issued an order Executive Memorandum on October 26, 2017 delaying the release of assassination records. Plain and simple: This order was illegal and did not comply with the clear standards of the JFK Records Act. Trump’s first order in October 2017 authorized a 6-month delay for agencies and governments to continue their review of assassination records and make recommendations to Trump by April, 2018. Then it got worse. On April 26, 2018, President Trump issued another order Executive Memorandum authorizing another delay of over three (3) years.

In October of 2021, President Biden declassified about ten per cent of the outstanding documents. He then continued the trend of his predecessor, which is extremely troubling. President Biden issued another order Executive Memorandum giving agencies and government offices until December 15, 2022 to make final decisions on the release of assassination records. Let me say that again. President Biden has now empowered agencies and government offices to make their own decisions on declassification. This is exactly the opposite of how the JFK Records Act was intended to work. Like both of President Trump’s Memoranda, President Biden’s Executive Memorandum is simply unlawful.

Congress was abundantly clear that the purpose of the JFK Records Act was to publicly disclose all records related to the assassination of President Kennedy through an enforceable process of downgrading and declassification. In all but the “rarest of cases” was any assassination record to be kept secret beyond the final deadline for release on October 26, 2017. It therefore defies both reason and Congress that two Presidents, the Archivist, NARA, and a number of executive agencies have determined that the standards for continuing postponement of the withheld assassination records have somehow become less onerous now after that deadline for release and after 60 years have passed.

There is no reasonable expectation that President Biden will take appropriate action by December 15, 2022. If anything, he has empowered agencies and government offices to act with more secrecy in regard to the withheld assassination records. Thus the necessity of the legal action.

The government continues to operate under the findings of the Warren Commission, which is that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination and with no confederates. That Commission also concluded that Jack Ruby assassinated Oswald on his own and with no associates. The House Select Committee on Assassinations (“HSCA”) concluded in 1978 that there was a probable conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination and referred the matter to the U.S. Justice Department for further investigation. However, the Justice Department has done nothing to further investigate the murder of the 35th President of the United States. If Oswald did act alone, or even if he acted with other alleged “pro-Castro sympathizers”, why the continued secrecy? One can only assume that the thousands of withheld records will show a U.S. Intelligence connection to Oswald, which was covered up immediately after the assassination and is still being covered up. That is an article for another day, but it is the only logical conclusion at this time.

Only time will tell, and hopefully a Court will finally declare that there is no reasonable or legal reason to continue the sixty years of government secrecy.

 

elon musk sideview

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Elon Musk: the Julius Streicher of the digital age, Wayne Madsen, left, author of 22 books and former U.S. Navy intelligence officer, Dec .1, 2022. Musk (shown above in a file photo) may fall victim to EU wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smalllaws designed to combat the atrocities committed by Streicher.

wayne madesen report logoBy re-platforming in the name of "freedom of speech" previously banned neo-Nazi and pedophile Twitter users, Elon Musk has become the Julius Streicher of the digital age. Although Julius Streicher, one of the Nazi war criminals hanged in Nuremberg, is now largely remembered only in history books, his main avenue of propaganda, the Nazi weekly tabloid Der Stürmer ("The Storm"), lives on in QAnon and neo-Nazi conspiratorial lore.

Users linked to the neo-Nazi website "The Daily Stormer" continue to have a home on Twitter and Musk's announced policy of permitting all forms of hate speech on the social media platform will only increase the preponderance of such content. The homage paid to Der Stürmer by neo-Nazi Twitter users and QAnon, which uses the slogan "The Storm in Coming," is outrageous when one considers that Der Stürmer was considered so extreme in its vitriol against Jews that Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring banned his staff from reading it.

Politico, Never mind, Musk says — accusation against Apple was a ‘misunderstanding,’ Staff Report, Dec. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The billionaire writes that he and Apple CEO Tim Cook “resolved the politico Custommisunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store.”

Elon Musk had a much different tone Monday, when he issued a series of tweets accusing Apple of threatening to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store. See: Washington Post, Elon Musk says he’s launching a ‘war’ against Apple. It’s probably a losing battle, Naomi Nix.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk publicly retracted his accusations that Apple had threatened to remove Twitter from its App Store — two days after his claim unleashed a tsunami of Republican attacks twitter bird Customand threats of reprisals against the iPhone-maker.

In fact, the billionaire said in an unusually cordial tweet late Wednesday it was all just a big mix-up that Apple CEO Tim Cook managed to resolve in a “good conversation.”

 “Among other things, we resolved the misunderstanding about Twitter potentially being removed from the App Store,” Musk wrote. “Tim was clear that Apple never considered doing so.”

apple logo rainbowApple did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Musk did not explain how the alleged misunderstanding had occurred.

Cook is expected to be in Washington on Thursday, meeting with senators among others.

Musk had a much different tone Monday, when he issued a series of tweets accusing Apple of threatening to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store, among other unspecified “censorship actions” that he laid at Apple’s feet. Those tweets remained live on Musk’s Twitter feed as of Wednesday night.

washington post logoWashington Post, Tech firms ‘facilitated’ covid aid fraud, collecting billions in fees, report finds, Tony Romm, Dec. 1, 2022. The findings, released Thursday and shared in advance with The Washington Post, come after an 18-month congressional investigation.

The probe revealed significant flaws that undermined the Paycheck Protection Program, a roughly $800 billion federal effort to support small businesses. Little-known firms such as Blueacorn and Womply allegedly collected taxpayer-funded fees as they overlooked signs of grift, according to a report released Thursday by congressional investigators

“The faster the better,” the workers were told at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, as the little-known financial technology company Blueacorn raced to review small businesses that sought federal loans.

Speeding through applications, Blueacorn employees and contractors allegedly began to overlook possible signs of fraud, according to interviews and communications later amassed by investigators on Capitol Hill. The company weighed whether to prioritize “monster loans that will get everyone paid,” as the firm’s co-founder once said. And investigators found that Blueacorn collected about $1 billion in processing fees — while its operators may have secured fraudulent loans of their own.

The allegations against Blueacorn and several other firms are laid out in a sprawling, roughly 120-page report released Thursday by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, a congressional watchdog tasked to oversee roughly $5 trillion in federal pandemic aid. The 18-month probe — spanning more than 83,000 pages of documents, and shared in advance with The Washington Post — contends there was rampant abuse among a set of companies known as fintechs, which jeopardized federal efforts to rescue the economy and siphoned off public funds for possible private gain.

Some of the companies involved had never before managed federal aid, the report found. At the height of the pandemic, they failed to hire the right staff to thwart fraud. They amassed major profits from fees generated from the loans — large and small, genuine and problematic — that they processed and reviewed. And they repeatedly escaped scrutiny from the Small Business Administration, putting billions of dollars at risk, the probe found.

 

November

Nov. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says he’s launching a ‘war’ against Apple. It’s probably a losing battle, Naomi Nix, Nov. 30, 2022. Elon Musk launched a tirade against Apple this week after he said the phone-maker had mostly stopped advertising on Twitter and threatened to block the social media giant from its app store.

elon musk 2015In some ways, the billionaire, right, seemed to be picking a losing fight. The amount Apple spends advertising on Twitter and the rules it sets for apps in its app store could play a big role in whether Twitter will be able to generate enough revenue to make Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy the platform worth it.

apple logo rainbow“If there’s one company for him not to pick a fight with in the world, it’s Apple, and he just poked the bear,” said Dan Ives, a financial analyst with Wedbush Securities. “It’s just another head-scratching battle that Musk has waged since his ownership of Twitter.”

In a series of tweets, Musk criticized Apple’s app store as a “monopoly” and raised whether the phone-maker supported censorship. Musk also signaled in a tweet that he intends to “go to war” with Apple.

It’s a risky strategy. Apple wields significant power over Twitter as the social media platform seeks to diversify its advertising business and boost subscription sales, according to experts. For starters, Twitter depends on Apple to reach the tens of millions of people who use Apple devices to search the web — a large and attractive market for the social media giant.

Judge’s ruling may take a bite out of Apple’s App Store, but falls short of calling the iPhone maker a monopolist

twitter bird CustomAt the same time, Apple’s privacy rules probably will hurt Musk’s plans to build out Twitter’s targeted advertising business. And the 30 percent fee Apple extracts from app sales could put a dent in Musk’s plan to make money from subscriptions.

Musk joins a long line of other app-makers and regulators that have, so far, unsuccessfully sought to significantly rein in the power Apple wields over social media platforms. Facebook has launched a similar unsuccessful public relations campaign against Apple’s privacy rules, which cost Facebook billions in lost ad sales. Lawmakers to date have been unable to pass legislation that would give users the ability to download apps outside of Apple and Google’s app stores. And courts in the United States have so far not compelled Apple to significantly change the fees it collects on app sales.

Emptywheel, Analysis: On The Shoddy Journalistic Defense Of “Wikleaks,” Emptywheel, (Marcy Wheeler, right), Nov. 30, 2022. When it was first published, a marcy wheelerletter that the NYT, Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, and El País signed, calling on the US government to drop the Espionage Act charges against Julian Assange, got the date of Assange’s arrest wrong — it was April 11, not April 12, 2019. The outlets have since corrected the error, though without crediting me for alerting them to it.

 As it currently exists, even after correcting that error, the Guardian version of the letter misspells WikiLeaks: “WikLeaks.”

For Julian Assange, publisher of WikLeaks, the publication of “Cablegate” and several other related leaks had the most severe consequences. On [April 11th] 2019, Assange was arrested in London on a US arrest warrant, and has now been held for three and a half years in a high-security British prison usually used for terrorists and members of organised crime groups. He faces extradition to the US and a sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison. [my emphasis]

The slovenly standards with which five major newspapers released this letter suggest the other inaccuracies in the letter may be the result of sloppiness or — in some cases — outright ignorance about the case on which they claim to comment.

[T]hese five media outlets seem to suggest that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act conspiracy alleged in “the indictment” is limited to Assange’s effort to crack a password.

It is — in the 2017 to 2019 charging documents. But not the one on which Assange is being extradited.

The hacking conspiracy, as currently charged, is a 5-year conspiracy that alleges far more than — and starts before — the password cracking seemingly described in the paragraph.

Are these media outlets upset that DOJ has charged Assange for a conspiracy in which at least six others have been prosecuted, including in the UK? Are they saying that’s what their own journalists do, recruit teenaged fraudsters who in turn recruit hackers for them? Or are these outlets simply unaware of the 2020 indictment, as many Assange boosters are?

ny times logoNew York Times, Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Charges Against Assange, Charlie Savage, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). In a joint letter, news organizations warned that the indictment of Julian Assange could chill reporting about national security.

The New York Times and four European news organizations called on the United States government on Monday to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for obtaining and publishing classified diplomatic and military secrets.

In a joint open letter, The Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País said the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that threatened to undermine the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

“Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists,” the letter said. “If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMr. Assange, who has been fighting extradition from Britain since his arrest there in 2019, is also accused of participating in a hacking-related conspiracy. The letter notably did not urge the Justice Department to drop that aspect of the case, though it said that “some of us are concerned” about it, too.

Each of the five organizations had worked with Mr. Assange in 2010 and 2011, during the events at the heart of the criminal case. WikiLeaks, which obtained leaked archives of classified American diplomatic cables and military files, gave early access to the troves to traditional news outlets, which published articles about notable revelations.

Nov. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Fined $275 Million for Breaking E.U. Data Privacy Law, Adam Satariano, Nov. 29, 2022 (print ed.). The penalty, imposed by Irish data regulators, brings European fines against Facebook’s parent company to more than $900 million since last year.

In the latest penalty against Meta for violating European privacy rules, the tech giant was fined roughly $275 million on Monday for a data leak discovered last year that led to the personal information of more than 500 million Facebook users being published online.

meta logoThe penalty, imposed by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, brings the total fines to more than $900 million that the regulator has imposed on Meta since last year. In September, the same regulator fined the company roughly $400 million for its mistreatment of children’s data. Last October, Irish authorities fined Meta, which was previously called Facebook, 225 million euros, or about $235 million, for violations related to its messaging service WhatsApp.

The accumulating penalties will be a welcome sign to privacy groups that want to see European Union regulators more aggressively enforce the General Data Protection Regulation. The law was hailed as a landmark moment in the regulation of technology companies when it took effect in 2018, but regulators have since faced criticism for not applying the rules strongly enough.

Ireland has been under pressure because of the key role it plays in enforcing E.U. data protection rules. The country is tasked with policing tech companies’ compliance with the 2018 law as a result of companies such as Meta, Google and Twitter all locating their E.U. headquarters in Ireland. TikTok, which also set up a E.U. hub in Ireland, is the subject of another investigation there.

Nov. 28

washington post logoWashington Post, A letter from the editor: Introducing The Post’s expanded Climate coverage, Sally Buzbee (Washington Post Executive Editor), Nov. 28, 2022. Dear readers: Today, we are pleased to introduce The Washington Post’s expansion of Climate coverage, a major investment that is commensurate with the story of climate change and its profound impact on humanity and the planet.

The Post has long been a leader in covering the climate and environment. In 2020, our team won the Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting for a series on global warming called “2C: Beyond the Limit,” and our coverage of environmental justice was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting this year.

 

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

ny times logoNew York Times, Major News Outlets Urge U.S. to Drop Charges Against Assange, Charlie Savage, Nov. 28, 2022. In a joint letter, news organizations warned that the indictment of Julian Assange could chill reporting about national security.

The New York Times and four European news organizations called on the United States government on Monday to drop its charges against Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, for obtaining and publishing classified diplomatic and military secrets.

In a joint open letter, The Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País said the prosecution of Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act “sets a dangerous precedent” that threatened to undermine the First Amendment and the freedom of the press.

“Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists,” the letter said. “If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMr. Assange, who has been fighting extradition from Britain since his arrest there in 2019, is also accused of participating in a hacking-related conspiracy. The letter notably did not urge the Justice Department to drop that aspect of the case, though it said that “some of us are concerned” about it, too.

Each of the five organizations had worked with Mr. Assange in 2010 and 2011, during the events at the heart of the criminal case. WikiLeaks, which obtained leaked archives of classified American diplomatic cables and military files, gave early access to the troves to traditional news outlets, which published articles about notable revelations.

A spokeswoman for The Times, Danielle Rhoades Ha, said that the company’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, in consultation with the legal department, decided to sign the letter. The newsroom was not involved, she said.

The case against Mr. Assange is complicated and does not turn on the question of whether he is considered a journalist, but rather on whether his journalistic-style activities of soliciting and publishing classified information can or should be treated as a crime.

The letter comes as Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has sought to rein in ways in which the Justice Department has made it harder for journalists to do their jobs. In October, he issued new regulations that ban the use of subpoenas, warrants or court orders to seize reporters’ communications records or demand their notes or testimony in an effort to uncover confidential sources in leak investigations.

Mr. Assange and WikiLeaks catapulted to global fame in 2010 when he began publishing classified videos and documents related to the United States’ wars and its foreign relations.

It eventually became clear that Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, had provided the archives to WikiLeaks. She was sentenced to 35 years in prison after a court-martial trial in 2013. President Barack Obama commuted most of her remaining sentence shortly before leaving office in January 2017.

Ms. Manning’s disclosures amounted to one of the most extraordinary leaks in American history. They included about 250,000 State Department cables that revealed many secret things around the world, dossiers about Guantánamo Bay detainees being held without trial and logs of significant events in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars that divulged, among other things, that civilian casualties were higher than official estimates.

The letter noted that the same five institutions had publicly criticized Mr. Assange in 2011 when unredacted copies of the cables were released, revealing the names of people in dangerous countries who had helped the United States and putting their lives at risk. At Ms. Manning’s trial, prosecutors did not say anyone had been killed as a result, but officials have said the government spent significant resources in getting such people out of danger.

While the Obama administration and career law enforcement and national security officials disliked Mr. Assange, transparency advocates and antiwar activists treated him as an icon.

His public image shifted significantly after WikiLeaks published Democratic emails that had been hacked by the Russian government as part of its covert operation to help Donald J. Trump win the 2016 presidential election. But the criminal case against him is not about the Democratic emails.

The open letter notes that the Obama administration had weighed charging Mr. Assange in connection with the Manning leaks but did not do so — in part because there was no clear way to legally distinguish WikiLeaks’ actions from those of traditional news organizations like The Times that write about national security matters.

Politico, Musk draws GOP support after claiming Apple threatened to ban Twitter, Rebecca Kern, Nov. 28, 2022. Elon Musk’s latest broadsides have set the world’s richest tech billionaire against the world’s most valuable company, and pushed him further into the tech antitrust debate in Washington. Elon Musk alleged on Monday that Apple is threatening to remove Twitter from its App Store, a claim that brought swift condemnation from Republicans who have championed antitrust legislation aimed at the iPhone-maker.

politico CustomMusk took a series of shots at Apple and CEO Tim Cook, saying Apple has threatened to “withhold” Twitter from the App Store but “won’t tell us why.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment, and Musk did not elaborate on what, if any, discussions he’s had with Apple.

elon musk 2015The broadside by the world’s richest tech billionaire, right, attacking the world’s most valuable company, drew quick support from some GOP lawmakers while injecting his latest beef into the heart of Washington’s debates about Silicon Valley’s giants.

twitter bird CustomSmaller tech companies have complained for years about Apple’s ironclad control over its App Store, which it uses both to keep noxious content off its iPhones and iPads and to demand a share of app developers’ revenues. Apple and Google, which exerts similar oversight over the major marketplace for Android apps, most famously used that power to eject the conservative-friendly social media app Parler in January 2021, saying the platform had failed to squelch violent rhetoric after the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Monday’s unverified accusation from Musk provides new evidence that it’s time for Congress to rein Apple in, Republican lawmakers said.

Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah — the top Republicans on the House and Senate Judiciary committees’ antitrust panels — pushed for action on antitrust legislation that would ease Apple’s and Google’s control over their app markets.

apple logo rainbow“This is why we need to end the App Store duopoly before the end of this year. No one should have this kind of market power,” Buck tweeted.

Lee likewise pushed for passage of the Open App Markets Act (S. 2710, H.R. 5017), which Buck co-sponsored and seeks to prohibit companies from favoring their app stores over others.

“Apple and Google currently have a stranglehold on companies and have used their leverage to bully businesses,” added Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who is a co-sponsor of the Senate measure.

That bill and other antitrust measures aimed at the tech giants also have strong support from congressional Democrats. But they’re stalled for now and face dim odds of passage this Congress, as leadership for both parties focuses on an end-of-year spending package.

Any move by Apple to drop Twitter from its store could threaten the viability of Musk’s newly purchased $44 billion social media platform. Musk’s pledges of “free speech” on Twitter, along with the company’s mass layoffs, have raised complaints that the platform is already seeing a surge in the kinds of hate speech and disinformation that Apple’s policies prohibit.

Musk has announced he plans to offer a “general amnesty” this week for users that Twitter had previously banned for violating its rules. He already reinstated accounts for former President Donald Trump, whom it had booted after the assault on the Capitol, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Crypto Lender BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy as FTX Fallout Spreads, Lauren Hirsch, David Yaffe-Bellany and Ephrat Livni, Nov. 28, 2022.  BlockFi was financially entangled with FTX, and its stability was thrust into uncertainty after FTX collapsed.

BlockFi, a cryptocurrency lender and financial services firm, filed for bankruptcy on Monday, becoming the latest company in the crypto industry hobbled by ftx logothe implosion of the embattled exchange FTX.

BlockFi had been reeling since the spring, when the collapse of several influential crypto firms pushed the market into a panic, sending the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin plunging. In June, FTX agreed to provide the company with a $400 million credit line, which BlockFi’s chief executive, Zac Prince, said would provide “access to capital that further bolsters our balance sheet.” The deal also gave FTX the option to buy BlockFi.

But that agreement meant that BlockFi was financially entangled with FTX, and its stability was thrust into uncertainty this month after a series of revelations about corporate missteps and suspicious management at FTX. A few days after the exchange collapsed, BlockFi suspended withdrawals, explaining that it had “significant exposure” to FTX, including undrawn amounts from the credit line and assets held on the FTX platform.

BlockFi is not the first crypto lender to collapse in a devastating year for the industry. After the spring crash, in which Bitcoin fell 20 percent in a week, two other lenders, Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, filed for bankruptcy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Fined $275 Million for Breaking E.U. Data Privacy Law, Adam Satariano, Nov. 28, 2022. The penalty, imposed by Irish data regulators, brings European fines against Facebook’s parent company to more than $900 million since last year.

In the latest penalty against Meta for violating European privacy rules, the tech giant was fined roughly $275 million on Monday for a data leak discovered last year that led to the personal information of more than 500 million Facebook users being published online.

meta logoThe penalty, imposed by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, brings the total fines to more than $900 million that the regulator has imposed on Meta since last year. In September, the same regulator fined the company roughly $400 million for its mistreatment of children’s data. Last October, Irish authorities fined Meta, which was previously called Facebook, 225 million euros, or about $235 million, for violations related to its messaging service WhatsApp.

The accumulating penalties will be a welcome sign to privacy groups that want to see European Union regulators more aggressively enforce the General Data Protection Regulation. The law was hailed as a landmark moment in the regulation of technology companies when it took effect in 2018, but regulators have since faced criticism for not applying the rules strongly enough.

Ireland has been under pressure because of the key role it plays in enforcing E.U. data protection rules. The country is tasked with policing tech companies’ compliance with the 2018 law as a result of companies such as Meta, Google and Twitter all locating their E.U. headquarters in Ireland. TikTok, which also set up a E.U. hub in Ireland, is the subject of another investigation there.

 

huawei meng wanzhou

Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has promoted chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, above, to a key role just half a year after the end of her U.S. extradition fight, setting up a potential family succession at one of China’s most important companies. Details: Washington Post, Huawei’s CFO promoted to a top post months after U.S. extradition deal, April 2, 2022. Meng, above, daughter of Huawei’s founder Ren Zhengfei, is now one of three rotating chairs who helm the tech giant for six-month intervals.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: FCC steps up campaign against Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, Tim Starks and Aaron Schaffer, Nov. 28, 2022. Last week’s long-awaited Federal Communications Commission ban of some Chinese telecommunications companies’ equipment is the latest step in a domestic and international push by the United States to isolate Huawei and other Chinese tech firms.

On Friday, the FCC said it voted unanimously to adopt rules banning U.S. sales and imports of Huawei and ZTE telecommunications equipment, Hytera digital radios and video surveillance systems made by Hikvision and Dahua, citing national security concerns. The ban focuses on equipment designed “for the purpose of public safety, security of government facilities, physical security surveillance of critical infrastructure, and other national security purposes.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Shift in follower counts for Elizabeth Warren, Ted Cruz show how Twitter is beginning to change, Gerrit De Vynck, Jeremy B. Merrill and Luis Melgar, Nov. 28, 2022 (print ed.). High-profile Republican members of Congress gained tens of thousands of Twitter followers in the first few weeks of Elon Musk’s reign over the social media network, while their Democratic counterparts experienced a decline, according to an analysis by The Washington Post.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) all lost about 100,000 Twitter followers in the first three weeks of Musk’s ownership of Twitter, while Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) and Jim Jordan (Ohio) gained more than 300,000 each.

It’s difficult to tell exactly why follower counts go up and down, and the counts are often affected by Twitter banning bot accounts en masse. Not everyone following a specific politician is a supporter.

twitter bird CustomStill, the pattern suggests that tens of thousands of liberals may be leaving the site while conservatives are joining or becoming more active, shifting the demographics of the site under Musk’s ownership. The changes are in line with a trend that began in April, when Musk announced his intention to buy the company.

On average, Republicans gained 8,000 followers and Democrats lost 4,000. For its analysis, The Post analyzed data from ProPublica’s Represent tool, which tracks congressional Twitter activity.

Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

‘Opening the gates of hell’: Musk says he will revive banned accounts

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion late last month having pledged to bring his vision of free speech absolutism to the site. The day he took over, he said Twitter wouldn’t become “a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!” But users immediately started testing the boundaries of the new site under Musk, prompting hate speech to briefly surge.

Since then, Musk launched and rolled back Twitter Blue Verified, a $7.99 monthly membership that puts a check mark next to any account that pays. The move prompted an explosion of fake accounts. Musk also fired about half the staff, and required the rest of his workers to pledge to work long hours or leave the company, significantly reducing the number of people who are policing the site.

Musk also has restored several major rule-breaking accounts, including former president Donald Trump’s, following an unrepresentative and unscientific Twitter poll. On Thursday, after a similar poll, he said he would grant “general amnesty” for all banned accounts that didn’t post spam or break the law.

Advertisers have been fleeing, raising doubts about the site’s ability to make money. More than a third of Twitter’s top 100 marketers have not advertised on the social media network in the two weeks before Tuesday, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Musk says he is a political moderate, but has agreed with right-wing figures on the site who accuse Twitter’s previous management of being biased against conservatives. The day before the midterms, he called on his followers to vote Republican, breaking with tradition of other social media CEOs who typically do not explicitly endorse one party over another.

washington post logoWashington Post, Bob Dylan apologizes for book controversy in rare public statement, Travis M. Andrews, Nov. 28, 2022. The legendary — and legendarily inscrutable — musician and Pulitzer Prize winner released a rare public statement Friday following a controversy concerning supposedly autographed copies of his new book, “The Philosophy of Modern Song.”

Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Dylan’s book of essays about more than 60 pop songs, offered fans the opportunity to purchase a hand-signed special edition for $600. Included with each copy was a letter from Jonathan Karp, the publisher’s CEO, which confirmed the signature’s authenticity.

Only, it turned out they weren’t authentic at all. Suspicious fans began comparing their signed copies on social media, only to notice that all the signatures looked exactly the same — quite a feat if Dylan himself had actually signed all reported 900 or so copies.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: If We Ignore Donald Trump We Might See Who He Really Is, Patti Davis, Nov. 28, 2022. Ms. Davis is an author and a daughter of President Ronald Reagan.

When I was about 8 or 9, I was bullied ruthlessly in school by a boy in my class. I faked being sick so I wouldn’t have to go to school, but my parents figured out that something was going on and my father came in to talk to me. I confessed to him that I was scared of my tormentor, and what followed was a lesson in the beauty of ignoring another person. He explained that bullies crave attention and that if they are ignored, they sort of deflate. He then showed me how frustrating it is to feel like you’re invisible, by ignoring me when I tried to speak to him. It worked. I returned to school, I ignored the bully and he gave up his attacks on me.

Donald Trump is like the abusive boyfriend or ex-husband who won’t go away. In that situation, one would take out a restraining order, but obviously we can’t do that with Mr. Trump. So how about not making him the predominant news story? I have noticed, to be fair, that he is a little less predominant, but let’s face it, he is still everywhere in the news. I understand that announcing his candidacy for president is news. But does it have to be a front-page story? Does the end of his exile from Twitter have to dominate the day’s coverage? Does every move he makes, every ridiculous statement he utters, have to be reported?

With each news story, each segment on television, we are giving him the elixir that keeps him going — attention. There are plenty of things going on in the world that are more important than Donald Trump. We have a planet to save. Russia is still waging war on Ukraine, and still imprisoning American citizens like Brittney Griner. The West is running out of water. There are mass shootings so often it’s hard to keep track of them. Just to name a few really important issues.

What if there was a collective pledge among responsible news organizations to take Donald Trump off the front pages, to not talk about him every single day? He would huff and puff and try to blow the house down, but no one would be paying attention. Think of how much calmer the waters would be. Think of how many other stories would get the bandwidth they deserve.

Nov. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, China sentences Canadian pop star Kris Wu to prison for rape, Joyce Lau and Claire Healy, Nov. 27, 2022 (print ed.). Chinese Canadian pop star Kris Wu was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison by a Beijing court on charges including rape, in one of China’s more prominent #MeToo cases.

The sentence was welcomed by women’s rights advocates, who have clashed with Beijing’s growing intolerance for dissent and grass-roots activism under President Xi Jinping. Chinese lawyers said that Wu had the right to appeal his conviction. He had previously denied the allegations.

kris wuWu, right, also known as Wu Yifan, rose to fame as part of the South Korean-Chinese boy band Exo and later became a solo performer. He was detained in 2021 after multiple accusations were levied against him, which led to public widespread condemnation. At the time, luxury brands such as French fashion label Louis Vuitton and German automaker Porsche distanced themselves from the pop idol, with China Flagwhom they had commercial deals.

“It’s encouraging news, especially in the context of women’s rights in the country being continuously eroded in the past decade,” Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, said of the sentencing. “Now, other victims of sexual assault in China can feel empowered that they, too, can come forward with their stories and seek justice.”

However, Wang cautioned that censorship of women’s rights activists in China continued. She also noted that, in the case against Wu, the prosecution was “shrouded in secrecy” and “some of the criticism of authorities’ handling of his case was scrubbed from the Chinese internet,” she said.

 

 

elon musk sideview

 washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk says he would support Ron DeSantis in 2024, Ruby Cramer, Nov. 27, 2022. His comments come after he urged his Twitter twitter bird Customfollowers to back Republicans in the midterms.

Billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk said he would back Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) if he runs for president in 2024. Tweeting into the night on Friday, Musk described DeSantis as a “sensible and centrist” choice.

He said he had been a “significant supporter” of the Obama administration and “reluctantly” supported President Biden over Donald Trump in 2020, but had been disappointed with the results of the last two years. On the eve of the midterm elections this month, Musk urged his more than 115 million followers to support Republicans.

Nov. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Shareholder Raises Concerns About News Corp’s Merger With Fox, Lauren Hirsch, Maureen Farrell and Benjamin Mullin, Nov. 26, 2022 (print ed.). One of the largest shareholders in News Corp said on Friday that it had strong reservations about the plans of its chairman, Rupert Murdoch, to combine the two parts of his media business, News Corp and Fox — the biggest indicator yet that Mr. Murdoch could face significant opposition.

fox news logo SmallT. Rowe Price, which owns about 12 percent of News Corp — making it the company’s largest shareholder after the Murdoch family — said in an interview with The New York Times that a merger of the two companies would probably undervalue News Corp, which it believes is trading for less than the company is worth. It also said that because the Murdoch family owns a bigger share of Fox than News Corp, the family’s interests may lie more with Fox.

Both companies have appointed special committees of independent directors to review the proposal, which does not yet include a valuation for either company.

The deal, which could put Fox News under the same corporate umbrella as The Wall Street Journal, would reverse a decision made nearly a decade ago to divide the company’s film and TV holdings from its sprawling global portfolio of newspapers. Mr. Murdoch has said he sees cost-saving and moneymaking opportunities in joining the two companies, including ways to use the company’s assets for emerging business lines across the two companies, such as sports betting.

ny times logoNew York Times, Frustrations Simmer as Saudis Are Blocked From Watching the World Cup, Tariq Panja, Updated Nov. 26, 2022. A curious dispute between a Qatari broadcaster and Saudi media regulators has left millions of Saudis with no way to watch the matches.

fifa world cup qatar 2022 officialIn the stands at the World Cup, the fraternal bond between host Qatar and its neighbor Saudi Arabia has been clear. Fans have arrived to games dressed in the colors of both nations, and the countries’ rulers have made a show of publicly supporting one another.

Even so, the nations appear to be locked in a curious dispute about broadcasting that has made a majority of the World Cup’s games unavailable to viewers in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-based customers of Tod TV, a streaming service launched in January by Qatar’s beIN Media Group, which owns rights to the tournament across the Middle East, were suddenly blocked from the platform an hour before the tournament’s opening game last Sunday. That meant they were not watching when their country’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, wearing a Qatar scarf, was given a seat next to the FIFA president Gianni Infantino, one removed from Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar.

Nov. 25

ny times logoNew York Times, Russia-Ukraine WarTech Giant Aims to Cut Ties With Russia, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Oleg Matsnev, Nov. 25, 2022 (print ed.). The parent firm of Russia’s most prominent technology company, Yandex, wants to cut ties with the country to shield its new businesses from the fallout of the war in Ukraine, a potential setback to President Vladimir V. Putin’s efforts to develop homegrown substitutes for high-tech Western goods and services that have been choked off by sanctions.

yandex ru logoUnder a sweeping overhaul, the Dutch holding company of Yandex — often referred to as “Russia’s Google” — would transfer its most promising new technologies to markets outside Russia and would sell its established businesses in the country, including a popular internet browser and food delivery and taxi-hailing apps, according to two people familiar with the matter who would not speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The company’s plan aims to shield itself from its home market, and highlights the stifling impact of Western sanctions on Russia’s once-thriving technology sector.

yandexThe people familiar with the matter said that the war in Ukraine has made the development of Yandex’s new technologies — such as self-driving cars, machine learning and cloud services — unviable. Such businesses, which require access to Western markets, experts and technology, would fail if they remain associated with Russia, one of them added.

Yandex’s Russian subsidiary would continue offering the same products in the country under the new owners, said the second person familiar with the matter.

ukraine flagIt is not clear whether Yandex’s plan will go forward. The company must obtain the Kremlin’s approval to transfer Russian-registered technology licenses outside the country, one of the people said. It would also need to find buyers, most likely within Russia, for its businesses, and the overall restructuring plan would need to be approved by Yandex’s shareholders.

Yandex’s plan is backed by Aleksei Kudrin, Russia’s chief government auditor and a longtime confidant of Mr. Putin. Mr. Kudrin, one of few prominent economic liberals left in the Russian government, is acting for the company informally, but is expected to take a managerial role in the future.

Mr. Kudrin is expected to meet Mr. Putin this week to discuss Yandex’s future and other topics, said one of the people familiar with the matter. The Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, said on Thursday that he had no information about such a meeting.

Yandex declined to comment. Russia’s Audit Chamber, Mr. Kudrin’s employer, did not respond to a request for comment.

The company’s restructuring plan was first reported by the Russian economic media outlet The Bell.

Western efforts to isolate Russia economically after its invasion of Ukraine have devastated the once-thriving company. The price of Yandex’s shares traded in Moscow has plunged 62 percent in the past year. The company’s New York-listed shares lost more than $20 billion in value before the Nasdaq stock exchange suspended their trading after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

Thousands of Yandex’s more than 18,000 employees have left Russia since the start of the invasion. In March, the company’s deputy chief executive at the time, Tigran Khudaverdyan, defied the Kremlin line by calling it a “monstrous war” in a Facebook post.

To distance itself from the war’s political fallout, Yandex in August sold its online news aggregator, which had become filled with state propaganda because of increasingly draconian Russian media laws that bar criticism of the war.

The European Union imposed sanctions against Mr. Khudaverdyan in March for Yandex’s role in promoting the Kremlin’s war narrative. His boss, the company’s Israel-based founder, Arkady Volozh, was hit with sanctions by the bloc several months later. Both resigned from the company to allow it to continue operating in Europe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk plans Twitter check mark feature again, this time with more colors, Rachel Lerman, Nov. 25, 2022. The second launch follows a chaotic rollout of the feature earlier this month.

Nov. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, A Lasting Legacy of Covid: Far-Right Platforms Spreading Health Myths, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Nov. 22, 2022. The Biden administration has pushed social media giants like Facebook to curb Covid misinformation. But it is thriving on fringe platforms like Gab, a hub for extremist content.

Not long after Randy Watt died of Covid-19, his daughter Danielle sat down at her computer, searching for clues as to why the smart and thoughtful man she knew had refused to get vaccinated. She pulled up Google, typed in a screen name he had used in the past and discovered a secret that stunned her.

gab logo mainHer father, she learned, had a hidden, virtual life on Gab, a far-right social media platform that traffics in Covid misinformation. And there was another surprise as well: As he fought the coronavirus, he told his followers that he was taking ivermectin, a drug used to treat parasitic infections that experts say has no benefit — and in fact can be dangerous — for patients with Covid-19.

“On two occasions I coughed so hard that larynx went into spasm and closed my airway,” he wrote in a post on Gab a few days before Christmas last year. “Frightening, yes, but relaxing instead of panicking allowed the airway to open in 15 to 20 seconds. Took second dose of ivermectin, along with ibuprofen for fever and my usual vitamin regimen. Rest, fluids, and prayer.”

Mr. Watt, a passionate songwriter and musician who loved the outdoors and had retired from an energy company in Ohio, died on Jan. 7. He was 64. His wife and two daughters are still struggling to understand what led him to a site like Gab, which his widow, Victoria Stefan Watt, blames for what she called his “senseless death.”

Around the country, countless Americans are suffering a very particular type of Covid grief — a mixture of anger, sorrow and shame that comes with losing a loved one who has consumed social media falsehoods. On Tuesday, in what was likely his last appearance in the White House briefing room before he retires from government service at the end of the year, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, pleaded with Americans to speak out against scientific misinformation.

“The people who have correct information, who take science seriously, who don’t have strange, way-out theories about things but who base what they say on evidence and data, need to speak up more,” Dr. Fauci said, “because the other side that just keeps putting out misinformation and disinformation seems to be tireless in that effort.”

Experts say the spread of health misinformation — particularly on fringe social media platforms like Gab — is likely to be a lasting legacy of the coronavirus pandemic. And there are no easy solutions.

“There has been such an incredible focus on developing vaccines quickly,” said Tara Kirk Sell, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, adding: “But from my perspective, there’s a missing piece there — a missing social behavioral piece. You can get a vaccine out to people in 100 days but they think it’s poison? You’ve still got a big problem.”

In preparation for future pandemics, the White House recently released a new national biodefense strategy that calls for the government to “enhance messaging partnerships” before another biological threat emerges.

Nov. 21

 

alex jones briana sanchez pool

Infowars radio host Alex Jones on Trial in Austin, TX in a civil trial (Pool photo by Briana Sanchez).

washington post logoWashington Post, Sandy Hook families sued Alex Jones. Then he started moving money around, Jonathan O'Connell, Nov. 21, 2022. Records show Jones transferred millions from his media company to firms that he or his family members controlled.

Alex Jones was losing in court.

Parents of children killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School had sued him and his media company for defamation after he repeatedly claimed the 2012 massacre in Connecticut was a hoax. Fans of the Infowars host had harassed and threatened grieving families. By the summer of 2020, two of the lawsuits weren’t going his way.

As the potential for damages mounted, Jones began moving millions of dollars out of his company, Free Speech Systems, and into companies controlled by himself, friends or relatives, according to a Washington Post review of financial statements, depositions and other court records. The transfers potentially put those funds out of reach of the Sandy Hook plaintiffs.

Between August 2020 and November 2021, Free Speech Systems signed promissory notes — essentially IOUs — for $55 million to cover what it said were past debts to a company called PQPR Holdings that Jones owns with his parents, according to financial records filed in court by Jones’s attorneys. PQPR, which is managed by Jones’s father, a dentist, had bought tens of millions of dollars in supplements for Jones that he then sold on his show, the records say. A lawyer for Free Speech systems has said in court that the debt accrued unnoticed due to sloppy bookkeeping.

then sold on his show, the records say. A lawyer for Free Speech systems has said in court that the debt accrued unnoticed due to sloppy bookkeeping.

 

elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, What Elon Musk Is Doing to Twitter Is What He Did at Tesla and SpaceX, Ryan Mac and Jack Ewing, Nov. 21, 2022. Firing people. Talking of bankruptcy. Telling workers to be “hard core.” Mr. Musk, above, has repeatedly used those tactics at many of his companies.

Elon Musk was sleeping at the office. He dismissed employees and executives at will. And he lamented his company was on the verge of bankruptcy.

That was back in 2018 and the company was Tesla, as Mr. Musk’s electric automaker struggled to build its mass-market vehicle, the Model 3.

“It was excruciating,” he told The New York Times at the time. “There were times when I didn’t leave the factory for three or four days — days when I didn’t go outside.”

The billionaire’s experience with what he called Tesla’s “production hell” has become a blueprint for the crisis he has created at Twitter, which he bought for $44 billion last month. Over the years, Mr. Musk has developed a playbook for managing his companies — including Tesla and the rocket manufacturer SpaceX — through periods of pain, employing shock treatment and alarmism and pushing his workers and himself to put aside their families and friends to spend all their energy on his mission.

twitter bird CustomAt Twitter, Mr. Musk has used many of those same tactics to upend the social media company in just a few weeks.

Since late last month, the 51-year-old has laid off 50 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 employees and accepted the resignations of 1,200 or more. On Monday, he began another round of layoffs, two people said. He tweeted that he was sleeping at Twitter’s offices in San Francisco. And he has applied mission-driven language, telling Twitter’s workers that the company could go bankrupt if he wasn’t able to turn it around. Those who want to work on “Twitter 2.0” must commit to his “hard core” vision in writing, he has said.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Huge Merger’s Collapse Breaks a Pattern of Consolidation in Publishing, Elizabeth A. Harris, Alexandra Alter and Benjamin Mullin, Nov. 21, 2022. The deal to acquire Simon & Schuster would have made the buyer, Penguin Random House, even larger, and reduced the number of big publishers in the U.S. to four.

penguin books logoAfter two years of regulatory scrutiny and heated speculation in the publishing world, after a hard-fought court battle and hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses, Penguin Random House’s deal to buy Simon & Schuster officially collapsed on Monday.

The unraveling of this agreement stopped the largest publisher in the United States from growing substantially larger. It also paused consolidation in an industry that has been profoundly reshaped by mergers and acquisitions, with little regulatory intervention.

The implosion of the deal came three weeks after a federal judge ruled against Penguin Random House in an antitrust trial, blocking the sale from going forward on the grounds that the merger would be bad for competition and harmful to authors. In order to appeal the Oct. 31 ruling, Penguin Random House needed Paramount Global, Simon & Schuster’s parent company, to extend the purchase agreement, which expires on Tuesday. Instead, Paramount decided to terminate the deal, leaving Penguin Random House out of legal options and obligated to pay them a termination fee of $200 million.

“Penguin Random House remains convinced that it is the best home for Simon & Schuster’s employees and authors,” Penguin Random House said in a statement. “We believe the judge’s ruling is wrong and planned to appeal the decision, confident we could make a compelling and persuasive argument to reverse the lower court ruling on appeal. However, we have to accept Paramount’s decision not to move forward.”

 

todd and jJulie Chrisley sentenced federal bank fraud

ny times logoNew York Times, Todd and Julie Chrisley, Reality TV Stars, Are Sentenced to Prison for Fraud and Tax Evasion, Jesus Jiménez, Nov. 21, 2022. Todd and Julie Chrisley, shown above, the stars of the reality TV show “Chrisley Knows Best,” were sentenced on Monday to federal prison after being convicted of defrauding banks to obtain more than $30 million in personal loans and evading taxes to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Judge Eleanor Ross of U.S. District Court in Atlanta sentenced Mr. Chrisley, 54, to 12 years in prison, and Ms. Chrisley, 49, to seven years in prison, according to the Justice Department. They will also be on probation for three years upon their release, and they will have to pay restitution, an amount that will be determined later, the Justice Department said.

The couple, who presented themselves on television as real estate moguls with luxurious lifestyles, were convicted in June of conspiring to defraud banks and evading taxes for several years.

After a three-week trial, a jury found the couple guilty on eight counts of financial fraud and two counts of tax evasion; Ms. Chrisley was convicted of additional counts of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Nov. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Resignations Roil Twitter as Elon Musk Tries Persuading Some Workers to Stay, Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac and David McCabe, Nov. 17, 2022. Mr. Musk, Twitter’s new owner, had given employees a Thursday deadline to decide whether to leave or stay “to build a breakthrough Twitter 2.0.”

Hours before a Thursday deadline that Elon Musk had given Twitter employees to decide whether to stay or leave their jobs, the social media company appeared to be in disarray.

twitter bird CustomMr. Musk and his advisers held meetings with some Twitter workers whom they deemed “critical” to stop them from leaving, four people with knowledge of the conversations said. He sent out confusing messages about the company’s remote work policy, appearing to soften his stance on not allowing people to work from home before warning their managers, according to those people and internal emails viewed by The New York Times.

All the while, two people said, resignations started to roll in. By the deadline, 5 p.m. Eastern time, hundreds of Twitter employees appeared to have decided to depart with three months of severance pay, the people said.

Their exits added to the turmoil at Twitter since Mr. Musk, 51, completed his $44 billion takeover last month. The billionaire has laid off half of Twitter’s 7,500 full-time workers, fired dissenters and told employees that they need to be “extremely hard core” to make the company a success.

On Wednesday, Mr. Musk gave Twitter’s remaining employees just under 36 hours to leave or commit to building “a breakthrough Twitter 2.0.” Those who departed would get the three months of severance pay, he said. He positioned the move as a way to make the company the most competitive it could be, though the action also provided an opportunity to further cut costs and purge the firm of disaffected workers.

The shedding of so many employees in such a compressed period has raised questions about how Twitter will keep operating effectively. While Mr. Musk has brought in some engineers and managers from his other companies, such as the electric automaker Tesla, many of them are just coming up to speed on how the social media service works, five people said.

Mr. Musk and Twitter, which no longer has a communications department, did not respond to requests for comment.

Twitter faces not just internal challenges with Mr. Musk’s ownership. On Thursday, seven Democratic senators called for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the company had violated a consumer privacy agreement with the agency since Mr. Musk took over. The letter followed the resignations of Twitter’s security executives last week after Mr. Musk appeared to change some of the company’s data security practices.

Those “reported changes to internal reviews and data security practices” at Twitter have put consumers “at risk,” the lawmakers wrote. They included Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Nov. 16

 

elon musk sideview washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter ‘will need to be extremely hardcore,’ Musk says, telling staff to sign pledge or leave, Faiz Siddiqui and Jeremy B. Merrill, Nov. 16, 2022. Elon Musk told Twitter employees that they have until 5 p.m. Eastern time Thursday to sign a pledge if they want to be part of the company. Anyone who does not would receive three months of severance pay, the email, which was shared with The Washington Post, added. It comes as Musk’s first major feature, Twitter’s Blue Verified, was halted while the company probes issues that arose from its launch.

Elon Musk issued an ultimatum to Twitter employees Wednesday morning: commit to a new “hardcore” Twitter or leave the company with severance pay.

twitter bird CustomEmployees were told they had to a sign a pledge to stay on with the company. “If you are sure that you want to be part of the new Twitter, please click yes on the link below,” read the email to all staff, which linked to an online form.

Anyone who did not sign the pledge by 5 p.m. Eastern time Thursday would receive three months of severance pay, the message said.

In the midnight email, which was obtained by The Washington Post, Musk said Twitter “will need to be extremely hardcore” going forward. “This will mean working long hours at high intensity,” he said. “Only exceptional performance will constitute a passing grade.”

The pledge email, paired with a new policy mandating a return to the office, is expected to lead to even more attrition at a company whose staff Musk had already reduced by half. Musk said Twitter would be more of an engineer-driven operation going forward — and while the design and product-management areas would still be important and report to him, he said, “those writing great code will constitute the majority of our team and have the greatest sway.”

It also comes as Musk says he is tabling Twitter’s Blue Verified, his first major product since taking over last month as Twitter’s owner and CEO, while the company sorts out issues with the feature following a botched rollout.

A week ago, Twitter debuted the product, which gives users a blue check-mark icon next to their name for a fee of $7.99 a month, and promises to reduce the number of ads they see by half as well as giving their posts additional visibility. By Friday, the option disappeared amid fake accounts impersonating people such as President Biden and basketball star LeBron James.

Sign-ups were paused Thursday night, and Musk announced via a tweet late Tuesday that the service wouldn’t “relaunch” until Nov. 29 “to make sure that it is rock solid.”

But inside Twitter, staff are using the additional two weeks to conduct a postmortem on the launch, trying to understand why the impersonations spiraled out of control, according to a person with knowledge of the internal discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

washington post logoWashington Post, Broadcast networks take a pass on Trump campaign announcement, Jeremy Barr, Nov. 16, 2022. ABC, NBC, CBS stuck to regular entertainment programming while Fox News and CNN carried much of the speech but not all of it.

When Donald Trump announced on Tuesday night that he will mount another run for the White House — a rare case of a former president seeking his old job — the country’s three major broadcast networks opted not to carry his speech live.

ABC, NBC and CBS all decided to stick with previously scheduled entertainment programming — reality show “Bachelor in Paradise” on ABC, science fiction drama “La Brea” on NBC and a fictionalized show about the FBI on CBS.

fox news logo SmallOn cable, Fox News Channel aired most of the speech live while CNN carried the first 25 minutes before switching back to a panel discussion after Trump formally announced his 2024 candidacy. MSNBC, however, chose not to air the speech, choosing instead to stick with Alex Wagner’s 9 p.m. show.

Fox’s decision to carry the speech is notable considering that several network commentators expressed a clear on-air preference last week for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to take over as the Republican 2024 standard-bearer after the party’s disappointing showing in the midterm elections. Two other properties in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, the New York Post and The Wall Street Journal, also signaled last week a preference for DeSantis, with the Post declaring him “DeFUTURE” on the tabloid’s cover and the Journal’s editorial board declaring that “Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser.”

During the 2016 presidential race, CNN was frequently criticized for giving ample airtime to Trump’s speeches. The network’s new chief, Chris Licht, told employees on Tuesday that coverage decisions about Trump as a candidate would be made on a case-by-case basis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Who’s the Queen of Christmas? Not Mariah Carey, trademark agency rules, María Luisa Paúl, Nov. 16, 2022. Some call it the holidays. mariah carey fileOthers call it Mariah Carey season, a nod to her chart-topping “All I Want For Christmas Is You” suddenly defrosting and playing on repeat. But while Carey, right, might’ve filed a petition to be the one and only “Queen of Christmas,” that royal title will remain free for anyone to claim this winter.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office denied Carey’s applications to trademark “Queen of Christmas.” Earlier this month, the agency also rejected the singer’s applications for “Princess Christmas” and “QOC.” Last year, the pop star had signaled she wanted to splash such phrases onto a wide range of items, from skin care products to dog leashes to coconut milk to music titles. What ensued was a legal battle with another “Queen of Christmas.”

Elizabeth Chan, a singer whose career is exclusively devoted to Christmas music, filed a series of oppositions to Carey’s trademarking bid — which would’ve prevented future use of the Yuletide moniker.

“The kind of music and the Christmas culture that allowed [Carey] and me to be a ‘Queen of Christmas’ is what I wanted to offer to generations after we’re long gone,” Chan told The Washington Post on Tuesday. “Whether it’s grandmothers baking cookies or Etsy sellers or Christmas movies, it takes a lot of people to help usher in the season, and for one person to outrightly own that is wrong.”

Nov. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The media need a serious overhaul of their election coverage, Jennifer Rubin, Nov. 15, 2022. After the 2016 election, the mainstream jennifer rubin new headshotmedia and pollsters were filled with remorse for horribly misreading the national mood and wrongly predicting a Hillary Clinton win. How had they missed the mark so badly?

Yet after a similar media failure in this year’s midterm elections? Mostly crickets so far. If the media really want to improve their credibility and serve the interests of democracy, they need another round of introspection. What’s needed is serious and permanent changes in the way the media cover elections — especially those involving former president Donald Trump.

The Trump challenge starts Tuesday night, when the former president is expected to announce his presidential campaign for 2024. The media would be wise not to cover the news conference live, which will almost certainly include a host of election conspiracy theories.

Indeed, as a general rule, the media must be especially clear whenever Trump lies (virtually every time he opens his mouth). They should continue to frame headlines to underscore when his statements are untrue. And while he might generate more clicks and attract more eyeballs, news outlets should not devote any more time or space to him than other top candidates. They dare not make the mistake as they did in 2016, when they acted as a free communications team.

Beyond Trump, pollsters and reporters need to recognize that women aren’t a minority or interest group. They are the average voter. Forget diners as the locale for interviews with voters; go to yoga studios, school pickup lines, supermarkets and other places where ordinary women can be found. Find out what their concerns are and what candidate qualities turn them off. If they do this, maybe next time the media will not underestimate women’s disgust with right-wing politicians.

The media should also acknowledge error in the widespread narrative that Latinos are fleeing the Democratic Party. They are not. Florida, where many Latinos live, has trended Republican, but nationwide, the majority of Latinos still vote Democratic.

Next, it’s long past time to stop allowing polls to shape coverage. A shift away from horserace coverage, which is often wrong and utterly irrelevant, would allow the media to focus on candidates’ experience and character, major policy issues and voters’ attitudes and demographic changes. Journalism should not be a Magic Eight Ball; it is about understanding and analyzing the recent past and present.

Emptywheel, Analysis: Devlin Barrett’s “People Familiar With The Matter,” Emptywheel, (Marcy Wheeler, right), Nov. 15, 2022. As Devlin Barrett’s sources would have marcy wheelerit, a man whose business ties to the Saudis include a $2 billion investment in his son-in-law, a golf partnership of undisclosed value, and a new hotel development in Oman would have no business interest in stealing highly sensitive documents describing Iran’s missile systems.

I’ll let you decide whether the claim, made in Barrett’s latest report on the stolen documents case, means the FBI is considering the issue very narrowly or Barrett’s sources are bullshitting him.

That review has not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession, these people said. FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said.

Barrett has a history of credulously repeating what right wing FBI agents feed him for their own political goals, which means it’s unclear how seriously to take this report. Particularly given several critical details Barrett’s story does not mention.

 

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. (U.S. Department of Justice)

Partially redacted documents with classified markings, including colored cover sheets indicating their status, that FBI agents reported finding in former president Donald Trump’s office at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The photo shows the cover pages of a smattering of paperclip-bound classified documents — some marked as “TOP SECRET//SCI” with bright yellow borders and one marked as “SECRET//SCI” with a rust-colored border — along with whited-out pages, splayed out on a carpet at Mar-a-Lago. Beside them sits a cardboard box filled with gold-framed pictures, including a Time magazine cover. (U.S. Department of Justice photo.)

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigators see ego, not money, as Trump’s motive on classified papers, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 15, 2022 (print ed.). A review by agents and prosecutors found no discernible business interest in the Mar-a-Lago documents, people familiar with the matter said.

Federal agents and prosecutors have come to believe former president Donald Trump’s motive for allegedly taking and keeping classified documents was largely his ego and a desire to hold on to the materials as trophies or mementos, according to people familiar with the matter.

Justice Department log circularAs part of the investigation, federal authorities reviewed the classified documents that were recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home and private club, looking to see if the types of information contained in them pointed to any kind of pattern or similarities, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

That review has not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession, these people said. FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said.

Several Trump advisers said that each time he was asked to give documents or materials back, his stance hardened, and that he gravitated toward lawyers and advisers who indulged his more pugilistic desires. Trump repeatedly said the materials were his, not the government’s — often in profane terms, two of these people said.

The people familiar with the matter cautioned that the investigation is ongoing, that no final determinations have been made, and that it is possible additional information could emerge that changes investigators’ understanding of Trump’s motivations. But they said the evidence collected over a period of months indicates the primary explanation for potentially criminal conduct was Trump’s ego and intransigence.

A Justice Department spokesman and an FBI spokeswoman declined to comment. A Trump spokesman did not return a request for comment Monday.

Trump and the Mar-a-Lago documents: a timeline

The analysis of Trump’s likely motive in allegedly keeping the documents is not, strictly speaking, an element of determining whether he or anyone around him committed a crime or should be charged with one. Justice Department policy dictates that prosecutors file criminal charges in cases in which they believe a crime was committed and the evidence is strong enough to lead to a conviction that will hold up on appeal. But as a practical matter, motive is an important part of how prosecutors assess cases and decide whether to file criminal charges.

Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor, said keeping hundreds of classified documents, many marked top secret, at a private home “is such a perplexing thing to do” that it makes sense for prosecutors to search for a motive.

“It makes perfect sense as to why prosecutors would be spending time scouring through the various records and documents to look for some kind of pattern or theme to explain why certain records were kept and why others were not,” Mintz said. “In presenting a case to a jury, prosecutors typically want to explain the motive for committing a crime. It’s not necessary to prove a crime, but it helps tell the story of exactly how a crime unfolded, according to the government.”

Court papers say the Justice Department has been investigating Trump and his advisers for three potential crimes: mishandling of national security secrets, obstruction, and destruction of government records.

The Washington Post has previously reported that among the most sensitive classified documents recovered by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago were documents about Iran and China, according to people familiar with the matter.

At least one of the documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8 describes Iran’s missile program, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Other documents described highly sensitive intelligence work aimed at China, they said. The Post has also reported that some of the material focuses on the defense systems of a foreign country, including its nuclear capabilities.

Two advisers to the former president who personally reviewed boxes of material in Trump’s White House said he often threw hundreds of pieces of paper in boxes — mixing in highly sensitive documents with years-old schedules and other mundane material.

Top national security prosecutor joins Justice Dept.' Mar-a-Lago investigation

The FBI has recovered three batches of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago in the past year. The first batch, in January, came when Trump agreed to hand over to the National Archives and Records Administration 15 boxes of material that the agency believed contained historical presidential records. In those boxes, archivists found 184 classified documents, including 25 marked top secret, which were scattered throughout the boxes in no particular order, according to court filings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jim Bohannon, fixture of late-night radio, dies at 78, Emily Langer and Marc Fisher, Nov. 15, 2022. ‘The Jim Bohannon Show’ provided amiable companionship to millions of night owls during its decades in national syndication.

Jim Bohannon, a fixture of talk radio who provided amiable companionship to millions of night owls, chatting up celebrity guests and callers of all stripes during his decades in national syndication, died Nov. 12 at a hospice facility in Seneca, S.C. He was 78.

The cause was esophageal cancer, said his wife, Annabelle Bohannon.

Mr. Bohannon got his start more than half a century ago as a local radio host in Washington. But he was best known for “The Jim Bohannon Show,” a late-night program that aired for the past 29 years on more than 500 radio stations across the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, World Cup: In Qatar, one of the World Cup’s first female refs will live an ‘impossible dream’, Thomas Floyd, Nov. 15, 2022. Kathryn Nesbitt, who left her analytical chemistry position to pursue officiating full time, is one of six women in FIFA’s pool of referees for the World Cup.

Kathryn Nesbitt had spent a decade balancing parallel careers in analytical chemistry and soccer officiating when, in 2019, she put her scientific brain to work and synthesized a solution for the most pragmatic path forward.

Two weeks before Nesbitt left for France to serve as an assistant referee at the Women’s World Cup, she stepped down from her assistant professor position at Towson University to focus on officiating full time. What data points informed that decision? She reached the pinnacle of women’s soccer refereeing that summer and had broken into top-flight men’s soccer as well, with dozens of MLS games under her belt. Knowing the 2026 men’s World Cup would be held in the United States, Canada and Mexico, Nesbitt mapped out a plan that would culminate in her being on the sideline of the sport’s premier spectacle.

“I had no idea if they’d ever let women officiate at that World Cup, but I wanted to see if I could do that,” said Nesbitt, 34. “I realized at the time that in order to even attempt that, I would need to dedicate all of my time and effort into one job.”

washington post logoWashington Post, A fake tweet sparked panic at Eli Lilly and may have cost Twitter millions, Drew Harwell, Nov. 15, 2022 (print ed.). The pharmaceutical giant halted ad spending after fake blue-check accounts went viral. For $8, Twitter is ‘losing out on millions of dollars in ad revenue,’ a former Eli Lilly official said.

The nine-word tweet was sent Thursday afternoon from an account using the name and logo of the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co., and it immediately attracted a giant response: “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.”

The tweet carried a blue “verified” check mark, a badge that Twitter had used for years to signal an account’s authenticity — and that Twitter’s new billionaire owner, Elon Musk, had, while declaring “power to the people!” suddenly opened to anyone, regardless of their identity, as long as they paid $8.

But the tweet was a fake — one of what became a fast-multiplying horde of impersonated businesses, political leaders, government agencies and celebrities. By the time Twitter had removed the tweet, more than six hours later, the account had inspired other fake Eli Lilly copycats and been viewed millions of times.

Inside the real Eli Lilly, the fake sparked a panic, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Company officials scrambled to contact Twitter representatives and demanded they kill the viral spoof, worried it could undermine their brand’s reputation or push false claims about people’s medicine. Twitter, its staffing cut in half, didn’t react for hours.

The aftermath of that $8 spoof offers a potentially costly lesson for Musk, who has long treated Twitter as a playground for bawdy jokes and trolls but now must find a way to operate as a business following his $44 billion takeover.

By Friday morning, Eli Lilly executives had ordered a halt to all Twitter ad campaigns — a potentially serious blow, given that the $330 billion company controls the kind of massive advertising budget that Musk says the company needs to avoid bankruptcy. They also paused their Twitter publishing plan for all corporate accounts around the world.

 

shireen abu akleh file

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. to probe killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, spurring outrage in Israel, Shira Rubin and Erin Cunningham, Updated Nov. 15, 2022. The United States will launch an investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh, the veteran Palestinian American journalist for Al Jazeera who was killed while covering an Israeli military raid in the West Bank, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, right, said in a statement Monday.

benny grantz cropped flickr as israel defense forces chief of staffjpg SmallHe added that Israel, which has published its own probe, will not cooperate with the proceedings.

The investigation comes as Israel prepares to swear in the most right-wing government in its history. It marks a pivot for the Biden administration, which, in the six months since Abu Akleh’s killing, has maintained that the journalist’s death was a “tragic result of a gunfight in the context of an Israeli raid in the West Bank,” for which the United States was not seeking a criminal investigation, the State Department said in September.

How Shireen Abu Akleh was killed

In July, a U.S.-led forensic and ballistics analysis concluded that Abu Akleh probably was killed by unintentional Israeli gunfire, despite wearing clearly marked press gear in an area far from Palestinian gunmen, according to eyewitnesses and fellow journalists interviewed by The Washington Post.

Two months later, Israel published similar conclusions, although it said that the bullet, which was handed over to Israeli ballistics experts in the presence of American officials in July, was too damaged to provide conclusive results. Palestinian Authority officials have called the killing an “assassination.”

In an English-language statement shared with reporters, Gantz said the U.S. Justice Department had decided to investigate Abu Akleh’s death, and he called the move “a grave mistake.”

He said that the Israeli army “has conducted a professional, independent investigation, which was presented to American officials with whom the case details were shared. I have delivered a message to US representatives that we stand by the [Israel Defense Forces] soldiers, and that we will not cooperate with an external investigation.”

“This is more than a grave mistake; it’s an outrage,” said Yaki Dayan, a former chief of staff in Israel’s Foreign Ministry. “It’s basically a vote of no confidence on Israel.”

The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Israel’s Channel 14 was first to report Monday that the FBI had decided to open an investigation into the killing.

Investigations by The Post, along with other news, investigative and human rights organizations, found that the bullet that killed Abu Akleh most probably originated from an Israeli soldier.

In recent months, Abu Akleh’s family has led a high-profile campaign for accountability, meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pope Francis.

“Shireen is an American citizen, and every American citizen deserves protection,” Anton Abu Akleh, Shireen’s brother, told The Post in June. He said he was in regular contact with U.S. representatives since his sister’s killing on May 11.

Nov. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok Builds Itself Into an Ads Juggernaut, Kalley Huang, Isabella Simonetti and Tiffany Hsu, Nov. 14, 2022. The Chinese-owned video app’s ad business is thriving, even as a digital advertising slump hurts Meta, Snap and other rivals.

Last month, Tiffany & Company shared a sleek black-and-white video featuring the pop superstar Beyoncé dripping in gems and surrounded by nightclub revelers. The minute-long jewelry ad was posted on Instagram, where it drew 1.6 million views.

tiktok logo square CustomA week later, Tiffany posted a different video on TikTok, the viral short-video app. That ad showed the social media personality Kate Bartlett talking directly to viewers from a bathroom and then trying on small trinkets at a Tiffany store. It has been watched more than 5.2 million times.

TikTok was once best known for viral dance videos and pop songs. But in recent years, the app — which is owned by China’s ByteDance — has also built itself into a digital advertising juggernaut, selling access to its growing internet foothold to brands and developing products that make it easier to advertise on the platform.

This year, TikTok is on track to make nearly $10 billion in ad revenue, more than double what it generated last year, according to estimates from the research twitter bird Customcompany Insider Intelligence. TikTok’s ad revenue this year is expected to eclipse that of rivals like Twitter and Snap, although its business remains small compared with Google and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.

TikTok is growing even as digital advertising is slumping in a global economic slowdown. The slowdown has hurt Snap, Google and Meta. And TikTok, though not immune, appears to be compounding its rivals’ woes by stealing business from them.

washington post logoNew York Times, Amazon Is Said to Plan to Lay Off Thousands of Employees, Karen Weise, Nov. 14, 2022. The job cuts of approximately 10,000 would focus on Amazon’s devices organization, as well as its retail division and human resources.

Amazon plans to lay off approximately 10,000 people in corporate and technology jobs starting as soon as this week, people with knowledge of the matter said, amazon logo smallin what would be the largest job cuts in the company’s history.

The cuts will focus on Amazon’s devices organization, including the voice assistant Alexa, as well as at its retail division and in human resources, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The number of layoffs remains fluid and is likely to roll out team by team rather than all at once as each business finishes plans, one person said. But if it stays around 10,000, it would represent roughly 3 percent of Amazon’s corporate employees and less than 1 percent of its global work force of more than 1.5 million, which is primarily composed of hourly workers.

Amazon’s planned retrenchment during the critical holiday shopping season — when the company typically has valued stability — shows how quickly the souring global economy has put pressure on it to trim businesses that have been overstaffed or underdelivering for years.

Amazon would also become the latest technology company to lay off workers, which only recently it had been fighting to retain. The e-commerce giant more than doubled the cap on cash compensation for its tech workers this year, citing “a particularly competitive labor market.”

washington post logoWashington Post, The tech CEO spending millions to stop Elon Musk, Gerrit De Vynck, Nov. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Dan O’Dowd says Tesla’s ‘Full Self Driving’ software shouldn’t be on the road. He’ll keep running over test dummies until someone listens.

When Dan O’Dowd had his midlife crisis, he bought two near-identical Tesla Roadsters, the first model the electric carmaker ever produced. This year, the 66 year-old tech entrepreneur added another to his collection: a Model 3 equipped with Full Self-Driving Beta — a software program that allows the car to drive on its own on highways and busy city streets.

tesla logoThe third Tesla is crucial for an unusual hobby: O’Dowd is waging a multimillion-dollar campaign to get Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software off the roads — before Tesla CEO Elon Musk follows through with plans to make the tech available worldwide by the end of the year.

O’Dowd, who made his fortune selling software to military customers, has been using the Model 3 to test and film the self-driving software. He’s documented what appear to be examples of the car swerving across the centerline toward oncoming traffic, failing to slow down in a school zone and missing stop signs. This summer, he triggered an uproar by releasing a video showing his Tesla — allegedly in Full Self-Driving mode — mowing down child-size mannequins.

“If Tesla gets away with this and ships this product and I can’t convince the public that a self-driving car that drives like a drunken, suicidal 13-year-old shouldn’t be on the road, I’m going to fail,” O’Dowd said in an interview from his Santa Barbara office, where glass cases display his collection of ancient coins and auction-bought mementos from NASA moon missions.

How auto regulators played mind games with Elon Musk

O’Dowd has run nationwide TV ads with the videos and even launched an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate as part of his one-man crusade to challenge what he sees as the cavalier development of dangerous technology. For O’Dowd and other skeptics, the program is a deadly experiment foisted on an unsuspecting public — a view underscored by a recently filed class-action lawsuit and a reported Department of Justice investigation into the tech.

Despite O’Dowd’s high-profile campaign, and the concern from some regulators and politicians, Tesla is charging ahead with what it claims is world-changing technology. The company and its supporters argue their approach will help usher in a future in which death from human errors on roadways is eliminated. At the end of September, during a four-hour event in which Tesla showed off its latest artificial intelligence tech, Musk said Full Self-Driving is already saving lives and keeping it off public roads would be “morally wrong.”

“At the point of which you believe that adding autonomy reduces injury and death, I think you have a moral obligation to deploy it even though you’re going to get sued and blamed by a lot of people,” Musk said. Musk and Tesla, which does not typically answer media inquiries, did not respond to requests for comment.

Nov. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Alec Baldwin sues ‘Rust’ armorer and crew members over fatal shooting, Meryl Kornfield and Travis M. Andrews, Nov. 12, 2022 (print ed.). Alec Baldwin is suing the armorer and other people associated with the film “Rust” after he was given a loaded gun on set that fired last year, killing a cinematographer.

Baldwin alleges in the lawsuit that the shooting was caused by the negligence of armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who was in charge of guns and ammunition on the set; assistant director Dave Halls, who handed the gun to Baldwin and said it was safe; Sarah Zachry, who was in charge of props; and Seth Kenney, who supplied the guns and ammunition on the set and assisted the armorer. Baldwin, who was sued after the shooting, “seeks to clear his name” and hold the defendants “accountable for their misconduct,” according to the counterclaim filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court by the actor’s attorney, Luke Nikas.

“This tragedy happened because live bullets were delivered to the set and loaded into the gun, Gutierrez-Reed failed to check the bullets or the gun carefully, Halls failed to check the gun carefully and yet announced the gun was safe before handing it to Baldwin, and Zachry failed to disclose that Gutierrez-Reed had been acting recklessly off set and was a safety risk to those around her,” Nikas wrote.

In October 2021, Baldwin was inside a church building on Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, N.M., practicing cocking the gun when it went off, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injuring director Joel Souza. It was not clear why the prop had live ammunition.

According to interviews conducted by the Sante Fe County Sheriff’s Office, people on the set saw and heard Halls retrieve a .45 Long Colt revolver from Gutierrez-Reed, announce it was a “cold gun” and hand it to Baldwin. The industry term means there are no live rounds in a weapon.

washington post logoWashington Post, Layoff spree in Silicon Valley spells end of an era for Big Tech, Gerrit De Vynck, Nov. 12, 2022. A crypto-collapse, layoffs at Facebook and carnage at Twitter are rocking the tech industry. It’s stoking memories of the dot-com crash 20 years ago.

Over the past week, Silicon Valley companies have laid off 20,000 employees, a swift ramp-up of the job cuts and hiring freezes that have been ricocheting through the tech industry for months.

facebook logoTwitter, Facebook parent Meta, payment platform Stripe, software service firm Salesforce, ride-hailing company Lyft and a growing list of smaller companies all laid off double-digit percentages of their workers. That means tens of thousands of engineers, salespeople and support staff in one of the country’s most important and highest-paying industries are out of a job. Meanwhile, other companies including Google and Amazon have recently instated hiring slowdowns and freezes.

The departures are solidifying a feeling in Silicon Valley that the bull market of the past decade — which created massive amounts of wealth for tech investors, workers and the broader economy — is decidedly over, conjuring an image of what the rest of the economy could experience if a predicted recession materializes.

“It does feel a little like 2000,” said Lise Buyer, a longtime tech analyst, executive and investor, referring to the turn-of-the-century dot-com crash. “Hire engineers, hire engineers, hire engineers, and then suddenly companies get a cold bucket of water in their face.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Paul Haggis, director of ‘Crash,’ ordered to pay $7.5 million in rape case, Sonia Rao, Nov. 12, 2022 (print ed.). A New York jury found filmmaker Paul Haggis liable in a sexual assault case brought forward by a publicist who alleged he raped her at his Manhattan apartment in 2013, according to the Associated Press.

The jury ordered Haggis, 69, to pay Haleigh Breest, 36, at least $7.5 million in damages, the AP reported, noting that the jury also decided he would be responsible for paying additional punitive damages later on.

Ilann Maazel, an attorney representing Breest, said in a statement, “We are thankful and grateful for the jury’s verdict. Justice was done today. This is a great victory for Haleigh and for the entire #MeToo movement.”

Haggis’s attorney Priya Chaudhry stated that they were “disappointed and shocked by this verdict.” She said they were “not allowed to tell the jury so many critical things,” and that Haggis could not have had a fair trial.

Haggis is known for having written the films “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash,” the latter of which won him two Academy Awards in 2006 for best picture and best original screenplay. He also directed “Crash,” and shares a writing credit on the film with Bobby Moresco.

Breest filed the lawsuit against Haggis in December 2017 under New York City’s Victims of Gender-Motivated Violence Protection Act. According to the complaint, Breest was working at a New York film premiere in January 2013 and accepted a ride home from Haggis. The document alleges that he pressured her to have a drink with him at his SoHo apartment, instead of at a public bar as she said she suggested.

Nov. 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter pauses paid sign-ups as fake accounts spread online, Rachel Lerman and Cat Zakrzewski, Nov. 11, 2022. Twitter accounts impersonating celebrities and politicians spread on the site after the company rolled out paid check marks.

twitter bird CustomTwitter paused allowing people to sign up for its paid subscription feature that grants blue check marks amid a flood of fake accounts, just days after it launched the controversial feature.

A note to Twitter employees sent Thursday night said it was decided to temporarily disable sign-ups for Twitter Blue, its new $7.99 offering that allows accounts to receive a blue check mark. The pause was intended to “help address impersonation issues,” according to the note, which was viewed by The Washington Post.

A number of new accounts sporting a blue check mark surfaced this week impersonating politicians, celebrities and brands — including President Biden — after the new program launched on Wednesday. It’s part of Elon Musk‘s plan to create more streams of revenue following his $44 billion acquisition of the site two weeks ago.

Twitter’s content moderation chief quits

A fake account purporting to be basketball star LeBron James falsely tweeted that the athlete was requesting a trade. Another fake account with a blue check mark pretending to be former president George W. Bush tweeted “I miss killing Iraqis.”

And a fake account pretending to be pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly gained 1,500 retweets and more than 10,000 likes and remained online after three hours Thursday afternoon. An Eli Lilly spokesperson told The Post on Thursday they “are in communication with Twitter to address the issue.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Review: We got ‘verified’ in minutes posing as a comedian and a senator, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Nov. 11, 2022. Twitter has been selling blue check marks to any account for $8, including our test imposter accounts for Blaire Erskine and Sen. Ed Markey. That makes it mostly worthless.

Nov. 10

 

The chair of the five-member Federal Trade Commission is Lisa Khan, shown above, confirmed by the Senate in a 69-28 vote in June 2021 and considered a critic of the Big Tech sector.

The chair of the five-member Federal Trade Commission is Lisa Khan, shown above, confirmed by the Senate in a 69-28 vote in June 2021 and considered a critic of the Big Tech sector.

washington post logoWashington Post, Stunning exodus of Twitter executives prompts federal regulators to warn of action, Joseph Menn, Cat Zakrzewski, Faiz Siddiqui, Nitasha Tiku and Drew Harwell, Nov. 10, 2022. The resignations of three Twitter executives prompted federal regulators to warn they might step in.

Several top privacy and security executives resigned from Twitter on Thursday, citing fears over the risks from Elon Musk’s leadership in a stunning exodus that prompted federal regulators to warn they might step in.

twitter bird CustomChief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner tweeted that they had made the “hard decision” to resign, and the company’s chief privacy officer and chief compliance officer also quit, according to screenshots of an employee’s internal Slack message shared with The Washington Post.

One current Twitter employee said several other members of the site’s privacy and security unit also had resigned, while another said those remaining were trying to stop a wave of abuse in the company’s expanded paid service, Twitter Blue.

ftc logoThe departures prompted a rare warning from the Federal Trade Commission, which has emerged as the government’s top Silicon Valley watchdog. It marked the second time in two days that a federal official has expressed concern about the chaotic developments at the company, coming less than 24 hours after President Biden said Musk’s relationships with other countries deserved scrutiny.

The agency said that it was “tracking the developments at Twitter with deep concern” and that it was prepared to take action to ensure the company was complying with a settlement known as a consent order, which requires Twitter to comply with certain privacy and security requirements because of allegations of past data misuse.

Twitter was first put under a consent order in 2011 and it agreed to a new order earlier this year. If the FTC finds Twitter is not complying with that order, it could fine the company hundreds of millions of dollars, potentially damaging the company’s already precarious financial state.

 

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).

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders Alex Jones to pay $473 million more to Sandy Hook families, Andrea Salcedo, James Bikales and Joanna Slater, Nov. 10, 2022. A Connecticut judge Thursday ordered Infowars founder Alex Jones and his company to pay an additional $473 million to the families of eight victims of the Sandy Hook shooting.

The families and an FBI agent who responded to the shooting sued Jones for spreading misinformation about the 2012 slaying in which 20 children and six teachers were killed in an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

Judge Barbara Bellis’s order comes nearly a month after Jones was ordered to pay $965 million in damages to the families in the culmination of the multiyear legal battle. The verdict was unanimous.

Alex Jones ordered to pay nearly $1 billion to Sandy Hook families

Jones, who has said he will appeal the verdict, was also ordered not to transfer his assets outside of the United States until further notice from the court. This is the first time a court has ordered Jones to freeze his assets.

“This is the first step in making sure that Jones personally will pay every penny he has to the families he spent years tormenting,” Chris Mattei, who represents the families in the case against Jones, said in a statement shared with The Washington Post.

Jones reacted to the news live Thursday while recording his “Infowars” podcast, calling the penalty “preposterous” and saying he doesn’t have the funds to pay it.

“If I weigh 260 pounds, they ask for a trillion pounds, I don’t have that much flesh,” he said.

Jones’s attorney, Norm Pattis, told Jones on the podcast that the plaintiffs’ aim is to “put you on a financial leash with an aim of silencing you.”

“I think the goal is to try to pile you up with a judgment debt, the likes of which no one else has ever seen, no private person or non-corporation,” Pattis said, adding that he believes “this unprecedented verdict remains vulnerable.” Hours after the 2012 elementary school shooting, Jones told his audience that it was staged as an excuse for confiscating guns. He also suggested the parents of the victims were actors. Years later, he repeatedly referred to the massacre as a hoax.

In their suit, the families of the victims argued Jones’s false claims caused them years of additional suffering. During the trial, the families testified that conspiracy theorists who accused them of staging their children’s deaths repeatedly harassed and threatened them.

They shared they did not feel safe when home and felt they had to keep their guard off when in public. It got so bad, some of them testified, that they had no option but to move away from Newtown.

washington post logoWashington Post, D.C. sues Daniel Snyder, Commanders and NFL, alleging efforts to deceive fans, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala, Nov. 10, 2022. The office of D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) said Thursday it filed a consumer protection lawsuit against the Washington Commanders, Daniel Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell, accusing them of colluding to deceive and mislead customers about an investigation of the team’s workplace to maintain the franchise’s fan base in pursuit of revenue.

“Faced with public outrage over detailed and widespread allegations of sexual misconduct and a persistently hostile work environment at the Team, Defendants made a series of public statements to convince District consumers that this dysfunctional and misogynistic conduct was limited and that they were fully cooperating with an independent investigation,” the lawsuit says. “These statements were false and calculated to mislead consumers so they would continue to support the Team financially without thinking that they were supporting such misconduct.”

The D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) has accused the Commanders, Snyder, the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell of colluding to mislead D.C. residents. (Video: Reuters)

The lawsuit was filed in the civil division of the D.C. Superior Court. It alleges the team and league violated the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act with “public misrepresentations, omissions, and ambiguities of material fact.” Racine’s office said it is seeking “financial penalties under the CPPA for every incident in which the Commanders, Mr. Snyder, the NFL, and Commissioner Goodell lied to District residents dating back to July 2020,” adding that the defendants “could face millions of dollars in penalties.”

Nov. 9

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta Lays Off More Than 11,000 Employees Amid Financial Struggles, Sheera Frenkel and Adam Satariano, Nov. 9, 2022. The parent of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp reduced its work force by about 13 percent and extended a hiring freeze.

meta logoSince Mark Zuckerberg, left, founded Facebook in 2004, the Silicon Valley company has steadily hired more employees. At the end of September it had amassed its largest-ever number of workers, totaling 87,314 people.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wBut on Wednesday, the company — now renamed Meta — began cutting jobs, and deeply.

Meta said it was laying off more than 11,000, or about 13 percent of its work force, in what amounted to the company’s most significant job cuts. The layoffs were made across departments and regions, though some areas, like recruiting and business teams, were affected more than others.

“I want to take accountability for these decisions and for how we got here,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote in a letter to employees. “I know this is tough for everyone, and I’m especially sorry to those impacted.”

facebook logoThe cuts — nearly triple what Twitter announced last week — represent a stunning reversal of fortune for a once high-flying company whose ambition and room for growth had seemed limitless. It spent lavishly over the years, accumulating users, buying companies such as Instagram and WhatsApp, and showering its employees with envious perks. Not even scrutiny over its data privacy practices and the toxic content on its apps could dent its financial performance, as its stock continued climbing and its revenues soared. At one point last year, Meta was valued at $1 trillion.

But the company has struggled financially this year as it has tried to move into a new business — the immersive world of the so-called metaverse — while also grappling with a global economic slowdown and a decline in digital advertising, the main source of its revenue. New competitors like TikTok emerged to capture a younger audience while Meta’s services lost their sheen. Last month, Meta posted a 50 percent slide in quarterly profits and its second straight sales decline. Its stock has dropped roughly 70 percent this year.

Mr. Zuckerberg, 38, attributed the cuts to growing too quickly during the pandemic, when a surge in online commerce led to a big spike in revenue. Like changes at other businesses, he said he thought the shift would be permanent, leading him to significantly increase spending. Meta’s employee head count at the end of September was up 28 percent from a year earlier.

“Unfortunately, this did not play out the way I expected,” Mr. Zuckerberg said on Wednesday. “I got this wrong, and I take responsibility for that.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Biggest loser of the midterm elections? The media, Dana Milbank, Nov. 9, 2022. We don’t yet know precisely who won the 2022 dana milbank newestmidterms, but we certainly know who lost.

I’m sorry to say that my colleagues in the political press blew it.

The headlines coming into Tuesday’s elections almost uniformly predicted a Democratic wipeout. Here’s just a small sampling:

  • The bottom is dropping out of the 2022 election for Democrats
  • Democrats, on Defense in Blue States, Brace for a Red Wave in the House
  • Red tsunami watch
  • The Republican wave is building fast

I pulled those from The Post, the New York Times, CNN, Axios and Politico — but the rest of the news media called it much the same.

I was baffled. What were they seeing that I and, more important, the Democratic operatives I spoke to weren’t seeing?

So what happened? Political journalists were suckered by a wave of Republican junk polls in the closing weeks of the campaign.

Politico, Dem megadonor's crypto exchange forced to sell as liquidity concerns grow, Sam Sutton, Nov. 9, 2022 (print ed.). FTX downfall draws Washington scrutiny, threatens crypto lobbying campaign.

Regulators and lawmakers are beginning to dig into Tuesday’s near-collapse of crypto exchange giant FTX, a seismic industry event that is poised to upend the Washington policy debate around how to police digital assets.

FTX on Tuesday morning announced it was selling itself to competing crypto exchange Binance after it struggled to meet customer withdrawals. In response, officials at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which regulates financial derivatives markets, said they were monitoring the Bahamas-based FTX’s cash crunch to ensure it doesn’t spill over to U.S. operations that are registered with the agency and aren’t being included in the Binance sale.

The crisis also drew the attention of state regulators. Texas State Securities Board enforcement director Joseph Rotunda said FTX’s capitalization and sale could be relevant in his investigation into whether the company violated securities laws by offering yield-bearing deposit accounts.

The unexpected collapse of FTX will recast the landscape for lawmakers, regulators and lobbyists who have been ramping up work on drafting rules for the crypto industry for the last year. FTX and founder Sam Bankman-Fried — who emerged as a political megadonor ahead of the midterms — have been at the center of the debate and now see their clout likely diminished in the halls of Congress.

“The recent events show the necessity of congressional action,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who’s poised to chair the House Financial Services Committee if Republicans win a majority in the midterms. “I look forward to learning more from FTX and Binance in the coming days about these events and the steps they will take to protect customers during the transition.”

Bankman-Fried — a 30 year-old billionaire — was among the most prolific single political donors during the 2022 midterms before announcing he was putting his political efforts on hold last month.

He had also been aggressively lobbying Congress to support a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senate Agriculture Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) that would give the CFTC oversight of crypto brokerages and trading platforms.

Nov. 8

 elon musk safe image time

ny times logoNew York Times, Facing a Tide of Criticism, Elon Musk Is Tweeting Through It, Ryan Mac, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). Twitter’s new billionaire owner (shown above in a file photo) has embarked on a tweeting spree to push back, spar and justify his actions.

Under pressure and facing a wave of criticism, Elon Musk has increasingly turned to his favorite release valve: Twitter.

Since Saturday, Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man and the new owner of Twitter, has embarked on a tweeting spree so voluminous that he is on a pace to post more than 750 times this month, or more than 25 times a day, according to an analysis from the digital investigations company Memetica. That would be up from about 13 times a day in April, when Mr. Musk first agreed to buy Twitter.

twitter bird CustomHis recent tweets have covered an increasingly broad range of topics. Over the last four days, Mr. Musk, 51, needled the comedian Kathy Griffin and beefed with the Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey on the platform. He made masturbation jokes aimed at a rival — and much smaller — social media platform. He posted, then deleted, a tweet engaging with a quote from a white nationalist. And he defended his ownership of Twitter, including why he had laid off 50 percent of the company’s staff and why people should not impersonate others on the service.

All in all, Mr. Musk, who described himself in his Twitter profile as “Chief Twit” before later changing the description to “Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator,” has tweeted more than 105 times since Friday, mainly about Twitter, according to a tally by Memetica.

Mr. Musk is under tremendous scrutiny 11 days after completing his $44 billion deal for Twitter, which was the largest leveraged buyout of a technology company in history. On Friday, he cut roughly 3,700 of the company’s 7,500 employees, saying he had no choice because Twitter was losing $4 million a day. At the same time, he has found himself embroiled in the same content debates that have plagued other social media companies, including how to give people a way to speak out without spreading misinformation and toxic speech.

On Friday, Mr. Musk, who has more than 114 million followers on Twitter, proposed a “thermonuclear name & shame” campaign against brands that had stopped advertising on the platform. He said that he had done everything he could to appease advertisers but that activists had worked against him to cause brands to drop out of spending on Twitter.

At the same time, the billionaire was embroiled in a fight over his plan to charge Twitter users $8 a month for a subscription service, Twitter Blue, which would give a check mark to anyone who paid. The check mark had been free for notable people whose identities had been verified by the company, including celebrities, politicians and journalists, as a way to protect against impersonation.

Critics were unhappy about Mr. Musk’s plans to monetize the check mark, saying it could lead to the spread of misinformation and fraud on the platform. In protest, some Twitter accounts that had check marks changed their display names and photographs to match Mr. Musk’s account over the weekend, a move intended to illustrate why it would be confusing if anyone could buy a check mark.

ny times logoNew York Times, Apple Built Its Empire With China. Now Its Foundation Is Showing Cracks, Tripp Mickle, Chang Che and Daisuke Wakabayashi, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). Every September, Apple unveils its latest phones at its futuristic Silicon Valley campus. A few weeks later, tens of millions of its newest handsets, assembled by legions of seasonal workers hired by its suppliers, are shipped from Chinese factories to customers around the world.

china flag SmallThe annual release of Apple’s iPhones usually runs like clockwork, a prime example of how the U.S. tech giant has become the most profitable company of the globalization era by seamlessly navigating the world’s two largest economies.

But this year, a smooth rollout for the iPhone 14 was the latest casualty of the growing difficulties of doing business in China. Beijing’s no-holds-barred approach to stopping Covid-19 and heightened tensions with the United States have forced Apple to re-examine major aspects of its business.

apple logo rainbowA recent outbreak of coronavirus cases in the region surrounding Apple’s largest iPhone factory, in Zhengzhou, in central China, prompted local officials to order a seven-day lockdown last week. As a result, the company said on Sunday, it will not be able to produce enough phones to meet the demands of the holiday season.

For much of this year, Apple has also been the focus of a bipartisan intervention in Washington, where alarm over Beijing’s military provocations and technology ambitions has upended orthodoxy about free trade.

Word trickled out in March that Apple was in talks with an obscure Chinese memory chip maker, Yangtze Memory Technology Corporation, or YMTC, to supply components for the iPhone 14.

That collided with work being done by a coalition of lawmakers and more than a dozen congressional aides, which had spent months examining the ins and outs of Apple’s supply chain in China. The Commerce Department issued restrictions last month that prohibited American companies from selling machinery to YMTC, making it difficult for Apple to go ahead with the deal.

Apple has confirmed publicly that it talked with YMTC, which didn’t respond to requests for comment. But an Apple spokesman declined to comment when asked if the company had abandoned the possibility of working with the Chinese memory maker.

The recent developments underscore how Apple’s close ties to China, once considered a strength of its business, have turned into a liability.

 truth social logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump once reconsidered sticking with Truth Social. Now he’s stuck, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The former president has told his allies that he can’t leave his Twitter clone because he’s propping it up, and he doesn’t want a site so closely associated with his brand to collapse.

The co-founders of former president Donald Trump’s post-presidential start-up, Trump Media & Technology Group, had a name for June 11, 2021: “meltdown day.”

Andy Litinsky and Wes Moss, former contestants on Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” had a week earlier traveled with an 11-person entourage to Trump’s palatial golf club in Bedminster, N.J., to show off what they’d worked for months to build: a web of conservative-aimed business ventures, including the Twitter clone Truth Social, that heavily promoted and depended on Trump’s name and brand.

Trump, however, was already considering other ideas. On June 11, Trump met at Bedminster with another suitor: his former aide Jason Miller, who was launching a rival conservative social network, Gettr, and had offered Trump at least $5 million a year and a stake in the company to join.

A Trump defection would have triggered a disastrous meltdown of everything Litinsky and Moss had created. Trump Media lawyers scrambled to mount a counterattack, according to people familiar with the episode, which has not been previously reported.

Would Trump really “do a side deal?” the Trump Media co-founders wrote in a daily log that company whistleblower Will Wilkerson shared with government investigators and The Washington Post.

Trump ultimately stuck with Truth Social, helping the site attract a modest following. But the billionaire industrialist Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter could put Trump’s commitment to a new test, and some in his orbit wonder whether he’ll be able to stay loyal to a small site that is struggling to gain an audience and faces looming financial threats.

Trump has told his allies that he can’t leave Truth Social, because he’s propping it up, and he doesn’t want a site so closely associated with his brand to collapse, according to people familiar with his thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. A spokesman for Trump did not respond to a detailed request for comment for this story.

Musk has called Twitter’s ban of Trump, after the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, a mistake and pledged to reinstate Trump’s account, although when that might occur remains unclear. Trump, however, has said he would not return even if he were invited back, saying he wanted to focus his efforts on Truth Social.

“If I choose to run, I will only use Truth” to post his thoughts, Trump told Fox News on the day after Musk’s takeover of Twitter became official. “When I put out a Truth, it is all over the place.” The platform feels “like home,” he said, and he likes “the way it works.” In a Truth Social post, he added, “I LOVE TRUTH!”

But Trump’s 4 million followers on the platform are a small fraction of the 88 million he once had on Twitter, and his dozens of posts — called “truths” — there in recent weeks have received none of the broad engagement and traction he counted on during his presidency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump speeches use dozens of lies, exaggerations to draw contrast with Biden, Isaac Arnsdorf, Nov. 8, 2022 (print ed.). The former president’s rally script centers on juxtaposing conditions two years ago with now, relying on misrepresentations of both.

Even in a midterm marked by misinformation, conspiracy theories and false or misleading attacks, nobody does it like Donald Trump.

The former president, in a burst of campaigning for Republican candidates while he readies his own third bid for the White House, is honing a stump speech based around juxtaposing current conditions with those during his presidency — a contrast he heightens by misrepresenting and exaggerating on both ends. His speech Thursday at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, contained at least 58 false or misleading statements, and he added at least another 24 distinct falsehoods at a Saturday speech in Latrobe, Pa., according to a Washington Post analysis.

Many of the inaccuracies were repeat offenses for Trump and consistent with his exhaustively documented record of dispensing with the truth. But lately his speeches have also become a clearinghouse for the vast array of rumors, memes and myths that spread in right-wing media and fill up many other Republicans’ campaign speeches and ads.

Nov. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Amazon Considers Disclaimer to Antisemitic Film Irving Shared Online, Karen Weise, Nov. 7, 2022 (print ed.). The company said it was working with the Anti-Defamation League to potentially add language to the page that viewers see before buying or renting the film.

The Brooklyn Nets and the Anti-Defamation League sent a letter to Amazon asking the company to address the “deeply and unequivocally antisemitic” kyrie irving netsdocumentary and related book at the heart of the Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving's suspension. The company said it was working with amazon logo smallthe A.D.L. to explore adding a disclaimer to the film.

The letter — signed by the A.D.L.’s chief executive, Jonathan Greenblatt, but on behalf of the Nets as well — called on Amazon to take down or add explanatory context to the film and the related book, saying they were “designed to inflame hatred and, now that it was popularized by Mr. Irving, will lead directly to the harm of Jews.” A copy of the letter was obtained by The New York Times.

nba logoCory Shields, an Amazon spokesman, said the potential disclaimer would appear on the documentary’s main detail page, which viewers would see before buying or renting the film. A similar note potentially would be added to a page where customers could buy the book that the film is based on.

More than a week ago, Mr. Irving tweeted a link to Amazon for a documentary called “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which includes “extensive antisemitism,” such as claims that Jews control the media and that millions of Jews did not die during the Holocaust.

Though he deleted the tweet, Mr. Irving was suspended by the Nets for declining to say he had no antisemitic views. He later apologized on Instagram for posting the documentary “without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the Documentary I agreed with and disagreed with.” He said he did not intend to “disrespect any Jewish cultural history regarding the Holocaust or perpetuate any hate.”

The Nets and others said his apology did not go far enough.

The four-page letter, whose existence was first noted by reporters for the Athletic, was dated Friday and addressed to Amazon’s executive chairman, Jeff Bezos; its chief executive, Andy Jassy; and David Zapolsky, Amazon’s general counsel. It details problematic content in the book and film, and discussed why it was troubling at the current moment of heightened antisemitism in the United States.

The film was self-produced by its director, Ronald Dalton Jr., in 2018, according to its listing on Amazon, and is available to rent for $12 or to buy for $50. It has more than 1,200 reviews and was made available on Amazon through its Prime Video Direct program, a self-service platform it started in 2016 to allow filmmakers and content creators to upload their works and reach the company’s millions of customers.

The company said at the time that the service, which focuses on feature-length movies and TV shows, wanted to make “it even easier for content creators to find an audience, and for that audience to find great content.”

Amazon keeps half of the purchase price or rental fees and passes on the remaining half to the content provider, according to its website for filmmakers.

Mr. Greenblatt said in a statement last week that Mr. Irving’s antics drew attention and sales to the film and its related book, making it a best seller in multiple categories on Amazon.

The company’s guidelines tell filmmakers that “all titles undergo manual and automated reviews” before it licenses them and that certain content is prohibited, such as violating a copyright or explicit sexuality. Amazon also says it prohibits “hateful content,” such as speech that contains “derogatory comments, hate speech, or threats specifically targeting any group or individuals.”

Amazon said the film did undergo review before becoming available online, though it declined to provide details of the review and how it concluded that the film did not violate the prohibition on hate speech.

The self-service distribution is similar to the self-publishing model Amazon developed for books, which allowed it to vastly expand its offerings without negotiating with publishers. Amazon has long been hesitant to remove sensitive or controversial books, though in recent years, it has updated its policy to allow itself the discretion to remove “offensive” content. “As a bookseller, we believe that providing access to the written word is important, including content that may be considered objectionable,” its policy states.

Nov. 6

Politico, Musk delays Twitter's subscription service until after midterms, Staff report, Nov. 6, 2022. Twitter had previewed the new service. Elon Musk’s plan to set up a new subscription service for Twitter — which would include a “blue check” verification for subscribers — will be delayed until after the midterm elections, multiple news outlets reported Sunday.

Twitter had previewed the new service Saturday, with a message on Apple’s app store offering a new $7.99 subscription to “Twitter Blue.” But the option hasn’t gone live yet, and it won’t until sometime after Tuesday’s election, according to the reports. Some of the reports said that the rollout will be delayed because of twitter bird Customconcerns within Twitter that users could pay for a verified account and use that account to impersonate someone else, such a politician or public official.

Musk, the company’s new owner, himself tweeted on Sunday: “Going forward, any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”

After Musk cut the company’s payroll in half at the end of last week — firing thousands across Twitter — Washington has watched anxiously for signs that the platform is losing control of misinformation and content, particularly with the election so close at hand. Musk himself added fuel to that fire when he tweeted a false story about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband last weekend, a move that drew criticism and helped drive advertisers away from the platform.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Begins Offering $7.99-a-Month Verification Subscriptions, David Yaffe-Bellany, Nov. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The new system for assigning check marks to users’ profiles is among a raft of changes the company has been discussing since Elon Musk’s takeover.

Twitter announced on Saturday that it would begin charging customers $7.99 a month to receive a verification check mark on their profiles, one of a raft of product changes that the company has been discussing since Elon Musk’s takeover a little over a week ago.

twitter bird CustomThe announcement was included in notes accompanying a new update to the Twitter app that appeared in Apple’s App Store. The notes explained that the paid verification system was now a feature of the website’s subscription service, Twitter Blue.

“Power to the people,” the announcement said. “Your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.”

To fund his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Mr. Musk loaded the company with $13 billion in debt, which comes with more than $1 billion a year in interest payments. That has put Twitter under enormous pressure to cut costs and raise revenue. This week, Twitter laid off roughly half the company’s work force, or about 3,700 jobs.

In addition to charging for verification, Mr. Musk and his advisers have been weighing numerous other ideas to bring in more revenue, from putting certain videos behind paywalls to reviving Vine, the now-defunct short-form video platform.

The update notes unveiled on Saturday also promised that subscribers would receive other benefits, including “half the ads & much better ones,” as well as the ability to post longer videos on Twitter.

And in a series of tweets on Saturday, Mr. Musk said that the company was working on an update that would give users the ability to attach long-form text to tweets, which he said would eliminate “the absurdity of notepad screenshots.”

But the change to Twitter’s signature verification system has proved especially controversial. In the past, the company manually assigned a blue circle with a white check mark to high-profile figures and businesses. With the midterm elections approaching on Tuesday, some election-integrity advocates have voiced fears that the new paid verification system could make it easier for bad actors to impersonate political candidates or other public figures.

washington post logoWashington Post, With Musk at the helm, tweeting the boss may actually change Twitter, Ben Brasch, Jeremy B. Merrill and James Bikales, Nov. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Elon Musk turned his hobby into a career when he purchased Twitter a week ago.

elon musk 2015When he purchased Twitter a week ago, Elon Musk turned a hobby into a career.

Musk has always been extremely engaged online, responding to Twitter users with followings big and small. But the billionaire is now in charge, and he’s listening.

The new Twitter owner has not slowed down tweeting since taking over the company last Thursday — the past week was his third-most active in the past six months, according to a Washington Post analysis. The analysis stretches from last Wednesday when he entered the company headquarters carrying a sink — a stunt encouraging employees to let his takeover “sink in” — to this Thursday, a day before he enacted massive layoffs.

twitter bird CustomMusk-helmed Twitter dubbed ‘cruel,’ ‘toxic’ by staffers as pink slips pile up

Experts say his tweets now send important signals: Who he is listening to, who and what is acceptable on his platform, and how he intends to run the company. His tweets and decisions have the ability to foster healthy debates online or give sanctuary to hate speech and misinformation, they say.

“When he says something on Twitter now, it’s much bigger news because it is seen as a bellwether of where he’s taking the entire platform, rather than just Elon Musk being outrageous or being responsive,” said Karen North, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

huffington post logoHuffPost, Elon Musk Appears To Threaten Advertisers Wary Of His Twitter Takeover, Sara Boboltz, Nov. 5, 2022. A "thermonuclear name & shame" is coming for companies that stop advertising with Twitter, apparently.

Newly minted Twitter CEO Elon Musk launched an apparent attack on skittish advertisers late Friday as he faces a potentially devastating advertising exodus from the social media giant he just took over.

elon musk 2015After Musk, right, said that Twitter “has had a massive drop in revenue” because of “activist groups pressuring advertisers,” a supporter tweeted that the billionaire weaponize his 114 million Twitter followers.

“Name and shame the advertisers who are succumbing to the advertiser boycott. So we can counter-boycott them,” wrote Mike Davis, a Republican former Senate and White House aide.

Musk replied: “A thermonuclear name & shame is exactly what will happen if this continues.”

Several companies, including General Motors, Volkswagen Group and Pfizer, have halted their advertising spend on Twitter ― at least pfizer logotemporarily ― as the platform adjusts to Musk’s leadership and his pledge to champion “free speech.”

Before taking over the company late last month, Musk promised advertisers that Twitter would not become a “free-for-all hellscape.” Twitter’s new leadership has reportedly been holding meetings with ad buyers to assure them Musk would not tank Twitter.

Advertisers have long sought to avoid placing their products alongside hateful or violent content. The problem of users posting hateful or violent content on Twitter has been well-documented in the past. The company has tried to implement various solutions, such as labels that warn when content is potentially misleading.

But now it must do so with around half the manpower.

Following the departure of several high-level executives, thousands of Twitter employees were laid off in the past week. Musk promised that the cuts would save the company hundreds of millions, but certain teams were decimated, including those that dealt with managing public trust and safety. Musk says he wants to jack dorsey joe raedel getty imagesdiversify Twitter’s revenue by charging $8 for a blue check, a badge indicating Twitter has verified that the user is who they say they are.

The turmoil has some people flocking to alternative platforms, such as Mastodon.

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, right, was moved to issue an apology Saturday morning for his former company’s situation.

“I realize many are angry with me. I own the responsibility for why everyone is in this situation: I grew the company size too quickly,” Dorsey said. “I apologize for that.”

CNN Business, With Twitter in chaos, Mastodon is on fire, Rachel Metz, Nov. 5, 2022. In the week since Elon Musk took over Twitter, the number of people signing up cnn logofor a small social network called Mastodon has surged,  You may not have heard of Mastodon, which has been around since 2016, but now it’s growing rapidly. Some are fleeing Twitter for it or at least seeking out a second place to post their thoughts online as the much more well-known social network faces layoffs, controversial product changes, an expected shift in its approach to content moderation and a jump in hateful rhetoric.

There may be no clear alternative to Twitter, a uniquely influential platform that is fast-moving, text-heavy, conversational and news-oriented. But Mastodon scratches a certain itch. The service has a similar look to Twitter, with a timeline of short updates sorted chronologically rather than algorithmically. It lets users join a slew of different servers run by various groups and individuals, rather than one central platform controlled by a single company like Twitter, Instagram, or k

Unlike larger social networks, Mastodon is both free to use and free of ads. It’s developed by a nonprofit run by Mastodon creator Eugen Rochko, and is supported via crowdfunding.

Mastodon is a free open source software for running self-hosted social networking services.

Rochko said in an interview Thursday that Mastodon gained 230,000 users since October 27, when Musk took control of Twitter. It now has 655,000 active users each month, he said. Twitter reported in July that it had nearly 238 million daily active monetizable users.

“It is not as large as Twitter, obviously, but it is the biggest that this network has ever been,” said Rochko, who originally created Mastodon as more of a project than a consumer product (and, yes, its name was inspired by the heavy metal band Mastodon).

Mastodon’s new sign-ups include some Twitter users with big followings, such as actor and comedian Kathy Griffin, who joined in early November, and journalist Molly Jong-Fast, who joined in late October.

Sarah T. Roberts, an associate professor at UCLA and faculty director of the UCLA Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, started using Mastodon in earnest on October 30, just after Musk took over Twitter. (She had created another account years ago, she said, but didn’t really get into it until recently because of the popularity of Twitter among people in academia.)
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk provides an update on the development of the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket at the companys Launch facility in south Texas.

Elon Musk wants Twitter users to pay to be verified. It could create a new set of headaches for the company

Roberts, who worked at Twitter as a staff researcher earlier this year while taking a leave from UCLA, said she was inspired to start using Mastodon due to concerns about how Twitter’s content moderation may change under Musk’s control. She suspects some newcomers are simply sick of social media companies that capture lots of user data and are driven by advertising.

And she pointed out that Twitter users may migrate to Mastodon in particular because its user experience is pretty similar to Twitter’s. A lot of Mastodon’s features and layout (particularly in its iOS app) will look and feel familiar to current Twitter users, though with some slightly different verbiage; you can follow others, create short posts (there’s a 500 character limit, and you can upload images and videos), favorite or repost other users’ posts, and so on.

“It’s about as close as it gets,” she said.

I’ve been a Twitter user since 2007, but as a growing number of the people I follow on the social network began posting their Mastodon usernames in recent weeks, I got curious. This week, I decided to check out Mastodon for myself.

There are some key differences, particularly in how the network is set up. Because Mastodon users’ accounts are hosted on a slew of different servers, the costs of hosting users is spread among many different people and groups. But that also means users are spread out all over the place, and people you know can be hard to find — Rochko likened this setup to having different email providers, like Gmail and Hotmail.

This means the entirety of the network isn’t under any one person or company’s control, but it also introduces some new complications for those of us used to Twitter — a product that has also been criticized over the years for being less intuitive than more popular services like Facebook and Instagram.

On Mastodon, for instance, you have to join a specific server to sign up, some of which are open to anyone, some of which require an invitation (you can also run your own server). There is a server operated by the nonprofit behind Mastodon, Mastodon.social, but it’s not accepting more users; I’m currently using one called Mstdn.social, which is also where I can sign in to access Mastodon on the web.

And while you can follow any other Mastodon user, no matter which server they’ve signed up with, you can only see the lists of who follows your Mastodon friends, or who your Mastodon friends follow, if the followers happen to belong to the same server you’re signed up with (I realized this while trying to track down more people I know who recently signed up).

At first, it felt as if I was starting over, in a sense, as a complete newcomer to social media. As Roberts said, it is quite similar to Twitter in terms of its look and functionality, and the iOS app is easy to use.

But unlike on Twitter, where I can easily interact with a large audience, my Mastodon network is less than 100 followers. Suddenly I had no idea what to post — a feeling that never nags me on Twitter, perhaps because the size of that network makes any post feel less consequential. I got over it quickly, though, and realized the smaller scale of Mastodon can be calming compared to Twitter’s endless stream of stimulation.

I’m not quite ready to close my Twitter account, though; for me, Mastodon is a sort of social-media escape hatch in case Twitter becomes unbearable.

Roberts, too, hasn’t yet decided if she will close her Twitter account, but she was surprised by how quickly her following grew on Mastodon. Within a week of signing up and alerting her nearly 23,000 Twitter followers, she has amassed over 1,000 Mastodon followers.

Nov. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Begins Offering $7.99-a-Month Verification Subscriptions, David Yaffe-Bellany, Nov. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The new system for assigning check marks to users’ profiles is among a raft of changes the company has been discussing since Elon Musk’s takeover.

Twitter announced on Saturday that it would begin charging customers $7.99 a month to receive a verification check mark on their profiles, one of a raft of product changes that the company has been discussing since Elon Musk’s takeover a little over a week ago.

twitter bird CustomThe announcement was included in notes accompanying a new update to the Twitter app that appeared in Apple’s App Store. The notes explained that the paid verification system was now a feature of the website’s subscription service, Twitter Blue.

“Power to the people,” the announcement said. “Your account will get a blue checkmark, just like the celebrities, companies, and politicians you already follow.”

To fund his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, Mr. Musk loaded the company with $13 billion in debt, which comes with more than $1 billion a year in interest payments. That has put Twitter under enormous pressure to cut costs and raise revenue. This week, Twitter laid off roughly half the company’s work force, or about 3,700 jobs.

In addition to charging for verification, Mr. Musk and his advisers have been weighing numerous other ideas to bring in more revenue, from putting certain videos behind paywalls to reviving Vine, the now-defunct short-form video platform.

The update notes unveiled on Saturday also promised that subscribers would receive other benefits, including “half the ads & much better ones,” as well as the ability to post longer videos on Twitter.

And in a series of tweets on Saturday, Mr. Musk said that the company was working on an update that would give users the ability to attach long-form text to tweets, which he said would eliminate “the absurdity of notepad screenshots.”

But the change to Twitter’s signature verification system has proved especially controversial. In the past, the company manually assigned a blue circle with a white check mark to high-profile figures and businesses. With the midterm elections approaching on Tuesday, some election-integrity advocates have voiced fears that the new paid verification system could make it easier for bad actors to impersonate political candidates or other public figures.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk begins mass layoffs at Twitter, Faiz Siddiqui, Nov. 5, 2022 (print ed.). Layoffs started at the social media giant, as Musk moves to make his first big mark on the company. Estimates of expected layoffs range from a quarter to 50 percent of staff.

Elon Musk is beginning mass layoffs at Twitter, sharply reducing the company’s workforce of 7,500 and kicking off his wholesale overhaul of the company.

twitter bird CustomAn email went out to the company’s employees late Thursday notifying employees of plans to cut jobs, informing them that by 9 a.m. Pacific time Friday, workers would receive an email with the subject line: “Your Role at Twitter.”

Those keeping their jobs would be notified on their company email. Those losing them would be told via their personal email.

“Team, In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” according to multiple versions of the email obtained by The Washington Post. “We recognize that this will impact a number of individuals who have made valuable contributions to Twitter, but this action is unfortunately necessary to ensure the company’s success moving forward.”

At Elon Musk’s Twitter, silence has workers bewildered

Anyone who did not receive an email by 5 p.m. Pacific time was told to follow up with the company. The offices would be closed Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, With Musk at the helm, tweeting the boss may actually change Twitter, Ben Brasch, Jeremy B. Merrill and James Bikales, Nov. 5, 2022. Elon Musk turned his hobby into a career when he purchased Twitter a week ago.

When he purchased Twitter a week ago, Elon Musk turned a hobby into a career.

Musk has always been extremely engaged online, responding to Twitter users with followings big and small. But the billionaire is now in charge, and he’s listening.

The new Twitter owner has not slowed down tweeting since taking over the company last Thursday — the past week was his third-most active in the past six months, according to a Washington Post analysis. The analysis stretches from last Wednesday when he entered the company headquarters carrying a sink — a stunt encouraging employees to let his takeover “sink in” — to this Thursday, a day before he enacted massive layoffs.

Musk-helmed Twitter dubbed ‘cruel,’ ‘toxic’ by staffers as pink slips pile up

Experts say his tweets now send important signals: Who he is listening to, who and what is acceptable on his platform, and how he intends to run the company. His tweets and decisions have the ability to foster healthy debates online or give sanctuary to hate speech and misinformation, they say.

“When he says something on Twitter now, it’s much bigger news because it is seen as a bellwether of where he’s taking the entire platform, rather than just Elon Musk being outrageous or being responsive,” said Karen North, a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kyrie Irving apologizes after Nets suspend him for refusing to disavow antisemitism, Ben Golliver, Nov. 5, 2022 (print ed.). Irving was suspended for at least five games because he is “currently unfit to be associated” with the organization, the club said.

Following a week-long saga that saw interventions from the Anti-Defamation League and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the Brooklyn Nets suspended guard Kyrie Irving for at least five games without pay on Thursday, deeming the all-star guard “currently unfit to be associated” with the organization following his repeated refusals to apologize for a social media post about an antisemitic film and book.

Irving, below left, who agreed Wednesday to donate $500,000 to support anti-hate causes in partnership with the ADL, said he “took responsibility” for the post but did not apologize when he met with reporters Thursday afternoon.

“Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate,” the Nets said in a statement. “We believed that taking the path of education in this challenging situation would be the right one and thought that we had made progress with our joint commitment to eradicating hate and intolerance.

kyrie irving nets“We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.”

The Nets concluded that Irving’s refusal to “disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity” was “deeply disturbing” and constituted “conduct detrimental to the team.”

In a message posted to Instagram late Thursday evening, Irving finally relented and apologized “to all Jewish families and communities that are hurt and affected from my post,” acknowledging that he had linked to a film that “contained some false antisemitic statements, narratives and language that were untrue and offensive.”

nba logoIrving continued: “I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled antisemitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the documentary. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against antisemitism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary I agreed with.”

Following a week-long saga that saw interventions from the Anti-Defamation League and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the Brooklyn Nets suspended Kyrie Irving for at least five games without pay on Thursday, deeming the all-star guard “currently unfit to be associated” with the organization following his repeated refusals to apologize for a social media post about an antisemitic film and book.

Irving, who agreed Wednesday to donate $500,000 to support anti-hate causes in partnership with the ADL, said he “took responsibility” for the post but did not apologize when he met with reporters Thursday afternoon.

“Over the last several days, we have made repeated attempts to work with Kyrie Irving to help him understand the harm and danger of his words and actions, which began with him publicizing a film containing deeply disturbing antisemitic hate,” the Nets said in a statement. “We believed that taking the path of education in this challenging situation would be the right one and thought that we had made progress with our joint commitment to eradicating hate and intolerance.

“We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs, nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.”

The Nets concluded that Irving’s refusal to “disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity” was “deeply disturbing” and constituted “conduct detrimental to the team.”

In a message posted to Instagram late Thursday evening, Irving finally relented and apologized “to all Jewish families and communities that are hurt and affected from my post,” acknowledging that he had linked to a film that “contained some false antisemitic statements, narratives and language that were untrue and offensive.”

Irving continued: “I initially reacted out of emotion to being unjustly labeled antisemitic, instead of focusing on the healing process of my Jewish Brothers and Sisters that were hurt from the hateful remarks made in the documentary. I want to clarify any confusion on where I stand fighting against antisemitism by apologizing for posting the documentary without context and a factual explanation outlining the specific beliefs in the documentary I agreed with.”

CNN,

, Nov. 5, 2022. Sportscaster Bob Costas joins CNN's Alisyn Camerota to discuss the fallout for NBA star Kyrie Irving after the Brooklyn Nets suspended Irving for comments regarding his tweet linking to an antisemitic documentary.

Skip and Shannon,

, Nov. 4, 2022. The Brooklyn Nets have suspended Kyrie Irving without pay for failure to “unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs.”

Kyrie issued an apology on his Instagram for posting an antisemitic film following the announcement, but earlier in day he refused to apologize in a post-practice media session. Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe react to Kyrie's suspension and subsequent apology.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Delusional, defiant Kyrie Irving is a stain the NBA could no longer ignore, Jerry Brewer, Nov. 4, 2022. Kyrie Irving, who is nothing more than a contrarian with a crossover, cannot be trusted to lead a pedestrian across the street, much less an NBA franchise in a borough of the nation’s largest city.

Yet there he stood — noted anti-vaxxer, suspected antisemite, overexposed anti-logic windbag — in a position to hijack attention and humiliate a league that has gone to great lengths to promote social equality.

For nearly a week, he failed to muster the humility to quell his latest controversy, and this time he stirred something far more dangerous than the usual Kyrie nonsense. Given ample time, Irving wouldn’t apologize for posting a link on Twitter to a movie and book that contains atrocious misinformation about Jewish people. He dared his employer, the Brooklyn Nets, to show him that he’s not his own boss. On Thursday night, the Nets finally ended the ludicrous standoff and suspended Irving.

He will be gone for at least five games without pay. The Nets prolonged the pain and shame of this incident with their indecision, but in the end they were forceful in declaring Irving “currently unfit to be associated with the Brooklyn Nets.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Worries Grow That TikTok Is New Home for Manipulated Video and Photos, Tiffany Hsu, Nov. 5, 2022 (print ed.). Misleading edits, fake news stories and deepfake images of politicians are starting to warp reality on the popular video platform.

Edited or synthesized material also appears on other online platforms, such as Facebook, which has nearly three billion monthly active users. But experts said it was especially difficult to catch on TikTok, which encourages its estimated 1.6 billion active users to put their own stamp on someone else’s content, and where reality, satire and outright deceit sometimes blend together in the fast-moving and occasionally livestreamed video feed.

washington post logoWashington Post, MSNBC severs ties with host Tiffany Cross, Sarah Ellison, Nov. 5, 2022.  The network canceled ‘The Cross Connection’ and has let her contract lapse after incendiary comments that drew conservative backlash.

MSNBC has cut ties with Tiffany Cross, an outspoken weekend host who made race and issues central to the Black community a focus of her coverage and commentary.

The network canceled her almost two-year-old show, “The Cross Connection,” and has let her contract lapse, according to three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations between the former host and MSNBC. A network spokesperson declined to comment.

Cross, who previously was the D.C. bureau chief for BET Networks, had made incendiary comments on air that made her a target of right-wing criticism.

Most recently, Cross appeared as a guest on Charlamagne tha God’s Comedy Central show, where the host asked his guest panelists which state the Democrats could afford to lose in the upcoming midterm election. Cross flippantly suggested Florida, using a vulgarity to describe the shape of the state and adding, “Let’s castrate Florida.”

Nov. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk-helmed Twitter dubbed ‘cruel,’ ‘toxic’ by staffers as pink slips pile up, Faiz Siddiqui and Naomi Nix, Nov. 4, 2022. The company was hailed for its welcoming and relaxed work environment. Elon Musk made that a relic of the past.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk is rapidly transforming Twitter, throwing out old strategies, taking aim at its trademark perks and imposing mass layoffs that are driving advertisers away.

A coalition of civil rights and activists groups including the NAACP called on brands to suspend advertising on Twitter following the layoffs on Friday.

twitter bird CustomAnd current and newly former employees say Musk has instilled a culture of fear in his new company, as he quickly established he will be a stiff and efficiency-focused leader, aiming to unlock Twitter’s moneymaking potential once and for all. Musk has announced he wants to charge for blue check marks and employees are working on a new plan for paywalled videos. Advertisers are getting cold feet, and many are worried about the potential consequences for the midterms.

Twitter will charge $8 a month for verification. Here’s what you need to know.

On Friday, Musk alluded to the challenges he faces in a tweet which said Twitter has experienced a massive drop in revenue because of activists pressuring advertisers. He reiterated that nothing has changed with the company’s moderation.

Nov. 3

 

President Biden speaks at Union Station in D.C. on Wednesday (AFP photo by Jim Watson via Getty Images).

President Biden speaks at Union Station in D.C. on Wednesday (AFP photo by Jim Watson via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden warns GOP could set nation on ‘path to chaos’ as democratic system faces strain, Rosalind S. Helderman and Yasmeen Abutaleb, Nov. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The president delivered his warning in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol and just days after Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked.

Signs of strain in the nation’s democratic system mounted Wednesday with less than a week left before the midterm elections, as President Biden warned that candidates who refuse to accept Tuesday’s results could set the nation on a “path to chaos.”

Biden’s grim assessment in a speech Wednesday evening came as the FBI and other agencies have forecast that threats of violence from domestic extremists are likely to be on the rise after the election. In Arizona, voters have complained of intimidation by self-appointed drop-box monitors — some of them armed — prompting a federal judge to set strict new limits. And the GOP has stepped up litigation in multiple states in an effort to toss out some ballots and to expand access for partisan poll watchers.

Speaking at Washington’s Union Station — steps from the U.S. Capitol, which was attacked by a pro-Trump mob in the wake of the nation’s last major election — Biden warned of an ongoing assault on American democracy. The president spoke as a growing number of major Republican candidates have said they may follow in former president Donald Trump’s footsteps and refuse to concede should they lose.

“It’s unprecedented. It’s unlawful. And it is un-American,” Biden said. “As I’ve said before, you can’t love your country only when you win.”

A majority of GOP nominees deny or question the 2020 election results

The virtually unprecedented presidential message — a plea to Americans to accept the basic tenets of their democracy — came as millions of voters have already cast their ballots or are planning to go to the polls on Election Day, and as some election officials expressed confidence that the system would hold.

Biden spoke days after an assailant armed with a hammer broke into the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and, according to police and prosecutors, bludgeoned her 82-year-old husband, Paul. Biden opened by addressing the gruesome early Friday morning assault.

“We must, with one overwhelming unified voice, speak as a country and say there’s no place, no place for voter intimidation or political violence in America, whether it’s directed at Democrats or Republicans,” he said. “No place, period. No place, ever.”

CQ/ Roll Call, Amazon, other PACs resume donations to electoral objectors, Kate Ackley, Nov. 3, 2022. Nearly 20 businesses and groups restarted giving to lawmakers who voted against certifying the presidential election.

After suspending donations to Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election, a collection of PACs, including those of Amazon and Caterpillar, restarted contributions ahead of midterm elections in which the GOP is favored to win House control.

Most business and industry political action committees that announced pauses after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol had already resumed giving to all lawmakers, including the 147 lawmakers who opposed certifying electoral votes from two states after the attack, Federal Election Commission filings show.

In total, company and trade group PACs donated more than $2.2 million to those 147 members in September and early October alone, according to a new analysis of FEC records by Accountable.us, shared first with CQ Roll Call. Since the Jan. 6 attack, business and industry PACs’ donations to those lawmakers have totaled more than $30 million, the group said.

The initial PAC freezes following Jan. 6, combined with a reduced number of in-person events because of the pandemic, led to a decline in donations from such coffers earlier in the election cycle. But by this fall, the fundraising scene had returned almost to normal.

Some of the 147 Republicans will hold important leadership roles and committee gavels in the next Congress, if their party wins control. They include Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who could become speaker; Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana; and Republican Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik of New York. Two of the three contenders for the top GOP spot on the House Ways and Means panel (Adrian Smith of Nebraska and Jason Smith of Missouri) are among the 147.

Appeal-Democrat (California's Sutter and Yuba counties), Wheatland man guilty of murder: Influenced by conspiracy theories, Robert Summa, Nov. 3, 2022. Banks had ‘hit list’ of potential victims.

As the spread of conspiracy theories and disinformation continues to creep into every corner of American life, the consequences of movements such as QAnon have shown to be fatal – the most recent well-covered example being the attack on Paul Pelosi at his home allegedly by a man who fell deep into the conspiracy rabbit hole.

On Oct. 28, a Wheatland man, 44-year-old Rory Banks, who also seemed to be affected by misinformation online, was found guilty by a Yuba County jury for the May 12, 2021, murder of 55-year-old Ralph Mendez. The jury found that Banks was guilty of burglary and the premeditated murder of Mendez.

At around 12:45 a.m. on that day in May of last year, the Wheatland Police Department received a 911 call related to a shooting that had taken place in the 200 block of G Street in Wheatland, the Appeal previously reported. Mendez was found by law enforcement officers with a gunshot wound. Lifesaving measures were performed but he was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the department.

After an investigation, Banks was determined to be the shooting suspect.

“Banks broke into Mendez’s home, waking Mendez and his 88-year-old mother. Banks executed Mendez, shooting him in the torso and the head,” Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry said in a statement. “Banks then used Mendez’s home phone to call 911. Wheatland Police officers arrived within minutes, finding Banks covered in blood in the driveway, with a pistol on the ground nearby. Banks surrendered and confessed to the murder.”

He was taken into custody without incident and booked into Yuba County Jail for murder and residential burglary. The weapon used in the fatal shooting was recovered at the scene.

“This was not a random act,” Wheatland Police Chief Damiean Sylvester said at the time. “We believe the victim was targeted by the suspect.”

In fact, according to evidence presented during the trial, it was determined that what Banks had done was not random, but was the act of a person convinced certain conspiracy theories were real.

“Rory Banks set out just after midnight on May 12, 2021, armed with two handguns, four knives, OC spray, strobe lights, a hit list with four names and addresses, and an intent to murder every person in Wheatland listed on California’s sex-offender registry,” Curry said. “Banks did not know any of them personally, but appointed himself judge, jury, and executioner.”

Curry said Mendez was one of four men on Banks’ kill list.

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washington post logoWashington Post, Musk’s Trump-style management by tweet rattles Twitter workers awaiting layoffs, Will Oremus, Nov. 3, 2022. Rumors swirl on anonymous apps amid silence from Elon Musk’s leadership team as layoffs loom.

With rumors of impending layoffs by new owner Elon Musk, above, swirling inside Twitter on Wednesday, an employee noticed that the Google Calendar of one of their new bosses was publicly viewable. On it was an entry at 5 p.m. that day titled “RIF Review” — an acronym for Reduction in Force, or layoffs.

Another Twitter employee was able to view a group on Slack, the workplace chat tool, in which company administrators appeared to be finalizing the precise number of workers to be laid off, and how much they’d receive in severance.

twitter bird CustomBy day’s end, word had spread across the company that layoffs — half the staff — would probably come Friday, and that Musk would require Twitter’s remaining employees to return to the office full-time. But that word didn’t come from Musk, or anyone on his leadership team. It came via Blind, the anonymous workplace gossip site that some Twitter employees say has become their best, and often only, source of information about what’s going on inside the company in the chaotic, surreal week since Musk acquired it for $44 billion.

Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the company’s leadership has not confirmed the layoff plans.

Since Musk closed the deal on Oct. 27, employees say, they have not received a single official communication from anyone in a leadership position at the company. They have not been told that Musk completed the purchase, that their CEO and top executives were summarily fired, or that Musk dissolved the board and installed himself as chief executive.

Instead, they have read about Musk’s dramatic plans to overhaul the company via media reports, Musk’s tweets, back-channel private chats and Blind. Twitter’s formerly open corporate culture, centered on all-staff meetings and freewheeling Slack channels where employees and managers shared ideas, plans and jokes, has turned suspicious and secretive, several Twitter employees told The Wasington Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they feared retribution.

oleksandra kuvshynova pierre zakrzewski cpj03 15 2022

washington post logoWashington Post, Widow of Fox journalist killed in Ukraine seeks answers: Why was security team not with her husband? Jeremy Barr, Nov. 3, 2022. Pierre Zakrzewski, above, right, and Oleksandra Kuvshynova, above left, died and Benjamin Hall was severely injured when their vehicle was hit by an explosion. Michelle Ross-Stanton tried to reconstruct what happened.

Michelle Ross-Stanton has spent months investigating the March 14 attack on her husband, Pierre Zakrzewski, and his colleagues outside Kyiv.

fox news logo SmallPierre Zakrzewski had always come home. From Syria. From Libya. From Afghanistan.

As a cameraman and photographer who had spent most of his long career in conflict zones, he knew when to duck, when to run, the dicey scenarios to navigate, the trouble spots to avoid.

So when Michelle Ross-Stanton received a phone call from Fox News chief executive Suzanne Scott on the evening of March 14 saying that her husband had been missing in Ukraine for five hours, she figured that he was hunkered down somewhere. Probably tending to the members of his team, as he’d always done.

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. officials met with the basketball star Brittney Griner, who is “doing as well as can be expected,” the White House said, James C. McKinley Jr., Chris Cameron and Edward Wong, Nov. 3, 2022. U.S. officials met with the jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner on Thursday for the first time since a Russian court rejected her appeal on a drug-possession conviction, and the White House said she was doing “as well as can be expected.”

Ms. Griner has become unwillingly ensnared in a geopolitical battle between Russia and the west, and has been grappling with the decision by a Russian appeals court to uphold a nine-year sentence in a penal colony on charges of drug possession. Ms. Griner, who recently turned 32 in Russian custody, pleaded guilty to drug-smuggling charges and apologized for what she called an inadvertent offense.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nets Suspend Kyrie Irving Indefinitely After Antisemitic Movie Post, Tania Ganguli, Nov. 3, 2022. Irving posted a link to the movie to his Twitter last week but has declined to apologize. His suspension will last at least five games.

nba logoThe Nets suspended guard Kyrie Irving indefinitely Thursday for his “failure to disavow antisemitism” since he posted a link to an antisemitic movie on Twitter last week, though he had said there were some things in the movie he did not agree with.

“I didn’t mean to cause any harm,” Irving said after a Nets practice Thursday. “I’m not the one that made the documentary.”

kyrie irving netsIrving, left, declined to apologize for the post, and when asked what specific points in the movie he did not agree with, he responded vaguely.

“Some of the criticism of the Jewish faith and the community, for sure,” Irving said. “Some points made in there that were unfortunate.”

The Nets said in a statement that Irving’s suspension would last at least five games, adding that Irving’s “failure to disavow antisemitism when given a clear opportunity to do so is deeply disturbing, is against the values of our organization, and constitutes conduct detrimental to the team.”

Last week, Irving posted a link on Twitter to the movie “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which is driven by antisemitic tropes about Jewish people lying about their origins. Its false and outlandish claims about Jews include the assertion that the Holocaust never happened.

“Those falsehoods are unfortunate,” Irving said when asked if he believed that the Holocaust occurred, despite what the movie said. “And it’s not that I don’t believe in the Holocaust. I never said that. Never ever have said it. It’s not come out of my mouth. I never tweeted it. I never liked anything like it. So, the Holocaust in itself is an event that means something to a large group of people that suffered something that could have been avoided.”

In a statement Wednesday night, Irving and the Nets said they would each donate $500,000 to unspecified causes and organizations that combat hate in their communities. The statement was jointly released by Irving, the Nets and the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that fights antisemitism. When asked Thursday if he had met with the Anti-Defamation League, Irving said he was told that the organization wanted a meeting and “we handled it.”

Irving did not apologize in the statement Wednesday, but he said he took responsibility for his post.

 

cbs logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Les Moonves and Paramount to Pay $9.75 Million in State Case Tied to Sexual Misconduct, Rebecca Robbins and Benjamin Mullin, Nov. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The New York attorney general’s office found that CBS, whose parent company is now Paramount, concealed allegations about its former chief executive from investors.

les moonvesParamount, the parent company of CBS, and the network’s former chief executive Leslie Moonves, right, agreed to pay $9.75 million after a state investigation found that the network and its senior leadership had concealed accusations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Moonves and, in the case of one executive, engaged in insider trading related to the allegations.

Paramount said it would pay $7.25 million into a settlement fund as part of the deal. Mr. Moonves will pay $2.5 million. Separately, Paramount has agreed to pay $14.75 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit related to the claims.

Paramount confirmed in a statement that it had reached a resolution with the New York attorney general’s office without admitting wrongdoing or liability.

“The matter involved alleged misconduct by CBS’s former C.E.O., who was terminated for cause in 2018, and does not relate in any way to the current company,” the statement read.

Nov. 2

Tech Dirt, Analysis and Opinion: Bullshit Reporting: The Intercept’s Story About Government Policing Disinfo Is Absolute Garbage, Mike Masnick, Nov. 2, 2022.  Do not believe everything you read. Even if it comes from more “respectable” publications.

The Intercept had a big story this week that is making the rounds, suggesting that “leaked” documents prove the DHS has been coordinating with tech companies to suppress information. The story has been immediately picked up by the usual suspects, claiming it reveals the “smoking gun” of how the Biden administration was abusing government power to censor them on social media.

The only problem? It shows nothing of the sort.

The article is garbage. It not only misreads things, it is confused about what the documents the reporters have actually say, and presents widely available, widely known things as if they were secret and hidden when they were not.

The entire article is a complete nothingburger, and is fueling a new round of lies and nonsense from people who find it useful to misrepresent reality. If the Intercept had any credibility at all it would retract the article and examine whatever processes failed in leading to the article getting published.

Let’s dig in. Back in 2018, then President Donald Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act into law, creating the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency as a separate agency in the Department of Homeland Security. While there are always reasons to be concerned about government interference in various aspects of life, CISA was pretty uncontroversial (perhaps with the exception of when Trump freaked out and fired the first CISA director, Chris Krebs, for pointing out that the election was safe and there was no evidence of manipulation or foul play).

While CISA has a variety of things under its purview, one thing that it is focused on is general information sharing between the government and private entities. This has actually been really useful for everyone, even though the tech companies have been (quite reasonably!) cautious about how closely they’ll work with the government (because they’ve been burned before). Indeed, as you may recall, one of the big revelations from the Snowden documents was about the PRISM program, which turned out to be oversold by the media reporting on it, but was still problematic in many ways. Since then, the tech companies have been even more careful about working with government, knowing that too much government involvement will eventually come out and get everyone burned.

With that in mind, CISA’s role has been pretty widely respected with almost everyone I’ve spoken to, both in government and at various companies. It provides information regarding actual threats, which has been useful to companies, and they seem to appreciate it. Given their historical distrust of government intrusion and their understanding of the limits of government authority here, the companies have been pretty attuned to any attempt at coercion, and I’ve heard of nothing regarding CISA at all.

That’s why the story seemed like such a big deal when I first read the headline and some of the summaries. But then I read the article… and the supporting documents… and there’s no there there. There’s nothing. There’s… the information sharing that everyone already knew was happening and that has been widely discussed in the past.

Let’s go through the supposed “bombshells”:

Behind closed doors, and through pressure on private platforms, the U.S. government has used its power to try to shape online discourse. According to meeting minutes and other records appended to a lawsuit filed by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican who is also running for Senate, discussions have ranged from the scale and scope of government intervention in online discourse to the mechanics of streamlining takedown requests for false or intentionally misleading information.

[Snip]

 I had tremendous respect for The Intercept, which I think has done some great work in the past, but this article is so bad, so misleading, and just so full of shit that it should be retracted. A credible news organization would not put out this kind of pure bullshit.

NBC News, Former Miss Argentina and ex-Miss Puerto Rico reveal they are married, Jay Valle, Nov. 2, 2022. They both competed in last year’s Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Thailand.

mariana varela fabiola valentinA former Miss Argentina and an ex-Miss Puerto Rico announced on Instagram over the weekend that they are married.

In a joint post shared to both their accounts, Mariana Varela of Argentina and Fabiola Valentín of Puerto Rico wrote, “After deciding to keep our relationship private, we now open our doors to a special day.” The message included what appeared to be their wedding date, Oct. 28, along with heart and ring emojis.

Varela, 26, and Valentín, 22, appear to have met last March, when they competed in the Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Thailand. In a joint Instagram post, the newlyweds said: "After deciding to keep our relationship private, we opened the doors to them on a special day 28/10/22."

Nov. 1

 

 

Christina Applegate in the final season of “Dead to Me,” premiering Nov. 17 on Netflix. “This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she said (Photo by Saeed Adyani for Netflix).

Christina Applegate in the final season of “Dead to Me,” premiering Nov. 17 on Netflix. “This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she said (Photo by Saeed Adyani for Netflix).

ny times logoNew York Times, Christina Applegate Pours One Out for ‘Dead to Me,’ Alexis Soloski, Nov. 1, 2022. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis during filming of the show’s final season, Applegate was determined to finish the story. She said it was the hardest thing she’s ever done. Christina Applegate in the final season of “Dead to Me,” premiering Nov. 17 on Netflix. “This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she said.

When Christina Applegate looks back, she can recognize the signs. Filming a dance sequence during the first season of the Netflix wine-mom dramedy “Dead to Me,” she found herself off balance. Later, her tennis game began to falter. At the time, Applegate, an actress with an aversion to special pleading, didn’t make excuses. She had to work harder, she told herself. She had to try again.

“I wish I had paid attention,” she said during a recent video call from her home in Los Angeles. “But who was I to know?”

Over several years, the tingling and numbness in her extremities grew worse. And in the summer of 2021, on set for the third and final season of “Dead to Me,” she received a diagnosis. She had multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that disrupts communication between the brain and body. Production shut down for about five months as she began treatment.

“There was the sense of, ‘Well, let’s get her some medicine so she can get better,’” Applegate, 50, recalled. “And there is no better. But it was good for me. I needed to process my loss of my life, my loss of that part of me. So I needed that time.”

“Although it’s not like I came on the other side of it, like, ‘Woohoo, I’m totally fine,’” she added. “Acceptance? No. I’m never going to accept this. I’m pissed.”

This was on a recent morning. Applegate was sitting up in bed — her happy place, where she watches reality television. (“That’s my meditation,” she said.) She had pulled her hair into a scrappy bun. Black glasses sat astride her nose. And her resting face did have a certain indignant quality.

But she wanted to do this interview, because the last season of “Dead to Me” arrives on Netflix later this month, on Nov. 17.

“This is the first time anyone’s going to see me the way I am,” she said. “I put on 40 pounds; I can’t walk without a cane. I want people to know that I am very aware of all of that.”

In truth, her illness is nearly invisible onscreen — a feat of savvy blocking and Applegate’s talent and resolve. Still, she wanted to offer context.

 

 

alex drueke left andy tai huynh william deshazer post

ny times logoNew York Times, Company Backed by J.D. Vance Gives Platform for Russian Propaganda, Danny Hakim, Updated Nov. 1, 2022. In June, two American veterans fighting as volunteers in Ukraine, Alex Drueke and Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh (shown above), were captured by Russian forces. They were taken to a black site where they were beaten, run into walls with bags over their heads and hooked up to a car battery and “electrocuted,” the men said after being freed in late September.

rt logoBetween beatings, they told The New York Times, they were interviewed on Russian media outlets, including RT, one of the Kremlin’s primary propaganda organs in the West.

rumble logo“They stayed away from our faces because they knew that we were going to be on camera, that they were going to try and use this for propaganda.,” Mr. Drueke said. “So they wanted our faces to look OK. But they took care of our bodies pretty good.”

RT had been largely taken off the air in the United States and banned by the European Union in March after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s armies invaded Ukraine. But in June, its version of the captives’ story appeared on Rumble, a video-sharing platform that stepped in this year and began carrying RT’s live feed, in addition to its clips. There, a glum-looking Mr. Huynh says they joined the fight in Ukraine after being duped by “propaganda from the West” that “Russian forces were indiscriminately killing civilians.”

jd vance w gage skidmoreRumble has become a leading destination for conservative content by positioning itself as a platform for unfettered speech, an alternative to the content moderation — or “censorship,” to many on the right — of mainstream social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Last year, Rumble received a major investment from a venture capital firm co-founded by J.D. Vance,  the Republican Senate candidate in Ohio. The firm, Narya Capital, got a seat on Rumble’s board, and its more than seven million shares place it among the company’s top 10 shareholders, according to securities filings.

Mr. Vance, shown at left in a Gage Skidmore photo also took a personal Rumble stake worth between $100,000 and $250,000, his financial disclosures show.

Narya is backed by the prime patron of Mr. Vance’s Senate campaign, the billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel. And it was Mr. Thiel who played a leading role in Narya’s Rumble investment last year, becoming what the platform’s chief executive described as its first outside investor.

peter thiel twitter smileThe investment fits into an enduring narrative of Mr. Thiel, who has expressed skepticism of democracy and advocated keeping the airwaves open for hard-right voices since his student days at Stanford. It also helps illuminate the relationship between Mr. Vance and Mr. Thiel, left, who mentored the candidate in his Silicon Valley business empire and has contributed more than $15 million to his campaign and affiliated political action committees. (Mr. Thiel has contributed another $15 million to support the candidacy of another protégé, the Republican Senate candidate in Arizona, Blake Masters.)

Asked about Rumble’s hosting of RT, the Vance campaign issued a statement. “J.D. does not play an active role at Rumble, nor does he set Rumble’s content moderation policies,” the campaign said. “It’s a dishonest straw man to suggest that just because someone believes in free speech rights online that they also personally endorse that speech. It’s embarrassing that an industry like the media, which relies on the First Amendment, has so much trouble comprehending that.” Mr. Thiel’s spokesman did not comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Blocks Merger of Top U.S. Book Publisher and a Main Rival, Alexandra Alter and Elizabeth A. Harris, Nov. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The government’s case blocked the merger of two of the United States’ largest publishers and reflected a more aggressive approach to curbing consolidation. It was closely watched by the publishing industry.

A federal judge blocked on Monday a bid by Penguin Random House, the biggest book publisher in the United States, to buy one of its main rivals, Simon & penguin books logoSchuster, in a significant victory for the Biden administration, which is trying to expand the boundaries of antitrust enforcement.

The judge, Florence Y. Pan, who heard the case in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, said in an order that the Justice Department had demonstrated that the merger might “substantially” harm competition in the market for U.S. publishing rights to simon schuster logoanticipated top-selling books.

The full order laying out Judge Pan’s reasoning is temporarily under seal because it contains confidential information, and will be released later after both parties file redactions.

Penguin Random House and its parent company, Bertelsmann, said in response on Monday that they planned to appeal.

In a statement, Penguin Random House called the decision “an unfortunate setback for readers and authors” and argued that “the Department of Justice’s focus on advances to the world’s best-paid authors instead of consumers or the intense competitiveness in the publishing sector runs contrary to its mission to ensure fair competition.”

The victory is a notable one for the Justice Department. Judges have ruled against several of its previous challenges to corporate deals, including UnitedHealth Group’s purchase of a technology company. In a statement on Monday, the Justice Department hailed the ruling as a win for authors and readers.

“The proposed merger would have reduced competition, decreased author compensation, diminished the breadth, depth, and diversity of our stories and ideas, and ultimately impoverished our democracy,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the department’s antitrust division.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk, Plus a Circle of Confidants, Tightens Control Over Twitter, Mike Isaac, Ryan Mac and Kate Conger, Nov. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The billionaire and a group of his advisers are working on layoff plans and how to swiftly change Twitter’s product, said people with knowledge of the matter.

Elon Musk, right, and a group of his advisers have tightened their grip over Twitter, meeting with company executives to work on layoffs, ordering up product changes, talking with advertisers and reviewing content moderation policies, according to more than a dozen current and former employees involved in the elon musk 2015efforts.

The priorities for the world’s richest man and his advisers at Twitter are twofold, five of the people said: They are working on how to trim the company’s ranks while also exploring a slew of changes to Twitter’s mobile app.

twitter bird CustomFor now, the timing and scope of layoffs remains fluid as lists of the top and lower performers at the company are finalized, the people said. Mr. Musk’s advisers have also assigned a team of Twitter’s engineers to work on its “verification” program, the system that doles out badges to high-profile or notable users to confirm their profiles’ authenticity. Twitter could charge users $20 a month to retain their verified status, two people with knowledge of the discussions said.

Mr. Musk, 51, flew to New York on Sunday after spending much of last week at Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco, according to one person familiar with his movements and a Twitter account that tracks the location of his private jet. Some of his trusted confidants remain in San Francisco, the people said, including David Sacks, a venture capitalist, and Sriram Krishnan, a former Twitter product leader and partner at the investment firm Andreessen Horowitz, which invested in Mr. Musk’s buyout of Twitter.

 

elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk’s inner circle worked through the weekend to cement Twitter layoff plans, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Faiz Siddiqui, Nov. 1, 2022 (print ed.). The first round of layoffs is expected to target 25 percent of Twitter’s workforce.

Members of billionaire Elon Musk’s inner circle huddled with Twitter’s remaining senior executives throughout the weekend, conducting detailed discussions regarding the site’s approach to content moderation, as well as plans to lay off 25 percent of the workforce to start.

Alex Spiro, a well-known celebrity lawyer who has represented Musk for several years, led those conversations. Spiro is taking an active role in managing several teams at Twitter, including legal, government relations, policy and marketing, according to four people familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe them, as well as tweets from some of the people involved.

Longtime Musk associates David Sacks and Jason Calacanis appeared in a company directory over the weekend, according to photos obtained by The Washington Post. Both had official company emails and their titles were “staff software engineer.” Musk’s title in the directory was CEO, although that position has not been publicly announced. He refers to himself as “Chief Twit.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter wants to charge for verification. Here’s what you need to know, Heather Kelly and Gerrit De Vynck, Nov. 1, 2022. Whether you use Twitter or not, the change could have broader implications for everything from misinformation to elections. The coveted blue check mark could soon cost up to $20 a month.

The first big new Twitter feature under Elon Musk could cost you.

The company is considering charging users to get verified and display the signature blue check mark next to their account name. It’s something Twitter has offered to some accounts for free in the past, with mixed success.
Help Desk: Technology coverage that makes tech work for you

Over the weekend, Jason Calacanis, a longtime Musk associate who has been brought in to help run Twitter, posted a poll asking how much people would be willing to pay for the honor. The vast majority voted “wouldn’t pay.”

If undeterred, Twitter could charge as much as $20 a month for the privilege of having the blue check, according to a person familiar with the issue who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. Twitter’s existing paid version, called Twitter Blue, would be combined with the verification process, and some of its existing features may be cut, according to the person.

What apps to use if you leave Twitter

Whether you use Twitter or not, the change could have broader implications for everything from misinformation to elections. Here’s what you need to know.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk mulls Twitter verification charge, barters with Stephen King on fee, Adela Suliman, Nov. 1, 2022. Twitter’s new owner and CEO, Elon Musk, appeared to confirm reports that the platform is considering charging people $20 to maintain the coveted blue check mark of verification on their account in an exchange with the horror author Stephen King.

King lambasted the idea of requiring payment, tweeting to his almost 7 million followers on Monday: “They should pay me. If that gets instituted, I’m gone like Enron,” he said, alluding to the energy company that collapsed in scandal and filed for bankruptcy.

In response, Musk suggested that charging for verification would help the site to make a profit and appeared to negotiate with King, tweeting: “We need to pay the bills somehow! Twitter cannot rely entirely on advertisers. How about $8?”

“I will explain the rationale in longer form before this is implemented. It is the only way to defeat the bots & trolls,” Musk added. King did not reply.

Twitter wants to charge for verification. Here’s what you need to know.

The billionaire Tesla and SpaceX owner completed his purchase of Twitter for $44 billion last week after several months of negotiations and legal wrangling.

In the run-up to his Twitter acquisition, Musk made the issue of fake Twitter accounts run by “bots” a point of major contention as he demanded more internal data from the company to evaluate the number of fake users on the site.

He has since said that the “whole verification process is being revamped” without sharing more details, though he has yet to confirm whether any payment will be requested for verification.

The blue verification badge signifies that an account is “authentic, notable, and active,” according to Twitter, and is generally held by public figures in government, news and entertainment, among other limited fields.

Musk’s inner circle worked through weekend to cement Twitter layoff plans

Tech investor and longtime Musk associate Jason Calacanis, who since Musk’s acquisition has appeared in Twitter’s company directory, also solicited interest in various payment amounts for a blue check on Monday, administering a poll of prices ranging from $5 to $15 a month. While the poll remains open, an overwhelming 82 percent of respondents have so far indicated they wouldn’t pay. Musk responded to Calacanis’s poll, saying: “Interesting.”

washington post logoWashington Post, It’s true, Martin Luther King Jr. paid the hospital bill when actress Julia Roberts was born, Sydney Page, Nov. 1, 2022. Before Julia Roberts’s birth, her parents had welcomed the King children into their theater school and became friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
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washington post logoWashington Post, Taylor Swift claims every spot in the Billboard Top 10, making music history, María Luisa Paúl, Nov. 1, 2022. Last month, Taylor Swift kept fans up with her 12 a.m. debut of “Midnights,” her tenth and latest album. Three hours later, the pop star — who has a penchant for surprising fans — dropped seven extra tracks in a deluxe version aptly titled “Midnights (3am Edition).”

The sleepless night — mirroring the ones she croons about on the record — paid off. “Midnights” turned Swift into the first artist to snag every one of the top 10 slots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, all with songs from the 13-song album.

It is a previously unheard-of, tremendous achievement for any artist, experts told The Washington Post. Amid the music industry’s changing ecosystem in the age of streaming, the feat could only be pulled off by someone who brings to the table exactly what Swift does: an established stardom, a loyal fan base, a savvy social media strategy and a relentless marketing machine.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Rapper Takeoff of the group Migos fatally shot in Houston, his representative confirms to AP, Andrea Salcedo, Sonia Rao and Annabelle Timsit, Nov. 1, 2022. Rapper Takeoff, one third of the group Migos, was killed in a shooting at a private party early Tuesday in Houston, his representative confirmed to the Associated Press.

Houston police said they would not be identifying the person killed in the shooting “until his family is notified & ID verified by Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences.” Police said the victim was a Black male in his 20s. The shooting took place at a bowling alley, at 2:40 a.m., local news outlet Click2Houston reported.

A reporter for Fox 26 in Houston shared a clip of a news conference, with a spokesperson confirming police “were informed” that members of the hip-hop trio Migos — Takeoff, 28, and Quavo — were at the scene. It is not known whether Offset, the third member of the group, was at the private gathering. All three members of Migos are related; Takeoff, whose real name is Kirshnik Khari Ball, is the nephew of Quavo, born Quavious Keyate Marshall. Offset, whose name is Kiari Kendrell Cephus, is Quavo’s cousin.

 

truth social logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Truth Social’s Influence Grows Despite Its Business Problems, Stuart A. Thompson and Matthew Goldstein, Nov. 1, 2022. The right-wing social network faces two federal investigations and an uncertain financial future. But it has still managed to outpace its rivals.

Truth Social, the right-wing social network, has faced one business calamity after the next since it launched in February. Two executives resigned after its app launch was mired with problems. Another executive was fired after filing a whistle-blower complaint, claiming that Truth’s parent company was relying on “fraudulent misrepresentations.” Two federal investigations are putting $1.3 billion in much-needed financing in jeopardy.

Yet users logging into Truth Social each day saw something quite different during that time: a vibrant right-wing ecosystem increasingly brimming with activity.

Truth Social’s long-term future remains in doubt, but experts say the app itself has only grown more influential in conservative circles ahead of the midterm election.

Much of that is owed to former President Donald J. Trump, one of the app’s founders and its star, who now uses Truth Social as his primary megaphone to the world. His posts on the site reach more than four million followers and regularly reverberate across mainstream news and social media sites.

The Nick Bryant Podcast, Speaking on the Media with investigative reporter Andrew Kreig, Nick Bryant (author or co-author of such investigative books as The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse, & Betrayal and Confessions of a DC Madam, and such articles as "Jeffrey Epstein’s Black Book" and "Obama's Veiled Past," Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2022 (82:35 mins.).

Attorney Andrew Kreig directs the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project, which reports misconduct, primarily in the justice and political systems, that harms individuals, communities and democratic values.

When Andrew and the host discussed his book Presidential Puppetry, Nick Bryant cited similar findings in an article he wrote on Obama's background for readers of his blog.

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Planned to Kidnap Nancy Pelosi and Break Her Kneecaps, Prosecutors Say, Glenn Thrush, Kellen Browning and Luke Vander Ploeg, Nov. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Intruder Wanted to Break Speaker Pelosi’s Kneecaps, Federal Complaint Says.

Federal prosecutors filed charges on Monday against the man the police said broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and struck her husband with a hammer.

Federal prosecutors charged the man accused of breaking into the San Francisco home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi with attempting to kidnap Ms. Pelosi and with assaulting a relative of a federal official, according to charging documents filed on Monday.

david depape 2013The suspect, David DePape, 42, above, was apprehended by the police at the Pelosi home in the early morning hours on Friday. The police said he forcibly entered through the back door of the house, encountered Ms. Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, 82, and, following a struggle over a hammer, struck him with it.

Mr. DePape was looking for Ms. Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time, to interrogate the speaker on an unspecified political matter, according to the federal complaint. If she told the “truth,” he would let her go; if she “lied,” he intended to break her kneecaps because he saw her as “the ‘leader of the pack’ of lies told by the Democratic Party” and wanted her to be wheeled into Congress as a lesson to other Democrats, Mr. DePape told police officers in an interview.

He had “a roll of tape, white rope, a second hammer, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and zip ties” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, which filed the charges.

The swift action by the Justice Department in bringing federal charges — on the same day the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office filed its own charges against Mr. DePape — reflects the department’s urgency in addressing what it sees as a politically motivated crime shortly before the 2022 midterm elections. There has been a surge in threats and attacks against figures of both political parties in recent years, and Ms. Pelosi, in particular, has long been the subject of vilification and threats.

Federal prosecutors filed charges on Monday against the man the police said broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and struck her husband with a hammer.

Later on Monday, Brooke Jenkins, the San Francisco district attorney, announced additional state charges. Mr. DePape was charged with six felonies: attempted murder, residential burglary, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment of an elder and threatening family members of public officials. Mr. DePape was expected to be arraigned in superior court on Tuesday.
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Mr. Pelosi, who alerted the police, underwent surgery on Friday after sustaining a fractured skull and serious injuries to his hands and right arm, according to a spokesman for Ms. Pelosi. Mr. Pelosi remains in the intensive care unit of a San Francisco hospital, surrounded by his family, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Law enforcement officials said that Mr. DePape sustained “minor injuries” and was treated at a hospital.

The affidavit from an F.B.I. agent that accompanied the charges provided the most complete, and chilling, narrative of the break-in to date. It detailed a groggy early-morning home invasion that culminated with a single, sudden hammer blow, delivered in the presence of shocked police officers.

Mr. DePape broke a glass door and entered the residence, awakening Mr. Pelosi, who confronted him and then ducked into a bathroom to call 911 at 2:23 a.m. Officers with the San Francisco Police Department arrived eight minutes later to find the two men struggling over a hammer.

When they asked what was going on, Mr. DePape “responded that everything was good,” the agent wrote. At that moment, Mr. DePape yanked the hammer from Mr. Pelosi’s grip and struck him once in the head, rendering him unconscious on the floor.

The officers quickly restrained Mr. DePape, who told them he had left his backpack near the smashed door window on the rear porch. When they examined its contents, they found another hammer, tape, rope, two pairs of gloves — rubber and cloth — and a journal.

The police recovered the zip ties in the bedroom. Mr. DePape later told officers he had intended to tie up Mr. Pelosi until the speaker arrived home.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republicans are continuing to spread baseless claims about the attack, Steven Lee Myers and Stuart A. Thompson, Nov. 1, 2022 (print ed.). Some of the conspiracy theories have already seeped into the Republican mainstream.

Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s son, continues to post jokes about it.

rnc logoDinesh D’Souza, the creator of a discredited film about the 2020 election called “2000 Mules,” accused the San Francisco Police Department on Monday of covering up the facts.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, wrote that the “same mainstream media democrat activists” who questioned former President Donald J. Trump’s ties to Russia were now silencing the new owner of Twitter, Elon Musk.

The reason: Mr. Musk deleted a post linking to a newspaper that once claimed Hillary Rodham Clinton was dead when she ran for president in 2016.

In the days since Paul Pelosi, the 82-year-old husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, was attacked by an intruder asking, “Where is Nancy?”, a litany of Republicans and conservatives have spread baseless conspiracy theories about the assault and its motives.

Although the police have not yet detailed all the circumstances of the crime, these theories have already seeped into the Republican mainstream. While many Republican officials have denounced the violence, others have at the very least tolerated, and in some cases cheered, a violent assault on the spouse of a political rival.

The disinformation “isn’t just political,” said Angelo Carusone, the president and chief executive of Media Matters for America, a progressive nonprofit. “It’s much bigger than that; it’s deeper. They’re really rethinking and reshaping a lot of our norms.”

The attack on Mr. Pelosi in the couple’s home in San Francisco early on Friday morning has raised fears about the rise of political violence against elected officials — increasingly, it seems, inspired by a toxic brew of extremism, hate and paranoia that is easily found online.

The assailant, identified by the police as David DePape, 42, posted a series of notes in the days before the attack suggesting that he had fallen under the sway of right-wing conspiracy theories and antisemitism online. Some of the flurry of posts by others questioning the circumstances of the attack appeared intended to deflect attention from Mr. DePape’s views.

No top Republican lawmakers joined in peddling unfounded claims about the attack, but few denounced them, either. Mrs. Clinton, the former first lady and senator who lost to Mr. Trump in 2016, pointedly blamed the party for spreading “hate and deranged conspiracy theories.”

 

October

Oct. 31

washington post logoWashington Post, Alleged assailant filled blog with delusional thoughts in days before Pelosi attack, Aaron C. Davis and Dalton Bennett, Oct. 31, 2022 (print ed.). San Francisco Bay area resident David DePape wrote that an invisible fairy had attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird. Other posts were filled with screeds against Jews, Black people, Democrats and the media.

The San Francisco Bay area man arrested in the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband filled a blog a week before the incident with delusional thoughts, including that an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird, according to online writings under his name.

David DePape, 42, also published hundreds of blog posts in recent months sharing memes in support of fringe commentators and far-right personalities. Many of the posts were filled with screeds against Jews, Black people, Democrats, the media and transgender people.

During October, DePape published over 100 posts. While each loads, a reader briefly glimpses an image of a person wearing a giant inflatable unicorn costume, superimposed against a night sky. The photos and videos that followed were often dark and disturbing.

He published a drawing of the Devil kneeling and asking a caricature of a Jewish person to teach him the arts of “lying, deception, cheating and incitement.” Several contain lifelike images of rotting human flesh and blood, including a zombified Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton. Others depict headless bodies against bleak, dystopian landscapes.

Before those writings were removed Saturday, The Washington Post reviewed them, as well as gory photos, illustrations and videos on a website that DePape registered under his name in early August and that his daughter confirmed was his. Notably, the voluminous writings do not mention Pelosi. Police say DePape broke into the home Pelosi shares with her husband early Friday, yelled “Where is Nancy?” and attacked 82-year-old Paul Pelosi with a hammer.

Pelosi remained hospitalized Saturday, recovering from surgery to repair a skull fracture and serious injuries to his right arm and hand, according to the speaker’s office. San Francisco’s police chief and district attorney provided no update, but on Friday local, state and federal authorities said they were working together to investigate DePape’s motive.

 

Social media responders promptly created the above caricature of Twitter's new owner, Elon Musk, portrayed wearing a tinfoil hat after his weekend moves to retweet with no evidence an ultra-right smear lewd smear of the QAnon type suggesting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul Pelosi had been involved in lewd behavior when he was attacked at night at his home by a Trump supporter fracturing Pelosi's head with a hammer.

Social media responders promptly created the above caricature of Twitter's new owner, Elon Musk, portrayed wearing a tinfoil hat after his weekend moves to retweet with no evidence an ultra-right smear lewd smear of the QAnon type suggesting that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul Pelosi had been involved in lewd behavior when he was attacked at night at his home by a Trump supporter fracturing Pelosi's head with a hammer. Shown below is Musk's Tweet spreading the smear. That prompted many Twitter users to suggest he would be using his newfound power over the platform to spread disinformation helping ultra-right interests, with a goal in part on to help Republicans regain power in the mid-term elections occurring now until Nov. 8 in the United States.

 

Elon Musk Pelosi Retweet

 

Musk made news also over the weekend by setting in motion massive firings at Twitter, especially among content moderators, with one reputed goal being to deprive workers of vesting in stock option rights that many were expecting as of Nov. 1. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk, right-wing figures push misinformation about Pelosi attack, Isaac Stanley-Becker, Oct. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Twitter’s new owner sowed doubt about law enforcement’s account as suggestions of a “false flag” flooded the site.

An online forum devoted to former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon’s right-wing radio show alerted its 78,000 subscribers to “very strange new details on Paul Pelosi attack.”

Roger Stone, a longtime political consigliere to former president Donald Trump, took to the fast-growing messaging app Telegram to call the assault on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband an “alleged attack,” telling his followers that a “stench” surrounded mainstream reporting about the Friday break-in that left Pelosi, 82, with a skull fracture.

twitter bird CustomThe skepticism didn’t stay in right-wing echo chambers but seeped also into the feeds of popular online personalities, including Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, right.

elon musk 2015“There is a tiny possibility there might be more to this story than meets the eye,” he wrote Sunday morning, pointing his 112 million followers to a sensationalist account of the episode published by a site known for spreading right-wing misinformation.

The rush to sow doubt about the assault on Pelosi’s husband illustrates how aggressively influential figures on the right are seeking to dissuade the public from believing facts about the violence, seizing on the event to promote conspiracy theories and provoke distrust. The House speaker has long been a bugbear for the right, which has intensified its rhetorical blitz on her in recent years — even as extreme threats against members of Congress have increased.

These merchants of misinformation, said Carl Cameron, a former longtime Fox News political correspondent, deceive their massive audiences using rumors and lies about everything from the integrity of elections to the details of a police report.

“They are creating a dystopia wherein lying and physical violence become part of our politics,” he said.

Proof via Twitter, Commentary: Is it a dangerous situation when the Twitter CEO is digitally illiterate? @SethAbramson (journalism professor, best-selling seth abramson proof logoauthor of the "Proof" series and attorney), Oct. 30, 2022.  When he indulges conspiracy theories because—as an egomaniacal billionaire—he wants to think he knows better than everyone else? And because no one can lecture him on anything?

Yes.

I’ve diagnosed the problem. @ElonMusk is what academics call “digitally illiterate.” Clinton posted a Los Angeles Times article, and Musk replied with *a post from a fake-news site* that’s already down. Then he wrote “tiny possibility” as a hedge against spreading disinformation.

Politico, Top Republicans deny any link between GOP rhetoric and Paul Pelosi assault, Olivia Olander, Oct. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Republican National Committee Chair Ronna politico Customrnc logoMcDaniel called it “unfair” that Democrats would draw a direct line between her party’s villainizing of Pelosi and the Friday home invasion that left the speaker’s husband hospitalized.

And National Republican Congressional Committee Chair Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), who posted a video last week of himself firing a gun with the hashtag #FirePelosi, deflected a question about whether he should have used a weapon along with the hashtag.

 

elon musk sideview

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Elon Musk Make the Math Work on Owning Twitter? It’s Dicey, Lauren Hirsch, Oct. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Musk faces financial challenges in owning Twitter. The site frequently loses money and took on $13 billion in debt for the blockbuster deal.

Now that Elon Musk has completed his $44 billion deal for Twitter, let’s walk through the math of owning the social media company.

twitter bird CustomIt’s not just an academic exercise. Mr. Musk’s ability to make the numbers work will have a direct impact on the health of a service called the world’s town square, determining what direction he takes the business and the platform. If the financial case is grim, any plans to invest in Twitter may have to take a back seat to simply paying the bills.

The numbers are already daunting. The $44 billion acquisition was the largest leveraged buyout of a technology company in history. To do the deal, Mr. Musk, the world’s richest man, loaded about $13 billion in debt on the company, which had not turned a profit for eight of the past 10 years. The deal was inked before the global economy looked to be headed toward a recession as interest rates surged higher. And digital advertising, which makes up 90 percent of Twitter’s revenue, has been falling at social media companies.

“Technology companies should be left with enough flexibility to pay for new research and development and new levels of innovation,” said Drew Pascarella, a senior lecturer of finance at Cornell University who previously worked as a banker advising on acquisitions. This buyout “completely eliminates flexibility.”

 

Ye, the performer, designer and political provocateur formerly known Kanye West, poses with the logo of Addisdas, his former business partner and a company with roots in the Nazi era of Germany that can no longer afford association with Ye despite the huge profits they have made together.

Ye, the performer, designer and political provocateur formerly known Kanye West, poses with the logo of Addisdas, his former business partner and a company with roots in the Nazi era of Germany that can no longer afford association with Ye despite the huge profits they have made together. The graphic illustrate how a different athletic shoe company later repulshed his overtures.

ny times logocharles blow beard twitterNew York Times, Opinion: The Self-Destruction of Ye, Charles M. Blow, Oct. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Honestly, I never expected this episode of Kanye West drama to last as long as it has. I certainly didn’t expect myself to care much about it. I figured I’d weigh in once and move on.

“Billionaire Maker of Ugly Shoes and Oversized Jackets Ends Career With Reckless Mouth.”

That, I thought, would be it. But it hasn’t been. His embrace of anti-Black, antisemitic and white supremacist language wasn’t the only thing that interested me. I have also been watching the reactions to his fall, which, in all their strange contradictions, have exposed ugly truths about power in this country — who can and will demand accountability, how corporations exploit culture and character until they imperil profits, how some people absorb and accept insult and give too long a leash to those with the most money and most fame.

Let me first say this: West, who now goes by Ye, should have become a pariah when he was talking about slavery as a choice, making a mockery of Black ancestors whose suffering was anything but a choice. But Ye wasn’t vanquished. He offered a weak-tea apology, and the odiousness of the offense faded. People packed his concerts and bought his clothing. Corporations flocked to be associated with him.

He should have become a pariah when he gushed over Donald Trump in the Oval Office and said of his MAGA hat: “There was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman.”

But nothing. The deals continued. The legend grew.

So long as he was a Black man positioning himself in opposition to Black people’s interests, he was a phenom. He was counterculture. He was a disrupter. He was above and beyond conventional thinking and conventional labels.

But of course, he wasn’t beyond labels. Black people have known for centuries what to call people like Ye, who claim to be the epitome of Blackness but enrich themselves by defaming it and commodifying its culture. There are many names for what he is, but one of the printable ones is “sellout.”

The Nick Bryant Podcast, Speaking on the Media with investigative reporter Andrew Kreig, Nick Bryant (author or co-author of such investigative books as The Franklin Scandal: A Story of Powerbrokers, Child Abuse, & Betrayal and Congressions of a DC Madam, and such articles as "Jeffrey Epstein’s Black Book" and "Obama's Veiled Past," Oct. 28-Nov. 3, 2022 (82:35 mins.).

Attorney Andrew Kreig directs the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project, which reports misconduct, primarily in the justice and political systems, that harms individuals, communities and democratic values.

When Andrew and the host discussed his book Presidential Puppetry, Nick Bryant cited similar findings in an article he wrote on Obama's background for readers of his blog.

Oct. 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband follows years of GOP demonizing her, Ashley Parker, Hannah Allam and Marianna Sotomayor, Oct. 30, 2022 (print ed.). This year, the House speaker emerged as the top member of Congress maligned in political ads.

In 2010, Republicans launched a “Fire Pelosi” project — complete with a bus tour, a #FIREPELOSI hashtag and images of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) engulfed in Hades-style flames — devoted to retaking the House and demoting Pelosi from her perch as speaker.

Eleven years later, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) joked that if he becomes the next leader of the House, “it will be hard not to hit” Pelosi with the speaker’s gavel.

And this year, Pelosi — who Republicans have long demonized as the face of progressive policies and who was a target of rioters during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol — emerged as the top member of Congress maligned in political ads, with Republicans spending nearly $40 million on ads that mention Pelosi in the final stretch of the campaign, according to AdImpact, which tracks television and digital ad spending.

The years of vilification culminated Friday when Pelosi’s husband, Paul, was attacked with a hammer during an early-morning break-in at the couple’s home in San Francisco by a man searching for the speaker and shouting “Where is Nancy? Where is Nancy?” according to someone briefed on the assault.

Police arrested the suspect, 42-year-old David DePape, who attacked Paul Pelosi, 82, and authorities plan to charge him with attempted murder and other crimes, San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said at a news conference Friday. Paul Pelosi was taken to a hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, the speaker’s office said.

  • Washington Post, Assailant shouted ‘Where is Nancy?’; Paul Pelosi undergoes surgery for skull fracture
  • Washington Post, What we know about the attack and the suspect now in custody
  • Washington Post, Youngkin draws ire with Pelosi comment that Democrats call insensitive, Oct. 29, 2022.

politico CustomPolitico, Law enforcement agencies rush to assess new threats to lawmakers, Erin Banco, Sam Stein and Heidi Przybyla, Oct. 30, 2022. Local law enforcement officials are trying to understand the scale of potential threats to the physical safety of high-profile politicians and election workers before the midterms.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter, Once a Threat to Titans, Now Belongs to One, Kevin Roose, Oct. 30, 2022 (print ed.). A decade ago, when Twitter — then a scrappy, young microblogging service — burst into the mainstream, it felt like a tool for challenging authority.

twitter bird CustomPro-democracy activists in Libya and Egypt used Twitter to help topple dictatorships. Americans used it to occupy Wall Street. And in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing an unarmed Black teenager named Trayvon Martin, #BlackLivesMatter took root on Twitter.

These campaigns fueled one of the defining ideas of the 2010s: that social media was an underdog’s dream, a tool for bottom-up organizing that would empower dissidents and marginalized groups, topple corrupt institutions and give ordinary people the ability to communicate on equal footing with tycoons and tyrants. Or, as the Chinese activist and artist Ai Weiwei put it in 2010, “Twitter is the people’s tool, the tool of elon musk 2015the ordinary people, people who have no other resources.”

That narrative — shaky as it might have been all along — officially ended this week, when Twitter became the property of the richest man in the world.

Elon Musk, left, the billionaire industrialist whose on-again, off-again bid for Twitter this year has been marked by chaos and confusion, has now added the company to a portfolio that includes Tesla, SpaceX and the Boring Company.

The deal, which cost Mr. Musk and his investment partners $44 billion, made history for several reasons. It was the largest buyout in tech history and the first time in years that a major social media network has been sold to an outsider.

It was also a symbolic bookend to a decade in which social media evolved to be, in many ways, more useful to the powerful than the powerless.

  • The Independent via Twitter, Elon Musk shares lurid conspiracy theory about Paul Pelosi, Oct. 30, 2022.
  • Duty To Warn via Twitter, The lunatic is running the asylum. Hate speech up 500%, Kanye is back, and Elon is retweeting misinformation about Paul Pelosi. And that’s just our first day.

Proof via Twitter, Commentary: Is it a dangerous situation when the Twitter CEO is digitally illiterate? @SethAbramson (journalism professor, best-selling author of the "Proof" series and attorney), Oct. 30, 2022.  When he indulges conspiracy theories because—as an egomaniacal billionaire—he wants to think he knows better than everyone else? And because no one can lecture him on anything?

Yes.

I’ve diagnosed the problem. @ElonMusk is what academics call “digitally illiterate.” Clinton posted a Los Angeles Times article, and Musk replied with *a post from a fake-news site* that’s already down. Then he wrote “tiny possibility” as a hedge against spreading disinformation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk’s planned Twitter layoffs appear to be imminent, Faiz Siddiqui, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Gerrit De Vynck, Oct. 30, 2022. Tesla engineers were on-site to evaluate the Twitter staff’s code, workers said, as anxiety built around Musk’s silence.

Elon Musk’s plans to lay off large number of Twitter employees are getting underway, a course of action that could prompt fundamental changes in the way more than 200 million daily users experience the site.

twitter bird CustomLayoffs are expected to be broad, according to three people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters. One of the first organizations to be impacted will likely be legal, trust, and safety, the organization that sets policy and oversees content moderation, one of the people said. Managers in information security and privacy were also among those drawing up lists of layoff targets Saturday, a fourth person who spoke under the same conditions added.

Two of the people said that layoffs were likely to happen before Nov. 1, when employees are set to receive stock grants, cutting them off from compensation they had expected to receive.

The Washington Post previously reported that Musk planned to cut nearly 75 percent of the workforce of 7,500. One of the people familiar with the discussions said this week the cuts would be closer to 50 percent.

Musk’s new ownership is expected to bring sweeping changes to the social media company, which has long been regarded as an underperformer in Silicon Valley. Musk broke with the previous management over the company’s approach to policing speech online. He is expected to ease its content moderation efforts, and indicated Friday in a tweet that he would not reinstate any banned accounts until he convened a new council on content moderation — as well as saying he had not yet made any changes to those policies at Twitter.

But the uncertainty inside the company is most evident around staff cuts and changes, as workers have waited for weeks to learn if they might still have a role at Twitter following the acquisition.

Elon Musk, the Twitter deal and his quest to save ‘all life on Earth’

Musk has a reputation as a fierce manager who demands the most out of his employees, quick to replace those who underperform and even subjecting some to “rage firings.” But he is also revered in his field, with a unique ability to attract talent to his companies as they embark on missions regarded as world-changing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Nets Owner Rebukes Kyrie Irving for Posts About Antisemitic Documentary, Shauntel Lowe, Oct. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The Nets owner Joe Tsai spoke out against his team’s star guard Kyrie Irving on Friday after Irving tweeted a link to a documentary that promotes antisemitic tropes.

“I’m disappointed that Kyrie appears to support a film based on a book full of anti-semitic disinformation,” Tsai wrote in a Twitter post late Friday. “I want to sit down and make sure he understands this is hurtful to all of us, and as a man of faith, it is wrong to promote hate based on race, ethnicity or religion.

“This is bigger than basketball.”

nba logoTsai posted on Twitter just before 11:30 p.m. Friday. A representative for Irving did not immediately respond to a text message.

The documentary, “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” was written and directed by Ronald Dalton Jr. and released in 2018. Dalton also released a book with the same title. On Thursday, Irving tweeted a link to a site where users can rent or buy the documentary. He also shared a screenshot of the site on Instagram. In response, Rolling Stone magazine reported on the antisemitic messaging of the documentary and the book.

Irving, 30, is a seven-time All-Star in his fourth season with the Nets, but his off-court actions have often overshadowed his basketball career.

He did not play in most of the Nets’ games last season in part because he refused to be vaccinated against the coronavirus, which New York City required for him to compete in home games. The Nets initially barred him from road games as well but relented about two months into the season as the team struggled.

In September, Irving was widely criticized for sharing a conspiracy-theory video by the Infowars host Alex Jones, who for years falsely said the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 children and adults was a hoax.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the N.B.A. Hall of Famer, chastised Irving for sharing Jones’s video, writing on Substack that “Kyrie Irving would be dismissed as a comical buffoon if it weren’t for his influence over young people who look up to athletes.”

In 2018, Irving was mocked for falsely suggesting that the Earth might be flat.

“Can you openly admit that you know the Earth is constitutionally round?” he said in an interview with The New York Times. “Like, you know that for sure? Like, I don’t know.”

Irving joined the Nets as a free agent in 2019 after playing for the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with whom he won a championship in 2016 alongside LeBron James. The Nets have made the playoffs in each of Irving’s seasons with the team, but they are struggling this year. Five games into the season, they have won just once. Their next game is Saturday at home against the Indiana Pacers.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: American Jews start to think the unthinkable, Dana Milbank, right, Oct. 30, 2022 (print ed.). The fear of exile has become common as Jews dana milbank newestsee the unraveling rule of law.

On the holiest night of the Jewish year earlier this month, my rabbi looked up from his Kol Nidre sermon — a homily about protecting America’s liberal democracy — and posed a question that wasn’t in his prepared text: “How many people in the last few years have been at a dining room conversation where the conversation has turned to where might we move? How many of us?”

He was talking about the unthinkable: that Jews might need to flee the United States. In the congregation, many hands — most? — went up.

The fear of exile has become common as Jews see the unraveling rule of law, ascendant Christian nationalists and anti-Israel sentiments turning antisemitic on the far left. Wondering where Jews might move “is among the most frequently asked questions that I get,” Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League, told me.

Oct. 29

 

elon musk sideviewPolitico, Musk owns Twitter — and Washington awaits Trump's return, Rebecca Kern, Oct. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Elon Musk, shown above, will own Twitter, after the two sides finally closed a $44 billion deal Thursday to sell the company to the world’s richest man.

politico CustomMusk’s takeover — reported by multiple news outlets on Thursday night — could have huge implications for the future of Washington’s favorite social media app, especially if former President Donald Trump is allowed back on the platform, and if Musk loosens the rules to prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation.

With just 12 days until the midterm elections, a resurrected Trump Twitter account could have electoral implications, donald trump twittergiving the former president a megaphone to again challenge election results, blast his opponents and spread falsehoods.

What exactly Musk does next is an open question, to say nothing of Trump.

In an effort seemingly aimed at easing concerns from nervous advertisers, Musk, a self-professed “free-speech absolutist,” promised on Thursday that the platform would not descend into “a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The Moguls Have Been Unleashed, David Streitfeld, Oct. 29, 2022 (print ed.). Silicon Valley moguls used to buy yachts and islands. Now they are rich enough, and perhaps arrogant enough, to acquire companies they fancy.

Forget about the endless drama, the bots, the abrupt reversals, the spectacle, the alleged risk to the Republic and all we hold dear. Here is the most important thing about Elon Musk’s buying Twitter: The moguls have been unleashed.

In the old days, when a tech tycoon wanted to buy something big, he needed a company to do it. Steve Case used AOL to buy Time Warner. Jeff Bezos bought Whole Foods for Amazon. Mark Zuckerberg used Facebook to buy Instagram and WhatsApp and Oculus and on and on. These were corporate deals done for the bottom line, even if they might never have happened without a famous and forceful proprietor.

Mr. Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter, which finally became a reality on Thursday, six months after he agreed to the deal, is different. It is an individual buying something for himself that 240 million people around the world use regularly. While he has other investors, Mr. Musk will have absolute control over the fate of the short-message social media platform.

It’s a difficult deal to evaluate even in an industry built on deals, because this one is so unusual. It came about whimsically, impulsively. But, even by the standards of Silicon Valley, where billions are casually offered for fledging operations — and even by the wallet of Mr. Musk, on most days the richest man in the world — $44 billion is quite a chunk of change.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: The Trump administration: the worst counterintelligence disaster in U.S. history, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Oct. 28-29, 2022. In an era marked by unprecedented events, it is not hyperbole to state that the Donald Trump administration and the twice-impeached disgraced ex-president's post-presidency represent the worst counterintelligence disaster in U.S. history.

wayne madesen report logoAn examination by WMR of court records, including criminal cases dealing with violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) and Trump's misappropriation of highly-classified documents at his private properties, points to over a dozen foreign intelligence services, most of them hostile to U.S. national interests, having gained access to America's most guarded secrets.

  • Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary QAnon: Russia-style, Wayne Madsen, left, author and former Navy intelligence officer, Oct. 26-27, 2022. Russia's dangerous religious rhetoric is setting the stage for modern-day pogroms in Ukraine.

Oct. 28

 

Ye, the performer, designer and political provocateur formerly known Kanye West, poses with the logo of Addisdas, his former business partner and a company with roots in the Nazi era of Germany that can no longer afford association with Ye despite the huge profits they have made together.

Ye, the performer, designer and political provocateur formerly known Kanye West, poses with the logo of Addisdas, his former business partner and a company with roots in the Nazi era of Germany that can no longer afford association with Ye despite the huge profits they have made together. The graphic illustrate how a different athletic shoe company later repulshed his overtures.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kanye West Faces Costly Fallout: A Timeline, Remy Tumin, Oct. 28, 2022. The entertainer has been widely condemned for a series of antisemitic comments. The fallout across industries has been swift.

Kanye West has defined most of his career with smash hits and a healthy dose of spectacle and theatrics, helping to redefine the modern concept of celebrity along the way. For a long time, those disruptions were largely welcomed in the music and fashion industries as he cut new creative paths.

But the rapper and designer, who now goes by Ye, has been at the center of several controversies in recent years after increasingly erratic behavior.

In the past 12 months, he’s been burning bridges in the music industry where he made his name. He was disinvited from performing at the Grammy Awards last spring, and abruptly withdrew from headlining this year’s Coachella festival.

In October, his behavior began to have an impact on the more lucrative corner of his empire — fashion — as he came under fire for marking a series of antisemitic remarks, including accusing Jews of a “Holocaust” against Black Americans, and wearing a shirt with a slogan associated with white supremacists.

The fallout across industries has been swift.

At Paris Fashion Week, Ye’s shirt takes center stage.

Sept. 15

In mid-September, Ye notified Gap that he was terminating their much anticipated partnership and said that he would move ahead with plans to open his own stores. Gap said in a statement that their visions were “not aligned.

Oct. 3

A little more than two weeks later, Ye held a surprise, off-schedule show at Paris Fashion Week to present his latest fashion collection under his label YZY, formerly known as Yeezy.

The empire continues to crumble.

Oct. 25-27

Ye’s enterprises beyond fashion also faced pushback. Aaron Donald of the Los Angeles Rams and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics said on Twitter that they were cutting ties with Donda Sports, Ye’s marketing agency, because of the antisemitic remarks.

On Oct. 26, the organizers of two prominent high school boys’ basketball tournaments revoked invitations for Ye’s Donda Academy team to play in national showcases this season. Ye founded Donda Academy last year in Simi Valley, Calif. The private school is named after Ye’s mother, Donda West, who died in 2007. The school is not accredited and was built around online learning.

The same day, the footwear company Skechers said Ye had been escorted from its corporate offices in Los Angeles after an “unannounced and uninvited” visit.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump does not have a magic wand when it comes to this, Bill Palmer, Oct. 28, 2022. It’s entirely possible that Musk will go ahead and reinstate Donald Trump (among other right wing criminals) on Twitter in the coming hours or days, with no one there to stop him.

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s the thing: it won’t matter.

For one thing, Donald Trump was on Twitter throughout the entire 2020 election cycle, tweeting up a storm, and he still lost that election by seven million votes. So no, Trump getting back on Twitter will not somehow magically make him a more viable political candidate going forward. Even if Trump were still in the “legitimately a political candidate” stage of his life, being back on Twitter wouldn’t help him.

For that matter, Trump has now moved on to the criminal defendant stage of his life. As we’ve seen in some other high profile DOJ criminal cases, Trump’s tweets will be used against him, both in the indictment and at trial. So if Trump does get back on Twitter, and he begins posting tweets that donald trump twitterare aimed at obstructing justice or count as a confession to crimes, those tweets will only increase the odds that the DOJ gets a conviction once Trump is on trial.

Trump will not help himself in any way by being back on Twitter, and if he gets carried away, he’ll harm himself and cement his own downfall. And while Trump does love trying to incite violence, he can’t just tweet a magic combination of words that causes his supporters to magically take over the government. Nothing works that way. Trump couldn’t even pull that off back when he was still President. For all the fear and loathing over January 6th, everyone forgets that Trump’s attempt at violently keeping himself in office was a complete failure. And now his supporters are more afraid to get violent, because Trump no longer controls federal law enforcement.

twitter bird CustomNor will Trump being back on Twitter somehow magically help the Republicans in the midterms. Trump’s rallies haven’t helped Republican candidates one bit in the general election thus far. His tweets won’t either. Trump has had some fun meddling in Republican primaries over the years, but he never has had the ability to boost Republican candidates in general elections.

So no, there’s no reason to sit around and fret about the possibility of Donald Trump getting back on Twitter. Now more than ever, Trump is a powerless broken man who’s merely playing defense as the Feds close in on him. His future consists of indictments and prison bars. If he wants to humiliate himself with some more stupid tweets along the way, so be it.

 

  Fired Twitter executives Ned Segal, left, Parag Agrawal, center, and Vijaya Gadde, right, leave the company with $187 million of Elon Musk's money.

Fired Twitter executives Ned Segal, left, Parag Agrawal, center, and Vijaya Gadde, right, leave the company with $187 million of Elon Musk's money.

CNN, Elon Musk will have to pay three fired Twitter executives nearly $200 million, Chris Isidore, Oct. 28, 2022. The three top Twitter executives whom Elon Musk fired Thursday will walk out the door with about $187 million of Musk's money.

twitter bird CustomFormer CEO Parag Agrawal, former CFO Ned Segal and former Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde were ousted after Musk took control of the company late Thursday, according to a source familiar with the situation.

They would have received a large chunk of that money even if they had stayed on board under the new ownership -- they and other shareholders will receive payouts from Musk after he bought their shares for $54.20 each.

Agrawal, who only assumed the CEO title a little less than a year ago, had the smallest stock holdings of the three: 155,000 shares worth $8.4 million at the price Musk paid. Segal will get $22 million for the 406,000 shares he owns while Gadde will walk away with $34.8 million for her 642,000 shares.

But they also receive "Golden Parachute Compensation" in the merger agreement approved by shareholders. That includes a year's base pay -- $1 million for Agrawal and $600,000 each for Segal and Gadde. They also will get a year of health insurance, worth about $73,000 among the three.
Elon Musk's bumpy road to owning Twitter: A timeline
Elon Musk's bumpy road to owning Twitter: A timeline

The most lucrative part by far is the accelerated vesting of stock they stood to receive in the future but had not yet qualified for. That will end up being worth $56.4 million for Agrawal, $43.8 million for Segal and $19.4 million for Gadde. Agrawal and Segal get the accelerated vesting of all of their shares while Gadde gets accelerated vesting of only half of her shares.

Added up, the parachute payments come to $121.8 million. Add on the $65.2 million for the purchase of the shares they already own and you get $187 million.

Reuters, U.S. appeals court to reconsider if citizen journalist can sue over arrest, Nate Raymond, Oct. 28, 2022. 5th Circuit to again weigh lawsuit by Priscilla Villarreal against police.

A federal appeals court on Friday said it would reconsider whether a citizen journalist in Texas can sue over her arrest for asking police questions, marking the latest twist in a case that has already divided parts the court's conservative faction.

The full New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would revisit its 2-1 decision reviving Priscilla Villarreal's lawsuit against Laredo, Texas, police officers, county prosecutors and the city over her 2017 arrest.

That earlier panel decision was authored by U.S. Circuit Judge James Ho, a conservative appointee of former Republican President Donald Trump who has made headlines for his off-the-bench crusades about "cancel culture" and law school campus free speech.

Villarreal is one of Laredo's most popular news sources, according to Ho, with 120,000-plus people following her Facebook page where she regularly reports on crime, events and government.

She was charged with two felony counts of misuse of information after she published the identities of suicide and car crash victims on Facebook, using information she verified by speaking to an officer in Laredo.

The Texas statute she was charged under made it a crime to solicit non-public information from a government official with an intent to obtain a benefit. Prosecutors alleged she used the information to amass more Facebook followers.

A Texas state court judge in March 2018 tossed the charges, finding the statute unconstitutionally vague. She filed her federal lawsuit in 2019, but a judge ruled officers and prosecutors were entitled to qualified immunity.

Ho, joined by U.S. Circuit Judge James Graves, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, in November disagreed, writing: "It should be obvious to any reasonable police officer that locking up a journalist for asking a question violates the First Amendment."

But in a dissenting opinion published later in August, Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Priscilla Richman said Ho was "off base" in saying no reasonably competent officer could have thought Villarreal obtained information with an "intent to benefit."

Richman, an appointee of former Republican President George W. Bush, said journalists generally gather information with the intent to benefit by selling newspapers or attracting TV viewers.

Ho said in response that if true, that would make it a crime to be a journalist in Texas. He lamented that the court could not rule unanimously in such an "exceedingly troubling case."

"If any principle of constitutional law ought to unite all of us as Americans, it’s that government has no business telling citizens what views they may not hold, and what questions they may not ask," he said.

Oct. 27

BuzzFeed News, A New York Post Employee Was Fired For Posting Violent, Racist Tweets On The Newspaper's Account, Julia Reinstein, Oct. 27, 2022. Some of the tweets, which a spokesperson for the paper called "vile and reprehensible," called for President Joe Biden and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to be murdered.

Violent and racist content that appeared on the New York Post's website and Twitter account Thursday morning were posted by one of the newspaper's own employees, a company spokesperson said.

new york post logoThe tweets, which were posted just after 9 a.m. and seen by BuzzFeed News, called for the murder of President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Others mentioned "slaughtering illegals," joked about New York Gov. Kathy Hochul being "rape[d] and batter[ed]," and called New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who is Black, a "fried chicken eating monkey."
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Articles on the paper's website were tampered with as well. The headline of an op-ed about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was changed to "We must assassinate AOC for America," and its byline was edited to look like it was by right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro.
Twitter

The offensive posts were deleted shortly after they went up, and the newspaper tweeted that they had been "hacked" and were "investigating the cause."

But an external hack was not, in fact, behind the tweets — it turned out to be a New York Post employee, a spokesperson for the paper later said.

The employee, who was not publicly identified, has been fired.

"The New York Post’s investigation indicates that the unauthorized conduct was committed by an employee, and the employee has been terminated," the spokesperson said. "This morning, we immediately removed the vile and reprehensible content from our website and social media accounts."

elon musk sideviewPolitico, Musk owns Twitter — and Washington awaits Trump's return, Rebecca Kern, Oct. 27, 2022. Elon Musk, shown above, will own Twitter, after the two sides finally closed a $44 billion deal Thursday to sell the company to the world’s richest man.

twitter bird CustomMusk’s takeover — reported by multiple news outlets on Thursday night — could have huge implications for the future of Washington’s favorite social media app, especially if former President Donald Trump is allowed back on the platform, and if Musk loosens the rules to prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation.

donald trump twitterWith just 12 days until the midterm elections, a resurrected Trump Twitter account could have electoral implications, giving the former president a megaphone to again challenge election results, blast his opponents and spread falsehoods.

What exactly Musk does next is an open question, to say nothing of Trump.

In an effort seemingly aimed at easing concerns from nervous advertisers, Musk, a self-professed “free-speech absolutist,” promised on Thursday that the platform would not descend into “a free-for-all hellscape where anything can be said with no consequences.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Garland Formally Bars Justice Dept. From Seizing Reporters’ Records, Charlie Savage, Oct. 27, 2022 (print ed.). The rule codifies and expands a policy he issued in 2021, after it came to light that the Trump administration had secretly gone after records of reporters for The Times, The Washington Post and CNN.

The Justice Department on Wednesday formally banned the use of subpoenas, warrants or court orders to seize reporters’ communications records or demand their notes or testimony in an effort to uncover confidential sources in leak investigations, in what amounts to a major policy shift.

The rules institutionalize — and in places expand — a temporary policy that Attorney General Merrick B. Garland put in place in July 2021, after the revelation that the Justice Department, under Attorney General William P. Barr, had secretly pursued email records of reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN.

“These regulations recognize the crucial role that a free and independent press plays in our democracy,” Mr. Garland said in a statement.

“Because freedom of the press requires that members of the news media have the freedom to investigate and report the news, the new regulations are intended to provide enhanced protection to members of the news media from certain law enforcement tools and actions that might unreasonably impair news gathering.”

The broad prohibitions are a major change in how the Justice Department has come to approach leak investigations in the 21st century, when it began a crackdown that spans administrations of both parties and has put pressure on reporting on matters of national security.

The publisher of The Times, A.G. Sulzberger, who was put under a gag order in 2021 that shielded from his own newsroom’s view a legal fight over the email logs of Times journalists, praised the new policy while calling on Congress to pass a law further strengthening such protections.

“We applaud the Justice Department for taking this important step, which will allow journalists to perform the crucial work of informing the public without fear of legal consequences,” Mr. Sulzberger said. “We encourage Congress to enact a federal shield law to help ensure that these reforms are lasting.”

Exceptions to the policy are narrow. Among others, it does not apply to situations in which a reporter is under investigation for something unconnected to news gathering, situations in which a member of the news media is deemed an agent of a foreign power or a member of a foreign terrorist group, or “when necessary to prevent an imminent or concrete risk of death or serious bodily harm.”

The Justice Department developed the regulation in consultation with press freedom advocates like Bruce D. Brown, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Mr. Garland also met with representatives from The Times, The Post, The Associated Press, CBS, CNN, Dow Jones, NBC and The New Yorker.

Those conversations led to several adjustments about potentially critical issues, like how “news gathering” is defined. According to participants, the Justice Department originally intended to define it in a way that was limited to the passive receipt of government secrets. But the final version now covers the act of pursuing information.

The regulation defines “news gathering” as “the process by which a member of the news media collects, pursues, or obtains information or records for purposes of producing content intended for public dissemination,” including “classified information” from confidential sources.

The Justice Department is also said to have removed espionage from a list of criminal activities that are excluded from protected news gathering.

The final regulation does not cover criminal acts “committed in the course of obtaining information or using information.” Those include breaking and entering; theft; unlawfully gaining access to a computer or computer system; unlawful surveillance or wiretapping; bribery; or aiding or abetting or conspiring to engage in such criminal activities.

Emptywheel, Analysis: DOJ Rethinks — But In A Few Areas, Expands — Access To Media Content, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, right),  marcy wheelerEmptywheel, Oct. 27, 2022. In a story on the new media guidelines DOJ rolled out yesterday, Charlie Savage reveals what representatives of the press think they got in the new guidelines, in addition to a formal codification of broader restrictions on the use of legal process to find real journalists’ sources:

Those conversations led to several adjustments about potentially critical issues, like how “news gathering” is defined. According to participants, the Justice Department originally intended to define it in a way that was limited to the passive receipt of government secrets. But the final version now covers the act of pursuing information.

The language in question appears to cover things like encrypted dropboxes, something that journalists liked to compare (inaptly) to the charge against Julian Assange of attempting to hack a password for Chelsea Manning. Thus far, multiple criminal prosecutions show that dropboxes have not thwarted DOJ from prosecuting those who submitted documents into them.

 

 joe biden tik tokers  President Biden greets digital content creators at the White House on Oct. 25. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

President Biden greets digital content creators at the White House on Oct. 25. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

washington post logoWashington Post, Inside the Dems’ elaborate attempt to woo TikTok influencers, Taylor Lorenz, Oct. 27, 2022. A free trip to D.C., a private chat with Obama and an hour in the Oval Office with Biden: The Democrats are rolling out the red carpet for social media influencers

President Biden spent more than an hour this week at the White House with eight TikTok stars with a combined following of more than 67 million who were brought to Washington in hopes that their posts will turn out votes for Democrats in the Nov. 8 midterms.

In addition to the Oval Office meeting, the TikTok creators held a session with former president Barack Obama, toured the Supreme Court and the Capitol, and met with leaders of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the principal campaign arm for House Democrats.

tiktok logo square CustomThe trip, which was organized by the DNC, was the most visible effort to date of Democrats attempting to leverage TikTok’s vast audience to influence the midterms and is likely to prove controversial with Republicans, many of whom have been harshly critical of TikTok’s Chinese ownership. Former president Donald Trump at one point ordered TikTok to be shut down in the United States, then tried to force the sale of its U.S. operations. Those efforts failed, however, though Republicans have continued to accuse the app of being a threat.

Since then, TikTok has been downloaded more than 100 million times by users in the United States, and it has surpassed Meta’s Facebook and Instagram to become the nation’s fastest-growing social media app.

“House Democrats are committed to reaching voters where they’re at and reminding them what’s at stake on November 8th,” said Cara Koontz, the DCCC’s digital communications director. “We’re thrilled to have their partnership in this first-of-its-kind effort for the DCCC.”

It remains to be seen how the creators will make use of the visit. Many had previously been largely apolitical, encouraging their fans to vote but not explicitly backing parties or candidates. For several, it was their first time in the nation’s capital and their first interaction with government.

 

 

ksenia sobchak

washington post logoWashington Post, Ksenia Sobchak, Russian star linked to Putin, fled using Israeli passport, Mary Ilyushina, Oct. 28, 2022 (print ed.). Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian socialite and television anchor with a close family connection to President Vladimir Putin, used her dual Israeli citizenship to flee Russia on Tuesday after a police raid of her home that Russian authorities said was tied to a criminal investigation of two of her business associates.

Sobchak, 40, above, who earned fame as a reality TV star and has been known over the years as a Russian “It Girl” and Russia’s Paris Hilton, is the daughter of St. Petersburg’s first post-Soviet mayor, Anatoly Sobchak.

Anatoly Sobchak, who died in 2000, was Putin’s boss and political mentor. In 1990, Sobchak hired then-KGB agent Putin as a deputy mayor, and the two families remained close throughout the decade.

Ksenia Sobchak now runs the “Ostorozhno Novosti” project, which includes a network of Telegram news channels, a podcast studio, a YouTube channel and Sobchak’s own social media page. She has long straddled a fence between Russia’s political elite and its liberal political opposition, creating some distrust of her from both camps. In 2018, she ran for president against Putin, winning about 2 percent of votes.

Sobchak’s current legal troubles seemed to reflect tension within the well-connected elite as well as the climate of heightened anxiety amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. It also highlighted the urgency many well-to-do Russians feel about obtaining dual citizenship and a second passport.

Sobchak fled to Belarus and then Lithuania, which is a member of the European Union and along with the other Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia, is effectively closed to Russian travelers — even those with previously issued visas permitting them to enter the European Union’s Schengen travel zone. Only dual citizens or Russian nationals with humanitarian visas and residency permits can enter.

But Sobchak, who is partly of Jewish heritage, used her Israeli passport to cross the border, Lithuania’s Interior Ministry confirmed Thursday. A video from a surveillance camera emerged on Telegram channels showing Sobchak entering Lithuania on foot and talking to border officials.

Oct. 26

Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick is overseeing litigation that could require Elon Musk to follow through on his deal to buy Twitter (Photo Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick is overseeing litigation that could require Elon Musk to follow through on his deal to buy Twitter (Photo by Eric Crossan via New York Times).by Eric Crossan via New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk Seems to Answer to No One. Except for a Judge in Delaware, Lauren Hirsch, Oct. 26, 2022. The chief judge of Delaware’s Chancery Court gave Mr. Musk until Friday to acquire Twitter. She is also the judge in at least one other case involving him.

Judge Kathaleen St. J. McCormick has become a very important person in the rambunctious life of Elon Musk.

The Delaware Chancery Court judge has given Mr. Musk until Friday to close his long-promised, $44 billion deal to twitter bird Customacquire Twitter. If he doesn’t, Judge McCormick will preside over a trial in November that could end with Mr. Musk being forced to make good on the deal he made with Twitter in April.

The 43-year-old judge is also expected to preside over another case involving Mr. Musk in November. A Tesla shareholder accused him in a lawsuit of unjustly enriching himself with his compensation package while running the electric vehicle company, which is Mr. Musk’s main source of wealth. The package, which consisted entirely of a stock grant, is now worth around $50 billion based on Tesla’s share price.

Judge McCormick is also overseeing three other shareholder lawsuits against Mr. Musk, though it is not yet clear whether those will go to trial, too.

elon musk 2015The woman who suddenly has a great deal of influence over Mr. Musk, right, comes from a much different world than the jet-setting, South African-born billionaire. The daughter of a high school football coach and an English teacher, Judge McCormick was raised in Smyrna, Del., a town with roughly 13,000 people about 14 miles away from Dover, the state capital.

Judge McCormick now oversees the 230-year-old court that is considered the foremost destination for adjudicating disputes over mergers and acquisitions and other corporate disagreements. She has been both quick-witted and blunt in months of hearings for Twitter’s lawsuit. And her decision to grant Mr. Musk a delay to a trial that was expected to begin earlier in October also displayed unusual flexibility — and pragmatism — to legal experts.

Oct. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Help Desk: The risks of signing in with Google on other sites and how to reverse it, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Oct. 24, 2022. Should you log in with Facebook or Google on other sites or apps? Short answer: No.

google logo customThere are too many ways using these buttons can leak personal information or help Big Tech track you. There are some exceptions when it’s useful — but you might be surprised, and a little regretful, if you saw how many random sites have access to your Google or Facebook data. (Below, I’ll show you how to check and revoke access.)

What could go wrong? This month, Facebook warned a million Facebook users their accounts might have been compromised by 400 malicious apps that were designed to trick them into handing over their Facebook log-in information. Criminals were making fake log-in buttons.

National Press Club, Member-Author Book Group talk explores limits for fabrications of real persons portrayed in film, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 23, 2022. Long-time legal journalist and National Press Club member John T. Aquino described the practical limits for film studios in changing historical facts to seek better box office and creative results, during a recent virtual event sponsored by the Club's Member-Author Book Group.

national  press club logoAquino, an attorney who retired in 2017 as a senior legal analyst for Bloomberg Law, drew from the 2022 second edition of his Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems of Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictional Medium. He described how he first became interested in the issue, at age 11, when he noticed a disclaimer in the credits of the 1941 film They Died With Their Boots On, starring Errol Flynn in a fictionalized portrayal of the life of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who died at the Battle of Little Big Horn.

“What does that mean?" Aquino recalled asking his father about the film’s historical accuracy disclaimer.

john acquino film book coverThe book represents his answer, elaborated in 17 case histories about those seeking redress for fabrications that could be devastating.

Offering context, Aquino noted that film creators and audiences have recognized since the Silent Era that films condense real-life history for dramatic purposes.

“The issue should be,” he said, “how true is it to the spirit of the events and the characters?”

Further, Aquino explained, creators must avoid legal liability, with libel suits the biggest threat.

A pivotal legal case he described involved Rasputin and the Empress, a 1932 MGM film portraying Tsarist Russian court adviser Grigori Rasputin as sexually attacking a princess with a fictitious name. A princess won libel settlements worth more than $20 million in today’s dollars even though the “victim“ in the film may never have met Rasputin in real life.

Out of that arose the standard practice of disclaimers in the final film credits asserting that the films do not necessarily portray real people, dialog or events.

He described the disclaimers as only one tool for avoiding liability. More important, he said, is standard libel law that requires almost everywhere that a plaintiff be alive to seek damages. Family members have no standing, he said.

Most such libel suits have failed, he said, prompting the aggrieved to pursue such additional grounds for damages as invasion of privacy or misappropriation of images.

Aquino, a Club Silver Owl, said misleading films can corrupt history in important ways even if no legal redress is possible. That occurred, he said, in the Custer film, which falsely portrayed Custer as having noble motives. The film was, however, one of the top-grossing films the year it was released. It also starred Olivia de Havilland.

Aquino, an active member of the D.C. and Maryland bars, also talked a bit about his second book published this year, The Radio Burglar: Thief Turned Cop Killer in 1920s Queens. Launched Sept. 20, it portrays police tracking down a murderous burglar who specialized in stealing valuable radios at that sector’s beginning.

Asked why he authored the tale, Aquino said his aging mother-in-law enjoyed during her twilight years recounting a family link to the expert sleuthing. “It started as a labor of love,” he said of his conversations with her and his 15 years of research, “and it ended as a labor of love.”

The Member-Author Book Group produces events for Club members to promote their recently published books. The group currently meets virtually at noon on the second Tuesday of the month. To inquire about the group, contact Joe Motheral at joegm35@ aol.com.

ny times logoNew York Times, For Trump’s Backers in Congress, ‘Devil Terms’ Help Rally Voters, Jennifer Valentino-DeVries and Steve Eder, pdated Oct. 23, 2022. In vilifying tweets and speeches, G.O.P. lawmakers who contested the election have far outpaced other Republicans and Democrats in fueling polarization.

As Representative Mary Miller embarked on her first congressional campaign, she described herself in salt-of-the-earth, all-American terms: a mother, grandmother and farmer who embodied the “Midwestern values of faith, family and freedom.”

“Hard work, using God-given talents, and loving each other well,” a voice declared over video clips of Ms. Miller, a 63-year-old Illinois Republican, embracing her family, praying and walking on her farm in an ad in early 2020.

“In the world today,” the ad continued, “we could use a lot more of this.”

But there is another side to Ms. Miller’s wholesome image. Since entering Congress, she has routinely vilified Democrats and liberals, calling them “evil” communists beholden to China who want to “destroy” America and its culture. And President Biden’s plan, she seethed on Twitter this spring, is to “flood our country with terrorists, fentanyl, child traffickers, and MS-13 gang members.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Journalists are failing our fragile democracy, a media insider says, Kathy Kiely, Oct. 23, 2022 (print ed.). This should have been Margaret Sullivan’s victory lap.

It’s hard to think of anyone who’s met and mastered more challenges with more aplomb and journalistic integrity than The Washington Post’s former media columnist: Starting as a summer intern at the tiny Niagara Gazette in the late 1970s (where she had a ringside seat to the environmental disaster at Love margaret sullivan 2015 photoCanal), Sullivan, right, rose methodically through the ranks to become the first female editor in chief of her hometown paper, the Buffalo News. She helped diversify the paper’s editorial staff, putting people of color in leadership roles and taking pains to mentor younger women.

Then she headed to the New York Times to assume the deliberately awkward (and since abolished) post of public editor, assigned to question, investigate and police the organization from inside its ranks. Coming from Buffalo, Sullivan didn’t exactly blend right into the Times’ rarefied culture. “Jill is an uptown girl. You’re not,” David Shribman, a journalist who worked at both the Buffalo paper and the Times, said of Jill Abramson, who was the top editor at the Times when Sullivan arrived there. “Over nearly four years in the job, I never had a completely comfortable day as public editor,” Sullivan writes.

Honorably, she departed when she felt the camaraderie of the newsroom threatening her critical perspective. “I was starting to lose the outsider’s mentality,” she says. At The Post, Sullivan was assigned to cover the media at large, but she didn’t hesitate to bite the hand that fed her. At one point, she even turned on one of her teen idols. Sullivan, who says Watergate inspired her to get into journalism, castigated Bob Woodward for waiting for the publication of a book to margaret sullivan newsroom coverreveal important details on what President Donald Trump knew about the coronavirus pandemic and when he knew it.

It’s hard to argue with Sullivan’s news judgment: Last year, she publicly scolded leaders of the nation’s leading news organizations for failing to follow up on another scoop that Woodward scored with writing partner Robert Costa — the now-infamous memo by lawyer John Eastman outlining plans to get Trump a second term he did not win. Who’s sorry now? (Sullivan left The Post in August to take up a visiting professorship at Duke University.)

Given all this, you might expect Sullivan’s book, Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life, to be a reminiscence of her professional triumphs and a reflection on their larger meaning for the industry. While she’s particularly accomplished in her field, Sullivan is not an isolated phenomenon. The news business of today is much more diverse and publicly self-critical than the old boy’s network she and I had to wheedle our way into back in the day.

So why, having empowered and platformed establishment-challenging change-makers like Sullivan, is the news business in such a state of disarray and disrespect? And how does it get its voice of authority back?

Those are the questions that haunt the pages of Newsroom Confidential. The title suggests a gossipy tell-all, and there’s a heaping dollop of that. (Memo to a certain New York Times sports editor: You might want to look for a bunker, and I don’t mean along a fairway.) But if Sullivan started out intending to write a memoir, she ended up with a manifesto. This is a book about the role of the press in a democracy that’s in grave jeopardy.

Oct. 20

elon musk safe image time thumb

washington post logoWashington Post, Documents detail plans to gut Twitter’s workforce, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Faiz Siddiqui, Gerrit De Vynck and Jeremy B. Merrill, Oct. 20, 2022. Previously unreported details shed new light on Twitter’s motivations for selling the company — and Elon Musk’s plans to transform it.

Twitter’s workforce is likely to be hit with massive cuts in the coming months, no matter who owns the company, interviews and documents obtained by The Washington Post show, a change likely to have major impact on its ability to control harmful content and prevent data security crises.

twitter bird CustomMusk, shown above in a file photo, told prospective investors in his deal to buy the company that he planned to get rid of nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 7,500 workers, whittling the company down to a skeleton staff of just over 2,000.

Even if Musk’s Twitter deal falls through — and there’s little indication now that it will — big cuts are expected: Twitter’s current management planned to pare the company’s payroll by about $800 million by the end of next year, a number that would mean the departure of nearly a quarter of the workforce, according to corporate documents and interviews with people familiar with the company’s deliberations. The company also planned to make major cuts to its infrastructure, including data centers that keep the site functioning for more than 200 million users that log on each day.

The extent of the cuts, which have not been previously reported, help explain why Twitter officials were eager to sell to Musk: Musk’s $44 billion bid, though hostile, is a golden ticket for the struggling company — potentially helping its leadership avoid painful announcements that would have demoralized the staff and possibly crippled the service’s ability to combat misinformation, hate speech and spam.

The impact of such layoffs would likely be immediately felt by millions of users, said Edwin Chen, a data scientist formerly in charge of Twitter’s spam and health metrics and now CEO of the content-moderation start-up Surge AI. He said that while he believed Twitter was overstaffed, the cuts Musk proposed were “unimaginable” and would put Twitter’s users at risk of hacks and exposure to offensive material such as child pornography.

“It would be a cascading effect,” he said, “where you’d have services going down and the people remaining not having the institutional knowledge to get them back up, and being completely demoralized and wanting to leave themselves.”

Twitter and Musk are expected to close the purchase by next Friday. Planning for the closing is moving forward in apparent good faith after months of legal battles, say people familiar with the negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. If the deal closes, Musk would immediately become Twitter’s new owner.

 

Anthony Rapp, left, and Kevin Spacey. Photo at left by Brendan McDermid of Reuters; Right, by Yuki Iwamura of the Associated Press.

Anthony Rapp, left, and Kevin Spacey. Photo at left by Brendan McDermid of Reuters; Right, by Yuki Iwamura of the Associated Press.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jury Clears Kevin Spacey of Battery Accusation by Anthony Rapp, Julia Jacobs and Nate Schweber, Oct. 20, 2022. Mr. Rapp had sued Mr. Spacey, accusing him of making a sexual advance in 1986, when he was a 14-year-old actor.

A federal jury in Manhattan found Kevin Spacey not liable for battery on Thursday in a civil case brought by the actor Anthony Rapp, who accused Mr. Spacey of climbing on top of him and making a sexual advance more than 30 years ago when Mr. Rapp was 14.

The 11-person jury in the Federal District Court in Manhattan spent less than 90 minutes deliberating over the evidence against Mr. Spacey, who denied the accusation on the stand. Mr. Rapp, who is best known for his originating role in the musical “Rent,” came forward with the accusation in 2017. At the time, Mr. Spacey was a star of the political drama “House of Cards” and a lauded actor who had hosted the Tony Awards months earlier.

The trial hinged on Mr. Rapp’s account of a night in 1986, when, he said, he attended a party at Mr. Spacey’s New York apartment during a Broadway season in which both of them were acting in plays. Mr. Spacey, who was 26 at the time, denied that such an encounter ever occurred.

The jury found that Mr. Spacey did not touch a sexual or intimate part of Mr. Rapp’s, meaning it could not find him liable under the Child Victims Act, a New York State law that allowed Mr. Rapp to bring his claim. The law included a look-back window during which old claims that had already passed the statute of limitations could be revived.

After the verdict was read, Mr. Spacey stood up with tears in his eyes. He hugged his lawyers briefly and shared a longer hug with his assistant. Mr. Rapp was stoic and straight-faced, as he had been through the entire proceeding.

Richard M. Steigman, one of Mr. Rapp’s lawyers, said, “The jury has spoken.”

Mr. Rapp’s claim was one of the most prominent in the early days of the #MeToo movement, as accusers started to come forward with allegations against high-profile men in the entertainment, political and business worlds. Mr. Spacey quickly experienced career blowback and was ultimately removed from “House of Cards.”

The disclosure by Mr. Rapp, which BuzzFeed News published in October 2017, was followed by more than a dozen other sexual misconduct accusations against Mr. Spacey. He has pleaded not guilty to sexual assault charges in Britain.

Daily Dot, Former CBS, Fox journalist goes full QAnon, says elites dine on ‘blood of children,’ Mikael Thalen, Oct 20, 2022. 'The open border is Satan’s way of taking control of the world.’

lara logan screenshotFormer CBS and Fox News journalist Lara Logan, right, unleashed a barrage of bizarre conspiracy theories this week involving everything from the blood of children to Satanic control of the planet.

During an interview on the conservative outlet Newsmax, Logan, who was let go from Fox News earlier this year for comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to a murderous Nazi physician, argued that so-called open borders were the work of Satan while discussing immigration policy in the U.S.

“God believes in sovereignty and national identity and the sanctity of family and all the things that we’ve lived with from the beginning of time,” she said. “And he knows that the open border is Satan’s way of taking control of the world through all of these people who are his stooges and his servants.”
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Logan then took the rant one step further by arguing that members of the World Economic Forum “dined on the blood of children,” a conspiracy theory derived from the QAnon movement that has its roots in antisemitic tropes.

“And they may think that they’re going to become Gods—that’s what they tell us, Yuval Harari and all the rest of them at the World Economic Forum, you know, the ones who want us eating insects, cockroaches, and that while they dine on the blood of children?—those are the people, right? They’re not going to win. They’re not going to win.”

The comments are entirely on brand for Logan, who has championed numerous far-right conspiracy theories in recent years.

As noted by Media Matters, Logan has theorized on everything from Darwinism to the assassination of John F. Kennedy to “the Rothschilds.”

Logan has also pushed debunked election fraud claims and asserted that the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was an event manufactured by the government.

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

Going Deep, Commentary: Do US Voters Care About Sex Scandals Anymore? Russ Baker, right, Oct. 20, 2022. The weird, hamfisted attempt by MAGA maniac russ bakerLauren Boebert to smear her Democratic opponent with a sex-and-blackmail scandal looks doomed to fail, but is nevertheless a moral bellwether.

It might seem strange that I am writing to you during a trip to France about Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), the crude, controversial gun fanatic and MAGA firebrand who purports to be driven by God to “save” America from decline.

While I was meeting with supporters of meaningful journalism — and getting an earful about how wacky and dangerous America seems to be becoming — a particularly illustrative example of our current cultural madness came to light.

This salacious October Surprise, so far promoted mostly by right-wing media and apparently too toxic for mainstream publications to touch, lauren boebertinvolves a secret tryst and supposed blackmail scheme, the sum total of which helps Boebert, left, and damages Adam Frisch, her Democratic opponent in what seems to be a toss-up race.

First, a quick summary of the alleged “facts,” according to far-right organ Breitbart in an October 13 “exclusive.”

Todd Gardner, the owner of a storage facility/taxi dispatch center in Aspen, CO, claims that in May 2017, Frisch and an unnamed woman used a storage container there for extramarital intimate encounters.

In a video declaration shot by Boebert’s campaign and used by Breitbart as their exclusive, Gardner claims that he initially sat on the information for more than a year; but when he feared his taxi business would be hurt by a possible partnership between Lyft and local government, he threatened to release the video if Frisch, then on the Aspen City Council, didn’t vote against it.

That would be blackmail, which is illegal. But here’s Gardner, openly admitting he blackmailed Frisch, who Gardner says changed his vote and kept Lyft out of Aspen.

True or not — that doesn’t really matter at the eleventh hour in a tight race — Boebert’s campaign is clearly hoping that the story, which Frisch told The Aspen Times comes off as a “desperate ploy” from a “cornered animal,” will make the difference.

There are many questions the far-right “media” organizations covering the story don’t seem to have asked, suggesting this is all a cheap hatchet job.

Oct. 19

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What we found when analyzing 1,000 viral TikToks on #Abortion, Yan Wu and David Byler, Oct. 19, 2022. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, Americans became more interested in abortion. Google Trends data, TV news trackers and polls confirm that voters are talking about reproductive rights now more than they have in years.

tiktok logo CustomBut not all Americans are seeing the same debate. Baby boomers might stumble on the abortion conversation as they scroll Facebook or flip through cable news channels. Generation Z Americans — born between 1997 and 2012 — are more likely to open TikTok and see the back and forth flash across their phones.

So, in an effort to understand what American TikTok users (half of whom are under 30) are seeing, we scraped more than 1,000 viral, high-engagement videos with the #Abortion tag and analyzed them — both by running stats and watching posts.

We found two things, chiefly: pro-abortion-rights posts get more views than antiabortion videos — and the platform is almost perfectly designed to further divide us.

Oct. 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Kanye West to Buy Parler, Joining the Right-Wing Social Media Crowd, Tiffany Hsu and Jenny Gross, Oct. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The kanye west resized headshotplatform announced the deal days after Twitter and Instagram restricted the rapper and entrepreneur’s accounts for posting incendiary content.

Kanye West, right, the rapper, fashion designer and firebrand increasingly known for divisive cultural and political commentary that has been called racist, appears set to become the owner of a social media service known for its right-wing audience.

parler logoThe parent company of Parler, which bills itself as a platform for uncancelable free speech, said on Monday that Mr. West, who now goes by Ye, would acquire the site for an undisclosed sum of money.

In buying Parler, Ye will help “continue the fight against censorship, cancel culture and authoritarianism,” George Farmer, the chief executive of Parler’s parent company, Parlement Technologies, said in a statement. The deal was announced a little over a week after Twitter and Instagram restricted Ye’s accounts in response to antisemitic remarks that he posted.

The announcement adds another shot of name recognition to the crowded cluster of social media alternatives that have emerged in recent years to take on Twitter and Facebook, which critics have long argued unfairly censor conservative voices.

The platform announced the deal days after Twitter and Instagram restricted the rapper and entrepreneur’s accounts for posting incendiary content.

Rolling Stone, FBI Raids Star ABC News Producer’s Home, Tatiana Siegel, Oct. 18, 2022. Emmy-winning producer James Gordon Meek had his home raided by the FBI. His colleagues say they haven’t seen him since.

rolling stone logoAt a minute before 5 a.m. on April 27, ABC News’ James Gordon Meek fired off a tweet with a single word: “FACTS.”

The network’s national-security investigative producer was responding to former CIA agent Marc Polymeropoulos’ take that the Ukrainian military — with assistance from the U.S. — was thriving against Russian forces.

Polymeropoulos’ tweet — filled with acronyms indecipherable to the layperson, like “TTPs,” “UW,” and “EW” — was itself a reply to a missive from Washington Post Pentagon reporter Dan Lamothe, who noted the wealth of information the U.S. military had gathered about Russian ops by observing their Justice Department log circularcombat strategy in real time. The interchange illustrated the interplay between the national-security community and those who cover it. And no one straddled both worlds quite like Meek, an Emmy-winning deep-dive journalist who also was a former senior counterterrorism adviser and investigator for the House Homeland Security Committee. To his detractors within ABC, Meek was something of a “military fanboy.”

But his track record of exclusives was undeniable, breaking the news of foiled terrorist plots in New York City and the Army’s coverup of the fratricidal death of Pfc. Dave Sharrett II in Iraq, a bombshell that earned Meek a face-to-face meeting with President Obama. With nine years at ABC under his belt, a buzzy Hulu documentary poised for Emmy attention, and an upcoming book on the military’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, the 52-year-old bear of a man seemed to be at the height of his powers and the pinnacle of his profession.

Outside his Arlington, Virginia, apartment, a surreal scene was unfolding, and his storied career was about to come crashing down. Meek’s tweet marked the last time he’s posted on the social media platform.

Oct. 16

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Co-founder of Trump’s media company details Truth Social’s bitter infighting, Drew Harwell, Oct. 16, 2022 (print ed.). A whistleblower has provided The Post and the SEC with hundreds of previously unreported company messages, documents, photos and audio recordings that reveal a stunning portrait of the animosity that has built up inside Trump Media since its high-profile debut last year.

Will Wilkerson, then an executive at former president Donald Trump’s start-up Trump Media & Technology Group, was at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., coffee shop with company co-founder Andy Litinsky last October when Trump called Litinsky with a question: Would he give up some of his shares to Trump’s wife, Melania?

truth social logoTrump Media, the owner of the fledgling social network Truth Social, had just been boosted by a huge merger agreement and a flood of investment that had made the stake worth millions of dollars. Trump had already been given 90 percent of the company’s shares in exchange for the use of his name and some minor involvement, leaving everyone else to split the rest.

Litinsky tried to brush it off, telling Trump “the gift would have meant a huge tax bill he couldn’t pay,” Wilkerson said in an interview. “Trump didn’t care. He said, ‘Do whatever you need to do.’ ”

Five months later, Litinsky, who first met Trump in 2004 as a contestant on the TV show “The Apprentice,” was abruptly removed from the company’s board. Wilkerson said he believes it was payback for his refusal to turn over a small fortune to the former president’s wife. Litinsky thought so, too, according to an email Wilkerson and his attorneys shared with The Washington Post and the Securities and Exchange Commission. In that email, Litinsky complained that Trump was “retaliating against me” by threatening to “ ‘blow up the company’ if his demands are not met.”

Litinsky did not respond to emails and phone messages. It is unknown whether he still retains his shares.
Trump Media & Technology Group co-founder Andy Litinsky said in a March email that he believed former president Donald Trump was “retaliating” against him for not giving some of his company equity to Trump's wife, Melania. Will Wilkerson, as an administrator of the company's email system, retained a copy of the message, which he provided to The Post and the SEC. (Will Wilkerson)

The email — one of hundreds of previously unreported company messages, documents, photos and audio recordings that Wilkerson has provided to the SEC in connection with a whistleblower submission — reveals a stunning portrait of the animosity that has built up inside Trump Media since its high-profile debut last year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk suggests openness to continue funding Starlink access in Ukraine, Tony Romm, Oct. 16, 2022. His company, SpaceX, has been in talks with the Pentagon about future financing.

Elon Musk on Saturday signaled he could continue funding the Starlink satellite service that is providing internet for Ukraine and its military, raising the prospect that he might back down from his earlier threat to stop paying for the emergency network.

elon musk 2015Only a day ago, Musk, left, said it was “unreasonable” to propose that his company, SpaceX, would further expand, support and finance the data-intensive system “indefinitely.” His comment sparked broad condemnation, though Musk continued to make the case behind the scenes for the Pentagon to front the costs.

Returning to Twitter on Saturday, Musk provided no update about those talks with the Defense Department — and neither the tech mogul nor the government responded to requests for comment. But Musk, the world’s richest man, newly struck an open if sarcastic note about maintaining Starlink funding anyway.

“The hell with it … even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt free,” he tweeted.

When a Silicon Valley investor later responded by citing the aphorism that “no good deed goes unpunished,” Musk tweeted in reply: “Even so, we should still do good deeds.”

Musk appeasement of Putin and China stokes fears of new Twitter policies

The exchange marked the latest twist in a confusing geopolitical saga that has played out over Twitter, the very company that Musk once again hopes to buy. For Ukraine, the stakes are staggeringly high: The satellite service offered by Starlink is now a primary mode of online communication in the country, a consequence of Russia’s sustained attack on Ukraine’s online infrastructure. A satellite cutoff could cripple Ukraine’s military and hand a major advantage to the Kremlin.

washington post logoWashington Post, Crypto scam victims seek to hold Coinbase responsible for losses, Jeremy B. Merrill and Steven Zeitchik, Oct. 14, 2022. Over the past year, thousands of people have lost tens, if not hundreds, of millions in cryptocurrency when gangs of sophisticated scammers whisked their money out of their accounts, which are managed by an app from the publicly traded cryptocurrency giant Coinbase.

Now those victims are fighting back. Nearly 100 people are trying to hold Coinbase accountable, saying the company didn’t do enough to protect them. Scam victims says they notified the company, begging it to fix defects in its Coinbase Wallet software that had allowed the victims unknowingly to grant the scammers access to their accounts.

The requests were to no avail, scam victims say.

“They’re trying to be a financial institution without the infrastructure to back it up,” said Eric Rosen, a lawyer at Roche Freedman representing some 96 victims in the arbitration demand, which is akin to a lawsuit, filed against Coinbase.

“There were no procedures in place to stop these frauds,” Rosen said. “Of course, scammers quickly picked up on this, and directed victims to download the Coinbase Wallet.”

Many of the victims lost their life savings. The demand says that the rules requiring banks to reimburse debit-card users for unauthorized transfers also should apply to Coinbase’s customers.

“Coinbase is committed to protecting its customers from scams, fraud, and other crimes and has invested significant resources in protecting users against liquidity mining scams,” company spokeswoman Lisa Johnson said, responding to the arbitration demand. “A customer’s activities on Coinbase Wallet, including managing the wallet’s private security keys and access to the wallet’s contents, are exclusively controlled by the customer, not Coinbase,” Johnson continued, noting that the company offers many products so that consumers “can choose the products that are best for them.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Iranian celebrities face arrest, travel bans for supporting protests, Miriam Berger, Oct. 16, 2022 (print ed.). A growing list of Iranian celebrities, including artists, filmmakers and athletes have been arrested or put under travel bans for supporting nationwide protests.

Oct. 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk appeasement of Putin and China stokes fears of new Twitter policies, Joseph Menn and Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 15, 2022 (print ed.). In the past 10 days, he’s suggested that Ukraine give up Crimea and that Taiwan be ruled like Hong Kong. Now he’s threatening Ukraine’s access to his Starlink satellite system, critical to Ukraine’s war effort.

Elon Musk’s recent pronouncements on major foreign policy issues are ratcheting up national security concerns about his takeover of Twitter, a global speech platform used by hundreds of millions, 75 percent of them outside the United States.

twitter bird CustomIn the 10 days since Elon Musk agreed again to buy the social media platform, he has proposed solving the war in Ukraine by letting Russia keep territory and won praise from a top Chinese diplomat for suggesting China take control of Taiwan. On Friday, U.S. and Ukrainian officials were sent scrambling as news broke that Musk had asked the Pentagon last month to take over paying for his Starlink satellite communications service in Ukraine.

elon musk 2015Musk complained that he could not shoulder the costs and keep sending new terminals to Ukraine, even though many have been subsidized by the United States and other nations. Ukraine quickly noted the critical nature of Musk’s contributions.

Musk’s attempts to shape foreign policy in 280 characters or less have raised new fears about how he will wield the platform’s outsize influence over politicians and global leaders who rely on Twitter if he takes control of the company.

Since autocrats already use the platform to spread lies about opponents and whip up violence and mayhem, Musk’s pursuit of approval from two of the most powerful is especially unnerving.

“It’s a very good illustration as to why it would be a disaster if Musk does come to own Twitter,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. “You could have provocations, whether engineered by Musk himself or by others, that could have global implications.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Rupert Murdoch considers merger of two halves of his business empire, Sarah Ellison, Oct. 15, 2022. A merger of News Corp and Fox Corp would put Fox News and Fox Sports back under the same corporate roof as publishing titles like the Wall Street Journal.

Rupert Murdoch finalized his divorce from his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, in August. But the two halves of his business empire are exploring a union.

fox news logo SmallNews Corp., which owns publishing titles including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post and the London-based Sun tabloid, and Fox Corp., which encompasses Fox News and Fox Sports, said Friday evening they are exploring a potential merger at the behest of Murdoch and his family’s trust.

The two companies said they have each formed a special committee to review the proposal.

The Murdoch Family Trust owns about 40 percent of the voting stakes in both News Corp and Fox Corp — and any combination would amount to something of a corporate reunion.

The two entities shared a governing structure until a split engineered in 2013 in response to a major scandal that rocked some of Murdoch’s London papers. Revelations that their journalists had been hacking into the voice mails of celebrities and other tabloid targets prompted overlapping criminal and civil investigations and government inquiries that found systemic corruption in the British tabloid industry — a potential threat to Murdoch’s empire.

At the time, Murdoch billed the split as a move that would “enable each company and its division to recognize their full potential — and unlock even greater long-term shareholder value.”

But it was accompanied by a measure of Murdoch family drama. Rupert Murdoch’s younger son, James, left his role as CEO of their European and Asian businesses — including the London tabloids. He eventually became CEO of the entertainment company 21st Century Fox. But he ended up clashing over business strategy with his older brother, Lachlan, who had been elevated to executive co-chairman of the company.

Eventually, their father decided to remove the company he had spent his life building from their mutual strife.

In 2019, the Murdochs closed a $71.3 billion sale of most of 21st Century Fox — which also included the FX cable network, Fox Searchlight label and National Geographic properties — to Disney.

washington post logoWashington Post, Assassin brothers jailed 40 years for car-bomb killing of Malta journalist, Kelly Kasulis Cho, Oct. 15, 2022. Two men were sentenced to 40 years in prison each Friday for the 2017 car-bomb murder of Maltese anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, a brutal killing that rattled Europe and drew international attention to the tiny Mediterranean country’s criminal underworld.

Brothers George Degiorgio, 59, and Alfred Degiorgio, 57 pleaded guilty to the assassination of Caruana Galizia, a muckraker who had investigated drugs, arms traffickers, politicians and judges in a country largely known as a picturesque tourist destination. They previously claimed innocence but had faced the threat of life imprisonment.

Prosecutors alleged that the brothers had been hired to kill Caruana Galizia by one of Malta’s wealthiest people, Yorgen Fenech, according to the Associated Press. Fenech is awaiting trial. There were also questions as to what role, if any, politicians played in her death. Caruana Galizia had linked associates of then-Prime Minister Joseph Muscat with suspicious financial transactions described in the Panama Papers, which detailed the hidden infrastructure of offshore tax havens. (A probe later cleared Muscat and his associates of wrongdoing related to that scandal.)

Oct. 14

 

elon musk safe image time

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk said that SpaceX could not fund internet service in Ukraine “indefinitely,” Cassandra Vinograd, Oct. 14, 2022. Elon Musk, above, the billionaire chief executive of SpaceX, said on Friday that his company could not “indefinitely” fund internet service in Ukraine with its Starlink terminals, which have been critical in allowing the Ukrainian military to coordinate on the battlefield, including in recent offensives.

His comments, made on Twitter, came just over a week after he drew a fierce public rebuke from Ukrainian officials for suggesting a peace plan to end the war that included ceding territory to Russia.

twitter bird CustomMore than 12,000 Starlink internet terminals, which were designed to work with satellites orbiting in space to provide online access, have been delivered to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in late February.

Mr. Musk took to Twitter on Friday after CNN reported that SpaceX had sent a letter to the Pentagon last month asking it to take over the funding of Ukrainian government and military use of Starlink. He did not mention the Pentagon in his Twitter comments, but talked about the difficulties of funding Starlink.

“SpaceX is not asking to recoup past expenses, but also cannot fund the existing system indefinitely *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households,” Mr. Musk wrote on Twitter.

There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon or Ukraine’s military. SpaceX did not immediately respond a request for comment.

After saying last week that the operation in Ukraine had cost the company $80 million to date, Mr. Musk said on Friday that “burn” for the project was about $20 million a month.

“In addition to terminals, we have to create, launch, maintain & replenish satellites & ground stations,” he wrote on Twitter. “We’ve also had to defend against cyberattacks & jamming, which are getting harder.”

Mr. Musk, who is currently entangled in a legal battle around his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, regularly shares provocative opinions and jokes online. His own employees have called these “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment.”

Oct. 13

 

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).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones Must Pay Nearly $1 Billion to Sandy Hook Victims’ Families, Elizabeth Williamson, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Alex Jones and Infowars’ parent company, Free Speech Systems, must pay close to $1 billion to the family members of eight victims of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary and an F.B.I. agent who responded to the scene of the 2012 massacre, which killed 20 first graders and six educators.

Mr. Jones, who was not in court to hear the jury’s decision, had been found liable for defamation after he spent years falsely describing the shooting as a hoax and accusing the victims’ families of being actors complicit in the plot. As a result, the families were threatened in person and online. He used his Infowars platform to spread these lies.

Here’s what to know:

  • The jury’s decision divided the money among 15 plaintiffs: 14 relatives of eight Sandy Hook victims, and William Aldenberg, an F.B.I. agent targeted by conspiracy theorists. The plaintiffs were awarded varying amounts by the jurors, who considered their testimony and other evidence presented in court to gauge the damage done to their reputations, invasion of their privacy and other factors.
  • This case presented the greatest financial risk to Mr. Jones, because he was found liable of violating Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, by using lies about the shooting to sell products on Infowars. There is no cap on punitive damages under that law.
  • Mr. Jones’s assets are a matter of dispute. He has put Infowars’ parent company into bankruptcy, but the families have accused him of doing so to avoid paying the damages.
  • Mr. Jones has a third Sandy Hook damages trial pending stemming from a defamation suit he lost to Lenny Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, parents of Noah Pozner. An earlier trial, in the suit brought by Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, parents of Jesse Lewis, ended with Mr. Jones being ordered to pay $4 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages to the Mr. Heslin and Ms. Lewis.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘We Told the Truth’: Sandy Hook Families Win $1 Billion From Alex Jones, Elizabeth Williamson, Oct. 13, 2022 (print ed.). The Sandy Hook families leveraged personal stories, social media analysis and the Infowars fabulist’s lack of contrition to secure a major verdict.

The families of eight Sandy Hook shooting victims on Wednesday won nearly $1 billion in damages from the Infowars fabulist Alex Jones, a devastating blow against his empire and a message from the jury that his lies and those of his followers have crippling consequences.

Mr. Jones, who for years said the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators in Newtown, Conn., was a government hoax, now faces financial ruin. But it is unclear how much money the families will ultimately collect.

The families and their lawyers sat in stunned silence as the court clerk read one by one the sums awarded to each of 15 plaintiffs in the case. After court was adjourned, they hugged one another quietly, weeping.

The largest award went to Robbie Parker, who received $120 million. For years on his Infowars show and website, Mr. Jones singled out Mr. Parker, whose daughter Emilie died at Sandy Hook, as an actor whose televised tribute to Emilie a day after her death was “disgusting.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Journalists are failing our fragile democracy, a media insider says, Kathy Kiely, Oct. 13, 2022. This should have been Margaret Sullivan’s victory lap.

It’s hard to think of anyone who’s met and mastered more challenges with more aplomb and journalistic integrity than The Washington Post’s former media columnist: Starting as a summer intern at the tiny Niagara Gazette in the late 1970s (where she had a ringside seat to the environmental disaster at Love Canal), Sullivan, right, rose methodically through the ranks to become the first female editor in chief of her hometown paper, the Buffalo News. She helped diversify the margaret sullivan 2015 photopaper’s editorial staff, putting people of color in leadership roles and taking pains to mentor younger women.

Then she headed to the New York Times to assume the deliberately awkward (and since abolished) post of public editor, assigned to question, investigate and police the organization from inside its ranks. Coming from Buffalo, Sullivan didn’t exactly blend right into the Times’ rarefied culture. “Jill is an uptown girl. You’re not,” David Shribman, a journalist who worked at both the Buffalo paper and the Times, said of Jill Abramson, who was the top editor at the Times when Sullivan arrived there. “Over nearly four years in the job, I never had a completely comfortable day as public editor,” Sullivan writes.

Honorably, she departed when she felt the camaraderie of the newsroom threatening her critical perspective. “I was starting to lose the outsider’s mentality,” she says. At The Post, Sullivan was assigned to cover the media at large, but she didn’t hesitate to bite the hand that fed her. At one point, she even turned on one of her teen idols. Sullivan, who says Watergate inspired her to get into journalism, castigated Bob Woodward for waiting for the publication of a book to reveal important details on what President Donald Trump knew about the coronavirus pandemic and when he knew it.
St. Martin's Press

It’s hard to argue with Sullivan’s news judgment: Last year, she publicly scolded leaders of the nation’s leading news organizations for failing to follow up on another scoop that Woodward scored with writing partner Robert Costa — the now-infamous memo by lawyer John Eastman outlining plans to get Trump a second term he did not win. Who’s sorry now? (Sullivan left The Post in August to take up a visiting professorship at Duke University.)

Given all this, you might expect Sullivan’s book, Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life, to be a reminiscence of her professional triumphs and a reflection on their larger meaning for the industry. While she’s particularly accomplished in her field, Sullivan is not an isolated phenomenon. The news business of today is much more diverse and publicly self-critical than the old boy’s network she and I had to wheedle our way into back in the day.

So why, having empowered and platformed establishment-challenging change-makers like Sullivan, is the news business in such a state of disarray and disrespect? And how does it get its voice of authority back?

Those are the questions that haunt the pages of Newsroom Confidential. The title suggests a gossipy tell-all, and there’s a heaping dollop of that. (Memo to a certain New York Times sports editor: You might want to look for a bunker, and I don’t mean along a fairway.) But if Sullivan started out intending to write a memoir, she ended up with a manifesto. This is a book about the role of the press in a democracy that’s in grave jeopardy.

Oct. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Angela Lansbury, Broadway luminary and ‘Murder, She Wrote’ star, dies at 96, Adam Bernstein, Oct. 12, 2022 (print ed.). She also excelled as the world’s most evil mother in the film ‘The Manchurian Candidate.’

angela lansbury 1990 cbs timeAngela Lansbury, the English-born actress who excelled as the world’s most evil mother in “The Manchurian Candidate,” became a luminary of Broadway musical theater, and starred for 12 years as a warmhearted crime writer and sleuth in the TV series “Murder, She Wrote,” died Oct. 11 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 96. She is shown at right in a 1990 photo via CBS News and Time Magazine.

Her family announced the death in a statement but did not cite a cause.

“Murder, She Wrote” — with its opening montage of Ms. Lansbury pecking at a typewriter and facing down danger in a coastal Maine town — was one of the most popular TV shows of the 1980s and 1990s. To tens of millions of viewers, the veteran actress with a trace of a British accent personified Jessica Fletcher, the widow-turned-detective whose genteel manner masked her wits.
Angela Lansbury in 1989 on the set of “Murder, She Wrote.” (Douglas Pizac/AP)

To a younger generation, Ms. Lansbury was best remembered as the voice of Mrs. Potts, the tenderhearted teapot who sings the Oscar-winning title song in the animated Disney feature “Beauty and the Beast” (1991).

Such cherished performances may have suggested that Ms. Lansbury was a specialist in plucky, non-threatening roles. Yet over seven decades in show business, she had two earlier and distinct phases of her career — on-screen and then on Broadway — in which she revealed herself as an artist of immense range and power.

“Hardly anyone can match her career for success, longevity and variety,” said film scholar Jeanine Basinger.

In her teens, Ms. Lansbury earned Oscar nominations for supporting roles in her first two movie appearances: as an impudent and seductive Cockney maid in “Gaslight” (1944) and as a sweetly innocent music-hall singer in “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945). In the latter, her high and light voice was used to poignant effect in the ditty “Goodbye, Little Yellow Bird,” forecasting her own doom.

Oct. 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: ‘Welcome back to Twitter.’ Musk unfazed by Ye’s antisemitism, Will Oremus and Cristiano Lima, Oct. 11, 2022. Taking down the rapper’s bigoted posts was an easy call for Twitter and Instagram. That could change if Elon Musk and some GOP leaders have their way.

Oct. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter, Instagram remove Kanye West’s antisemitic posts, freeze accounts, Bryan Pietsch, Oct. 10, 2022. Twitter confirmed Sunday that it had removed a tweet by Ye, right, the musician and fashion designer formerly known as Kanye West, and temporarily kanye west resized headshotprohibited him from further posts on the platform, as the fallout from his recent antisemitic comments on social media continued.

Ye’s account, @kanyewest, was “locked for violating Twitter’s policies,” a Twitter spokesperson said in an email Sunday, declining to state which policy he had violated. The account shows that a recent tweet “violated the Twitter Rules.”

twitter bird CustomThough the tweet is no longer visible on his account, screenshots shared widely on social media show that Ye had said he would go “death con 3” on “JEWISH PEOPLE,” an apparent reference to Defcon, the U.S. military’s defense readiness system. In the tweet, he used antisemitic tropes and said he could not be antisemitic “because black people are actually Jew also.”

Analysis: What Kanye West and Tucker Carlson reveal about the struggle for power

instagram logoThe action by Twitter comes after Instagram removed a post from Ye’s account and similarly locked his account temporarily.

A spokesperson for Meta, Instagram’s parent company formerly known as Facebook, said in an email that the platform “deleted content from @kanyewest for violating our policies and placed a restriction on the account. We may place restrictions on accounts that repeatedly break our rules, for example, we may temporarily restrict them from posting, commenting, or sending DM’s.” Screenshots of the post show that Ye had posted an apparent conversation with the rapper Diddy, employing antisemitic tropes to allege that he was being influenced by Jewish people.

ben bernake ap

washington post logoWashington Post, Nobel in economics goes to Bernanke, two other Americans for research on banks, financial crises, David J. Lynch, Oct. 10, 2022. Former Federal Reserve chair Ben S. Bernanke, above, Douglas W. Diamond of the University of Chicago and Philip H. Dybvig of Washington University in St. Louis were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences on Monday for their work on banks and financial crises.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm said research published by the three Americans in 1983 and 1984 provided a new understanding of the role banks play in making the economy work and causing it to plunge into crisis.

“Their discoveries improved how society deals with financial crises,” the committee said, crediting the academics for showing policymakers it is critical to prevent banks from failing.

Bernanke, who led the Fed during the 2008 financial crisis, was recognized for his pathbreaking 1983 analysis of the Great Depression. The committee said his research showed how bank runs had turned an ordinary recession in the 1930s into the worst global economic crisis in history.

Oct. 9

 

maggie haberman confidence man

washington post logoWashington Post, Book Review: Trump’s origins in a New York world of con men, mobsters and hustlers, Sean Wilentz, Oct. 9, 2022 (print ed.). In “Confidence Man,” Maggie Haberman puts special emphasis on Trump’s ascent in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Maggie Haberman hails from a New York City very different from Donald Trump’s dominion of glitz and criminality, but she knows that dominion well.

Raised in the household of a traditional shoe-leather New York Times reporter and a well-connected publicist, and now herself ensconced at the digitized Times, Haberman’s earliest assignments involved covering City Hall and its satellite ethical sinkholes for the New York Post and the Daily News. That singular education in New York corruption has stuck with her and sets her apart from her peers reporting on the Trump presidency and its seditious aftermath. It now distinguishes Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America as a uniquely illuminating portrait of our would-be maximum leader.

With a sharp eye for the backstory, Haberman places special emphasis on Trump’s ascent in a late 1970s and 1980s New York demimonde of hustlers, mobsters, political bosses, compliant prosecutors and tabloid scandalmongers. This bygone Manhattan that Tom Wolfe could only satirize in The Bonfire of the Vanities is the fundament to any understanding of what makes Trump tick.

“The dynamics that defined New York City in the 1980s,” Haberman observes, “stayed with Trump for decades; he often seemed frozen there.” Zombielike, he swaggers and struts and cons on the world’s largest stage, much as he did when gossip columnists fawned over him as The Donald; and he will continue his night of the living dead, with menacing success, until someone finally drives a metaphorical stake through his metaphorical heart.

The rote rap on Trump is that he was a bumptious, hyper-ambitious real estate developer from Queens who never earned the respect of the Manhattan society pooh-bahs and who vowed to beat them at their own game — a vow that eventually led him to the Oval Office, astonishing even Trump. That storyline appears in Confidence Man, but Haberman knows it is superficial.

Inside that cauldron of fakery, Trump, no rugged individualist, and padded with his father’s millions, gravitated to a specific milieu of arrivistes whom he equated with supreme power, class and ruthlessness. He held in especially high regard the bully George Steinbrenner, from the outer outer borough of Cleveland, and became a constant presence in the Boss’s Yankee Stadium box. (I’d not known until reading Haberman that Trump, a wimp when it came to sacking underlings, found his tag line for “The Apprentice” by impersonating Steinbrenner barking “You’re fired,” over and over, not least at the Yankees’ oft-discharged manager Billy Martin.)

djt roger stone CustomOff to one side there was the raffish schemer Roger Stone, left, a well-digger’s son from Norwalk, Conn., who got his start as one of the political saboteurs for Richard Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign, and whose Washington lobbying mega-firm (with Paul Manafort as one of his co-partners) came to represent the Trump Organization’s interests. From the outermost borough of Adelaide, Australia, there was the unscrupulous media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who had already turned the liberal tabloid New York Post into a right-wing scandal sheet and who in 1985 completed the acquisition of 20th Century Fox that would eventually give the world Fox News, commanded by another member of the New York gang, Roger Ailes. There was also the high-profile, media-savvy U.S. attorney Rudy Giuliani, from Brooklyn like Sharpton, and he and Trump would circle each other until they seriously hooked up some years later.

djt roy cohn fileTrump’s chief mentor, and a consigliere to most of the big shots named above, was the legendary underworld and overworld fixer Roy Cohn (shown with Trump at far right). The pampered son of a kingpin in Bronx Democratic politics, long notorious for his McCarthyite Red Scare grandstanding, Cohn, as Haberman details, connected Trump with Stone as well as with organized crime while giving him master classes in high-stakes con-man strategy and tactics. Whenever Trump today intimidates the press with threats of retaliation, whenever he defends his aggressions by claiming to be the victim, whenever he calls his accusers (especially if they represent the federal government) life-destroying, treasonous “scum,” he is channeling his mentor, Cohn.

Haberman offers plenty of material about how these men did it all with virtual impunity. Of course, there would be the occasional fines and sealed judgments — and Cohn was disbarred weeks before he died of AIDS, abandoned by Trump, who knew the score on being heartless. But as Haberman describes, Trump went to great lengths to square himself with a paragon of the city’s power elite, the longtime Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau, including making generous donations to Morgenthau’s pet charity, the New York Police Athletic League, the one charity commitment, Morgenthau would joke warmly, that Trump could be counted on honoring. Not until Cyrus Vance Jr., who had a fine pedigree but was no crusader, succeeded Morgenthau in 2010 did Trump and his properties, after Vance backed off for years, finally face serious investigation by the D.A.’s office — and even then, prosecutors on the case quit in protest when Vance’s successor suddenly seemed to drop it.

Confidence Man likewise enlightens about the massive oversights by the press and the broader world of publishing, especially in New York, not simply in failing to expose the corruption that Haberman catalogues but in creating and then abetting Trump’s celebrity. There were certainly exceptional naysaying reporters, notably Jack Newfield’s protege at the Village Voice, Wayne Barrett, who, at Newfield’s urging, dug deep into Trump’s shady dealings. Barrett’s and the Voice’s condemnations sparked a brief aborted federal investigation, but they weren’t about to shake the inertia at the most influential outlets, topped by the New York Times. Neither did the late lamented Spy magazine’s bull’s-eye satirical shots at the “short-fingered vulgarian” provoke inquiries, although they did provoke Trump to threaten lawsuits and are said to anger him to this day.

Some of the episodes in Haberman’s later chapters on Trump’s presidency have already stirred controversy. Beneath the buzz, though, many of the richest storylines from the Trump White House, as reported in “Confidence Man” and elsewhere, have a distinctly New York ring. “Where’s my Roy Cohn?” Trump snapped in 2018, in anger at his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, the very conservative former senator from Alabama, who had recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whom Trump eventually ousted.

Before he was twice impeached, Trump found his man, yet another New York mouthpiece, William Barr, who as attorney general happily did Trump’s bidding in, among other things, lying about the damning Mueller report on the Russian interference — until Trump lost reelection and Barr, well-schooled in transactional loyalty and with his reputation as a supposed “institutionalist” tarnished, declined recruitment into Trump’s coup and at the last minute jumped from the sinking ship. The manic and often antic crimes of Stone, pardoned and unpardoned, add another layer of continuity, a louche link with the old Cohn-centered netherworld.

Haberman’s contribution in Confidence Man, though, is much larger than its arresting anecdotes. Later generations of historians will puzzle over Trump’s rise to national power.

Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton, is the author, most recently, of “No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation’s Founding.”

Politico, Twitter blocks — and then restores — Covid-19 vaccination post from Florida's surgeon general, David Kihara, Oct. 9, 2022. Joe Ladapo is an outspoken skeptic of Covid-19 vaccines.

twitter bird CustomTwitter blocked — and then restored — a post from Florida Surgeon General Joe Ladapo that was promoting an analysis claiming a high incidence of cardiac-related deaths among men who take the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine.

politico CustomLadapo, who posted the tweet Friday, had also recommended men aged 18-39 should not receive the mRNA vaccine. Ladapo is an outspoken skeptic of Covid-19 vaccines who has questioned both the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine despite consensus within the medical community that the vaccines help protect against the virus and can lessen severe symptoms.

“Our current misleading information policies cover: synthetic and manipulated media, COVID-19, and civic integrity,” Twitter stated in its post that blocked Ladapo’s tweet. “If we determine a Tweet contains misleading or disputed information per our policies that could lead to harm, we may add a label to the content to provide context and additional information.”

Ladapo has previously recommended that young children should not receive the Covid-19 vaccine. The Florida Department of Health over the summer did not pre-order vaccines for children aged 5 and under even though 49 other states did in the lead-up to the Food and Drug Administration issuing emergency authorization for young kids to receive the Pfizer and Moderna shots.

Johns Hopkins Medicine, the Mayo Clinic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA have all stressed that the vaccine is safe and urged the public to get vaccinated.

Spokespeople for Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis, who appointed Ladapo to serve as his surgeon general last year, on Sunday criticized Twitter for blocking Ladapo’s post.

“This is an unacceptable and Orwellian move for narrative over fact,” said Bryan Griffin, the governor’s press secretary, in a tweet. In a follow-up tweet later Sunday after Twitter restored the post, he thanked people for bringing attention to it.

DeSantis has consistently rejected Covid-19 rules that mandate showing proof of vaccination, masking students in schools and vaccine requirements for large businesses.

His Department of Health in June threatened the Special Olympics with a $27.5 million fine for requiring thousands of participants to show that they had been vaccinated against Covid before competing in games at an Orlando event. Florida stated that the proof of vaccination requirement violated the state’s law against such a mandate.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Herschel Walker and Brett Favre were football gods. It should have ended there, Candace Buckner, Oct. 9, candace buckner2022 (print ed.). Herschel Walker was a great running back. Certainly the greatest to play at the University of Georgia and arguably the greatest in the history of college football. If only it would end right there.

Brett Favre,below, was a great quarterback. Certainly the greatest to play at the University of Southern Mississippi and brett favre cardarguably one of the greatest in NFL history. If only it would end right there.

There should be a line. But as sports fans we keep blurring the boundaries between the player and the person.

Superstar athletes amaze us with their otherworldly feats, and as a show of appreciation we then construct altars on which they can spend the rest of their lives feeling loved, admired — and removed from reality.

Once on top, they are all but certain to let us down — because human beings tend to make terrible gods. This hasn’t stopped the sports-obsessed among us from desperately wanting our heroes’ characters to match their athletic skills.

Politico Magazine, New Book Excerpt: How Influential Senate Democrats Shut Down a Bid to Call Witnesses Against Trump, Rachael Bade and Karoun Demirjian, Oct. 7, 2022. A new book shows how Democrats hobbled their own case to convict Trump after Jan. 6 by shooting down a last-minute bid for witnesses.

Oct. 7

 

alden global capital logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Newspaper Company Will Stop Endorsing National and Statewide Candidates, Katie Robertson, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). The change will be announced in an editorial set to run in Alden Global Capital’s more than 200 papers as early as Friday.

Publications owned by the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, the second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, will no longer endorse major political candidates in their opinion pages.

In an editorial that is scheduled to run in papers as early as Friday, the company’s publications will tell readers that they will stop endorsing candidates in presidential, Senate and gubernatorial elections.

A copy of the editorial was obtained by The New York Times. Alden confirmed its contents and timing.

“Unfortunately, as the public discourse has become increasingly acrimonious, common ground has become a no man’s land between the clashing forces of the culture wars,” according to a copy of the planned editorial.

“At the same time, with misinformation and disinformation on the rise, readers are often confused, especially online, about the differences between news stories, opinion pieces and editorials.”

chicago tribune hqAlden Global Capital owns about 200 newspapers in the United States, including The Chicago Tribune (whose famed former downtown headquarters is shown at right), The New York Daily News and The Denver Post. Only Gannett, which owns USA Today and other papers, operates more.

The editorial is set to run in the newspapers that had traditionally endorsed candidates, not all newspapers in the Alden group, according to a person with knowledge of the plan. Papers can still endorse candidates for local offices.

Newspapers in the United States, including The New York Times, have a long tradition of endorsing candidates. But in recent years, some outlets have questioned the practice or decided to forgo it altogether. The Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia said the 2018 cycle would be its last. Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, McClatchy, a large newspaper chain, said its newspapers would not make an endorsement unless they had interviewed both candidates.

Three Alden newspapers — The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune and The Denver Post — will be allowed to continue with their endorsements this season because of how far along in the process they are and because they are viewed as state newspapers of record, the person said. Those newspapers will announce after this election cycle that they will end the practice, according to the person with knowledge of the company’s plan.

The editorial said the newspapers would continue to cover political races but would “no longer endorse in presidential races or the increasingly nationalized contests for governor and senate.”

“We want to make sure our opinion pages advance a healthy and productive public discourse,” it said. “With that in mind, we will focus our efforts on more local contests, such as city councils, school boards, local initiatives, referendums and other such matters, which readers have told us continue to be of great value in their daily lives.”

 

marina ovsyannikova afp via getty

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I refuse to comply,’ says Russian journalist, days after escaping house arrest, Jennifer Hassan and Robyn Dixon, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). In her first remarks since fleeing pretrial house arrest earlier this week, Russian journalist Marina Ovsyannikova, shown above in a file photo, said she considers herself “completely innocent” and issued a call for Russian President Vladimir Putin to be isolated from society and put on trial.

“Since our state refuses to comply with its own laws, I refuse to comply with the measure of restraint imposed on me in the form of house arrest, and I release myself from it as of September 30, 2022,” Ovsyannikova posted to Telegram from an undisclosed location Wednesday.

“Respected employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service, put such a bracelet on Putin,” she said in a video, referring to the electronic tracking device she has been forced to wear on her ankle by Russian officials. “It is he who must be isolated from society not me, and he should be tried for the genocide of the people of Ukraine and for the fact that he destroys the male population of Russia en masse.”

 

 

Jeff German sits and works in the Las Vegas Review-Journal offices in 2018 ( Photo by Harrison Keely of the Las Vegas Review-Journal via Getty Images).

Jeff German sits and works in the Las Vegas Review-Journal offices in 2018 ( Photo by Harrison Keely of the Las Vegas Review-Journal via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, A Las Vegas newsroom set out to investigate a colleague’s killing. Now a suspect is behind bars, Sarah Ellison, Oct. 7, 2022.  After Jeff German of the Las Vegas Review-Journal was found dead, his fellow reporters knew they would have to investigate his death before they mourned it. Now a suspect is behind bars.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The MAGA GOP has never been about ‘life.’ Only power, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 6, 2022. The cat’s been out of jennifer rubin new headshotthe bag for some time regarding Republicans’ insincere support for “life.”

If “life” were the issue when it comes to abortion, the party would not put reproductive health and lives at risk with forced-birth laws. For that matter, a pro-life politician would not oppose effective gun-safety laws; would not oppose mask edicts or discourage vaccinations for the coronavirus; and would not push to cut Medicaid and hobble the Affordable Care Act. However, never has it been more apparent how utterly unprincipled the party is when it comes to an issue it has used for decades to woo its base.

Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker, who supports forced birth even in cases of rape, incest and danger to the life of the mother, is credibly accused (with documentary proof) of urging a woman he impregnated to get an abortion and then paying for it, as the Daily Beast first reported. Although Walker has denied the allegation, Republicans have let on that they don’t care anyway. Dana Loesch, a former spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association, made that crystal clear: “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. I want control of the Senate.”

She’s right, of course. All the GOP cares about is power. It certainly does not care about the character or quality of its candidates, about actual election results, about officials’ oaths or really any other policy matter. This was the party that had no platform in 2020, only unwavering loyalty to its leader.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jury to decide on damages in trial against Alex Jones over Sandy Hook lies, Joanna Slater, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). A lawyer representing family members of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting said Thursday that Infowars founder Alex Jones was responsible for defamation on a “historic scale” and urged jurors in a Connecticut courtroom to award damages commensurate with the suffering his clients have endured.

Jones created a “lie machine” for profit, said Christopher Mattei, a lawyer representing the relatives of eight of the victims and an FBI agent who responded to the 2012 mass shooting.

The remarks came during the closing arguments of a closely watched proceeding against Jones, a far-right conspiracy theorist who spread the false claim that the massacre was fake and the grieving parents were actors, leading to years of harassment and anguish for the families of the victims.

The judge in the case, Barbara Bellis, already entered a judgment against Jones that found him liable by default after he refused to produce crucial evidence in the case.

Politico, Delaware judge delays Twitter-Musk trial, Rebecca Kern, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Musk’s attorneys said they’re working on getting debt politico Customfinancing. Elon Musk and Twitter now have until the end of the month to finalize the $44 billion deal for the billionaire to purchase the platform, a judge ruled on Thursday.

Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick of the Delaware Court of Chancery said that the two parties have until Oct. 28 to close the deal — a win for Musk — after the Tesla CEO had pushed for a stay in the high-stakes trial. Musk had committed in an earlier Thursday filing that he’d close the deal on or close to Oct. 28

ny times logoNew York Times, Back at the Negotiating Table, Twitter Wants Assurances from Musk, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Bernhard Warner, Vivian Giang, Sarah Kessler, Stephen Gandel, Michael J. de la Merced, Lauren Hirsch and Ephrat Livni, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Elon Musk is back in talks with Twitter. The company wants guarantees that he won’t walk away again.

For now, the case goes on. “The parties have not filed a stipulation to stay this action, nor has any party moved for a stay,” McCormick wrote in a legal filing on Wednesday. “I, therefore, continue to press on toward our trial set to begin on Oct. 17.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Prominent influencer Bethenny Frankel sues TikTok over ads she says misused her image, Taylor Lorenz, Oct. 7, 2022 (print ed.). The lawsuit highlights another gap in regulation of an online industry that has grown rapidly in recent years.

A prominent online influencer and reality TV star filed a lawsuit Thursday against TikTok, claiming that the platform has failed to crack down on scam ads using her videos to promote counterfeit products.

Bethenny Frankel, who has more than 990,000 followers on TikTok and was featured in the Bravo television series “The Real Housewives of New York,” says she was scrolling through TikTok on Sept. 16 when many of her followers began asking about an ad they’d seen featuring her promoting a cheap knockoff designer cardigan.

But Frankel, as she alleges in the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said she never agreed to promote the knockoff cardigan. Instead, she said, a scammer had taken a previous video in which she talked about a different cardigan and edited it to make it look like she was endorsing the knockoff. According to the lawsuit, a summary of which was provided to The Washington Post, Frankel immediately posted a TikTok video alerting her followers to the fake ad and reported the ad through TikTok’s content-flagging system. Within minutes, her video about the incident was removed for bullying.

Oct. 6

 

Coffee County historical marker and the county courthouse in Douglas, GA (Photo by Stephen Conn via Flickr, C BY-NC 2.0).

Coffee County historical marker and the county courthouse in Douglas, GA (Photo by Stephen Conn via Flickr, C BY-NC 2.0).

Going Deep With Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary: What Donald Trump Got Right About Voting Machines, Russ Baker, right, Oct. 6, 2022. The russ baker cropped david welkerweird drama over the supposed “forensic experts” who messed with election software in a tiny Georgia county distracts from the real problem: Voting machines — and our elections — are indeed vulnerabe.

“Fair elections” was perhaps the animating factor in American politics in 2020. That summer, as we all know, Donald Trump seemingly began to prepare for a November loss by declaring ad nauseam that the only way he could lose was if the election was rigged — but the idea that the integrity of the election was at risk was first floated by Joe Biden, who predicted (accurately) as early as June that Trump would “try to steal” the election by casting doubt on mail-in ballots.

Since then, for most people not attending Trump’s post-presidential rallies, the issue has pretty much disappeared. Among “reasonable” people, it’s taken as axiomatic that our elections are secure. But that’s not true. It’s a crisis for our country, beyond the hundreds of election deniers running for key positions overseeing future elections, and the situation sets us up for future disasters.

Thanks for reading Going Deep with Russ Baker! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

whowhatwhy logoWe know all about that at WhoWhatWhy. Long before Trump hijacked this legitimate issue for illegitimate purposes with the “Stop the Steal” fantasy, we were one of the first news outlets to sound the alarm over the “chain of custody” of ballots and the vulnerabilities of electronic voting systems.

So-called “hybrid” voting machines, used to both create and mark and then scan and count barcoded paper ballots, can be manipulated in various ways that are difficult to detect. Hand-marked ballots, with the security of the chain of custody preserved and well documented, are probably the only way to ensure an election wasn’t hijacked.

Election integrity is a real concern. But once Trump commandeered the concept, many reasonable people saw any question of voting machine reliability as dangerous territory, the exclusive realm of MAGA and QAnon kooks.

The way legacy media is covering a ballot machine controversy in tiny Coffee County, GA, is not helping.

There, local GOP officials allowed some purported “election experts” — who were in fact Trump loyalists — to access official election computers and poll pads on January 7, 2021, under the cover story that they were looking for evidence that the 2020 election had indeed been stolen.

Exactly what they were up to is still a mystery, but one theory is that whatever they were doing tainted the Coffee County voting machines — and may have provided a blueprint for stealing future elections. For now, that’s just a theory. Georgia’s Republican election officials have repeatedly insisted that despite the curious visits and the so-called “forensic experts” accessing the machines, there was no sign of any tampering or other shenanigans.

Framed that way, Coffee County sounds like a sideshow. Yet it’s been an ongoing national story. The Washington Post, The New York Times, and other major news organizations have been publishing bits of closed-circuit video footage and other evidence that increasingly show that the local GOP officials and their allies seem to have been evasive, had poor memory, or possibly lied outright about the incident.

Although the Post has played the story prominently and sought to keep its lead over other news outlets on it, something about the way in which the stories focused on the specific local characters and their actions obscures the larger issue — an issue that legacy media may be, understandably, fearful of highlighting.

georgia mapRecent coverage gives the impression that the only reason the footage is public is a lawsuit. What they neglected to mention: That lawsuit, filed in 2018, was brought about because advocates had identified specific security flaws with internet-connected voting machines, like the ones used in Georgia and four other states.

The following year, observers found internet-connected voting machines, used to upload results from precincts, in 10 states. Ahead of 2020, cybersecurity experts identified 35 voting systems that could be reached — and breached — via the internet, despite insistence to the contrary from Jeanette Manfra, the then-assistant director for cybersecurity for the Department of Homeland Security.

This context was absent from the legacy media’s Coffee County coverage. Who cares that, after the election, a small forensic effort took place to examine the voting system used in a tiny county in Georgia? Neither the Post nor the Times has done a great job of highlighting and focusing public attention, front and center, on what’s at stake in this blurry footage. The Times did raise the point, but only in a final paragraph.

I tried to draw attention to the core problem in a previous newsletter. My point was that, under the guise of investigating possible wrongdoing, the people captured in the video might have been opening the door to actual wrongdoing — i.e., by obtaining the code used in the machines, they could potentially use it to tamper with the whole system.

Now, there’s a tiny bit of acknowledgment of this by state authorities in Georgia. Two weeks ago, Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger — the same Brad Raffensperger whom outgoing President Donald Trump leaned on in the infamous January 2021 phone request to “find” him 11,780 votes — announced that even though nobody could point out exactly what might be amiss, Georgia would go ahead and replace the Dominion Voting Systems equipment in Coffee County anyway.

But that seems more like a distraction and damage control than anything else — since the actual problem is that the incursion could potentially allow people to access and influence voting equipment throughout the state. That’s the real issue: The overall voting system is potentially insecure. (Raffensperger claimed otherwise, as does this Department of Homeland Security report — but experts we’ve consulted for years vehemently disagree.)

And even worse, Georgia’s exposure to covert election manipulation could be the bellwether for the rest of the country.

With very tight elections anticipated in consequential US Senate and gubernatorial races in that state — races that have national implications — it’s deeply concerning that more attention is not being paid to the underlying risks.

Those risks are copious and varied: There’s no reliable paper trail to ensure that miscounts don’t happen accidentally or deliberately, and there are plenty of ways for miscounts to happen.

What happened in Georgia is this: The state bought a lot of ballot-marking devices (BMDs) designed to make voting easier for handicapped people but then made them mandatory for all in-person voters, even though there are grave concerns among experts that these machines have flaws that could potentially permit manipulation.

But you could read about the Trumpy weirdos in Coffee County for hours, and never pick up this vital takeaway.

***

The lack of attention paid by the media to the real problems with voting machines may be explained, in part, by the fact that news organizations have painted themselves into a corner. They’ve been telling their audience that there is nothing to Trump’s election manipulation claims — and they’re right: There’s no evidence to support his Stop the Steal circus.

But the stench of Trump’s Big Lie has had a peculiar and paradoxical impact on coverage of election security and integrity. Because, in their aversion to it, the legacy media have avoided granting even a shred of credence to anything Trump, or anyone associated with Stop the Steal, has been saying on this issue.

Unless this problem is given attention and gets fixed, election fraud could become endemic — in 2022, and beyond.

Axios, Dems' swing-state local news ploy, Lachlan Markay and Thomas Wheatley, Oct. 6, 2022. Writers for a D.C.-based media operation run by prominent Democratic operatives are behind a sprawling network of ostensible local media outlets churning out Democrat-aligned news content in midterm battleground states, Axios' Lachlan Markay and Thomas Wheatley have learned.

Why it matters: Behind the patina of independent local news, these sites are pumping out content designed to put a sheen of original reporting on partisan messaging.

It's an increasingly common tactic among political outfits — both Democratic and Republican — looking to give their team a steady stream of positive content that is then used to boost their own electoral communications.

What's happening: A network of at least 51 locally branded news sites has popped up since last year under names like the Milwaukee Metro Times, the Mecklenburg Herald and the Tri-City Record.

The sites are focused on key swing states with elections in 2021 and 2022: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Each follows a similar template: aggregated local news content and short write-ups about local sports teams and attractions — interspersed with heavily slanted political news aimed at boosting Democratic midterm candidates and attacking Republican opponents.

The intrigue: "About Us" pages for each of the sites say they're run by a company called Local Report Inc., which was formed in Florida last year.

Their mastheads indicate involvement by another entity: the American Independent, a Washington-based progressive news outfit.
Six American Independent writers have each contributed to most or all of the Local Report sites, regularly writing stories that exclusively appear on the network.

The American Independent was launched by Democratic operative and fundraiser David Brock, who is also known for founding the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters for America.

TAI's president, Matt Fuehrmeyer, is a former senior aide at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to Harry Reid, the late former Senate Democratic leader.

Between the lines: Local Report's stories receive minimal promotion from the sites themselves — they're not boosted through digital ads, and Local Report itself has no online presence beyond its network of TAI-staffed news sites.

What they do offer is a steady stream of friendly — and sometimes misrepresented — news coverage that can be touted by political allies.
Local Report stories have popped up in communications from Stacey Abrams' Georgia gubernatorial campaign, the Democratic Parties of Georgia and Michigan, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Michigan's Democratic secretary of state, and independent political groups such as Color of Change and the Democratic Coalition.

What they're saying: Jessica McCreight, TAI's executive editor, described its relationship with Local Report Inc. as a "co-publishing agreement," but would not say whether her organization has editorial control over the sites' content.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Political spam is out of control. Now Gmail is about to make it worse, Geoffrey A. Fowler, Oct. 6, 2022 (print ed.). Campaign emails will soon get to bypass Gmail’s spam filter and go straight into your inbox. Democracy doesn’t have to be this annoying.

Emails from certain federal candidates, parties and political action committees will soon be allowed to bypass the spam filters on Gmail and go straight into your inbox. To banish them, you’ll need to click a new unsubscribe button on each and every sender. (I’ll show you how in the video below.)

Google says it’s a pilot program — so far, not being used by any other email providers — to surface campaign emails that some people might want to see. But this plan is outrageously hostile to the majority of us, who could be forced to dig through a lot more political spam. Who even asked for this? Why, politicians, of course.

Democracy depends on a free flow of information. But in our inboxes and on our phones, democracy is becoming annoying — and dangerous. We the users don’t want to be overwhelmed by unwanted political emails, text messages and robocalls — nor do we want to be targeted with misinformation and misleading fundraising appeals.

Google’s plan to help politicians spam you gives us an opportunity to rethink what’s gone awry about campaigning online.

“The spam finds its way into my inbox, too,” said Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub (D) of the Federal Election Commission, who helps police America’s campaigns. “The politicians who write the rules have exempted themselves from a lot of the rules that could apply,” she told me.

How do we fight back? Rather than give politicians special end runs to our attention, we need to find ways to make politicians more accountable for how they treat our inboxes and our data — and what they say in direct communications with us.

A plan only a politician could love

Google is offering politicians an end run around one of our last refuges online: the spam filters that protect Gmail’s 1.5 billion users from unwanted junk, scams and malware.

Over the next few weeks, emails from campaigns participating in Google’s trial will start to show up directly in everyone’s Gmail “Primary” tab. (That’s the same spot as actually important information like emails from a potential employer or your aunt.) You’ll see a new gray “Unsubscribe” box at the top the first time you open one of these emails. But the system means you’ll have to look at and tap unsubscribe on each of these emails, whose senders have a habit of multiplying every election season.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Google also put some rules on participants that might discourage some bad behavior. It’s possible that the worst offenders — like campaigns who buy millions of email addresses and spam them all — won’t even try to join the program because they can’t meet the company’s criteria.

But come on, Google: Spam filters are extremely popular, and for good reason. Roughly half of all the email traffic on the internet is of unwanted messages. No other email sender (not even Google itself) is exempt from the Gmail spam filter. That’s because Google’s new policy isn’t rooted in better product design — it’s rooted in politics.

Republican lawmakers have been hammering the tech giant about alleged political bias in its products and this year seized on a study from North Carolina State University to suggest Gmail’s spam filter is biased against Republican emails, making it harder for them to raise money. Never mind that the authors of the study said their work was being misrepresented.

Google vigorously denies that there’s political bias in its spam filter but is still trying to score points in Washington by promoting its new program as a solution to politicians’ immediate fundraising woes. “This was a big gimme to politicians,” said Weintraub, who was a dissenting vote on the decision that deemed Google’s program legal.

washington post logoWashington Post, New monument honors service of Black Americans in 12 U.S. wars, Cathy Free, Oct. 6, 2022. ‘This will be a site for healing,’ said Ronal Bassham, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam wars. The Buffalo monument is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, honoring the contributions of Black service members in 12 U.S. wars, from the Revolutionary War to the war in Afghanistan.

He reenacted Civil War battles as a Black soldier fighting for freedom. Then he learned about his great-great-grandfather.

There are other memorials and museums that honor Black soldiers, though the Buffalo monument is the only one dedicated to living and deceased veterans from all branches of the U.S. military, said Robin E. Hodges, 60, a U.S. Navy veteran and vice-chairwoman of the monument’s board of directors.

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk proposes closing deal for Twitter at original price and ending all litigation, Faiz Siddiqui, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman, Oct. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The offer, set to be discussed in court later today, marks the latest twist in a monthslong campaign by Elon Musk to acquire the influential social media platform.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, has offered to proceed with a deal to buy Twitter at the price he offered months ago before trying to call it off, according to a legal filing, a stunning development weeks before the two sides were due to face off in a trial.

In a letter that Musk’s side sent to Twitter overnight, he proposed proceeding with the deal at $54.20 a share if the Delaware Chancery Court, which was scheduled to hold the trial on Oct. 17, agrees to “enter an immediate stay” of the case “and adjourn the trial and all other” related proceedings. Twitter enclosed a copy of the letter from Musk’s attorneys in a financial filing Tuesday.

Twitter said in a statement Tuesday that it received the letter and intends to close the transaction at the original share price offered by Musk’s team. The company plans to accept the offer but is waiting for confirmation that the judge can oversee the process, said a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe twitter bird Customsensitive matters.

Because there is great distrust on both sides, Twitter leaders are still questioning whether the letter represents a legal maneuver, the person said.

Elon Musk’s texts reveal what led to Twitter bid, before deal fell apart

Musk’s offer comes at a key moment in the lead-up to the trial, which was due to settle months of legal wrangling between the billionaire and the social media company following Musk’s moves in July to terminate his planned $44 billion purchase of Twitter.

Both sides had been conducting depositions. Musk’s side collected testimony from Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and whistleblower Peiter Zatko, the company’s former head of security, who alleged extreme deficiencies in Twitter’s security practices and inaccuracies in its filings to security regulators, according to court schedules.

Two people briefed on Zatko’s sworn interviews said they did not produce any new revelations that would have helped Musk’s effort to escape the deal without incurring significant costs. Zatko was also deposed by Twitter.

Musk was scheduled to be deposed in the case Thursday in Austin, where he lives, after the original date was scrapped, the filings showed. His attorney Alex Spiro’s deposition was expected to follow on Sunday in New York.

Legal experts say Musk’s willingness to close the deal suggests that he may have realized he’s in a weaker position than he wanted to be going into trial and his deposition.

“Musk is finally listening to his lawyers,” Anat Alon-Beck, a business law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said in an email. “He would be a fool to not at least try to buy the company now and avoid being deposed.”

Bloomberg News first reported news of the offer. Twitter shares were suspended Tuesday at their highest level in months after the report.

ny times logoNew York Times, Musk’s Twitter Would Be a Wild Ride, Kevin Roose, Oct. 6, 2022 (print ed). Our columnist Kevin Roose makes six predictions about Twitter under Elon Musk’s control.

Buckle up.

Elon Musk, who for months has been strenuously trying to back out of a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion, now appears ready to buy the company after all. In a surprise letter to Twitter on Monday night, Mr. Musk offered to take Twitter private at his originally proposed price — $54.20 per share — marking a possible end to one of the most dramatic legal feuds in Silicon Valley history.

twitter bird CustomIt’s worth noting that the deal could still fall apart — Mr. Musk is famously subject to 11th-hour mood shifts — but the most likely outcome now is that the world’s richest man will in fact become Twitter’s new owner, possibly as soon as this week.

Much is unknown about what Mr. Musk will do with Twitter if he acquires it. The mercurial billionaire has made only the vaguest of public statements about his plans for the company and its products.

But we now know, thanks in part to a bevy of text messages released as part of the protracted legal battle, that it will be nothing like business as usual. And there are at least six predictions I feel confident making, if the deal does in fact close.

He’s going to clean house, starting with firing Twitter’s chief executive, Parag Agrawal.

A juicy set of text messages between Mr. Musk and his friends and business associates emerged last week, as part of the legal battle. In them, Mr. Musk made clear that he was unhappy with Twitter’s current leadership — in particular with Parag Agrawal, the chief executive, who took over last year from Jack Dorsey.

The texts revealed that Mr. Agrawal had initially sought to work constructively with Mr. Musk, and that the two even had a friendly dinner near San Jose, Calif., in March. But the men eventually clashed. Mr. Agrawal, at one point, told Mr. Musk via text message that his habit of tweeting things like “Is Twitter dying?” was “not helping me make Twitter better.”

 

loretta lynn 1932 2022

washington post logoWashington Post, One of Loretta Lynn’s last public appearances captures her iconic legacy, Emily Yahr, Oct. 6, 2022 (print ed). The 2019 CMAs kicked off with 16 female singers on stage, and the message was clear — they wouldn’t be there if not for Loretta Lynn.

It was a profoundly rare sight — 16 female country artists spanning multiple generations, all together onstage at the 2019 Country Music Association Awards, kicking off the genre’s biggest night in the national spotlight with a nine-minute medley of iconic hits. Throughout the performance, there was only one break from the music.

“Ladies and gentleman, this is for a living legend we’re so honored to sing for tonight,” said Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles, accompanied by singers ranging from Tanya Tucker to Gretchen Wilson to Maren Morris, along with show co-hosts Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton and Reba McEntire. “Sitting right there, the first woman to win CMA entertainer of the year: Miss Loretta Lynn!”

The audience at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville roared as Lynn, wearing a sparkling green ensemble, beamed and waved to the crowd from her front-row seat. Though no one knew it yet, this would be one of her last public appearances, and the subtext was clear: Without Lynn — one of the most influential and groundbreaking country artists of all time, who shattered preconceived notions about female singer-songwriters — many of the singers in front of her might have never made it to the stage.

ny times logoalec baldwin pr headshotNew York Times, Alec Baldwin Reaches Settlement With Family of ‘Rust’ Cinematographer, Graham Bowley and Julia Jacobs, Oct. 6, 2022 (print ed). Halyna Hutchins was killed on set when a gun held by Mr. Baldwin, right, went off. A settlement with producers, including Mr. Baldwin, means production will resume.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Alex Jones Stands Trial, Newtown Would Rather Forget Him, Karen Zraick, Oct. 6, 2022 (print ed). Nearly 10 years after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School — and the conspiracy theories propagated by Mr. Jones — Newtown residents are trying to move past their grief and anger.

Less than 20 miles from the place where a gunman massacred 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the man who has spent much of the decade since the attack spreading lies about what happened that day stood trial on Tuesday.

The closely watched courtroom spectacle playing out just up Interstate 84 has featured wrenching testimony and explosive outbursts. But in Newtown, people are done talking about Alex Jones.

“I think that most of the people in this town would like to forget about him, to forget his name,” said Richard Fattibene, 81, as he sat in the town’s general store having a coffee on Tuesday morning.

Oct. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk proposes closing deal for Twitter at original price and ending all litigation, Faiz Siddiqui, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Rachel Lerman, Oct. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The offer, set to be discussed in court later today, marks the latest twist in a monthslong campaign by Elon Musk to acquire the influential social media platform.

elon musk 2015Elon Musk, right, has offered to proceed with a deal to buy Twitter at the price he offered months ago before trying to call it off, according to a legal filing, a stunning development weeks before the two sides were due to face off in a trial.

In a letter that Musk’s side sent to Twitter overnight, he proposed proceeding with the deal at $54.20 a share if the Delaware Chancery Court, which was scheduled to hold the trial on Oct. 17, agrees to “enter an immediate stay” of the case “and adjourn the trial and all other” related proceedings. Twitter enclosed a copy of the letter from Musk’s attorneys in a financial filing Tuesday.

Twitter said in a statement Tuesday that it received the letter and intends to close the transaction at the original share

price offered by Musk’s team. The company plans to accept the offer but is waiting for confirmation that the judge can oversee the process, said a person familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive matters.

Because there is great distrust on both sides, Twitter leaders are still questioning whether the letter represents a legal maneuver, the person said.

Elon Musk’s texts reveal what led to Twitter bid, before deal fell apart

Musk’s offer comes at a key moment in the lead-up to the trial, which was due to settle months of legal wrangling between the billionaire and the social media company following Musk’s moves in July to terminate his planned $44 billion purchase of Twitter.

twitter bird CustomBoth sides had been conducting depositions. Musk’s side collected testimony from Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and whistleblower Peiter Zatko, the company’s former head of security, who alleged extreme deficiencies in Twitter’s security practices and inaccuracies in its filings to security regulators, according to court schedules.

Two people briefed on Zatko’s sworn interviews said they did not produce any new revelations that would have helped Musk’s effort to escape the deal without incurring significant costs. Zatko was also deposed by Twitter.

Musk was scheduled to be deposed in the case Thursday in Austin, where he lives, after the original date was scrapped, the filings showed. His attorney Alex Spiro’s deposition was expected to follow on Sunday in New York.

Legal experts say Musk’s willingness to close the deal suggests that he may have realized he’s in a weaker position than he wanted to be going into trial and his deposition.

“Musk is finally listening to his lawyers,” Anat Alon-Beck, a business law professor at Case Western Reserve University, said in an email. “He would be a fool to not at least try to buy the company now and avoid being deposed.”

Bloomberg News first reported news of the offer. Twitter shares were suspended Tuesday at their highest level in months after the report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Chipmaker Micron to build $20 billion N.Y. factory amid semiconductor boom, Jeanne Whalen, Oct. 5, 2022 (print ed.). The company eventually could spend up to $100 billion over 20 years.

Tech giant Micron said it will invest $20 billion in a new chip factory in Upstate New York and up to $100 billion over 20 years if it decides to expand — another sign of a domestic semiconductor manufacturing boom.

Micron said it will build the factory in Clay, N.Y., just north of Syracuse, with the first phase of construction to run through the end of the decade. The site will initially employ 3,000 people and could eventually include four factories and 9,000 employees if Micron opts to continue building.

Biden’s visit shows high stakes of $20 billion Ohio chip factory

The news is the latest in a string of U.S. chip-production investments announced in recent months as manufacturers take advantage of $52 billion in federal subsidies and additional tax credits passed in the recent Chips and Science Act.

“To those who doubted that America could dominate the industries of the future, I say this — you should never bet against the American people,” President Biden said in a statement Tuesday.

Micron only weeks ago announced another big factory project — in Boise, Idaho, near its headquarters. Intel, the chip giant based in Santa Clara, Calif., broke ground last month on a $20 billion project to build two factories near Columbus, Ohio. The company is also investing in a $20 billion expansion in Arizona.

washington post logoWashington Post, VP’s minor car accident revives worries of Secret Service’s history of concealing its mistakes, Carol D. Leonnig, Oct. 5, 2022. Vice President Harris's sport utility vehicle was immobilized in an accident Monday when her Secret Service driver hit a curb. The alert to senior officials initially failed to include key information about what happened.

A motorcade taking Vice President Harris to work was in a one-car accident on a closed roadway in D.C. Monday morning, an incident that concerned both the Secret Service director and the vice president and revived worries about the agency’s history of concealing its mistakes, according to two people familiar with the incident.

The Secret Service agent driving Harris in a sport utility vehicle struck the curb of a downtown tunnel hard enough that the vehicle’s tire needed to be replaced, bringing the motorcade to a standstill near Foggy Bottom at about 10:20 a.m., said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal discussions.

Harris had to be transferred to another vehicle in the motorcade so agents could safely spirit her to the White House. The routine nature of the travel and the high level of training required for agents who drive the president and vice president led many in the Secret Service, as well as Harris, to question how such an accident could happen.

Oct. 4

 

loretta lynn 1932 2022

washington post logoWashington Post, Loretta Lynn, who brought strong woman’s voice to country music, dies at 90, Terence McArdle, Oct. 4, 2022. After a hardscrabble start, Ms. Lynn rose from poverty in Kentucky to the top of Billboard’s Nashville charts and brought a strong woman’s voice to country music.

washington post logoWashington Post, Sheryl Sandberg’s next chapter: Pledging millions to fight abortion bans, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Naomi Nix, Oct. 4, 2022. The longtime Facebook chief officer stepped down last week. Three days later, she announced one of the biggest donations for abortion rights in ACLU history.

sheryl sandberg world economic forum 2013Less than three days after she left her position as the No. 2 corporate officer at Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg (shown at the World Economic Forum in 2013) is already remaking herself as one of the foremost philanthropists fighting the curtailment of abortion rights across the United States.

On Tuesday, Sandberg and the American Civil Liberties Union announced that Facebook’s former chief operating office was donating $3 million to fight abortion bans — money the ACLU said would be used “to protect reproductive health care in courts, legislatures, and at the ballot box over the next three years.”

The donation, one of the largest supporting abortion rights to the ACLU, marks a new chapter for Sandberg — among the most prominent female business executives in America. During her fourteen-year tenure at Facebook, she shied away from politically controversial moves.

facebook logoSandberg has long been a women’s rights advocate, championing her signature brand of corporate feminism in her best-selling book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” and her Lean In foundation. She is a major donor to Planned Parenthood and was known for promoting women to leadership positions during her 14-year tenure at the social network.

But she was also criticized during the Trump years for political timidity. She did not publicly comment when former president Donald Trump, as a candidate, made disparaging remarks about women, including bragging on tape that he would grope them against their will. She was called out for not publicly supporting or attending the Women’s March, a global gathering of millions of people in protest of Trump’s stance on women, in 2017. Facebook then spent years making extensive efforts to curry favor with the Trump administration, even going so far as to rewrite and interpret its policies to avoid conflict with the president and his followers.`

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Elon Musk’s texts are a weird window into billionaire boys’ club, Monica Hesse, right, Oct. 4, 2022 (print ed.). One monica hessebillion dollars for Twitter? Two billion? Whatever you think, man.

On Thursday, a giant cache of Elon Musk’s text messages became public via court documents filed in an ongoing legal dispute over whether the Tesla CEO must make good on his offer to buy Twitter. The texts, which include correspondence with such people as former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Joe Rogan, outline Musk’s shifting thinking on the deal — what he believed the company was worth, and what he would try to do with it.

elon musk 2015In one text thread with Musk, left, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison expressed interest in being part of a Twitter take-private deal.

“Roughly what dollar size?” Musk asked him.

Ellison texted back: “A billion...or whatever you recommend.”

I would like to talk about Larry Ellison’s ellipses.

This ellipsis is a casual piece of grammar. It is used as you might use an ellipsis when haggling with a dude on Craigslist about the price of his used NordicTrack and you’re still 15 bucks apart.

“Whatever works for you,” Musk responded. “I’d recommend maybe $2b or more.”

To which Ellison replied a few days later, “Since you think I should come in for at least $2b...I’m in for $2b.”

Another ellipsis. Three dots that stand in for the amount of time and thought that went into Ellison concluding that, based on Musk’s recommendation, he should offer not $1 billion (the price of a few jets), but $2 billion (the gross national product of a small nation).

The text chains of Elon Musk are a rare view into how the world’s wealthiest communicate among themselves. How they think about money and power — which is definitely different from how you and I might think about money and power.

Politico, Trump startup investors: Give us a better deal or we'll walk, Declan Harty, Oct. 4, 2022 (print ed.). Ultimately, if Digital World is able to coax the investors to stay in, the company will still need SEC approval before it can close the Trump Media transaction.

Big investors are starting to eye the exits on the $1.3 billion bid to take former President Donald Trump’s new social media startup public.

politico CustomThe hedge funds, trading firms and other major backers are questioning whether the financial riches that first attracted them to the transaction are still strong enough to hold their interest in a deal fraught with troubles, according to four investors who asked not to be named. Negotiations have been ongoing as some investors seek bigger potential profits in exchange for following through on commitments to put hundreds of millions of dollars into the venture, which planned a public stock exchange listing through a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.

There are no guarantees investors will get what they are pushing for as little headway has been made ahead of a Monday deadline.

The group of more than three dozen investors who had planned to put $1 billion into the company have begun to waver as bad news keeps piling up around the deal, including a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, a lawsuit by a scorned business partner against the company taking Trump’s venture public and reports that the Trump social network at the heart of the planned operation is struggling to pay its bills. Already, investors who had promised $138 million in capital have pulled out, with the SEC yet to OK the public offering nearly a year after its announcement.

“This deal has taken more left turns than a doorknob,” said Kristi Marvin, a former investment banker who runs data and research company SPACInsider. “Now, it’s just got so much hair on it.”

At stake for Trump and his startup — the company behind conservative social media app Truth Social — is hundreds of millions of dollars, marking the latest blow to the former president’s business empire since he left office. New York in September filed a sweeping lawsuit against Trump and his family for alleged fraud at the Trump Organization. While the conduct of his latest startup and its partners are in the spotlight, the type of corporate vehicle for taking the company public — a SPAC — has also broadly soured in the eyes of investors after a boom over the last few years.

Eleven months ago, Trump Media & Technology Group unveiled plans to merge with a company called Digital World Acquisition Corp. in a SPAC deal. The transaction was supposed to revive the Trump empire, starting with the development of Truth Social.

SPACs are effectively skeleton companies that trade on stock exchanges. With no operations or products, the SPAC uses the funds raised in the company’s initial public offering to go out and acquire a private entity that will take over its listing once the deal closes. For the private company, a SPAC merger offers a faster and easier alternative to the IPO, executives say. The SPAC creators, in return, typically benefit from a rich payday through the massive chunks of stock that they hold.

The SPAC market had already gone through a boom and bust when Digital World and Trump Media’s deal became public last October. Regulatory pressures, a shifting economy and market fatigue had squashed — and continue to weigh down — the SPAC fervor. But investors still piled in.

Digital World’s stock quickly became a favorite among individual investors when the deal went live. Soon, the shares were skyrocketing in movements that closely mirrored the ones seen in meme stocks like GameStop and AMC Entertainment months earlier. Before the deal was announced, the stock was trading at about $10, which is typical for a SPAC still looking to close a deal. Two days later, Digital World shares jumped to as high as $175.

Major trading and investment firms entered the deal later through a so-called private investment in public equity, or PIPE, bringing the potential treasure chest awaiting Trump Media to $1.3 billion. In exchange, the investors would get a discount on the shares so they could sell at a profit once the takeover was completed.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden reinstates arts committee that disbanded under Trump, Kelsey Ables, Oct. 3, 2022 (print ed.). Biden reinstates arts committee that disbanded under Trump.

On Friday, the president signed an executive order reestablishing the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and proclaimed October 2022 National Arts and Humanities month.

President Biden signed an executive order on Friday reestablishing the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The advisory group had been inactive since August 2017, when all committee members resigned in protest of Trump’s delayed condemnation of hate groups at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

In the order, Biden highlighted the broad sociopolitical benefits of supporting arts and culture. “The arts, the humanities and museum and library services are essential to the well-being, health, vitality and democracy of our Nation,” the order reads. “They are the soul of America, reflecting our multicultural and democratic experience.” He also emphasized that the arts “compel us to wrestle with our history.”

The order was announced on the eve of National Arts and Humanities month, which Biden designated for October in a separate proclamation that was also released on Friday.

The move to reestablish the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) continues a kind of cultural repair led by the Biden-Harris administration, which has proposed large increases in funding to federal arts agencies, following the Trump administration’s attempts to eliminate that funding and shut down those agencies. The administration has also overturned Trump-era regulations that controlled the type of art that could hang in government buildings and the style of architecture that could be used in new federal construction. The reinstatement comes after two-and-a-half years of a pandemic that has left arts institutions reeling from decreased ticket sales and prolonged closures.

In the order, Biden recognized the arts’ sweeping impact, from bolstering “efforts to tackle the climate crisis” to advancing the “cause of equity and accessibility.” The president also specifically pointed to underserved communities and veterans as potential beneficiaries of his administration’s cultural efforts.

In the Biden White House, art selections come with a personal touch

The reestablished committee is purely advisory and will guide the president as well as the heads of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Institute of Museum and Library Sciences (IMLS). It will help advance policy goals, promote philanthropic and private engagement in the arts, enhance the effectiveness of federal support and engage the nation’s artists and cultural leaders.

washington post logoWashington Post, She was the No. 1 educator in her school. Now in the U.S., ‘one day teaching here is like a month,’ Eli Saslow, Oct. 3, 2022 (print ed.). Amid a historic U.S. teacher shortage, a ‘Most Outstanding Teacher’ from the Philippines tries to help save a struggling school in rural Arizona

Oct. 2

 

Memorial of UK's Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 19, 2022 (Pool photob by David Ramos via Getty Images). Memorial of UK's Queen Elizabeth on Sept. 19, 2022 (Pool photob by David Ramos via Getty Images).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Post Elizabeth: Palace video footage demands are an early red flag, Autumn Brewingon, Oct. 2, 2022. Pageantry and spectacle are part of the British crown’s DNA. But the idea that footage of recent events honoring Queen Elizabeth II is not in the public domain might be the most ancient thing about the monarchy.

British broadcasters gave Buckingham Palace veto power over use of footage from the queen’s funeral, the Guardian newspaper reported last week.

Although the unedited broadcast remains online temporarily — through platforms such as BBC iPlayer — what happens to the material in a few weeks is unclear. “Royal staff sent messages to the BBC, ITV News and Sky News during the event with the timestamps of footage they wished to exclude from future news broadcasts and social media clips,” the Guardian reported. Five video clips removed from circulation included members of the royal family.

Then came a bigger palace demand: that broadcasters “produce a 60-minute compilation of clips they would like to keep from ceremonial events held across the 10 days of mourning for the Queen. The royal household will then consider whether to veto any proposed inclusions,” the Guardian reported Sunday.

“Once the process is complete, the vast majority of other footage from ceremonial events will then be taken out of circulation,” media editor Jim Waterson wrote. “Any news outlets wishing to use unapproved pieces of footage would have to apply to the royal family on a case-by-case basis, even for material that has already been broadcast to tens of millions of people.”

bbc news logo2Broadcasting the funeral and procession of the queen’s coffin from London to Windsor was such a massive undertaking that the BBC worked with ITV and Sky News. Some 28 million people in Britain watched the broadcast, along with more than 11 million in the United States.

As Newsweek noted, the location of some televised events are ultimately under royal control, which could have shaped permissions for filming. But the issues here are larger than respectful coverage of a family in mourning and whether footage is replayed of, say, a grandson-in-law of the queen seen checking his watch.

A critical question is who controls the historical record of public events, especially when footage of those events has already been broadcast.

By dictating what video can no longer circulate, the palace might hope to quash unflattering moments such as the new king’s frustration with an inkpot when he signed documents related to his accession. Photos of the stone marking the final resting place of Queen Elizabeth II — seen at the top of this page — circulated this week with explicit instructions that they may be published until Oct. 2, after which point royal permission must be requested.

One of the challenges before the new king is how best to showcase the monarchy’s relevance today. It’s hard to think of a less 21st-century approach than a hereditary monarchy dictating what clips of public proceedings are ever seen again.

 

September

Sept. 29

Politico, Opinion: Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump Are Ready for the Saudi Cash, Jack Shafer, Sept. 29, 2022. The beleaguered LIV Golf tournament finally finds some willing partners.

Where did the LIV Golf tournament go to die? Fox.

If that joke didn’t scan for you, it’s likely you haven’t been following the sporting news, which has teemed all summer with stories about Saudi Arabia’s new professional golf circuit. Even though LIV has bid away some of the PGA Tour’s top stars, it carries a taint for many politico Custombecause it’s backed by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and because Donald Trump, a big LIV supporter and a course owner, is hosting some of its tournaments.

This guilt by association has made LIV a bit of a public relations disaster, with accusations flying that the tour is a Saudi attempt to “sportswash” their execrable human-rights record with long, green drives and short, dramatic putts. LIV has proved to be such a bad idea that it has yet to win a major TV network contract.

fox news logo SmallBut that’s likely about to change. According to Golfweek, the tour seems close to a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Sports 1 cable channel, but the deal comes with a catch: Instead of Fox paying LIV to air tournaments, which is the sports entertainment norm, LIV will be paying Fox. (The last sports business that paid to have its events broadcast was the Alliance of American Football, and we know how that ended.) Plus, LIV will have to sell the ad slots, not Fox, and produce the shows.

What possessed the Saudis to start a tour, and why are they paying to air their product when the PGA Tour collects $700 million a year from broadcasters for a similar spectacle? And what’s in it for Murdoch? Why isn’t he worried about blowback from the 9/11 families who protested a LIV tournament at Trump’s Bedminster course as “another atrocity“? And what’s Trump’s deal in all of this? It’s all a matter of politics colliding with commerce.

For the Saudis, crashing professional golf accomplishes two ends. The first, of course, is political. In the short term, they hope, LIV will help dilute the image held by the West of an authoritarian country murdering Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. (The hit was reportedly commissioned by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader.) In the long term, LIV thinking goes, the billions it spends establishing its tour will replace the lucrative PGA as the sport’s face and eventually become a moneymaker. With almost unlimited funds at their disposal, the Saudis believe they can’t be counted out.

washington post logoWashington Post, AI can now create any image in seconds, bringing wonder and danger, Nitasha Tiku, Sept. 29, 2022 (print ed.). All of these images were created by the artificial intelligence text-to-image generator DALL-E. Named for Salvador Dali and Pixar’s WALL-E, DALL-E creates images based on prompts.

Since the research lab OpenAI debuted the latest version of DALL-E in April, the AI has dazzled the public, attracting digital artists, graphic designers, early adopters, and anyone in search of online distraction. The ability to create original, sometimes accurate, and occasionally inspired images from any spur-of-the-moment phrase, like a conversational Photoshop, has startled even jaded internet users with how quickly AI has progressed.

Five months later, 1.5 million users are generating 2 million images a day. On Wednesday, OpenAI said it will remove its waitlist for DALL-E, giving anyone immediate access.

The introduction of DALL-E has triggered an explosion of text-to-image generators. Google and Meta quickly revealed that they had each been developing similar systems, but said their models weren’t ready for the public. Rival start-ups soon went public, including Stable Diffusion and Midjourney, which created the image that sparked controversy in August when it won an art competition at the Colorado State Fair.

[He used AI to win a fine-arts competition. Was it cheating?]

The technology is now spreading rapidly, faster than AI companies can shape norms around its use and prevent dangerous outcomes. Researchers worry that these systems produce images that can cause a range of harms, such as reinforcing racial and gender stereotypes or plagiarizing artists whose work was siphoned without their consent. Fake photos could be used to enable bullying and harassment — or create disinformation that looks real.

Historically, people trust what they see, said Wael Abd-Almageed, a professor at the University of Southern California’s school of engineering. “Once the line between truth and fake is eroded, everything will become fake,” he said. “We will not be able to believe anything.”

“Once the line between truth and fake is eroded, everything will become fake. We will not be able to believe anything.”— Wael Abd-Almageed

OpenAI has tried to balance its drive to be first and hype its AI developments without accelerating those dangers. To prevent DALL-E from being used to create disinformation, for example, OpenAI prohibits images of celebrities or politicians. OpenAI chief executive Sam Altman justifies the decision to release DALL-E to the public as an essential step in developing the technology safely.

The Intercept, Hill TV Censors Segment on Rashida Tlaib’s Description of Israel as “Apartheid Government,” Bars Reporter, Ryan Grim, Sept. 29, 2022. Host Katie Halper recorded a segment defending Tlaib’s accurate portrayal of Israel’s government, but Hill TV’s owners refused to run it.

Sept. 28

Bloomberg.com, Elon Musk Asks Appeals Court to End His ‘Twitter Sitter’ Deal, Bob Van Voris, Sept. 28, 2022. Tesla CEO claims he’s being muzzled by the government.

Elon Musk asked a federal appeals court to throw out the deal he made with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 requiring a Tesla Inc. lawyer to screen all his company-related tweets, calling it an illegal effort to muzzle him.

Musk, Tesla’s chief executive officer, has claimed without success that the SEC is harassing him and that the agreement violates his free-speech rights. US District Judge Lewis Liman in April refused to release him from the deal and end the requirement for a “Twitter Sitter.” Liman said Musk was “simply bemoaning that he felt like he had to agree to it at the time” and now “wishes that he had not.”

“The pre-approval provision is a classic prior restraint that the Constitution forbids: a government-imposed muzzle on Mr. Musk’s speech before it is made,” Musk’s lawyers said in papers asking the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan to invalidate the agreement, or at least remove the screening requirement. “The effect of the provision is to inhibit and chill Mr. Musk’s lawful speech.”

twitter bird CustomThe world’s richest man has been battling with the SEC over his social media statements since he tweeted in 2018 that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private, sending shares of the electric-car maker surging. The regulator sued claiming Musk and Tesla had misled shareholders. Musk and the company settled with the SEC, with each paying $20 million and agreeing that Musk’s Tesla-related tweets would be reviewed before he posts them.

In his April decision, Liman ruled that Musk waived his 1st Amendment Constitutional Right to free speech, a finding Musk denied in his appeal brief.

“Mr. Musk could not possibly have known the circumstances and consequences of the pre-approval provision because the provision applies to future speech about circumstances no one could anticipate in advance,” his lawyers wrote. But even if he did waive his rights, such a waiver is invalid and unenforceable they said.

Liman also denied Musk’s effort to block an SEC subpoena seeking information on his tweets, ruling that he’s as subject to investigation by the agency as anybody else.

Musk agreed to buy Twitter Inc. for $44 billion in late April, then said he was pulling out of the deal. Twitter claims Musk got cold feet due to buyer’s remorse, not over concerns about the number of spam and robot accounts embedded in the platform’s more than 230 million users.

The case is US Securities and Exchange Commission v. Musk, 22-1291, Second US Circuit Court of Appeals (Manhattan).

Sept. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, A China-based network of Facebook accounts posed as liberal Americans to post about Republicans, company says, Naomi Nix, Sept. 27, 2022. The accounts posed as liberal Americans on Facebook and Instagram to comment on Republicans, Meta said.

meta logofacebook logoFacebook’s parent company Meta disrupted a China-based network of accounts that was seeking to influence U.S. politics ahead of the 2022 midterms, the company reported Tuesday.

The covert influence operation used accounts on Facebook and Instagram posing as Americans to post opinions about hot-button issues such as abortion, gun control and high-profile politicians such as President Biden and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). The network, which focused on the United States and the Czech Republic, posted from the fall of 2021 through the summer of 2022, the company said. Facebook renamed itself Meta last year.

Ben Nimmo, Meta’s global threat intelligence lead, told reporters that the network was unusual because unlike previous China-based influence operations that focused on promoting narratives about America to the rest of the world, this network was intended to influence U.S. users abut Americans topics months ahead of the 2022 contests.

Sept. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok Could Be Nearing a U.S. Security Deal, but Hurdles Remain, Lauren Hirsch, David McCabe, Katie Benner and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 26, 2022. A draft agreement with the Biden administration to keep the Chinese-owned app operating in America is under review, four people with knowledge of the discussions said.

The Biden administration and TikTok have drafted a preliminary agreement to resolve national security concerns posed by the Chinese-owned video app but face hurdles over the terms, as the platform negotiates to keep operating in the United States without major changes to its ownership structure, four people with knowledge of the discussions said.

tiktok logo square CustomThe two sides have hammered out the foundations of a deal in which TikTok would make changes to its data security and governance without requiring its owner, the Chinese internet giant ByteDance, to sell it, said three of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the negotiations are confidential.

The two sides are still wrangling over the potential agreement. The Justice Department is leading the negotiations with TikTok, and its No. 2 official, Lisa Monaco, has concerns that the terms are not tough enough on China, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The Treasury Department, which plays a key role in approving deals involving national security risks, is also skeptical that the potential agreement with TikTok can sufficiently resolve national security issues, two people with knowledge of the matter said. That could force changes to the terms and drag out a final resolution for months.

TikTok, one of the world’s most popular social media apps, has been under a legal cloud in the United States for more than two years because of its Chinese ties. Lawmakers and regulators have repeatedly raised concerns about TikTok’s ability to protect the data of American users from Chinese authorities. President Donald J. Trump tried to force ByteDance to sell TikTok to an American company in 2020 and threatened to block the app.

Sept. 24

 

anika collier navaroli marlena sloss washington post

Whistleblower Anika Collier Navaroli, a policy official on the team designing Twitter's content moderation rules who spoke exclusively with the Washington Post, said Twitter's complacency toward then-President Donald Trump led to disastrous consequences (Photo by Marlena Sloss for The Washington Post).

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Jan. 6 Twitter witness: Failure to curb Trump spurred ‘terrifying’ choice, Drew Harwell, Sept. 24, 2022 (print ed.). In an explosive hearing in July, an unidentified former Twitter employee testified to the House Jan. 6 committee that the company had tolerated false and rule-breaking tweets from Donald Trump for years because executives knew their service was his “favorite and most-twitter bird Customused … and enjoyed having that sort of power.”

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, the whistleblower, Anika Collier Navaroli, reveals the terror she felt about coming forward and how eventually that fear was overcome by her worry that extremism and political disinformation on social media pose an “imminent threat not just to American democracy, but to the societal fabric of our planet.”

“I realize that by being who I am and doing what I’m doing, I’m opening myself and my family to extreme risk,” Navaroli said. “It’s terrifying. This has been one of the most isolating times of my life.”

“I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe the truth matters,” she said of her testimony to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

Twitter banned Trump two days after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, citing fears he could incite further violence. By that time, he had sent more than 56,000 tweets over 12 years, many of which included lies and baseless accusations about election fraud. One month earlier, he had tweeted, “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

 

Infowars host Alex Jones is being sued by multiple parents of murdered Sandy Hook children for his lies about their deaths (Pool photo by Briana Sanchez from a trial in Austin, Texas).pool

Disgraced Infowars host Alex Jones is being sued by multiple parents of murdered Sandy Hook children for his lies about their deaths (Pool photo by Briana Sanchez from a trial in Austin, Texas).

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘I’m Done Saying I’m Sorry,’ Alex Jones Tells Sandy Hook Families, Elizabeth Williamson, Sept. 23, 2022. In testimony in a Connecticut trial to assess the damages done by his Sandy Hook lies, the Infowars fabulist lashed out, ending the day in chaos.

Confronted on Thursday with the harm he had done by repeatedly lying on his Infowars radio and online show that Robbie Parker, whose daughter Emilie died in the massacre, was an actor, Mr. Jones erupted in a rant that drew a contempt threat by Judge Barbara Bellis of State Superior Court.

“Is this a struggle session? Are we in China? I’ve already said I’m sorry, and I’m done saying I’m sorry,” Mr. Jones responded, as his lawyer shouted objections.

Mr. Jones was set off by Chris Mattei, a lawyer for the families of the Sandy Hook victims, who pointed to Mr. Parker in the courtroom as he questioned Mr. Jones on the stand. “Robbie Parker’s sitting right here,” Mr. Mattei said. “He’s real, isn’t he? And for years you put a target on his back, didn’t you? Just like you did every single parent and loved one sitting here.”

“No, I didn’t,” Mr. Jones said.

“Why don’t you show a little respect, Mr. Jones?” Mr. Mattei said. “You have families in this courtroom here that lost children, sisters, wives, moms.”

Alex Jones, a far-right conspiracy theorist, is the focus of a long-running legal battle waged by families of victims of a mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.

Here is what to know:

  • Pushing misinformation. Mr. Jones used his Infowars media company to spread lies about Sandy Hook, claiming that the attack in 2012, in which 20 first graders and six educators were killed, was a hoax. The families of the victims say Mr. Jones’s lies have added to their devastation and his followers have harassed them, threatening their safety.
  • Defamation lawsuits. The families of 10 Sandy Hook victims sued Mr. Jones in four separate lawsuits. The cases never made it to a jury; Mr. Jones was found liable by default in all of them because he refused to turn over documents, including financial records, ordered by the courts over four years of litigation.
  • Mr. Jones’s line of defense. The Infowars host has claimed that his right to free speech protected him, even though the outcome of the cases was due to the fact that he failed to provide the necessary documents and testify.
  • Three new trials. A trial in Austin, Texas this July was the first of three that will determine how much Mr. Jones must pay the families of the Sandy Hook victims. The other two are scheduled for September, but are on hold after Mr. Jones put the Infowars parent company, Free Speech Systems, into Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week, halting all pending litigation.
  • Compensatory and punitive damages. On Aug. 4, a jury in the Texas trial awarded the parents of one of the children killed in the mass shooting more than $4 million in compensatory damages, which are based on proven harm, loss or injury. A day later, jurors decided Mr. Jones must pay the parents $45.2 million in punitive damages, which aim to punish especially harmful behavior and tend to be granted at the court’s discretion.

Judge Bellis rebuked Mr. Jones. “This is not a press conference, this is clearly not your show,” she said. “You have to respect the process.”

At the end of the day, after the jury had gone, she warned Mr. Jones as well as his lawyer, Norm Pattis, that she would enforce a zero-tolerance policy on Friday for ignoring her orders about decorum in the courtroom. Mr. Pattis had repeatedly objected as his client shouted.

“You can expect a contempt hearing if anybody steps out of line,” Judge Bellis said. “And Mr. Jones, same thing.”

Mr. Jones for years spread lies on Infowars that the Dec. 14, 2012, shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a government pretext for gun control. Late last year, Mr. Jones lost four separate defamation lawsuits filed by the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims, who had endured years of online torment and threats from conspiracy theorists who believed Mr. Jones’s bogus claims.

ny times logoNew York Times, Misleading and toxic posts about the Nov. 8 midterm vote have flooded social media. Here are three prevalent themes, Cecilia Kang, Sept. 24, 2022 (print ed.). Ballot mules. Poll watch parties. Groomers.

These topics are now among the most dominant divisive and misleading narratives online about November’s midterm elections, according to researchers and data analytics companies. On Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Truth Social and other social media sites, some of these narratives have surged in recent months, often accompanied by angry and threatening rhetoric.

The effects of these inflammatory online discussions are being felt in the real world, election officials and voting rights groups said. Voters have flooded some local election offices with misinformed questions about supposedly rigged voting machines, while some people appear befuddled about what pens to use on ballots and whether mail-in ballots are still legal, they said.

“Our voters are angry and confused,” Lisa Marra, elections director in Cochise County, Ariz., told a House committee last month. “They simply don’t know what to believe.”

The most prevalent of these narratives fall into three main categories: continued falsehoods about rampant election fraud; threats of violence and citizen policing of elections; and divisive posts on health and social policies that have become central to political campaigns. Here’s what to know about them.

False claims of election fraud are commanding conversation online, with former President Donald J. Trump continuing to protest that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.

Voter fraud is rare, but that falsehood about the 2020 election has become a central campaign issue for dozens of candidates around the country, causing misinformation and toxic content about the issue to spread widely online.

“Stolen election” was mentioned 325,589 times on Twitter from June 19 to July 19, a number that has been fairly steady throughout the year and that was up nearly 900 percent from the same period in 2020, according to Zignal Labs, a media research firm.

On the video-sharing site Rumble, videos with the term “stop the steal” or “stolen election” and other claims of election fraud have been among the most popular. In May, such posts attracted 2.5 million viewers, more than triple the total from a year earlier, according to Similarweb, a digital analytics firm.

ny times logoNew York Times, Celtics Coach Ime Udoka Suspended for 2022-23 Season, Scott Cacciola, Sept. 23, 2022 (print ed.). The team said Udoka violated unspecified team policies. He led Boston to the N.B.A. finals last season, his first as a head coach.

The Boston Celtics on Thursday suspended Coach Ime Udoka for the 2022-23 season for unspecified “violations of team policies,” just months after he led the team to the N.B.A. finals in his first year in the role.

A person briefed on the matter who was not authorized to speak publicly about it said Udoka had an inappropriate relationship with a female team employee that was considered a violation of the team’s organizational guidelines.

CelticsBlog, Brad Stevens and Wyc Grousbeck address Ime Udoka’s suspension, Andrew Doxy, Sept. 23, 2022. In a tight-lipped but still revealing conference, Celtics leadership spoke on the recent news.

nba logoAn emotional Brad Stevens and Boston Celtics co-owner and CEO, Wyc Grousbeck, held a press conference today to discuss the news that Ime Udoka will be suspended for the 2022-23 NBA season just days ahead of Media Day and training camp.

Early in the conference, Wyc Grousbeck stated that they wouldn’t dive into details for the sake of privacy for all those involved, but there were still details that could be ascertained through some of the responses that followed as questions were allowed. Before questions came into the equation, Grousbeck revealed that an independent law firm was brought in to thoroughly and impartially investigate the case as soon as the team was made aware in July.

On the suspension front, no other members of the Celtics organization are facing any penalties of any sort. Grousbeck offered that he will be meeting with female staffers to make sure that they feel supported.

At this point, the organization has made its stance clear on support for Joe Mazzulla’s character and growth over the last 13 years. What’s left is for Mazzulla himself to speak to it as he’s asked questions about it on Monday afternoon’s Media Day.

Naturally, this led to questions about Joe Mazzulla’s domestic battery case from 2009. In response, Brad Stevens spoke to confidence in Mazzulla’s character, stating that he thoroughly investigated the matter when Mazzulla was hired to the staff in 2019.

At this point, the organization has made its stance clear on support for Joe Mazzulla’s character and growth over the last 13 years. What’s left is for Mazzulla himself to speak to it as he’s asked questions about it on Monday afternoon’s Media Day.

Sept. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Inside Joke That Became Trump’s Big Lie, Carlos Lozada, Sept. 22, 2022. Donald Trump’s so-called big lie is not big because of its brazen dishonesty or its widespread influence or its unyielding grip over the Republican Party. It is not even big because of its ambition — to delegitimize a presidency, disenfranchise millions of voters, clap back against reality. No, the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election has grown so powerful because it is yoked to an older deception, without which it could not survive: the idea that American politics is, in essence, a joke, and that it can be treated as such without consequence.

The big lie depends on the big joke. It was enabled by it. It was enhanced by it. It is sustained by it.

When politicians publicly defend positions they privately reject, they are telling the joke. When they give up on the challenge of governing the country for the rush of triggering the enemy, they are telling the joke. When they intone that they must address the very fears they have encouraged or manufactured among their constituents, they are telling the joke. When their off-the-record smirks signal that they don’t really mean what they just said or did, they are telling the joke. As the big lie spirals ever deeper into unreality, with the former president mixing election falsehoods with call-outs to violent, conspiratorial fantasies, the big joke has much to answer for.

Recent books like Why We Did It: A Travelogue From the Republican Road to Hell by a former Republican operative and campaign consultant, Tim Miller, and Thank You for Your Servitude: Donald Trump’s Washington and the Price of Submission by The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich place this long-running gag at the center of American politics. The big joke drains language of meaning, divorces action from responsibility and enables all manner of lies. “Getting the joke” means understanding that nothing you say need be true, that nobody expects it to be true — at least nobody in the know. “The truth of this scam, or ‘joke,’ was fully evident inside the club,” Leibovich writes. “We’re all friends here. Everyone knew the secret handshake, spoke the native language, and got the joke.”

Without the big joke, the big lie would not merit its adjective. Its challenge to democracy would be ephemeral, not existential.

The chroniclers of Donald Trump’s election lie typically seek out an origin story, a choose-your-own adventure that always leads to the Capitol steps on Jan. 6, 2021. In his book, The Big Lie: Election Chaos, Political Opportunism, and the State of American Politics After 2020, Politico’s Jonathan Lemire pinpoints an August 2016 campaign rally in Columbus, Ohio, during which Trump first suggested that the contest against Hillary Clinton would be rigged against him. This, Lemire writes, was when “the seeds of the big lie had been planted.”

Carlos Lozada became a New York Times Opinion columnist in September 2022, after 17 years as an editor and book critic at The Washington Post. He is the author of “What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era” and the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for criticism. @CarlosNYT

Politico, Top Meta exec Clegg to decide whether to reinstate Trump on Facebook, Rebecca Kern, Sept. 22, 2022. Nick Clegg gave no indication which way he plans to decide — but said he will make the decision by Jan. 7, 2023.

politico CustomMeta’s top policy executive Nick Clegg will be the one to decide whether to reinstate former president Donald Trump’s account in January 2023, he said Thursday.

meta logoClegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, said whether to extend Trump’s two-year suspension is “a decision I oversee and I drive,” at an event held in Washington by Semafor, a news organization.

“It’s not a capricious decision,” he said. “We will look at the signals related to real-world harm to make a decision whether at the two-year point — which is early January next year — whether Trump gets reinstated to the platform.”

Clegg added that he would consult with CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Meta’s board of directors. He said Zuckerberg is focused on building the virtual Metaverse, while Clegg is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of broad policy issues.

Political significance: Clegg gave no indication which way he plans to decide — but said he will make the decision by Jan. 7, 2023.

“We’ll talk to the experts, we’ll talk to third parties, we will try to assess what we think the implications will be of bringing Trump back onto the platform,” Clegg said.

facebook logo“I’m very mindful that if you have this significant ability to take decisions which affect the public realm as a private sector company you need to act with great caution and reticence, you shouldn’t throw your weight about,” Clegg, a former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom, said. “American democracy is not our democracy — it’s your democracy.”

Not fact-checking political speech: Clegg said Trump could be suspended again if he is allowed back on the platform but then consistently violates the platform’s policies.

But Clegg reiterated Meta’s position that it will not fact-check politicians’ or candidates’ speech on its platforms. He said it’s not Meta’s role to determine what is true and false.

“It’s not about truth and lies,” he said. “Political speech is not an exercise in scientific accuracy. Politicians are there to sketch out a visual of what they want to see — they’re not there to provide statistical precision.”

“We do not want to get in the way of what politicians say about each other or themselves,” he said. “We are not here to interfere — that’s a sort of sacred part of the democratic process.”

 

christiane amanpour cnn raisi non interviewr 9 22 2022Mediaite, Iranian President Bails on Interview With CNN’s Christiane Amanpour After She Refuses to Wear Headscarf, Ken Meyer, Sept. 22, 2022. CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour (shown above on CNN's set waiting for a scheduled interview to start on Sept. 22) revealed Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi canceled an interview when she refused his demand she wear a headscarf.

Amanpour joined New Day on Thursday to talk about the riots raging across Iran after Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody last week. Amini was arrested by Tehran’s morality police on charges of violating Iranian law requiring women to wear headscarves. While officials say she died as a result of a heart attack, the government’s claim has been met with broad public skepticism, and mass protests have broken out against Iran’s authoritarianism and oppression of women.

cnn logoAmanpour was slated to have an interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi while he was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. While explaining all the preparations that went into the interview, Amanpour said that after 40 minutes of waiting for Raisi to show up, one of his aides asked her to put on a headscarf for the Islamic holy months of Muharram and Safar.

“Here in New York, or anywhere else outside of Iran, I have never been asked by any Iranian president [to wear a headscarf],” Amanpour said. “I have interviewed every single one of them since 1995, either inside or outside Iran, never been asked to wear a headscarf.”

Amanpour said she “politely declined” the request, adding that it became an ultimatum when Raisi’s aide told her the interview wouldn’t happen without the headscarf.

The president bailed from the interview, which Amanpour connected to the anti-hijab protests in Iran.

Politico, LIV Golf may need a mulligan on Capitol Hill, Andrew Desiderio, Sept. 22, 2022. The Saudi government-backed competitor to the PGA Tour has Donald Trump's seal of approval. That doesn't mean every conservative lawmaker is supportive.

politico CustomGolf legend Greg Norman left the Capitol on Wednesday touting his meeting with Republicans as a smooth drive down the fairway, even though, for many GOP lawmakers, he hit immediately into the rough.

Norman blitzed Capitol Hill this week in a blatant effort to repair the Saudi-bankrolled LIV Golf series’ reputation as it faces withering criticism from human-rights activists, 9/11 families and lawmakers from both parties for its ties to the Saudi royal family. That LIV’s 67-year-old Australian CEO even felt the need to meet with members of Congress underscores the public-relations toll already taken by allegations of improper foreign influence.

liv golf logoFlanked by his lobbyist, former Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), Norman did not deviate from his months-long messaging strategy: his insistence that LIV is all about “growing the game of golf.” That pitch hasn’t stuck, even on the GOP side of the aisle despite former President Donald Trump’s partnership with the new series.

“It was basically propaganda. They’re just pushing their deal, and I don’t care,” said Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), who exited the room early as Norman met with the Republican Study Committee, the House GOP’s largest caucus. “Honestly, this shouldn’t be taking up our time. This is a conservative organization, and we ought to be dealing with what we’ve got to deal with in our country, not worried about a bunch of Saudis, a bunch of billionaire oil people. So I’m out.”

The Saudi government’s foray into the golf world stoked controversy not just for its impact on the long-running PGA Tour, but also because it drew allegations of “sportswashing” — the practice of using professional sports to repair one’s reputation. Even before this year’s LIV series officially began, lawmakers from both parties were criticizing it as an effort by Saudi Arabia’s hardline leaders to whitewash their country’s abysmal human-rights record.

A cohort of families who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001, has publicly urged Trump to not host LIV tournaments at his country clubs. They’ve also appealed directly to golfers themselves, asking them not to join LIV.

Speaking with reporters after the GOP meeting, Norman indicated that the feedback he got behind closed doors was all positive. Jonathan Grella, a spokesperson for LIV, dismissed the criticisms and said Norman’s “message about the benefits of competition was very well received, even if a couple members of Congress say otherwise.”

That’s not entirely accurate.

“Don’t come in here and act like you’re doing some great thing while you’re pimping a billion dollars of Saudi Arabian money,” lamented Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), who has been outspoken about LIV. “You enriched yourself on the back of the [PGA] Tour. You got rich using the Tour to do so.”

Sept. 18

 

Anti-Trump Womens March on Washington, Jan. 21 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry via Twitter and the Voice of America).

Anti-Trump Womens March on Washington, Jan. 21 2017 (Photo by Jim Fry via Twitter and the Voice of America).

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Russian Trolls Helped Keep the Women’s March Out of Lock Step, Ellen Barry, Sept. 18, 2022. As American feminists came together in 2017 to protest Donald Trump, Russia’s disinformation machine set about deepening the divides among them.

Linda Sarsour awoke on Jan. 23, 2017, logged onto the internet, and felt sick.

The weekend before, she had stood in Washington at the head of the Women’s March, a mobilization against President Donald J. Trump that surpassed all expectations. Crowds had begun forming before dawn, and by the time she climbed up onto the stage, they extended farther than the eye could see.

More than four million people around the United States had taken part, experts later estimated, placing it among the largest single-day protests in the nation’s history.

But then something shifted, seemingly overnight. What she saw on Twitter that Monday was a torrent of focused grievance that targeted her. In 15 years as an activist, largely advocating for the rights of Muslims, she had faced pushback, but this was of a different magnitude. A question began to form in her mind: Do they really hate me that much?

That morning, there were things going on that Ms. Sarsour could not imagine.

More than 4,000 miles away, organizations linked to the Russian government had assigned teams to the Women’s March. At desks in bland offices in St. Petersburg, using models derived from advertising and public relations, copywriters were testing out social media messages critical of the Women’s March movement, adopting the personas of fictional Americans.

They posted as Black women critical of white feminism, conservative women who felt excluded, and men who mocked participants as hairy-legged whiners. But one message performed better with audiences than any other.

It singled out an element of the Women’s March that might, at first, have seemed like a detail: Among its four co-chairs was Ms. Sarsour, a Palestinian American activist whose hijab marked her as an observant Muslim.

Over the 18 months that followed, Russia’s troll factories and its military intelligence service put a sustained effort into discrediting the movement by circulating damning, often fabricated narratives around Ms. Sarsour, whose activism made her a lightning rod for Mr. Trump’s base and also for some of his most ardent opposition.

One hundred and fifty-two different Russian accounts produced material about her. Public archives of Twitter accounts known to be Russian contain 2,642 tweets about Ms. Sarsour, many of which found large audiences, according to an analysis by Advance Democracy Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts public-interest research and investigations.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Federal Court Clears the Way for a Texas Social Media Law, David McCabe, Sept. 18, 2022 (print ed.). The law, which had been blocked by a lower court, makes it possible to sue large social media platforms for taking down political viewpoints.

A federal appeals court on Friday reversed a lower court’s order blocking a Texas law that stops large social media platforms from removing political posts, a blow for tech companies that say their content moderation decisions are protected by the Constitution.

“Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say,” Judge Andrew S. Oldham of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which is known to be conservative, said in the court’s ruling. One member of the three-judge panel dissented from portions of the ruling.

The law makes it possible for individuals or the Texas attorney general’s office to sue social media platforms with more than 50 million monthly users in the United States for taking down political viewpoints. The legislation is the product of conservative anger over posts that were taken down largely because they had violated the social media platforms’ rules.

It comes as platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter face immense political pressure over their decisions to take down content they deem misinformation, or view as hateful or violent. Republicans have generally called for the platforms to leave up more posts, while Democrats have urged them to be more aggressive in removing some content.

Lawmakers in Washington have pushed for changes to a law, known as Section 230, that shields platforms from liability for the content users post, to nudge the companies to either be more forceful or more lenient. But those proposals have gained little traction.

Two tech industry groups, NetChoice and the Computer & Communications Industry Association, sued to block the law after it was approved last year, saying the social media companies have a First Amendment right to remove posts they consider inappropriate. A different federal court has blocked a similar law in Florida.

The ruling on Friday is the latest turn in the legal wrangling over the law. Last year, a district court blocked the law. The appeals court disagreed with that decision, clearing the way for the law to take effect. But the Supreme Court intervened at the behest of the technology industry groups — blocking the law until the court of appeals issued its fuller ruling. The decision on Friday does not allow the law to take effect; that requires the appeals court to issue instructions to the lower court.

The legal battle is likely not over. Matt Schruers, the president of Computer & Communications Industry Association, said the group was “evaluating options.” NetChoice said it remained “convinced that when the U.S. Supreme Court hears one of our cases, it will uphold the First Amendment rights of websites, platforms and apps.”

Sept. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Yeshiva University Halts All Student Clubs to Block L.G.B.T.Q. Group, Hurubie Meko, Sept. 17, 2022. Earlier in the week, the U.S. Supreme Court had allowed a ruling that required the university to recognize the group to stand for now.

Yeshiva University abruptly announced on Friday that it had placed all undergraduate club activities on hold, the latest maneuver in the legal battle by the Modern Orthodox Jewish institution to keep from recognizing an L.G.B.T.Q. student group.

The move came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court had ordered the university to recognize the student group. In a 5 to 4 vote, the justices said the university would first have to make its arguments in New York State courts before returning to the Supreme Court.

“If applicants seek and receive neither expedited review nor interim relief from the New York courts, they may return to this court,” the Supreme Court order said.

Citing the upcoming Jewish holidays, the university sent out a terse, unsigned email at midafternoon on Friday that said it would “hold off on all undergraduate activities” while it planned its next steps to “follow the road map provided by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Sept. 16

ny times logoNew York Times, For Gen Z, TikTok Is the New Search Engine, Kalley Huang, Sept. 16, 2022. Young people are turning to TikTok to search for answers. Google has noticed.

tiktok logo square CustomWhen Ja’Kobi Moore decided to apply this year to a private high school in her hometown of New Orleans, she learned that she needed at least one letter of recommendation from a teacher. She had never asked for one, so she sought help.

“Teacher letter of recommendation,” she typed into TikTok’s search bar.

google logo customMs. Moore, 15, scrolled TikTok’s app until she found two videos: one explaining how to ask teachers for a recommendation letter and the other showing a template for one. Both had been made by teachers and were easier to understand than a Google search result or YouTube video, said Ms. Moore, who is planning to talk to her teachers this month.

TikTok is known for its viral dance videos and pop music. But for Generation Z, the video app is increasingly a search engine, too.

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok’s C.E.O. Navigates the Limits of His Power, Ryan Mac and Chang Che, Sept. 16, 2022. Shou Zi Chew, TikTok’s chief executive, is balancing how to be an autonomous leader while juggling the demands of the app’s Chinese parent company.

TikTok recently tried to tamp down concerns from U.S. lawmakers that it poses a national security threat because it is owned by the Chinese internet company ByteDance. The viral video app insisted it had an arm’s-length relationship with ByteDance and that its own executive was in charge.

tiktok logo square Custom“TikTok is led by its own global C.E.O., Shou Zi Chew, a Singaporean based in Singapore,” TikTok wrote in a June letter to U.S. lawmakers.

But in fact, Mr. Chew’s decision-making power over TikTok is limited, according to 12 former TikTok and ByteDance employees and executives.

Decisions about the service — including moves to emphasize livestreaming and shopping on TikTok — are made by Zhang Yiming, ByteDance’s founder, as well as by a top ByteDance strategy executive and the head of TikTok’s research and development team, said the people, who declined to be identified for fear of reprisals. TikTok’s growth and strategy, which are led by ByteDance teams, report not to Mr. Chew but to ByteDance’s office in Beijing, they said.

ny times logoNew York Times, YouTube Opens More Pathways for Creators to Make Money on the Platform, Nico Grant, Sept. 16, 2022 (print ed.). The video platform will let more creators earn payments and place ads in Shorts, its TikTok competitor, according to audio from an internal meeting.

youtube logo CustomYouTube is expected to announce more opportunities for content creators to earn money on its video service, hoping to guard its role as a home to popular personalities and gain an edge against rival TikTok.

The Google-owned company plans to let more video creators earn money from the platform, lowering the barriers to entry for its partner program, according to audio from a YouTube all-hands meeting on Thursday. YouTube is expected to make the announcement at an event on Tuesday.

It “is the largest expansion we’ve done in several years creating new ways for creators to join the program,” Amjad Hanif, vice president of product management and creator products, said in the staff meeting.

A YouTube spokeswoman declined to comment Thursday evening.

Under YouTube’s old rules, creators made money only if audiences watched at least 4,000 hours of their videos and they had at least 1,000 subscribers.

Sept. 15

ny times logoNew York Times, CNN Overhauls Its Morning Show, John Koblin, Sept. 15, 2022. CNN is about to drastically overhaul its morning hours. The morning slot will be hosted by Don Lemon, Poppy Harlow and Kaitlan Collins. The move leaves open Mr. Lemon’s prime-time slot.

The network announced on Thursday that one of the network’s prime-time mainstays, Don Lemon; a midmorning anchor, Poppy Harlow; and a White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, would be the new faces of a completely revamped morning show.

CNNThe new show represents Chris Licht’s biggest programming move since taking over as CNN’s chairman in May, and it has big implications for the network’s prime-time lineup, too. Mr. Licht is still searching for a host for the 9 p.m. role that Chris Cuomo occupied before he was fired late last year, and he will now need to fill Mr. Lemon’s 10 p.m. hour, too.

The morning show will get a name change and a new format and set, the network said. The current show from 6 to 9 a.m. is “New Day.” CNN executives are hoping to have the new show up and running in late October, ahead of the midterm elections, but no definitive timetable was given other than announcing that it would make its debut this year.

“This demonstrates our commitment to the morning and how important it is to me,” Mr. Licht said in a brief interview. “The show will set the tone of the entire day, and it will set the tone for the news organization.”

chris licht wMr. Licht, left, is the second consecutive morning TV impresario to take the reins of CNN, and like his predecessor, Jeff Zucker, morning programming will be his first roll of the dice. Mr. Zucker’s early tenure was marked by the creation of “New Day.”
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Mr. Licht was the original executive producer and co-creator of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and then had a successful turn serving as the executive producer of “CBS This Morning.” (Mr. Licht was most recently the executive producer of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”)

Mr. Licht called the revamped show “a mass appeal play.”

“It’s meant to be an evolved version of the network morning shows,” he said. The current morning anchors, John Berman and Brianna Keilar, will get different roles at the network.

Poynter.org, Traffic to local news websites has plummeted. What happens now? Rick Edmonds, Sept. 15, 2022. With advertising down and newsprint and delivery costs rising, reduced traffic puts pressure on an already ailing industry.

Pageviews and uniques are not the favored digital metrics they used to be, but as they fell roughly 20% earlier this year at local newspaper sites, the decline sent a chill through the industry.

In a year of soft advertising and rising newsprint and delivery costs, reduced traffic creates an unwelcome added challenge. Programmed ad placements are still sold by total impressions, so less traffic translates to less revenue. A traffic decline also reduces the number of prospective customers who can be started on the path to paid digital subscriptions.

Matt Lindsay, whose Mather Economics is a leading consultancy on strategy for building digital revenue, told me the situation is not quite as dire as it may look. “The fact that pageviews are down is not a bad thing,” he emailed, “if the long-term value of their users … is going up. We did some math a while back and the breakeven point was about 4:1 — that is, you can lose four anonymous low-value users if you get one high-value known user.”

Lindsay also did not think that tightening paywalls were the culprit for the plunge. “For most publishers, premium content is less than 25% of all articles and paywall rules are only impacting maybe 11% of users. These factors have some effect … but they are likely not a major reason for lower pageviews. The news cycle is the No. 1 reason.”

Several publishers I spoke with (who asked that their papers not be identified) saw more cause for worry. Fewer soft prospects coming to view an article or two will work over time to slow digital subscription growth, they said. And while programmatic digital advertising is not a huge revenue source for most, if it goes missing, already painful financial pressures increase.

Also, if interest in news post-Trump, post-COVID has waned and news avoidance is on the rise, it is not clear when or whether a news cycle comeback will follow.

Regional papers seem to be seeing the worst of it. Lauryn Warnick of Chartbeat told me that for their client base, which also includes magazines and broadcast sites, pageviews were down about 8.6% so far this year compared to the same period in 2021.

The Press Gazette survey of unique visitors at large national sites in July found a majority of the top 25 down, but typically only 6 to 15%

All this hits as print revenues — both subscriptions and advertising — are falling fast at local newspapers and digital gains continue not to make up the difference. That was evident in Gannett’s bleak second-quarter earnings report six weeks ago and layoff of 400 employees.

Sept. 14

Mediaite, Opinion: Prospective CNN Guests Asked to Answer Probing Questions About Political Ideology, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and More, Caleb Howe, Sept. 14, 2022. Are you a Maoist? Into Monarchism or Nazism? Are you in any weird cults? CNN would like to know, on a strictly “voluntary” basis, if you’re looking to go on air.

mediaite square logoIt’s all covered in a multi-page form for potential CNN guests, contributors, and so on that gets really personal really fast, Mediaite has learned.

The form, which a CNN insider told Mediaite is strictly voluntary, not only asks a whole lot of questions to pin down who a person is and what they are about, it does so in a multiple-choice format that might really knock your socks off.

CNNFor example, Question 7 is simply titled “Political Ideology” and features a drop-down menu. On the “Select One” list of options are things like Laissez-Faire, Libertarianism, Liberalism, and Leninism. Social Conservatism, Populism, and Progressivism are options, too. Not to mention, perhaps more shockingly, Maoism, Marxism, and even Nazism!

A CNN spokesperson tells Mediaite: “The initiative launched over a year ago and is strictly voluntary. CNN is committed to representing a variety of voices and perspectives across our platforms, and this information both helps us identify relevant guests and ensure diversity in our bookings.”

They certainly have some diverse options to select from.

Other drop-down menus cover things like Race/Ethnicity, Disability/Impairment, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Religion, Nationality and so on.

The idea is apparently to help bookers ID guests who might be good for a specific topic, so the answers are obviously pegged to the person’s name.

That way if at some point they are looking for someone who is into, say, Monarchism, which is one of the Ideology options, then they know just who to call.

Or, you know, if you need a Nazi in a pinch. Handy, that.

It’s not weird for CNN to keep a database of potential Marxist-Leninist, non-binary, Canadian-born Arkansas residents. I mean honestly that seems pretty efficient.

Still, if you’re a potential CNN guest, considering all that has gone before and all that’s happening there now, it isn’t a stretch to feel a little put off by the self-categorization. Or to wonder whether you’ll be excluded based on your answers. Or lack of answers.

But it’s strictly voluntary, though. It says so right on the thing.

Are you a Maoist? Into Monarchism or Nazism? Are you in any weird cults? CNN would like to know, on a strictly “voluntary” basis, if you’re looking to go on air.

Sept. 13

 

Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury, has been suspended for one year after an investigation found that he had mistreated employees (Photo by Ross D. Franklin for the Associated Press).Robert Sarver, the owner of the Phoenix Suns and the Phoenix Mercury, has been suspended for one year after an investigation found that he had mistreated employees (Photo by Ross D. Franklin for the Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, N.B.A. Fines and Suspends Phoenix Suns Owner for Misconduct, Scott Cacciola and Tania Ganguli, Sept. 13, 2022. An investigation found that the owner, Robert Sarver, had used racial slurs and treated female employees inequitably. The N.B.A. fined Sarver $10 million.

The N.B.A. is suspending Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns, for one year and fining him $10 million after an investigation determined that he had engaged in misconduct, including using racial slurs, yelling at employees and treating female employees unfairly.

nba logo“The statements and conduct described in the findings of the independent investigation are troubling and disappointing,” Adam Silver, the commissioner of the N.B.A., said in a statement.

He added: “Regardless of position, power or intent, we all need to recognize the corrosive and hurtful impact of racially insensitive and demeaning language and behavior. On behalf of the entire N.B.A. I apologize to all of those impacted by the misconduct outlined in the investigators’ report. We must do better.”

Sarver also owns the W.N.B.A.’s Phoenix Mercury.

Sarver said in a statement that he accepted the consequences of the N.B.A.’s decision.

“While I disagree with some of the particulars of the N.B.A.’s report, I would like to apologize for my words and actions that offended our employees,” he said. “I take full responsibility for what I have done. I am sorry for causing this pain, and these errors in judgment are not consistent with my personal philosophy or my values.”

The N.B.A. began the investigation in response to a November 2021 article by ESPN about accusations of mistreatment against Sarver. After the article was published, the league retained the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz to conduct an independent investigation.

On Tuesday, the firm and the N.B.A. released a 43-page report that found that Sarver “had engaged in conduct that clearly violated common workplace standards,” which included inappropriate comments about female employees’ appearance and bullying. He also engaged in inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees on four occasions, according to the report.

More than 100 individuals who were interviewed by investigators said they witnessed behavior that “violated applicable standards.” There was a general sense among employees that Sarver felt that workplace rules did not apply to him, according to the report.

Sarver also made crude jokes, cursed at employees and told a pregnant employee that she would be unable to do her job upon becoming a mother, according to the report.

Witnesses recalled Sarver saying that the employee would be busy “breastfeeding” and that a “baby needs their mom, not their father.” The employee cried in response to Sarver’s comments, according to the report. Sarver later asked why women “cry so much.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk has more than 19,000 tweets. What he’s said about Twitter is revealing, Linda Chong, Rachel Lerman and Jeremy B. Merrill, Elon Musk is a Twitter super user. He has tweeted more than 19,000 times since joining the platform 13 years ago. This year, he has tweeted an average of six times a day.

At least 150 of those posts are about Twitter itself, according to a Washington Post analysis.

Musk is now locked in an on-again-off-again struggle with the social media company as he tries to back out of a deal he made in April to acquire it for $44 billion. But some of his tweets make you wonder why he ever wanted it. Like many Twitter users, the richest man in the world has a love-hate relationship with the platform where he posts memes, videos of SpaceX launches and random musings about life, love, colonizing Mars and population collapse.

Unlike most Twitter users, Musk has long noted Twitter’s problems with spam and bots. (He has voiced suspicion that many of his 105 million followers are not actually real people.) Now the billionaire is arguing that he should be allowed to call off the purchase because Twitter has understated its bot problem.

  • Washington Post, Twitter shareholders approve Elon Musk’s takeover deal

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko testifies before Senate on allegations of security vulnerabilities, Cat Zakrzewski, Joseph Menn, Faiz Siddiqui and Cristiano Lima, Sept. 13, 2022. Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko appears Tuesday morning before the Senate, as his allegations of widespread security vulnerabilities ignite new political head winds and legal challenges for the social network.

twitter bird CustomSenate Judiciary Committee lawmakers subpoenaed Zatko to appear after they received copies of his SEC complaint, which alleges the company misled federal regulators and its own board about its weak defenses against hackers, efforts to fight spam and foreign influence operations on its platform. Zatko’s allegations, first reported by The Washington Post and CNN, immediately reverberated on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers promised investigations and wrote letters calling the Federal Trade Commission to open a probe.

Here’s what to know

  • Zatko returns to Capitol Hill after spending his career exposing security risks as an acclaimed hacker who has worked at major tech companies and the Pentagon innovation center, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. He has said that he felt “ethically bound” to report Twitter to federal regulators.
  • Regulators could bring hundreds of millions of dollars of fines against Twitter in response to Zatko’s allegations, The Post has reported. But his allegations of long-running chaos and misleading statements to regulators is also prompting criticism that the FTC is ill-equipped to police privacy abuses in Silicon Valley.
  • A judge has ruled that Musk can amend his lawsuit against Twitter to include Zatko’s whistleblower claims, and Musk’s legal team has also subpoenaed Zatko. The moves have put the whistleblower at the center of a multibillion dollar battle over the company’s future ownership.

washington post logoWashington Post, Daughter says QAnon conspiracy theory fueled father’s deadly rampage, Kim Bellware, Sept. 13, 2022 (print ed.). A Michigan man with purported beliefs in the QAnon conspiracy theory was killed in a police shootout Sunday after he fatally shot his wife and severely injured their daughter at their suburban Detroit home.

The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office identified the man as 53-year-old Igor Lanis of Walled Lake, a small community 30 miles northwest of Detroit. Lanis did not have a history of violence or protective orders against him, officials said, but according to his youngest daughter, who was not home during the attack, Lanis in recent years had grown increasingly in the thrall of the sprawling and baseless conspiracy movement known as QAnon.

Rebecca Lanis, 21, told the Detroit News on Sunday that after Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, her father began consuming “crazy ideas” online, including conspiracy theories about vaccines and Trump.

On Sunday, police received a 911 call just after 4 a.m. from a young woman who said she had just been shot by her father, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. When officers arrived at the scene and moved toward the home after hearing a gunshot, Lanis came out the front door armed with a pump-action shotgun and began to fire at the officers.

Police fired back, fatally shooting Lanis.

Officers then saw Lanis’s 25-year-old daughter, Rachel, attempting to crawl out of the front door before they dragged her to safety. She was later hospitalized and listed in stable condition. Rachel Lanis, who had placed the initial 911 call, told police her father had shot her and killed her mother.

Sept. 11

 

Washington Post, Jan. 6 rioter pleads guilty to assault on news media, Tom Jackman, Sept. 11, 2022 (print ed.). Shane Jason Woods also admits assault on a police officer, faces 33 to 41 months in prison, prosecutors say.

washington post logoWashington Post, Jan. 6 rioter pleads guilty to assault on news media, Tom Jackman, Sept. 11, 2022 (print ed.). Shane Jason Woods, above, also admits assault on a police officer, faces 33 to 41 months in prison, prosecutors say.

The first rioter from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to be charged with attacking a member of the news media pleaded guilty Friday to felony counts of assault on law enforcement and assault on a news photographer. Prosecutors estimated that he faces a possible sentence of 33 to 41 months in prison.

 

Jeff German, investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Jeff German, investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

ny times logoNew York Times, A Slain Reporter, a City of Sin and a Politician Charged With Murder, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Mike Baker, Sept. 11, 2022. As journalism and Las Vegas changed, Jeff German stayed true to his style: build sources, chase leads and leave nobody safe from accountability. 

As one of four reporters on the investigative team of Las Vegas’s main newspaper, Jeff German wrote stories that reached nearly every sordid corner of Sin City.

Even as old-school reporting jobs dwindled, Mr. German’s watchdog articles and columns pried back the curtain on mobsters, crooked politicians, casino titans and just about anyone who misused wealth or power in the city. In the last few years, he had scrutinized lavish spending by the city’s tourism agency, claims of sexual harassment at the coroner’s office and allegations that the Las Vegas Raiders football organization had violated discrimination and labor laws.

After four decades of surviving reporting on the most unsavory characters in a city with a reputation for mob-linked murders, there was little reason to think that Mr. German, 69, would be in danger when he turned his attention earlier this year to an obscure government office where some employees claimed their boss was a bully. The article didn’t even run on the front page.

robert tellesBut the authorities now say that the boss in that story, Robert Telles, right, went to Mr. German’s home on a quiet cul-de-sac this month and stabbed him to death, months after the exposé that may have cost him re-election was published. Mr. Telles has not yet entered a plea, and his lawyer has not responded to requests for comment.

The killing has rattled and outraged the readers, journalists and sources who had grown to trust Mr. German’s brand of shoe leather reporting in a town where little is to be trusted, from the glittering billboards to the gamblers across poker tables.

Mr. German endured a changing industry, going from typewriters to Twitter, from one struggling newspaper to another. As news organizations across the country lost money, laid off reporters and found it harder to keep up with corruption, Mr. German continued to expose malfeasance at a remarkable pace.

Sept. 10

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial Board: A Pernicious Threat to Free Expression, Editorial Board, Sept. 10, 2022 (print ed.). Some threats to freedom of expression in America, like online harassment and disinformation, are amorphous or hard to pin down; others are alarmingly overt. Consider these recent examples of censorship in practice: A student newspaper and journalism program in Nebraska shut down for writing about L.G.B.T.Q. issues and pride month. Oklahoma’s top education official seeking to revoke the teaching certificate of an English teacher who shared a QR code that directed students to the Brooklyn Public Library’s online collection of banned books. Lawmakers in Missouri passing a law that makes school librarians vulnerable to prosecution for the content in their collections.

In Florida today it may be illegal for teachers to even talk about whom they love or marry thanks to the state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law. Of course, it goes far beyond sex: The Sunshine State’s Republican commissioner of education rejected 28 math textbooks this year for including verboten content.

This year alone, 137 gag order bills, which would restrict the discussions of topics such as race, gender, sexuality and American history in kindergarten through 12th grade and higher education, have been introduced in 36 state legislatures, according to a report released last month by PEN America, a free speech organization. That’s a sharp increase from 2021, when 54 bills were introduced in 22 states. Only seven of those bills became law in 2022, but they are some of the strictest to date, and the sheer number of bills introduced reflects a growing enthusiasm on the right for censorship as a political weapon and instrument of social control.

These new measures are far more punitive than past efforts, with heavy fines or loss of state funding for institutions that dare to offer courses covering the forbidden content. Teachers can be fired and even face criminal charges. Lawsuits have already started to trickle through the courts asking for broad interpretations of the new statutes. For the first time, the PEN report noted, some bills have also targeted nonpublic schools and universities in addition to public schools.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Republican lawmakers around the country were introducing legislation they said would protect free speech on college campuses. Now, they’re using the coercive power of the state to restrict what people can talk about, learn about or discuss in public, and exposing them to lawsuits and other repercussions for doing so. That’s a clear threat to the ideals of a pluralistic political culture, in which challenging ideas are welcomed and discussed.

How and what to teach American students has been contested ground since the earliest days of public education, and the content of that instruction is something about which Americans can respectfully disagree. But the Supreme Court has limited the government’s power to censor school libraries, if not curriculums. “Local school boards may not remove books from school libraries simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books and seek by their removal to ‘prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion or other matters of opinion,’” Justice William Brennan wrote in a 1982 decision.

There may not even be wide disagreement over what American students are being taught. Despite the moral panic over teaching about gender and race, American parents overwhelmingly say they are satisfied with the instruction their children receive. A poll from National Public Radio and Ipsos earlier this year found that just 18 percent of parents said their child’s school “taught about gender and sexuality in a way that clashed with their family’s values,” while 19 percent said the same about race and racism. Only 14 percent felt that way about American history.

glenn youngkinAnd yet, some Republican candidates are using the threat of censorship as a show of strength, evidence of their power to muzzle political opponents. Last year in Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, right, won the governorship after a campaign in which he demagogued the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Beloved by the Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison. Other candidates are looking to make issues around censorship a centerpiece of their pitch to voters in the midterm elections in races from Texas to New Jersey.

Right-wing lawmakers are also looking to restrict what Americans can say about abortion. Model legislation from the National Right to Life Committee, which is circulating in state legislatures, aims to forbid Americans to give “instructions over the telephone, the internet or any other medium of communication regarding self-administered abortions or means to obtain an illegal abortion.” That prohibition would extend to hosting websites that contain such information.

Even when such bills fail, these efforts to censor create a climate of fear. Across the country, libraries in small towns are being threatened with closure and library staff members are being harassed and intimidated. The Times reports that librarians “have been labeled pedophiles on social media, called out by local politicians and reported to law enforcement officials. Some librarians have quit after being harassed online. Others have been fired for refusing to remove books from circulation.” The American Library Association has documented nearly 1,600 books in more than 700 libraries or library systems that have faced attempted censorship.

The Guardian, Commentary: New ‘objective’ CNN appears to be making itself objectively rightwing, Arwa Mahdawi, Sept. 10, 2022. The cable network’s CEO dramatic hiring and firing of on-air talent seems designed to woo the Fox News crowd. CNN’s CEO says the cable network is moving away from ‘alarmist’ programming towards more neutral, objective reporting.

CNN has a very odd definition of ‘objectivity’

CNNCNN wants to be the new Fox News and it’s not even trying to hide it. Earlier this year Chris Licht became the new CEO of the cable network and immediately made it clear that he was going to change the network’s direction. One of Licht’s first moves was to embark on what Axios described as a “Capitol Hill diplomacy tour” and others described as a Republican boot-licking tour. Licht, below left, met with key lawmakers who had become wary of cable news and promised them that CNN was moving away from “alarmist” programming towards more neutral, objective reporting.

chris licht wWhat does that mean in practice? Well, it appears to mean firing anyone who is critical of Donald Trump or Republicans. Last month CNN suddenly axed Brian Stelter’s Sunday show in a move many commentators considered politically motivated; Stelter had been an outspoken critic of Trump and was reviled by many on the right. Earlier this month White House correspondent John Harwood was fired shortly after calling Trump “a dishonest demagogue” on the air.

It’s not just who was fired that is alarming – it’s the abrupt manner in which they were fired. As the media analyst Josh Marshall noted “The most striking thing about Licht’s firings to date is how they are choreographed for … right-wing media consumption and designed to generate mass schadenfreude on the right: the bête noires Fox has been harping on for years suddenly marched to the top of the pyramid and hurled to the ground.” Licht says he’s moving away from sensational news, but he appears to be putting on his own little drama for the right.

After purging progressive voices, Licht has just made his first big hire: announcing on Tuesday that John Miller would be joining CNN as the network’s chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst. Miller isn’t exactly an obvious hire if you’re looking to brandish your new “neutrality” credentials. The former New York police department (NYPD) deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism is an extremely polarizing figure who made headlines in March when he testified to the New York city council that the NYPD did not, in his opinion, inappropriately spy on Muslims after the September 11 2001 attacks. Which is a weird thing to say because Pulitzer Prize-winning reporting has clearly shown that the NYPD used census data to spy on Muslims following September 11 and the department has settled a number of lawsuits related to the illegal spying.

A number of Muslims and civil rights activists are alarmed about Miller taking on his new role at CNN. “We have no faith that as chief law enforcement and intelligence analyst at CNN, Miller won’t continue to propagandize on behalf of law enforcement and dismiss clear discrimination against Muslims and other marginalized communities,” Muslim Advocates, a group involved in one of the lawsuits against the NYPD, said in a statement.

Licht doesn’t seem to mind that his new hire may alienate Muslims or anyone who cares about illegal police surveillance programs. He doesn’t seem to find it alarming that his new analyst has been accused of lying about the NYPD surveillance of Muslims. He doesn’t seem to find it awkward that even Eric Adams, the current mayor of New York City and a former police officer, said Miller was “wrong” to deny the existence of the program. Instead, the CNN CEO announced, with a seemingly straight face, that Miller “will help deliver on CNN’s commitment to tackle complex issues while presenting audiences with independent, objective news”.

So who is CNN going to hire next in order to demonstrate its objectivity? Trump seems to be angling for a job. On Sunday Trump posted on Truth Social that “if ‘low ratings’ CNN ever went Conservative, they would be an absolute gold mine, and I would help them to do so”. The way CNN is going I wouldn’t be surprised if they make Trump their new election integrity analyst next week.

Sept. 9

.truth social logo

 washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s Truth Social in limbo as merger partner confronts another failed vote, Drew Harwell, Sept. 9, 2022. Digital World did not get 65 percent of its shareholders to support giving the merger another year. But not enough voted by the deadline and it was unclear what the next step would be.

Former president Donald Trump has failed to win another vote — this time, by the shareholders of an investment ally his social network Truth Social had been counting on for cash.

twitter bird CustomDigital World Acquisition Corp., a special-purpose acquisition company, said Thursday it had not yet gained enough shareholder votes to extend its deadline for merging with Trump’s start-up — a necessary step to unlock $1.3 billion in raised funds.

The company was scheduled for liquidation Thursday unless its investors approved the extension or the company’s sponsor paid to push back the deadline itself.

But Digital World’s chief, Patrick Orlando, said late Thursday that the company would instead postpone a long-awaited meeting until Oct. 10 without offering further detail, indicating the company was still scrambling to garner enough shareholder support.

ny times logoNew York Times, After a Legal Fight, Oberlin Says It Will Pay $36.59 Million to a Local Bakery, Anemona Hartocollis, Sept. 9, 2022 (print ed.). Gibson’s Bakery said the liberal arts college had falsely accused it of racism after a Black student was caught shoplifting.

Oberlin College, known as a bastion of progressive politics, said on Thursday that it would pay $36.59 million to a local bakery that said it had been defamed and falsely accused of racism after a worker caught a Black student shoplifting.

That 2016 dispute with Gibson’s Bakery resulted in a yearslong legal fight and resonated beyond the small college town in Ohio, turning into a bitter national debate over criminal justice, race, free speech and whether the college had failed to hold students to account.

The decision by the college’s board of trustees, announced Thursday, came nine days after the Ohio Supreme Court had declined to hear the college’s appeal of a lower-court ruling.

“Truth matters,” Lee E. Plakas, the lawyer for the Gibson family, said in an email Thursday. “David, supported by a principled community, can still beat Goliath.”

In a statement, Oberlin said that “this matter has been painful for everyone.” It added, “We hope that the end of the litigation will begin the healing of our entire community.”

The college acknowledged that the size of the judgment, which includes damages and interest, was “significant.” But it said that “with careful financial planning,” including insurance, it could be paid “without impacting our academic and student experience.” Oberlin has a robust endowment of nearly $1 billion.

The case hinged on whether Oberlin officials had defamed the bakery by supporting students who accused it of racial profiling, and the verdict, essentially finding that the officials had done so, may make other colleges and universities think twice about joining student causes, legal experts said.

“Such a large amount is certainly going to make institutions around the country take notice, and to be very careful about the difference between supporting students and being part of a cause,” said Neal Hutchens, a professor of higher education at the University of Kentucky. “It wasn’t so much the students speaking; it’s the institution accepting that statement uncritically. Sometimes you have to take a step back.”

Sept. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Bernard Shaw, unflappable founding anchor at CNN, dies at 82, Glenn Rifkin, Sept. 8, 2022. Bernard Shaw, shown giving a speech in 2004, a journalist who left network TV in 1980 for the bernard shaw wuncertainty of anchoring at the first 24-hour cable news network — CNN — and whose steady-under-missile-fire coverage from Baghdad during the Persian Gulf War helped elevate the outlet to global prominence, died Sept. 7 at a Washington-area hospital. He was 82.

CNNThe cause was pneumonia, his family said in a statement.

With his unflappable demeanor and somber intonation — his heroes were broadcasters Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite — Mr. Shaw was credited with bringing professional polish to an experiment initially laughed off as the “Chicken Noodle Network” for challenging the Big Three networks for news dominance.

 

Jeff German, investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

Jeff German, investigative reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

ny times logoNew York Times, Politician Arrested in Las Vegas Reporter’s Stabbing Death, Prosecutor Says, Michael Levenson, Sept. 8, 2022 (print ed.). Robert Telles, the Clark County public administrator, was taken into custody in the killing of an investigative reporter, the district attorney said.

A county official in Las Vegas was arrested on a murder charge on Wednesday, hours after the police searched his home in connection with the fatal stabbing of a reporter at The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the district attorney said.

robert tellesThe official, Robert Telles, right, the Clark County public administrator, was taken into custody in the killing of the reporter, Jeff German, according to the Clark County district attorney, Steven B. Wolfson.

Mr. Telles was wheeled out on a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance after the police returned to his home in tactical gear, The Review-Journal reported.

“The suspect in the homicide that occurred on September 2, 2022, has been taken into custody,” the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night, without naming the person. The department said it planned to provide an update on the investigation at a news conference on Thursday morning.

Mr. Telles, a Democrat elected in 2018, lost a June primary after he was the focus of investigative stories by Mr. German, who detailed claims that Mr. Telles had presided over a hostile work environment and had engaged in an “inappropriate relationship” with a staff member. Mr. Telles and the staff member denied the accusations.

Mr. German, 69, was found fatally stabbed outside his home in Las Vegas on Saturday morning. The police believe he was killed after an altercation on Friday.

“The arrest of Robert Telles is at once an enormous relief and an outrage for the Review-Journal newsroom,” Glenn Cook, The Review-Journal’s executive editor, said in a statement on Wednesday night.

“We are relieved Robert Telles is in custody and outraged that a colleague appears to have been killed for reporting on an elected official,” Mr. Cook said. “Journalists can’t do the important work our communities require if they are afraid a presentation of facts could lead to violent retribution.”

He thanked the Las Vegas police for responding to the killing with urgency and hard work.

“Now, hopefully, The Review-Journal, the German family and Jeff’s many friends can begin the process of mourning and honoring a great man and a brave reporter,” Mr. Cook said.

Sept. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Egypt Files Criminal Charges Against Four Journalists Over One Article, Vivian Yee, Sept. 7, 2022. After a dominant political party tied to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi filed complaints against them, the journalists were charged with publishing fake news, among other counts.

Four journalists from one of Egypt’s last independent news outlets were charged with criminal offenses on Wednesday, in the government’s latest attempt to intimidate and punish the publication for its reporting.

The charges — publishing fake news, misusing social media and insulting members of Parliament — stemmed from an article that the outlet, Mada Masr, published last week on a corruption inquiry and impending leadership shake-up in the political party that dominates Parliament, the Nation’s Future Party. The party is closely associated with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Under Mr. el-Sisi, who came to power after a military takeover in 2013, Egypt has stamped out even minor forms of dissent and has muzzled the news media, jailing dozens of journalists, using the security services to buy up outlets and blocking uncooperative news sites.

The sites blocked in Egypt include Mada Masr, an online outlet that is published in English and Arabic and that continued to offer hard-hitting reporting on Egypt when most of the rest of the country’s news media fell prey to government repression.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge will let Musk add whistleblower claims to case against Twitter, Rachel Lerman and Faiz Siddiqui, Sept. 7, 2022. His attorneys requested to amend his counterclaims after a whistleblower filed a complaint about Twitter’s security practices.

Elon Musk can amend his lawsuit against Twitter to include new whistleblower claims against the social media site, a judge ruled Wednesday, giving the world’s richest person a lifeline in a case that legal experts had described as a long shot.

Musk’s attorneys argued to include allegations by Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s former head of security, that the social media platform hid critical information from them as they pursued a deal to purchase it. They said they should be allowed to incorporate the new allegations and pushed to delay the trial, a request that was denied.

Delaware Chancery Court Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick ruled Wednesday that Musk could add the claims from Zatko, who has alleged “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in Twitter’s security practices and that the company hid information about bots and spam.

But McCormick said Musk could seek “only incremental” information from Twitter on the new claims. And delaying the Oct. 17 trial “would risk further harm to Twitter too great to justify,” she added.

ny times logoNew York Times, How China Has Added to Its Influence Over the iPhone, Tripp Mickle, Sept. 7, 2022 (print ed.). Apple is taking small steps toward India. But the production of its latest phone, set for a Wednesday debut, shows how difficult big changes will be.

This fall, Apple will make some of its flagship iPhones outside China for the first time, a small but significant change for a company that has built one of the most sophisticated supply chains in the world with the help of the Chinese authorities. But the development of the iPhone 14, which is expected to be unveiled on Wednesday, shows how complicated it will be for Apple to truly untangle itself from China.

More than ever, Apple’s Chinese employees and suppliers contributed complex work and sophisticated components for the 15th year of its marquee device, including aspects of manufacturing design, speakers and batteries, according to four people familiar with the new operations and analysts. As a result, the iPhone has gone from being a product that is designed in California and made in China to one that is a creation of both countries.

Sept. 6

washington post logoWashington Post, 4,000 Google cafeteria workers quietly unionized during the pandemic, Gerrit De Vynck and Lauren Kaori Gurley, Sept. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The people who work in Google's famous cafeterias are contract workers, excluded from the tech giant’s high wages and benefits. Over the past few years, 4,000 of them quietly unionized.

google logo customGoogle is famous for its cafeterias, which serve its legions of programmers and product managers everything from vegan poke to gourmet tacos — free.

But the cooks and servers behind those meals are generally contractors who work for other companies, and do not get the generous perks and benefits reserved for Google employees. So over the past few years, thousands of them have unionized, securing higher wages, retirement benefits and free platinum health care coverage.

Unite Here, a 300,000-member union hotel and food service workers, has been steadily working to unionize Silicon Valley cafeteria workers since 2018, experiencing the most success at Google. Employed by the contract companies Compass and Guckenheimer, those unionized now make up about 90 percent of total food services workers at Google, according to the union. Workers have unionized at 23 Google offices nationwide, including in Seattle and San Jose.

Now, the union is tackling new territory: the South. On Wednesday, Google workers in Atlanta employed by a different cafeteria company — Sodexo — presented their manager with a list of demands and said they plan to unionize.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Shift, Israel Says Journalist Was Most Likely Shot by Israeli Soldier, Hiba Yazbek and Patrick Kingsley, Sept. 6, 2022 (print ed.). The Israeli Army concluded that Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American, was probably killed by a soldier. But it won’t open a criminal investigation.

The army’s announcement — the conclusion of a monthslong internal investigation — marked a shift from the original Israeli position, which maintained that Ms. Abu Akleh, a veteran broadcaster for Al Jazeera, had probably been killed by Palestinian fire.

Military officials nevertheless said they were certain that no Israeli soldier had intentionally fired toward a reporter or civilian, and said they would not open a criminal investigation into any Israeli soldier who might have been involved.

“It is not possible to unequivocally determine the source of the gunfire which hit Ms. Abu Akleh,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement. “However, there is a high possibility that Ms. Abu Akleh was accidentally hit by I.D.F. gunfire that was fired toward suspects identified as armed Palestinian gunmen, during an exchange of fire in which life-risking, widespread and indiscriminate shots were fired toward I.D.F. soldiers.”

Sept. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump should fill Christians with rage. How come he doesn’t? Michael Gerson, right, former chief speechwriter for Republican President George W. Bush, Sept. 4, 2022 (print ed.). In many American michael gerson file photoplaces on a pleasant Sunday afternoon it is possible, as I recently did, to have coffee in the city at a bohemian cafe draped with rainbow banners, then to drive 30 or 45 minutes into the country to find small towns where Confederate and Trump flags are flown. The United States sometimes feels like two nations, divided by adornments defiantly affirming their political and cultural affinities.

But as a religious person (on my better days), what concerns me are the perverse and dangerous liberties many believers have taken with their own faith. Much of what considers itself Christian America has assumed the symbols and identity of white authoritarian populism — an alliance that is a serious, unfolding threat to liberal democracy.

Christ’s revolt against the elites could hardly be more different from the one we see today. Conservative evangelicalism has, in many ways, become the kind of religious tradition against which followers of Jesus were initially called to rebel. And because of the pivotal role of conservative Christians in our politics, this irony is a matter of urgency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Under pressure, security firm Cloudflare drops Kiwi Farms site where stalkers organize, Joseph Menn and Taylor Lorenz, Sept 4, 2022 (print ed.). Cloudflare’s CEO said he made the decision after his company detected a surge in credible threats of violence originating on the site. Kiwi Farms launched in 2013 and quickly grew into a popular internet forum for online harassment campaigns.

Reversing course under growing public pressure, major tech security company Cloudflare announced Saturday that it will stop protecting the Kiwi Farms website, best known as a place for stalkers to organize hacks, online campaigns and real-world harassment.

Cloudflare Chief Executive Matthew Prince, who this past week published a lengthy blog post justifying the company’s services defending websites such as Kiwi Farms, told The Washington Post he changed his mind not because of the pressure but a surge in credible violent threats stemming from the site.

“As Kiwi Farms has felt more threatened, they have reacted by being more threatening,” Prince said. “We think there is an imminent danger, and the pace at which law enforcement is able to respond to those threats we don’t think is fast enough to keep up.”

Prince said contributors to the forum were posting home addresses of those seen as enemies and calling for them to be shot.

After Cloudflare’s move, visitors to Kiwi Farms were greeted by this message: “Due to an imminent and emergency threat to human life, the content of this site is blocked from being accessed through Cloudflare’s infrastructure.”

In a post on Telegram, Kiwi Farm’s founder, Josh Moon, said Cloudflare made its decision “without any discussion” and said he had not been contacted by law enforcement about threats on the site. “It’s early morning hours here,” the post said. “My thoughts will be articulated better in the morning.”

Kiwi Farms launched in 2013 and quickly grew into a popular internet forum for online harassment campaigns. At least three suicides have been tied to harassment stemming from the Kiwi Farms community, and many on the forum consider their goal to drive their targets to suicide. Members of the LGBTQ community and women are frequent targets.

Sept. 3

 

Jane Fonda, shown in the announcement of a 2020 speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

Jane Fonda, shown in the announcement of a 2020 speech at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jane Fonda Says She Has Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Matt Stevens, Dani Blum and Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Sept. 3, 2022 (print ed.). The actress said that she had begun chemotherapy and vowed not to “let any of this interfere with my climate activism.”

Las Vegas Review-Journal, Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German killed outside home, David Wilson, Sept. 3, 2022. Las Vegas Review-Journal investigative reporter Jeff German, one of Nevada’s most accomplished and trusted journalists, was found dead with stab wounds outside his home Saturday morning.

German, whose work in Las Vegas spanned more than three decades, made a career of breaking big stories about everything from organized crime and government malfeasance to political scandals and the Oct. 1 mass shooting.

“The Review-Journal family is devastated to lose Jeff,” Executive Editor Glenn Cook said. “He was the gold standard of the news business. It’s hard to imagine what Las Vegas would be like today without his many years of shining a bright light on dark places.”

Las Vegas police said Sunday morning the homicide investigation is a top priority for the department.

“LVMPD enacted its major case protocol Saturday in the homicide investigation,” the department said. “This brings together a variety of resources to maximize the investigative effort and apply a sense of urgency to the apprehension of the suspect.”

Police found German, 69, with stab wounds outside of his home. Police believe he was in an altercation with another person on Friday in the late morning that led to him being stabbed.

Koren said the stabbing is believed to be an isolated incident and that there is no threat to the public.

German joined the Review-Journal in 2010 after more than two decades at the Las Vegas Sun, where he was a columnist and reporter who covered courts, politics, labor, government and organized crime. Former Sun reporter and author Cathy Scott said Sunday German labored hard to cover the city and its happenings.

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Is there a purge?’: John Harwood’s CNN exit viewed as strategy shift, Jeremy Barr, Sept. 3, 2022. The veteran White House correspondent’s parting words were a defense of an outspoken kind of journalism that CNN insiders think has fallen out of favor under a new boss.

CNNCNN parted ways with veteran White House correspondent John Harwood on Friday in what network insiders viewed as the latest evidence of a shift to a less politically charged tone under new leader Chris Licht, right.

chris licht wHarwood, who could not be reached for comment, appeared on CNN Friday morning, reporting from the grounds of the White House. But at noon, he announced his departure on Twitter. He wrote that he is “proud of the work” he did at CNN and “[looks] forward to figuring out what’s next.”

Harwood, a longtime Wall Street Journal reporter, joined the network in January 2020, after working as CNBC’s chief Washington correspondent from 2006 to 2019. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Harwood still had time remaining on his CNN contract, which suggests that network brass decided to end his tenure prematurely.

washington post logoWashington Post, As Biden warned about democracy’s collapse, TV networks aired reruns, Paul Farhi, Sept. 3, 2022. While President Biden warned the nation about threats to democracy in a prime-time address on Thursday, ABC was airing a game show, “Press Your Luck.”

As Biden spelled out his objections to former president Donald Trump and “MAGA Republicans,” NBC was broadcasting a rerun of “Law and Order.” CBS skipped the speech to show a rerun of “Young Sheldon.”

The networks’ rejection of Biden’s speech — delivered in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, washed in dramatic red lighting as Marines stood guard — marked an unusual moment in the long relationship between the White House and the nation’s most powerful broadcasters.

Presidents rarely make speeches during prime TV viewing hours, and typically only do so to address a national crisis or matter of exceptional urgency. The networks, in turn, typically carry presidential speeches when the White House requests the time and after previewing the president’s remarks.

Sept. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter is finally testing an edit button, Rachel Lerman, Sept. 1, 2022. Users have been asking for the ability to edit tweets for twitter bird Customyears. The social media company announced Thursday that employees internally were testing the ability to edit a tweet shortly after its posted.

The feature will expand later this month to subscribers of Twitter’s premium service, called Twitter Blue. The feature has limitations — tweets can only be edited for 30 minutes, and they will be labeled with icon to let others know the tweet has been changed.

 

August

Aug. 31

 truth social logo

Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Exclusive: Trump left Sarasota media company weeks before federal subpoenas were issued, Chris Anderson, Aug. 31, 2022. Donald Trump removed himself from the board of his Sarasota-based social media company, records show, just weeks before the company was issued federal subpoenas by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and a grand jury in Manhattan.

Trump, the chairman of Trump Media and Technology Group, was one of six board members removed on June 8, state business records show.

Among the board members removed were Kashyap Patel, Trump's former point man in the White House; Scott Glabe, a former assistant to Trump who was counsel for the media company; and Donald Trump, Jr.

The SEC served Trump Media and Technology Group with a subpoena on June 27, according to a regulatory filing. Trump's media company owns Truth Social, an app similar to Twitter. Trump was banned by Twitter for inflammatory remarks concerning the insurrection.

Four days later, on July 1, a grand jury in the Southern District of New York handed the company another federal subpoena, an action that typically means a potential criminal investigation is in progress.

The investigations appear to be related to a proposed merger between Trump's media company and a blank-check company called Digital World Acquisitions Corp., according to a recent regulatory filing.

 

gannett logo CustomPoynter, After weeks of silence, Gannett revealed that it laid off 400 employees and cut 400 open positions, Angela Fu, Aug. 31, 2022. The round of layoffs, which started Aug. 12, followed a dismal second quarter.

Gannett CEO Mike Reed told staff in a companywide Q&A session Wednesday that Gannett laid off 3% of its U.S. workforce, or roughly 400 employees, in August, according to three people who attended the meeting.

The announcement comes more than two weeks after Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain with more than 200 papers, executed a round of layoffs starting Aug. 12. Though employees and reporters had repeatedly asked Gannett for information about the scope of the layoffs, the company declined to provide that information until now.

CFO Doug Horne, who was also present at the meeting, told staff that in addition to the layoffs, Gannett would not fill 400 open positions. Executives said the company slashed its marketing budget and made other non-payroll cost reductions, according to two people at the meeting. Gannett also reduced its executive team from 10 members to seven as part of a restructuring announced in June.

Spokesperson Lark-Marie Anton confirmed these announcements but declined to comment further on the meeting. She did not answer questions about who was affected by the layoffs or whether Gannett has more cuts planned for the near future.

The August layoffs started just a week after the company announced it had lost $54 million on revenues of $749 million during its second quarter. That day, Gannett Media president Maribel Perez Wadsworth told staff that the company would make “necessary but painful reductions to staffing.”

It remains unclear how many of the 400 layoffs were journalists and which newspapers and departments were affected.

Poynter, which has been tracking the layoffs, has found at least 68 impacted newsrooms, including flagship paper USA Today.

Of the more than 100 layoffs Poynter has tracked, the vast majority affected non-union newsrooms and staff. Unionized newsrooms that are currently bargaining contracts with Gannett were likely protected from layoffs by federal labor law.

A number of executive editors were laid off, as well as journalists who worked with multiple newsrooms. Non-editorial staff were also affected, including employees who worked in administrative positions and customer service. Some of the journalists who were laid off were among the last reporters left in their newsrooms.

Gannett executives at the meeting did not provide detailed information about which positions and publications were hit hardest by the layoffs. Iowa Public Radio previously reported that the regional editor in the Plains Region told her staff that she was instructed to protect larger metro papers, leading to cuts at smaller publications.

Asked if Gannett was committed to its small and medium-sized publications, Wadsworth said at Wednesday’s meeting that local journalism has never been more important and that in order to have strong journalism, the company also had to have a strong business, according to two attendees.

In the days leading up to the layoffs, the Gannett caucus of the NewsGuild, which represents 1,500 journalists across more than 50 newsrooms, called on the company to reduce executive compensation instead of cutting jobs. They drew attention to the fact that Reed had been paid $7.7 million in 2021 while Gannett’s median salary was $48,419. Reed had also bought $1.2 million worth of Gannett stock, or 500,000 shares, immediately before the layoffs.

Executives addressed both of these facts at the Wednesday meeting, according to screenshots of the Q&A transcript reviewed by Poynter.

Horne explained that a large portion of executive compensation is tied to the company’s performance and that the company’s board of directors works with an outside consultant to set executive pay based on market data from comparable companies.

Meanwhile, Reed said that he had bought those shares to show that he believed in Gannett’s mission.

“I believe in what we do every day across the country in our communities,” Reed said. “I believe in our strategy, and I believe our strategy is going to get us to the place we’re trying to go. It’s going to evolve our business, and we’re going to have a long-term, sustainable and growing business. And third, and most important, the reason I made that investment is I believe in you all.”

Those assurances may not be enough for employees. More than a dozen Gannett newsrooms have unionized in recent years. The day before the companywide meeting, journalists at The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, announced they were unionizing.

Business Insider, Inside the crisis at 'Reveal' and the Center for Investigaive Reporting after a turbelent summer, Steven Perlberg, Aug. 31, 2022. Layoffs, senior executives quitting, a staff no confidence letter leading to the CEO's departure, and a monthly burn rate of $700k+. It's been a summer of turmoil at the Center for Investigative Reporting / @reveal.

Aug. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, A Who’s Who of Silicon Valley Lawyers Up for the Musk-Twitter Trial, Kate Conger, Aug. 29, 2022. Jack Dorsey, a founder of Twitter, got a subpoena. So did Marc Andreessen, a prominent venture capitalist. Larry Ellison, Oracle’s chairman, and the investors David Sacks and Joe Lonsdale received them, too.

twitter bird CustomThey were all summoned to share what they know about the rancorous, knock-down, drag-out tech spectacle of the year: the fight between Twitter and Elon Musk, the world’s richest man.

Mr. Musk, right, enthusiastically agreed to buy Twitter in April for $44 billion, but has since tried to back out of the blockbuster deal, elon musk 2015leading to lawsuits and recriminations. Both sides are set for a showdown in Delaware Chancery Court in October over whether Mr. Musk needs to stick with the acquisition. The torrent of legal demands in the case has forced a who’s who of Silicon Valley to now lawyer up, creating a heyday for top-tier law firms.

So far, lawyers for Twitter and Mr. Musk have issued more than 100 subpoenas in the battle, targeting big-name banks (Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley), high-profile investors (Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia), well-known advisers, prominent companies that employ Twitter’s board members (Salesforce, Mastercard) and members of Mr. Musk’s entourage.

In the scorched earth campaign, the lawyers have even subpoenaed each other.

“Every firm in the Valley is salivating like dogs trying to get in on that action,” said Carol Langford, a professor of legal ethics at the University of San Francisco.

Even for a high-stakes corporate lawsuit, the deluge of paperwork is remarkable, legal experts said. The October trial puts the case on a breakneck timeline, compressing legal work that might normally stretch on for years into just three months. With so much money on the line, both sides have demonstrated a willingness to spend on Hail Mary subpoenas, rather than targeting their requests to just a few insiders.

That helps explain the sheer number of tech VIPs involved.

washington post logoWashington Post, Advice: Legal betting is splashed all over sports today. Here’s what to know before you try it, Matt Bonesteel, Sept. 3, 2022. Sports gambling has erupted in popularity since the Supreme Court struck down a federal ban in 2018, with the American Gaming Association estimating it brought in $53.03 billion in 2021 — a 21.5 percent increase from 2019, the last year with a non-pandemic sports schedule.

While many fans have jumped right in — or were familiar with sports gambling before it was legalized — others may be interested in taking it up as a hobby but might not know where to start.

Aug. 27

 

donald trump money palmer report Custom

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The Real Scandal in Donald Trump’s Historic Theft of Classified Records Is Not What You Think, Seth Abramson, left, seth abramson graphicAug. 26-27, 2022. As a Trump biographer who’s written more best-sellers on Trump’s presidency than any other author, I’ve a very different view of the current classified-records scandal involving Trump and Mar-a-Lago.

Introduction:seth abramson proof logo Donald Trump orchestrating a premeditated heist of well over 1,000 pages of highly classified taxpayer-owned government records—along with thousands of additional pages of documents that, while not classified, were both sensitive and not his to take—may be the least surprising thing Trump has ever done in his brief political career.

It’s important for Americans to understand not just that what Trump did is actually—for him—unsurprising, but also why it’s unsurprising.

The real story is a historic heist of classified national security-related information that was premeditated, conducted over the course of two years, and constitutes one of the gravest national security breaches in American history. The real story is that we don’t yet know the motive behind the crime. The real story is a historic heist of this sort of course would not have been undertaken for no reason—but had to have had behind it some sort of personal benefit that neither major media nor federal investigators have yet discovered, and which—candidly—there is no evidence as yet either major media or federal investigators are trying to find out.

Because Trump never told anyone about the declassifications—again, humoring for a moment the idea that any such declassifications ever occurred, even in Trump’s head—he was in fact only accomplishing a single goal in executing such a extraordinarily clandestine executive action. To wit, he was empowering himself to secretly show the documents that he had stolen to persons not otherwise entitled to see them, under circumstances in which he had a legal excuse for doing so if he got caught doing so.

There is, to be clear, no other purpose for a declassification that is known only to the President of the United States and not even a single other attorney, adviser, associate, aide, agent, acolyte, or assistant.

But there’s much more to say here, as in fact the act of fully declassifying a document to publicly viewable status—the sort of declassification Trump avoided here—has one other major result: the destruction of the pecuniary value of the data so declassified.

That is, if you take a classified document and make it public, it no longer can be sold for a profit, as everyone everywhere can access it if they have the time and inclination to track it down and view it.

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).

 

truth social logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Truth Social faces financial peril as worry about Trump’s future grows, Drew Harwell, Aug. 27, 2022. Payment disputes and a dwindling audience have fueled doubts about the former president’s Twitter clone.

Former president Donald Trump’s Truth Social website is facing financial challenges as its traffic remains puny and the company that is scheduled to acquire it expresses fear that his legal troubles could lead to a decline in his popularity.

Six months after its high-profile launch, the site — a clone of Twitter, which banned Trump after Jan. 6, 2021 — still has no guaranteed source of revenue and a questionable path to growth, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings from Digital World Acquisition, the company planning to take Trump’s start-up, the Trump Media & Technology Group, public.

The company warned this week that its business could be damaged if Trump “becomes less popular or there are further controversies that damage his credibility.” The company has seen its stock price plunge nearly 75 percent since its March peak and reported in a filing last week that it had lost $6.5 million in the first half of the year.

djt golf shirt bloatedThe FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate, fueled a burst of Truth Social user activity, and Trump himself (shown in a recent file photo) has increasingly used the site as one of his main online megaphones. “WE GAVE THEM MUCH,” he said, or “truthed,” on Friday in reaction to an FBI affidavit about classified documents kept at his Palm Beach home.

FBI attacker was prolific contributor to Trump’s Truth Social website

There are signs that the company’s financial base has begun to erode. The Trump company stopped paying RightForge, a conservative web-hosting service, in March and now owes it more than $1 million, according to Fox Business, which first reported the dispute.

The company also has struggled with some basics of corporate operation. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this month denied its application to trademark “Truth Social,” citing the “likelihood of confusion” to other similarly named companies, including an app, “VERO — True Social,” first released in 2015.

Representatives from Trump’s company and Digital World did not respond to requests for comment.

RightForge has advertised itself as a pillar of the conservative push to build a parallel internet protected from “Big Tech censorship.” Its chief executive Martin Avila declined to comment and said, “We fully stand behind the president and his endeavors.”

But two people familiar with the dispute, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private details, said the lack of payment had fueled anger that Trump could shortchange a champion of his “free speech” mission.

The Trump company and RightForge have been communicating with each other exclusively through attorneys in recent weeks, the people said. Digital World Acquisition’s stock slid Friday about 7 percent.

Trump’s businesses have faced many similar payment battles over the years. In past SEC filings, Digital World has also noted that “a number of companies that were associated with [Trump] have filed for bankruptcy” and that “there can be no assurances that [Trump’s media company] will not also become bankrupt.”

 

james okeefewashington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Project Veritas, Ashley Biden and the First Amendment, Erik Wemple, Aug. 27, 2022. In November 2021, FBI agents conducted an early-morning search at the home of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe (shown above on one of his many appearances on MAGA platforms) as part of an investigation into Ashley Biden’s stolen diary. In the intervening months, O’Keefe and his lawyers have criticized the FBI and the Justice Department for allegedly heavy-handed investigative measures.

The Justice Department on Thursday delivered a response of sorts, and the particulars don’t look favorable to Project Veritas, a group popular among conservatives for its undercover “sting” videos seeking to expose liberal bias in the media, government and tech worlds.

reuters logoThe upshot: If the government’s version of events is true — its claims have not been tested in court — Project Veritas appears to have a shaky case that all of its activities in the diary saga are protected by the First Amendment.

According to Thursday’s announcement, two Florida residents — Aimee Harris and Robert Kurlander -- pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to transport stolen property, which included a diary purportedly kept by Ashley Biden. “Harris and Kurlander stole personal property from an immediate family member of a candidate for national political office,” said U.S. Attorney Damian Williams. According to a court document filed by prosecutors in connection with the plea, Harris and Kurlander engaged in extensive discussions with an “organization” — known to be Project Veritas — to sell the material.

Herewith a quick summary, based on the document: In June 2020, Harris moved into a Florida house where Ashley Biden previously resided and where she’d left several items, including the diary, for safekeeping. After discovering the items, Harris enlisted Kurlander to sell them. An attempt to peddle them to the Trump campaign failed, so they turned to Project Veritas, which, according to the government, paid for the pair to travel to New York. At a Manhattan hotel, Harris and Kurlander “provided” the items, which included the diary, a digital camera and a drive containing Biden family photos. Harris explained how she’d obtained the materials and noted that there were additional items belonging to Ashley Biden at the Florida residence.

The next part is critical: An employee of Project Veritas, according to the government’s filing, then “asked” Harris and Kurlander to return to the residence “so that they could obtain and provide” more of Ashley Biden’s belongings — a step that the government says Project Veritas took in part to authenticate the diary. Harris and Kurlander complied with this alleged request, and Project Veritas paid them a total of $40,000.

In a November 2021 filing regarding the FBI search, Project Veritas provided its own account, insisting it “had no involvement with how those two individuals acquired the diary.” Instead, it said, “All of Project Veritas’s knowledge about how R.K and A.H. came to possess the diary came from R.K. and A.H. themselves.” Furthermore, the document asserts, the duo indicated that the material was “abandoned” at the house and that both of them had “reaffirmed that they had come to possess the diary lawfully.” After failing to authenticate the diary “to the degree they required to satisfy their journalistic ethics,” Project Veritas’s lawyers wrote, Project Veritas declined to publish it, but attempted to return it to Ashley Biden, and ultimately handed it over to local law enforcement in Florida.

james okeefe mugThere is little detail in that filing about the specifics of group’s communications with Harris and Kurlander, and no suggestion that they directed the pair to gather additional items from Ashley Biden.

The disclosures in Thursday’s plea documents bear on the legal arguments that Project Veritas asserted at the time of the O’Keefe raid. Back then, lawyers for the organization maintained that O’Keefe (shown in a mugshot years ago from an attempt to compromise the phomes of a Democratic senator's office) & Co. were practicing journalism — and the feds were overreaching. “What the DOJ has done in this case … they have blown federal law, they’ve blown the Constitution, they’ve blown due process and civil rights. … So this is a scandal of epic proportions,” attorney Harmeet Dhillon told host Tucker Carlson at the time. “Every journalist who isn’t worried and concerned about this should hang up their journalism card — ditto all First Amendment lawyers as well.”

As it turns out, no — this was not a scandal of epic proportions.

As for the group’s claim that the First Amendment shields its activities, that’s a complicated question. As this blog has noted before, the Supreme Court has extended First Amendment protections to the publication of information that had been obtained illegally — provided that the news outlet didn’t participate in those illegal activities.

Aug. 26

Science, White House requires immediate public access to all U.S.-funded research papers by 2025, Jeffrey Brainard and Jocelyn Kaiser, Aug. 26, 2022. Policy is a blow to journal paywalls, but its impact on publishing is unclear.

A decades-long battle over how best to provide public access to the fruits of research funded by the U.S. government has taken a major turn.

President Joe Biden’s administration announced yesterday that, by the end of 2025, federal agencies must make papers that describe taxpayer-funded work freely available to the public as soon as the final peer-reviewed manuscript is published. Data underlying those publications must also be made freely available “without delay.”

Many details of the new policy, including exactly how the government will fund immediate public access, remain to be decided. But it significantly reshapes and expands existing—and fiercely contested—U.S. access rules that have been in place since 2013. Most notably, the White House has substantially weakened, but not formally eliminated, the ability of journals to keep final versions of federally funded papers behind a subscription paywall for up to 1 year.

Many commercial publishers and nonprofit scientific societies have long fought to maintain that 1-year embargo, saying it is critical to protecting subscription revenues that cover editing and production costs and fund society activities. But critics of paywalls argue that they obstruct the free flow of information, have enabled price gouging by some publishers, and force U.S. taxpayers to “pay twice”—once to fund the research and again to see the results. Since the late 1990s, the critics have lobbied Congress and the White House to require free and immediate “open access” to government-funded research.

The Biden administration has heeded those pleas, although the new policy does not expressly embrace the term open access—it uses the words “public access.” It is “de facto an open-access mandate,” says Stefano Bertuzzi, CEO of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), which publishes 16 journals. And many open-access advocates are applauding it.

The embargo and related policies “were pure sellouts of the public interest,” tweeted molecular biologist Michael Eisen of the University of California, Berkeley, a prominent critic of U.S. access policies and co-founder of the PLOS journals, which have helped pioneer an open-access business model in which authors pay a fee to make their papers immediately free to all. “The best thing I can say about this new policy is that publishers will hate it.”

Many publishers say they support a transition to immediate public access but criticized the new U.S. policy. “We would have preferred to chart our own course to open access without a government mandate,” Bertuzzi says. Six of ASM’s journals are already fully open access, with the rest to follow by 2027.

The impact of the new requirement could vary depending on which of the more than 20 U.S. funding agencies underwrite the author’s research. Each agency must finalize its policy by the end of 2024 and implement it by the end of 2025.

The new policy reflects the profound changes that have rocked academic publishing since the U.S. public access debate began in earnest more than 25 years ago. Then, subscription-based print journals were the primary means of disseminating research results, and publishers fiercely resisted any policy change that threatened an often highly profitable business model. But pressure from university libraries tired of paying rising subscription fees, and patient groups angry about having to pay to read taxpayer-funded biomedical studies, helped catalyze serious discussion of policy change. At the same time, the rise of the internet fueled publishing experiments, such as open-access journals and the posting of freely accessible “preprints” that have not been peer reviewed.

Aug. 25

 

sean hannity uncredited

ny times logoNew York Times, Sean Hannity and Other Fox Stars Face Depositions in Defamation Suit, Jeremy W. Peters Aug. 25, 2022. The depositions are one of the clearest indications yet of how aggressively Dominion is moving forward with its suit against the media company.

Some of the biggest names at Fox News have been questioned, or are scheduled to be questioned in the coming days, by lawyers representing Dominion Voting Systems in its $1.6 billion defamation suit against the network, as the election technology company presses ahead with a case that First Amendment scholars say is extraordinary in its scope and significance.

fox news logo SmallSean Hannity became the latest Fox star to be called for a deposition by Dominion’s legal team, according to a new filing in Delaware Superior Court. He is scheduled to appear on Wednesday.

Tucker Carlson is set to face questioning on Friday. Lou Dobbs, whose Fox Business show was canceled last year, is scheduled to appear on Tuesday. Others who have been deposed recently include Jeanine Pirro, Steve Doocy and a number of high-level Fox producers, court records show.

 

alex jones briana sanchez pool

InfoWars radio host Alex Jones on Trial in Austin, TX in a civil trial (Pool photo by Briana Sanchez).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones Accused of Hiding Assets From Sandy Hook Families, Elizabeth Williamson, Aug. 25, 2022. The Infowars fabulist has been funneling millions out of his empire while claiming bankruptcy, the Sandy Hook families suing him say.

News Sandy Hook victims’ families asked a federal bankruptcy court on Thursday to order the Infowars conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones to relinquish control over his company, saying he has “systematically transferred millions of dollars” to himself and his relatives while claiming to be broke.

In a filing in the bankruptcy court in Houston, the families of nine Sandy Hook victims said they sought to have a bankruptcy trustee who is already monitoring the case take control of Free Speech Systems, the parent company of Mr. Jones’s misinformation-peddling media outlet. The families are also seeking a court-appointed oversight committee to restrict Mr. Jones’s ability to control Infowars’s finances.

Mr. Jones’s claimed insolvency is at the heart of his efforts to avoid paying for the damage done by his Sandy Hook lies. Earlier this month, a Texas jury ordered him to pay the parents of a child killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting nearly $50 million in compensatory and punitive damages for spreading the falsehood that they helped stage the massacre.

ny times logoNew York Times, George Foreman Is Accused of Sexual Abuse, David W. Chen, Aug. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Two women filed lawsuits in Los Angeles County alleging that Foreman, a former boxing champion, forced them to have sex with him as minors in the 1970s. Foreman denied the accusations. David W. Chen

Two women filed lawsuits Wednesday in California alleging that George Foreman, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, sexually abused them when they were teenagers in California in the 1970s.

george foreman twitterAccording to the lawsuits, the women, using the pseudonyms Gwen H. and Denise S. to protect their identities, initially met Foreman, shown on his Twitter portrait, when they were under 10 years old through their fathers. One man was a boxer and sparring partner of Foreman, while the other was a boxing manager and longtime adviser to Foreman.

Foreman then groomed the girls for several years, according to the complaints, before forcing them to have sex with him in places ranging from a San Francisco hotel to an apartment in Beverly Hills. The two women, who are both in their early 60s, filed the complaints in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Representatives for Foreman referred inquiries about the lawsuits — in which he is identified only as “DOE 1” — to a statement he released last month, announcing that he was anticipating a lawsuit.

“Over the past six months, two women have been trying to extort millions of dollars each from me and my family. They are falsely claiming that I sexually abused them over 45 years ago in the 1970s. I adamantly and categorically deny these allegations,” Foreman said.

He added: “I will work with my lawyers to fully and truthfully expose my accusers’ scheme and defend myself in court. I don’t pick fights, but I don’t run away from them either.”

The claims were filed under a California law allowing survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits. The law, which went into effect in January 2020 and expires at the end of 2022, has resulted in thousands of claims accusing coaches, teachers, clergy and others of sexual abuse.

While numerous claims have been settled, only a few have gone to trial. 

ny times logoNew York Times, Djokovic, Still Unvaccinated, Says He Will Miss U.S. Open, Matthew Futterman, Aug. 25, 2022. Novak Djokovic, who has had Covid-19 at least twice, said he could not travel to New York. The U.S. restricts entry for unvaccinated foreigners.

novak djokovicIn January, Novak Djokovic, right, went before a panel of judges in Australia, seeking special permission to play tennis in the country while being unvaccinated against Covid-19. After a last-ditch hearing, he was turned away.

Since then, countries like France and Britain have relaxed their travel restrictions, which allowed Djokovic, who has had Covid-19 at least twice but has steadfastly refused to get vaccinated, to compete. Yet on Thursday, Djokovic was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Open. Still not vaccinated, he was not allowed to come to New York.

The United States has lifted many of its restrictions related to the coronavirus and travel, but unvaccinated foreigners are still not allowed to enter the country, leaving one of the top stars in men’s tennis unable to play in one of the most important tournaments of the year.

Aug. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Former Security Chief Accuses It of ‘Egregious Deficiencies,’ Lauren Hirsch and Kate Conger, Aug. 23, 2022. A whistle-blower’s complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department come at a perilous time for the social network.

twitter bird CustomTwitter’s former head of security has accused the company of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its spam- and hacker-fighting practices, according to a whistle-blower complaint.

The complaints by Peiter Zatko, the former executive, said that the shortcomings in enforcing security, privacy and content moderation policies dated to 2011. Mr. Zatko, a well-known hacker who is known in the security community as Mudge, joined Twitter in late 2020 and was terminated by the company in January.

His complaints were sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission on July 6. They were first reported by The Washington Post and CNN.

Aug. 22 

nso group logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Chief of Israeli Spyware Firm NSO to Step Down as It Revamps, Kalley Huang, Aug. 22, 2022 (print ed.). The chief executive of the Israeli spyware company NSO Group is stepping down as part of a corporate reorganization to focus on business with member countries of NATO, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

The reorganization comes after the United States government blacklisted NSO Group last November over its spyware Pegasus. When announcing the blacklisting, the Biden administration said that NSO Group had acted “contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The move, which barred American companies from doing any business with the Israeli firm, followed reports by a coalition of news organizations last July that governments used Pegasus to target journalists, dissidents and opposition politicians in countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Mexico.

“The company is reorganizing to prepare for its next phase of growth,” said Shalev Hulio, NSO Group’s chief executive and one of its three co-founders.

Pegasus can covertly and remotely extract everything from mobile phones — including messages, photos, videos and contacts — without users having to click on a phishing link to provide access. It also can turn a mobile phone into a listening and tracking device.

NSO Group says it sells its spyware to law enforcement and intelligence agencies to help to prevent crime and terrorism.

Yaron Shohat, NSO Group’s chief operating officer, will lead the company and manage its reorganization until a successor is found for Mr. Hulio, the company said.

This is not the first time Mr. Hulio has given up the top job. He stepped down late last year and was replaced by NSO’s co-president, Isaac Benbenisti. But Mr. Benbenisti resigned less than two weeks afterward, following NSO Group’s addition to the American blacklist.

Aug. 21

 

CNN

CNN "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter, fired this week by new management at CNN that also cancelled his long-running show on Sundays, speaks at the National Press Club on April 25, 2019 (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig).

Politico, Stelter on CNN: ‘I’m going to be rooting for this place for the rest of my life,’ Olivia Olander, Aug. 21, 2022. “So much of the media ecosystem in 2022 is garbage, but so much of it is spectacular,” Stelter said in his closing remarks to the canceled “Reliable Sources.”

“Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter said he’ll be “rooting for” CNN for the rest of his life as he signed off his final broadcast Sunday, following the show’s cancellation this week.

“So much of the media ecosystem in 2022 is garbage, but so much of it is spectacular,” he said in his closing remarks. “The hard part is sorting out the treasure from the trash.”

CNNThe network announced Thursday that “Reliable Sources” had been canceled after three decades, and that Stelter, who had hosted the show since 2013, will depart the network. The host thanked CNN’s current leadership “for letting us say goodbye,” and also thanked former CNN President Jeff Zucker by name.

“I’m going to be rooting for this place for the rest of my life,” Stelter said at one point.

Stelter and his guests on the final broadcast both reflected on changes in media since the show premiered in 1992, and on how news media might look in the future.

“It’s loony to say the media is the enemy of the people. The media is the people,” Stelter said, addressing developments in media in the last 30 years. “And people are flawed, and opinionated, and hopeful, and believing in accountability.”

Stelter hosted journalist Carl Bernstein on Sunday’s program, as well as media critics Eric Deggans, Jodie Ginsberg and David Zurawik. Journalist Brian Karem, who was the first guest on “Reliable Sources” in 1992, also made an appearance as the last guest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: My final column: 2024 and the dangers ahead, Margaret Sullivan, right, Aug. 21, 2022. Before signing off, margaret sullivan 2015 photoMargaret Sullivan offers advice to her fellow journalists on how to cover a perilous election.

After a recent announcement that I’ve decided to retire this column and leave The Post, a Vanity Fair reporter asked me by email about the media’s performance in covering threats to democracy. That certainly was a fair question, since it’s been one of my most frequent subjects here.

I’m “encouraged one day, despairing the next,” I told her, adding that the next election cycle is going to be a real test for the reality-based press.

This is my last column for The Washington Post — my plans include teaching at Duke University and publishing a book this fall, both a personal memoir and a tell-all about what I’ve seen in my four decades in journalism. So I’ll explain more about what I meant.

Here’s the good news: The media has come a long, long way in figuring out how to cover the democracy-threatening ways of Donald Trump and his allies, including his stalwart helpers in right-wing media. It is now common to see headlines and stories that plainly refer to some politicians as “election deniers,” and journalists are far less hesitant to use the blunt and clarifying word “lie” to describe Trump’s false statements. That includes, of course, the former president’s near-constant campaign to claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged to prevent him from keeping the White House.

And yet, I worry that it’s not nearly enough. I don’t mean to suggest that journalists can address the threats to democracy all by themselves — but they must do more.

The deeper question is whether news organizations can break free of their hidebound practices — the love of political conflict, the addiction to elections as a horse race — to address those concerns effectively.

For the sake of democracy, they must.

So my prescription — and it’s only a start — is less live campaign coverage, more context and thoughtful framing, and more fearless straight talk from news leaders about what’s at stake and why politics coverage looks different. The latter could take many forms: editors’ notes on stories, columns written by news directors and posted prominently on websites, public appearances, and more.

chris stirewalt testifies cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, A Former Fox News Insider Spills the Beans, Blake Hounshell and Jeremy W. Peters, Aug. 20, 2022 (print ed.). Chris Stirewalt (shown above in testimony this year before the House Jan. 6 committee) was part of a pivotal decision to declare Joe Biden the winner of Arizona in 2020. Now he’s speaking out about a network he says incites “black-helicopter-level paranoia and hatred.”

fox news logo SmallAfter a decade at Fox News, Chris Stirewalt was suddenly shown the door in January 2021, becoming a casualty of restructuring — or, at least, that was how Fox described his and other layoffs that swept out longtime journalists who were part of the network’s news division.

Stirewalt, who was part of the team at Fox News that projects election results and who testified before the House Jan. 6 committee this summer, suspects there was a bigger reason behind his firing, which he explains in his new book, Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back, to be released next week.

chris stirewalt broken news“I got canned after very vocal and very online viewers — including the then-president of the United States — became furious when our Decision Desk was the first to project that Joe Biden would win the former G.O.P. stronghold of Arizona in 2020,” Stirewalt writes.

Coming at 11:20 p.m., well before the other networks declared that Biden would win the state, the Fox call was extremely controversial and consequential. It infuriated Donald Trump and threw a wrench into his attempt to falsely declare himself the winner of the 2020 election. He ordered his campaign aides to demand that Fox retract the call, to no avail.

Despite the pressure to reverse its decision, and the ratings crash Fox suffered in the next few weeks after Trump urged people to watch other networks, the network didn’t buckle because the Decision Desk analysts insisted that the data backed up their projections. And they were right.

A spokeswoman for Fox News said, “Chris Stirewalt’s quest for relevance knows no bounds,” and disputed the idea that his departure from the network had anything to do with the Arizona call. She added that Arnon Mishkin, the head of the Decision Desk, would be returning for the November midterm elections.

Aug. 20

 

U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.U.S. House Jan. 6 insurrection investigating committee members Liz Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Jamie Raskie (D-MD) are shown, left to right, in a file photo.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Lawmakers demand data noting uptick in social media posts ‘calling for civil war,’ Cat Zakrzewski, Aug. 20, 2022. House Oversight Committee leaders called on eight social networks, including Meta, Truth Social and Gab, to turn over details about how they’re responding following the FBI search of former president Donald Trump’s residence.

House Oversight Committee leaders are demanding social media companies take “immediate action” to address a flood of violent online threats against law enforcement, following the FBI’s search of former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

The lawmakers sent letters Friday to the executives of eight social media companies, including Facebook parent company Meta and the fringe right-wing platform Gab, demanding details about the number of threats against law enforcement. The letters cite a “spike in social media users calling for civil war” and other violence against law enforcement after Trump and some Republican members of Congress lashed out against the FBI.

The letters say these online threats have contributed to attacks against law enforcement, citing the threats that the gunman who tried to breach the FBI’s Cincinnati field office earlier this month shared on Trump’s social network, Truth Social.

“We are concerned that reckless statements by the former president and Republican Members of Congress have unleashed a flood of violent threats on social media that have already led to at least one death and pose a danger to law enforcement officers across the United States,” said the letters written by House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) and House national security subcommittee Chairman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.). “We urge you to take immediate action to address any threats of violence against law enforcement that appear on your company’s platforms.”

FBI attacker was prolific contributor to Trump’s Truth Social website

The letters request information about how the companies respond to threats of violence, including how many threats against law enforcement were removed and how many were reported to authorities. The lawmakers also ask for plans to ensure platforms aren’t used to incite further violence against law enforcement, and for documents about any advertising that appeared alongside violent comments.

Lawmakers also sent letters to executives from Twitter, TikTok, Truth Social, Rumble, Gettr and Telegram, canvassing mainstream social networks, as well as alternative social networks favored by Trump’s supporters.

Law enforcement leaders have been sounding the alarm about threats to federal agents for a week, as top GOP leaders have accused the FBI, without evidence, of carrying out a politicized attack on Trump. The politicians have tapped into long-running hostility among Trump and his followers toward arms of the federal government, which some call the “Deep State.” The FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint bulletin last week warning about an “increase in violent threats posted on social media against federal officials and facilities.”

Aug. 19

New York Post, Daily News union rips owner over work conditions, staff ‘quitting in droves,’ Alexandra Steigrad, Aug. 19, 2022 (print ed.). The New York Daily News union slammed the vulture hedge fund that owns the 102-year-old newspaper for unsustainable work conditions that have left the remaining staff “hanging by a thread.”

new york post logoThe union, which represents most of the skeleton staff left at the paper, called out Alden Global Capital for causing burned-out workers to “quit in droves,” in a series of tweets Thursday.

“Twelve journalists have resigned from the Daily News over the last three months. That’s about 20% if our newsroom. Staffers are quitting in droves. Our owners — Alden Global Capital — don’t seem to care. New York City should care,” the union tweeted.

The paper is down to “two staff reporters to chase crimes on the street” and the few editors remaining are struggling to put out daily editions, the union said.

alden global capital logo“Our sports department has been gutted. We lost our longtime back page editor. Our Metro editor left,” the union wrote. “We were already hanging on by a thread after Alden issued buyouts last year. Now we can barely put out the paper.”

A source close to the situation estimated that staff headcount is in the mid-40-range. Just a year ago, the News had a staff of around 70 despite an exodus of top editors and reporters following Alden’s purchase of the paper from Tribune Publishing.

Andrew Julien, the Alden-installed executive editor, pushed back against the union’s gripes.

“While a number of staffers have recently moved on to outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, ESPN and Fox Sports, we have already filled a number of those openings and are actively recruiting for the others,” Julien told The Post. “Any comments suggesting otherwise from unions trying to negotiate on social media should be taken with a grain of salt.”

In its Twitter rant, the union said readers have noticed the poor quality of the newspaper, sending in letters “begging” them to “not just restore coverage” but “expand” the paper to “better serve New Yorkers.”

The union included screenshots from readers, criticizing the high $3 cover price for the much-thinner newspaper, as well as articles that are filled with typos.

One angry reader wrote: “Each day, there are so many typos because you don’t proofread what your reporters write. The News should have a contest among its readers as to who can find the most typos each day.”

A Daily News insider told The Post that the crux of the problem is that Alden’s “expectations are ridiculous.”

Those demands include “filling the paper with no staff, making reporters take on numerous beats that used to be separate, and relying on freelancers and super young cheap reporters,” the source said.

At one point, one editor was laying out the entire paper seven days a week, the insider added.

“It’s not sustainable and there’s no future for anyone there,” the source said.

The Post reached out to the union for comment.

The paper’s daily print circulation has plummeted to 55,653 — an 18% decline from 2021 — according to the Alliance for Audited Media. At its peak, the tabloid sold 2.4 million papers a day.

Alden acquired the paper — along with Tribune’s other famed titles like the Orlando Sentinel, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant and Chicago Tribune — in a deal worth $633 million in 2021. The hedge fund owns about 200 newspapers around the country and is infamous for slashing staff and selling off assets like real estate and printing presses.

It has followed a similar playbook at the Daily News, the nation’s first tabloid which was once home to legendary columnists like Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill.

Shortly after taking control, Alden replaced editor in chief Robert York with Julien, the editor and publisher of its sibling publication, the Hartford Courant. Sources told The Post at the time that the changes were cost-saving measures to boost profitability.

The tabloid, which bills itself as New York’s Hometown Newspaper, doesn’t even have a home for its staff after the company gave up its lease in lower Manhattan during the pandemic. It has no plans to find a new space, sources said.

Earlier this year, Alden outsourced the Daily News’ printing operations to the North Jersey Media Group, which prints the Bergen Record, the Herald News of Passaic County and the Daily Record of Morris County.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Deshaun Watson is the star the NFL deserves: A cynical, empty narcissist, Sally Jenkins, right, Aug. 19, 2022 (print ed.).sally jenkins The NFL has a terminal contempt for little people. It specializes in the abuse of the powerless with impunity, and Deshaun Watson’s light suspension and mock penitence, which he couldn’t sustain for even a full sentence, was just another take-us-for-fools offense. Never has the syndrome been more apparent than in Watson’s head-clutching double talk following the announcement he will sit out 11 games and pay a $5 million fine. His non-apology was so sourly cynical and canned, such a combination of bad faith and bad breath, that it made you long for a Listerine rinse.

He’s sorry. No, he isn’t. He has learned. No, he hasn’t. He takes responsibility. No, he doesn’t. Watson’s utterly insincere written apology after allegedly exposing himself and perving on female massage therapists included everything but a dab at the eyes as he promised to work to become “the best version of myself on and off the field.” Blech. Then he held a news conference and contradicted all of it with a casualness that made it clear it was just hygiene theater.

“I’ve always stood on my innocence and always said I’ve never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone,” Watson said. “…I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence.”

The Atlantic, Commentary: How to Kill a Newspaper, Andrew Travers (the former editor of The Aspen Times), Aug. 18-19, 2022. How a Soviet-born developer and a West Virginia billionaire destroyed a 141-year-old Colorado newspaper.

atlantic logo horizontalHere in Aspen, the air is thin, the snow is perfect, and money is everywhere. This is a singular American town in many respects. Among them is this: Aspen had, until very recently, two legitimate daily newspapers, The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News. At a moment when local newspapers face manifold threats to their existence and more and more American cities become news deserts, Aspen was the opposite: a news geyser.

I joined The Aspen Times as an editor in 2014, after a seven-year tenure at the Aspen Daily News. The Times has published since 1881, when Aspen was a silver-mining boomtown, through its postwar rebirth as a ski resort, and now as the home of ideas festivals, wine festivals, $50 entrees, and an awe-inspiring collection of private jets, many owned by billionaires deeply concerned about climate change. The paper, which was based for much of its history in a purple-painted building between a drugstore and the Hotel Jerome, developed a reputation for shoe-leather reporting and accountability journalism.

On Thanksgiving 2021, the start of ski season, the Times editorial team numbered 13, including four reporters who had been covering our town since at least the 1990s. We were treated well by our parent company, Swift Communications. Our paper was profitable, owing largely to real-estate advertising. We seemed to be a safe harbor for small-town journalists.

We were wrong.

My story is populated by blue bloods and thin-skinned billionaires, including the owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a litigious Soviet-born developer, and the wealthy cousin of a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Aspen is strange, but this is a story that could actually take place anywhere. It’s about what happens to the public interest when billionaires collide, and when newsrooms are bullied into suppressing coverage by people with great mountains of money and battalions of lawyers. And it speaks to a deepening crisis for the free press, which has been comprehensively betrayed in Aspen.

Aug. 18

Ars Technica, Commentary: Loathsome anti-vax group run by RFK Jr gets Meta permaban — finally, Ashley Belanger, Aug. 18, 2022. [On Aug. 17],  the anti-vaccine group the Children’s Health Defense celebrated the spread of poliovirus in New York, mocking health officials spreading awareness that polio is vaccine-preventable.

facebook logoToday [Aug. 18], CHD reports that the group was also permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram yesterday. A screenshot of Meta’s notification in its press release says that the ban is due to CHD’s practice of spreading "misinformation that could cause physical harm."

ars technica logoA Meta spokesperson tells Ars that Meta “removed the Instagram and Facebook accounts in question for repeatedly violating our COVID-19 policies.”

CHD says the ban came “without warning,” cutting the anti-vax group off from hundreds of thousands of followers on both social media platforms. Denying allegations that the group spreads misinformation, CHD suggested instead the ban is connected to CHD’s lawsuit against Meta that questions the validity of how Facebook and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention label health misinformation. The group's legal counsel in that lawsuit, Roger Teich, suggested that the ban was improper.

“Censorship is not only unconstitutional, it’s un-American,” Teich said in the press release.

robert f kennedy jr gage skidmoreCHD founder Robert F. Kennedy Jr .— who, as AP reported, likens getting vaccines to "drinking Kool-Aid" — seemed to suggest that Meta was retaliating against CHD on behalf of the CDC: “Facebook is acting here as a surrogate for the federal government’s crusade to silence all criticism of draconian government policies,” Kennedy (shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore at right) said in the press release.

meta logoMeta’s move comes after years of tension with CHD over its content. Back in 2019, researchers identified CHD as the single leading source of anti-vax ads on Facebook. It has taken the entire pandemic to get to the point of banning the account.

Meta's not the only social media platform that has pushed back on CHD's misinformation. Last year, YouTube banned CHD, among other anti-vax accounts, for claiming the COVID-19 vaccine was ineffective. In 2021, Meta also made headlines when Instagram banned Kennedy’s account “for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines."

Although CHD said it had no warning, Vice reported that CHD shared in an email newsletter that this week’s permanent ban followed a temporary 30-day ban: “​​Despite not posting content on Facebook for the past 21 days due to an existing 30-day ban, and constantly self-censoring our content in an attempt to avoid continual shadow-banning and censorship, both pages were abruptly de-platformed. Removing CHD accounts is evidence of a clearly orchestrated attempt to stop the impact we have during a time of heightened criticism of our public health institutions.”

Meta tells Ars that before any ban, Meta uses “a strike system to count violations” so it can hold accountable “those who continue violating” any Meta policies. Accounts are restricted or disabled “based on the number and nature of the strikes it accrues.”

 

CNN

CNN "Reliable Sources" host Brian Stelter, fired this week by new management at CNN that also cancelled his long-running show on Sundays, speaks at the National Press Club on April 25, 2019 (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig).

ny times logoNew York Times, Brian Stelter Leaving CNN After Cancellation of ‘Reliable Sources,’ Benjamin Mullin, Aug. 18, 2022. Chris Licht, the new chairman of CNN, has told employees that he is retooling the network’s programming.

Brian Stelter, the top media reporter at CNN, is leaving the network after executives decided to cancel his Sunday show, “Reliable Sources,” in one of the first big programming moves under new leadership at the company.

CNNThe final edition of the show will be on Sunday, a spokesman for CNN said on Thursday.

The cancellation of “Reliable Sources” — a show that has aired for about three decades — is a striking change by Chris Licht, the new chairman of CNN, who took over this spring after the sudden resignation of Jeff Zucker. Mr. Zucker left after failing to disclose a romantic relationship with another top CNN executive.

Under Mr. Licht, right, CNN has eschewed the “breaking news” banners that once heralded stories large and small, and political news shows have chris licht wtried to book more conservative voices. He has given few other public clues about any possible broader changes at the cable network.

But leaders of CNN’s new corporate parent, Warner Bros. Discovery, have suggested that they want the network’s programming to have more straight news reporting and fewer opinionated takes from hosts. David Zaslav, the company’s chief executive, has said that he wants a network for both Republicans and Democrats. John Malone, an influential Warner Bros. Discovery shareholder, said that he wanted the network to “evolve back to the kind of journalism that it started with” in an interview with CNBC last year.

That new focus seemed to put Mr. Stelter, who has been critical of former President Donald J. Trump and his treatment of the press, in possible jeopardy. On average, during that time slot, more people watched Mr. Stelter’s show in recent years than they did MSNBC, but fewer people watched it than Fox News, according to data from Nielsen.

In an email to The New York Times, Mr. Malone said that he had “nothing to do with” the cancellation of Mr. Stelter’s show. Mr. Malone said he wants “the ‘news’ portion of CNN to be more centrist, but I am not in control or directly involved.”

The decision to cancel the show is part of CNN’s “refreshed Sunday lineup,” the company spokesman said on Thursday. The lineup will include a number of new programs, such as “Who’s Talking to Chris Wallace,” an interview program featuring the veteran Sunday show interlocutor.

More changes are expected. Mr. Licht, a veteran producer who helped conceive MSNBC’s popular “Morning Joe” round table, told employees in a town-hall meeting that he intends to be involved in the network’s morning programming. He has also said that he is planning to retool some of the evening programming, including at 9 p.m., where the departure of Chris Cuomo has left a critical gap in prime time.

The company praised Mr. Stelter for his work at the network. “We appreciate his contributions to the network and wish him well as he embarks on new endeavors,” the CNN spokesman said.

The Atlantic, Commentary: How to Kill a Newspaper, Andrew Travers (the former editor of The Aspen Times), Aug. 18, 2022. How a Soviet-born developer and a West Virginia billionaire destroyed a 141-year-old Colorado newspaper.

atlantic logo horizontalHere in Aspen, the air is thin, the snow is perfect, and money is everywhere. This is a singular American town in many respects. Among them is this: Aspen had, until very recently, two legitimate daily newspapers, The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News. At a moment when local newspapers face manifold threats to their existence and more and more American cities become news deserts, Aspen was the opposite: a news geyser.

I joined The Aspen Times as an editor in 2014, after a seven-year tenure at the Aspen Daily News. The Times has published since 1881, when Aspen was a silver-mining boomtown, through its postwar rebirth as a ski resort, and now as the home of ideas festivals, wine festivals, $50 entrees, and an awe-inspiring collection of private jets, many owned by billionaires deeply concerned about climate change. The paper, which was based for much of its history in a purple-painted building between a drugstore and the Hotel Jerome, developed a reputation for shoe-leather reporting and accountability journalism.

On Thanksgiving 2021, the start of ski season, the Times editorial team numbered 13, including four reporters who had been covering our town since at least the 1990s. We were treated well by our parent company, Swift Communications. Our paper was profitable, owing largely to real-estate advertising. We seemed to be a safe harbor for small-town journalists.

We were wrong.

My story is populated by blue bloods and thin-skinned billionaires, including the owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates, a litigious Soviet-born developer, and the wealthy cousin of a U.S. Supreme Court justice.

Aspen is strange, but this is a story that could actually take place anywhere. It’s about what happens to the public interest when billionaires collide, and when newsrooms are bullied into suppressing coverage by people with great mountains of money and battalions of lawyers. And it speaks to a deepening crisis for the free press, which has been comprehensively betrayed in Aspen.

ny times logoNew York Times, Watson Suspended for 11 Games and Fined $5 Million in Sexual Misconduct Case, Jenny Vrentas and Ken Belson, Aug. 18, 2022. The N.F.L. initially sought a yearlong suspension of Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback, who was accused of misconduct by over two dozen women.

Deshaun Watson, the Cleveland Browns quarterback, agreed to be suspended for 11 games and pay a record $5 million fine after the N.F.L. appealed what many thought was a lenient six-game suspension for accusations by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct in massage appointments.

nfl logo croppedThe league announced Thursday that Watson must undergo evaluation by behavioral experts, followed by a treatment program. The fine, as well as an additional $1 million each from the league and the Browns, will be donated to groups that work to prevent sexual assault.

The agreed upon penalties, among the most severe in league history, come as the N.F.L. has faced heightened scrutiny over its treatment of women and after backlash to the initial suspension handed down by an arbitrator earlier this month, which some said wasn’t harsh enough to deter others and did not address the scope of accusations against Watson.

  • New York Times, Big Ten Signs Record TV Deal for College Conference, Alan Blinder and Kevin Draper, Aug. 18, 2022. The agreement, worth more than $1 billion a year, is split between Fox, NBC and CBS, and is the richest annual deal for any college sports league.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Anne Frank adaptation, 40 more books pulled from Texas school district, María Luisa Paúl, Aug. 18, 2022. Book challenges are nothing new, but they’ve feverishly ramped up over the past year, as a growing movement on the right embraces them as a political talking point.

An April report from PEN America, a free speech advocacy organization, found 1,586 books were banned in 86 school districts from July 2021 to March 2022, affecting over 2 million students. Texas — where a legislator distributed a watch list of 850 books last year — ranked above the 25 other states that have bans, with 713 book bans, according to the report.

washington post logoWashington Post, Syria denies holding U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who was abducted there a decade ago, Sarah Dadouch, Aug. 18, 2022 (print ed.). Syria denied on Wednesday that it is holding missing U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who was abducted in Syria a decade ago at the height of the civil war that has torn apart the country.

Syria FlagIn a statement, the Foreign Ministry addressed President Biden’s claim last week that Tice is being held by the Syrian government, calling it “invalid accusations against the Syrian government of kidnapping or arresting U.S. citizens, among them Austin Tice, a service member in the U.S. Army.” It added that Tice and others had entered illegally.

“Syria emphasizes that any official dialogue or communication with the U.S. government side will only be public and based on the rule of respecting the sovereignty and independence and unity of the Syrian Arab Republic’s land,” the statement said.

It also placed the fault squarely on the U.S. government, saying it had broken the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations when it “not only turned a blind eye but encouraged tens of U.S. citizens to travel to Syria and enter its lands illegally and without permission from its government, through nonofficial border crossings or by sneaking into areas that are controlled by terrorist armed groups.”
Freelance journalist Austin Tice. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service/Getty Images)

austin tice CustomTice, left, was abducted in Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, just days after his 31st birthday. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and later became a journalist covering Syria, including for The Washington Post.

“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime,” Biden said in a statement on Aug. 10. “We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home.”

In early May, Biden met with Tice’s parents, Marc and Debra, and promised to work on securing his release.

“The Tice family deserves answers, and more importantly, they deserve to be swiftly reunited with Austin,” Biden said. “We stand with Austin’s many loved ones, and we will not rest until we bring Austin home. Ten years is far, far too long. So is every additional day.”

Tice was last seen in a video posted on YouTube soon after his disappearance showing him blindfolded and being led through rugged terrain by armed men in white robes.

Tice served as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan and then graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He attended the law school there until 2012, when he decided to cover Syria as a freelance journalist.

Journalists covering the conflict without invitation from the Syrian government had to enter the country illegally through Turkey or other neighboring countries. Tice won a Polk Award for his reporting on the war for McClatchy newspapers.

In August 2020, Kash Patel, the U.S. counterterrorism chief, and Roger D. Carstens, the presidential envoy for hostage affairs, traveled to Damascus in the first contacts between the two governments in 10 years. They brought up Tice, but Syrian media said officials refused to discuss the case until the United States agreed to discuss its withdrawal from the country.

Aug. 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Vance, DeSantis rally puts ‘highly unusual’ restrictions on press, Jeremy Barr, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Journalists must agree to give access to their footage to the event organizer, pro-Trump GOP youth group Turning Point Action, and explain how they intend to use it

ron desantis oJournalists hoping to cover a Republican rally featuring Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, right, and Senate candidate J.D. Vance in Ohio will have to agree to give organizers access to any footage they take, and could face questions about what it will be used for.

That is among the controversial restrictions placed on journalists as a condition of receiving a press pass to cover Friday’s event, which is being organized by Turning Point Action, a conservative nonprofit led by activist Charlie Kirk.

The press policy also restricts journalists to specific events and parts of the venue, and bars them from recording speakers who do not wish to be filmed. Turning Point Action has warned that violators could be kicked out of the event.

“These are highly unusual conditions,” according to Monica Nieporte, the president and executive director of the Ohio News Media Association, which represents outlets across the state.

In particular, Nieporte called out organizers’ demand for access to journalists’ footage — something that many newsrooms would consider an attempt to meddle with coverage. “We do not agree that the Unite & Win Rally has any standing to be asking for blanket access to the content that is created by journalists in exchange for permission to cover their event,” she told The Washington Post. “The journalists work for their media outlet and not for the Vance campaign. Their content is owned by their employer.”

She said her group has not been asked by member organizations to fight the restrictions, but she warned: “We strongly discourage our members from agreeing to any conditions which could lead to their content being censored or altered by a third party not affiliated with their media outlet.”

Kirstin McCudden, vice president of editorial for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said Turning Point Action’s demand that journalists explain and provide access to their footage “runs contrary to the role of the media as objective watchdogs” — though she said it’s becoming more common as a way to shield politicians from the press.

“Unfortunately, it’s the public electorate that loses when journalists can’t freely cover candidates,” McCudden added.

Andrew Kolvet, a spokesperson for Turning Point Action, said the press pass preconditions “protect the organization from being taken advantage of by organizations or companies — usually non-traditional press — that don’t intend to report on the event at all, but rather want to monetize raw footage/pics. These policies also maintain guest and speaker privacy in green rooms, backstage, etc., and protect our underage attendees.”

“That said,” he added, “we frequently [waive] certain clauses for legitimate press outlets that are covering the event in good faith, as we’ve offered to do with Washington Post reporters for the very events in question.”

The restrictions were met with outrage on social media from some journalists who cover Ohio and national news.

 

 Former president Donald Trump's golf bag and towel are seen during the pro-am of the LIV Golf tournament at his club in Bedminster, N.J. (Photo by Seth Wenig for the Associated Press).

Former president Donald Trump's golf bag and towel are seen during the pro-am of the LIV Golf tournament at his club in Bedminster, N.J. (Photo by Seth Wenig for the Associated Press).

Politico, Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan, Hailey Fuchs and Daniel Lippman, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). An Edelman subsidiary wrapped up a contract with the highly-criticized venture earlier this year. The project was never filed with the Justice Department.

The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington.

politico CustomAs the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament prepared for its launch this year, it quietly contracted the public relations giant Edelman for help.

The relationship, which ended in March, was never filed with the Department of Justice under foreign lobbying rules.

Another reason it never surfaced was because it was done through subsidiaries. United Entertainment Group, a marketing agency under Daniel J. Edelman Holdings, was contracted by golf marketing firm Performance54 to help launch LIV Golf.

The arrangement illustrates the degree to which LIV Golf has been able to lean on establishment institutions and professionals even amid a controversial rollout of a tour that has roiled professional golf and captured lawmakers’ attention in Washington. Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary in the Bush White House, has done public relations work for LIV, and former President Donald Trump has offered his own endorsement of the tour — by holding an event at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club in late July. Trump National Doral will also host the tour in October.

liv golf logoIn recent months, the tour has created a schism in the golf world, as a number of major PGA players have decamped for LIV Golf, enticed by hefty prize money and other perks. It also has faced a barrage of allegations of “sportwashing,” or using sports to boost one’s reputation, amid a wave of criticism over its human rights record. In July, months after the Edelman work ended, the National Press Club explicitly called on public relations firms to reject Saudi “blood money” and abstain from accepting a contract with LIV Golf.

Edelman, one of the country’s largest PR firms, has worked in the past for the PGA Tour, which declined to comment for this story.

According to Department of Justice records, Edelman did not register as an agent for LIV Golf under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires certain disclosures for those entities and individuals doing public relations for a foreign principal. Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) has called for the DOJ to investigate LIV Golf and potential FARA violations around the tour.

In a statement, Kate Meissner, an Edelman spokesperson, said the firm does not currently have a relationship with LIV Golf. However, she confirmed that United Entertainment Group was enlisted by Performance54 for a project last year that has since concluded. Meissner maintained that the project did not fall under FARA requirements.

When asked about the project’s details, she said the firm has “confidentiality commitments with all of our clients and are unable to share specific information.”

Earlier this year, Edelman signed a contract with the Saudi Ministry of Culture, for which the company proposed a PR campaign replete with celebrities and influencers — including actress Priyanka Chopra and DJ Steve Aoki — to sell a positive image of Saudi Arabia. Edelman is also registered to represent the Saudi Data Artificial Intelligence Agency.

In an interview, Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club, emphasized that Edelman did not need the Saudi business and reiterated his group’s call for all PR firms to abstain from working with LIV Golf.

“It suggests that the life and health of journalists is not a major concern for the PR firm,” he said. “It’s pretty obvious that this is an intentional activity to, designed to rehabilitate the Saudi reputation after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

U.S. Intelligence confirmed that top Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, were responsible for the 2018 murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi, a Washington Post journalist.

Edelman is not the only major public relations firm that has worked for a Saudi golf client.

Hill+Knowlton Strategies, which is registered to represent the Saudi Ministry of Communications and Information, worked as part of the tournament press team for the February 2022 Saudi International tournament, which is not a LIV event. In an email obtained by POLITICO, a Hill+Knowlton employee offered support for travel and accommodation for a reporter to attend.

In recent weeks, controversy around the LIV golf series increased after a number of family members of 9/11 victims urged Trump to cancel the scheduled tournament at his New Jersey golf club. They noted Trump had previously cast blame on Saudi Arabia for the terrorist attacks and that it was “incomprehensible to us that a former president of the United States would cast our loved ones aside for personal financial gain.”
Saudi golf venture LIV quietly enlisted the help of a global PR titan.

ny times logoNew York Times, 10 Years After Disappearing in Syria, Freedom Is Elusive for U.S. Journalist, Raja Abdulrahim, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). There are signs that efforts to free Austin Tice, below at left, who disappeared in Syria in 2012 and who the U.S. believes is being held by the Syrian government, are reviving. But his family says the U.S. needs to do more.

Ten years after the American journalist Austin Tice disappeared in Syria as the country descended into a brutal civil war, and was believed to have been held captive by the government of President Bashar al-Assad since, his release still remains elusive.

austin tice CustomWhile one of his employers says that efforts to secure his freedom are picking up steam, his family remains unconvinced that the Biden administration is doing enough to push the Syrian government, partly due to the diplomatic complications stemming from the lack of formal relations between the United States and Syria.

McClatchy, the U.S. newspaper company for which the journalist had been freelancing, among others, said this week that a multinational effort to free Mr. Tice is showing signs of revival and that there had been direct contacts between the U.S. and Syrian governments.

A spokeswoman for McClatchy said Monday that the progress was the culmination of intense activity by the Biden administration and the journalism industry leading up to the 10th anniversary of Mr. Tice’s disappearance. But the company’s chief executive, Tony Hunter, has also said recently that there had not been much movement on the issue since May.

“For McClatchy, this anniversary was an opportunity to shine a light on Austin’s decade-long plight,” said the spokeswoman, Susan Firey. “And, in tandem, to shine a light on the decade-long inaction of three administrations.”

Last week Debra and Marc Tice, the parents of Mr. Tice, who disappeared in August 2012 outside Damascus, wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which they noted the family weddings, graduations and other family get-togethers their son had missed in 10 years of captivity, and urged President Biden to step up diplomatic efforts to free him.

The United States has “engaged extensively” to get Mr. Tice back to the United States, including by directly contacting Syrian officials and working through third parties, according to a senior administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case. However, the official said the Syrian government has not yet agreed to discuss Mr. Tice’s case.

Last week, President Biden said in a statement that his administration has repeatedly asked Syria’s government to work with them to bring Mr. Tice home.

“On the tenth anniversary of his abduction, I am calling on Syria to end this and help us bring him home,” President Biden said in the statement, adding that the United States was certain that the journalist was being held by the Syrian government.

 

Sacheen Littlefeather, shown at the 1973 Academy Awards (Globe photos via Zuma Press).

Sacheen Littlefeather, shown at the 1973 Academy Awards (Globe photos via Zuma Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Academy apologizes to Native American woman who declined Brando’s Oscar, Julian Mark, Aug. 17, 2022 (print ed.). Sacheen Littlefeather declined the best actor award on Marlon Brando’s behalf in 1973 and gave a speech about the mistreatment of Native people.

The year was 1973. The venue: the Oscars. Marlon Brando had just been named best actor for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather.” But he did not walk onstage to accept the award.

Instead, a 26-year-old woman wearing moccasins and a Native American buckskin dress strode up the steps. After waving away the golden Oscar statuette, she introduced herself as Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache, and said Brando was refusing the award.

“And the reasons for this being, are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” she said to a mixture of applause and boos from the audience, adding that the poor treatment extended to television, as well as a tense standoff at Wounded Knee in South Dakota.

She distinctly recalled seeing mouths agape while looking out at the mostly White audience. John Wayne was ready to rush the stage but was held back by security staffers, she said in a recent interview, published in A.Frame. And at Brando’s home after the ceremony, Littlefeather claimed she was shot at.

Aug. 15

 

gannett logo Custom

frank gannett

Frank Gannett (1876-1957), right, founded the newspaper chain that bears his name. Photo (cc) 2009 by History Rewound.

Media Nation, Gannett lays off journalists, closes papers and keeps the numbers to itself, Dan Kennedy, Aug. 15, 2022. What more can be said about the latest round of Gannett layoffs? This one was telegraphed well in advance, and I wrote about what was coming three times (here, here and here) before the hammer finally came down on Friday.

We don’t know the extent of the damage; The Associated Press reported that the “company declined to provide details about the number of people losing their jobs.”

The number 400 has been bandied about, but is that 400 journalists or 400 total employees? In any case, that number has not been verified. We do know that the cuts were broad and deep, from Worcester County, where, according to Grafton Common, the chain’s weekly papers were decimated, all the way up to the flagship paper, USA Today.

Los Angeles Times reporter Jeong Park has provided one way of looking at what happened. Gannett owns about 250 newspapers and other properties, and, before Friday, it employed about 4,000 reporters, editors and photographers. Our three national papers together also employ about 4,000 journalists — The New York Times (1,700), The Washington Post (1,000) and The Wall Street Journal (1,300). And, unlike Gannett, they’re all growing.

Gannett’s losses in the most recent quarter were so vast that it seems likely management will come back for another bite at the apple in a few months. After all, they’ve been on a rampage in Eastern Massachusetts, closing a number of weeklies in 2021 and 19 earlier this year (the company also merged nine papers into four). They’ve pretty much given up on local coverage, too.

Meanwhile, the company’s top executives pay themselves millions of dollars, and even the part-time board members are getting north of $200,000. And it’s been reported that CEO Michael Reed bought another 500,000 shares of Gannett stock last Tuesday, paying $1.22 million.

This feels like the end game, but it probably isn’t. There are always more papers to close, more people to lay off and more websites to strip of any real journalistic content. My heart goes out to the folks who lost their jobs on Friday. I hope they all land on their feet — and I also hope that many of them will look into the possibility of starting independent news projects in the communities they used to cover. The need and the opportunity are there.

Barrett Media, Ronan Farrow: Local News ‘Dying Rather Than Adapting,’ Jonah E. Bromwich and Jan Ransom, Aug. 15, 2022. “It was clear even ronan farrowthen — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting.”

Ronan Farrow joined The Dan LeBatard Show with Stugotz for an interview released Monday morning, and noted the downfall of local news outlets while discussing his upcoming HBO documentary Endangered.

“When I started out, and I was in network news and in cable news, I really prioritized putting local reporters on and picking up stories that local investigative reporters had done.

“In general, it was clear even then — this is the better part of a decade ago now — that there was a real shortfall in that kind of local reporting. And that is what creates accountability. It’s an institution — journalism, that is — that’s enshrined in the constitution for a reason. Right? It’s specifically protected because it does provide a check on power and corruption. And you see the consequences of an absence of trust in the facts and an absence of good journalism in national politics and you see it locally.”

Farrow pointed out one of the subjects featured in his documentary is Miami Herald photojournalist Carl Juste, and often worried about whether he would still have a job or not, which is something Farrow pointed out many in the media feel.

“There are experiments that seem to be working in how you make national journalism sustainable. There’s contribution based models. There’s things like ProPublica, there’s what The Guardian is doing, there’s subscription based models that are starting to work. The New Yorker has a successful subscription based model. But, fundamentally, local news outlets are just dying rather than adapting is what the numbers show us. Too often.”

According to HBO, the documentary chronicles “a year in the life of four journalists as world leaders denigrate the press, distrust of the media is on the rise, and journalists are facing situations more typically encountered in war zones”.

Aug. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, On TikTok, Election Misinformation Thrives Ahead of Midterms, Tiffany Hsu, Aug. 14, 2022. The fast-growing platform’s poor track record during recent voting abroad does not bode well for elections in the U.S., researchers said.

tiktok logo square CustomIn Germany, TikTok accounts impersonated prominent political figures during the country’s last national election. In Colombia, misleading TikTok posts falsely attributed a quotation from one candidate to a cartoon villain and allowed a woman to masquerade as another candidate’s daughter. In the Philippines, TikTok videos amplified sugarcoated myths about the country’s former dictator and helped his son prevail in the country’s presidential race.

Now, similar problems have arrived in the United States.

Ahead of the midterm elections this fall, TikTok is shaping up to be a primary incubator of baseless and misleading information, in many ways as problematic as Facebook and Twitter, say researchers who track online falsehoods. The same qualities that allow TikTok to fuel viral dance fads — the platform’s enormous reach, the short length of its videos, its powerful but poorly understood recommendation algorithm — can also make inaccurate claims difficult to contain.

Baseless conspiracy theories about certain voter fraud in November are widely viewed on TikTok, which globally has more than a billion active users each month. Users cannot search the #StopTheSteal hashtag, but #StopTheSteallll had accumulated nearly a million views until TikTok disabled the hashtag after being contacted by The New York Times. Some videos urged viewers to vote in November while citing debunked rumors raised during the congressional hearings into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. TikTok posts have garnered thousands of views by claiming, without evidence, that predictions of a surge in Covid-19 infections this fall are an attempt to discourage in-person voting.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Frustration Over TikTok Has Mounted in Washington, David McCabeAug. 14, 2022. National security concerns over the Chinese-owned viral video app remain unresolved. Lawmakers and regulators are increasingly pushing for action.

tiktok logo CustomEarly last year, Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser, met to discuss China and industrial policy. During their conversation, Mr. Rubio raised his worries about Beijing’s influence over TikTok, the Chinese-owned viral video app.

Under former President Donald J. Trump, TikTok had been embroiled in questions over whether it could compromise U.S. national security by sharing information about Americans with China. The issue, which was never resolved, was inherited by the Biden administration. Mr. Sullivan “shared our concerns,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview.

Their discussion was one of many that lawmakers have quietly had with government officials about TikTok since President Biden took office. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said he had also been in “active conversations” with the administration about the app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. And regulators and other government officials have been weighing what to do about it after scrutinizing other Chinese firms.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: How ‘pink slime’ journalism exploits our faith in local news, Ryan Zickgraf (Ryan Zickgraf is a journalist in Mobile, Ala.), Aug. 14, 2022 (print ed.). The 17th-century word “courant,” which once meant “newspaper,” is obsolete, according to Merriam-Webster, except in the rare case of the title of a periodical. Papers with that moniker in their masthead got grandfathered in because they were founded hundreds of years ago. Hearing something called “courant” today, I imagine a time-tested media institution anchored in a specific city or region, such as Connecticut’s Hartford Courant, which is a decade older than the United States government.

At first glance, the Mobile Courant, the site covering my home city of Mobile, Ala., has all the trappings of a traditional community news portal like Hartford’s. It’s got the old-timey-sounding name and familiar sections dedicated to local government, business, real estate and sports.

But that’s a smokescreen. The Mobile Courant not only lacks real-life reporters and editors, but the articles are regurgitated news releases. Clicking on the Politics section directs the reader to word-for-word releases straight from the desk of Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville: “Tuberville Meets with President Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson,” for example, or “Tuberville Veterans Bill Passes U.S. Senate.” Below this, you’ll find a steady stream of Federal Election Commission notifications about individual donations to various Republican politicians, the dull text seemingly optimized for search engines rather than human consumption.

That Democrats don’t seem to exist in the Courant’s world is a feature, not a bug. The Courant is merely one of dozens of networked sites mass-produced by the digital news company Metric Media since 2019. It’s part of a growing right-wing propaganda project cosplaying as a network of nonpartisan local newspapers.

The answer to the media industry’s woes? Publicly owned newspapers.

Ten years ago, I coined the term “pink-slime journalism” to describe the sneaky way companies like Metric Media exploit Americans’ lingering trust in local newspapers to peddle an inferior product. The term is a reference to the controversial paste-like meat byproduct that was, according to reports at the time, supposedly being added to ground beef on supermarket shelves without a label. If the yellow journalism of the 19th century can be defined by the sensationalistic “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality, pink slime is the opposite. It wants to quietly smuggle low-quality pastel goo from a machine into your regular media diet.

Faith in journalism in the age of “fake news” and algorithm-driven misinformation keeps dropping, but polls show that local news is still relatively well-regarded. According to a 2019 Knight Foundation survey, local outlets are more trusted than national organizations by a wide margin — 45 to 31 percent. It’s probably because local news focuses on issues that tend to be nonpartisan: weather, sports, obituaries, local elections. And the staff members are your neighbors and members of your community.

But maybe not for long. As local outlets have disappeared, many have been replaced by algorithmically managed pink-slime outlets that use the good will earned by news institutions of yore to help push political agendas from outside those communities. I know how the sausage is made, because I worked in the proverbial slaughterhouse of Metric Media’s predecessor in the early 2010s. Journatic was a start-up company that borrowed the buzzword-heavy language of Silicon Valley to obfuscate the fact that it wasn’t reinventing newspapers — it was merely disrupting the high cost of labor in the name of saving the industry from bankruptcy.

Poorly paid freelancers replaced staff reporters who had made living wages at newspapers like the Chicago Tribune. Part of my job was to write local news stories for the Houston Chronicle — even though I lived in Chicago — and select fake American-sounding bylines for stories written in virtual sweatshops in the Philippines. A Filipino writer named Junbe, for instance, might be renamed Jimmy Finkel, thanks to a built-in drop-down menu, and Gisele Bautista could instantly become Jenni Cox. These “reporters” earned pennies per story, and much of the content was plagiarized. “It would pay off to have you both write and edit these stories only if you could write the stories in about 90 seconds,” my remote supervisor told me.

The ugly future of corporate media

In June 2012, I collaborated with public-radio reporter Sarah Koenig on an episode of “This American Life” to blow the whistle on Journatic’s shady tactics. The fallout was instant: The Chicago Tribune and others suspended Journatic or ended their contracts. But Journatic’s canny chief executive, Brian Timpone, didn’t fold; he went underground — rebranding the company multiple times in the process.

A few years ago, Timpone switched gears after hooking up with conservative pundit Dan Proft through the Illinois Policy Institute, a right-wing think tank that then had financial ties to Bruce Rauner, Illinois’ recent ex-governor. The pair began building a mini media empire that intentionally put a conservative slant on backyard journalism — the Sinclair Broadcast Group of local newspapers. (Timpone and Proft did not respond to requests for comment sent by email.)

That mission is accomplished if you look at the sheer numbers. Metric Media boasts that it publishes “over 5 million news articles every month” and claims to be “the largest producer of local news in the United States.” A 2020 New York Times investigation pegged 1,300 news sites with Timpone’s fingerprints on them — far outnumbering those of Gannett, the nation’s largest newspaper chain. But because it’s pink-slime journalism, it’s not all under one banner. Many have been laundered through a web of networks with vague names such as LGIS News Service, the Business Journals and Newsinator.

Quantity trumps quality. Nothing written by pink-slime journalism sites will win a Pultizer Prize, but sometimes one of its thousands of articles about a right-wing talking point manages to go viral. That’s certainly true of articles about “critical race theory” and public schools’ alleged “wokeness.”

Most notoriously, an article from a Chicago-based pink-slime site published in May went viral on social media, especially in right-wing circles, because it claimed that suburban school administrators were implementing race-based grading. The article prompted school officials in Oak Park, Ill., to release a statement calling the report “not true,” but days after the story was proved false, right-wing outlets such as One America News were still reporting it as fact.

The Oak Park case is unusual in that it broke through nationally, but it’s not an exceptional incident. A study published by the Popular Information Substack found that 28 pink-slime sites in Virginia published 4,657 articles about critical race theory in schools between January and November 2021 — many of which contained unverified or false information — just in time for the election of Republican Glenn Youngkin, who rode a wave of anti-CRT sentiment to win the governor’s race. It’s difficult to say whether these stories are helping drive the trend or merely mirroring it, but it’s clear that they speak to a partisan political pattern that has little to do with what’s happening on the ground in this or that local community.

Every week, two more newspapers close — and ‘news deserts’ grow larger

As it happens, pink slime’s obsession with liberal ideology in public schools aligns with one of Timpone’s pet peeves. In 2017, he loudly took his kids out of an affluent suburban Chicago public school because of an initiative to hire more non-White teachers. “This is a small group of left-wing activists that want to push their social engineering on the rest of the community,” he said. “They’re sending teachers to indoctrination camps led by race-hustling consultants.”

The response from Democrats has been lackluster. Andrew Yang was the only Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 to make local news subsidies a plank of his campaign, and he’s no longer a Democrat. During that same election cycle, ACRONYM, the left-of-center media nonprofit behind Shadow Inc. — a tech start-up that flubbed the results of the 2020 Iowa caucuses with a glitchy app (and has since rebranded as Bluelink) — funneled $1.4 million into Courier Newsroom, a media company running eight pro-Democratic news websites in key swing states that appear to be respectable local papers with folksy names like Arizona’s Copper Courier and the Keystone in Pennsylvania. Articles such as “Sinema, Kelly, Join Bipartisan Group of Senators on Historic Gun Reform Proposal” and “Phoenix Lawyer Known for Defending Election Integrity, Invest in Ed, Nominated to 9th Circuit” — both written by an undergrad at Arizona State — read like glorified ads for Democrats.

Congress has been in no hurry to help; the Local Journalism Sustainability Act was first introduced in the House nearly two years ago and has languished since then — despite some bipartisan support for what is now a problem that potentially threatens both parties. The bill offers tax credits designed to fund local newspapers and small news nonprofits at a time when pink slime is increasingly the public’s main course instead of an additive.

Here in the Mobile area, where I live, we have zero daily print newspapers for a population of more than 430,000 people. I don’t believe I’m the only one starving for the real thing.

Aug. 10

Mediaite, After Uproar, Washington Post Edits Headline Pointing Out Garland ‘Vowed to Depoliticize Justice’ Before Trump Raid, Zachary mediaite square logoLeeman, Aug. 10, 2022. The Washington Post changed a headline on a story covering the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property after the framing caused backlash on social media.

The original headline for the story read: “Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago.” The Tuesday piece, by Perry Stein, argued Attorney General Merrick Garland has found himself in a “political firestorm” amid the Trump raid and accusations of political bias, bias Garland was clear he would not tolerate when taking office.

merrick garlandGarland, left, promised there would “not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends and another for foes, one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless, one rule for the rich and another for the poor, or different rules depending upon one’s race or ethnicity” after be sworn in to his office.

washington post logoOn Wednesday, the Post tweeted a “clarification” to the previous headline.

“Clarification: A previous tweet of this story had a headline that has changed after publishing. We’ve deleted the tweet,” the outlet tweeted. The new headline to the piece reads: “FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago lands Merrick Garland in a political firestorm.”

The Post changed the headline after the original blunt one caused uproar from mostly liberal pundits and commentators.

“Dear dumbass WaPo headline writer who posted this before your Editors changed it. The fact that the target of a search warrant is a former elected official doesn’t mean that DOJ has been ‘politicized.’ They’ve charged former elected officials every month since DOJ’s inception,” commentator Ron Filipkowski tweeted in reaction.

Vanity Fair, “Call It a Self-Imposed Term Limit”: Why Media Critic Margaret Sullivan Is Exiting The Washington Post, Charlotte Klein,
Aug. 10, 2022. After a decade writing columns puncturing — and praising — the press, the ex–New York Times public editor and departing margaret sullivan 2015 photoPost columnist will be teaching at Duke and pursuing book projects, including a fictional series about a laid-off local journalist solving crimes.

Margaret Sullivan, right, one of the foremost chroniclers of the media, made headlines of her own on Wednesday after it was announced that she’d be leaving The Washington Post at the end of this month. “Call it a self-imposed term limit!” Sullivan told me over email Wednesday, shortly after the news broke that she’d be retiring her must-read media column after six and a half years. Sullivan has provided incisive analysis and criticism of the industry—and consistently sounded the alarm on the decline of local news—over the course of roughly 500 columns, which, to her, was enough. “I do feel that the media column had run its course,” she said.

washington post logoSullivan, a former chief editor of The Buffalo News, came to the Post after a widely respected, four-year tenure as the public editor of The New York Times (which entirely eliminated the in-house critic role less than a year after Sullivan’s successor took over).

How does she feel she’s impacted the industry in her decade writing on it? “I’m not sure it’s possible to make much of an impact. I’ve tried to choose column topics, both at the Post and the Times, that not only interest me but have sort of public-interest value. At its best, journalism is crucial to the way our democracy and our society function—not only in its watchdog role but in fairly and accurately digging out and chronicling what’s going on, especially in government coverage,” Sullivan said.

“So I have pointed out the all-too-ingrained practices that obstruct that common good: the horse race politics coverage; the way we too often treat unequal things as if they were equal, often from a defensive position; the too-frequent anonymity given to sources with highly politicized motives.” She added that she’s “tried to celebrate good work when I see it, which is often. ‘Catch them doing something right’ is the idea there.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden says U.S. knows that Syria is holding Austin Tice, again calls for journalist’s release, Matt Viser, Aug. 10, 2022. President Biden on Wednesday demanded that the Syrian government release freelance journalist and Washington Post contributor Austin Tice, saying that the United States knows “with certainty” that he is being held by their government 10 years after he was abducted.

“We know with certainty that he has been held by the Syrian regime,” Biden said in a statement. “We have repeatedly asked the government of Syria to work with us so that we can bring Austin home.”

austin tice CustomThis week marks a decade since Tice, right, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was also a journalist who had been working and covering the conflict in Syria, was abducted in Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, days after his 31st birthday. He is one of the longest held American hostages.

Transcript: American Hostage with Debra & Marc Tice, Parents of Austin Tice

Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has not acknowledged that his government detained Tice, and other top Syrian officials have denied having custody or any information about him. But Biden made clear in his statement that the United States believes the Syrian government has Tice, and the ability to release him.

National Press Club, Statement on the arrest of José Rubén Zamora, Bill McCarren, Aug. 10, 2022. Following is a statement by Jen Judson, President of the National Press Club and Gil Klein, President of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the arrest of José Rubén Zamora, president of the Guatemalan newspaper elPeriódico, on July 29 in Guatemala City.

national  press club logo"The Guatemalan government must immediately release José Rubén Zamora and drop all charges against him. We view these charges, which include money laundering and extortion, as spurious and part of a broader campaign by the government of President Alejandro Giammattei and Attorney General Consuelo Porras to weaponize the judiciary system against those who would expose and root out corruption in the country. Those targeted individuals include independent, crusading journalists like José Rubén Zamora, whose newspaper elPeriódico has reported on wrongdoing inside the Giammattei government.

"We further note with concern Zamora's announcement shortly after his arrest that he would begin a hunger strike in protest of his detention. If Zamora's health deteriorates and his life is put at risk because of this, the international blame and censure that will fall upon the Giammattei government will surely be severe and immense. Over his long and distinguished career, Zamora has been the recipient of multiple international journalism awards including from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the International Center for Journalists, and Columbia University.

"Additionally, the National Press Club and its Journalism Institute are worried about the overall deterioration of the press freedom climate in Guatemala. For example Guatemalan authorities in May charged three journalists at elPeriódico, including Zamora, under an anti-female violence law for the alleged psychological crime of reporting on a female government official's links to corruption. And criminal charges brought on seemingly bogus grounds have prompted other Guatemalan journalists, such as Juan Luis Font, to flee the country. We view these developments as part of a broader and deeply concerning pattern in Central America of certain autocratic governments -- resistant to public calls for reform and accountability -- increasingly sharing the same playbook of weaponizing judicial tools of the state to intimidate and silence journalists. If this culture of judicial oppression of the press as well as of civil society and nongovernmental organizations continues to spread, we fear the destabilizing impacts will spread far outside the region."

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

lawcrime logoLaw&Crime, Ohio Supreme Court Allows Oberlin College to Hold Off on Paying $36 Million Defamation Verdict — for Now, Elura Nanos, Aug. 10, 2022. Thanks to the Ohio Supreme Court, Oberlin College does not need to pay up on a $36 million judgment for wrongfully encouraging the boycott of a local bakery just yet. The court issued a stay on Tuesday, meaning that the ultra-progressive college can hold off on paying the massive damages amount until after all appeals are completed.

Conservatives have called the case an example of “cancel culture” at work. The underlying litigation arose just after the 2016 election, when three African-American Oberlin students were arrested for attempting to steal bottles of wine from a local bakery. Oberlin’s Student Senate immediately declared the incident a case of racial profiling, and passed a resolution ceasing all support for the bakery. Oberlin’s administration also got on board with the boycott of Gibson’s Bakery, and a dean of students even handed out flyers which cited Gibson’s history of racial profiling.

In reality, the three students who were arrested had not only tried to shoplift, but had also engaged in physical altercations with Gibson’s staff.

Gibson’s sued Oberlin for defamation, and the jury returned a verdict of $11.2 million — which was later increased threefold plus attorneys fees due to a secondary jury finding that Oberlin had acted with malice.

Oberlin asked the Ohio Supreme Court in June to stay the judgment while its appeal proceeded “out of an abundance of caution.” Gibson’s argued in court that it may be forced to close if Oberlin does not immediately make payment. The court ruled on Tuesday to grant the stay, but offered no written opinion or specific reasoning.

The court’s decision, however, appears to have broken down along political lines. Justices Sharon Kennedy, Patrick Fischer and Pat DeWine were listed as having dissented from the ruling. All three ran as Republicans and are up for reelection this year, and Kennedy is running for Ohio chief justice. If Kennedy prevails, she would replace Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, who cannot seek reelection due to age limits.

O’Connor was one of the justices not listed as a dissenter on the decision to stay the Oberlin verdict. The other members of the court, all of whom voted in favor of the stay are Justices Melody Stewart, Michael Donnelly and Jennifer Brunner, who ran as Democrats. Brunner is also running for chief justice. (See here for more on how justices have been and will be elected in Ohio.)

Aug. 9

 

alex jones briana sanchez pool

InfoWars radio host Alex Jones on Trial in Austin, TX in a civil trial (Pool photo by Briana Sanchez).

ny times logoNew York Times, Alex Jones’s Text Messages Turned Over to House Jan. 6 Committee, Luke Broadwater and Elizabeth Williamson, Aug. 9, 2022 (print ed.). The files do not appear to include texts from the time most of interest to the panel: the day of Jan. 6, 2021, and the weeks building up to the attack.

A lawyer for plaintiffs who are suing the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on Monday turned over more than two years’ worth of text messages from Mr. Jones’s phone to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, including messages that show Mr. Jones was in touch with allies of former President Donald J. Trump.

But the files do not appear to include text messages from the time most of interest to the committee: the day of Jan. 6, 2021, and the weeks building up to the attack, according to people familiar with the document production.

Though the phone data was retrieved in mid-2021, the most recent message is from mid-2020, according to Mark Bankston, who represents Sandy Hook parents suing Mr. Jones for defamation for lies he spread about the 2012 school shooting. That time period is before Mr. Jones became involved in plans to amass a pro-Trump crowd in Washington to march on the Capitol as Mr. Trump fought to remain in office despite his defeat at the polls.

Aug. 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 4

 

gannett logo Custom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug. 2

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

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

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

None of this should be a secret.

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

Aug. 1

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peters was blunt in his response:

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

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

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

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

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

 

July

July 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 30

 

fox upside down news

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 29

 

lina khan resized ftc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 28

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

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

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

 

oan logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 27

nicholas sandmann rnc screenshot

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

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

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

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

roy holden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Things just got worse from there.

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

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

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

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

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

The Assange Nightmare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read John Kiriakou’s piece on this topic here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 24

 

alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 23

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 22

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

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

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

July 21


oan logo 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 20

 

dana canedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 July 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  truth social logo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

library of congress main reading room

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 18

 

andy jassy left and resized jeff bezos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 17

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

Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence

By Ken Auletta

Penguin Press. 466 pp. $30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like all of Auletta’s work, Hollywood Ending is thoroughly researched and eminently readable. Auletta is a highly skilled journalist whose ability to assemble compelling narratives from scores of sources helps him craft well-rounded characters and juicy prose. A prime example is his description of Weinstein’s “unhinged, Shakespeare-worthy relationship with his younger brother, Bob Weinstein, which gyrated from an impregnable partnership to screaming matches, stony estrangements, and, at least once, bloody blows.” Bob co-founded Miramax and the Weinstein Company with Harvey and initially shared Harvey’s mercurial temper and verbally abusive tendencies. Yet over the course of Hollywood Ending” Bob Weinstein emerges as an emblem of redemption. Whereas Bob too once berated staff and even paid the settlements to some of Harvey’s victims (ostensibly without realizing that their claims involved assault), he entered treatment for alcoholism in 2004 and later tried to guide his brother toward addiction r