Media News

 

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

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

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

  • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor (right)

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 nationally and globally on behalf of a diverse membership for wireless Internet services and advanced consumer, business and government applications. For years, he edited its daily bulletins and supervised its conventions that gathered leading companies, educators and other thought leaders in advanced communications.

In 1987, his book Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper documented a pioneering case study on how changes in the newspaper industry were harming civic life. The book was a regional best-seller and prompted his appearance on more than one hundred broadcast interviews. spiked best cover2In earning a law degree from the University of Chicago, his independent study project on "Market Failures In Media Regulation" provided a scholarly basis for analyzing the kinds of civic harms documented by his book. He later worked as a Washington, DC-based attorney in the communications field, including as an associate at a law firm with past and future Federal Communications Commission chairmen of both major parties. In 1996, he was named wireless association president, coordinating its worldwide advocacy.

He has been a research fellow at three major universities, has lectured about communications on five continents, and in 2008 and co-keynoted the annual Futures Summit of the National Association of Broadcasters. He is a member of a number of journalism and bar groups. These include the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the District of Columbia Bar, the National Press Club and the Overseas Press Club. 


2018

July

July 9

myanmar map

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), “Decision to try two Reuters reporters shows Myanmar court is following orders,” Staff report, July 9, 2018. A Myanmar judge announced today that the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo are to be tried under the Official Secrets Act.

myanmar flagReporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns this morning’s decision by a Yangon judge to go ahead with the trial of two Reuters journalists on a charge of possessing secrets and calls again for their immediate release.

After more than 200 days in detention and months of preliminary hearings, Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, are to face the possibility of up to 14 years in prison for investigating an army massacre of Rohingya civilians in Inn Din, a village near the Bangladeshi border in Rakhine state, in September 2017.

Arrested on 12 December after being lured into a trap by police and given supposedly classified documents, they are to be tried under Myanmar’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which the military uses whenever they want to prevent journalists from covering certain subjects.

“The refusal to dismiss the case against the journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo is indicative of a judicial system that follows orders and a failed transition to democracy in Myanmar,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“As a result of the decision to proceed with this trial, despite the many inconsistencies and the undeniable evidence of the two journalists’ innocence that came to light in the preliminary hearings, the chances of seeing a free and independent press emerge in Myanmar have declined significantly.”

RSF regards the detention of Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo as patently arbitrary and calls for their immediate and unconditional release. Myanmar fell six places in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Indexand is now ranked 137th out of 180 countries.

Alternative Media

Unz Review, Why Was Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 Shot Down? Kees van der Pijl, July 9, 2018. Kees van der Pijl is a Fellow, Centre for Global Political Economy and Professor Emeritus of the School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex.

In my book Flight MH17, Ukraine and the New Cold War. Prism of Disaster (Manchester University Press), I have refrained from entering the slippery terrain of making claims about who pulled the trigger, intentionally or by accident, in the late afternoon of 17 July, or even which type of weapon was used. For the downing of the Malaysian plane has become part of a propaganda war that was already heating up prior to the catastrophe. Instead the book is about what we do know about the events surrounding it, in the preceding months, weeks, and days, indeed even on the day itself. Subsequent events have only underlined that it is this context that lends meaning to the tragedy.

Whether the actual downing of Flight MH17 was an intentional, premeditated act or an accident, whether it involved a jet attack, an anti-aircraft missile, or both, ultimately cannot be established with certainty.

Yet both the NATO war party and the coup regime in Kiev, which on many occasions has demonstrated that its ultra-nationalist and fascist antecedents are very much alive, would have been perfectly capable of such an act and had the means for it. Most importantly, they had the motive. Those in power in Kiev had several times already attempted to draw Moscow into the civil war, directly and through a NATO intervention. If this indeed was their aim, it would also have served the Atlantic bloc’s determined and long-standing commitment to force continental Europe into an antagonistic relation with Russia.

Unz Review, Opinion: American Pravda: Post-War France and Post-War Germany, Ron Unz, July 9, 2018. Back in Junior High School I became an avid war-gamer, and was fascinated by the military history of the past, especially World War II, the most titanic conflict ever recorded. However, although I much enjoyed reading the detailed accounts of the battles of that war, especially on the Eastern Front that largely determined its outcome, I had much less interest in the accompanying political history, and simply relied upon the accounts in my standard textbooks, which I considered quite reliable.

July 8

washington post logoWashington Post, Wendi Winters, victim of Annapolis Capital Gazette shooting, rushed at gunman, Hannah Natanson, July 8, 2018 (print edition). Wendi Winters stood as soon as she heard the bangs.

A man with a gun had broken the glass doors leading to the newsroom of the Capital Gazette and was shooting at her colleagues, many of whom dropped to the floor or dove under their desks. Not Winters.

Grabbing the trash can and recycling bin she kept by her desk, she ran toward the man and yelled at him to stop — distracting him long enough to allow some of her colleagues to escape. Of the 11 people in the room that day, six survived.

“In an act of extraordinary courage, she gave her heart, and she gave her last breath, and she gave her final eight pints of blood to the defense of the free press and in defense of her family at the Capital,” Winters’s son Phoenix Geimer told a crowd of more than 700 family members, co-workers and friends gathered on Saturday in the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts to celebrate Winters’s life. “She died fighting for what she believed in. My mom is an American hero, and we all have so much to live up to.”

Winters, 65, was among five Capital Gazette employees killed June 28 when, according to police, a man who had long borne a grudge against the paper opened fire in the Annapolis office in an effort to kill the reporters and editors inside.

washington post logoWashington Post, No comment’: The death of business reporting, Steven Pearlstein, July 8, 2018 (Print edition). More and more companies won’t talk with the press, and that’s bad for everyone.

Even the prospect of a positive story can’t crack open the door to the executive suite. Alan Murray, who spent years at the Wall Street Journal as a reporter and editor before taking the reins at Fortune magazine, summed it up this way: “One, they don’t trust us. And, two, they don’t need us.”

Indeed, what’s happened in the corporate world is not all that different from what has happened in politics and government in the era of Donald Trump, whose administration has set new highs in terms of distrust and hostility toward the press.

July 7

iran women hijab propaganda

Caitlin Johnstone via SouthFront, Opinion: This Is What Modern War Propaganda Looks Like, Caitlin Johnstone, July 7, 2018. I’ve been noticing videos going viral the last few days, some with millions of views, about Muslim women bravely fighting to free themselves from oppression in the Middle East. The videos, curiously, are being shared enthusiastically by many Republicans and pro-Israel hawks, who aren’t traditionally the sort of crowd you see rallying to support the civil rights of Muslims. What’s up with that?

American FlagWell, you may want to sit down for this shocker, but it turns out that they happen to be women from a nation that the US war machine is currently escalating operations against. They are Iranian.

Rex TillersonBack in December a memo was leaked from inside the Trump administration showing how then-Secretary of State, DC neophyte Rex Tillerson (right), was coached on how the US empire uses human rights as a pretense on which to attack and undermine noncompliant governments. Politico reports:

The May 17 memo reads like a crash course for a businessman-turned-diplomat, and its conclusion offers a starkly realist vision: that the U.S. should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“Allies should be treated differently — and better — than adversaries. Otherwise, we end up with more adversaries, and fewer allies,” argued the memo, state dept map logo Smallwritten by Tillerson’s influential policy aide, Brian Hook.

The propaganda machine doesn’t operate any differently from the State Department, since they serve the same establishment.

Mohammed Bin Salman Al-SaudUS ally Saudi Arabia is celebrated by the mass media for “liberal reform” in allowing women to drive despite hard evidence that those “reforms” [led by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, below right] are barely surface-level cosmetics to present a pretty face to the western world, but Iranian women, who have been able to drive for years, are painted as uniquely oppressed.

Iran is condemned by establishment war whores for the flaws in its democratic process, while Saudi Arabia, an actual monarchy, goes completely unscrutinized.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria: Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma, B, July 7, 2018. Some mainstream media are outright lying about the OPCW report on the alleged 'chemical attack' in Douma.

washington post logoThe Washington Post writes: "[A] global watchdog concluded that chlorine was indeed used in the city of Douma a day before rebel forces surrendered there....In an interim report released Friday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW] said its inspectors had discovered traces of “various chlorinated organic chemicals” across two sites it inspected."

The OPCW did not conclude at all that "chlorine was indeed used." It found some chemical compounds which have chlorine, carbon and hydrogen in various configurations as their main elements. There are hundreds if not thousands of "chlorinated organic chemicals." A plastic pipe made from polyvenylchlorid (PVC = (C2H3Cl)n) is made of the same elements. One could call it a "chlorinated organic chemical." Burning something made of PVC will releases various compounds many of which will themselves be "chlorinated organic chemicals." But finding residues of a burned plastic pipe or isolation in a home does not mean that chlorine gas was used in that place. Several of the compounds the OPCW found result from using chlorine to disinfect water. They can be found within the chlorinated water and about anywhere where chlorinated water was used.

bbc news logo2The BBC made a similar 'mistake.' It headlined "Syria war: Douma attack was chlorine gas -- watchdog".

It took extensive social-media outrage and several hours for the BBC to correct its 'mistake.' It now headlines: Syria war: 'Possible chlorine' at Douma attack site -- Watchdog." That is better but still a lie. Nowhere do the OPCW report or its Technical Statement (pdf) use the expression 'possible chlorine.' No editorial note was added by the BBC to reveal that the original dispatch was changed.

A possible reason why so many outlets made this 'mistake' is the British news agency Reuters which first distributed this false claim. Reuters has since changed the headline and text of that item from "chlorine" to "chlorinated chemicals" but attached no note of that change. Moreover it does not explain that "chlorinated chemicals" will be found about anywhere.

It is doubtful that these 'mistakes' were made out of sloppiness. The writers likely intend to create the false impression that Syria was responsible for a 'chemical attack' that did not happen. They would otherwise have to expose the lies they published and told about the incident.

July 6

turkey flagReporters Without Borders, Zaman Trial: Heavy prison sentences for six Turkish journalists, Staff report, July 6, 2018. Six former columnists from Zaman, a now-closed Turkish newspaper, were sentenced on July 6 to prison terms as high as 10 and a half years. Five others were acquitted. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which attended the sentencing hearing, condemns the outcome as a political verdict that followed a Kafkaesque trial.

The verdict was handed down in Istanbul following a 10-month trial. Six former columnists for Zaman were sentenced to heavy prison terms for “membership in a terrorist organization.” The sentences for Şahin Alpay, Ali Bulaç and Ahmet Turan Alkan were eight years and nine months; Ibrahim Karayeğen got nine years; and Mustafa Ünaland Mümtazer Türköne were sentenced to 10 and a half years. Their colleagues İhsan Daği, Lale Kemal, Mehmet Özemir, Nuriye Ural and Orhan Kemal Cengiz, however, were pronounced not guilty.

All of the defendants were acquitted on the charge of “attempting to overthrow of the government,” for which they could have faced life in prison.

United Kingdom flagReporters Without Borders (RSF), UK Counter-Terrorism Bill threatens press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources, Staff report, July 6, 2018. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned about provisions of the UK’s Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill that threaten press freedom, as outlined in a submission to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for its inquiry into the bill.

The bill, which was tabled in the House of Commons on June 6, 2018 and is currently being scrutinized by the Public Bill Committee, contains a number of provisions that have worrying implications for press freedom and the protection of journalistic sources.

“We are alarmed by provisions of this bill that would restrict journalists’ ability to do their jobs and create a chilling effect on freedom of expression. This is particularly worrying in light of the broader trend of moves to restrict press freedom in the UK. Further, the speed at which this legislation is being pushed through is also concerning. We urge MPs to thoroughly scrutinize the bill and ensure that threatening measures are struck and sufficient protections for press freedom included”, said RSF UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent.

In particular, RSF has highlighted concerns about Clause 1, which criminalizes “reckless” expressions of opinion; Clause 2, which criminalizes the publication of images of clothing; Clause 3, which criminalizes the repeated viewing of vaguely defined content (a proposal RSF has previously spoken against); Clause 6, which proposes a significant increase in maximum sentences and could have a substantial chilling effect on journalism; Clause 12, which increases powers to enter and search home addresses, threatening the protection of confidential journalistic sources; and Clause 20 and Schedule 3, which create new powers of stop, search, detention, and retention and copying of material at ports and borders - again threatening the protection of journalistic sources.

RSF considers these measures unlawful, unnecessary, and disproportionate infringement of the fundamental right to freedom of expression and recommends that they are excised from the bill. The new offences created would threaten press freedom and could criminalise responsible journalists investigating and reporting on issues of public interest. The UK is ranked 40th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

July 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive named assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018.  Former Fox News Channel executive Bill Shine is joining the White House as assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff for communications, the White House announced Thursday.

bill shineThe long-anticipated move follows weeks of speculation that the former Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network co-president was a front-runner for the job, which has remained vacant since former communications director Hope Hicks announced her resignation in February.

In a statement, the White House said Shine (shown above left in a file photo) “brings over two decades of television programming, communications, and management experience to the role.”

Shine, who started his two-decade-long career at Fox News as a producer for the show “Hannity & Colmes,” was ousted from his role as co-president last year after lawsuits suggested he enabled alleged sexual harassment by the network’s late chairman and chief executive, Roger Ailes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Fox News executive Bill Shine joins Trump White House as deputy chief of staff for communications, Paul Farhi and Felicia Sonmez, July 5, 2018. With Thursday’s announcement, Shine becomes the fifth communications chief since Trump took office nearly 18 months ago. Before Hope Hicks, Anthony Scaramucci served 10 days in the role. He was preceded by Mike Dubke and Sean Spicer.

The move will bolster the White House’s messaging operation ahead of what is shaping up to be a fierce partisan battle over Trump’s choice for a successor to retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, set to be unveiled on Monday.

Yet the appointment is also likely to open the White House up to attacks regarding Shine’s record at Fox, as well as the Trump administration’s response to sexual misconduct allegations against officials within its own ranks. During his time at Fox, Shine helped to build the network into the media juggernaut it is today. But much like his mentor and patron, Ailes, Shine’s long tenure was clouded by unsavory allegations and associations with darker chapters in the network’s history. Ailes died in May 2017.

Trump himself has been accused of sexual harassment and improper behavior by more than a dozen women, accusations which he denies. And earlier this year, White House staff secretary Rob Porter resigned amid reports that he had physically and emotionally abused his two ex-wives.

The presidential appointment reunites Trump with Shine, who gave the then-businessman and reality TV star copious airtime on Fox to opine on a range of subjects. Among them was a regular slot on “Fox & Friends,” on which Trump often promoted his false claim that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. The weekly appear­ances helped burnish Trump’s political credentials, at least with more than a million viewers of the morning program.

gretchen carlsonShine has spent the past 14 months off the public grid after his ouster from Fox last May. He briefly succeeded Ailes as the network’s top executive after Ailes was driven out by sexual harassment allegations, including a lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson (shown at left), which Fox’s parent company settled in mid-2016 for $20 million.

Shine himself was never directly accused of harassment at Fox. But his latter years at the network were pockmarked by his association with Ailes, especially accusations that he helped facilitate Ailes’s predatory behavior. Shine has consistently denied wrongdoing.

He also was part of Fox’s senior management during the period in which the network was paying millions of dollars in settlements to former employees who had accused Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly of harassment.

He was named in suits filed by Carlson and former network contributors Julie Roginsky and Andrea Tantaros for his role in allegedly discouraging women at the network from taking their harassment claims to court. Roginsky, who said Ailes sexually harassed her, accused Shine of retaliating against her for her refusal to join “Team Roger,” a cadre of women who supported Ailes in his battle with Carlson. Shine denied those allegations.

laurie luhn cropped squareHe also allegedly played a role in covering up Ailes’s relationship with Laurie Luhn, a former Fox booker who claimed she had a long, abusive affair with Ailes that eventually led to her mental breakdown. Luhn received $3.1 million from Fox in 2011 to settle her allegations of abuse and mistreatment by Ailes.

Shine’s appointment by Trump on Thursday brought swift rebuke from attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who represented Carlson and Roginsky in their suits against Ailes. “Roger Ailes’s enabler and confidant is well qualified to speak on behalf of a president who brags about assaulting women and preying on teenage beauty pageant contestants, and pays adult film actresses to be quiet about his adultery,” Smith said. “Being from Fox News, Shine is also well qualified to speak for a president who lies every single day.”

ed schultzBismarck Tribune, Former Fargo radio personality, MSNBC broadcaster Ed Schultz dies at 64, Staff and wire report, July 5, 2018. Longtime broadcaster Ed Schultz has died, multiple sources say. Sources say that Schultz died of natural causes. He was 64.

Schultz started his broadcast career in TV and radio in Fargo in the early 1980s, including time as sports director at WDAY-TV in Fargo. He went on to host a show at MSNBC and most recently worked for Russia Today. Schultz is a former quarterback at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

From Wikipedia: He was the host of The Ed Show, a weekday news talk program on MSNBC from 2009 to 2015, and The Ed Schultz Show, a talk radio show, nationally syndicated by Dial Global from 2004 to 2014. The radio show ended on May 23, 2014, and was replaced by a one-hour podcast, Ed Schultz News and Commentary, which ran from 2015 until his 2018 death. Schultz most recently hosted a daily primetime weekday show, News with Ed Schultz, on RT America TV channel based in Washington, D.C., that is part of the RT network.

July 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Suspect Sent Letter Stating Plans to Kill at Capital Gazette, Matt Stevens and Daniel Victor, July 3, 2018 (print edition). The man suspected of fatally shooting five people in an Annapolis newsroom last week sent a letter to the Capital Gazette’s lawyer announcing that he planned to go there “with the objective of killing every person present,” a copy of the letter shows.

jarrod ramosIn the bizarre letter — which is postmarked June 28, the day of the shooting — the suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos formatted his remarks in such a way that the letter looks and reads much like a court document. Mr. Ramos, 38  (shown in a mug shot), had a yearslong legal dispute with The Capital over a 2011 column that detailed his harassment of a former high school classmate and had represented himself in the proceedings.

In his letter, he appears to blame the judiciary for being “too cowardly” to confront what he calls “lies.” He also uses an apparent quotation to argue that one reason defamation law exists is to prevent a defamed person from “wreaking his own vengeance.” And in what appears to be a separate attachment, he writes directly to a judge who had heard his case against the newspaper: “Welcome,” he tells the judge, “to your unexpected legacy: YOU should have died.” He then signs the letter, “Friends forever.”

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, New York Times Reassigns Reporter in Leak Case, Michael M. Grynbaum, July 3, 2018. Ali Watkins, the New York Times reporter whose email and phone records were secretly seized by the Trump administration, will be transferred out of the newspaper’s Washington bureau and reassigned to a new beat in New York, The Times said on Tuesday.

Ms. Watkins, 26, had been the subject of an internal review by The Times after revelations that she had a three-year affair with a high-ranking aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which she covered for several news organizations before joining The Times in December.

The aide, James Wolfe, 57, who handled classified material for the committee, was arrested last month as part of a leak investigation in which the Justice Department also seized Ms. Watkins’s communications, an unusually aggressive move against a journalist that prompted an outcry from press advocates. Mr. Wolfe was charged with lying to the F.B.I. but not with leaking classified information; he has pleaded not guilty.

June

June 29

washington post logoWashington Post, Capital Gazette shooting suspect charged with five counts of murder, Dana Hedgpeth and Ashley Halsey III, June 29, 2018. A man with a vendetta against a newspaper in Annapolis, Md., has been charged with five counts of murder after he fired a shotgun through the newsroom’s glass doors and at its employees, killing five and injuring two others Thursday afternoon in a targeted shooting.

Officials said Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel carried out the shooting. He is due Friday morning in Annapolis District Courthouse.

Local police said the Capital Gazette was targeted, prompting heightened security in newsrooms nationwide. The attack appears to be the deadliest involving journalists in the United States in decades.

On Friday, the opinion page of the Capital Gazette read, “Today we are speechless.”

Authorities said the suspect, whom they identified as Jarrod Ramos, specifically targeted the Capital Gazette when he fired a shotgun through the newsroom’s glass doors. Ramos, who is accused of killing five people and injuring two others, lost a defamation case he brought against the paper in 2015.

ny times logoNew York Times, 5 Killed in Shooting in Maryland Newsroom, Sabrina Tavernise, Amy Harmon and Maya Salam, June 28, 2018. A man armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades stormed into the newsroom of a community newspaper chain in Maryland’s capital on Thursday afternoon, killing five staff members, injuring two others and prompting law enforcement agencies across the country to provide protection at the headquarters of media organizations.

jarrod ramosThe suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos (shown at right in a mug shot after arrest), 38, was taken into custody at the scene and was charged on Friday morning with five counts of first-degree murder. He had a long history of conflict with the Capital Gazette, which produces a number of local newspapers along Maryland’s shore, suing journalists there for defamation and waging a social media campaign against them.

The chilling attack was covered in real time by some of the journalists who found themselves under siege. A summer intern, Anthony Messenger, tweeted out the address of the office building where the newsroom is based, saying, “please help us.” A crime reporter, Phil Davis, described how the gunman “shot through the glass door to the office” before opening fire on employees.

“There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Mr. Davis wrote.

For a country that has grown numb to mass shootings, this was a new front. Schools have become a frequent target, with college students on down to kindergartners falling victim. A movie theater was shot up. Churches, too. But this was a rare attack on a news organization, one of the oldest in America, which dates its roots back to the 1700s and boasts on its website that it once fought the stamp tax that helped give rise to the American Revolution.

Unz Review, Update On 'American Pravda' Series, Ron Unz, June 29, 2018. Demonstrating that the passage of more than a half-century has not entirely dimmed interest in the issue, ranking first in readership this last week were the two parts of my analysis of the 1963 JFK Assassination, the first even being a hold-over from the previous week.

In Part I, I summarized some of the very considerable body of evidence that the Warren Commission verdict of a “lone gun” was very likely incorrect, and that a conspiracy of some sort therefore claimed the life of our President, noting that in research years even such impeccably respectable publications as The New York Times seem to have admitted exactly that conclusion.

Given the high likelihood of such a conspiracy, my much longer Part I discussed the possible range of central organizers, concluding that although it is impossible to come to any firm conclusion, the two most likely suspects, especially based on the factor of motive, would be Vice President Lyndon Johnson and the Israeli Mossad. Unsurprisingly this controversial topic provoked a very spirited debate, disputing all aspects of the issue, with comments on the two articles already totaling nearly 200,000 words and still going strong.

Unz Review, American Pravda: The JFK Assassination, Part I - What Happened? Ron Unz, June 18, 2018. Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W. Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, focused on the relationship between John F. Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.

None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.

I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy,” in many cases from almost the very beginning.

American Pravda: The JFK Assassination, Part II – Who Did It? Ron Unz, June 25, 2018. A strong dam may hold back an immense quantity of water, but once it breaks the resulting flood may sweep aside everything in its path. I had spent nearly my entire life never doubting that a lone gunman named Lee Harvey Oswald killed President John F. Kennedy nor that a different lone gunman took the life of his younger brother Robert a few years later. Once I came to accept that these were merely fairy tales widely disbelieved by many of the same political elites who publicly maintained them, I began considering other aspects of this important history, the most obvious being who was behind the conspiracy and what were their motives.

The Kennedy assassination surely ranks as one of the most dramatic and heavily reported events of the twentieth century, yet the overwhelming evidence that our president died at the hands of a conspiracy rather than an eccentric “lone gunman” was almost entirely suppressed by our mainstream media during the decades that followed, with endless ridicule and opprobrium heaped on many of the stubborn truth-tellers. Indeed, the very term “conspiracy theory” soon became a standard slur aimed against all those who sharply questioned establishmentarian narratives, and there is strong evidence that such pejorative use was deliberately promoted by government agencies concerned that so much of the American citizenry was growing skeptical of the implausible cover story presented by the Warren Commission. But despite all these efforts, the period may mark the inflection point at which public trust in our national media began its precipitous decline. Once an individual concludes that the media lied about something as monumental as the JFK assassination, he naturally begins to wonder what other lies may be out there.

Although I now consider the case for an assassination conspiracy overwhelming, I think that the passage of so many decades has removed any real hope of reaching a firm conclusion about the identities of the main organizers or their motives. Those who disagree with this negative assessment are free to continue sifting the enormous mountain of complex historical evidence and debating their conclusions with others having similar interests.

June 27

Southern Poverty Law Center, Milo wants vigilantes to start killing journalists, and he's not being 'ironic,' David Neiwert, June 27, 2018. The far-right provocateur tells reporters he hopes angry conservatives start assassinating them, and the alt-right '14/88ers' love the idea.

milo yiannopoulos breitbartApparently, Milo Yiannopoulos (shown in a file photo) didn’t get the memo about the need for civility in our discourse. “I can’t wait for the vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight,” the far-right provocateur texted a reporter for the New York Observer this week. When the reporter inquired further, Yiannopoulos explained that he had simply issued his “standard response to a request for a comment.”

But this wasn’t simply a toss-off remark. Yiannopoulos appears to be dead serious – that is, he sincerely believes that right-wing assassins should begin taking out targeted reporters. He’s been saying so on a number of forums, and it’s clear that he isn’t being simply “ironic” in the classic alt-right hall-of-mirrors fashion.

Yiannopoulos’ career has been in precipitous decline over the past year, following his sudden rise to media stardom as a leading figure in the alt-right, due largely to his influential role during the “Gamergate” controversy, then as an editor at Breitbart News. However, after an interview surfaced in February 2017 which he suggested sexual relations between adult men and young boys could be beneficial, he lost his sponsorship by the Mercer family, was dropped by his publisher, and resigned his position at Breitbart. Then in October, his close dalliances with white nationalists while at Breitbart (including an evening of karaoke with Richard Spencer) were exposed by Buzzfeed.

Since then, Yiannopoulos has tried to keep his career as an “alt-lite” pundit afloat through a number of ventures, even as his social media profile has risen and fallen. A speech in Arizona was shut down, ostensibly over death threats, causing his followers to plot revenge against his critics. He was also invited to speak to an audience of far-right anti-immigrant activists in Hungary in May 2018. He has spoken at a handful of campuses, including at Cal Poly in April, and also toured Australia in late 2017.

June 26

national  press club logoNational Press Club, Ethiopian journalist freed from prison expresses cautious optimism for reform, Lorna Aldrich, June 26, 2018. Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, freed from prison earlier this year, expressed cautious optimism for reform in his country at a news conference June 20 co-sponsored by the National Press Club Journalism Institute and the Freedom of the Press Team.

Nega noted that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office in April, promises change, but has not said what kind of change. According to AlJazeera.com, Ahmed replaced his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, and freed, or slated for freedom, 1,000 prisoners after widespread anti-government protests.

The journalist said he will return to Ethiopia and work to publish and to develop television journalism. The journalist mentioned two ways the international community has assisted and can still assist reform. Asked if efforts in 2012 by the Club and other journalists’ organizations on his behalf when he was on trial and potentially facing a death sentence made a difference, he said it did.

ny times logoNew York Times, N.S.A. Contractor Accused in Leak Pleads Guilty, Charlie Savage and Alan Blinder, June 26, 2018. Reality L. Winner, who pleaded guilty in Georgia, was the first person to be arrested during President Trump’s administration for leaking classified information.

Reality L. Winner, a former Air Force linguist who was the first person prosecuted by the Trump administration on charges of leaking classified information, pleaded guilty on Tuesday as part of an agreement with prosecutors that calls for a sentence of 63 months in prison.

reality winner mug CustomMs. Winner (shown in a mug shot), who entered her plea in Federal District Court in Augusta, Ga., was arrested last June and accused of sharing a classified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election with the news media.

Ms. Winner, who is now 26, has been jailed since her arrest and wore an orange prison jumpsuit and white sneakers to the hearing. Her decision to plead guilty to one felony count allows the government both to avoid a complex trial that had been scheduled for October and to notch a victory in the Trump administration’s aggressive pursuit of leakers.

Ms. Winner, who was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 2016, was working as a contractor for the National Security Agency when she obtained a copy of a report that described hacks by a Russian intelligence service against local election officials and a company that sold software related to voter registration.

The Intercept, an online news outlet that a prosecutor said Ms. Winner admired, published a copy of the top secret report shortly before Ms. Winner’s arrest was made public. The report described two cyberattacks by Russia’s military intelligence unit, the G.R.U. — one in August against a company that sells voter registration-related software and another, a few days before the election, against 122 local election officials.

An F.B.I. affidavit made public when she was arrested last year said there was a visible crease mark on the file, a scan of which The Intercept had provided to the government while trying to authenticate it. That prompted investigators to surmise it was a printout. Audit trails showed six people had printed copies, but only one — Ms. Winner — had used a work computer to send emails to The Intercept. A search warrant application said she had found the report by plugging keywords into the N.S.A.’s system that fell outside her normal work duties.

Once rare, leak cases have become much more common in the 21st century, in part because of such electronic trails. Depending on how they are counted, the Obama administration brought nine or 10 leak-related prosecutions — about twice as many as were brought under all previous presidencies combined.

June 25 james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, How Reporter’s Affair With a Senate Aide Rattled the Media, Michael M. Grynbaum, Scott Shane and Emily Flitter, June 25, 2018 (print edition). The seizure of email records from a Times reporter alarmed First Amendment groups. Her relationship with an intelligence aide set off an ethical debate.

The pearl bracelet arrived in May 2014, in the spring of Ali Watkins’s senior year in college, a graduation gift from a man many years her senior. It was the sort of bauble that might imply something more deeply felt than friendship — but then again, might not.

Ms. Watkins, then a 22-year-old intern in the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers, was not entirely surprised. She had met James Wolfe, a 50-something senior aide to the Senate Intelligence Committee, while hunting for scoops on Capitol Hill. He had become a helpful source, but there were times when he seemed interested in other pursuits — like when he presented her with a Valentine’s Day card.

washington post logoWashington Post, Rapidly expanding fact-checking movement faces growing pains, Glenn Kessler, June 25, 2018..The number of fact-checking organizations has tripled around the globe in four years. But the journalistic movement is increasingly under attack.

Political fact-checkers from more than 50 countries gathered here to take stock of a fast-growing journalistic movement that has gained clout and influence while attracting criticism and heightened skepticism in an increasingly partisan age.

facebook logoFacebook has enlisted 24 fact-checking organizations in 14 countries to help weed out fake news on the social network, while policymakers and parliamentarians in Brazil, Italy and Spain, and at the European Union, have sought advice from fact-checkers on the challenge of misinformation.google logo custom Google now highlights fact checks in its search results and Bing has developed a special fact-checking page that features recent fact checks.

But fact-checkers have increasingly come under attack, facing accusations of bias and partisanship that the neutral journalistic format was supposed to avoid.

“A dark cloud hangs over us,” said Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), the umbrella organization that organized the meeting, when he opened the three-day conference on June 20.

Only four years ago, some three dozen fact-checkers met for the first time in London, in a small college classroom, hoping to spark greater global cooperation. That meeting led to the creation of the IFCN, which is housed at the Poynter Institute.

The number of fact-checking projects now stands at 149 in 53 countries, according to a count in February by the Duke University Reporters’ Lab. That’s triple the number recorded four years ago, but the figure is already out of date. Two fact-checking organizations have opened in Panama in recent months, for instance.

One persistent compliant is that fact-checkers suffer from “selection bias,” in that they decide what to fact-check.

The problem has become particularly acute for U.S. fact-checkers in the era of a president persistently tweeting and speaking falsehoods — and Republican domination of Congress. The result is that the percentage of fact checks of Democrats has fallen since the end of the Barack Obama presidency, creating an imbalance that some readers — and fact-checkers — find troubling.

June 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s trade war threatens the U.S. newspaper industry, Jackie Spinner, June 24, 2018 (print edition). His policy to protect U.S. paper mills is squeezing budgets at every paper in the country.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Facebook’s fight against fake news has gone global, Elizabeth Dwoskin, June 24, 2018 (print edition). In Mexico, just a handful of vetters are on the front lines, The social media giant is tracking 50 elections this year. In countries like Mexico, the meddling often comes from within.

June 23

julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphic

paul craig robertsWikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange, shown in a graphic by The Indicter, an online magazine

OpEdNews, The Persecution of Julian Assange Proves That Western Values No Longer Exist, Paul Craig Roberts (right), June 23, 2018. The Western world never ceases to speak of its "democratic values." In Western political theory, the way democracy works is by free speech and a free press. By speaking out, citizens and media keep the government accountable.

This liberal tradition means that there are no words or terms that cannot be used because some designated "victim group" can claim to feel offended. The inroads into free speech made by political correctness, now institutionalized in universities and the public school system, in the presstitute media, in American corporations such as Google, and in the enculturated habits of Americans, demonstrate a decline in the status of free speech. Governments have also made inroads, with the "war on terror" becoming a justification for warrantless spying, mass surveillance, and a clampdown on dissent.

The free press has declined even more dramatically than free speech. The NY Times of the Pentagon Papers disappeared during George W. Bush's first term when the newspaper sat on the story that the Bush regime was spying without warrants. The NY Times sat on the story for a year, allowing Bush to be reelected without controversy and allowing the government time to legalize the spying on an ex post facto basis.

Today the media are a propaganda ministry engaged in the demonization of Russia and Trump and justifying the war crimes of Washington and its vassal states.

This is why there is no media uproar over the six-year incarceration of Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Wikileaks is a news organization and has not done anything that a free press has not always done. Julian Assange is a citizen of Australia and Ecuador. He is not an American and thus cannot be guilty of treason. Yet Washington is believed to have used a grand jury to concoct such a case against him.

The new president of Ecuador is not the strong and good man that his predecessor was. Under Washington's pressure Moreno is making life in the Ecuadorian embassy as unbearable as possible for Assange in an effort to force him out into British hands. Responding to Washington's pressure, the British government will not honor his asylum, which prevents Assange from being able to leave the embassy.

This week there were protests in Australia in support of Assange. However, Western governments are now so far removed from citizens who are today little more than subjects that it is unlikely that anything short of revolution can restore accountability to governments in the West.

June 21

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

The New Yorker reports that Karen McDougal, shown in a photo drawn from YouTube with President Trump, was paid $150,000 by American Media, Inc., for her story about an affair with the married future president Trump in 2006

ny times logomichael cohen ap file croppedNew York Times, National Enquirer Executives Said to Be Subpoenaed in Cohen Investigation, Jim Rutenberg, June 21, 2018 (print edition). The investigation into President Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael D. Cohen (right) has ensnared the publisher of The National Enquirer, further thrusting the media company into a federal inquiry involving a onetime top lieutenant to a sitting president.

Prosecutors with the Southern District of New York subpoenaed executives at the publisher, American Media, this spring, according to people who have been briefed about the move but agreed to share the details about it only on the condition of anonymity.

david pecker croppedThe prosecutors had already asked for communications between Mr. Cohen and American Media’s chairman, David J. Pecker (left), and its chief content officer, Dylan Howard. That request was part of a search warrant they secured for Mr. Cohen’s home, office, hotel room and electronic devices in April. The people familiar with the investigation said prosecutors sought similar communications from Mr. Howard and Mr. Pecker.

karen mcdougal playboyDuring the presidential campaign, American Media had arranged to effectively silence Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Mr. Trump years earlier, with a $150,000 payout.

The payment caught the attention of investigators conducting a broad investigation into Mr. Cohen’s efforts on behalf of Mr. Trump during the campaign, as well as his own business dealings. It is also the subject of a complaint at the Federal Election Commission.

washington post logoWashington Post, Enquirer sent stories on Trump to his lawyer before publication, say people familiar with the practice, Sarah Ellison, June 21, 2018. The National Enquirer’s alleged sharing of material with Michael Cohen highlights the support the tabloid news outlet offered Trump as he ran for president in 2016.

During the presidential campaign, National Enquirer executives sent digital copies of the tabloid’s articles and cover images related to Donald Trump and his political opponents to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen in advance of publication, according to three people with knowledge of the matter — an unusual practice that speaks to the close relationship between Trump and David Pecker, chief executive of American Media Inc., the Enquirer’s parent company.

Although the company strongly denies ever sharing such material before publication, these three individuals say the sharing of material continued after Trump took office.

“Since Trump’s become president and even before, [Pecker] openly just has been willing to turn the magazine and the cover over to the Trump machine,” said one of the people with knowledge of the practice.

During the campaign, “if it was a story specifically about Trump, then it was sent over to Michael, and as long as there were no objections from him, the story could be published,” this person added.

The Enquirer’s alleged sharing of material pre-publication with Trump’s attorney during the campaign highlights the support the tabloid news outlet offered Trump as he ran for president. It also intersects with a subject that federal prosecutors have been investigating since earlier this year: Cohen’s efforts to quash negative stories about Trump during the campaign. As part of that, prosecutors are also looking into whether Cohen broke campaign finance laws, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Federal prosecutors subpoenaed American Media Inc. as part of their investigation into Cohen, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week. A Justice Department official said Pecker did not fall under the regulation that governs when and how prosecutors can obtain records of members of the news media.

June 19

The 5th Estate Asia, Opinion: Anti-American website a matrix of propaganda, disinformation, bogus "financial advice," Robert S. Finnegan, June 19, 2018. With every passing day the fake news purveyors and manipulators become more and more sophisticated, metastasising across the lines of print, broadcast and internet platforms. Some are transparently easy to spot and isolate, others mutate daily in order to confuse, disorient and bedevil consumers in their disorienting search for factual and credible news reporting.

One graphic example of this insidious malignancy is the internet website Zero Hedge, a portal for "doom porn" that has now become a huge moneymaker in the digital world, along with "financial advice" that has led to the monetary evisceration of many investors that mistakenly took their slick "reports" on finance and Wall Street as the real thing.

Zero Hedge is a classic representation of the sophistry and propagandist modus operandi combining sourced news with totally contrived refuse in order to mask it's origins and intent, which is ultimately to confound, befuddle and misinform the reader.

Posts on Zero Hedge are written under the pseudonym "Tyler Durdin," Hollywood actor Brad Pitt’s character from “Fight Club.” If nothing else the term "Buyer Beware" or "Caveat Emptor" applies in spades to Zero Hedge for both financial investors and news consumers alike.

Durden is actually two men: wealthy financial analysts Daniel Ivandjiiski and Tim Backshall. The Sydney Morning Herald provides background: Ivandjiiski worked for a hedge fund before being barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in 2008 for insider trading. He didn't admit or deny wrongdoing, the agency said. Backshall is a familiar face on financial news networks who has been quoted by media outlets, including Bloomberg.

June 18

Reporters Without Borders, Journalist arrested while covering protest in Missouri: Round-up of week's news, Staff report, June 18, 2018. Below are the most notable incidents regarding threats to press freedom in the US during the week of June 11-17:

michael nigro jefferson city mo

Journalist arrested while covering protest in Missouri: On June 11, photojournalist for Truthdig Michael Nigro (shown above) was arrested in Jefferson City, Missouri, while reporting on acts of civil disobedience taking place during an economic justice protest, where participants had linked arms and were blocking the street in front of the city’s Chamber of Commerce. Nigro was wearing press credentials and recording the incident when a police officer told him to get off the road and stand on the sidewalk. After approaching a different officer who also told him to return to the sidewalk, Nigro backed up but was still arrested and charged with “failure to obey.”

Press access limited at North Korea-United States summit: The White House restricted press access at the June 12 summit between the United States and North Korea. Only seven American journalists were included in the press pool during President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s first meeting, an event of the type that would normally consist of a pool of about a dozen reporters from various news outlets including major wire services like The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters. For this meeting, such wire services were not permitted to attend. Later that day, Singaporean press was permitted to attend the lunch between Trump and Kim, but American press were excluded.

Trump tweets “the fake news” is biggest threat to US and an enemy of the people: In a June 13 tweet, President Trump claimed “the fake news” is the country’s “biggest enemy.” That this tweet came just a day after he “lavished praise” on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not lost on the American press. This inflammatory anti-press rhetoric has become commonplace for the president, who has tweeted about “fake news” 9 times in the past week, including a tweet referring to major news organizations as the “enemy of the people Fake News.” Trump team members say reporters asking questions are “insulting.”

julian assange indictor collage resized Small

Julian Assange, shown inside Ecuador's embassy in London, in a collage assembed by The Indicter online magazine

WBAI-FM (New York City), MCM on the plight of Julian Assange, the moral failure of the US "left," and more, "Law and Disorder" host Michael Smith interviews New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller ("MCM"), June 18, 2018. The WikiLeaks founder and truth-telling publisher Julian Assange is in escalating danger of being sent from England to America where he would likely be tried for espionage, a crime that carries the death penalty.

Assange and WikiLeaks have revealed American war crimes in the Middle East, CIA global machinations , and the work of Clinton Democrats in preventing the popular Bernie Sanders from heading up the party ticket. Assange is presently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he was granted political asylum six years ago by past leftist president Rafael Correa. But now, with the change of presidents in Ecuador, Assange has been cut off from the outside world. He has no phone, no computer, and no visitors.

The fresh offensive against him occurred the day after American General Joseph DiSalvo, the head of the US Southern Command, the Pentagon’s arm in Latin America, visited the new right wing Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno. Moreno has said that Assange is “an inherited problem” and is seeking s better relationship with the United States government, to whom he has already granted a military base.

mark crispin millerMark Crispin Miller is a professor of media studies at New York University. Miller has frequently spoken about media propaganda, the engineering of consent for empire, fake news, and the destruction of the independent press. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for the humanities and is a vigorous defender of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

June 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Goodbye, Denver Post. Hello, Blockchain, Jaclyn Peiser, June 17, 2018. They left The Denver Post amid newsroom layoffs and interference in the editorial process by the newspaper’s hedge-fund owners. And now those reporters and editors are creating their own news outlet, The Colorado Sun.

They will be partnering with the Civil Media Company, an ambitious New York start-up that aims to use blockchain technology and crypto economics to start 1,000 publications nationwide by the end of the year.

“It is absolutely exciting,” said Larry Ryckman, a former senior editor at the beleaguered Denver daily, who will serve as the editor of The Colorado Sun. “We have been so eager to get moving.”

The editor has assembled a team of former Post employees, including five reporters — Kevin Simpson, John Ingold, Tamara Chuang, Jennifer Brown and Jason Blevins — and two senior editors, Eric Lubbers and Dana Coffield.

June 16

washington post logoWashington Post, Hands off my data! 15 more default privacy settings you should change now on your TV, cellphone plan and more, Geoffrey A. Fowler, June 16, 2018 (print edition). The Post’s tech columnist is back with Round 2 of his clickable guide to improving your privacy on all sorts of devices and online services.

rob rogers pittsburgh post gazette facebook

Rob Rogers, a 1999 Pulitzer finalist, fired as editorial cartoonist from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after beginning there in 1992 (Facebook photo)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Was Fired for Making Fun of Trump, Rob Rogers, June 16, 2018 (print edition). After 25 years as the editorial cartoonist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was fired on Thursday.

I blame Donald Trump. Well, sort of. I should’ve seen it coming. When I had lunch with my new boss a few months ago, he informed me that the paper’s publisher believed that the editorial cartoonist was akin to an editorial writer, and that his views should reflect the philosophy of the newspaper.

That was a new one to me. I was trained in a tradition in which editorial cartoonists are the live wires of a publication — as one former colleague put it, the “constant irritant.” Our job is to provoke readers in a way words alone can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.

pittsburgh post gazette logoWhen I was hired in 1993, The Post-Gazette was the liberal newspaper in town, but it always prided itself on being a forum for a lot of divergent ideas. The change in the paper did not happen overnight. From what I remember, it started in 2011, with the endorsement of the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, which shocked a majority of our readership.

The next big moment happened in late 2015, when my longtime boss, the editorial page editor, took a buyout after the publisher indicated that the paper might endorse Mr. Trump. Then, early this year, we published openly racist editorials.

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: The Real Deep State, Webster G. Tarpley (author and commentator shown at right), June 9, 2018 (74:02 mins.). Dr. Tarpley's decades of research helped document how a "deep" or unelected government controls much of presidential and other governmental action.

"We're in the middle of a collapse of the United States position in the world," he began. "We've got a collapse of the U.S. alliance sytem in Europe and we've got a very threatening situation inside the country in terms of basic freeddoms: the First Amendment under grave attack and the news that the Trump regime will no longer defend the Affordable Care Act against a lawsuit brought by 20 reactionary Republican states to try to strip you of your health care and leave you with nothing but your eyes to cry with."

"They'll give you with nothing! And that, of course, means 40 to 50 thousand needless deaths in this country. That's the essence of Republican policy, an attack on the lives, and the health and the well-being of America."

"They'll sell you junk insurance so that when you get sick they'll tell you that you're not covered."

ny times logodavid pecker croppedNew York Times, A.M.I., Tabloid Giant and Trump Ally, Expands Its Reach, Daniel Victor and Jim Rutenberg, June 16, 2018 (print edition). American Media Inc., the country’s largest tabloid publisher whose chairman is a close ally of President Trump, controls almost the entire supermarket checkout rack after new acquisitions announced on Friday.

A.M.I. said it had bought In Touch, Life & Style, Closer and 10 other titles from Bauer Media, expanding a celebrity-news portfolio that already included The National Enquirer, Us Weekly, Globe, OK!, Star and Radar Online.

att logoThe move gives the company, led by David J. Pecker (shown at right in a file photo), almost full ownership of the print gossip market, leaving People magazine, owned by the Meredith Corporation, as one of the only major glossy gossip titles not under Mr. Pecker’s umbrella. (TMZ, the dominant gossip player online, has come under the ownership of AT&T with its purchase of Time Warner.)

Mr. Pecker is a Bronx native and a longtime Trump friend. A former top executive of Mr. Trump’s casino business sits on A.M.I.’s four-member board of directors. During the 2016 campaign, its flagship National Enquirer devoted glowing covers to Mr. Trump’s triumphs, aggressively attacked his rivals and made its first-ever presidential endorsement

June 11

washington post logoWashington Post, So long to net neutrality, hello to bigger telecoms? The Web you know may never be the same, Tony Romm, June 11, 2018.Today marks the official end of the government’s net neutrality rules, a change that comes as a judge is expected to rule Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner. The two developments could lead to further consolidation of wireless, cable and content giants, public-interest advocates say.

Two pivotal developments this week could dramatically expand the power and footprint of major telecom companies, altering how Americans access everything from political news to “Game of Thrones” on the Internet.

ajit pai headshot customMonday marks the official end of the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules, which had required broadband providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon to treat all Web traffic equally. The repeal is part of a campaign by Ajit Pai (right), the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to deregulate the telecom industry in a bid to boost its investments — particularly in rural areas.

“I think ultimately it’s going to mean better, faster, cheaper Internet access and more competition,” Pai said in an interview. Others disagree and will challenge Pai in court, while many states are fighting back with their own laws, further muddling the situation.

att logoOne day after the net neutrality changes, a federal judge is set to rule on Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner. AT&T, already the country’s second-largest wireless network, stands to gain a content trove from Time Warner that includes HBO and CNN — leading the Justice Department, which filed the lawsuit, to argue that the company could harm its rivals.

ny times logoNew York Times, How You Could Be Affected Now That Net Neutrality Is Over, Keith Collins, June 11, 2018. Net Neutrality rules that required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content are no longer in effect as of Monday.

June 9

pogo logo squareProject On Government Oversight (POGO), Opinion: A Dangerous Escalation in "The War on Leaks," Andrea Peterson, June 9, 2018.A Dangerous Escalation in "The War on Leaks"

Last night, The New York Times reported that a former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer, James Wolfe, was arrested Thursday after a grand jury indicted him on charges of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Times reporter Ali Watkins and other journalists. Watkins, a rising star in national security reporting, and Wolfe, who led the Committee’s efforts to safeguard the classified and sensitive information shared with Members, had a three-year romantic relationship.

During that time, Watkins broke a number of high-profile scoops about the Committee’s operations. While Watkins told the Times Wolfe was not a source of classified information for her reporting during their relationship, the optics are concerning. But beyond the journalism ethics questions about the relationship, there’s a major threat to First Amendment rights. During the investigation into Wolfe and leaks from the Committee, the Justice Department went after Watkins’ data—seizing years of records related to her email accounts and phone number, according to a letter the agency sent to Watkins.

News media advocacy groups warn that the move sets a dangerous legal precedent for journalists’ ability to protect their sources. “Efforts by government that undermine this ability therefore represent a fundamental threat to press freedom,” the Committee to Protect Journalists’ North America Program Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck said in a statement Friday.

The Justice Department’s statement to the Times about the data grab also suggests the agency is potentially widening the scope of leak investigations beyond exposure of classified information by taking the unprecedented step of looking into the “unauthorized disclosure of controlled information" (emphasis added). That’s a much broader standard that could apply to leaking that is in no way criminal conduct, and which could have a chilling effect on whistleblowers who already face potential professional repercussions — such as being fired — for taking their concerns to the media.

June 8

james wolf ali watkins

Former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe and New York Times reporter Ali Watkins (file photos)

ny times logoNew York Times, Times Reporter’s Records Are Seized in Justice Dept. Inquiry, Adam Goldman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner, June 8, 2017 (print edition). Prosecutors seized phone and email records as part of an investigation into leaks by a former Senate aide. It was the first known use of such an aggressive tactic under President Trump.

Justice Department log circularFederal law enforcement officials secretly seized years’ worth of a New York Times reporter’s phone and email records this year in an investigation of classified information leaks. It was the first known instance of the Justice Department going after a reporter’s data under President Trump.

The seizure — disclosed in a letter to the reporter, Ali Watkins — suggested that prosecutors under the Trump administration will continue the aggressive tactics employed under President Barack Obama.

Mr. Trump has complained bitterly about leaks and demanded that law enforcement officials seek criminal charges against government officials involved in illegal and sometimes embarrassing disclosures of national security secrets.

Investigators sought Ms. Watkins’s information as part of an inquiry into whether James A. Wolfe, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s former director of security, disclosed classified secrets to reporters. F.B.I. agents approached Ms. Watkins about a previous three-year romantic relationship she had with Mr. Wolfe, saying they were investigating unauthorized leaks. The two are shown above in file photos.

News media advocates consider the idea of mining a journalist’s records for sources to be an intrusion on First Amendment freedoms, and prosecutors acknowledge it is one of the most delicate steps the Justice Department can take. “Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and communications between journalists and their sources demand protection,” said Eileen Murphy, a Times spokeswoman.

washington post logoWashington Post, Young reporter in leak investigation enjoyed meteoric rise in Washington journalism, Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi, June 8, 2018. The first known leak investigation of the Trump administration has put under scrutiny a 20-something New York Times reporter, who enjoyed a meteoric rise through Washington’s journalism ranks that began while she was still in college.

james wolfe cspanTimes reporter Ali Watkins hasn’t been charged in the Justice Department’s investigation of the leak of classified information from the Senate Intelligence Committee. But the revelation late Thursday that the FBI had secretly seized years’ worth of Watkins’ phone and email records, dating back to when she was a student at Temple University, raised questions about her relationship with the man at the center of the investigation.

Watkins’ romantic involvement with former intelligence committee aide James A. Wolfe (shown during a C-SPAN appearance) — who was indicted on Thursday — focused attention on her reporting for such news organizations as McClatchy’s Washington bureau, BuzzFeed and Politico.

June 7

Mondoweiss, Opinion: 'Israel has no choice’ — ‘NY Times’ columnists largely line up behind Gaza massacre, Philip Weiss, June 7, 2018. From the beginnings of the massacre in Gaza we have insisted that Israel’s actions have changed American opinion, and alienated people who were once supportive of Israel. “A frankly unconscionable use of force,” Chris Hayes said, while David Rothkopf called the slaughter the anti-Passover: “A supposedly Jewish state violating the most basic concepts of the religion in order to defend its ‘right to exist.’”

Now Eric Alterman in The Nation bluntly states that Israel used to be “a source of pride and admiration” for liberal Jews, but “today brings only shame and sadness.” The longtime liberal Zionist acknowledges the weight of this moment. The killings are “appalling,” Alterman says; and together with Israel’s 70th anniversary and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem give “every indication of being a turning point.”

His piece is important because he points out that Israel’s defenders are hard at work: “the punditocracy remains filled with those who do not merely excuse Israel’s use of excessive force but actively praise it.”

ny times logoThis is particularly true of the New York Times op-ed page, which, aside from Michelle Goldberg’s laments for the fate of liberal Zionism, is dominated by apologists for the Netanyahu government.

Tough Tom Friedman of course is also a defender of Israel’s actions. He wrote: “I get why Israel has no choice but to defend its border with Gaza with brute force.” Friedman says Palestinian refugees need to move on.

Why should they pay with their ancestral homes for Jewish refugees who lost theirs in Germany or Iraq? The only answer is that history is full of such injustices and of refugees who have reconciled with them and moved on — not passed on their refugee status to their kids and their kids’ kids. It’s why so few Arabs, so few Europeans, so few anybody, rose to Hamas’s defense. People are fed up with it.

I may be missing some opinions, but I’m surprised. I thought Times opinion writers would seek to reflect this moment in some of its horror. But no, at a time of moral reckoning, the stable of New York Times has been strongly on Israel’s side, excepting Goldberg. That’s what you get when you hire only pro-Israel columnists, several with an ideological commitment to Zionism. Many readers are turning the page.

June 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Are the Death Tolls in Puerto Rico From Hurricane Maria So Different? Sheri Fink, June 2, 2018. Widely different estimates of Hurricane Maria’s death toll in Puerto Rico have led to confusion. Here is a guide to the tallies, what accounts for their differences and how a new study aims to provide a more definitive account:

What is The New York Times’s estimate? In December, The New York Times analyzed vital statistics from the Puerto Rican government that showed that in the 42 days after Hurricane Maria made landfall on Sept. 20, 2017, 1,052 more people than usual died in Puerto Rico.

That figure was particularly striking because thousands of people had left the island, including many with chronic medical conditions. Based on the likelihood that the population there was smaller in the fall of 2017, we would have expected the number of deaths per day to decrease, not increase.

May

National Press Club, National Press Club unveils plan for media summit after reporter roughed up at EPA meeting, Kathy Kiely, May 22, 2018. The National Press Club and its Journalism Institute are renewing a call for dialogue between newsmakers and the news media following another incident in which officials of President Donald Trump’s administration manhandled a reporter in a public building.

epa general logoHours after one of its reporters was blocked from covering a summit on water contamination, along with representatives of several other news organizations, the Associated Press reported receiving an apology Tuesday from the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the AP's account, guards had barred the wire service's reporter from passing through a security checkpoint, and when the reporter asked to speak with EPA public affairs personnel, shoved her out of the building.

EPA officials insisted in public statements, including emails to the Press Club, that they were merely trying to manage an overcrowded room. But the Press Club expressed concern about the decision to limit coverage at an event featuring EPA chief Scott Pruitt to 10 invited reporters and questioned the way that limit was enforced.

"Pushing reporters around is what happens in dictatorships, not in a democracy where the press's right to represent the public is enshrined in the Constitution," said Andrea Snyder Edney, president of the National Press Club. "And why were reporters being kept out of a meeting of major news significance at which a senior official was speaking on the public record? This is unacceptable."

This is not the first time since the Trump administration came to office that reporters have been manhandled by security guards while trying to do their jobs. Last May, the Press Club protested when one of its members, CQ Roll Call reporter John Donnelly, was forcibly prevented from questioning members of the Federal Communications Commission and then kicked out of FCC headquarters.

"It should go without saying that the press must be able to cover public events convened by a taxpayer-funded government agency--but apparently it needs to be said these days," said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the club's not-for-profit arm. "It is bad enough to bar the press in this way, but to use force to enforce such a misguided dictate just compounds the mistake."

In response to earlier outbreaks of hostility towards the press, including the international headlines that erupted when a reporter was attacked by a congressional candidate, the Press Club's Journalism Institute last summer hosted "Can We Talk," a conversation between members of the press and leaders of the institutions they cover about how to lower the temperature.

Funding has since been secured for an expanded version of this event that will feature more in-depth, intimate conversations among invited participants. Plans will be underway this summer for a fall summit.

April

April 30

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake news’ might have saved Trump from an awkward confrontation over his vulgar remark about African countries, Callum Borchers, April 30, 2018. Just a few months ago, President Trump grew frustrated during a meeting in the Oval Office about protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries and asked, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

muhammadu buhari suitThe African Union condemned the remark at the time. On Monday, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari became the first of its members to visit the Trump White House.

“Did you address his reported comments from earlier this year, when he reportedly used vulgar language to describe African nations?” Jordan Fabian of the Hill asked Buhari (shown in a file photo) during a joint news conference.

Buhari's response showcased one possible effect of Trump's “fake news” refrain.

“Well,” Buhari began, “I’m very careful with what the press says about others than myself. I’m not sure about, you know, the validity or whether that allegation against the president was true or not. So the best thing for me is to keep quiet.”

If he truly doubts that Trump made the statement, partly in reference to African countries, then Buhari may be one of the few. Even the White House initially did not dispute The Washington Post’s report on the comment in January.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kelly denies calling Trump an ‘idiot,’ says news report is ‘pathetic attempt to smear people,’ Josh Dawsey, April 30, 2018. White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Monday denied he said President Trump is an “idiot,” calling an NBC News story that said he had done so “total BS.”

Kelly’s statement came about 45 minutes after NBC News published a report that described a number of fights between Trump and his embattled chief of staff. The outlet reported that Kelly often tells senior aides that they have to save the president from himself and his impulses — and that Trump does not understand policy.

ap logoAssociated Press via WJLA TV, Koch Foundation donations linked to hiring, firing of professors at George Mason Univ., Matthew Barakat, April 30, 2018. Newly released documents show Virginia's largest public university granted the conservative Charles Koch Foundation a say in the hiring and firing of professors in exchange for millions of dollars in donations. The documents' release follows years of denials from George Mason University that the donations inhibit academic freedom.

antonin scalia cropped group portraitThe documents were released to a former student under a Freedom of Information Act request after a judge scrutinized Mason's denial of similar requests at a trial last week. University President Angel Cabrera wrote a note to faculty Friday saying the agreements fall short of his standards for academic independence. The foundation said the agreements are "old and inactive."

The school's relationship with the foundation has received increased scrutiny since 2016 when Mason renamed its law school for conservative jurist Antonin Scalia. [Scalia, shown at right, died on a junket to a luxery ranch in Texas at an outing with a secret society that included a patron for his trip.]

April 29

The Atlantic, The Era of Fake Video Begins, Franklin Foer, April 29, 2018 (May 2018 issue). The digital manipulation of video may make the current era of “fake news” seem quaint.

In a dank corner of the internet, it is possible to find actresses from Game of Thrones or Harry Potter engaged in all manner of sex acts. Or at least to the world the carnal figures look like those actresses, and the faces in the videos are indeed their own. Everything south of the neck, however, belongs to different women. An artificial intelligence has almost seamlessly stitched the familiar visages into pornographic scenes, one face swapped for another. The genre is one of the cruelest, most invasive forms of identity theft invented in the internet era. At the core of the cruelty is the acuity of the technology: A casual observer can’t easily detect the hoax.

Fabricated videos will create new and understandable suspicions about everything we watch. Politicians and publicists will exploit those doubts. When captured in a moment of wrongdoing, a culprit will simply declare the visual evidence a malicious concoction. The president, reportedly, has already pioneered this tactic: Even though he initially conceded the authenticity of the Access Hollywood video, he now privately casts doubt on whether the voice on the tape is his own.

Palmer Report, National Enquirer throws Michael Cohen under the bus, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. Ever since Donald Trump’s foray into politics began, the National Enquirer has consistently tried to steer public opinion in Trump’s direction. The tabloid rag has used its front page to push phony stories about Trump’s opponents, while playing up Trump to be some kind of hero. We’ve since learned that the Enquirer was also exclusively buying up the stories of Trump’s mistresses and accusers, in order to bury those stories. Now things have taken a major turn.

fbi logoThe Feds are investigating Donald Trump’s longtime fixer Michael Cohen (shown at right) on a number of matters, including his role in paying off Trump’s mistresses during the election, in apparent violation of campaign finance laws. The Feds are also investigating the payouts made by the National Enquirer; if those payouts were coordinated with the Trump team during the election, then they were also illegal. Now that Cohen is facing imminent criminal charges, the Enquirer just did something notable.

Guess who is now being attacked on the front page of the National Enquirer. It’s not Stormy Daniels. It’s not her attorney Michael Avenatti. It’s not even Hillary Clinton or any of Trump’s other usual favorite targets. Instead the Enquirer is attacking Michael Cohen. Its headline proclaims “Payoffs & Threats Exposed: Trump’s Fixer’s Secrets & Lies!” In other words, they’re throwing Cohen under the bus. At the bottom of their front page they’re falsely claiming Trump passed a polygraph test “proving no Russia collusion,” so they’re not really throwing Trump under the bus, just Cohen.

Controversial Comedian At Press Dinner: Just Deserts?

washington post logoWashington Post, The harshest jokes from Michelle Wolf’s correspondents’ dinner speech, Abby Ohlheiser and Emily Yahr, April 29, 2018. “Should have done more research before you got me to do this,” comedian Michelle Wolf told the audience, right after telling a joke about whether the famous “p—- hat” from the Women’s March was anatomically accurate.

Wolf’s speech at the White House correspondents’ dinner didn’t seem to win over the room of some of Washington’s best-known journalists, politicians and a slightly less celebrity-filled roster of guests. Online, the reaction was — surprise — divided. Some said that losing the love of a room of D.C. elites was proof that Wolf was hitting on something true.

Daily Kos, Opinion: Rob Reiner lights up Twitter with dead-on tweet about Michelle Wolf, Trump and the WHCD, Leslie Salzillo, April 29, 2018. Filmmaker, actor, producer, and staunch liberal activist Rob Reiner attended the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner (WHCD) in Washington DC on Saturday night. Early Sunday morning, like many, Reiner took to Twitter to comment on Michelle Wolf’s live roast of the Republican Party. Here’s the tweet.

michelle wolf c spanReiner Text: “I attended the WHCD last night. Donald Trump has so poisoned the atmosphere by attacking the disabled, gold star parents, Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, women, the press, the rule of law that a comedian who simply tells the truth is offensive? She’s joking. He’s not.”

Below is the YouTube video (via C-SPAN) of the referenced remarks by comedian Michelle Wolf (shown at left) at the 2018 White House Correspondents Dinner. Whether one likes Wolf or not, if the majority of the media had a fraction of the courage she showed on Saturday night, Trump would probably not be in office. To see the full video transcript, read below the fold.

Daily Beast, Opinion: Comedians Defend WHCD Speech: ‘F*ck the Niceties, Michelle Wolf Was Brilliant,’ Matt Wilstein, April 29, 2018. After journalists criticized the comedian for supposedly attacking Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks, Michelle Wolf’s comedian friends came to her defense.

That didn’t take long. Comedian Michelle Wolf had barely left the podium at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night when the backlash began. CNN’s chyron instantly called her routine “controversial” and journalists like The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman were applauding White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for not walking out of the room when Wolf supposedly joked about her “physical appearance.”

But while the criticism of Wolf’s admittedly risky performance persisted, comedians—including her former Late Night boss Seth Meyers—were quick to come to her defense Sunday morning. And many focused on the fact that Sanders and others in the Trump White House have no leg to stand on when it comes to playing the victim.

Judd Apatow: "This is the moment when people are supposed to call out the madness, cruelty and corruption. Fuck the niceities. @michelleisawolf was brilliant and all her targets deserved it. We have a racist lying President and politicians who support him. No time to soft sell anything."

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: For the sake of journalism, stop the annual schmoozefest, Margaret Sullivan, April 29, 2018. It never has been a particularly good idea for journalists to don their fanciest clothes and cozy up to the people they cover, alongside Hollywood celebrities who have ventured to wonky Washington to join the fun. But in the current era, it’s become close to suicidal for the press’s credibility.

Palmer Report, Opinion: The mainstream media’s effort to silence Michelle Wolf, Bill Palmer, April 29, 2018. If you didn’t watch the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night, and you’ve merely heard about it from the media, you’d think comedian Michelle Wolf had spent the entirety of her speech trashing Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ physical appearance. The media has spent all day debating whether those attacks were appropriate. Here’s the thing: that’s not even what really happened.

Michelle Wolf opened with one quip about how Sarah Huckabee Sanders reminded her of a certain character from the Handmaid’s Tale. There has been debate as to whether Wolf was making this comparison due to the character’s physical appearance or disturbing behavior. Somewhere in there Wolf also complimented Huckabee Sanders on how she does her makeup. There has been debate as to whether it was a genuine or sarcastic compliment. You can have whatever opinion you want about that. But none of it was at the center of Wolf’s remarks about Huckabee Sanders.

If you actually watched the dinner, you know that Michelle Wolf used the vast majority of her remarks about Sarah Huckabee Sanders to address her constant lies during the White House press briefings. In fact Wolf used the word “lies” three times in the span of a minute and a half. When a public figure is accusing the White House Press Secretary of being a constant liar, it’s a big deal. Yet the mainstream media is largely acting as if this didn’t happen. Similarly, after Wolf did an entire riff on how Donald Trump is financially broke, the media largely ignored this as well.

It’s as if the mainstream media went out of its way to create the false narrative that Michelle Wolf spent the whole time riffing on Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ looks, so it could bury the fact that Wolf called out Huckabee Sanders for lying, and called out Donald Trump for being broke. These are two topics the media has largely been afraid to touch on in general – perhaps because they’re afraid of losing their access to those White House press briefings. The real scandal here is that the media is trying to effectively silence Michelle Wolf by drowning out what she actually said by putting other words in her mouth instead.

UK Media Clam Up On Poisoning Claims

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub Moon of Alabama, The Silence Of The Skripals; Government Blocks Press Reports; Media Change The Record, B, April 28, 2018. There has been no recent reporting on the Skripal case in which a British-Russian double agent and his daughter were poisoned in Salisbury, England. There even seem to be attempts to change the public record of the case.

The British government alleged that the Skripals (shown in a restaurant after their alleged poisoning but before onset of symptoms) were poisoned by Novichok, a deadly nerve agent, and blamed Russia for it.

There are stiill many open questions to ask but the British media, otherwise not afraid of 'door stepping,' are curiously uninterested. We already noted in early April that the British press was throwing Novi-Fog™ onto the public. It was repeating outrageous and illogical claims from "security services" but did no genuine reporting on the Skripal case.

Now the former British ambassador Craig Murray quotes Clive Ponting, another former senior civil servant, who suspects that the British government issued a D-Notice. Such a notice forbids British media to report on an issue. Murray also points to a tweet by Channel 4 correspondent Alex Thomson from March 12 in which Thomsen mentions a D-Notice specifically related to Mr. Skripal's MI6 handler:

The D-Notice attempt Thomsen mentioned was too late as some media had already reported the name of the Skripal's MI6 handler. We spelled it out on March 8.

craig murray newCraigMurry.org, Opinion: Probable Western Responsibility for Skripal Poisoning, Craig Murray (Historian, Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist, shown at right), April 28, 2018. Stupidly I had forgotten this vital confirmation from Channel 4 News (serial rebel Alex Thomson) of the D Notice in place on mention of Pablo Miller. Back then I did not realise what I now know, that the person being protected was Pablo Miller, colleague in both MI6 then Orbis Intelligence of Christopher Steele, author of the fabrications of the Trump/Russia golden shower dossier.

That the government’s very first act on the poisoning was to ban all media mention of Pablo Miller makes it extremely probable that this whole incident is related to the Trump dossier and that Skripal had worked on it, as I immediately suspected. The most probable cause is that Skripal – who you should remember had traded the names of Russian agents to Britain for cash – had worked on the dossier with Miller but was threatening to expose its lies for cash.

ORIGINAL POST: This comment from Clive Ponting, doyen of British whistleblowers, appeared on my website and he has now given me permission to republish it under his full name:

I have been reading the blogs for some time but this is my first post. Like Craig I was a senior civil servant but in the ministry of defence not the fco. I had plenty of dealings with all three intelligence agencies. It seems to me that the reason none of the MSM are doing any investigating/reporting of the Salisbury affair, apart from official handouts, is that the government have slapped a D-Notice over the whole incident and it is not possible to report that a notice has been issued.

Here is another theory as to what happened. The Russians pardoned Skripal and allowed him to leave (spy agencies have an understanding that agents will always be swapped after an interval – it’s the only protection they have and helps recruitment). In the UK Skripal would have been thoroughly debriefed by MI6 and MI5 (his ex-handler lives near Salisbury). If at some point they discovered that Skripal was giving them false information, perhaps he was told to do so by the FSB as a condition of his release, lives may have been endangered/lost. If he also was also involved in the ‘golden showers’ dossier then elements in the US would have a reason to act as well. The whole incident was an inside job not to kill him, hence the use of BZ, but to give him a warning and a punishment. The whole thing is being treated as though the authorities know exactly what went on but have to cover it up.

Addendum: I meant to add that the policeman who ‘just happened’ to be around was almost certainly the special branch ‘minder’ who was keeping Yulia under surveillance. The media are not allowed to mention the existence of a D notice.

Those of us who have been in the belly of the beast and have worked closely with the intelligence services, really do know what they and the British government are capable of. They are not “white knights.”

UK Media Continue Assault On Syria

Syria News, Opinion: Syrian MP Fares Shehabi Pummels BBC Colonialist Sackur, Miri Wood, April 28, 2018 (23:58 mins. video). Syrian MP Shreds BBC Propaganda on 'Hard Talk.'

Fares Shehabi is a Member of Parliament representing Aleppo, and the Chairman of the Syrian Federation of Industry. On 27 April, he was interviewed on BBC’s HardTalk, by rabid colonialist Stephen Sackur. [In the BBC segment here], Sackur rudely tossed every bit of anti-Syria propaganda at Fares Shehabi, citing sources proven to lie, in attempts to intimidate the Syrian politician. Fares Shehabi used his mind as a boxer uses his fists, and ko’d the obnoxious Englishman every time he uttered a lie — which was virtually every time he opened his mouth.

Sackur seemed almost dizzy that Aleppo politician Fares Shehabi — elected by 200,000 voters — by the punches of reality, on the terrorists stealing factories from Aleppo, on the takfiri killing Syrian soldiers in Khan al Asal with chemical weapons, that the Syrian Arab Army is defending the Syrian citizenry from foreign invaders, funded by Britain, by France, by the US.

April 27

djt time covers april 23 2018 tim obrien feb 27 17 Custom

Time Magazine's "Stormy" cover for its April 23 issue (currently on sale) at right contrasts with another cover by the same artist published on Feb. 27, 2017

washington post logoWashington Post, Chaos, contradiction disrupt week of triumph for Trump, Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker, April 27, 2018 (print edition). The darkening cloud hanging over some Cabinet agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency, has some GOP strategists worried.

JFK Murder Records Mysteries

jfk limo jackie clint hill

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy stretches backwards to retrieve some of President Kennedy's brain matter for potential rescue of her husband after his fatal shooting in Dallas in 1963 as Secret Service special agent Clint Hill, assigned for her special protection, boards a limo strangely left unprotected otherwise.

Miami Herald, In latest JFK files, some tantalizing nuggets — and stuff that makes you go 'huh?' Glenn Garvin, April 27, 2018. Researchers who spent Thursday slogging through 19,000 newly declassified U.S. government documents on the Kennedy assassination learned little, except that the government's ideas about what needs to be secret, and what doesn't, are cryptic and unpredictable.

Some stuff in the documents that had been open for years is now classified again, and some stuff that had been classified and is now open is so innocuous that nobody can figure out what the point was.

What was apparent from early efforts to excavate the documents was the government's standards on classification range from ephemeral to nuts. One document was a complaint from one part of the federal government to another about the slowness with which office keys were being issued.

robert blakeyAnother listed the salaries of the staff of the U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1979. If you're interested in lawyer-salary porn, the committee's chief counsel, G. Robert Blakey (shown at left in a file photo), was making just $47,500 a year at a time when young Wall Street attorneys just of law school were starting their jobs at $30,000 to $35,000.

In some cases, the documents re-redacted material that had already been declassified in previous versions. Often that seemed to reflect Trump administration sensitivities to the feelings of foreign governments.

A 1975 CIA report on the surveillance of shooter Lee Harvey Oswald during his visit to the Soviet embassy in Mexico City just a few weeks before Kennedy's death was released years ago identifying a particular photo as coming from "a Mexican police surveillance camera." In the same document, re-released Thursday, the words "Mexican police" had been covered over.

james angleton 1975 senate intelligence hearing ny times george tames customSimilarly, the transcript of an interview of former CIA counterintelligence chief James Angleton contained odd deletions. Angleton, shown at a right, talking in 1975 to a presidential commission investigating the CIA, recounted how he had persuaded Israeli intelligence to post a skilled spy in Havana who would cooperate with the short-staffed CIA station there.

That information was plainly visible in an earlier release of the transcript. But on Thursday, government censors had blocked out portions of six sentences to cover up the nationality of the Israeli spy.

Why there is still more to come?

Angleton, a professional paranoid whose job assignment was to prevent penetration of the CIA by foreign intelligence agencies, played key roles in some of the most cryptic episodes following the Kennedy assassination. He was involved to some degree in CIA surveillance of Oswald in Mexico. He is believed to have removed and destroyed some documents from the CIA station there. And he also retrieved and burned the diary of one of Kennedy's paramours, the ex-wife of a senior CIA official.

So the transcript of his interview with the presidential commission has long been one of the most sought-after of the documents scheduled for release. Parts of it have been released before, but more than half remained redacted. Yesterday it was re-released, this time including much fascinating new information — but almost none of it having anything to do with the assassination.

The new material included Angleton discussing some of the great failures of Western intelligence during the 1950s, when the upper echelons of the British spy agency MI-6 were riddled with Soviet agents. There's also a lengthy conversation between Angleton and the commission members in which he strongly implies — but never states plainly — that he suspects two New York Times reporters were working for a foreign intelligence service.

seymour hersh hsThe two, Polish-born Tad Szulc (who died in 2001) and Pulitizer-prize-winning Seymour Hersh (still based in Washington and writing for the London Review of Books), were asking questions about an operation code-named Easy Chair, a top-secret CIA attempt to plant bugs in the home of the Soviet ambassador to the Netherlands.

One of the investigators bluntly asked if Angleton believed Hersh (shown at left in a file photo) was a Soviet agent. "I am not saying that," Angleton replied. But, he added, he would like to see the CIA's files on Szulc and Hersh. You've got files on them? an investigator replied in seeming surprise. Yes, Angleton confirmed, and on other reporters, too.

"And on other Americans?" the investigator asked.

"A lot of them," Angleton assured him.

National Press Club, Anthony Scaramucci praises Trump’s political instincts, use of Twitter, Chris Teale, April 27, 2018. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci said President Donald Trump has great political instincts, and his use of Twitter is an effective way to appeal to his supporters. Scaramucci, who was fired from his position last year after 11 days, said Trump was smart to identify the disaffection of the working class and build his 2016 campaign on it.

anthony scaramucci salt conference 2016 croppedYou may not like his syntax or certain ways that he approaches things, but he's got very, very good political instincts and he's very, very intelligent,” Scaramucci (shown in a file photo) said at a press conference.

“He's just intelligent in a different way than most people, which is why he's been successful in a very unorthodox way.” Others in the administration have tried to stop Trump from using Twitter so much, but Scaramucci said it can help counter what the President sees as overly negative media reports.

More #MeToo At NBC

tom brokaw msnbc

washington post logonbc logoWashington Post, Amid allegations against Lauer and Brokaw, NBC faces doubts on harassment reforms, Sarah Ellison, April 27, 2018 (print edition).  Matt Lauer is not the only prominent anchor accused of seeking inappropriate relationships with younger women. One former NBC correspondent told The Post that legendary anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her in the 1990s.

matt lauer todayMatt Lauer (shown at left on the Today Show set) is not the only prominent anchor at NBC who allegedly sought inappropriate relationships with younger women. Linda Vester, a former NBC correspondent, told The Post that legendary anchor Tom Brokaw made unwanted advances toward her on two occasions in the 1990s, including a forcible attempt to kiss her. Vester was in her 20s and did not file a complaint.

Brokaw denied anything untoward happened with Vester. “I met with Linda Vester on two occasions, both at her request, 23 years ago, because she wanted advice with respect to her career at NBC,” he said in a statement issued by NBC. “The meetings were brief, cordial and appropriate, and despite Linda’s allegations, I made no romantic overtures towards her, at that time or any other.”

Another woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, also told The Post that Brokaw acted inappropriately toward her in the ’90s, when she was a young production assistant and he was an anchor. He said no such incident happened.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Do We Do With These Men? Katie J. M. Baker, April 27, 2018. Ms. Baker is an investigative reporter for BuzzFeed News who has covered institutional responses to sexual violence and harassment.

The bad men are plotting their comebacks. In recent days, Page Six reported that the former CBS anchor Charlie Rose, accused by employees of acts ranging from groping to walking around naked in their presence, is shopping a return to television. His new project? Interviewing other men felled by #MeToo.

Mr. Rose isn’t alone: In the past few weeks, men from Tom Ashbrook to Matt Lauer to Mario Batali to Louis C.K. have reportedly been testing the waters.

I get it. For the first time in history, it seems, an unprecedented number of powerful men are facing significant consequences for predatory behavior. For a minority — such as Bill Cosby, who was found guilty this week in the first post-#MeToo celebrity sex crimes trial — the road to justice seems obvious. But for the vast majority, it isn’t. 

That’s especially true of men who aren’t famous enough to make headlines, and whose career moves aren’t subjected to constant scrutiny. And so if we want the #MeToo movement to be about more than just which celebrity will be the next to fall, or whose comeback must be stopped — if we want it to lead to real, lasting and widespread cultural change — we need to talk. About what we do with the bad men.

False Flag Chemical Attack In Syria?

syria chemical denial hague 4 26 18 hassan diab

News conference at The Hague on alleged Syrian gas attack on Douma, with purported victim Hassan Diab third from right

RT, No attack, no victims, no chem weapons: Douma witnesses speak at OPCW briefing at The Hague (VIDEO), Staff report, April 27, 2018. Witnesses of the alleged chemical attack in Douma, including 11-year-old Hassan Diab and hospital staff, told reporters at The Hague that the White Helmets video used as a pretext for a US-led strike on Syria was, in fact, staged.

“We were at the basement and we heard people shouting that we needed to go to a hospital. We went through a tunnel. At the hospital they started pouring cold water on me,” the boy told the press conference, gathered by Russia’s mission at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.

Hassan was among the “victims” seen being washed by water hoses in a video released by the controversial White Helmets group on April 7. The boy and his family later spoke to the media and revealed that Hassan was hurried to the scene by men who claimed that a chemical attack had taken place. They started pouring cold water on the boy and others, filming the frightened children.

“There were people unknown to us who were filming the emergency care, they were filming the chaos taking place inside, and were filming people being doused with water. The instruments they used to douse them with water were originally used to clean the floors actually,” Ahmad Kashoi, an administrator of the emergency ward, recalled. “That happened for about an hour, we provided help to them and sent them home. No one has died. No one suffered from chemical exposure.”

Spy Games

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Spy University: How Intelligence Agencies Recruit Their Next Generation, Jeff Schechtman, April 27, 2018 (podcast). Higher education has evolved into a key source for obtaining military and technological intelligence. The post-9/11 efforts of the CIA and FBI, and the proliferation of international students have proven a fertile ground for nurturing future spies.

During the Cold War, our elite universities were a breeding ground for future spies. Schools like Yale and Harvard provided some of the “best and the brightest” to America’s intelligence agencies.

Today, the CIA and FBI are using college campuses once again to gain new recruits in the global war for clandestine information and technology. These government agencies, in many instances, are working with the full support and blessing of professors and often top university administrators, who rely on both government contracts and the maximum revenue that comes from over one million international students in US universities.

According to Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Daniel Golden, the efforts range from small colleges to large state universities to Ivy League institutions. In fact, Golden tells Jeff Schechtman in this week’s WhoWhatWhy podcast that Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is one of the places where spies are most actively recruited. In addition, foreign governments see US universities as an almost unlimited reservoir for obtaining intelligence and for recruiting vulnerable students who are in need of money, filled with innocence, and/or ideologically confused.

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Trump Orders Release of JFK Assassination Files — But Many Redactions Remain, Jimmy Falls, April 26, 2018. The National Archives has released 19,045 JFK files today that were previously either partially redacted or withheld from the public. But secrecy continues.The National Archives just released 19,045 JFK files. Today was the deadline for President Donald Trump to announce whether files previously either partially redacted or withheld from the public would remain hidden.

According to NARA, 15,834 of the files still contain redactions. They also claim that 520 documents remain withheld in full from the public because they are not subject to disclosure, such as documents falling under the IRS code or a sealed court order. NARA clarified that the documents with remaining redactions would have another chance for disclosure in three years:

The President has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary.

The White House also released a presidential memorandum stating the necessity for certain files to remain redacted.

roger stone headshotRoger Stone (shown in a file photo), a friend and former political consultant to the president, who also wrote a book on JFK claiming that President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, told WhoWhatWhy,

“I am pleased that the president directed the final release of 19,045 documents today and that no document has been completely withheld. I am also pleased that the president ordered another review of withheld material by Oct 26, 2021 to determine whether further withholding can be justified. I have not yet had the opportunity to review how much of the material released today has been redacted but I am mindful that the president directed that redactions must relate to persons who are still living.”

Trump Caves In To CIA On JFK Assassination Records Release

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump delays release of some JFK files until 2021, bowing to national security concerns, Ian Shapira, April 26, 2018. After President Trump vowed last year to release all the long secret files related to the JFK assassination, the administration announced Thursday that some documents will be withheld until October 2021 for national security reasons.

In a White House memo, Trump said that the nation’s intelligence community persuaded him to keep some documents secret because their exposure could harm “identifiable national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns.”

Trump gave the CIA, FBI and other agencies a deadline of April 24 to release the last remaining documents related to the investigation into President Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas. Last year Trump, who once suggested Sen. Ted Cruz’s father played a role in the assassination, promised he was going to release the entirety of the five million pages of records, most of which have been available since the late 1990s.

As of Thursday morning, it was unclear exactly how many records are being kept secret. The President did authorize the disclosure of 19,045 documents that are available on the National Archives web site.

Trump said the next deadline for release of more documents would be Oct. 26, 2021.

“The need for continued protection can only grow weaker with the passage of time from this congressional finding,” Trump wrote.

Rex Bradford, president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, which tracks the JFK files, said he wasn’t sure yet what had been withheld and needed to spend time scrutinizing the latest release of documents to see whether they contain a large or small amount of redactions. He said he did a quick “spot-check” Thursday morning and was surprised to see fewer whited-out sections than in previous releases.

“I checked a few dozen files and there were certainly many with redactions, but they tended to be names and short phrases,” Bradford said.

nara logoNational Archives and Records Administration (NARA), New Group of JFK Assassination Documents Available to the Public, Staff report, April 26, 2018. In accordance with President Trump’s direction on October 26, 2017, the National Archives today posted 19,045 documents subject to the President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992 (JFK Act). Released documents are available for download. he versions released today were processed by agencies in accordance with the President’s direction that agency heads be extremely circumspect in recommending any further postponement.

The John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection, established by the National Archives in November 1992, consists of approximately five million pages. The vast majority of the collection has been publicly available without any restrictions since the late 1990s.

As permitted by the JFK Act, agencies appealed to the President to continue postponement of certain information beyond October 26, 2017. The President provided agencies with a temporary certification until April 26, 2018 to allow for a re-review of all documents withheld in full or in part under section 5 of the JFK Act and directed agencies to “identify as much as possible that may be publicly disclosed” and to be “extremely circumspect in recommending any further postponement.”

Based on reviews conducted by agencies in accordance with the President’s direction, the National Archives released 3,539 documents on Dec. 15, 10,744 documents on Nov. 17, 13,213 documents on Nov. 9, and 676 documents on Nov. 3 of last year. The 19,045 documents released today represent the final release of documents in accordance with the President’s direction on October 26, 2017.

All documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act have been released in full or in part. No documents subject to section 5 of the JFK Act remain withheld in full. The President has determined that all information that remains withheld under section 5 must be reviewed again before October 26, 2021 to determine whether continued withholding from disclosure is necessary.

Preview: JFK Records Release Due Today

jefferson morley newJFKFacts.org, Analysis: JFK researchers doubt Trump will free the files today, Jefferson Morley (shown at right, with the cover of his biography, The Ghost, about CIA spymaster James Angleton below at left), April 26, 2018. The extreme and strange secrecy around the government’s information about the JFK assassination continues — even as the CIA insists we already know the whole truth of who killed a popular liberal president a long, long time ago.

April 25

Film / Global Politics

oliver stone portraitHollywood Reporter, Oliver Stone Compares Trump to "Beelzebub" at Iranian Film Festival, Deborah Young, April 25, 2018.  Speaking at the Fair International Film Festival in Tehran, the director also criticized French president Emmanuel Macron, Saudi Arabia's influence and the "creative destruction" of U.S. policy in the Middle East.

Oliver Stone (shown at right in a file photo) spoke out forcefully against U.S. president Donald Trump and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East on his first visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran this week, where he was the guest of the 36th Fair International Film Festival.

george w. bush wHaving once compared George W. Bush (shown at left) to John Wayne, he told a local journalist that he would have to liken Trump to "Beelzebub," a name sometimes given to the devil.

Demonstrating a solid knowledge of regional politics as well as Persian history at a press conference Wednesday in Tehran, the director drew parallels to his films like Alexander and W and lambasted the recent meeting of presidents Trump and France's Emmanuel Macron, in which they called for a revision of the Iran nuclear deal. He called Macron a “young man without much sense of history or memory of the great traditions of France” who sought a return to colonialism and imperialism, and compared him to French president Chirac, “who stood up to Bush” on the invasion of Iraq.

“National security trumps artistic freedom in every country, the U.S. as well as in the Middle East,” he said. “You can’t make a film critical of U.S. foreign policy," he said. "W was very difficult to finance. There was no interest in making Snowden, which was turned down by all the studios. I couldn’t get a dime from them.” He felt the film was ill-promoted and when it was finally released in the U.S., it came out too late.

Time and again he referred to W as his dramatization of the role of the U.S. and its allies in the Middle East, along with their goals of attaining oil, money and resources at any cost. “I love the movie, it’s a satire,” he said. He referred the war in Iraq as a proxy war and to U.S. foreign policy since 2001 as aimed at regime change, “no matter how disastrous the invasion of Iraq was.”

“We made a mess out of Iraq, Syria, Libya, but it doesn’t matter to the American public. It’s okay to wreck the Middle East,” he said, criticizing the neo-conservative policy of "creative destruction." He added: “It doesn’t matter who is president – Bush, Obama or Trump, the U.S. will break any treaty” in its interests."

Press Advocacy Group Announces 2018 National Rankings

Reporters Without Borders, Analysis: RSF Index 2018: Hatred of journalism threatens democracies, Staff report, April 25, 2018. The 2018 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), reflects growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.

The climate of hatred is steadily more visible in the Index, which evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries each year. Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st), where “media-phobia” is now so pronounced that journalists are routinely accused of terrorism and all those who don’t offer loyalty are arbitrarily imprisoned.

More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.

The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving. In the Philippines (down six at 133rd), President Rodrigo Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they “are not exempted from assassination.” In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay. In each of these countries, at least four journalists were gunned down in cold blood in the space of a year.

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”

russ baker 2017 2018 portrait Custom 2

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Advocacy/Opinion/Fund-raising: Donate To WhoWhatWhy, Russ Baker, April 25, 2018. Russ Baker, shown above in an end-of-year portrait, is founder and editor of the investigative site WhoWhatWhy. Last October, when the deadline came for President Donald Trump to release what was supposed to be the ultimate batch of long-withheld JFK assassination documents, instead of resolution we got chaos and an extension of the foot-dragging that has gone on for decades. Trump announced that spy agencies, after having had 25 years to comply, wanted yet more time to review (and censor) the files. A new deadline was set for 180 days hence.

In preparation for last year’s release, WhoWhatWhy, alone among news organizations, had assembled a team of researchers and respected experts to examine the documents, create a comprehensive list of never-before-seen details and share our findings. This reader-supported dedication allowed us to publish unique stories (see here, here, and here) on key figures suspected of involvement in the assassination and to provide historical context for the continued agency stonewalling.

Trump’s extension expires on April 26. Tomorrow we will see if the government actually follows through on its promise to give the public access to the information we have waited more than 54 years to see.

Once again, presumably alone, WhoWhatWhy will painstakingly scrutinize whatever comes out — and will share our analysis. We will also report any more shenanigans by the authorities.

April 24

CIA Spying On Martin Luther King

JFK Facts.org, The CIA is still protecting its spy who shadowed Martin Luther King, Jefferson Morley, April 24, 2018. The CIA shadowed Martin Luther King during his stay at a Miami hotel in July 1966 with the help of a spy whose identity still remains a secret a half century later. The revelation is found in a 48-page file on King, portions of which were made public late last year, along with thousands of JFK assassination files.

President Trump has ordered all federal agencies to release the rest of their JFK-related files by April 26, a directive which covers the agency’s King file as well. Trump’s order, issued last October, exempts from disclosure only “the names and addresses of any mentioned person who is still living.” So if the CIA’s spy is deceased, his or her name is supposed to be made public this week.

“Surveillance was a joint effort of IDEN A [the spy] and local ODENVY [CIA’s code name for the FBI],” according to a cable from the chief of the agency’s south Florida station. The surveillance took place in July 1966 when King and two associates stayed at a Miami airport hotel.

Facebook Names Bush Operative As Privacy Leader

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Replaces Lobbying Executive Amid Regulatory Scrutiny, Cecilia Kang, April 24, 2018. Facebook on Tuesday replaced its head of policy in the United States, Erin Egan, as the social network scrambles to respond to intense scrutiny from federal regulators and lawmakers.

facebook logoMs. Egan, who is also Facebook’s chief privacy officer, was responsible for lobbying and government relations as head of policy for the last two years. She will be replaced by Kevin Martin on an interim basis, the company said. Mr. Martin has been Facebook’s vice president of mobile and global access policy and is a former Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

Ms. Egan will remain chief privacy officer and focus on privacy policies across the globe, Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said.

Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy, said in a statement on Wednesday: “We need to focus our best people on our most important priorities. We are committed to rebuilding people’s trust in how we handle their information, and Erin is the best person to partner with our product teams on that task.”

At the same time, Facebook is grappling with increased privacy regulations outside the United States. Sweeping new privacy laws called the General Data Protection Regulation are set to take effect in Europe next month. And Facebook has been called to talk to regulators in several countries, including Ireland, Germany and Indonesia, about its handling of user data.

Mr. Zuckerberg said told Congress this month that Facebook had grown too fast and that he hadn’t foreseen the problems the platform would confront.

“Facebook is an idealistic and optimistic company,” he said. “For most of our existence, we focused on all the good that connecting people can bring.”

kevin martin wThe executive shifts put two Republican men in charge of Facebook’s Washington offices. Mr. Martin will report to Joel Kaplan, vice president of global public policy. Mr. Martin (shown at left) and Mr. Kaplan worked together in the George W. Bush White House and on Mr. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Facebook hired Ms. Egan in 2011; she is a frequent headliner at tech policy events in Washington. Before joining Facebook, she spent 15 years as a partner at the law firm Covington & Burling as co-chairwoman of the global privacy and security group.

Facebook is undergoing other executive changes. Last month, The Times reported that Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief information security officer, planned to leave the company after disagreements over how to handle misinformation on the site.

April 23

Media / Trump Probes

Palmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity’s new Trump-connected real estate scandal explained, Daniel Cotter, April 23, 2018. The Hill and The Guardian are both reporting that Sean Hannity, the recently disclosed third legal client of Michael Cohen, has ties to shell companies that have purchased numerous foreclosure homes throughout the United States. Perhaps this is the “real estate advice” that Hannity stated he received from Cohen?

sean hannity gage skidmore 3This most recent disclosure would appear to support the reasons that Hannity (shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore) did not want his name disclosed and raises questions about the use of shell companies (such as Essential Consultants LLC, which Cohen used to pay settlements in both the Broidy and Trump matters).

According to The Guardian, Hannity is connected “to a group of shell companies that spent at least $90m on more than 870 homes in seven states over the past decade. The properties range from luxurious mansions to rentals for low-income families. Hannity is the hidden owner behind some of the shell companies and his attorney did not dispute that he owns all of them.” As only Hannity can do, he sharply criticized President Barack Obama for the number of foreclosures and how it was hurting the country (never mind that the Great Recession occurred in the W years), while at the same time he was busy buying up this collection and hiding behind the shell companies.

According to The Guardian, the houses were in seven states- Alabama, Florida, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Vermont. The shell companies were all created in Georgia using variants of his children’s initials. The reporting also mentions a real estate lawyer that Hannity uses. What is unclear is what, if any, connection this latest disclosure and information has to the disclosure that Hannity was one of three legal clients of Cohen’s from 2017 to the present. (The properties were mostly acquired in 2013.) At a minimum, it leaves one wondering why Hannity would call Cohen for advice on real estate manners when he has what appears to be a competent real estate lawyer that he uses regularly. Perhaps Judge Kimba Wood will inquire more into any potential connection to the Cohen investigation.

Claims of Chemical Attacks

SouthFront, Another Field Correspondent Finds Out That Douma Chemical Attack Was ‘Staged,’ Staff report, April 23, 2018. Uli Gack, a correspondent of the German state-run Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) broadcaster has visited the Damascus countryside [Douma is lcoated near it] and has found that refugees from Douma say that the April 7 chemical attack was “staged.”

Earlier, The Independent’s Robert Fisk visited the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta, where Douma is located, and also found no evidence of the chemical attack by the Syrian military. Pearson Sharp, a reporter of One America News Network, visited the area of Douma with the same result.

A group of Russian journalists also found a boy filmed by militants in the Douma chemical attack video. The boy’s story also supports the version that the attack was staged.

April 21

sergei skripal julia skirpal pub

Yulia Skirpal and her father, former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal, at a restaurant after they were allegedly poisoned in March in the United Kingdom

Consortium News, Analysis: Another Dodgy British Dossier: the Skripal Case, Gareth Porter, April 21, 2018. In this second part of a series, Gareth Porter compares the same faulty logic employed in two purposely misleading so-called British intelligence dossiers.

yulia skirpal facebookThe British government shared what was supposedly a dossier containing sensitive intelligence to convince allies and EU member states to support its accusation of Russian culpability in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal (shown at right on her Facebook page) in Salisbury, England on March 4.

But like the infamous 2003 “dodgy dossier” prepared at the direction of Prime Minister Tony Blair to justify British involvement in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the intelligence dossier on the Salisbury poisoning turns out to have been based on politically-motivated speculation rather than actual intelligence.

April 21

Google Search Manipulation?

oenearthlogoOpEdNews, Google Continues its Attack on Alternative Media, Boosting Top-down MSM, Rob Kall, April 21, 2018.Google is leaving the roots that made it a success-- using bottom-up algorithms that based search results on the behaviors of millions of people. Google has been changing its search criteria so it favors top-down mainstream media, while hurting alternative media Under the guise of addressing the problems with "fake news," Google has used it's almost monopoly search engine position to decimate search results for bottom-up, grassroots alternative media. I don't have evidence to prove it, but I believe that this is exactly what the biggest mainstream media want-- to take out their bottom-up competition.

google logo customWhat would a Google attack on a website look like? Because Google is a search engine, an attack would deprecate the search result rank of a website. Google doesn't attack websites or people directly. They do it by modifying their algorithms. That means they change the weighting of factors that they consider in ranking a site. Google uses hundreds of different factors to assess site rank. Factors include number of links in to the site from other sites, security of the site (Https sites are favored over http sites, for example,) freshness of content, number of visitors to the site, to name a few

Imagine that a website had search results that put it at the top of the first page results. Deprecation would put it at the bottom of the first page or on the second, third or even 20th page.

I know because I've been following, for at least ten years, some of the key words for the website I founded and operate, OpEdNews.com. For many years OpEdNews was at the top of the first page search results, ranging from first to third place for the key words Progressive Opinion, Liberal Opinion and Liberal News.

Though our site traffic had not dropped by much, gradually, Google's algorithm moved us down to the bottom of the first result page and then often the front page altogether, and then off the the second page. By then our traffic was being hurt.

This past week Google confirmed that it had again tweaked its search algorithm. So I, as I've done many times, I checked out the keywords I listed above. The results were clear. Not only was OpEdNews further down in page rank, but so were many other progressive news and opinion sites. The top ranks were replaced by big mainstream media, what many in the alternative media consider to be fake liberal, fake progressive. These include New York Times and the networks, even FOX. Then there's a Linkedin page for a group-- that has two followers, and there a number of aggregators who have lists of liberal or progressive sites. Even such aggregation is top down.

This latest Google attack by algorithm is bad for all alternative media, is bad for what Antonio Lopez calls the media ecosystem. But it may also be bad for Google, which earned its almost monopoly status by smartly tapping the wisdom of the crowd. The reality is that when people tap the power of bottom-up they can sometimes achieve top-down status. After all, understanding the bottom-up aspects of people's behavior and the role in business can lead to great wealth and power.

Media / Propaganda

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: The Media War On Truthful Reporting And Legitimate Opinions -- A Documentary, b, April 21, 2018. Last week saw an extreme intensifying of the warmongers' campaign against individuals who publicly hold and defend a different view than the powers-that-be want to promote.

The campaign has a longer history but recently turned personal. It now endangers the life and livelihood of real people. In fall 2016 a smear campaign was launched against 200 websites which did not confirm to NATO propaganda.

Those working in the media are up in arms over alleged fake news and they lament the loss of paying readership. But they have only themselves to blame. They are the biggest creators of fake news and provider of government falsehood. Their attacks on critical readers and commentators are despicable.

Until two years ago, Hala Jabar was foreign correspondent in the Middle East for the Sunday Times. After fourteen years with the paper and winning six awards for her work, she was 'made redundant' for her objective reporting on Syria. She remarks on the recent media push against truth about Syria and the very personal attacks against non-conformist opinions.

April 20

More Trump Scrutiny

donald trump apprentice color nbc

Donald Trump publicity photo from The Apprentice, his iconic show promoting his ostensible wealth and power

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes, Jonathan Greenberg, April 20, 2018.  Jonathan Greenberg is an investigative journalist, author and new-media innovator. Posing as ‘John Barron,’ he claimed he owned most of his father’s real estate empire.

roger stone fox news

Palmer Report, Analysis: The real reason Roger Stone is suddenly coming out against Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, April 20, 2018. Donald Trump is having a rather strange week, even by his standards. Now Roger Stone (shown above in a file photo), the closest thing Donald Trump has to a friend, is suddenly coming out against Trump. The Stone development might be the most notable of all.

Stone has decided to publicly attack Trump for how he’s treated [Michael] Cohen over the years. Here’s what Stone just told the New York Times about Trump and Cohen: “Donald goes out of his way to treat him like garbage.” So what just changed? Based on the timing, the Cohen raid has to be what changed Stone’s stance so radically. If Stone’s loyalty to Trump up to this point has been in the hope of getting a pardon, then suffice it to say that Stone just decided that it isn’t happening.

Either Roger Stone is planning to go to trial and try to defeat whatever criminal charges are brought against him, or Stone has decided he’s going to cut a plea deal, or Stone is now so far gone that he no longer cares what happens to him and he’s just lashing out indiscriminately. Take your pick. But Stone is clearly no longer on Team Trump. He just announced it for everyone to hear.

April 19

Settlement: Playboy Model Can Tell Her Trump Story

djt Karen McDougal Donald Trump youtube

Donald Trump and Karen McDougal

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Playboy model settles with tabloid publisher, ending lawsuit over story of her alleged Trump affair, Staff report, April 19, 2018 (print edition). The National Enquirer’s parent company had bought — but never published — Karen McDougal’s story for $150,000.

April 18

ridenhour prizes 2018

The Nation Institute, Announcing the 2018 Ridenhour Prizes, Staff report, March 26, 2018. The Nation Institute, Fertel Foundation, and Stewart R. Mott Foundation are proud to announce the winners of the 2018 Ridenhour Prizes, awards given annually for the past 15 years to extraordinary individuals "who persevere in acts of truth-telling that protect the public interest, promote social justice, or illuminate a more just vision of society. "This year's winners include #MeToo founder Tarana Burke; San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto; Lauren Markham, author of The Faraway Brothers; and Joe Piscatella Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower.

These prizes memorialize the spirit of fearless truth-telling that whistleblower and investigative journalist Ron Ridenhour reflected throughout his extraordinary life and career. Ridenhour exposed the horrific My Lai massacre of the Vietnam War to the public, and today, the Ridenhour Prizes continue to honor his important legacy of speaking truth to power.

tarana burkeTarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, whose lifelong civil rights work fighting for gender equity and empowerment has led to a major social movement and raised awareness about sexual abuse in America, will receive The Ridenhour Courage Prize. "I look forward to continuing this work, anchored by the legacy of my predecessors and emboldened by tenacity of survivors worldwide," said Burke. "I am so very honored to receive the Ridenhour Prize for 2018."

carmen yulín cruz soto57Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, Mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, who spoke truth to power on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, will receive the 2018 Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling. When Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017, Yulín made frequent appearances on national and international television. She pleaded for help, criticized federal aid efforts, and accused President Donald Trump and his administration of "killing us with inefficiency."

lauren markhamLauren Markham, author of The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life, will receive the 2018 Ridenhour Book Prize. Markham brings stereotypes into sharp relief with reality by introducing readers to pieces of immigrant life in America. "I wrote this book with the understanding that the ways in which we choose to support — or not to support — our newest community members will determine the next chapter in the American story."

joe piscatella58"Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower," directed by Joe Piscatella, follows the story of Joshua Wong, one of the student leaders of Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution in 2014. Joshua, 17-years-old at the time, was arrested while protesting Beijing's attempt to joe jiscatella joshua coverencroach on the independence of "one country, two systems" in Hong Kong. "I am both proud and humbled by this award: proud, because the award recognizes the tremendous feats of Joshua Wong and his friends who have braved tear gas, police brutality, threats of being disappeared or jailed to stand up for Hong Kong against the largest government on the planet, and humbled to be carrying on the spirit of Ron Ridenhour."

U.S. Politics, Propaganda

sinclair broadcast logo customRoll Call, Sinclair TV Owner Maxed Out Donations to Gianforte, Montana GOP, Griffin Connolly, April 18, 2018. An owner of the controversial Sinclair Broadcast Group has donated more than $10,000 to Montana Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte in the last year and a half. Robert E. Smith, whose family owns the largest local television station operator in the country, gave the maximum $5,400 to Gianforte’s campaign in March, The Guardian reported.

republican elephant logoHe did the same last year, ahead of Gianforte’s 6-point special election victory over Democrat Rob Quist. The night before the special election, Gianforte attacked Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. He later pleaded guilty to assault charges and was sentenced to community service and anger management classes.

Robert E. Smith, who identified himself as ‘retired’ and worked in real estate, also donated to Trump’s campaign

syria east ghouta false gas hassan diab

SouthFront, Journalists Found Boy Filmed In White Helmets’ Douma Chemial Attack Video. He Did It For Food, Staff report, April 18, 2018. A group of syrian white helmetsRussian correspondents led by Evgeny Poddubny has found a boy filmed by the White Helmets in their video showing people “affected” by the alleged chemical attack in Douma on April 7.

According to Poddubny: "11-year-old Hassan Diab is fine; He suffered no injures from the “chemical attack” because there was no attack (at least then and there); The boy participated in the video for food (rice, dates and cookies)." The boy, father and others are shown in photos below after the Syrian government reclaimed control of Douma.

syria east ghouta false gas hassan diab after false flag

Poddubny also contacted Hassan’s father. He also said that there was no chemical attack in the town.Hassan’s story is quite similar to the case observed during the battle for Aleppo city in 2016.

A photo of Omran Daqneesh (shown below in an ambulance) became popular in the mainstream [Western] media and was widely used for propaganda purposes against Syrian forces fighting militants in the city [but the boy and his father later described the White Helmets campaign as a stunt over which they had no control].

syrian boy injured aleppo media center 2016

Omran Daqneesh: “We were very harmed because of the gunmen and how they used things to their benefit with my child,” Omran’s father told Ruptly after the city was liberated. “Thank god, he was only slightly wounded. Thank god after the army advanced and retook these areas; we are now back in our homes. The situation now is very good, thank god.” Daqneesh’s father also accused militants of using his son for propaganda purposes.

mike pompeo portraitCIA, JFK Records Deadline -- and Obstruction?

JFKFacts.org, Opinion: Is the CIA’s chief historian obstructing justice in the JFK case? Jefferson Morley (shown at right), April 18, 2018. President Trump will soon announce his decision on whether the last of the U.S. government’s JFK files will be fully released or not. April 26 will be a moment to assess what we know about JFK’s assassination that we didn’t know before, and specifically, what have we learned about the CIA’s role in the events of November 1963.

Among those vouching for the probity of the CIA in the JFK assassination story is the agency’s chief historian David Robarge.

david robarge cia cspan.320While Robarge (shown at left) has acknowledged in an open-source article that the CIA did not cooperate with the Warren Commission–and indeed deceived its members about key facts–he asserts that, in the case of the murdered president, the agency was guilty of nothing more than a “benign coverup” of embarrassing information.

Peter Dale Scott, professor at the University of California and JFK author, has a different opinion: He says Robarge himself is liable for obstructing justice in the case of the murdered president. In a 2015 article for WhoWhatWhy, Scott made a strong case that Richard Helms (shown below right on a Time Magazine cover, deputy CIA director in 1963, had perjured himself while obstructing the investigation of JFK’s death.

richard helms time coverConclusion: Some people have deduced, from the fact that CIA officials lied to the Warren Commission, that the CIA killed Kennedy. I myself do not believe that, though I do believe that some CIA individuals were involved, along with others in other agencies.

My hypothesis is not that the killing was a CIA operation, but that the plot was piggybacked on an authorized CIA covert operation that was not under secure control and may have been outsourced.

Some agency actions before the assassination, notably the protection of Oswald by suppressing the reported allegation that he had been in contact with presumed KGB officer Valeriy Kostikov, suggest to me that some members of the Counterintelligence Staff, and in particular CI Chief James Angleton, may have participated to some degree in the piggybacked plot.

At a minimum, we can say that the CIA was sufficiently involved in the facts of the assassination to have been embarrassed into covering them up. That coverup began the day JFK died, and it continues to this day.

April 17

Fox News Scandal

Politico, Fox News says Hannity has ‘our full support’ amid Cohen controversy, Cristiano Lima, April 17, 2018. Fox News said on Tuesday that the network was previously unaware of what it described as an “informal relationship” between Sean Hannity and President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, but that the host “continues to have our full support.”

sean hannity gage skidmore 3“While FOX News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” a spokesperson said in a statement, according to reports. Hannity, the top-rated prime time host at Fox News, is shown in a portrait by Gage Skidmore.

A lawyer for the president’s attorney named Hannity in court on Monday as one of Cohen’s few clients, an announcement that sent ripples across the political media landscape and raised questions about his failure to disclose his legal affiliation on air. But Hannity, one of the president’s most prominent and outspoken backers on cable television, disputed the characterization of his relationship with Cohen.

“I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees,” Hannity said in a statement on social media. “I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.”

fox news logo SmallFox News’ announcement marks the latest instance of the network’s standing by its leading primetime anchor in the face of criticism over ethical decision-making. During the 2016 campaign, Hannity was sharply criticized for appearing in a pro-Trump campaign ad, and last year became the subject of a large-scale boycott campaign after propagating conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Seth Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer.

After news broke that Hannity, who reportedly pushed Cohen’s legal team to have his identity kept confidential, was named in court, a wave of media figures and analysts blasted the host and network for not making the extent of his dealings with the attorney clear.

#MeToo Coverage Nets Pulitzers

ny times logoharvey weinsteinNew York Times, Times, New Yorker Win Pulitzers for Harassment Coverage, Michael M. Grynbaum, April 17, 2018. The Pulitzer board recognized The New York Times and The New Yorker for reporting on sexual harassment in the workplace — including the predations of the film mogul Harvey Weinstein (shown at right).

Pulitzer Prizes were awarded on Monday to the news organizations that drove two of the biggest stories of the year: the high-stakes investigation into President Trump’s relationship with Russia and the consequential reckoning about the treatment of women by powerful men.

The prize for public service, considered the most prestigious of the Pulitzers, went to The New York Times and the New Yorker magazine for their revelations of sexual harassment and abuse that had gone on, unheeded and unpunished, in the spheres of Hollywood, politics, the media and Silicon Valley.

The national reporting prize went to The Times and The Washington Post for their coverage of Mr. Trump’s possible ties to Russia — a recognition of two journalism stalwarts that exposed the hidden activities of the Trump White House while withstanding much presidential ire.

And in a surprise pick, the rapper Kendrick Lamar received the prize for music for his pointed and defiant album, “DAMN.” It was the first time that a musician outside the classical discipline or jazz had won the award since it was first handed out in 1943.

Fake News: Sandy Hook Parents Sue Radio Host Alex Jones

alex jones radio logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Sandy Hook Parents Sue Alex Jones for Defamation, Matthew Haag, April 17, 2018. k Three parents whose children were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 filed a defamation lawsuit on Tuesday against Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who has long claimed the shooting was “completely fake” and a “giant hoax” perpetrated by opponents of the Second Amendment.

Mr. Jones, the popular radio show host who also operates the conspiracy theory website Infowars, has questioned for years whether 20 children and six adults died in the school massacre in Newtown, Conn. To bolster his false claims, he often cites news reports and video clips from the hours after the shooting that turned out to be incomplete or based on wrong information.

Soon after they buried their children, many Sandy Hook parents started to come under fierce attack by conspiracy theorists who have said they are actors in an elaborate scheme to enact stricter gun control laws. The fringe theories still thrive in small forums online but have reached a far greater audience through Mr. Jones, the most vocal propagator.

The two lawsuits filed on Tuesday represent the first civil action taken by parents accusing Mr. Jones of defamation. One was filed by Leonard Pozner and his former wife, Veronique De La Rosa, and the other was filed by Neil Heslin. Their sons, Noah Pozner and Jesse Heslin, both 6, were killed at Sandy Hook.

The suits focus on comments made by Mr. Jones in the past year. In a segment on his radio show called “Sandy Hook Vampires Exposed,” which aired on April 22, 2017, Mr. Jones highlighted an interview that Ms. De La Rosa did with Anderson Cooper of CNN after the shooting. While they are standing outside a downtown Newtown building, Mr. Cooper turns his head to face her.

Corrupt Trump Appointee To Advisory Board

fcc logoThe Verge, Broadband adviser picked by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai arrested on fraud charges, Nick Statt, April 16, 2018.  Elizabeth Pierce allegedly tricked investors into pouring $250 million into a fiber optic scheme by forging revenue agreements.

ajit pai headshot customA broadband adviser selected by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai (shown at left) to run a federal advisory committee was arrested last week on claims she tricked investors into pouring money into a multimillion-dollar investment fraud scheme, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The adviser, Elizabeth Pierce, is the former chief executive of Quintillion, an Alaska-based fiber optic cable provider operating out of Anchorage. In her capacity as CEO, Pierce allegedly raised more than $250 million from two New York-based investment companies using forged contracts with other companies guaranteeing hundreds of millions of dollars in future revenue.

Pierce resigned from Quintillion in August of last year, and she stepped down from her role in Pai’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee (BDAC) the following month. 

geoffrey berman sdny“As it turned out, those sales agreements were worthless because the customers had not signed them,” US attorney Geoffrey Berman (shown at right) said in prepared remarks, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “Instead, as alleged, Pierce had forged counter-party signatures on contract after contract. As a result of Pierce’s deception, the investment companies were left with a system that is worth far less than Pierce had led them to believe.” Pierce was trying to raise money to help build out a fiber optic system that would wire Alaska with high-speed internet and better help connect it to networks in other US states. Pierce was charged with wire fraud last Thursday and faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

republican elephant logoPierce was tapped by Pai in April of last year to be the chair of the BDAC, which he formed “to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet access, or broadband, by reducing and removing regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment.” According to broadband industry news and advocacy website Stop the Cap, Pierce may have gotten on Pai’s radar by complaining about how cumbersome it was to bring internet access to parts of the country like Alaska.

In a statement issued last week, Quintillion says it began cooperating with the Department of Justice as soon as allegations against Pierce surfaced last year. “Quintillion became aware of the situation regarding the alleged actions of Ms. Pierce last year, took swift action and self-reported to the Department of Justice (DOJ). Quintillion has been cooperating fully with the authorities during this ongoing investigation,” reads the company’s press release on the charges. The company goes on to say that “the ongoing investigation has not impacted Quintillion’s operations nor the quality of its services,” and that it “continues to move aggressively to extend its network and provide world-class telecommunications to Alaska and beyond.”

Boston Marathon Bombing Defendant

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Still Gagged As Death Penalty Appeal Grinds On, James Henry, April 17, 2018. WhoWhatWhy makes its semiannual interview request with convicted Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The feds answer: Nope. As the fifth anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing comes and goes, we can’t help but wonder what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might have to say for himself — if he were allowed to speak.

For one thing, we’d like to ask him if he could fill in some details about his brother Tamerlan’s mysterious activities in the years leading up to the bombings — much of which the government continues to withhold as “classified.”

Dzhokhar Tsaraev HSDzhokhar (right) is being held at the maximum-security federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado — known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” — under extreme confinement conditions called Special Administrative Measures (SAMs). He was convicted and sentenced to death in 2015 for his role in the bombing near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Tsarnaev is appealing his federal death penalty conviction. (All death penalty convictions are automatically appealed.)

Essentially a form of solitary confinement, SAMs prevent inmates from communicating with all but a few pre-approved individuals. Tsarnaev is not even allowed to communicate with other inmates in the facility. The government justifies the imposition of SAMs by pointing to the possibility that Tsarnaev could try to secretly communicate with criminal compatriots or incite violence of one kind or another.

It’s not clear who that might be, since the government insists that Dzhokhar and his brother Tamerlan acted on their own.

sean hannity nydailynews 4 17 2018 Custom

New York Daily News front page on April 17, 2018.

Palmer Report, Analysis: Sean Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg, Bill Palmer, April 17, 2018. One week after Donald Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen saw his life shattered into little pieces in the form of an FBI raid of his office and residence, we saw Trump’s most notorious television ally Sean Hannity dragged into the Trump-Cohen criminal investigation as well. It’s led to the question of just how many of Trump’s allies and sycophants are going to end up getting taken down in Trump’s scandals. The answer: we’re just getting started.

sean hannity white houseDonald Trump likes to surround himself with people who are either already morally corrupt, or who can be corrupted. The one consistent pattern we’ve seen is that the longer an associate or underling hangs around Trump, the more that person’s moral fiber disintegrates. Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity (shown at right) were not good people before Trump took them under his wing.

But Trump steered Cohen toward some truly ugly “fixer” work that has him in serious danger of going to prison, and Trump steered Hannity from merely misrepresenting the news for ratings, to outright rigging the news out of misguided personal loyalty. They’re part of a larger pattern that we’re soon going to see on full display.

republican elephant logoWhy do these types of people end up making a mess of their own careers and lives for the sake of the greater glory of Donald Trump? That’s a question for a psychologist. But the key here is that Trump knows how to find these types, and how to manipulate them. Was Hope Hicks intending to commit obstruction of justice when she signed on to work for Trump? Probably not. But former Trump spokesman Mark Corallo testified to Robert Mueller (shown at right) that he heard Hicks promising to scuttle key evidence. If that proves true, it’ll mean that Hicks started as merely someone who was unqualified for the job, and ended as a felon. There are endless similar examples.

robert mueller full face fileThe criminal investigations into Donald Trump’s lifetime of crime are spreading so far and wide, it’s now clear that everyone involved in Trump’s crimes is going to be exposed. Some of these Trump associates will testify against him, while others will take a fall for him. But we’re now at a point where Sean Hannity of all people is smack in the middle of a federal criminal investigation into Trump’s crimes and coverups. Before long, everyone in league with Trump will be called to answer for it. Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg.

Freedom of the Press

Consortium News, Instead of a Pulitzer, He was Fired, Don North, April 17, 2018. Don North, veteran TV reporter, looks back on his days with the late Consortium News founder and editor Bob Parry, beginning in Central America during Reagan’s wars.

I first met Bob back in the early 80’s in El Salvador. We bonded immediately over our mutual revulsion for US President Ronald Reagan and his dirty wars in Central America. I was trying to film and produce documentaries and spent three months in the mountains with FMLN guerrillas trying to tell their story. Bob was with the Associated Press and later Newsweek and The Nation. But we both had the same problem — few mainstream media organizations wanted to go up against what Reagan was promoting. On a meagre budget I produced a half-hour program “Guazapa: The Face of War in El Salvador.”

It got a few showings in church basements and colleges but no network would run it and even PBS, supposedly a haven for independent journalism said, “Show us something supporting the Salvador government and we might consider it.”

Bob uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal, but instead of a Pulitzer he was fired by the AP and later Newsweek and Bloomberg. So Bob took the advice of renowned media critic A.J. Liebling: ”Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”

Campus Partisan Politics

Truthout, Turning Point USA: Well-Funded Conservative Organization Attacks, Inflames and Provokes Liberals On Campuses Across the Country, Bill Berkowitz, April 17, 2018. From Colorado State University where Turning Point USA’s founder and executive director, Charlie Kirk, told the audience that "White privilege is a myth and a lie," to Florida Atlantic University, where the organization is defending a professor, Marshall DeRosa, who has ties to the white nationalist hate group League of the South, Turning Point USA is making its presence felt on the nation’s college campuses.

The stated mission of TPUSA is to "identify, educate, train and organize students to promote the principles of fiscal responsibility, free markets and limited government." Or as Splinter’s Katherine Krueger pointed out, the organization that is aiming "to take back America’s colleges from the menace of liberalism -- is best known for the very small but deeply embarrassing spectacles its student members make on their campuses."

 

March 

March 31

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sinclair broadcasting deadspin tim burke 3 31 2018

Sinclair-owned "news" anchors parrotting the same propagand script word-for-word around the nation (Deadspin investigation)

Deadspin, How America's Largest Local TV Owner Turned Its News Anchors Into Soldiers In Trump's War On The Media, Timothy Burke, March 31, 2018 (1:28 mins. video here.) Timothy Burke is Deadspin's Video Director.

Earlier this month, CNN’s Brian Stelter broke the news that Sinclair Broadcast Group, owner or operator of nearly 200 television stations in the U.S., would be forcing its news anchors to record a promo about “the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country.” The script, which parrots Donald Trump’s oft-declarations of developments negative to his presidency as “fake news,” brought upheaval to newsrooms already dismayed with Sinclair’s consistent interference to bring right-wing propaganda to local television broadcasts.

boris ephsteyn You might remember Sinclair from its having been featured on John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight last year, or from its requiring in 2004 of affiliates to air anti-John Kerry propaganda, or perhaps because it’s your own local affiliate running inflammatory “Terrorism Alerts” or required editorials from former Trump adviser Boris Epshteyn (shown at right), he of the famed Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that failed to mention Jewish people. (Sinclair also owns Ring of Honor wrestling, Tennis magazine, and the Tennis Channel.)

abc news logocbs news logoThe net result of the company’s current mandate is dozens upon dozens of local news anchors looking like hostages in proof-of-life videos, trying their hardest to spit out words attacking the industry they’d chosen as a life vocation. [They appear on stations with network affiliations such as ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, thus hiding from viewers the centralized control of news management.]

fcc logofox news logo Smallnbc news logoNot that any of it matters to Sinclair, which, with the help of a friendly federal government, is about to swallow up another 40 television stations — increasing its reach and its lead over competitors like Hearst and Scripps.

The script, as transcribed by ThinkProgress based on the KOMO (Seattle) version, reads:

Hi, I’m(A) ____________, and I’m (B) _________________…

(B) Our greatest responsibility is to serve our Northwest communities. We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that KOMO News produces.

(A) But we’re concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one sided news stories plaguing our country. The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media.

(B) More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories… stories that just aren’t true, without checking facts first.

(A) Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think’…This is extremely dangerous to a democracy.

(B) At KOMO it’s our responsibility to pursue and report the truth. We understand Truth is neither politically ‘left nor right.’ Our commitment to factual reporting is the foundation of our credibility, now more than ever.

(A) But we are human and sometimes our reporting might fall short. If you believe our coverage is unfair please reach out to us by going to KOMOnews.com and clicking on CONTENT CONCERNS. We value your comments. We will respond back to you.

(B) We work very hard to seek the truth and strive to be fair, balanced and factual… We consider it our honor, our privilege to responsibly deliver the news every day.

(A) Thank you for watching and we appreciate your feedback.

For a list of stations owned or operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, check here: "Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest owner of television stations in the United States, currently owning or operating a total of 173 stations across the country (233 after all currently proposed sales are approved) in nearly 80 markets, ranging from markets as large as Washington, D.C. to as small as Steubenville, Ohio."

March 30

martin luther king injustice quote

washington post logoWashington Post, Who killed Martin Luther King Jr.? His family believes James Earl Ray was framed, Tom Jackman, March 30, 2018. In the five decades since Martin Luther King Jr. was shot dead by an assassin at age 39, his children have worked tirelessly to preserve his legacy, sometimes with sharply different views on how best to do that. But they are unanimous on one key point: James Earl Ray did not kill Martin Luther King.

For the King family and others in the civil rights movement, the FBI’s obsession with King in the years leading up to his slaying in Memphis on April 4, 1968 — pervasive surveillance, a malicious disinformation campaign and open denunciations by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover — laid the groundwork for their belief that he was the target of a plot.

“It pains my heart,” said Bernice King, 55, the youngest of Martin Luther King’s four children and the executive director of the King Center in Atlanta, “that James Earl Ray had to spend his life in prison paying for things he didn’t do.”

Until her own death in 2006, Coretta Scott King, who endured the FBI’s campaign to discredit her husband, was open in her belief that a conspiracy led to the assassination. Her family filed a civil suit in 1999 to force more information into the public eye, and a Memphis jury ruled that the local, state and federal governments were liable for King’s death. The full transcript of the trial remains posted on the King Center’s website.

“There is abundant evidence,” Coretta King said after the verdict, “of a major, high-level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband.” The jury found the mafia and various government agencies “were deeply involved in the assassination. … Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame.”

But nothing changed afterward. No vast sums of money were awarded (the Kings sought only $100), and Ray was not exonerated.

King’s two other surviving children, Dexter, 57, and Martin III, 60, fully agree that Ray was innocent. And their view of the case is shared by other respected black leaders.

john lewis official“I think there was a major conspiracy to remove Dr. King from the American scene,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a 78-year-old civil rights icon (shown at left). “I don’t know what happened, but the truth of what happened to Dr. King should be made available for history’s sake.”

Andrew Young, the former U.N. ambassador and Atlanta mayor who was at the Lorraine Motel with King when he was shot there, agrees. “I would not accept the fact that James Earl Ray pulled the trigger, and that’s all that matters,” said Young, who noted that King’s death came after the killings of John F. Kennedy and Malcolm X and just months before the slaying of Robert F. Kennedy.

william pepper plot to kill 2016Astride all this controversy for the last 40 years has been William Pepper, a New York lawyer and civil rights activist who knew and worked with King. Pepper first visited Ray in prison in 1978 along with Ralph Abernathy, one of King’s closest associates. Pepper became convinced of Ray’s innocence and continued to investigate the case even after Ray died.

Pepper wrote three books outlining the conspiracy, most recently The Plot to Kill King in 2016, which were largely ignored by the media.

He defended Ray in a mock trial on HBO in 1993 (Ray was found not guilty), and filed and tried the Memphis civil suit that found the government liable for King’s death.

Trump Media Scandal?

djt david pecker

President Trump and his friend and defender, David  Pecker, publisher of the National Enquirer and affiliated media

ny times logoNew York Times, Tabloid Mogul Used Trump’s Friendship to Court Saudis, Jim Rutenberg, Kate Kelly, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Mike McIntire, March 30, 2018 (print edition). A White House dinner helped David J. Pecker, whose company owns The National Enquirer, showcase his connections as he sought Saudi cash to buy Time magazine. It is a previously untold chapter in the long, symbiotic relationship between President Trump and the tabloid publisher.

huff post logoHuffPost, Parkland Survivor Criticizes Laura Ingraham For Only Apologizing After Advertisers Fled, Marina Fang, March 30, 2018. The list of advertisers pulling ads from the Fox News host’s program continues to grow. Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg on Friday pilloried Fox News host Laura Ingraham, declining to accept her apology after she mocked him for getting rejected from several colleges ― one of several right-wing attacks against the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

david hogg rally“She’s only apologizing after a third of her advertisers pulled out, and I think it’s really disgusting, the fact that she basically tried promoting her show after apologizing to me,” Hogg, 17, said on CNN’s “New Day.” “If she really wants to do something, she could cover inner-city violence and the real issues that we have in America.”

On Wednesday night, Hogg (shown in a file photo from a Florida rally) called on his Twitter followers to pressure advertisers to cut ties with Ingraham’s TV and radio shows. By Friday evening, at least 14 companies had announced they were pulling their ads or had otherwise sought to distance themselves from Ingraham:

•Nutrish; •TripAdvisor; •Wayfair; •Expedia; •Nestlé; •Johnson & Johnson; •Stitch Fix; •Hulu; •Jos. A. Bank; •Office Depot; •Jenny Craig; •Miracle-Ear; •Liberty Mutual; •Principal;

Some of the companies did not specify whether their decision was directly tied to Ingraham’s comments. But a number of them did criticize the host’s remarks.

“As a company, we support open dialogue and debate on issues,” a spokeswoman for the home goods retailer Wayfair said. “However, the decision of an adult to personally criticize a high school student who has lost his classmates in an unspeakable tragedy is not consistent with our values.”

washington post logofox news logo SmallWashington Post, Fox News host Ingraham’s rapid apology shows the power of Parkland survivors, Amy B Wang, Allyson Chiu and Tracy Jan, March 30, 2018 (print edition). Several companies said they would pull their advertising from Laura Ingraham’s show after the host taunted Marjory Stoneman Douglas senior David Hogg about his college applications being rejected.

donald trump ny daily pussy

Then and Now: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump's claimed fight (below) against sexual assaults

The Hill, Trump declares April sexual assault prevention month, Josh Delk, March 30, 2018. President Trump on Friday issued an official proclamation observing April as National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. In a statement, Trump encouraged the nation to "remain steadfast" in working to prevent sexual crimes and reaffirmed his administration's commitment to empowering individuals to speak out in their communities and workplaces against perpetrators.

"Sexual assault crimes remain tragically common in our society, and offenders too often evade accountability. These heinous crimes are committed indiscriminately: in intimate relationships, in public spaces, and in the workplace," Trump said.

The longstanding observation of the month, which often sees outreach by public health organizations and community crisis centers nationwide, comes this year following a wave of newly-empowered women leveling allegations of sexual misconduct and assault against high-profile men in media, entertainment and politics in recent months.

The proclamation also hits home for the Trump administration, which was embroiled in controversy earlier this year over allegations of past domestic abuse against former White House staff secretary Rob Porter from his two ex-wives.

The president himself has also faced accusations of misconduct by multiple women dating back to his days as a real estate mogul and reality television star, and has faced controversy for making lewd comments about his relationships with women in the past.

'Fake News' Fight Treatens Cyber-Censorship

facebook logoRT, Facebook teams up with ‘third-party fact checkers,’ and guess who they are?, Staff report, March 30, 2018. Facebook has announced that it will step up its efforts to filter “fake news” from its platform. The company will partner with “third-party fact checkers,” including AP (Associated Press) and AFP (Agence France-Press), to verify news, photos, and videos.

The company’s fact-checking measures come as part of an overall strategy aimed at stopping the spread of content that could influence elections. This content was spread by foreign actors to “divide Americans, and to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt” in the 2016 election, claimed Guy Rosen, Facebook VP of content management.

“We’re trying to develop a systematic and comprehensive approach to tackle these challenges, and then to map that approach to the needs of each country or election,” said Alex Stamos, Facebook’s chief security officer.

Whereas Facebook previously waited for reports from users before reviewing content, it will now play the role of policeman and use machine-learning technology to proactively filter out content it deems harmful to election integrity. This approach was first rolled out last year at the time of the Alabama special Senate race between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore. Facebook now hopes to take this approach in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections.

In addition, the company announced yesterday that its army of fact checkers will be drawn from the Associated Press, AFP, and other organizations that follow Poynter’s “fact checking.”

During the 2016 election campaign, these fact-checking mercenaries could only review articles that were flagged by Facebook users. As of yesterday, they have been given authority to seek out and flag content they deem “suspicious.”

“To reduce latency in advance of elections, we wanted to ensure we gave fact checkers that ability,” said Facebook’s News Feed Product Manager Tessa Lyons. This content includes not just news articles and blog posts, but photos and videos as well. Photos and videos, Facebook argues, can influence discourse without needing to be clicked. This was seen recently, as a doctored image that showed Parkland shooting survivor and activist Emma Gonzalez ripping up the constitution did the rounds on social media.

ny times logoNew York Times, Hicks Is Gone, and It’s Not Clear Who Can Replace Her, Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman, March 30, 2018 (print edition).  Thursday was the last day at the White House for Hope Hicks, who followed an unlikely career path to become a presidential confidante.

Whistleblower News

national whistleblower center logoNational Whistleblower Center, Whistleblowers’ reward approved for criminal sanctions issued against international financial institution for assisting U.S. citizens in evading taxes, Staff report, March 30, 2018. The law firms of Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav, PC (ZMF); Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto (KKC) and Robert Amsel, Esq. announced today a key victory for tax whistleblowers with the filing of a joint stipulation for dismissal of the government’s appeal in the cases of Whistleblower 21276-13W and 21277-13W v. CIR, Case Nos. 17-1119 and 1120 (D.C. Cir.).

The case was scheduled for oral argument on April 9, 2018 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. It had pitted the U.S. Department of Justice and IRS against two whistleblowers whose information has led to $54.131 million in criminal penalties and civil forfeitures awarded against a major Swiss bank. The DOJ and IRS were arguing that the tax whistleblower law did not apply to criminal tax cases that resulted in payments of fines and civil forfeitures.

The dismissal of the government’s appeals keeps in place the whistleblower’s win in the Tax Court decision of Whistleblower 21276-13W and 21277-13W v. CIR 147, TC 4 (2016) providing for a broad definition of “collected proceeds” – the basis for whistleblower awards in tax cases. The whistleblowers had previously received an award of $4,474,000 based on the government’s collection from the Swiss bank of $20 million in restitution paid directly to the IRS for back taxes. But the IRS refused to pay an award on the additional $54.131 million collected from the bank.

Based on the DOJ and IRS’s withdrawal of the appeal the whistleblowers will receive an additional award of approximately $12.9 million, as had been previously ordered by the Tax Court.

The appeal of this Tax Court victory for whistleblowers to the D.C. Circuit was being closely watched by whistleblowers and the tax community. Amicus briefs in support of the whistleblowers had been filed by former DOJ tax prosecutors who warned that limiting tax whistleblower rewards could have a crippling impact on criminal tax cases. Senator Charles Grassley, the sponsor of the original tax whistleblower law, also filed an amicus brief in support of the whistleblowers.

RT, Opinion: RT silenced in Washington DC, proving FARA crackdown not just formality, Staff report, March 30, 2018. RT programming was removed from its two broadcast frequencies in the DC area. The move proves that claims made by the US government that the channel’s registration as a foreign agent would not affect its work were false.

Audiences in the Washington, DC area are no longer able to tune in to RT's regular air broadcasts. Part of the reason is that MHz Networks, a Virginia-based not-for-profit distributor of international entertainment and news programming, decided to auction their licenses to frequencies previously used to broadcast RT, along with a dozen other outlets. The development was reported by Bloomberg on Thursday, which said that the change will take place on April 1. The auction of licenses happened in March 2017.

RT can now reveal that the channel was in fact dropped by its two signal broadcasters in the area, WNVT and WNVC, on February 2, 2018. This fact was later independently confirmed by MHz Networks through the Associated Press.

Anna Belkina, RT’s chief of communications, said that although the channel is not “at liberty to disclose the details, we know that this decision was linked to RT's forced registration as a 'foreign agent' in the US.” The US Department of Justice forced RT America to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) in 2017.

Frederick Thomas, the founder and president of MHZ Networks, told Bloomberg that the company did indeed contact the DoJ after it targeted Reston Translator LLC, the company producing content for RT America, as part of its FARA crackdown on Russian media reporting for US audiences. But he denied the decision to get rid of the broadcast frequencies, which affected RT’s presence in Washington, DC, had anything to do with it. “It has more to do with the spectrum auction,” he said.

March 29

washington post logoamazon logo smallWashington Post, Trump lashes out again at Amazon in morning tweet, Abha Bhattarai​, March 29, 2018. President Trump said he has long had concerns about the online retail giant’s business practices. But some of his claims about Amazon have not always been based on complete information. President Trump once again lashed out at Amazon.com, the online retailing giant, on Thursday morning, saying he has long had concerns about the company’s business practices.

I have stated my concerns with Amazon long before the Election. Unlike others, they pay little or no taxes to state & local governments, use our Postal System as their Delivery Boy (causing tremendous loss to the U.S.), and are putting many thousands of retailers out of business!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 29, 2018

Trump has periodically criticized Amazon before and since becoming president. Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.

Trump’s latest critique comes after Amazon’s stock took a hit Wednesday following the publication of a report in Axios that Trump was “obsessed” with the retail giant, according to a person interviewed by the publication. Shares fell more than 4 percent on Wednesday, and continued their tumble Thursday, falling more than 3.8 percent in morning trading.

Some of Trump’s claims about Amazon have not been based on complete information. Amazon, for example, does collect taxes on products it sells to customers in the 45 states with a sales tax. Items sold by third-party vendors, however, may have different arrangements. The company has also said it supports legislation that would require other online retailers to pay state and local sales taxes.

Trump’s use of social media to call out individual people and companies has been unprecedented for a president. His other Twitter targets have included Apple, Boeing and General Motors, as well as media outlets including The Washington Post, the New York Times and CNN.

Fox Host Ingraham Incurs Boycott

washington post logoWashington Post, You’re a mother’: Laura Ingraham faces boycott for taunting Parkland teen over college rejections, Amy B Wang and Allyson Chiu, laura ingraham gage skidmore CustomMarch 29, 2018. Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg is calling for advertisers to boycott Laura Ingraham’s show after the Fox News host taunted the high school senior over his college rejections.

“David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it,” Ingraham tweeted Wednesday morning. She linked to a story from a conservative news site that described Hogg as a “Gun Rights Provocateur” who had not gained acceptance to four University of California schools. “Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA … totally predictable given acceptance rates,” added Ingraham (shown at right in a Gage Skidmore portrait).

fox news logo SmallIngraham faced immediate backlash over her tweet from those shocked she would attack a 17-year-old student who had survived the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, Fla. Among the outraged were people who reminded Ingraham, simply, that she was a mother, and Hogg’s 14-year-old sister, who accused the Fox News host of stooping to a “real low” to boost her ratings.

Politico, Companies pull ads from Fox’s Ingraham after her jab at Parkland student, Cristiano Lima, March 29, 2018. A growing number of companies will heed calls from a survivor of the Florida high school shooting to drop their advertisements on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program after the host mocked the student on Twitter.

At least six said they would cease buying ads on the show. Nutrish, celebrity cook Rachael Ray’s dog food company, announced on Thursday that it was “in the process of removing ads from Laura Ingraham’s program.” TripAdvisor, the American travel website, told POLITICO that it had “made a decision to stop advertising on that program.”

Ingraham on Thursday issued an apology via Twitter for the remarks. “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA — including David Hogg,” she said. “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland.” Ingraham added that Hogg was “welcome to come on my show anytime for a productive discussion.”

March 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Rosanne’ Reboot Part of ABC Plan to Entice Trump Voters, John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum, March 23, 2018. The network realized it was leaving some viewers behind — and put into effect a plan that brought back a working-class sitcom.

Associated Press via the Washington Post, The Latest: Trump bids farewell to Hope Hicks, Staff report, March 23, 2018.​  President Donald Trump is bidding farewell to one of his longest-serving aides as he departs for Ohio. The president appeared alongside outgoing communications director Hope Hicks outside the Oval Office on Hicks’ last day at the White House.

Trump pointed at Hicks, waved to the cameras, and gave Hicks a handshake and a kiss on the cheek before heading to Marine One. Hicks has been one of the president’s most trusted, loyal and influential staffers. She held a portfolio that extended well beyond her job title.

March 28

ny times logopeter thiel npc noel st john oct 31 2016New York Times, App to Harvest Data on Facebook Had Tie to a Thiel Company, Nicholas Confessore and Matthew Rosenberg, March 28, 2018 (print edition). The idea of a personality quiz to help Cambridge Analytica mine user information came from a man working for a firm that serves American spy agencies and was co-founded by Peter Thiel (shown in a Noel St. John photo), a Facebook board member and a Trump supporter.

ny times logochristopher wylie cnnNew York Times, Whistle-Blower Contends Data-Mining Swung Brexit Vote, Ellen Berry, March 28, 2018. The whistle-blower Christopher Wylie (shown in a file photo) held a roomful of British lawmakers rapt for three and a half hours on Tuesday, like a pink-haired, nose-ringed oracle sent from the future to explain data.

In testimony to the House of Commons’ select committee on culture, Mr. Wylie, a 28-year-old Canadian, described the inner workings of SCL, a political consultancy that gave its clients access to a vast collection of personal information harvested from Facebook.

In one of the longest sessions in recent memory, Mr. Wylie made a number of jaw-dropping assertions, most significantly that the company’s exploitation of personal data had swung the results of Britain’s 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union. He also suggested that his predecessor at Cambridge Analytica was murdered.

But mostly, Mr. Wylie tried to explain data-mining. He looked like a cerebral skate-rat, which might in other circumstances have undermined his credibility, but in this case it seemed to help. He was polite. He resembled, as one journalist put it, “a patient grandson trying to set up a Skype call with his gran.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Cyberattack Holds Atlanta ‘Hostage’ by Freezing City Systems, Alan Blinder and Nicole Perlroth, March 28, 2018 (print edition).  Atlanta’s city government has been struggling for days with ransomware that has hobbled its computer networks and forced it back to doing business with ink and paper. The City of Atlanta’s 8,000 employees got the word on Tuesday that they had been waiting for: It was O.K. to turn their computers on.

But as the city government’s desktops, hard drives and printers flickered back to life for the first time in five days, residents still could not pay their traffic tickets or water bills online, or report potholes or graffiti on a city website. Travelers at the world’s busiest airport still could not use the free Wi-Fi.

Atlanta’s municipal government has been brought to its knees since Thursday morning by a ransomware attack — one of the most sustained and consequential cyberattacks ever mounted against a major American city.

The digital extortion aimed at Atlanta, which security experts have linked to a shadowy hacking crew known for its careful selection of targets, laid bare once again the vulnerabilities of governments as they rely on computer networks for day-to-day operations. In a ransomware attack, malicious software cripples a victim’s computer or network and blocks access to important data until a ransom is paid to unlock it.

HUD Retreat On Housing Bias?

ny times logoben carsonNew York Times, Carson Scales Back HUD’s Fair Housing Enforcement, Glenn Thrush, March 28, 2018.  The Department of Housing and Urban Development under Ben Carson (right) is rolling back Obama administration attempts to curtail segregation in federally subsidized housing.

#MeToo Wall Street Claim

ny times logoNew York Times, Star Broker, Accused of Abuse, Still Works at Morgan Stanley, Emily Flitter, March 28, 2018. Douglas E. Greenberg, a top Morgan Stanley broker, was repeatedly accused of violence against ex-wives and girlfriends. Bank managers were told. But he kept his job.

'Free-Range' Parents Protected

washington post logoWashington Post, Utah’s ‘free-range parenting’ law said to be first in the nation, Meagan Flynn, March 28, 2018. Utah became the first state in the U.S. to pass a “free-range” parenting law. Here’s what you should know.

It all started when Lenore Skenazy let her 9-year-old ride the subway home alone. She gave him a map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill and — just in case — some quarters for a pay phone call. Then she left him in the handbag section in New York’s original Bloomingdale’s. It was all his idea. He had begged Skenazy to just leave him somewhere and let him find his way back all by himself, until finally, on a spring day in 2008, she let him do it.

Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) signed the “free-range parenting” bill into law earlier this month after it passed unanimously in both chambers of Utah’s legislature. It’s believed to be the first such law in the United States, according to Skenazy. The measure, sponsored by Utah state Sen. Lincoln Fillmore (R), exempts from the definition of child neglect various activities children can do without supervision, permitting “a child, whose basic needs are met and who is of sufficient age and maturity to avoid harm or unreasonable risk of harm, to engage in independent activities …”

Those activities include letting children “walk, run or bike to and from school, travel to commercial or recreational facilities, play outside and remain at home unattended.” The law does not say what the “sufficient age” is.

caroline sunshine Custom

Palmer Report, Opinion: Disney Channel star and a medieval history expert? Yep, and that's just the start of Donald Trump's new lunacy, Bill Palmer, March 28, 2018. With Donald Trump’s behavior and judgment deteriorating by the day, the only thing left he could do that would still surprise us is if he hired his personal physician to run the VA, a former Disney Channel star to work on his media team, and a medieval history expert for his Trump-Russia legal team. So naturally, Trump has spent the week making precisely these moves. No really, these aren’t random punchlines, these are people he’s actually hired this week.

Last night we saw the news come across the wire that Trump had hired former Disney Channel star Caroline Sunshine (shown above in a Disney publicity photo) for a White House communications job, we suspected it might have been a hoax. But sure enough, this actually happened. Caroline studied politics and she’s completed two political internships, meaning she’s the very rare Trump hire who’s actually qualified for the job. However, based on his track record, we worry that he only hired her because she’s young and attractive, and we hope she has the sense to keep physical distance from him. Seriously.

Finally, Donald Trump seemed to be trying to one-up himself in the ludicrousness department today when he announced that his personal military physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, would be the new VA Secretary. Jackson has absolutely no skills or qualifications for the job, but he did recently announce that Trump only weighed 239 pounds. Sadly, that’s probably the reason he got the gig.

March 27

washington post logoalexander nix web summit 2017 lisbon Web Summit Sam 7378 CC by 2.0Washington Post, Cambridge Analytica’s Alexander Nix: Bond villain, tech genius or hustler? William Booth and Karla Adam, March 27, 2018. People are divided on how to characterize the suspended head of the British political consulting firm (shown at right) that boasted of helping President Trump win election and is now suspected of violating the privacy of tens of millions of Facebook users.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Turns out Donald Trump’s hiring of John Bolton is all about Cambridge Analytica and Trump-Russia, Bill Palmer, March 26, 2018. Donald Trump has tried to play it safe with comparatively small military action like Yemen, Syria and Niger, and even that has largely blown up in his face.

Even with the John Bolton hiring, there is no reason to expect Trump is looking to start a war. There is, however, every reason to expect that Bolton was hired because the Cambridge Analytica scandal is exploding.

roger stone headshotStone Cold Truth, Opinion: Daily Beast Web of Lies, Roger Stone, March 27, 2018. The Daily Beast published stories three days in a row claiming new evidence shows Guccifer 2.0 has been identified as a Russian and that he hacked the DNC emails and that a communication I had with him over twitter are somehow proof of collusion. This is all 100 % fabricated fake news.

You got to hand it to the folks at The Daily Beast. They just keep recycling the same discredited bullschiff with the bogus claim that some stunning new evidence proves Guccifer 2.0 is a Russian hacker and then continuing to push the unproven assertion that he hacked the DNC emails and delivered the material to WikiLeaks. Now watch a dozen other fake news sites jump on the bandwagon- even though the Daily Beast’s claim is totally contrived. The New York Post and Yahoo News are already recycling this nothingburger.

I disproved the Daily Beast story here on the Stone Cold Truth (Oct. 11, 2017), and it is dispatched here.

Since “Guccifer 2.0” used software licensed to a DNC employee the evidence that he is an American is far more significant that anything the Daily Beast is recycling. Guccifer 2.0 screamed Russian and posted five documents purposefully tainted with ‘Russian Metadata Fingerprints’. Perhaps he was trying to look like a Russian.

As I told the House Intelligence Committee I once thought Guccifer 2.0 was a Romanian. I no longer think so. I once believed his public claim that he hacked the DNC emails. I no longer think so. In fact, whether the DNC was hacked at all which is, despite the MSM insistence, unproven.

March 26

stormy daniels 60 minutes cbs

ny times logoNew York Times, Stormy Daniels Says She Stayed Silent on Trump Out of Fear, Jim Rutenberg, March 26, 2018 (print edition). The porn actress told “60 Minutes” that in 2011 a man threatened her to stop talking about her affair with Donald J. Trump. “He leaned round and looked at my daughter and said, ‘That’s a beautiful little girl, it would be a shame if something happened to her mom.’ ”

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Intel Expert James Bamford Blasts Russiagate Hype, Peter B. Collins, March 26, 2018. Bamford Believes Russia Hacked DNC, Can’t Confirm Transfer of Contents to WikiLeaks. Author and intelligence expert James Bamford says the reports of Russian interference in the 2016 US election, which is being treated as one of the biggest stories out there right now, are overblown.

james bamfordSo far, Bamford argues, no evidence has been presented that this is anything other than the type of intelligence gathering or operation that countries are engaged in all the time.

Bamford (shown at right) is critical of the hyped, 24/7 coverage of Russiagate. Indeed, he sees widespread hacking by Russia, the United States, and other online spies as old news. He has special criticism for his colleagues in the media, who have “squandered their objectivity and precious resources on a single story.”

He points out that the best known use of cyberweapons is America’s insertion of the Stuxnet virus into the automated centrifuges at the heart of Iran’s nuclear program. Despite this, he notes, many American leaders present the US only as a victim of cyberattacks.

In this Radio WhoWhatWhy interview, Bamford also talks about the recent failures of the intelligence community, including the theft of NSA hacking tools and the CIA’s bungled efforts to retrieve them. He calls the operatives of both agencies “Keystone spies,” and criticizes the extreme public responses that have compared hacking to Pearl Harbor.

james bamford body of secrets coverJames Bamford has written a number of books and articles about America’s intelligence community, with special focus on the National Security Agency. He has also produced Frontline documentaries for PBS on these subjects. His recent article in the New Republic offers his overview of Russiagate.

Bamford is the author of The Puzzle Palace: Inside the National Security Agency, America’s Most Secret Intelligence Organization (Penguin Books, September 1983); Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (Anchor Books, April 2002); The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (Anchor Books, July 2009); A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America’s Intelligence Agencies (Anchor Books, May 2005).

Real Clear Politics, Larry King Rips Cable News Networks: There Is No News Anymore, "It's All Trump." Ian Schwartz, March 26, 2018. Legendary TV talk show host Larry King said there is "no news" broadcasted on cable networks anymore. He said it is "all Trump" in an interview on the Adam Carolla Show that aired on Monday.

King complained about the age of partisan cable news channels, the overuse of the 'breaking news' alert, and the lack of actual news aired on the networks. King was not afraid to criticize his long-time former network CNN. He said the network is "all panels," often with 8 (or more) guests.

The former CNN host said MSNBC is liberal, FOX News is conservative, and his former home is "sorta liberal."

 

2017

February

MediaMatters.org, Alex Jones’ Former Editor Trashes Him As A Trump Sellout Who Plays “The Race & Religion Card” For Business, Feb. 7, 2017. 
Kurt Nimmo, a longtime former editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, has been publicly trashing his ex-boss as a “snake oil salesman” who sold out to support President Donald Trump.

Alex Jones and his Infowars.com are known for pushing conspiracy theories, including claiming the government perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and the tragedies at Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon, among others.

The site’s editor, Paul Joseph Watson, apparently has no editorial standards and has repeatedly posted fraudulent information. Jones recently announced that the purported news organization would be attending White House press briefings and that it had hired widely discredited reporter Jerome Corsi as its D.C. correspondent.

Infowars has become one of the leading sources of pro-Donald Trump boosterism. Trump’s presidential campaign repeatedly tweeted out links to Infowars content in 2016. Trump himself tweeted out a link to Infowars.com’s aggregation of a conservative blog post to claim that Muslims in New Jersey celebrated the 9/11 attacks. (In fact, no evidence supports that.) Trump appeared on Jones’ program during the presidential campaign and apparently called Jones after the election to thank his audience for its support. Trump adviser and regular contributor Roger Stone told The Washington Post that Trump “has watched Infowars.”