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 standards;
  • Slanted or otherwise manipulative "news" techniques;
  • Outright "fake news" that makes scant pretense of honest coverage.

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

    • Andrew Kreig / Justice Integrity Project editor

       

      andrew kreig c span

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

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

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

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

 2019

November

Nov. 11

Bolivian Coup Alleged

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary:Trump honors Native American Heritage Month with coup against Bolivia's first Native American president, Wayne Madsen, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallleft, syndicated columnist, author of 16 books and former Navy intelligence officer), Nov. 11, 2019 (excerpted with permission). Donald Trump, who has a schoolboy’s view of Native Americans as having been “savages” who besieged wagon trains of “peaceful” European settlers, has chalked up on his record of seedy deeds the military overthrow of Bolivia’s first Native American president, Evo Morales, an ethnic Aymara.

evo moralesTrump has been eyeing Morales, right), the leader of Bolivia’s Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party, for some form of retribution ever since Morales scolded Trump in person during a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on September 26, 2018.

Morales, as president of the Security Council, lectured Trump on America’s past abuses. The Bolivian president cited the United States as having “financed coups d’etat and supported dictators,” and having instituted a border policy that “separated migrant children from their families and put them in cages.” Trump kept his head cia logodown during the tongue-lashing, only raising it periodically to glower at Morales, who was wearing the formal garb of his native Aymara people.

On November 10th, Morales received his belated response from Trump in the form of an old-style military coup. Even though Morales agreed to a new election, he and his entire MAS government, including Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, Chamber of Deputies President Victor Borda, and Senate President Adriana Salvatierra -- all in the line of succession to the president -- were forced to resign by the Bolivian military and national police. Without a constitutional successor to Morales, the military and national police commanders took over in a classic Central Intelligence Agency textbook coup from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

ny times logoNew York Times, Evo Morales Urges Resistance to New Bolivian Government, Clifford Krauss and Daniel Victor, Nov. 11, 2019.  The former president’s stance could complicate efforts to form a transitional administration and hold fresh elections.

HuffPost, Legendary Journalist Bill Moyers Says He Fears For The Nation For The First Time In His Life, Mary Papenfuss, Nov. 11,2019. "Society, a democracy, can die of too many lies — and we’re getting close to that terminal moment,” he warns. Veteran journalist Bill Moyers said Sunday that for the first time “in my long life” — including the Depression and World War II — he fears for the nation’s survival.

bill moyers 2005A “society, a democracy, can die of too many lies — and we’re getting close to that terminal moment unless we reverse the obsession with lies that are being fed around the country,” Moyers (shown in a file photo) told Brian Stelter on CNN.

Hope rests in citizens paying careful attention to the televised impeachment hearings beginning this week on Wednesday and Friday in the House, noted Moyers, who served for two years as President Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary. He has urged PBS to rebroadcast the hearings during prime time so that they more easily be seen by working people.

“Do facts matter anymore?” Moyers asked, referring to the impeachment investigation. “I think they do. I think they mattered in the Watergate hearings, in the Clinton hearings, and I think they’ll matter this time, too.”

He referred to Trump’s “astonishing” response from the crowd at a campaign rally last month in Louisiana.

“They believed everything he said,” Moyers noted. “I’m hoping only 10% of those people watch the hearings ... They will see it is not a witch hunt, and they will begin to doubt their master. And they will begin to break off and maybe become a citizen again.”

Moyers believes Trump still has a “pretty good” chance of winning the 2020 election, but that only a “slight shift” in people who “begin to doubt” could make a significant difference.

Nov. 10

Global Politics / Media

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: I worked on political ads at Facebook. They profit by manipulating us, Yaël Eisenstat, Nov. 10, 2019 (print ed.). I joined Facebook in June 2018 as “head of Global Elections Integrity Ops” in the company’s business integrity organization, focused specifically on political advertising. I had spent much of my career working to strengthen and defend democracy — including freedom of speech — as an intelligence officer, diplomat and White House adviser. Now I had the opportunity to help correct the course of a company that I viewed as playing a major role in one of the biggest threats to our democracy.

facebook logoIn the year leading up to our 2016 election, I began to see the polarization and breakdown of civil discourse, exacerbated by social media, as our biggest national security threat; I had written about that before Facebook called. I didn’t think I was going to change the company by myself. But I wanted to help Facebook think through the role it plays in politics, in the United States and around the world, and the best way to ensure that it is not harming democracy.

A year and a half later, as the company continues to struggle with how to handle political content and as another presidential election approaches, it’s clear that tinkering around the margins of advertising policies won’t fix the most serious issues. The real problem is that Facebook profits partly by amplifying lies and selling dangerous targeting tools Democratic-Republican Campaign logosthat allow political operatives to engage in a new level of information warfare. Its business model exploits our data to let advertisers aim at us, showing each of us a different version of the truth and manipulating us with hyper-customized ads — ads that as of this fall can contain blatantly false and debunked information if they’re run by a political campaign. As long as Facebook prioritizes profit over healthy discourse, it can’t avoid damaging democracy.

Ultimately, I was not empowered to do the job I was hired to do, and I left within six months. I don’t know if anybody up the chain ever considered our proposals to combat misinformation in political ads. But based on the company’s current policy allowing politicians to lie in ads, and the dissent letter signed in late October by more than 250 Facebook employees disagreeing with the policy, it seems clear that they did not.

Yaël Eisenstat is a visiting fellow at Cornell Tech in the Digital Life Initiative and a former elections integrity head at Facebook, CIA officer, and White House adviser.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Saudi Twitter breach is a warning to all technology companies, Editorial Board, Nov. 10, 2019. The Justice Department this week charged two former Twitter employees with accessing the firm’s data on more than 6,000 users. One account belongs to Omar Abdulaziz, a high-profile dissident who lives in asylum in Canada, and the twitter bird Customdescription of another matches an anonymous critic of corruption who tweets under the handle @Mujtahidd. The architect of the Saudi regime’s aggressive online repression operation once hinted that authorities had ways to unmask online gadflies who were using pseudonyms for protection. We now know at least one of those ways.

The story rings an alarm about Saudi Arabia’s reach, but it also provides a more general warning to technology companies sitting on stockpiles of sensitive personal information.

Security professionals across industries see insider threats as a rising concern, and Silicon Valley has hardly been a stranger to the risk. Vice has reported on Myspace employees harnessing a tool called “Overlord” to read users’ messages and passwords back in that platform’s heyday; Snapchat employees have allegedly snooped on saved photos and location information; a Yahoo software engineer recently pleaded guilty to tracking down private photos of women.

This is an issue Silicon Valley firms should prove they have a handle on, lest the next Cambridge Analytica break out — this time from within.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Media beware: Impeachment hearings will be the trickiest test of covering Trump, Margaret Sullivan​, Nov. 10, 2019. On Wednesday — as televised impeachment hearings begin in the House of Representatives — journalists need to be on their game. The stakes don’t get much higher when it comes to fulfilling their core mission: informing citizens of what they really need to know.The president’s distraction machine will be revved up as he fights for survival.

Nov. 8

washington post logoWashington Post, DeVos cancels nearly $11 million in student loans that the Education Dept. sent to unaccredited for-profit colleges, Danielle Douglas, Nov. 8, 2019. The Education Department said Friday it will cancel federal loans provided last year to students at four Art Institutes locations after revelations that officials knew the for-profit colleges were not betsy devos oaccredited and ineligible to receive such aid.

The federal agency (led by Secretary Betsy DeVos at right) has been embroiled in controversy over its efforts to shield Dream Center Education Holdings, owner of the Art Institutes and Argosy University, from the consequences of lying to students about the accreditation of its since-closed schools. Documents released in October by the House Education and Labor Committee show the department provided $10.7 million in federal loans and grants to students at Art Institutes locations while the schools were not fully accredited. Now those loans will be forgiven.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why did Google take action against some pro-Trump ads? It’s one of the many mysteries of its political ad rules, Tony Romm and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Nov. 8, 2019. Last month, Google took action against seven ads purchased by President Trump’s 2020 campaign, claiming that they violated the company’s rules — even though they had been viewed at least 24 million times.

google logo customBut Google said little else: It didn’t share a copy of the ads in question or disclose what standards they had violated. To experts, those unknowns are just two of many mysteries that demonstrate the company’s continued struggles to spot and shield users from potentially problematic political content with the 2020 presidential election a year away.

Much like its Silicon Valley peers, Google finds itself under heightened scrutiny for the powerful targeting and messaging tools it provides candidates and their allies pay to expand their audience online. The issue has commanded unusual public attention in recent weeks because of Facebook, which maintains a policy that essentially permits politicians, including Trump, to lie in their political ads.

colombia flag nameColombia Reports, Commentary: Duque urged to reject beating of journalist asking him about children’s bombing, Adriaan Alsema, Nov. 8, 2019. Colombia’s press freedom foundation urged President Ivan Duque on Thursday to reject the beating of a journalist who asked him about a bombing in which eight children died.

In a statement, press freedom foundation FLIP said it “rejects the attacks on journalist Jesus Blanquicet of newspaper El Heraldo” after the reporter asked Duque to comment on the bombing that triggered the resignation of his defense minister on Wednesday. Blanquicet was punched by police after he had asked the president for comment about the bombing Duque initially praised as an “impeccable operation.”

In an apparent panic reaction, Duque asked the journalist: “What are you talking about, man?” after which presidential guards and cops pulled the journalist away and later punched him in the ribs.

With several other journalists present, presidential adviser Karen Abudinen subsequently asked Blanquicet to delete the president’s reaction, which the journalist refused.

Caracol Radio reported on Thursday that, according to Duque, Blanquicet had not identified himself as a journalist and the president didn’t hear the question.

The message that the Presidency leaves with its action is forceful: journalists who investigate uncomfortable matters are punished with aggression. This message not only reaches the assaulted journalist, it also reaches other journalists and media in the country, who may be deterred from asking uncomfortable questions, and officials and citizens, who may interpret this as an authorization to assault journalists.

Following the incident and amid persistent questions whether the president knew he authorized the bombing of a FARC dissident camp where victims of child recruitment were held, Duque shunned all contact with the press and even social media.

Nov. 6

djt rudy giuliani vlodomyr zelensky

Donald Trump, his lawyer and special envoy to Ukraine, Rudy Giuliani, and Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, are shown in file photos.

washington post logoWashington Post, News organizations resist Trump’s pressure to release whistleblower’s name, Paul Farhi, Nov. 6, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump and his allies say there’s a gaping hole in the middle of the biggest news story in years: the name of the federal whistleblower who sparked the impeachment inquiry that now threatens Trump’s presidency.

cia logoThey’ve called on news organizations to reveal the name of the CIA officer who first raised concerns about Trump’s phone call with the president of Ukraine. Yet despite apparent knowledge of the individual’s identity among people in Washington, his name hasn’t been widely reported.

One online publication, Real Clear Investigations, offered a lengthy, if unconfirmed, account about the whistleblower’s identity last week. But its reporting was largely ignored. Outside of a few conservative news sources such as RedState.com and Breitbart and personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, the story didn’t get much traction.

Some in the media say the whistleblower’s identity is less newsworthy now that multiple federal officials have corroborated elements of his or her complaint that Trump allegedly volodymyr zelenskii cropped headshotstrong-armed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, left, during a July phone call, insisting that his government investigate former vice president Joe Biden, a Democratic rival (shown below right), and his son, Hunter.

The mainstream media’s silence is puzzling to Tom Kuntz, the editor of Real Clear Investigations (RCI), which published its whistleblower investigation last week.

joe biden o“The silence has been deafening,” he said. “It’s almost like there’s a code of omerta [the Mafia vow of silence] about what media organizations can report. . . . There’s a herd mentality and a reluctance to cut against the grain.”

RCI is an offshoot of Real Clear Media, a digital company best known for Real Clear Politics, a site that aggregates a wide spectrum of political reporting and commentary and produces original work. RCI is funded by a nonprofit foundation associated with the for-profit company.

According to its most recent IRS filing, the foundation is in turn funded by foundations associated with conservative philanthropy. Among others is the Ed Uihlein Foundation, a longtime donor to conservative causes, and the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which has funded an array of think tanks and organizations headed by people close to Trump’s campaign and transition committee. The Scaife Foundation has been a leading funder of the climate-change counter movement.

Kuntz says journalists should identify newsworthy sources whenever they can, so that readers or viewers can judge their credibility for themselves. In the case of someone asserting that a crime had been committed, he argued that it’s also a question of fairness and due process. That is, Trump should be able to face his accuser, as Trump himself has argued.

Nov. 5

U.S. Media / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Department fishing for details about anonymous ‘resistance’ op-ed writer, Reis Thebault, Nov. 5, 2019 (print ed.). The author, identified only as “a senior official in the Trump administration,” is set to release a tell-all book this month.

The Justice Department is looking for identifying details about the anonymous Trump administration official who excoriated the president’s “amorality” in an unsigned New York Justice Department log circularTimes opinion column last year, according to a letter the agency sent Monday.

The author of the column, whose identity has remained a secret for more than a year, has also written a tell-all book that will publish this month — and Assistant Attorney General Joseph H. Hunt wants proof that the writer is not bound by a government nondisclosure agreement.

Either that, Hunt wrote in the letter, or the book’s publisher and the author’s agents should turn over the official’s employment information: where in the government the person worked, and when he or she worked there. If the official had access to classified information, Hunt warned, the book should be “submitted for pre-publication review.”

The letter — addressed to Carol Ross at the publishing company Hachette Book Group and literary agents Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn of Javelin — was part of the agency’s “routine fact-gathering process,” said a Justice Department official.

But Latimer denounced Hunt’s request as an attempt to “intimidate and expose the senior official who has seen misconduct at the highest levels.”

 

Virginia Roberts Giuffre shows her photo at age 16 (Emily Michot Miami Herald via Zuma Wireire

Virginia Roberts Giuffre shows her photo at age 16 (Photo by Emily Michot, Miami Herald, via Zuma Wire

bbc news logo2BBC News, Jeffrey Epstein: ABC stopped report 'amid Palace threats,' Nov. 5, 2019. Leaked footage shows a US TV anchor complaining that editors "quashed" a story about paedophile Jeffrey Epstein due to pressure from the Royal Family. ABC's Amy Robach is seen in the clip griping that her interview with an alleged victim of Epstein and Prince Andrew never made it to air.

"The Palace found out and threatened us a million different ways," she says. ABC News said there was "zero truth" to the claim, while Buckingham Palace told the BBC "this is a Prince Andrew, Virginia Roberts and Ghislaine Maxwell, 2001matter for ABC".

Epstein, a wealthy and well-connected financier, was found dead in a jail cell in August while awaiting trial for sex crimes. His death was ruled a suicide by investigators. In the video, Ms. Robach vents frustration that her 2015 interview with Virginia Giuffre -- formerly Virginia Roberts -- was never broadcast.

The clip was leaked on Tuesday by Project Veritas, a group that seeks to expose perceived liberal bias in the mainstream media.
Presentational white space

Ms Giuffre, 35, alleges she was abused by Epstein and was ordered to have sex with powerful men including Prince Andrew, the Duke of York. (Roberts is shown at center as a teen with the Prince Andrew while Epstein's friend and alleged fellow trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell looks on.)

Nov. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, SNL tackles Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare-for-all plan in cold open, Derek Hawkins, Nov. 3, 2019. Saturday Night Live waded into wonk territory in its Nov. 2 cold nbc logoopening, tackling the debate over Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s sweeping plan to overhaul the nation’s health care system.

Kate McKinnon reprised her role as the Democratic presidential contender from Massachusetts, pacing back and forth on the stage in black pants, a black shirt and a bright red cardigan a la Warren. The setting was a mock town hall in Iowa, which hosted a fall fundraising dinner for the Democratic candidates on Friday and where Warren has recently emerged as the candidate to beat.

Nov. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Real Reason Facebook Won’t Fact-Check Political Ads, Siva Vaidhyanathan (professor of media studies at the University of Virginia and the author of “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy.”), Nov. 2, 2019. It’s not about free speech.

twitter bird CustomWhen Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, announced on Wednesday that Twitter would no longer host political advertisements, he scored points with those who lament the ways social media platforms have polluted political culture.

At Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, right,mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville w responded by reaffirming that his company would continue to distribute political ads without fact-checking them. “In a democracy, I don’t think it’s right for private companies to censor politicians, or the news,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in a Wednesday earnings conference call.

Facebook’s decision to refrain from policing the claims of political ads is not unreasonable. But the company’s officers have been incompetent at explaining and facebook logodefending this decision.

If Facebook’s leaders were willing to level with us, they would stop defending themselves by appealing to lofty values like free speech. They would focus instead on more practical realities: Facebook is incapable of vetting political ads effectively and consistently at the global scale. And political ads are essential to maintaining the company’s presence in countries around the world.

Palmer Report, Newly released Mueller memos reveal bombshell about Republican National Committee and WikiLeaks, Bill Palmer, Nov. 2, 2019. The internal memos from the Robert Mueller investigation have just been obtained by BuzzFeed, thanks to a series of Freedom of Information Act requests, and the first batch of them has been published today. There are a number of shocking revelations in here, including one about the Republican National Committee and WikiLeaks.

bill palmer report logo headerOne of the memos reveals that Rick Gates testified that the Republican National Committee “indicated they knew the timing of the upcoming releases” from WikiLeaks during the 2016 election cycle. This means the RNC was at least indirectly coordinating with a cyberterrorist group that had hacked and stolen the Democratic National Committee’s internal emails.

Rick Gates didn’t specify who at the RNC knew about the timing of the WikiLeaks. It’s far from clear why Mueller didn’t choose to pursue this, as Gates was working under a cooperation deal and would have been required to name names if asked. This raises the question of not only who at the RNC was participating in this criminal conspiracy with WikiLeaks to alter the outcome of the election, but also how it was facilitated.

For instance, it’s been long established that the Donald Trump campaign had multiple backchannels with WikiLeaks. Were those same people also playing this role for the RNC and WikiLeaks, or was it someone else? There are a whole lot of people who conspired against the United States and need to go to prison for this. Perhaps the biggest question is why Mueller and his team never pursued these criminal investigations.

ny times logoNew York Times, In Trump’s Twitter Feed: Conspiracy-Mongers, Racists and Spies, Mike McIntire, Karen Yourish and Larry Buchanan, Nov. 2, 2019. We look inside the alternate reality of President Trump’s Twitter account, where he absorbs and amplifies a noxious stream of disinformation. To assess the first Twitter presidency, The New York Times examined Mr. Trump’s interactions with the social media platform since he took office.

In September, an obscure Twitter account promoting a fringe belief about an anti-Trump cabal within the government tweeted out a hashtag: #FakeWhistleblower.

It was typical for the anonymous account, which traffics in far-right content and a conspiracy theory known as QAnon, some of whose adherents think that satanic pedophiles control the “deep state.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently labeled QAnon a potential domestic terror threat.

Still, that did not stop others, including a Republican congressional candidate, from quickly picking up the hashtag and tweeting it. Within a week, hundreds of QAnon believers and “MAGA” activists had joined in, posting memes and bogus reports to undermine the complaint by a government whistle-blower that President Trump had pressed Ukraine’s leader for dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son.

Then Mr. Trump tweeted the hashtag himself.

ny times logotwitter bird CustomNew York Times, How Trump Reshaped the Presidency in Over 11,000 Tweets, Michael D. Shear, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Confessore, Karen Yourish, Larry Buchanan and Keith Collins, Nov. 2, 2019. The president’s tweeting transformed how he exerted power, leaving the White House and Twitter to grapple over whether, and how, to rein it in.

Nov. 1

stephanie grisham jeanne pirro fox screenshot Custom

Media Matters, Commentary: The White House press briefing now takes place on Fox News, Bobby Lewis, Nov. 1, 2019. Since becoming White House press secretary on July 1, Stephanie Grisham has held zero press briefings. Instead, Grisham has found the time to grant interviews to some of President Donald Trump’s favorite current and former Fox News hosts.

It is not new that Grisham appears on Fox News (as shown above at right in a screenshot from the show of Jeanne Pirro, at left) or that Grisham tells pro-Trump lies. Sarah Sanders certainly did both quite a bit while she held the office.
But it is new that Grisham appears virtually only on Fox News.

Grisham's particular innovation is to move the entire office of White House press secretary into the world of Fox News and Fox-adjacent media.

After giving her first TV interview to Sinclair’s Eric Bolling (who was fired by Fox for sending unsolicited explicit photos to coworkers), Grisham has given seven interviews to Fox News -- including last night with Jeanine Pirro. Instead of actually briefing the press at the White House, Grisham treats her duties as press secretary as complaining to pro-Trump pundits about how unfair everyone else is to the president.

Nov. 1

julian assange indicter image

SouthFront, British Government Keeps Journalist Julian Assange In Maximum Security Prison At Behest Of Trump Regime, Leon Tressell, Nov. 1, 2019. At his latest extradition hearing Julian Assange (shown above in a photo by The Indicter Magazine) was once again denied justice by a British court.

If extradited to the U.S. he faces 175 years imprisonment for revealing American war crimes committed during its regime change wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Magistrate refuses to dismiss the extradition case against Assange, shown in a file photo.

Julian Assange August On October 21 magistrate Vanessa Baraitser refused Assange’s defence a hearing to dismiss the extradition case on the basis of the 2003 U.S.-UK extradition treaty which prohibits extradition for political offences such as espionage. The wording of the American indictment against Assange makes it clear that 18 of the 19 charges against him regard offences that allegedly damaged the national security of the United States. These espionage charges are clearly political offences which should prevent his extradition under the 2003 extradition treaty.

Magistrate refuses to postpone Assange’s extradition hearing

The magistrate also rejected an application from Assange’s defence to postpone the full extradition hearing on 24 February 2020. This application to postpone was based on two grounds.

Firstly, that Assange is being kept in conditions at Belmarsh maximum security prison that obstruct his ability to prepare his legal defence. He is denied access to his legal papers, and a computer while his mental health has significantly declined due to his continued imprisonment.

The second ground for a postponement of the extradition hearing were that his defence team need more time to access the mass of evidence coming out of the Spanish investigation into the surveillance of Assange, his lawyers, friends and family during the time he sheltered in the Ecuadorian embassy. Spanish newspaper El Pais has revealed that security firm UC Global spied on Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy and passed the information onto the CIA.
British government blocks Spanish judge from questioning Assange over spying allegations tied to American intelligence services

united kingdom flagThe newspaper El Pais has noted how the Spanish investigation has major ramifications for Assange’s case which has led the British government to block attempts by the investigating judge to question Julian Assange by videoconference. El Pais has commented upon the unprecedented nature of the UK government’s actions:

“The British position, unprecedented in these types of requests for judicial collaboration, is being viewed by Spanish judicial bodies as a show of resistance against the consequences that the case could have on the process to extradite the Australian cyberactivist to the United States.”

Judge Jose De La Mata has expressed his surprise at the UK government turning down his request to interview Assange as it has agreed to such requests in ”previous cases”. Refusal of such requests rarely happens and in this case is an example of the British government interfering in the judicial process in an attempt to ensure that Assange is extradited to the United States.

 

October

Oct. 31catherine herridge ceci freed media matters graphic Custom

Media Matters, Commentary: Fox reporter announces departure for a place where "facts and storytelling will always matter,” Matt Gertz, Oct. 31, 2019. For decades, Fox News executives have responded to the critique that the network serves as a mouthpiece for the Republican Party by pointing to the work of its “news side” journalists. But Trump’s election and his administration’s effective merger with Fox has created a new problem for the rebuttal: Many of Fox’s longest-serving “news side” staffers have headed for the exits.

Last month, it was Shep Smith who left. Now, Catherine Herridge, Fox’s chief intelligence correspondent and a veteran of more than two decades there, is the latest to leave the cbs news logonetwork. CBS News announced that she had been hired as a senior investigative correspondent. Herridge (shown in Media Matters graphic by Ceci Freed) said that "I feel privileged to join a team where facts and storytelling will always matter.”

Herridge’s reporting at Fox often aligned with Republican talking points and fed the conspiracy theories of the network’s prime-time stars. But she had inexplicably won the respect of journalists outside Fox, and as such her departure is another blow to Fox’s embattled “news side.”

fox news logo SmallFox staffers speaking anonymously to reporters have over the last few years given quotes like Fox “feels like an extension of the Trump White House,” “We have a chance to turn the corner at Fox, and perpetuating this conspiracy theory damages our integrity,” “ARE WE STILL AIRING THAT SHIT?!” and “People throughout the company think a new line was crossed.”

To the extent that there has been a battle of values between Fox’s “news” and “opinion” sides, it is clear who is winning. Fox News is a Trump propaganda operation, through and through.

Here's what Fox's "news side" really is: Fox "news side" anchor Shannon Bream bragged about Fox and challenged people to watch one of its news programs for a week and to find any unfairness. We watched her own show for a week and found the same propaganda that you'd find from the opinion side on Fox.

Oct. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump, Zuckerberg & Pals Are Breaking America, Thomas L. Friedman, Oct. 30, 2019. Not in the Cold War, not during Vietnam, not during Watergate did I ever fear more for my country.

washington post logoWashington Post, The Technology 202: Elizabeth Warren just made her battle against Facebook more personal, Cat Zakrzewski, Oct. 30, 2019. Sen. Elizabeth Warren singled out Facebook policy chief Joel Kaplan as she launched a plan to “slam shut the revolving door” between Washington and large corporations.

elizabeth warren o purpleThe Massachusetts Democrat and presidential candidate, left, wrote on Twitter that Kaplan, a former George W. Bush official, “is flexing his DC Rolodex to help [CEO] Mark Zuckerberg wage a closed-door charm offensive with Republican lawmakers.” Warren says Kaplan’s career move is indicative of a broader problem in Washington that hits across sectors. She wants to ban senior government officials from joining large corporations for at least four years after they leave government.

It's unclear how this would work in practice as many government officials leave for the private sector after their stint in Washington. And it’s highly unusual for a presidential candidate to take aim at an individual company executive — especially one who is not a CEO or known to much of the public. But it dovetails with the broader trend of candidates more frequently calling out individual companies as liberal Democrats such as Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) run 2020 campaigns challenging corporate size and income.

facebook logo“If you’re a Democrat in the primary running a populist campaign, playing on the notion that the system is rigged and evil and everything else, it’s a popular position to take,” said Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist and political strategist who has worked with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Sen. Charles Schumer (D).

Kaplan is a clear foil for Warren as she tries to rally the Democratic base. He’s the Facebook executive who created controversy by sitting behind Brett Kavanaugh at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. The Wall Street Journal reported that Kaplan pushed for the company to include The Daily Caller's fact-checking division among the company’s partners to address conservatives' concerns of bias among its fact-checking partners. The same Journal article called Kaplan "Facebook’s protector" against allegations democratic donkey logoof anti-conservative bias -- a charge that companies and most politicians on the left dismiss.

Warren could have chosen to call out a long list of companies that have former Washington officials high in their ranks — including other tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft. But the focus on Kaplan highlights just how contentious Warren’s relationship with Facebook has become in recent months — as the leading presidential contender has promised to break up the company, criticized it for allowing President Trump to distort the truth in ads and questioned the tech titan’s ability to address election integrity issues ahead of 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Capital Gazette shooter’s fraudulent insanity plea, Richard E. Vatz (professor of rhetoric at Towson University, specializing in political and psychiatric rhetoric, and psychology editor of USA Today Magazine), Oct. 30, 2019. Jarrod Ramos is accused of first-degree murder for killing five people at the Capital Gazette newspaper jarrod ramosoffices in Annapolis. He originally pleaded not guilty but changed his plea to “not criminally responsible,” claiming that he did not have the “capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct,” Maryland’s equivalent of the insanity plea.

On Monday, he pleaded guilty. Some experts speculate that doing so will limit the salience of the gory details of the killings going forward to the jury’s consideration of his state of mind when he committed the slayings. It is hard to imagine a case that comprises more conscious criminal intent than the mass murder of Capital Gazette employees Rob Hiaasen, Wendi Winters, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman and John McNamara.

The accused, Ramos, right, had, as the prosecution alleges, carefully planned the attack: He had smoke grenades and a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun and barricaded the rear exit of the office to prevent people from escaping. Many mass murderers do not plan such attacks so cruelly and methodically. Also, after he perpetrated the killings, he hid under a desk at the Capital Gazette office, demonstrating that he knew the act was wrong and that people would be searching to catch him.

washington post logoWashington Post, Commentary: Why one of the biggest scandals in American history should make us rethink journalism, Rob Wells, Oct. 30, 2019. A small trade publication broke the Keating Five scandal, offering a pathway for investigative journalism in cash-strapped times. Thirty years ago this fall, the savings and loan crisis penetrated America’s living rooms. Televised hearings of the House Banking Committee investigated the political might and corruption masterminded by Charles Keating Jr., one of the nation’s most powerful business executives.

The hearings exposed the politicians who had protected Keating as he perpetrated what then-U.S. Rep. Jim Leach (R-Iowa) called “the biggest bank heist in history.”

charles keating headshotKeating, left, and his team engaged in “a looting” of the Southern California-based Lincoln Savings & Loan, a federal judge later wrote. Thousands of older investors saw their life savings wiped out.

Keating’s activities were just one element of the broader savings and loan debacle, which cost taxpayers at least $125 billion to clean up. The Keating Five scandal (so named for the U.S. senators reprimanded for protecting Keating) and S&L crisis are major parts of the history of the 1980s, yet one element of the story has long remained submerged.

Nearly a year and a half before the collapse of Lincoln S&L, the National Thrift News had spelled out the story of Keating’s political pressure campaign. National Thrift News editor Stan Strachan had gotten wind of the meeting between the Keating Five and regulators in the summer of 1987 and eventually obtained a transcript. The newspaper published an exclusive exposing the Keating Five in September 1987. But mainstream outlets largely ignored the story, in part because the savings and loan situation was considered too complicated. In addition, Keating had a reputation for suing regulators and critical media outlets — from 1980 through 1989, he filed two libel suits, four lawsuits involving media leaks, and eight threats of libel or legal action against the media.

But while leading media outlets hesitated, the National Thrift News had the guts to publish the Keating Five story just two months after Keating sued freelance journalist Michael Binstein for libel. For its coverage of the savings and loan crisis, the National Thrift News won a George Polk Award in 1987.

Rob Wells is a former reporter and deputy bureau chief of The Wall Street Journal’s Washington bureau. He teaches journalism at the University of Arkansas and is author of "The Enforcers: How Little-Known Trade Reporters Exposed the Keating Five and Advanced Business Journalism" (University of Illinois Press).

Oct. 28

venezuelan us embassy Custom Custom

The Grayzone, Commentary: ‘This charge is 100% false’: Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal arrested months after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence, Ben Norton, Oct. 28, 2019. max blumenthal screenshot rt americaMax Blumenthal, the editor of the news site The Grayzone, was arrested on the morning of October 25 on a fabricated charge related to the siege of the Venezuelan embassy (shown above) in Washington, DC that took place between April and May.

A team of DC police officers appeared at Blumenthal’s door at just after 9 AM, demanding entry and threatening to break his door down. A number of officers had taken positions on the side of his home as though they were prepared for a SWAT-style raid.

Blumenthal was hauled into a police van and ultimately taken to DC central jail, where he was held for two days in various cells and cages. He was shackled by his hands and ankles for over five hours in one such cage along with other inmates. His request for a phone call was denied by DC police and corrections officers, effectively denying him access to the outside world.

Blumenthal was informed that he was accused of simple assault by a Venezuelan opposition member. He declared the charge completely baseless.

“This charge is a 100 percent false, fabricated, bogus, untrue, and malicious lie,” Blumenthal declared. “It is clearly part of a campaign of political persecution designed to silence me and the The Grayzone for our factual journalism exposing the deceptions, corruption and violence of the far-right Venezuelan opposition.”

The arrest warrant was five months old. According to an individual familiar with the case, the warrant for Blumenthal’s arrest was initially rejected. Strangely, this false charge was revived months later without the defendant’s knowledge.

“If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment. I have nothing to fear because I’m completely innocent of this bogus charge,” Blumenthal stated. “Instead, the federal government essentially enlisted the DC police to SWAT me, ensuring that I would be subjected to an early morning raid and then languish in prison for days without even the ability to call an attorney.”
Background to the embassy siege

In April and May, Washington-backed Venezuelan coup leaders began taking over properties in the United States that belong to the internationally recognized government of Venezuela’s democratically elected President Nicolás Maduro, in violation of international law.

A group of activists responded by keeping a vigil inside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, in order to protect it from an illegal seizure by the US-supported coup leaders. The activists formed what they called the Embassy Protection Collective. The internationally recognized Venezuelan government gave them permission to stay in its embassy, which is its own sovereign territory under international law.

In response, hordes of violent right-wing activists who support the Venezuelan opposition launched a de facto 24/7 siege of the embassy, preventing people, food, and supplies from entering the building.

The Grayzone reporter Anya Parampil and Alex Rubinstein, a contributor to The Grayzone, were embedded in the embassy with several peace activists.

Parampil and journalists including Blumenthal documented the right-wing mobs lashing out with racist and sexist invective as well as violence at Venezuelan solidarity activists who gathered outside the embassy to show support for the protectors.

Court documents indicate the false charge of simple assault stems from Blumenthal’s participation in a delivery of food and sanitary supplies to peace activists and journalists inside the Venezuelan embassy on May 8, 2019.

The charge was manufactured by a Venezuelan opposition member who was among those laying siege to the embassy in a sustained bid to starve out the activists inside.

“I was not party to any violent actions around the Venezuelan embassy,” Blumenthal reiterated. “This ginned up claim of simple assault is simply false.”

According to court documents, Ben Rubinstein, the brother of journalist Alex Rubinstein, also participated in the non-violent and legal food delivery. Rubinstein was arrested over 12 hours later after the food delivery by Secret Service police officers.

He spent 20 hours in jail, alongside Gerry Condon, president of Veterans for Peace, who was arrested after being brutalized by Secret Service officers for attempting to toss a cucumber inside an embassy window.

“The opposition members made up these lies about Max and I know they’re lying, and they are obviously using the government and police as tools to get revenge,” Ben Rubinstein told The Grayzone.

Retaliation for The Grayzone’s reporting

Max Blumenthal reported extensively from outside the Venezuelan embassy in May. He filed a story explaining how “the pro-coup mob outside turned violent, physically assaulting embassy protectors, and hurling racist, sexist and homophobic abuse at others.”

Blumenthal documented an opposition activist breaking into and subsequently vandalizing the embassy, in violation of international law. He also reported on opposition members destroying the embassy’s security cameras, while the authorities stood idly by.

The Venezuelan coup regime’s supposed ambassador to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, who is not recognized by the United Nations and the vast majority of the international community, helped to lead this aggressive mob as it besieged the embassy.

The Grayzone’s Anya Parampil exposed Vecchio to be a former lawyer for the oil corporation Exxon. The Grayzone has documented his close links to the US government, and has reported at length on accusations of corruption. Vecchio was a regular presence outside the DC embassy, appearing with his gaggle to stage manage the situation.

The Grayzone has also published numerous exposés on Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó, who was selected by the US government to be the so-called “interim president” in Caracas, detailing his extensive ties to Washington and his notorious corruption.

Blumenthal was arrested literally hours after The Grayzone published an article on USAID paying the salaries of Guaidó’s team as they lobbied the US government.

“I am firmly convinced that this case is part of a wider campaign of political persecution using the legal system to shut down our factual investigative journalism about the coup against Venezuela and the wider policy of economic warfare and regime change waged by the Trump administration,” Blumenthal stated.

If this had happened to a journalist in Venezuela, every Western human rights NGO and news wire would be howling about Maduro’s authoritarianism. It will be revealing to see how these same elements react to a clear-cut case of political repression in their own backyard.

Ben Norton is a journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal. His website is BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

Oct. 27

john solomon joseph digenova victoria toensing

Media Matters, Investigation: How conservative writer John Solomon served as the conduit for Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine conspiracy theories, Julie Millcan with research by Julie Turlbert, updated Oct. 27, 2019 from Oct. 17. Update: Frequent Fox guests Joseph diGenova, above center, and Victoria Toensing are lawyers for Fox contributor John Solomon, left.

At the center of the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump lies a disinformation campaign led by his personal attorney Rudy Giuliani that was aided and abetted by conservative writer John Solomon. Through Solomon, Giuliani injected his disinformation campaign straight into the heart of conservative media -- Fox News -- with seemingly full fox news logo Smallknowledge of at least some at Fox. And eventually, Solomon landed a job at the network.

It is now known that Trump blessed Giuliani to run a shadow foreign policy campaign in Ukraine, in which he sought information that would undermine the intelligence community's findings that Russia interfered in our 2016 election to benefit Trump. Giuliani was also trying to dig up dirt to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, a front-runner to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.

Much attention has focused on Giuliani’s actions and the shady cast of characters he worked with, but less has been paid to the right-wing media figures who colluded with the president’s lawyer to make his smear campaign public -- a plan that came dangerously close to succeeding.

What follows is a case study in how right-wing media work hand in hand with Trump cronies to smear his enemies, undermine democracy, and defend the president at all costs.

Here’s how it went down.

washington post logoronan farrowWashington Post, NBC says it won’t prevent former employees from speaking publicly about sexual harassment, Brittany Shammas, Oct. 27, 2019. In his new bestseller Catch and Kill, journalist Ronan Farrow, right, wrote that NBC News had nondisclosure agreements with at least seven women who claimed they were sexually harassed at the company, including some who alleged mistreatment by former “Today” host Matt Lauer.

nbc news logoNow, NBCUniversal says former staffers are free to speak out about their experiences. In a statement first reported on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show,” the company said it will release past employees from agreements that may be preventing them from sharing their stories.

“Any former NBC News employee who believes that they cannot disclose their experience with sexual harassment as a result of a confidentiality or nondisparagement provision in their separation agreement should contact NBCUniversal and we will release them from that perceived obligation,” the statement said.

Oct. 25

ny times logoNew York Times, Kellyanne Conway and Newspaper Face Off Over Warning to Reporter, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Oct. 25, 2019. Ms. Conway told the reporter for The Washington Examiner that if she was going to cover her personal life, “then we’re welcome to do the same around here,” according to an audio recording. Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Trump and one of his fiercest defenders, found herself in a standoff on Friday with a conservative-leaning newspaper after it accused her of threatening to investigate a reporter’s personal life.

Much of the drama played out in public, with the newspaper, The Washington Examiner, publishing an article on Thursday about Ms. Conway’s pressure on its reporter that included a recording of their conversation. Ms. Conway then defended herself on Twitter and told reporters outside the White House on Friday, “If I threaten someone, you’ll know it.”

It started with a phone call.

Ms. Conway contacted the reporter, Caitlin Yilek, on Wednesday to dispute a line in an article from the previous day that mentioned the White House adviser’s husband, George Conway, who has departed sharply from his wife and become a prominent critic of Mr. Trump.

According to The Examiner, the offending line in the Tuesday story — which focused on the possibility that Ms. Conway could become the president’s chief of staff — read: “Conway has been in the middle of Trump’s barbs with her husband, George, a conservative lawyer who frequently makes headlines for his criticism of the president.”

Oct. 24

ny times logoNew York Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times will no longer be delivered to the White House, officials said, Michael M. Grynbaum, Oct. 24, 2019. President Trump has called members of the press “enemies of the people,” deemed critical coverage “fake,” accused news organizations of treason and threatened to make it easier to sue journalists for libel.

But not until this week had Mr. Trump turned to the ultimate recourse of the unhappy reader: He canceled his subscription.

Officials in the West Wing on Thursday announced that copies of The Washington Post and The New York Times would no longer be delivered to the White House. The administration is moving to force other federal agencies to end their subscriptions to the papers, as well.

“Not renewing subscriptions across all federal agencies will be a significant cost saving — hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars will be saved,” the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, said in a statement.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Sean Hannity just found himself in the thick of Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal, Bill Palmer, Oct. 24, 2019. Things are moving in a fast an strange sean hannity white housedirection when it comes to Donald Trump’s Ukraine scandal. When Lev Parnas appeared in court yesterday, he tried to invoke executive privilege, (falsely) asserting that he was working for the Trump administration, and making his trial Trump’s problem. Hours later, Rudy Giuliani came out of hibernation to tweet that everything he did in Ukraine was for Trump.

bill palmer report logo headerEven as Rudy, Lev, and Igor all continue to scramble to tie themselves to Trump on the legal front, new details are surfacing abou what they were up to before Lev and Igor got arrested. Not only were they conspiring with disgraced former Ukraine official Viktor Shokin, right, to try to invent phony scandals about Joe Biden, they were preparing to put Shokin on the air to do an interview – with Sean Hannity, right. In fact, according to CNN, the interview was scheduled to take place in Vienna, the day after Lev and Igor were arrested.

viktor shokinTo be clear, this does not criminally implicate Hannity. It’s not illegal to interview someone. It’s not even illegal to interview someone if you know they’re a criminal. But from a scandal standpoint, if not a legal standpoint, it does raise questions about just how much Hannity knew about what was going on. It also raises questions about how much or little Hannity might be legally required to testify about at the Parnas-Fruman trial, as Hannity may be a key witness, but he also has journalistic protections.

Oct. 22

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Forty-six attorneys general have joined a New York-led antitrust investigation into Facebook, Tony Romm​, Oct. 22, 2019. The probe reflects concerns among state officials that Facebook may have put consumer data at risk, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, and increased the price of advertising.

Oct. 21

julian assange indicter image

Consortium News, Judge Denies Assange Extension on Extradition Hearing, Joe Lauria, Oct. 21, 2019. A judge at a hearing in London has denied the WikiLeaks’ publisher more time to prepare his defense, while a group of Australian politicians coalesce around a demand to return Julian Assange home. The judge in Julian Assange’s extradition process on Monday denied his lawyer’s appeal for more time to prepare his case as the imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher weakly told the court he was unable to “research anything” in the conditions under which he is being held in high-security Belmarsh Prison.

Assange (shown above in a photo by The Indicter Magazine) appeared in person at Westminster Magistrate’s Court in London Monday morning for a case management hearing on the request by the United States for Assange to be sent to Virginia to face 18 charges, including allegedly violating the U.S. Espionage Act for possessing and disseminating classified information that revealed prima facie evidence of U.S. war crimes.

Mark Summers, Assange’s lawyer, told the court the charges were “a political attempt” by the U.S. “to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information.” The Espionage Act indictment against Assange by the Trump Administration is the first time a journalist has been charged under the 1917 Act for publishing classified material.

“It is legally unprecedented,” Summers told Judge Vanessa Baraitser. He argued that President Donald Trump was politically motivated by the 2020 election to pursue Assange.

Summers also argued before Baraitser that the U.S. “has been actively engaged in intruding into privileged discussions between Assange and his lawyers.” It was revealed this month that the Central Intelligence Agency was given access to surveillance video shot by a private Spanish company of all interactions Assange had with lawyers, doctors and visitors.

“This is part of an avowed war on whistleblowers to include investigative journalists and publishers,” Summers said. “The American state has been actively engaged in intruding on privileged discussions between Mr Assange and his lawyer.”

Because of this surveillance, including “unlawful copying of their telephones and computers” as well as “hooded men breaking into offices,” Assange’s lawyers needed more time to prepare his defense, Summers argued. But Baraitser refused the request, and ordered Assange back in court for a second management hearing on Dec. 19. The full extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on Feb. 25 next year.

Oct. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Defiant Zuckerberg Says Facebook Won’t Police Political Speech, Cecilia Kang and Mike Isaac, Oct. 17, 2019. In an address at Georgetown University, the Facebook chief executive called for more free speech — not less — as his company has been assailed for allowing lies and falsehoods to appear.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wSenator Elizabeth Warren recently accused Facebook of being a “disinformation-for-profit machine.” Marc Benioff, chief executive of the online software maker Salesforce, said the social network “needs to be held accountable for propaganda on its platform.” And regulators around the world are examining whether to break the company up or clip its power.

Under fire on all sides, Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, went on the offense on Thursday against his critics.

facebook logoIn a winding, 35-minute speech at Georgetown University’s Gaston Hall — where presidents and foreign heads of state have delivered addresses — Mr. Zuckerberg fought back against the idea that the social network needed to be an arbiter of speech. He said that Facebook had been founded to give people a voice and bring them together, and that critics who had assailed the company for doing so were setting a dangerous example.

To make his case, Mr. Zuckerberg invoked Frederick Douglass, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War and the First Amendment. He contrasted Facebook’s position with that of China, where the authorities control and censor speech, and which he tried unsuccessfully for years to enter to turbocharge his company’s business.

Oct. 16

james fetzer

James Fetzer, a retired professor (file photo)

Wisconsin State Journal, Jury awards Sandy Hook father $450,000 for defamation by local conspiracy theorist, Chris Rickert, Oct. 16, 2019.  

A Dane County jury on Tuesday decided a village of Oregon conspiracy theorist must pay the father of a boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook shootings $450,000 for falsely claiming that the father circulated fabricated copies of his son’s death certificate.

It took the jury nearly four hours to decide on the amount James Fetzer must pay Leonard Pozner, whose son, Noah, 6, was the youngest victim of the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. The award follows Circuit Judge Frank Remington’s ruling in June that Fetzer defamed Pozner with four false statements about the death certificate. The statements appeared in a book Fetzer co-authored and edited, and in his blog.

In his own statement after the jury delivered its decision, Pozner thanked the jury “for recognizing the pain and terror that Mr. Fetzer has purposefully inflicted on me and on other victims of these horrific mass casualty events, like the Sandy Hook shooting,” and emphasized that his case was not about First Amendment protections.

“Mr. Fetzer has the right to believe that Sandy Hook never happened,” he said. “He has the right to express his ignorance. This award, however, further illustrates the difference between the right of people like Mr. Fetzer to be wrong and the right of victims like myself and my child to be free from defamation, free from harassment and free from the intentional infliction of terror.”

Fetzer called the damages amount “absurd” and said he would appeal.

Fetzer — a professor emeritus of philosophy from the University of Minnesota-Duluth and prolific conspiracy theorist on a range of events — claims the Sandy Hook massacre never happened but was instead an event staged by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of an Obama administration effort to enact tighter gun restrictions.

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: In ‘Catch and Kill,’ Ronan Farrow Recounts Chasing Harvey Weinstein Story, Jennifer Szalai, Oct. 16, 2019 (print ed.). Farrow writes ronan farrowthat NBC tried to shut down his reporting about sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer. We live in polarized times, but one thing still seems to be shared across the political divide: sexual misconduct. As Ronan Farrow documents in his absorbing new book, Catch and Kill, mistreating women is a bipartisan enterprise.

This can make for some twisted alliances. Farrow describes how he put together his explosive 2017 exposé of numerous sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a longtime Democratic fund-raiser and “part of the brain trust around Hillary Clinton.” (Farrow’s article ran in The New Yorker in October 2017, five days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The Times published their article detailing harassment allegations against Weinstein.)

Farrow quotes gleeful emails between Weinstein and Dylan Howard, the editor of The National Enquirer, whose parent company, American Media Inc., was run by David Pecker, a staunch supporter of Donald J. Trump’s. Howard forwarded Weinstein some “dirt” on the actor Rose McGowan, who had tweeted the month before ronan farrow catch and kill Customabout “my rapist,” whom she didn’t name. “This is the killer,” Weinstein wrote. “Especially if my fingerprints r not on this.”

Catch and Kill gets its title from a tabloid practice that A.M.I. had honed over the years: purchasing a story in order to bury it. A.M.I.’s strategy is an essential part of this book’s narrative, but what Farrow suggests is that NBC News, which employed him at the time, did something with the Weinstein story that wasn’t entirely dissimilar. Instead of hush money, Farrow says, NBC officials used the institutional levers at their disposal to shut down his work on Weinstein — from intermittent discouragement to elaborate stonewalling to a legal review that turned out to be both labyrinthine nbc news logoand absurd.

They even ordered Farrow and his steadfast producer, Rich McHugh, to take the rather extraordinary step of halting their reporting; then, when Farrow’s article ran in The New Yorker, NBC released a statement saying that the reporting NBC officials saw (and that Farrow says they tried to impede) had not been up to snuff.

Waterbury Republican-American, Forerunner for women’s newsroom roles had city roots, Tracey O’Shaughnessy, Oct. 15, 2019. Laura Joan Quinn was a Waterbury native and pioneer in women’s representation in newsrooms. In October 1974, a 27-year-old woman from Waterbury published a 24-part series on “Women’s Rights Issues” in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.

The series — an exhaustive examination of women in the workplace, on TV, in marriage, in divorce, in taxes, in rape and abortion and even in the classified ads —ran over the course of seven weeks in the now-defunct Bulletin. It won a citation from the American Bar Association and shone a light on reporting done by a woman about women.

That the series even ran — in 24-parts, a far-reaching use of space, impossible by today’s standards — was stunning in itself. But that the Waterbury reporter who wrote it — working at the paper’s suburban bureau — would even have a job with the Philadelphia Bulletin was more surprising still. Only the year before, the reporter laurie quinnfiled a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission because the newspaper — like most, at the time— labeled its classified job openings by sex.

Yes, dear Millennials, once upon a not-very-long-time ago, job advertisements were divided by gender — “Male” jobs were professional, technical and well-paying; and “Female” jobs were secretarial, assistant, lower-paying positions.

And Laurie Quinn, daughter of then-Superior Court Public Defender, Raymond J. Quinn, Jr., knew that was more than unfair. It was also illegal.

A frayed and yellowing notice by the Bulletin that as of Aug. 29, 1973, the paper would no longer list jobs with reference to sex, was among the many effects found in the Brussels, Belgium, apartment of Quinn, who died of natural causes Sept. 26 at 72. I was able to access it — and the series Quinn wrote — out of the generosity of her sister, Alice Quinn. Ironically, it was the same day I received my review copy of “She Said,” the Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey book about breaking the sexual harassment story that ignited the #MeToo movement.

That book — to say nothing of The New York Times reporters who wrote it — must have seemed unthinkable to Laurie Quinn 43 years ago. Unimaginable, and yet made possible by fierce, feisty reporters like Quinn.

If we think of women in journalism at all, we focus on the big names: Martha Gellhorn, the maverick war correspondent; or Katharine Graham, helming the Washington Post after her husband’s suicide; or Joan Didion, breaking open the California subculture for all to see. But the story of women elbowing their way into reporting and editing positions began with hundreds of well-educated, scrappy women, who knew that if they were held back from reporting positions, their stories would never get told.

One of them was Laurie Quinn.

Scrappy, pugnacious, witty and dogged, Quinn, a graduate of Notre Dame Academy, Rosemont College and the Annenberg School of Communications, was among the earliest wave of women to break into the male-dominated newspaper business. Newspapers, where average staffs are now 38% female, are still male-dominated, although in online news organizations, representation is closer to 50%.

“She was a good writer, a very clear writer, and she really was almost obsessed with justice,” said Laurie’s sister, Alice Quinn, former executive director of the Poetry Society of America.

But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when Laurie Quinn was breaking into the field, getting a news reporting job, let alone one of any significance, was virtually impossible.

“In the 1960s, a woman’s career trajectory at Newsweek could include roles as a mail girl, clipper, researcher and reporter,” wrote Stav Ziz in the magazine recently. “But almost uniformly, that’s where it ended. Only men were hired or promoted to staff writer.” In 1969, one of those researchers, Judy Gingold, learned that such a practice violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The following March, 46 women from Newsweek filed a complaint with the federal government charging the magazine with bypassing women for top writing positions because of their sex. At the time, most of those women worked as researchers, not news reporters. Those who did work in the newsroom were ghettoized into the food, fashion and society pages.

Four years after the Newsweek complaint, six female employees of The New York Times filed a similar sex-discrimination class-action suit, subsequently joined by nearly 600 other women. In 1978, the Times settled out of court, agreeing to place more women in reporting and upper-management positions. This is the watershed case that brought people like Anna Quindlen and Pulitzer-Prize winner Nan Robertson to The New York Times.

By that time, Laurie Quinn was in Philadelphia, working for the Bulletin, but determined to slay another Goliath. This time it was the then-monopoly that was AT&T. “She was going to take on AT&T, that it was a strangulating hold,” said Alice Quinn.

In 1980, Laurie Quinn signed a contract with Knopf to write a book on the company. When federal regulators broke up AT & T in 1983-’84, the book fizzled. In 1987, she followed with a book proposal on the incipient European Union, which officially formed six years later. That book, too, failed to come to fruition. By then, Quinn was living in Brussels, eeking out a living as a freelancer for Reuters, Newsday and other publications.

She would never work full-time for another news organization, for reasons as nebulous as they were emotionally complex. “She was harboring the hope of writing a book for a long time and her hopes were dashed, twice,” her sister Alice said.

How much of what happened to Quinn — a brilliant start followed a sputtering inability to gain traction — had to do with her sex and how much with her own obsessive tendencies is unclear. We tell stories of the victors. The many women —and men — who petered out remain lost in a miasma of rue.

Yet to read Quinn’s comprehensive stories on women — sandwiched as they were between the bruising columns of Art Buchwald and Mike Royko — is to see society brazenly dismembered from a distaff place. It’s not just that Quinn and so many like her sought to dismantle what today’s feminists call a “patriarchal system.” It’s that the environment was so saturated by sexism, that many Americans – in and out of newsrooms – likely never imagined it another way.

To read a young Laurie Quinn reporting on depression among women and the pressure on women to be “sexually attractive” “for the purposes of security,” in 1974 is to see the beginning of a movement that would topple male superstars from Charlie Rose to Placido Domingo. It started with local girls, at local newspapers, looking around and saying, “Something is not right.”

Oct. 15

Louisville Courier Journal via USAToday, ABC News mistakenly airs video from Kentucky gun show as Syria bombing footage, Ben Tobin, Oct. 15, 2019. ABC News apologized Monday usa today logoafter airing a video that it originally purported to be a depiction of a Turkish attack in northern Syria against Kurdish civilians after some raised concerns about its similarity to a 2017 video of a Kentucky military gun show.

The video first aired on "World News Tonight" on Sunday evening. As the video played, anchor Tom Llamas said it appeared "to show Turkey's military bombing Kurd civilians in a Syrian border town."

abc news logoForeign correspondent Ian Pannell also discussed the footage, saying, "this video, obtained by ABC News, appears to show the fury of the Turkish attack on the border town of Tal Abyad two nights ago."

However, some quickly questioned the authenticity of the video. Wojciech Pawelczyk, who describes himself as a video researcher and Trump supporter, pointed out on Twitter the similarity between the video that aired on ABC News and a video titled "Knob Creek night shoot 2017," which was filmed at Knob Creek Gun Range in West Point, Kentucky.

"Wow! ABC News is trying to pass gun range videos as combat footage from Syria," Pawelczyk wrote in a Tweet on Monday.

Oct. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, Young, Old, in Between: Facebook Ads Show Which Voters Candidates Want, Shane Goldmacher and Quoctrung Bui, Oct. 14, 2019.  Candidates have spent more money on Facebook than TV this year. See how the 12 Democrats who qualified for Tuesday’s debate are trying to reach specific voters.

facebook logoWhen it comes to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Facebook ads, the odds are overwhelming that people seeing them were born before 1975. For Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the opposite is true: People born in 1975 or after are more than twice as likely to see his Facebook ads than those born earlier. A gender split is clear, too: About half of Mr. Sanders’s audience are men, while about two-thirds of Mr. Biden’s are women.

Collectively, the 19 current Democratic candidates for president have poured nearly $32 million into Facebook ads this year — more money than they have spent so far on television ads, a striking measure of the social network's ever-rising influence in politics. The heavy spending on Facebook comes even as leading party officials have raised alarms about the site’s role in American democracy.

Politico, Inside Mark Zuckerberg's private meetings with conservative pundits, Natasha Bertrand and Daniel Lippman, Oct. 14, 2019. The lengthy, off-the-mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wrecord gatherings were held at one of the Facebook founder’s homes in California. They come as the social-media giant fends off accusations of liberal bias.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, right, has been hosting informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners with conservative journalists, commentators and at least one Republican lawmaker in recent months to talk about issues like free speech and discuss partnerships.

The dinners, which began in July, are part of Zuckerberg’s broader effort to cultivate friends on the right amid outrage by President Donald Trump and his allies over alleged “bias” against conservatives at Facebook and other major social media companies. "I’m under no illusions that he’s a conservative but I think he does care about some of our concerns,” said one person familiar with the gatherings, which multiple sources have confirmed.

News of the outreach is likely to further fuel suspicions on the left that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the White House and stay out of Trump’s crosshairs. The president threatened to sue Facebook and Google in June and has in the past pressured the Justice Department to take action against his perceived foes.

facebook logo“The discussion in Silicon Valley is that Zuckerberg is very concerned about the Justice Department, under Bill Barr, bringing an enforcement action to break up the company,” said one cybersecurity researcher and former government official based in Silicon Valley. “So the fear is that Zuckerberg is trying to appease the Trump administration by not cracking down on right-wing propaganda.”

Facebook has been criticized in recent days, including by Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, for its ad policy, which exempts politicians from third-party fact-checking and arguably facilitates the spread of disinformation.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Pro-Trump group shows gruesome mass murder video at Trump Doral conference, Wayne Madsen, shown at left, Oct. 14, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped2019. WMR had planned to run a story for today’s issue on the far right and neo-Nazi connections of Canadian Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer, who hopes to defeat incumbent Liberal Party prime minister Justin Trudeau in the October 21 parliamentary election. However, another story, more egregious in nature, broke over the weekend.

At a weekend gathering of a pro-Donald Trump group -- the American Priority Conference (APC) -- at Trump’s Doral country club resort outside of Miami, a doctored video was shown of a Trump caricature inside a crowded church shooting and stabbing to death other caricatures, including those of two former presidents of the United States and one current and three former presidential candidates, one of them John McCain, who donald trump jr croppeddied in 2018. Present at the Doral affair were Donald Trump, Jr., right, former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, and Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL-1CD).

The revolting political message the doctored video conveys is one of Trump exhorting his extremist and violence-prone “base” to launch lethal assaults on Trump’s opponents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Macabre Video of Fake Trump Shooting Media and Critics Is Shown at His Resort, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 13, 2019. A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Trump shooting, stabbing and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times.

Several of Mr. Trump’s top surrogates — including his son Donald Trump Jr., his former spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis — were scheduled to speak at the three-day conference, which was held by a pro-Trump group, American Priority, at Trump National Doral Miami. Ms. Sanders and a person close Mr. Trump’s son said on Sunday that they did not see the video at the conference.

The video, which includes the logo for Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, comprises a series of internet memes. The most violent clip shows Mr. Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man opening fire inside the “Church of Fake News” on parishioners who have the faces of his critics or the logos of media organizations superimposed on their bodies. It appears to be an edited scene of a church massacre from the 2014 dark comedy film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

The disclosure that the video was played shows how Mr. Trump’s anti-media language has influenced his supporters and bled into their own propaganda. Mr. Trump has made attacks on the news media a mainstay of his presidency, and he tweeted a similar — but far less violent video — in 2017. In recent weeks as he has confronted impeachment proceedings, he has ramped up his attacks on the news media, repeatedly calling it the “enemy of the people.”

Mr. Trump stops in the middle of the church, pulls a gun out of his suit jacket pocket and begins a graphic rampage. As the parishioners try to flee, the president fires at them. He shoots Black Lives Matter in the head, and also shoots Vice News.

A person who attended the conference last week took a video of the clip on his phone and had an intermediary send it to a reporter for The Times. Parts of the video were posted on YouTube in 2018 by a user with a history of creating pro-Trump mash-ups.

The organizer of the event said in a statement on Sunday that the clip had been played at the conference, saying it was part of a “meme exhibit.” He denounced the video and said his organization was looking into how it was shown at the event.

Some of those in the church try to apprehend Mr. Trump. He fends them off and makes his way toward the altar, knocking over several pews. He wrestles a parishioner with a Vice News logo as a face to the ground and then shoots the person at point blank range. In the background, the former john mcCain oF.B.I. director, James B. Comey, is seen trying to get away.

From there, Mr. Trump attacks a range of his critics. He strikes the late Arizona senator John McCain, left, in the back of the neck. He hits the television personality Rosie O’Donnell in the face and then stabs her in the head. He strikes Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California. He lights the head of Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential rival, on fire.

He takes Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, hostage before throwing him to the ground. Then he strikes former President Barack Obama in the back and throws him against a wall.

Oct. 13

Media News

ny times logoNew York Times, Macabre Video of Fake Trump Shooting Media and Critics Is Shown at His Resort, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Oct. 13, 2019. A video depicting a macabre scene of a fake President Trump shooting, stabbing and brutally assaulting members of the news media and his political opponents was shown at a conference for his supporters at his Miami resort last week, according to footage obtained by The New York Times.

Several of Mr. Trump’s top surrogates — including his son Donald Trump Jr., his former spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders and the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis — were scheduled to speak at the three-day conference, which was held by a pro-Trump group, American Priority, at Trump National Doral Miami. Ms. Sanders and a person close Mr. Trump’s son said on Sunday that they did not see the video at the conference.

The video, which includes the logo for Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign, comprises a series of internet memes. The most violent clip shows Mr. Trump’s head superimposed on the body of a man opening fire inside the “Church of Fake News” on parishioners who have the faces of his critics or the logos of media organizations superimposed on their bodies. It appears to be an edited scene of a church massacre from the 2014 dark comedy film “Kingsman: The Secret Service.”

The disclosure that the video was played shows how Mr. Trump’s anti-media language has influenced his supporters and bled into their own propaganda. Mr. Trump has made attacks on the news media a mainstay of his presidency, and he tweeted a similar — but far less violent video — in 2017. In recent weeks as he has confronted impeachment proceedings, he has ramped up his attacks on the news media, repeatedly calling it the “enemy of the people.”

Mr. Trump stops in the middle of the church, pulls a gun out of his suit jacket pocket and begins a graphic rampage. As the parishioners try to flee, the president fires at them. He shoots Black Lives Matter in the head, and also shoots Vice News.

A person who attended the conference last week took a video of the clip on his phone and had an intermediary send it to a reporter for The Times. Parts of the video were posted on YouTube in 2018 by a user with a history of creating pro-Trump mash-ups.

The organizer of the event said in a statement on Sunday that the clip had been played at the conference, saying it was part of a “meme exhibit.” He denounced the video and said his organization was looking into how it was shown at the event.

Some of those in the church try to apprehend Mr. Trump. He fends them off and makes his way toward the altar, knocking over several pews. He wrestles a parishioner with a Vice News logo as a face to the ground and then shoots the person at point blank range. In the background, the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, is seen trying to get away.

From there, Mr. Trump attacks a range of his critics. He strikes the late Arizona senator John McCain in the back of the neck. He hits the television personality Rosie O’Donnell in the face and then stabs her in the head. He strikes Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California. He lights the head of Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential rival, on fire.

He takes Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, hostage before throwing him to the ground. Then he strikes former President Barack Obama in the back and throws him against a wall.

Oct. 11

ny times logoNew York Times, In ‘Catch and Kill,’ Ronan Farrow Recounts Chasing Harvey Weinstein Story, Jennifer Szalai, Oct. 11, 2019. Farrow writes that NBC tried to shut down his reporting about sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer.

ronan farrowRonan Farrow, right, describes how he put together his explosive 2017 exposé of numerous sexual assault and harassment allegations against the Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, a longtime Democratic fund-raiser and “part of the brain trust around Hillary Clinton.” (Farrow’s article ran in The New Yorker in October 2017, five days after Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey of The Times published their article detailing harassment allegations against Weinstein.)

ronan farrow catch and kill CustomFarrow quotes gleeful emails between Weinstein and Dylan Howard, the editor of The National Enquirer, whose parent company, American Media Inc., was run by David Pecker, a staunch supporter of Donald J. Trump’s. Howard forwarded Weinstein some “dirt” on the actor Rose McGowan, who had tweeted the month before about “my rapist,” whom she didn’t name. “This is the killer,” Weinstein wrote. “Especially if my fingerprints r not on this.”

Catch and Kill gets its title from a tabloid practice that A.M.I. had honed over the years: purchasing a story in order to bury it. A.M.I.’s strategy is an essential part of this book’s narrative, but what Farrow suggests is that NBC News, which employed him at the time, did something with the Weinstein story that wasn’t entirely dissimilar. Instead of hush money, Farrow says, NBC officials used the institutional levers at their disposal to shut down his work on Weinstein — from intermittent discouragement to elaborate stonewalling to a legal review that turned out to be both labyrinthine and absurd.

Shep Smith

washington post logoWashington Post, Shepard Smith resigns from Fox News, Paul Farhi​, Oct. 11, 2019. Smith, one of Fox News’ leading anchors and a frequent critic of President Trump, said the decision to leave was his own, but gave no further reason for doing so. He announced his resignation on the air on his Friday program, which Fox said would be his last.

Smith, Fox’s chief news anchor and anchor of its afternoon news program, “Shepard Smith Reporting,” said the decision to leave was his own, but gave no further reason for his departure. He announced his resignation on the air on his Friday program, which Fox said would be his last.

Smith has been at Fox News since its founding 23 years ago, and was one of the first people hired for its launch in 1996.

In a statement, Smith said, “Recently I asked the company to allow me to leave Fox News and begin a new chapter. After requesting that I stay, they graciously obliged. The opportunities afforded this guy from small town Mississippi have been many. It’s been an honor and a privilege to report the news each day to our loyal audience in context and with perspective, without fear or favor.”

Smith has often incurred the wrath of loyal Fox viewers — and of Trump — by his skeptical reporting and commentary on the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Why Trump is flirting with abandoning Fox News for One America, Nicole Hemmer (author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics), Oct. 11, 2019. The newer network is using Fox’s own tactics to challenge the cable titan.

When President Trump attacks most news outlets, there is an air of glee in his tweets, a lusty relish he reserves for those he has deemed true enemies. But when he attacks Fox News, as he did Thursday, his tone becomes one of bewildered disappointment. “@FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore,” he moaned. “It is so different than it used to be.”

Oct. 9

matt lauer today

ny times logoNew York Times, Matt Lauer Is Accused of Rape in Ronan Farrow’s New Book, Jim Windolf, John Koblin and Rachel Abrams, Oct. 9, 2019. One of the reporters who helped bring down Harvey Weinstein secured an on-the-record interview with one of the former “Today” host’s accusers.

For more than 20 years, Matt Lauer, shown in a file photo, was a star anchor of NBC’s most profitable franchise, “Today.” His downfall came in November 2017 when the network fired him after receiving a complaint of sexual misconduct against him. The accusation was soon followed by others.

ronan farrowNow, the circumstances of that firing have resurfaced in a book by the investigative journalist Ronan Farrow, right, that contains new details from Mr. Lauer’s primary accuser, including her account of a rape. The book, Catch and Kill, is expected to be released on Tuesday.

The accuser provided an account of her interactions with Mr. Lauer to The New York Times nearly two years ago, but said she was not willing to go public with her story at the time. On Wednesday, Variety reported that Mr. Farrow had secured an on-the-record interview with the woman, Brooke Nevils, who allowed the author to name her.

Ms. Nevils gave Mr. Farrow a detailed description of an encounter with Mr. Lauer, which took place when the network was covering the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Mr. Lauer anally raped Ms. Nevils, she told Mr. Farrow.

nbc news logoMr. Lauer denied the allegation in a letter provided by his lawyer on Wednesday. “In a new book, it is alleged that an extramarital, but consensual, sexual encounter I have previously admitted having was in fact an assault,” Mr. Lauer wrote. “It is categorically false, ignores the facts and defies common sense. I had an extramarital affair with Brooke Nevils in 2014. It began when she came to my hotel room very late one night in Sochi, Russia. We engaged in a variety of sexual acts. We performed oral sex on each other, we had vaginal sex, and we had anal sex. Each act was mutual and completely consensual.”

NBC News, working as a contributor to MSNBC and, for a time, as a correspondent on “Today,” with a segment called “Undercover With Ronan Farrow.” The book includes a detailed account of the pushback Mr. Farrow said he had received from the news division’s executives, and his reporting on Mr. Lauer could have reverberations at the network. Up until now, Mr. Farrow had been publicly silent on his disagreements with the network.

Media Matters, Facebook lets Trump lie at will, Alex Kaplan, Oct. 10, 2019. Facebook has denied a request from Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign to remove a false video advertisement posted by President Donald Trump’s campaign. The refusal comes weeks after Facebook changed its policies and decided to allow advertisements pushing misinformation from Trump and other political figures.

facebook logoAccording to The New York Times, Biden’s campaign sent a request to Facebook asking the company to remove a Trump campaign advertisement that falsely suggested the vice president had offered Ukraine $1 billion in aid to fire a prosecutor investigating a company tied to his son. On Tuesday, Facebook refused to take the ad down, responding, “Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression" and "respect for the democratic process.” (CNN had previously refused to air the ad.)

In September, Facebook changed its policies to no longer prohibit ads that include “deceptive, false, or misleading content, including deceptive claims, offers, or methods.” Additionally, Facebook said that “ads from political candidates are ineligible for fact-checking.”

Even before the policy tweak, the Trump campaign had repeatedly posted false and misleading Facebook ads, along with ads using “invasion” rhetoric invoked by white nationalists, even though Facebook’s policies prohibit “violent” or “dehumanizing” attacks against a group of people based on immigration status.

Along with the issue of misinformation proliferating in its ads, the platform continues to struggle with detecting and removing propaganda and other misinformation, including from foreign actors such as Russia. These current challenges add to Facebook's history of problems with privacy, fake news, civil rights, and more.

Oct. 9

Media Matters, Opinion: Forty-three new women came forward to describe assault and harassment by Trump. Newspapers ignored them, Zachary Pleat, Oct. 9, 2019. A forthcoming book excerpted by Esquire reveals "another 43 allegations of alleged inappropriate behavior" by President Donald Trump, "including 26 instances of unwanted sexual contact." These women join 24 others who have already publicly said the president sexually assaulted them or made unwanted advances to them.

While several online publications have covered this news, thus far several American newspapers are ignoring the story. At the time of publication of this story, not a single newspaper in the country published a story about the women coming forward.

Oct. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook’s Hands-Off Approach to Political Speech Gets Impeachment Test, Cecilia Kang, Oct. 8, 2019. The 30-second video ad released by the Trump campaign last week is grainy, and the narrator’s voice is foreboding. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., it says, offered Ukraine $1 billion in aid if the country pushed out the man investigating a company tied to Mr. Biden’s son.

Saying it made false accusations, CNN immediately refused to air the advertisement.

But Facebook did not, and on Tuesday, the social network rejected a request from Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign to take it down, foreshadowing a continuing fight over misinformation on the service during the 2020 election as well as the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

facebook logoIn a letter to the Biden campaign, Facebook said the ad, which has been viewed five million times on the site, did not violate company policies. Last month, the social network, which has more than two billion users, announced that politicians and their campaigns had nearly free rein over content they post there.

Even false statements and misleading content in ads, the company has said, are an important part of the political conversation.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process, and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

The decision by the company illustrates its executives’ hardened resolve to stay out of the moderation of political speech, despite the use of the social network to spread discord and disinformation in the 2016 presidential campaign. On Tuesday, the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released a sobering report warning of fresh signs of interference by Russia and other foreign nations in the 2020 election.

The company’s position stands in contrast to CNN, which rejected two ads from the Trump campaign last week, including the one the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down. The cable channel said it rejected the ad because it “makes assertions that have been proven demonstrably false by various news outlets.”

Facebook has been dogged by accusations of censorship by conservative politicians, including President Trump, who argue that the Silicon Valley company gives greater attention to liberal points of views on the social network.

But by removing itself as the moderator of political content — including in paid ads on the site — Facebook has left itself open another avenue of criticism. In a series of tweets Monday evening, Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the front-runners for the Democratic nomination, said Facebook allowed President Trump to spread false information widely, and called on the company to take down the attack ad against Mr. Biden, one of her top rivals.

“Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once because they were asleep at the wheel while Russia attacked our democracy — allowing fake, foreign accounts to run ad campaigns to influence our elections,” Ms. Warren wrote.

Oct. 8

Columbia Journalism Review, How the Buffalo News stayed ahead of the insider trading story that took down a congressman, Savannah Jacobson, Oct. 8, 2019. In June 2017, New York Representative Chris Collins –– the first congressperson to endorse Trump –– was at a picnic in the White House lawn when he received an email alerting him that an Australian pharmaceutical company he invested in, Innate, had failed clinical trials.

chris collins cropped oCollins, who had been encouraging other members of congress to invest in the stock, then called his son and advised him to sell his shares before the information became public. Ultimately, Collins, his son, and his son’s fiancee’s father sold their stock, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Last week, the congressman pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of lying to the federal government, while the other two men pled guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Collins could face almost five years in prison, while his son and his future father-in-law each face up to 46 months in prison.

As soon as the news that Innate had failed its clinical trials broke, Zremski says, “I knew what was going to happen.” Australians couldn’t trade Innate stock for three days prior to the announcement, but no such hold took place in the United States. “That’s where they were able to dump the stock,” Zremski says. Collins, equipped with inside information, sold his stock. He encouraged his son to do the same, who also passed along the scoop to his fiancee’s father, another investor in the company. On the day that Innate’s failure became public and the stock plummeted, Zremski says, “everybody’s first interest is how much money has Chris Collins lost?”

Zremski wrote a story in the early hours of the morning to keep up with the market in Australia. By the end of the day on the other side of the world, Innate stock had lost 90 percent of its value — a decline that cost Collins between $5 million and $44 million, Zremski wrote. "What’s transpired in the time since I wrote that story in June of 2017 has pretty much proved me right."

“Imagine if the Buffalo News didn’t have someone watching the members of Congress closely,” Zremski says. “Stories would not have been done in June 2017. And when and if Congressman Collins had ever gotten arrested, we would have been playing catch up.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative commentary: If it's Tuesday, this must be Romania, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 8, 2019. Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, seems to have starred in his own bizarre sequel to the 1969 zany film about an 18-day whirlwind tour through Europe, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium.”

Giuliani, in concert with Attorney General William Barr, has been involved in an international scheme to extort political dirt on former Vice President Joe Biden and other officials of the Barack Obama administration. That operation, by Giuliani’s own admission, now extends to Romania.

Oct. 7

Political Wire, Secret Far-Right Site Linked to RealClearPolitics, Taegan Goddard, Oct. 7, 2019. “The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears,” the Daily Beast reports. (Story excerpted  below).

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Investigation: RealClear Media Has a Secret Facebook Page to Push Far-Right Memes, Kevin Poulsen and Maxwell Tani, Oct. 8, 2019. RealClearPolitics has carefully cultivated a non-partisan image — while in the shadows its parent company pushes images of killer Clintons and a freedom-loving Kremlin.

The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears, The Daily Beast has learned.

Called “Conservative Country,” the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes. One recent post showed a man training two assault rifles at a closed door with the caption “Just sitting here waiting on Beto.” Others wink at right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s “ties to Islam” or the Clintons having their enemies killed, or portray Muslim members of Congress as terrorist infiltrators. The page is effusive with praise for Vladimir Putin, and one post portrays Russia as the last bastion of freedom in Europe.

It’s a far cry from the usual fare on RealClearPolitics. Founded in 2000, the site was an early online aggregator of political news, curating links to widely read politics stories and opinion articles in other major outlets. The site has become synonymous with its polling aggregator, which is regularly cited by news organizations on both sides of the aisle as an objective metric of major political races. In recent years, the site has expanded to cover health care, finance, foreign policy, and more.

RealClearPolitics has taken major pains to be seen as nonpartisan and non-ideological in its reporting. The site’s news reporting focuses on horserace-style coverage of elections, evenly weighing opinions from both parties, while the RealClear pages curate a mix of stories and opinion articles from sites across the political spectrum.

But the willingness to share and aggregate all political views has also made the site more receptive to Trump-friendly writing than some other outlets. Of the seven featured “opinion writers” listed in a tab on the site, three — including occasional Trump adviser Steve Cortes—are openly supportive of the president’s agenda.

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Investigation: RealClear Media Has a Secret Facebook Page to Push Far-Right Memes, Kevin Poulsen and Maxwell Tani, Oct. 7, 2019. RealClearPolitics has carefully cultivated a non-partisan image—while in the shadows its parent company pushes images of killer Clintons and a freedom-loving Kremlin.

The company behind the non-partisan news site RealClearPolitics has been secretly running a Facebook page filled with far-right memes and Islamophobic smears, The Daily Beast has learned.

Called “Conservative Country,” the Facebook page was founded in 2014 and now boasts nearly 800,000 followers for its mix of Donald Trump hagiography and ultra-conservative memes. One recent post showed a man training two assault rifles at a closed door with the caption “Just sitting here waiting on Beto.” Others wink at right-wing conspiracy theories about Barack Obama’s “ties to Islam” or the Clintons having their enemies killed, or portray Muslim members of Congress as terrorist infiltrators. The page is effusive with praise for Vladimir Putin, and one post portrays Russia as the last bastion of freedom in Europe.

It’s a far cry from the usual fare on RealClearPolitics. Founded in 2000, the site was an early online aggregator of political news, curating links to widely read politics stories and opinion articles in other major outlets. The site has become synonymous with its polling aggregator, which is regularly cited by news organizations on both sides of the aisle as an objective metric of major political races. In recent years, the site has expanded to cover health care, finance, foreign policy, and more.

There’s no hint of Conservative Country’s provenance on its Facebook “about” page, which reads in total, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence. It is force. And force, like fire, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” (It’s an apocryphal quote attributed to George Washington.) But in 2017 Conservative Country was linked as the official Facebook page for a now defunct political news site using the same name and logo, ConservativeCountry.net.

That website featured professional writers instead of memes, but it too omitted any mention of who owned or operated the site. The Daily Beast connected ConservativeCountry.net to RealClear through archives on the Wayback Machine, which show that the website had RealClear’s Google Analytics tracker code and that some of the site’s images were served from the WordPress account of RealClear’s chief technology officer. Interviews with former editorial staff of ConservativeCountry.net confirmed that it was a stealth RealClear property.

“It was a site put out through RealClear Media,” said Kevin Whiteley, who in an interview with The Daily Beast recalled coming to RealClear in April 2016 by way of a Craigslist help wanted ad. He worked out of RealClear’s Chicago headquarters, and at first his job was writing for the publisher’s branded websites. “And then they launched Conservative Country to do conservative politics,” he said. “Once they started Conservative Country, I was just writing for Conservative Country.”

RealClearPolitics has taken major pains to be seen as nonpartisan and non-ideological in its reporting. The site’s news reporting focuses on horserace-style coverage of elections, evenly weighing opinions from both parties, while the RealClear pages curate a mix of stories and opinion articles from sites across the political spectrum.

But the willingness to share and aggregate all political views has also made the site more receptive to Trump-friendly writing than some other outlets. Of the seven featured “opinion writers” listed in a tab on the site, three—including occasional Trump adviser Steve Cortes—are openly supportive of the president’s agenda.

Oct. 5

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Journalist says a CBP officer at Dulles withheld his passport until he agreed he writes ‘propaganda,’ Hannah Knowles, Oct. 5, 2019.​ The story has sparked alarm about rising hostility to journalists as the Trump administration continues to attack the media as “fake news.” It took a moment for Ben Watson to realize the officer was not joking.

Watson had just told the Customs and Border Protection staffer reviewing his passport that he works in journalism. Then the seemingly routine Thursday encounter at the Washington Dulles International Airport got tense.

“So you write propaganda, right?” Watson, the news editor at the national security site Defense One, recalled the CBP officer asking.

“No,” Watson says he replied. He affirmed again that he was a journalist.

The officer repeated his propaganda question, said Watson, who was returning from a reporting trip in Denmark.

“With his tone, and he’s looking me in the eye — I very much realized this is not a joke,” Watson told The Washington Post on Friday. Watson said he got his passport back only after agreeing with the “propaganda” charge.

Oct. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Sports Illustrated shaken by major layoffs and massive reorganization, Jacob Bogage and Ben Strauss, Oct. 4, 2019 (print ed.). The job losses threaten to decimate what was once the standard-bearer of American sports journalism. The publishing company behind Sports Illustrated laid off 35 to 40 percent of the publication’s editorial staff Thursday, according to people familiar with the personnel moves, cuts that could decimate what was once the standard-bearer of American sports journalism.

Staffers speaking on the condition of anonymity out of concern of reprisal said the job losses are worse than most inside the magazine expected. Even die-hard optimists said morale was at an all-time low given the magazine’s recent struggles, and key managers were not given the opportunity to fight to save some of the organization’s most prized writers.

Sports Illustrated has been in a state of uncertainty for years after two corporate sales. It was purchased from Time Inc. along with a series of other titles — including Time and Fortune — by publishing conglomerate Meredith for $1.8 billion in 2017, then immediately placed back on the market. Authentic Brands Group purchased Sports Illustrated in May for $110 million, a price considered a bargain.

Trumper Creates 'Chaos' For AOC

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservatives attacked Ocasio-Cortez over a bizarre town hall speaker. Now, a pro-Trump fringe group says it planned the stunt, alexandria ocasio cortezAllyson Chiu, Oct. 4, 2019. For most of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Thursday town hall, the woman in a black jacket sat quietly in the third row. Then, as the event in Corona, N.Y., neared its end, the woman suddenly stood up and began yelling about climate change.

“But we’re not going to be here much long because of the climate crisis,” the woman blurted. “We got to start eating babies,” she abruptly declared, taking off her jacket to display a T-shirt that read: “Save the planet. Eat the children.”

The woman’s bizarre speech swiftly became the center of a heated Twitter fight Thursday night that pitted Ocasio-Cortez, right, against President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr. and other conservatives, who suggested the woman was an example of “climate change hysteria.” In response, Ocasio-Cortez chastised critics for trying to “mock or make a spectacle” of a woman who “may have been suffering from a mental condition.”

It now seems likely that the scene was carefully planned.

The woman was apparently part of an attempt by a right-wing fringe political group to embarrass the Democratic congresswoman. Late Thursday, a Twitter account belonging to the LaRouche PAC — which was founded by conspiracy theorist Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. — took credit for the stunt. A historian who has documented the organization said the woman’s outburst was “a fairly well-established tactic for them.”

“They’ve been doing this since the ’70s,” Matthew Sweet, whose book Operation Chaos delved into the group’s complex history, told The Washington Post. “The tactic is you go to a political meeting and you create a disturbance that disrupts the meeting, and more importantly, that creates a kind of chaos.”

Described by Sweet as a “bizarre political cult,” LaRouche led the group until he died at 96 in February. LaRouche, who ran for president eight times between 1976 and 2004, “built a worldwide following based on conspiracy theories, economic doom, anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism,” The Post’s Timothy R. Smith wrote. In its early years, the organization’s views skewed left, but LaRouche’s vision eventually shifted, becoming “ultraconservative and apocalyptic,” The Post reported. More recently, the group has expressed support for Trump.

Known as “LaRouchians,” the group has “always been tiny,” Sweet told The Post, but its members have still managed to make waves in U.S. politics. The list of high-profile figures they have publicly heckled and harassed range from actress Jane Fonda to former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, he said.

Though Ocasio-Cortez quickly moved on to another question, the woman continued to try to talk, prompting two people to escort her from her seat.

By early Friday, a number of news outlets, including some conservative websites, had published articles about the woman’s comments. A two-minute video of the event had garnered more than 5 million views on Twitter, drawing reactions from Trump and Trump Jr., and the hashtag “#EatTheBabies” was trending.

Trump Jr. tweeted that the woman “seems like a normal AOC supporter to me,” and the president retweeted his son, adding, “AOC is a Wack Job!"

In a tweet addressing the town hall, Ocasio-Cortez hit back at critics, writing, “At one point I was concerned there was a woman in crisis,” adding that she wanted to “ensure we treat the situation compassionately.”

“This person may have been suffering from a mental condition and it’s not okay that the right-wing is mocking her,” she wrote minutes later. “Be a decent human being and knock it off.”

On Friday morning, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the woman’s affiliation with the group “doesn’t rule out potential mental issue (Drs do that) but good to know they were not in crisis.”

Turns out the woman yelling was a Trump supporter

Oct. 3

washington post logoWashington Post, Tension, heckling at Woodward-moderated book event for ‘She Said’ at Sixth & I, Lisa Bonos and Emily Yahr, Oct. 3, 2019. Some in the audience got uncomfortable when The Post’s Bob Woodward repeatedly interrupted Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, two New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct story.

It seemed like the perfect combination of three Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalists: The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward interviewing the New York Times’s Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on Wednesday about their best-selling book, “She Said,” a deep dive into their investigation of sexual assault and harassment allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

But about 20 minutes in, things got awkward. As Woodward repeatedly interrupted the authors to ask questions or clarify facts, audible murmurs rippled through the crowd. Eventually, one attendee yelled, “You’re interrupting her!” as many applauded in agreement.

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Jamal Khashoggi remembered in Washington one year after journalist’s killing, Clarence Williams, Oct. 3, 2019. As the wax burned on a few dozen candles, a group of journalists and human rights activists bowed their heads Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

jamal khashoggi western suitThe brief moment of silence outside the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington honored the loss of Khashoggi’s courageous words.

But organizers of the vigil made it clear that they have no intention of remaining silent until his killers are prosecuted, the Saudi government is held accountable for its role, the kingdom stops restricting dissent and jailing journalists, and the Trump administration challenges Saudi royals to achieve these goals.

“Silence is not how we at the National Press Club have been responding to Jamal’s killing. To the contrary, we have been as loud as possible, for as long as possible, and we intend to keep it that way,” said John Donnelly, a senior writer for CQ Roll Call who is also the chairman of the National Press Club’s Press Freedom Committee.

He also directed words at Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, holding him responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

“You may think you have impunity for your crime and the world will forget and move on,” Donnelly said. “But as long as Jamal’s fellow reporters have anything to say about it, his inspirational life and his awful death at your bloody hands will never be forgotten.”

The Wrap, Fox News Host Todd Starnes Out After Suggesting Democrats Worship Pagan God Moloch, Lindsey Ellefson, Oct. 2, 2019. The host will no longer be working at the network, its website or Fox Nation. Fox News radio host and commentator Todd Starnes has been ousted from the network, its website contract and the premium subscription service Fox Nation, the company told TheWrap on Wednesday. He made headlines as recently as Monday for comments during his radio program that Democrats do not believe in the Christian God and instead may worship Moloch, a pagan god often associated with child sacrifice.

fox news logo SmallFox News on Wednesday confirmed that Starnes is no longer working at the network but did not elaborate on the reasons behind his departure. An individual with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap Starnes’ exit “was in the works well before Monday.”

In the place of his “Fox News & Commentary” radio program, Fox News Radio will broadcast “Fox Across America.” The opinion show will rely on a rotation of various Fox News personalities until a new permanent host is named.

Beyond his three-hour Fox News Radio show and Fox Nation program, “Starnes Country,” the conservative author contributed opinion pieces to FoxNews.com. TheWrap readers may remember Starnes as the host who said he would have preferred that, during a surprise cameo at the 2018 Grammys, Hillary Clinton read from Juanita Broaddrick’s book accusing Bill Clinton of rape rather than from Michael Wolff’s Trump White House exposé “Fire & Fury.” (The former president’s lawyer has repeatedly denied Broaddrick’s accusation and no charges have been filed in the case.)

Oct. 2

Consortium News, Commentary: Twitter Employs Propagandist as High-Level Executive, Caitlin Johnstone, Oct. 2, 2019. This is just one more item on the twitter bird Customever-growing mountain of evidence that these giant, influential social media platforms function as state propaganda.

Middle East Eye‘s Ian Cobain has published an exclusive titled “Twitter executive for Middle East is British Army ‘psyops’ soldier,” exposing Twitter’s senior editorial executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa as someone who also works for an actual, literal propaganda unit in the British military called the 77th Brigade. Which is mighty interesting, considering the fact that Twitter constantly suspends accounts from non-empire-aligned nations based on the allegation that they are engaging in propaganda.

September

Sept. 29

 

djt mbs file

washington post logoWashington Post, How Trump led Saudi crown prince back into global fold after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Shane Harris and John Hudson, Sept. 29, 2019 (print ed.). Wednesday will mark one year since Saudi agents killed Khashoggi, right, a Washington Post contributor. But President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, emphasizing the kingdom’s strategic importance, never distanced themselves.

jamal khashoggi western suitAt the annual Group of 20 gathering of world leaders in Osaka, Japan, in June, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, beamed before cameras as he stood center stage between President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in a carefully choreographed group photo. He grinned as he sat with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And he shook hands joyously with South Korean President Moon Jae-in after the two countries struck agreements and contracts worth $8.3 billion.

The world leaders’ embrace of Mohammed was a clear signal that the young prince, who the CIA, U.S. allies and a United Nations investigator say is responsible for the savage killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was being welcomed back, if reluctantly, into the community of nations. And it wouldn’t

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the deep end after another Fox News host turns against him, Bill Palmer, Sept. 29, 2019. This week we keep hearing about how Fox News is trying to figure out how to prepare itself for a post-Trump future. We’ve already seen Fox hosts Shep Smith and Chris Wallace turn against Donald Trump a long time ago. Now it appears we can add a third name to the list – and suffice it to say that Trump isn’t happy about it.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump’s sycophant Mark Levin went on Fox News this morning to defend Donald Trump from his very real whistleblower scandal, and promote the fake Joe Biden scandal. Trump was clearly watching, because he completely erupted on Twitter over it. He couldn’t seem to find his own words, so instead he began retweeting any random person who was saying anything positive about Levin or anything negative about Ed Henry.

This led to situation where the President of the United States was retweeting juvenile smack talk like “The real one mark Levin just totally curved Ed Henry and his fake news” and “Mark Levin sure put that lying shit head Ed Henry in his place didn’t he?” If this is all Trump has left, he’s got nothing.

Sept. 27

Media / Supreme Court

SCOTUSblog, House Judiciary Committee hears testimony on public access to the court, Katie Bart, Sept. 27, 2019. A subcommittee of the U. S. House Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing yesterday on public access to the federal courts – the second hearing on ethics, accountability and transparency in a 21st-century federal judiciary. Chaired by Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., the subcommittee took expert testimony from a variety of witnesses, including two district court judges, an attorney in private practice and several journalists.

A major concern of the committee was the transparency of the Supreme Court and what improvements might be made in public access to oral arguments. Johnson began his opening statement by showing a New York Times photograph of the lines outside the Supreme Court on an argument day. Johnson questioned the fairness of a system in which line-standers are paid $50 an hour to obtain a seat in the courtroom. Invoking Lord Chief Justice of England Gordan Hewert, Johnson said, “It’s not enough that justice is done, the public must also see justice being done.”

The committee generally agreed that more immediate access to audio recordings of Supreme Court oral arguments would be an improvement. On the subject of allowing cameras in the courtroom, many of the members predicted, based on their own institution’s relationship with C-SPAN, that advocates and the justices might “play to the cameras.” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., quoted Chief Justice John Roberts’ take: “’I think if there were cameras that the lawyers would act differently. I think, frankly, that some of my colleagues would act differently and that would affect what we think is a very important and well-functioning part of the decision process. I don’t think that are a lot of public institutions, frankly, that have been improved by how they do business by camera.’”

Judge Audrey G. Fleissig, one of the two district court judges at the hearing, chairs a committee on court administration for the Judicial Conference of the United States. Although the Judicial Conference has piloted the use of cameras in select federal courtrooms, Fleissig insisted that the reviews were mixed and that “on balance, it can be very destructive to the integrity of the court process.”

The journalists who made up the second panel in yesterday’s hearing were more favorable toward cameras in the courtroom.

Sunny Hostin, co-host of “The View,” offered a “unique perspective” as a former prosecutor and African American journalist. Hostin’s testimony focused on how the absence of cameras in federal proceedings – and in the Supreme Court, in particular – has a profound effect on African Americans as the most incarcerated people in the world. Hostin said that “there exists no better cure for the fundamental mistrust and perceived illegitimacy of system than the transparency of the courts that define it – in particular, the highest court in the land.”

Sept. 26

Media Criticism On Ukraine

The Hill, Opinion: These once-secret memos cast doubt on Joe Biden's Ukraine story, John Solomon, right, Sept. 26, 2019. Former Vice President Joe Biden, now a 2020 john solomonDemocratic presidential contender, has locked into a specific story about the controversy in Ukraine. He insists that, in spring 2016, he strong-armed Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor solely because Biden believed that official was corrupt and inept, not because the Ukrainian was investigating a natural gas company, Burisma Holdings, that hired Biden's son, Hunter, into a lucrative job.

There’s just one problem. Hundreds of pages of never-released memos and documents — many from inside the American team helping Burisma to stave off its legal troubles — conflict with Biden’s narrative.

And they raise the troubling prospect that U.S. officials may have painted a false picture in Ukraine that helped ease Burisma’s legal troubles and stop prosecutors’ plans to interview Hunter Biden during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. For instance, Burisma’s American legal representatives met with Ukrainian officials just days after Biden forced the firing of the country’s chief prosecutor and offered “an apology for dissemination of false information by U.S. representatives and public figures” about the Ukrainian prosecutors, according to the Ukrainian government’s official memo of the meeting. The effort to secure that meeting began the same day the prosecutor's firing was announced.

In addition, Burisma’s American team offered to introduce Ukrainian prosecutors to Obama administration officials to make amends, according to that memo and the American legal team’s internal emails. The memos raise troubling questions:

1.) If the Ukraine prosecutor’s firing involved only his alleged corruption and ineptitude, why did Burisma's American legal team refer to those allegations as “false information?"

2.) If the firing had nothing to do with the Burisma case, as Biden has adamantly claimed, why would Burisma’s American lawyers contact the replacement prosecutor within hours of the termination and urgently seek a meeting in Ukraine to discuss the case?

Ukrainian prosecutors say they have tried to get this information to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) since the summer of 2018, fearing it might be evidence of possible violations of U.S. ethics laws. First, they hired a former federal prosecutor to bring the information to the U.S. attorney in New York, who, they say, showed no interest. Then, the Ukrainians reached out to President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

Media Criticism On Ukraine

washington post logoWashington Post, How a conservative columnist helped push a flawed Ukraine narrative, Paul Farhi, Sept. 26, 2019. The Hill’s John Solomon, right, wrote pieces supportive of john solomonTrump’s agenda, but the reporting had a few holes.

Back in March, the Hill newspaper published a series of stories and interviews that seemed, at the time, to be mainly of interest to foreign-policy wonks. John Solomon, the paper’s executive vice president, interviewed Ukraine’s then-top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, who alleged a startling conspiracy: that law enforcement officials within his country had leaked damaging information in 2016 against Paul Manafort, President Trump’s former campaign chairman, to help Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Lutsenko also floated suggestions that Marie Yovanovitch, who was then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was cooperating with the scheme to help Clinton and undermine Trump’s campaign. The ambassador, Lutsenko alleged, was “interfering in his ability to prosecute corruption cases” and had even given him a list of defendants that he would not be allowed to prosecute, Solomon wrote.

Solomon’s piece urged “a serious, thorough investigation” of Lutsenko’s claims. The story touched off a brushfire within the conservative media, in which Solomon is a prominent figure, but stayed largely out of mainstream view.

On Thursday, however, Solomon’s work gained new attention — and raised new questions about its sourcing, credibility and motivation. In a complaint filed by an anonymous whistleblower, Solomon’s stories were cited as part of a narrative about the alleged effort by Trump and his allies to pressure Ukraine’s government into digging up dirt on Trump’s Democratic rivals, including Clinton and Joe Biden, to enhance his prospects for reelection next year.

What’s clear is that Solomon — a former Washington Post investigative reporter who later became editor of the conservative Washington Times — has played an important role in advancing a flawed, Trump-friendly tale of corruption in Ukraine, particularly involving Biden and his son Hunter. The younger Biden was a director of a Ukrainian energy company at the time his father, the vice president, was beseeching Ukrainian officials to crack down on corruption.

Solomon, 52, has had a long, and occasionally decorated, career as an editor and investigative reporter in Washington, though his more recent work has been trailed by claims that it is biased and lacks rigor. Solomon said last week that he was moving on again, announcing that he was leaving the Hill next week to start his own, unspecified online media venture.

victoria nuland geoffrey pyatt petro poroshenko warsaw 6 4 14

Left to right: Victoria Nuland, U. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Ukraine post-coup president Petro Poroshenko, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (State Department photo in June 2014.).

Consortium News, Opinion: What Isn’t Mentioned About the Trump-Ukraine ‘Scandal’: The Routine Corruption of US Foreign Policy, Sept. 26, 2019. The impeachment offensive against Donald Trump is another symptom of a partisan disease that ignores an even greater malignancy.

The most crucial aspects of the Trump-Ukraine “scandal,” which has led to impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump, are not being told, even by Republicans. Trump was very likely motivated by politics if he indeed withheld military aid to Ukraine in exchange for Kiev launching an investigation into Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden, though the transcript of the call released by the White House between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelinsky does not make certain such a quid-pro-quo.

But what’s not being talked about in the mainstream is the context of this story, which shows that, politics aside, Biden should indeed be investigated in both Ukraine and in the United States. We know from the leaked, early 2014 telephone conversation between Victoria Nuland, then assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, and Geoffrey Pyatt, then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, that then Vice President Biden played a role in “midwifing” the U.S.-backed overthrow of an elected Ukrainian government soon after that conversation.

That’s the biggest crime in this story that isn’t being told. The illegal overthrow of a sovereign government. As booty from the coup, the sitting vice president’s son, Hunter Biden, soon got a seat on the board of Ukraine’s biggest gas producer, Burisma Holdings. This can only be seen as a transparently neocolonial maneuver to take over a country and install one’s own people. But Biden’s son wasn’t the only one.
A family friend of then Secretary of State John Kerry also joined Burisma’s board. U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto got a Ukrainian contract soon after the overthrow. And the first, post-coup Ukrainian finance minister was an American citizen, a former State Department official, who was given Ukrainian citizenship the day before she took up the post.

After a Ukrainian prosecutor began looking into possible corruption at Burisma, Biden openly admitted at a conference last year that as vice president he withheld a $1 billion credit line to Ukraine until the government fired the prosecutor. As Biden says himself, it took only six hours for it to happen. Exactly what Biden boasted of doing is what the Democrats are now accusing Trump of doing, and it isn’t clear if Trump got what he wanted as Biden did.

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, Sunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers.

Vanity Fair, “It’s Management Bedlam”: Madness at Fox News as Trump Faces Impeachment, Gabriel Sherman, Sept. 26, 2019. A Trump identity crisis at Fox as Hannity frets; Lachlan Murdoch prepares for a post-Trump future, Paul Ryan whispers in Rupert’s ear, and Shep Smith and Tucker Carlson trade blows.

In public, Donald Trump’s allies are putting on a brave face, repeating talking points, mostly staying on message. But in private, there are few who believe that the allegations fox news logo Smallleveled by an intelligence agency whistle-blower that Trump abused American foreign policy to leverage Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden won’t result in considerable damage — if not the complete unraveling of his presidency. “I don’t see how they don’t impeach,” a former West Wing official told me today. “This could unwind very fast, and I mean in days,” a prominent Republican said.

Trump’s final bulwark is liable to be his first one:

Fox News. Fox controls the flow of information — what facts are, whether allegations are to be believed — to huge swaths of his base. And Republican senators, who will ultimately decide whether the president remains in office, are in turn exquisitely sensitive to the opinions of Trump’s base. But even before the whistle-blower’s revelations, Fox was having something of a Trump identity crisis, and that bulwark has been wavering.

In recent weeks, Trump has bashed Fox News on Twitter, taking particular issue lately with its polling, which, like other reputable polls, has shown the president under significant water. Meanwhile, Trump’s biggest booster seems to be having doubts of his own. This morning, Sean Hannity told friends the whistle-blower’s allegations are “really bad,” a person briefed on Hannity’s conversations told me. (Hannity did not respond to a request for comment). And according to four sources, Fox Corp CEO Lachlan Murdoch is already thinking about how to position the network for a post-Trump future. A person close to Lachlan told me that Fox News has been the highest-rated cable network for seventeen years, and “the success has never depended on any one administration.” (A Fox Corp spokesperson declined to comment.)

Inside Fox News, tensions over Trump are becoming harder to contain as a long-running cold war between the network’s news and opinion sides turns hot. Fox has often taken a nothing-to-see-here approach to Trump scandals, but impeachment is a different animal.

“It’s management bedlam,” a Fox staffer told me. “This massive thing happened, and no one knows how to cover it.” The schism was evident this week as a feud erupted between afternoon anchor Shepard Smith and prime-time host Tucker Carlson. It started Tuesday when Fox legal analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano told Smith on-air that Trump committed a “crime” by pressuring Ukraine’s president to get dirt on Biden. That night, Carlson brought on former Trump lawyer Joe diGenova, who called Napolitano a “fool” for claiming Trump broke the law.

Yesterday, Smith lashed back, calling Carlson “repugnant” for not defending Napolitano on air. (Trump himself is said to turn off Fox at 3 p.m., when Shep Smith airs.) Seeking to quell the internecine strife before it carried into a third day, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace communicated to Smith this morning to stop attacking Carlson, a person briefed on the conversation said. “They said if he does it again, he’s off the air,” the source said. (Fox News spokesperson Irena Briganti denied that management had any direct conversation with Smith.)

Sept. 25greta thunberg un climate talk sept 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, A Fox News guest called Greta Thunberg ‘mentally ill.’ The network apologized for the ‘disgraceful’ comment, Allyson Chiu, Sept. 24, 2019. Michael Knowles had just finished discussing why he believes meatless diets may be worse for the environment during a Fox News segment about climate change on Monday night when he suddenly pivoted to one of the day’s biggest stories.

“None of that matters because the climate hysteria movement is not about science,” said the conservative pundit and Daily Wire podcast host. “If it were about science, it would be led by scientists rather than by politicians and a mentally ill Swedish child who is being exploited by her parents and by the international left.”

fox news logo SmallKnowles, much to the dismay of many viewers and his fellow Fox News guest, was referring to teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, above, who just hours earlier made headlines for delivering an impassioned message to global leaders at the United Nations. The 16-year-old has been open about being diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, embracing it as her “superpower.”

Amid the intense blowback over Knowles’s remarks Monday night after a clip of the show went viral, Fox News apologized to Thunberg.

“The comment made by Michael Knowles who was a guest on The Story tonight was disgraceful — we apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers,” a spokesperson for the network told The Washington Post in a statement.

Fox News also said it has “no plans” to book Knowles. Knowles did not respond to a request for comment late Monday but defended himself on Twitter, writing: “There is nothing shameful about living with mental disorders. What is shameful is exploiting a child — particularly a child with mental disorders — to advance your political agenda.”

Thunberg has called the condition a “gift” and credited it with sparking her activism. “Some people mock me for my diagnosis. But Asperger is not a disease, it’s a gift. People also say that since I have Asperger I couldn’t possibly have put myself in this position. But that’s exactly why I did this,” she wrote on Facebook in February. “Because if I would have been ‘normal’ and social I would have organized myself in an organisation, or started an organisation by myself. But since I am not that good at socializing I did this instead. I was so frustrated that nothing was being done about the climate crisis and I felt like I had to do something, anything.”

[Ingraham’s brother is attacking her after she compared Thunberg to the ‘Children of the Corn’]

The network’s apology comes as conservatives have ramped up their broadsides against Thunberg, who traveled to the United States earlier this month on a solar-powered sailboat and has since been chastising powerful politicians about their inaction on climate change. In a widely reviled tweet over the weekend, conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza compared Thunberg to young people featured in Nazi propaganda, sharing a photo of the Swedish teen alongside an illustration of a Caucasian girl sporting braided hair and holding a Nazi flag. On Monday, Sebastian Gorka, the former Breitbart editor and White House aide, labeled Thunberg as an “autist child.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. invokes state secrets privilege to block American journalist’s challenge to alleged spot on drone ‘kill list,’ Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 25, 2019 (print ed.). A U.S. judge Tuesday dismissed an American journalist’s lawsuit challenging his alleged placement on a “kill list” by U.S. authorities in Syria, after the Trump administration rosemary collyerinvoked the “state secrets” privilege to withhold sensitive national security information.

U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer, right, of Washington, D.C., last year had opened the way for Bilal Abdul Kareem, a freelance journalist who grew up in New York, to seek answers in his civil case from the government and to try to clear his name after what he claims were five near-misses by U.S. airstrikes in Syria.

Collyer (a George W. Bush nominee appointed by U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts to supervise the FISA national security court for a seven-year term in 2013) in June 2018 ruled that Abdul Kareem, who said he was mistaken for a militant because of his frequent contact with militants linked to al-Qaeda, was exercising his constitutional right to due process in court.

But after talks between Abdul Kareem’s lawyers and U.S. authorities broke down, the government tapped the rarely invoked state secrets authority, saying Abdul Kareem sought information revealing “the existence and operational details of alleged military and intelligence activities directed at combating the terrorist threat to the United States.”

In a 14-page opinion, Collyer said she was bound to agree, saying the government’s right to withhold information in such instances is “absolute.”

“What constitutional right is more essential than the right to due process before the government may take a life? While the answer may be none, federal courts possess limited authority to resolve questions presented in a lawsuit, even when they are alleged to involve constitutional rights. This is such a case,” Collyer wrote, adding, “Despite the serious nature of Plaintiff’s allegations, this Court must dismiss the action pursuant to the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege.”

Prosecutors said that disclosing whether Abdul Kareem is on the “kill list” could permit him to evade capture or further U.S. action, and also could risk revealing or compromising intelligence sources and methods.

Collyer at a May 2018 hearing in Abdul Kareem’s case questioned whether national security concerns trump individuals’ rights in the U.S. ­targeted-killing program, a question left open by courts since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks . On Tuesday, the judge credited the government for engaging “in months of consideration” before providing “reasoned declarations” supporting its views.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Rudy Giuliani begins screaming “shut up idiot” on live television during crazed meltdown, Bill Palmer, Sept. 25, 2019. Rudy Giuliani is not taking Donald rudy giuliani recentTrump’s impeachment well, both because it means his friend Trump is going down, and because it means Rudy is in severe danger of going to prison. Palmer Report brought you the story of how Giuliani went completely off the deep end about impeachment on Twitter on Tuesday night. It turns out Rudy had an even worse time of it on television.

On Tuesday night, Rudy Giuliani appeared on the Laura Ingraham show on Fox News – which should have been the most friendly territory possible for him. But at one point Ingraham had Rudy on with a panel of three other guests, not all of whom were on his side. Eventually, Rudy completely lost it and began screaming.

bill palmer report logo headerAt one point Rudy Giuliani began yelling at another panelist: “Shut up … shut up … shut up … you don’t know what you’re talking about … you don’t know what you’re talking about … idiot!” Watch the surreal video for yourself:

It couldn’t be much more clear that Rudy Giuliani has completely lost what little semblance of rationality he might have had left. Not only is the Ukraine scandal devastating to Donald Trump, it’s devastating to Rudy as well. At this point we’re left to wonder – in all seriousness – if Rudy will need to be carted away before the week is over.

Sept. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, It’s a Fact: Mistakes Are Embarrassing the Publishing Industry, Alexandra Alter, Sept. 23, 2019 (print ed.). Errors and controversies involving several high-profile books are forcing writers and publishers to reconsider how they handle fact-checking.

Sept. 22

Palmer Report, Opinion: The 2020 election is going to come down to this one thing, Bill Palmer, Sept. 22, 2019. For all of the twists and turns and antics and shenanigans in the 2016 election, it ultimately all came down to one factor: the mainstream media uniformly pretended that the Hillary Clinton email scandal – a partisan farce cooked up by the Republicans in Congress and furthered by Republican buffoons like James Comey – was an actual Hillary Clinton scandal. Nothing else ultimately made a difference.

bill palmer report logo headerYou want proof? Despite all the Russian meddling, all the voter suppression, all the primary squabbles, and everything else that took place, Clinton was still comfortably ahead in the polls with two weeks to go. Then Comey wrote a letter which falsely implied that Clinton was under investigation over her emails, and the media treated that letter as if it were truthful even though they all knew it wasn’t, and suddenly Clinton’s lead in the polls fell to just a few points. That turned out to be a small enough lead that Trump was able to win the electoral college despite losing the popular vote by those few points.

If the media hadn’t spent the election trying to score cheap and easy ratings by pretending that a fake scandal about the 2016 frontrunner was real, Trump wouldn’t be in the White House right now. Yes, that election is in the past and can’t be changed. But it matters greatly, because here we are in 2020, and a fake scandal about the frontrunner is once again front and center. This time the frontrunner is Joe Biden, and the scandal is the Ukraine thing, but we’re seeing history rhyming with itself in haunting fashion.

So what’s this election going to come down to? Thus far the mainstream media – or at least the outlets that matter – are almost uniformly treating the Ukraine thing as a Trump criminal scandal, while giving no credence to the phony Biden scandal that Trump manufactured. Trump has gone to extraordinary (and criminal) lengths to try to give legs to the fake Biden scandal, and you can see his exasperation right now as he whines on Twitter that the media isn’t doing his bidding for him.

It ultimately doesn’t matter how Fox News covers this; those folks are going to vote a certain way no matter what. It matters how CNN, the New York Times, MSNBC, the Washington Post, and other respectable major news outlets cover it. That’s the audience who will decide the election. If these news outlets get desperate for ratings and begin pretending the fake Biden scandal is real, or start treating it as a “Trump said, Biden said” situation without bothering to include the facts about who’s lying, then voters will be misled into staying home instead of turning out for Biden – just as they were misled into staying home in 2016 instead of turning out for Clinton.

This scenario also pretty much holds true if someone other than Joe Biden ends up being the 2020 Democratic nominee. The good news is that, while the media’s truthfulness about the Trump-Ukraine scandal will largely decide the next election, the media doesn’t necessarily decide how it gets to cover the scandal. If you see a major news outlet drifting toward pretending that the real Trump-Ukraine scandal is fake, or that the fake Biden-Ukraine scandal is real, you can pressure that news outlet into coming back toward the truth by turning the channel and then letting them know on social media why you did it. The 2020 election will come down to one thing: you.

Sept. 19

National Press Club, New York Times reporters tell NPC audience Justice Kavanaugh asked them to lie in exchange for an interview, Eleanor Herman, Sept. 19, 2019. New York Times reporters Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly revealed at a National Press Club Headliners event Wednesday that their new book, “The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation,” does not include an interview with the Supreme Court justice because he asked them to lie in exchange for the interview.

Robin Pogrebin, left, and Kate Kelly (Lorin Klaris photo).Shortly before the book went to print, Pogrebin (left) and Kelly said Kavanaugh agreed to speak with them but only on the condition that the book expressly state they had not done so. Unwilling to lie, they canceled the interview, even though they were already on their way to Washington to conduct it.

The reporters said they wrote the book to provide closure to the Supreme Court confirmation process that a year ago so roiled the nation. Ironically, the publication of their book has roiled it even more.

The goal, the reporters said, was to present a thoroughly investigated, fair and balanced exploration of the FBI investigation, which many Americans saw as rushed and incomplete, and of the man himself.

“We tried to establish how to get the two pictures of Brett Kavanaugh, and how to reconcile them,” Kelly said.

robin progrebin kate kelly kavanaugh coverThe reporters described an abbreviated FBI investigation with parameters set by the president. Agents interviewed 10 carefully selected witnesses out of dozens. Some of Kavanaugh’s classmates who called the FBI to provide information found themselves on hold all day.

The most dramatic testimony of last year’s confirmation hearings was that of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who testified that a drunken, teenage Kavanaugh had pinned her to a bed and tried to rip off her clothes before she broke free. Pogrebin and Kelly investigated an allegation by fellow Yale student Deborah Ramirez that Kavanaugh had assaulted her at a drunken party in the 1983-84 academic year. They found her allegation to be credible, as it had been discussed by at least seven classmates years before he became a federal judge.

The team also found no allegations of bad behavior after Kavanaugh graduated college. Pogrebin said, “Let’s say he did these things at 17 or 18. Are they disqualifying if he had exemplary conduct ever since? Did he make a conscious effort to improve himself?”

The reporters said they reached no conclusions themselves because they wanted the readers to do so. They added that Kavanaugh was highly respected in legal circles by Republicans and Democrats alike and, over the years, strived to hire, mentor, and promote women.

While researching the book, they uncovered yet another allegation of assault at a drunken party, as reported by a witness. The new controversy erupted last week when Pogrebin and Kelly’s op-ed in the Times did not mention a crucial piece of information: that the alleged victim said she could not remember anything about the assault.

As a result, President Trump last week called for the mass resignations of New York Times staffers for the good of the nation, while some Democrats called for Kavanaugh's impeachment. A New York Times tweet seeming to make fun of sexual assault—which was soon deleted—stirred up yet more controversy.

Kelly explained that the op-ed was a highly condensed excerpt of the book focusing on Ramirez's story, and they thought it made sense to mention the new, similar allegation. Their first draft stated that the victim claimed to have no memory of the event, but an editor, wanting to protect the identity of an alleged sexual assault victim, removed not only her name but the entire sentence.

The full story of the new allegation is in the book, so the reporters said they had no intention of hiding that aspect.

“It’s hard when you put such effort into being balanced and fair and get caught up in taking a line out of an op-ed or a really bad tweet," Pogrebin said. "I hope we can get past it so people will consider it with an open mind.”

Sept. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Corey Lewandowski tells the truth (gasp!) about lying to the news media, Paul Farhi, Sept. 18, 2019. Caught lying to the media, Corey Lewandowski did something Tuesday that few, if any, political types have ever done: He publicly admitted he lies to the media. In effect, he was honest about being dishonest.

During an interview on MSNBC in February, Lewandowski, President Trump’s former campaign manager, said, “I don’t ever remember the president ever asking me to get involved with Jeff Sessions or the Department of Justice in any way, shape or form ever.”

Which is not what Lewandowski told special counsel Robert S. Mueller III under oath in 2017. Lewandowski said then that Trump had instructed him twice to tell Sessions, then the attorney general, to curtail Mueller’s investigation of Trump, and Lewandowski failed to do so, perhaps saving Trump from an overt act of obstructing justice.

So how to square the two conflicting statements? During testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Lewandowski said something that sparked an audible reaction from onlookers in the hearing room: “I have no obligation to be honest with the media because they’re just as dishonest as anyone else.”

Sept. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Cokie Roberts, Journalist and Commentator, Is Dead at 75, Neil Genzlinger, Sept. 17, 2019. Cokie Roberts, the pioneering broadcast journalist known to millions for her work with ABC News and NPR, died on Tuesday. She was 75.

ABC News, in a posting on its website Tuesday morning, said the cause was breast cancer. The disease was first diagnosed in 2002. The statement did not say where she died. Ms. Roberts started her career at CBS, then began working for NPR in 1978, covering Capitol Hill. She joined ABC in 1988. Her three decades at the network included anchoring, with Sam Donaldson, the Sunday morning news program “This Week” from 1996 to 2002.

Sept. 14

UK To Keep Assange Jailed

julian assange indicter image

The Guardian, Julian Assange to remain in jail pending extradition to US, PA Media, Sept. 14, 2019. WikiLeaks founder’s custody will be extended after current prison terms comes to end. Julian Assange (shown above in a photo by The Indicter Magazine) will stay in prison after the custody period on his current jail term ends because of his “history of absconding.”

As home secretary, Sajid Javid signed an order in June allowing Assange’s extradition to the US over hacking allegations. A 50-week jail term was imposed in the UK after he had jumped previous bail by going into hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

The WikiLeaks founder would have been released from HMP Belmarsh on 22 September, Westminster magistrates court heard on Friday, but he was told he would be kept in jail because of “substantial grounds” for believing he would abscond again.

united kingdom flagAssange, 48, who is an Australian citizen, appeared by video-link wearing a loose-fitting T-shirt.

District judge Vanessa Baraitser told him: “You have been produced today because your sentence of imprisonment is about to come to an end. When that happens your remand status changes from a serving prisoner to a person facing extradition.

“Therefore I have given your lawyer an opportunity to make an application for bail on your behalf and she has declined to do so, perhaps not surprisingly in light of your history of absconding in these proceedings.

“In my view I have substantial ground for believing if I release you, you will abscond again.”

Assange was asked if he understood what was happening. He replied: “Not really. I’m sure the lawyers will explain it.”

Another administrative hearing will take place on 11 October and a case management hearing on 21 October, the court heard. The final extradition hearing is expected in February.

Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he was wanted in connection with sexual offence allegations.He spent nearly seven years living in the building until police dragged him out in April after Ecuador revoked his political asylum.

Sept. 13

Media Criticisim

Moon of Alabama, How The BBC's Quentin Sommerville Created Fairytales Of Underground Hospitals In Syria, B, Sept. 13, 2019. In August 2013, the BBC produced a fake video headlined "Saving Syria’s Children" about an alleged chemical weapon attack in Syria which it claimed was caused by the Syrian government. Robert Stuart has since pressed the BBC to admit the obvious fabrication of these scenes.

bbc news logo2Today the BBC posted on its website another Syria clip under the title Idlib's secret hospitals hiding from air strikes: "Air strikes have been targeting hospitals in the rebel-held province of Idlib, Syria, despite the fact that it is a war crime. Medics have been forced underground in order to survive. Yhe UN accuses the Syrian government and allied Russian warplanes of conducting a deadly campaign that appears to target medical facilities. BBC's Middle East correspondent, Quentin Sommerville, visits one hospital in a secret location."

Sommerville starts with standing next to destroyed building claiming that it has been a hospital that was bombed. The whole claim of the BBC clip is that the hospitals are underground because they get bombed. But the part that is supposed to prove that is clearly cut from a real building scene to a walk down into a cave scene and back to a real building scene. The sequence is clearly a propaganda fake.

william y chang columbia university Custom

Journalist William Y. Chang (Photo via William Y. Chang Collection at Columbia University and New York Times).

ny times logoNew York Times, William Y. Chang, Whose Newspaper Spoke to Chinatown in English, Dies at 103, Richard Sandomir, updated Sept. 13, 2019. For 17 years, his aim was to help the children of Chinese immigrants acquire an American identity as they adapted to life in the United States. For 17 years starting in 1955, Mr. Chang’s monthly Chinese-American Times chronicled life, culture and politics in the Chinese community in New York, particularly in Chinatown, though he defined the broader East Coast as his coverage area.

“New York’s Chinese-American community was pretty small at the time and not powerful politically, and Bill spoke for them,” Charlotte Brooks, a history professor at Baruch College in Manhattan, said in a phone interview. “He was determined to give the community a voice and something they could be proud of.”

Sept. 12

The Intercept, Commentary: With Trump in Office, Newspapers Increasingly Quoted Anti-Immigrant Groups Without Explaining Who They Were, Maryam Saleh, Sept. 12 2019. The Center for Immigration Studies, a far-right, anti-immigrant group, was frequently cited by major U.S. newspapers in the first two years of Donald Trump’s presidency — without mention of the group’s deep ties to the Trump administration, according to a report released Thursday.

Ninety percent of news articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today that cited the Center for Immigration Studies from 2014 to 2017 did not mention “the extremist nature of the group or its ties with the Trump administration,” according to “The Language of Immigration Reporting: Normalizing vs. Watchdogging in a Nativist Age.” The report, which was produced by researchers at Define American, a nonprofit media and culture organization, and Media Cloud, a project of the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab and Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, focuses on immigration reporting in those outlets over a four-year period starting in 2014.

The researchers found that the Center for Immigration Studies — which was founded by the late John Tanton, a white nationalist considered to be the father of the modern anti-immigrant movement — was often cited as a neutral authority in providing expert opinion or data. In 2018, the news outlets did a slightly better job of identifying the group, with context missing only 82 percent of the time, and negative sentiment expressed in 13 percent of references.

Hassan Ahmad, a Virginia-based immigration lawyer who has sued the University of Michigan for the release of Tanton’s archives housed there, said it’s important for news organizations to explain what these Tanton-linked groups are. Such context is necessary, he said, because the groups’ ideology, which he described as “camouflaged white nationalism,” has become enmeshed in the national conversation.

“When it affects our discourse — or infects our discourse — on immigration so deeply, then it’s hard for even Democrats to stay away from it,” Ahmad said. “And that’s why it’s so important for there to be proper contextualization whenever these organizations speak.”

Ahmad added, “Quite frankly, these organizations, they are not legitimate opposition voice in the immigration debate. They’re a white nationalist voice. If people want to give them airtime, that’s their thing. But I think basic standards of journalistic integrity are that these organizations be properly contextualized as the white nationalist organizations that they are.”

The Define American report also noted that Trump’s rise brought with it an overall increase in immigration coverage. At the same time, however, the study noted that the news outlets under review increasingly used dehumanizing language, such as “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens.”

Sept. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, 50 U.S. states and territories announce broad antitrust investigation of Google, Tony Romm, Sept. 9, 2019. More than 40 state attorneys general on Monday google logo customofficially announced an antitrust investigation of Google. Attorneys general for 50 U.S. states and territories on Monday officially announced an antitrust investigation of Google, embarking on a wide-ranging review of a tech giant that Democrats and Republicans said may threaten competition, consumers and the continued growth of the web.

Appearing on the steps of the Supreme Court, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton charged that Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” though he cautioned that despite his criticism the states had launched an investigation for now and not a lawsuit.

Paxton said the probe’s initial focus is online advertising. Google is expected to rake in more than $48 billion in U.S. digital ad revenue this year, far rivaling its peers, while capturing 75 percent of all spending on U.S. search ads, according to eMarketer.

Sept. 7

The Hill, Opinion: Why the media dislike Andrew, Tulsi, Bernie and Marianne, Krystal Ball, Sept. 7, 2019. Without fail, every candidate who has come from outside the Democratic establishment, or who has dared to question the Democratic establishment, has been smeared, dismissed or ignored by most media.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who resigned from the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in protest of its treatment of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and dares to challenge the bipartisan pro-war foreign policy consensus, has been smeared as "unpatriotic." This despite the fact that she is an Iraq War veteran who, to this day, serves in the Hawaii Army National Guard. The Daily Beast published an absurd article titled "Tulsi Gabbard's Campaign is Being Boosted By Putin Apologists" about how three of her donors, among tens of thousands, had tangential connections to Russia. NBC News published a piece on how Russian bots were boosting Gabbard's campaign. It cited one expert, a group that reportedly faked Russian bot activity in an Alabama election.

Gabbard had the distinction of being the most-Googled candidate in both of the first two debates. The media, however, have shown little interest in understanding why her pro-peace message might hold appeal.

I've talked quite a bit about media bias against Sanders. The latest, most egregious case involved a Washington Post "fact check" that found Sanders accurately cited academic research - but managed to give him three Pinocchios anyway.

Marianne Williamson, an author and activist, is definitely off the beaten path for a candidate, but she is an incredibly accomplished woman, with seven New York Times bestsellers to her name and decades of activism under her belt. Perhaps it would be interesting to hear more of her thoughts on national healing and reconciliation rather than just casting her as a weirdo and mocking her for a tweet about the power of prayer, something to which many, if not most, Americans subscribe.

These candidates occupy much different poll positions and have wildly different approaches, styles and philosophies. Yang, the cheerful prophet of doom; Williamson, the spiritual healer; Gabbard, the teller of hard truths about American imperialism; and Sanders, well, he's just Bernie. But they have something important in common: They don't fit the mold. They aren't in the club. They defy the rules.

Asian techies are supposed to develop the latest AI, not lead the revolution to put humanity first. Democratic female veterans are supposed to burnish the party's hawkish cred, not doggedly pursue diplomacy and engagement and call out the American war machine. Spirituality is not supposed to be mixed with politics on the left, even though religion is fully weaponized by the right. And septuagenarian democratic socialists who are not fashionable in any way are not supposed to be rock stars with youths or be top-polling presidential contenders.

Rather than deal with these contradictions - which, by the way, clearly fascinate the public, judging by Google and Twitter trends - it's easier for many in the media to mock, smear or ignore.

Not only do these candidates not fit the mold; they also in their own ways represent threats to the current holders of power. Williamson and Yang didn't come up through politics, so they owe absolutely nothing to the Washington or Democratic Party elite.

Gabbard is a fascinating example. As a young veteran and woman of color, she checked all the boxes to be an up-and-coming star of the party. And she was. By 2016, at age 34, she was a DNC vice chairwoman. But she blew all of that up in protest of the DNC's treatment of Sanders at a time when it was much more likely than not that Hillary Clinton would become the Democratic nominee. If Gabbard had just kept her mouth shut and stayed in line, she could have been considered for a position in a Hillary Clinton administration. But she refused to play by the rules and refused to back down from her convictions about the horrors of war.

And if you're not a "team player," then of course you're a threat. Sanders, though, is obviously the ultimate threat to the Washington neoliberal establishment. I asked him recently whether he represented an existential threat to the Democratic Party, and he acknowledged that he did. He matches his critique of their corporatism and business-as-usual approach with an unmatched grassroots army and fundraising base. He has his own base of power that requires nothing from a D.C. cocktail party.

When you are a threat to the political establishment, you are inherently a threat to the careers of journalists who rely on access to that political establishment. There may not be an edict coming down from on high to "destroy" those candidates who threaten the system, but there are natural defense mechanisms that kick in. And so, strange graphics are made that just happen to exclude you, fact checks are written that don't seem to arrive at the facts at all, coverage vacillates from total blackout to wild smears.

Sept. 6

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Attorneys general of 8 states and D.C. investigating Facebook for possible antitrust violations, Staff report, Sept. 6, 2019. New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement announcing a bipartisan coalition investigating the social media company.

 washington post logoWashington Post, Why print newspapers still play a crucial role in American politics, Ethan Michaeli (author of The Defender: How Chicago's Legendary Black Newspaper Changed America), Sept. 6, 2019.  We can’t afford to lose these community institutions as the media business changes.

The Chicago Defender announced in July it was terminating print publication and becoming an online-only news source. The announcement ended a run that began in 1905, when it was founded as a weekly by Robert S. Abbott, a brilliant African American man who’d arrived in Chicago from Georgia.

The end of the print Defender is a sad occasion for the legions of journalists, printers, salespeople and executives who worked at the newspaper, as it is for its remaining readers. But it is also an apt moment to recognize The Defender’s accomplishments as a community institution, as well as its influence in the highest circles of power.

Sept. 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge orders White House to restore press pass of reporter involved in confrontation, Paul Farhi, Sept. 3, 2019. A federal judge on Tuesday reversed the White House’s decision to suspend a reporter’s press credentials, granting a motion that will restore him to his beat.

The ruling was a victory for Brian Karem, a White House correspondent for Playboy magazine and a CNN political analyst, who had been suspended by officials for 30 days in mid-August because of his role in a verbal confrontation with a former White House aide at a White House event on July 11. He was the second reporter suspended in the past nine months, a step that appears to be without recent precedent before President Trump’s administration. Trump banned more than a dozen news organizations, including The Washington Post, from his campaign events in 2015 and 2016 but said he wouldn’t do so if he became president.

Karem, who has been outspoken in his opposition to Trump, sued White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham and the president last month. He argued that the suspension, which began Aug. 16, was arbitrary and violated his constitutional rights of free speech and due process.

Sept. 3

Major 9/11 Causation Study Released

AE 9/11 Truth, Research Investigation: University Study Finds Fire Did Not Bring Down World Trade Center Building 7 on 9/11, Staff report, Sept. 3, 2019. Release of Draft Report to Be Followed by Public ae for 9 11 truth logoComment Period. On September 11, 2001, at 5:20 PM, the 47-story World Trade Center Building 7 collapsed into its footprint, falling more than 100 feet at the rate of gravity for 2.5 seconds of its seven-second destruction.

Today, we at Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth are pleased to partner with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in releasing the draft report of a four-year computer modeling study of WTC 7’s collapse conducted by researchers in the university's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The release of the draft report begins a two-month period during which the public is invited to submit comments. The final report will be published later this year.

We invite you to read the report and to tune in at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight for Dr. Leroy Hulsey’s presentation at the UAF campus, where he will outline his team’s findings.

Today, we at Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth are pleased to partner with the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) in releasing the draft report of a four-year computer modeling study of WTC 7’s collapse conducted by researchers in the university's Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The UAF WTC 7 report concludes that the collapse of WTC 7 on 9/11 was caused not by fire but rather by the near-simultaneous failure of every column in the building.

Download the Report | Read the Abstract

Project Information

Lead Researcher

Dr. J. Leroy Hulsey
Professor of Civil Engineering, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Research Assistants

Dr. Feng Xiao
Associate Professor, Nanjing University of Science and Technology

Dr. Zhili Quan
Bridge Engineer, South Carolina Department of Transportation

Project Dates

May 1, 2015 – September 30, 2019

Funding

$316,153 (provided by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth)

Simulations and Videos

Figure 4.16 Failure of Columns 76 to 81
Figure 4.20 Failure of All Core Columns
Figure 4.24a Failure of All Columns Fl 6 to 13

Public Comment Period

Following the release of the UAF WTC 7 draft report on September 3, 2019, there will be a two-month public comment period ending on November 1, 2019. The final report will be released later this year.

During this period, the UAF research team and AE911Truth staff welcome any and all members of the public to submit constructive comments intended to further the analyses and presentation of findings contained in the report. Designated reviewers external to UAF and AE911Truth will also review the report during this period.

Sept. 2

Hong Kong Riots: Biased Coverage?

Moon of Alabama, Analysis: Hong Kong Rioters Wage Sabotage Campaign To Press Congress Into Punishing China, B, Sept. 2, 2019. The Associated Press is doing its best to make the Hong Kong police look bad by describing an incident without its context

Late at night Saturday, video from Hong Kong broadcaster TVB showed police on the platform of Prince Edward subway station swinging batons at passengers who backed into one end of a train car behind umbrellas. The video also shows pepper spray being shot through an open door at a group seated on the floor while one man holds up his hands.

Police officers said at a briefing Monday that they rejected accusations that they “beat up” ordinary citizens without first confirming their identities. They said they specifically targeted those who they believed to be rioters, including those who had changed out of their black protester outfits, and arrested 63 people on suspicion of illegal assembly and possessing explosives and offensive weapons.

The incident described in the first paragraph above did indeed happen. But it was only the last part of a larger story which the AP fails to mention. Here is how it started:

The violence in Prince Edward Station began during a dispute between protesters and some older men who were insulting them. One of the men swung a hammer at the protesters, who threw water bottles and umbrellas and later appeared to set off fire extinguishers in the car. After the clashes, the subway system suspended service across much of Hong Kong. Three stations remained closed on Sunday.

A full 10 minutes long video of the scene can be watched here.

It was the above incident that led the MTR, the public Mass Transit Railway operator, to stop the traffic at the station and to call up the police. When the riot police entered the station it immediately faced resistance:

The whole scene was not an isolated incident. Black clad folks ripped wastebaskets off the wall and threw them on the rail tracks. They smashed customer service centers, vandalized subway entry gates and hit regular passengers who disliked their behavior. This happened not only in one subway station but was part of a systematic attempt to disrupt the whole service:

The intent was obviously not to protest but a well planned and coordinated sabotage campaign against the city's indispensable mass transport system. Sabotaging infrastructure is an old CIA tactic to "harass and demoralize enemy administrators and police." Tianamen was, as we now know, a CIA-led color revolution attempt, set up within a background of general protests, in which the U.S. regime change mastermind Gene Sharp was directly involved. The mostly falsely reported incident, during which soldiers were lynched and protesters gunned down, led to 'western' sanctions against China.

Beijing is not going to fall for the same trick twice. The Joshua Wong op-ed [by a protester in the New York Times] shows that the aim has now been lowered. The riots and the inevitable police response to them are now supposed to push Congress to give the Treasury a tool to sanction Chinese officials for interfering in a Chinese(!) city's affairs.

 

August

Aug. 29

Media Criticism

real news networkThe Real News Network, Opinion: Corporate Media Bias Against Sanders Is Structural, Not a Conspiracy, Greg Wilpert, Aug. 27, 2019 (video interview transcript). What the United States needs is a real discussion about the systematic structural bias against politicians and political movements that question corporate control over the news, say RootsAction.org founders Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon

bernie sanders gage skidmoreGREG WILPERT: Almost two weeks ago, there was a slight blip in the news cycle in which Bernie Sanders confronted corporate media with a claim that their coverage might be biased. Of course, corporate media outlets have been facing this charge ever since Trump became president, but this time it came from Senator Sanders, who said the following.

BERNIE SANDERS (shown in a Gage Skidmore file photo): Anybody here know how much Amazon paid in taxes last year? Bernie Sanders: I talk about that all of the time and then I wonder why The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos who owns Amazon, doesn’t write particularly good articles about me. I don’t know why.

The reaction to Sanders’ claim that The Washington Post coverage of him is biased against him generated a wave of pushback. The Washington Post Chief Editor, Martin Baron, said that Sanders is pushing a conspiracy theory when he suggested that Jeff Bezos interferes with the work of the newspaper. Many other corporate news outlets followed suit, saying that Sanders failed to provide evidence, and that he was copying a page from Trump’s playbook.

GREG WILPERT: So let’s get the main issue out of the way. Was Sanders correct in pointing out The Washington Post’s bias against him? And if so, how does Amazon, or any media owner for that matter, achieve this kind of control when what their defenders say is true, that there are no instructions coming from Bezos to the editors or journalists? What do you say, Jeff? Let’s start with you.

JEFF COHEN: Well, there doesn’t have to be a memo from management or ownership, or orders from management or ownership. When I worked at MSNBC in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, there actually were memos and there were orders that we should bias our coverage in support of the invasion. That’s why we were all terminated. That’s the exception. The mere presence of one of the richest people on Earth, Jeff Bezos, as the owner of The Washington Post, his mere presence is enough. What I love about Bernie Sanders is, in 2015-2016, he took democratic socialism out of the closet. And from then, especially these last few weeks, Greg, that you’re referring to, he’s taken this idea of corporate media bias out of the closet, so even the mainstream media has to be discussing it.

Anyone can look at the studies that FAIR.org has done over the decades to show the homogenous nature of the coverage. And there isn’t always a memo. There doesn’t need to be a memo from management. I mean, FAIR showed, in the run-up to the Iraq invasion, they did a study of two weeks, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, 393 people quoted about the invasion. Only three represented the anti-war movement. That’s less than 1%. There probably wasn’t a memo at PBS, or ABC, or CBS, or NBC, but they got that homogenous coverage. FAIR has done studies of how The New York Times and Washington Post covered NAFTA when it was being debated, and they virtually put the critics into the margins. FAIR recently did a study of Venezuela and how you basically can’t get into the mainstream media if you think overthrowing a government in Latin America might be a bad idea.

So there doesn’t need to be a memo. Everyone understands what is off limits and what isn’t. I learned that when I was in the mainstream TV news. I mean, think about it: the famous Adam Johnson article in March of 2016 where The Washington Post ran 16 negative stories about Bernie Sanders in 16 hours. Now, if anyone wanted to investigate at The Washington Post the very newsworthy controversies of Amazon and Jeff Bezos— the exploitation of labor, the tax avoidance, the CIA contracts— if they wrote even three negative articles in three days, their heads would roll and everyone at Washington Post knows it.

Press Club's Podcast Milestone

National Press Club, Update-1 passes 150-episode milestone, promoting Club mission on podcast platform, Kristina Groennings, Aug. 29, 2019. A recent episode of Update-1, the National Press Club podcast, was not only a milestone for the initiative, it also captures how the effort promotes Club priorities on an increasingly popular platform.

The topic of the the Aug. 14 program -- the 150th episode since the podcast's inception in 2013 -- was the creation of a memorial in Washington dedicated to a free press and fallen journalists.

The topic of the the Aug. 14 program -- the 150th episode since the podcast's inception in 2013 -- was the creation of a memorial in Washington dedicated to a free press and fallen journalists.

adam konowe mike hempen npc co vice chairs broadcastThe theme was “poignant and very appropriate given that the mission statement of the podcast is to cover topics that reflect the Press Club’s mission,” said Adam Konowe, co-vice chair of the Club Broadcast/Podcast Team (shown at left with fellow co-vice chair Mike Hempen).

The topics covered by Update-1 usually center on the journalism profession, press freedom, communications, Club activities, Club members or something in the news. Update- 1 can be found on the Club website, iTunes, Stitcher and TuneIn.

The 150th episode typified the programming.

“It’s the essence of what the podcast is all about," Broadcast/Podcast Team co-vice chair Mike Hempen said of the 150th episode. "It’s something about journalism – something involving the Press Club – and it met our mission statement to a T.”

Another compelling Update-1 episode was about Austin Tice, an American journalist kidnapped in Syria.

“Here you have at the National Press Club the parents of a journalist who’s been missing for eight years, and they’re still talking about how optimistic they are to have his safe return," Hempen said. "That’s something that really resonated with people."

That the 150th podcast was particularly reflective of the mission was unintentional.

“We didn’t set out for the 150th to be in any way outwardly celebratory. It was just another podcast,” Konowe said.

All-volunteer effort

But producing an Update-1 episode every week is itself an accomplishment for the Broadcast/Podcast Team.

“We’ve gotten through 150 in less than six years with one hundred percent volunteer effort,” Konowe said.

The Broadcast/Podcast Team is an extension of a broadcast task force formed in 2006 to provide programming to XM Satellite Radio. Mark Hamrick spearheaded the task force. Hamrick has chaired the team ever since except for a few years around his term as Club president in 2011 when Ken Mellgren led the team.

Update-1 was Hamrick’s idea.

When the Club’s XM relationship ended upon the Sirius Satellite Radio merger, “[t]he podcast world had become very omnipresent and it was a virtual no-brainer that the committee should be involved in podcast production. So we reformulated the team and reformulated the concept,” he said.

Professional development opportunity

The first podcast created by Hempen launched in October 2013. The podcasts were a way to “give our committee members hands-on experience with something that is very progressive, something that is very much in vogue,” Hempen said.

This signified a departure from the Club’s print-centric history.

“The print tradition is one that is pretty well ensconced, but to the degree that we can represent new technologies within the Club through our activities – we do take that very seriously,” Hamrick said.

The Broadcast/Podcast Team actively recruits additional volunteers, who benefit from professional development. Hamrick stressed that serving on the team is a great example of “how Club activities are important for careers,” noting that a former team member currently hosts the Wall Street Journal’s popular podcast “The Future of Everything.”

Aug. 26

Truthdig via OpEdNews, Opinion: The Curse of Moral Purity, Chris Hedges, right, Aug. 26, 2019. The continued inability of America's liberal chris hedgesdemocratic establishment to address the ills besetting the country -- climate change, unregulated global capitalism, mounting social inequality, a bloated military, endless foreign wars, out-of-control deficits and gun violence -- means the inevitable snuffing out of our anemic democracy.

Overwhelmed by the multiple crises, the liberal elites have jettisoned genuine political life and retreated into self-defeating moral crusades in a vain and futile attempt to deflect attention away from the looming social, political, economic and environmental catastrophes.

These faux moral crusades, now the language of the left and the right, have bifurcated the country into warring factions. Opponents are demonized as evil. Adherents to the cause are on the side of the angels. Nuance and ambiguity are banished. Facts are manipulated or discarded. Truth is replaced by slogans. Conspiracy theories, however bizarre, are incredulously embraced to expose the perfidiousness of the enemy. Politics is defined by antagonistic political personalities spewing vitriol. The intellectual and moral sterility, along with the inability to halt the forces of societal destruction, provides fertile soil for extremists, neofascists and demagogues who thrive in periods of paralysis and cultural degeneracy.

Liberals and the left have wasted the last two years attacking Donald Trump as a Russian asset and look set to waste the next two years attacking him as a racist. They desperately seek scapegoats to explain the election of Trump as president, no different from a right wing that tars its Democratic Party enemies as America-hating socialists and that blames Muslims, immigrants and poor people of color for our national debacle. These are competing cartoon visions of the world. They foster a self-created universe of villains and superheroes that exacerbates the mounting polarization and rage.

The online magazine Slate recently published a transcript of a town hall meeting between Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New ny times logoYork Times, and the Times staff. It was a fascinating window into the hubris and cluelessness of the paper, the ruling elites' primary news organ, which has spent the last two years shredding its credibility by hyping the investigation by Robert Mueller and the conspiracy theory that Trump was a Russian asset.

Here is Baquet on the newspaper's reporting on Trump:

Chapter 1 of the story of Donald Trump, not only for our newsroom but, frankly, for our readers, was: Did Donald Trump have untoward relationships with the Russians, and was there obstruction of justice? That was a really hard story, by the way, let's not forget that. We set ourselves up to cover that story. I'm going to say it. We won two Pulitzer Prizes covering that story. And I think we covered that story better than anybody else.

"The day Bob Mueller walked off that witness stand, two things happened. Our readers who want Donald Trump to go away suddenly thought, 'Holy sh*t, Bob Mueller is not going to do it.' And Donald Trump got a little emboldened politically, I think. Because, you know, for obvious reasons. And I think that the story changed. A lot of the stuff we're talking about started to emerge like six or seven weeks ago. We're a little tiny bit flat-footed. I mean, that's what happens when a story looks a certain way for two years. Right?

"I think that we've got to change. I mean, the vision for coverage for the next two years is what I talked about earlier: How do we cover a guy who makes these kinds of remarks? How do we cover the world's reaction to him? How do we do that while continuing to cover his policies? How do we cover America, that's become so divided by Donald Trump? How do we grapple with all the stuff you all are talking about? How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven't done in a large way in a long time? That, to me, is the vision for coverage. You all are going to have to help us shape that vision. But I think that's what we're going to have to do for the rest of the next two years."

Baquet asserts that the journalistic campaign to incriminate Trump as a Russian agent sputtered out and a new campaign -- read moral crusade -- arose six or seven weeks ago to focus on Trump's racism. Trump's racism, of course, did not begin six or seven weeks ago. It is the paper that switched narratives six or seven weeks ago, from one moral crusade to another.

This is not journalism. It is moral purity masquerading as journalism. And it will, like the "Russia-gate" conspiracy, be useless to blunt Trump's support, explain and cope with our innumerable crises or heal the growing divide.

The problem that the paper, along with the Democratic Party and its liberal allies, faces is that it is captive to its corporate sponsors who orchestrated our grotesque income inequality, deindustrialization, out-of-control military machine, neutered media and muzzled scholarship. The paper, therefore, rather than turn on its corporate advertisers and elitist readers, first blamed Russia and now blames white supremacists. The longer such demagoguery continues on the left and the right, the more the country will be torn asunder.

Chris Hedges, author of the commentary excerpted above, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

Aug. 25

Trump Allies On Attack

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Allies Target Journalists Over Coverage Deemed Hostile to White House, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jeremy W. Peters, Aug. 25, 2019. A loose network of conservative operatives allied with the White House is pursuing what they say will be an aggressive operation to discredit news organizations deemed hostile to President Trump by publicizing damaging information about journalists.

It is the latest step in a long-running effort by Mr. Trump and his allies to undercut the influence of legitimate news reporting. Four people familiar with the operation described how it works, asserting that it has compiled dossiers of potentially embarrassing social media posts and other public statements by hundreds of people who work at some of the country’s most prominent news organizations.

cnn logoThe group has already released information about journalists at CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times — three outlets that have aggressively investigated Mr. Trump — in response to reporting or commentary that the White House’s allies consider unfair to Mr. Trump and his team or harmful to his re-election prospects.

Operatives have closely examined more than a decade’s worth of public posts and statements by journalists, the people familiar with the operation said. Only a fraction of what the network claims to have uncovered has been made public, the people said, with more to be disclosed as the 2020 election heats up. The research is said to extend to members of journalists’ families who are active in politics, as well as liberal activists and other political opponents of the president.

It is not possible to independently assess the claims about the quantity or potential significance of the material the pro-Trump network has assembled. Some involved in the operation have histories of bluster and exaggeration. And those willing to describe its techniques and goals may be trying to intimidate journalists or their employers.

But the material publicized so far, while in some cases stripped of context or presented in misleading ways, has proved authentic, and much of it has been professionally harmful to its targets.

stephen bannon cropped npc 2013It is clear from the cases to date that among the central players in the operation is Arthur Schwartz, a combative 47-year-old conservative consultant who is a friend and informal adviser to Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. Mr. Schwartz has worked with some of the right’s most aggressive operatives, including the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon (shown in a file photo at right).

“If the @nytimes thinks this settles the matter we can expose a few of their other bigots,” Mr. Schwartz tweeted on Thursday in response to an apologetic tweet from a Times journalist whose anti-Semitic social media posts had just been revealed by the operation. “Lots more where this came from.”

The information unearthed by the operation has been commented on and spread by officials inside the Trump administration and re-election campaign, as well as conservative activists and right-wing news outlets such as Breitbart News. In the case of the Times editor, the news was first published by Breitbart, immediately amplified on Twitter by Donald Trump Jr. and, among others, Katrina Pierson, a senior adviser to the Trump campaign, and quickly became the subject of a Breitbart interview with Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary and communications director.

The White House press office said that neither the president nor anyone in the White House was involved in or aware of the operation, and that neither the White House nor the Republican National Committee was involved in funding it.

The Trump campaign said it was unaware of, and not involved in, the effort, but suggested that it served a worthy purpose. “We know nothing about this, but it’s clear that the media has a lot of work to do to clean up its own house,” said Tim Murtaugh, the campaign’s communications director.

ny times logoThe campaign is consistent with Mr. Trump’s long-running effort to delegitimize critical reporting and brand the news media as an “enemy of the people.” The president has relentlessly sought to diminish the credibility of news organizations and cast them as politically motivated opponents.

Journalism, he said in a tweet last week, is “nothing more than an evil propaganda machine for the Democrat Party.”

The operation has compiled social media posts from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and stored images of the posts that can be publicized even if the user deletes them, said the people familiar with the effort. One claimed that the operation had unearthed potentially “fireable” information on “several hundred” people.

“I am sure there will be more scalps,” said Sam Nunberg, a former aide to Mr. Trump who is a friend of Mr. Schwartz.

Mr. Nunberg and others who are familiar with the campaign described it as meant to expose what they see as the hypocrisy of mainstream news outlets that have reported on the president’s inflammatory language regarding race.

“Two can play at this game,” he said. “The media has long targeted Republicans with deep dives into their social media, looking to caricature all conservatives and Trump voters as racists.”

But using journalistic techniques to target journalists and news organizations as retribution for — or as a warning not to pursue — coverage critical of the president is fundamentally different from the well-established role of the news media in scrutinizing people in positions of power.

“If it’s clearly retaliatory, it’s clearly an attack, it’s clearly not journalism,” said Leonard Downie Jr., who was the executive editor of The Post from 1991 to 2008. Tension between a president and the news media that covers him is nothing new, Mr. Downie added. But an organized, wide-scale political effort to intentionally humiliate journalists and others who work for media outlets is.

Aug. 24

Daily Howler, Opinion: Lawrence O'Donnell gets it right! Bob Somerby, Aug. 24, 2019. He got it right right on the air! Here's the way it went down:

Donald J. Trump had seemed to be behaving so oddly that even the children had noticed. For that reason, and to his credit, O'Donnell started his program as shown below, once he'd finished his standard cloying exchange with Rachel [Maddow].

It's the highlighted part of O'Donnell's remarks to which we directly refer:

lawrence odonnell acostaO'DONNELL (shown in a file screengrab from a different segment) (8/21/19): Well, Donald Trump is behaving like a man who sees his presidency slipping away. His re-election polls are consistently bad for him. And now, what he thought was his strongest claim to re-election, the performance of the economy, is no long area sure thing in the president`s mind and—or in reality.

And so, he is blasting out enraged tweets at the chairman of the Federal Reserve, who he appointed. He is admitting that the government might have to bail out one of the most successful companies in the history of American capitalism, Apple, because the Trump tariffs are hurting Apple so badly and the president knows that.

The global economy is beginning to stagger under the weight of the Trump tariffs, which could begin costing American voters $1,000 a year. More American voters are realizing every day they are paying the Trump tariffs and China does not pay one penny of the Trump tariffs.

The Trump White House is having panicked meetings about what to do about the economy, cutting payroll taxes, an idea the president has reportedly embraced and then rejected, and then embraced and then rejected. Some of those embraces and rejections have occurred in the same day.

But tax cuts can only be done by the Congress, and the House of Representatives will not cut payroll taxes without dramatically increasing taxes on the richest Americans. In other words, restoring the Obama tax rates on the rich to replace the Trump tax cut for the rich.

All of this is maddening to Donald Trump — and so he is behaving this week as a mad king. And that is not my phrase. That's the kind of comment about the president we are hearing and seeing everywhere now.

And so, it is one of those nights when we're going to have to take another professional look at the mental health of the president of the United States.

Say what? O'Donnell was going to "take a professional look" at Donald J. Trump's "mental health?" Is that sort of thing allowed?

On that morning's Morning Joe, three of the children had rather plainly refused to do so, apparently keeping themselves in line with company policy concerning this awkward matter. They've played it that way on Morning Joe roughly since forever.

O'Donnell was playing a different game. As he continued, he said this:

O'DONNELL (continuing directly): Former Harvard Medical School professor of psychiatry Lance Dodes joined us on this program one month into the Trump presidency, in 2017, to warn us about the president's mental health because he felt what psychiatrists call "a duty to warn."

He told us then that the president's mental condition was only going to get worse. Dr. Dodes is back with us tonight. We will hear from him later in this hour.

Dodes did appear that night. He was interviewed about Trump's mental health during one full solo segment.

You can read Dodes' remarks in Wednesday evening's transcript. In the segment which followed, you can see O'Donnell interviewing two MSNBC pundits about what Dodes said.

All too predictably, they dissembled, joked and generally talked around this important topic, which has been "incredibly taboo, and rightfully so. It's not an easy thing to talk about."

Or so one of the pundits said. Actually, the question of Donald Trump's mental health is an extremely easy thing to discuss. You just have to avoid the careerist obedients who serve as pundits and entertainers on corporate "cable news."

Aug. 23

daily beast logoDaily Beast, New York Times Reporter Solicited $30,000 for Charity From Jeffrey Epstein, Lachlan Cartwright and Maxwell Tani, Aug. 23, 2019. Sources tell The Daily Beast that Landon Thomas Jr. was “pushed out” after confessing he was friends with the sexual predator.

A former New York Times reporter solicited a $30,000 charitable donation from accused serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, NPR reported Thursday.

Last summer, according to NPR’s David Folkenflik, financial journalist Landon Thomas Jr. told his editors at the Times that he had become friends with Epstein after previously covering the disgraced financier—and had gotten Epstein to donate to a charity. The Times forbade Thomas from further contact with Epstein and he left the paper in early 2019, NPR reported.

jeffrey epstein sex offenderMultiple Times sources confirmed NPR’s story and provided The Daily Beast with new details about what went on between Thomas, Epstein, and the paper’s editors.

Thomas, who wrote a glossy story about Epstein after he pleaded guilty to sex charges in 2008, did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Beast.

But revelations about his close relationship with Epstein—who was accused of molesting underage girls for more than a decade before his jailhouse suicide — was the talk of the Times newsroom Thursday evening, according to insiders.

“This was a shocking lapse of journalistic standards. It was clearly a fuck-up of epic proportions,” said a person with knowledge of the matter.

elon musk 2015It started last summer when the Times received a tip that Epstein had been advising Tesla CEO Elon Musk, right, on who to appoint to a high-powered position at the company. (Musk has since denied this rumor.) NPR reported that business editors asked Thomas to attempt to interview Epstein, given their history, about the Musk tip.

Thomas did interview Epstein, then debriefed his colleagues on the business desk, Times sources told The Daily Beast. He then disclosed to his editor, David Enrich, that Epstein was not only a source but a long-time friend and that the two had had dinner together on multiple occasions. Then Thomas dropped the bombshell: He had asked Epstein to donate $30,000 to a Harlem cultural center in 2017.

ny times logoEnrich was shocked, sources said. “It was made clear to Landon that he was never to have any professional contact with Epstein whatsoever,” said a person with knowledge of the situation. “He wasn’t to call him or speak to him or use him as a source. This was a flagrant breach of NYT ethical guidelines and editors were horrified.”

Thomas tried to downplay his relationship with Epstein to the paper, sources said. At the same time, he resisted giving Epstein’s contact information to colleague James Stewart who had been assigned to interview Epstein about the Tesla situation, sources said.

Ultimately, Thomas was “pushed out” out of the paper by top business editor Ellen Pollock, as one Times source put it.

“We wish we had of gotten rid of him sooner. He should have been fired on the spot,” a person with knowledge of the matter said.

Thomas left the Times in early 2019 in a departure that was kept secret from virtually the entire newsroom until NPR’s scoop on Thursday, sources said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stephanie Grisham’s Turbulent Ascent to a Top White House Role, Elizabeth Williamson, Aug. 23, 2019 (print ed.). The new press secretary and communications director is more behind-the-scenes facilitator than public face of the administration.

Stephanie Grisham doled out fast food and tracked lost gear as a press wrangler on President Trump’s 2016 campaign, far from the in-crowd flying on the gold-plated Trump jet. An early and hard-working convert to Mr. Trump’s cause, she told a reporter at one point that she was “riding it until the money runs out,” eager to return home to Arizona.

Instead, Ms. Grisham, 43, rode all the way to Washington with Mr. Trump. And now, after serving in the press office and as Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, she occupies one of the most prestigious roles in American politics, as White House press secretary and communications director for both the president and the first lady.

For a public relations specialist who once churned out news releases on traffic safety, the White House is the loftiest stop in a turbulent career trajectory that has mixed toughness and loyalty to her bosses with professional scrapes, ethical blunders and years spent alternately wooing and pounding the press on behalf of scandal-prone Arizona Republicans.

U.S. Border Guard / 'Fake News' Claim

washington post logoWashington Post, British journalist says CBP agent accused him of ‘being part of the fake news media,’ Allyson Chiu, Aug. 23, 2019. When James Dyer approached a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, he was just another traveler passing through the bustling hub. But then Dyer said he presented his journalist visa to the agent and what should have been a routine immigration stop quickly transformed into “an unsettling experience.”

us dhs big eagle logo4In a lengthy Twitter thread that has since gone viral, Dyer, who covers film and TV for Empire magazine in the United Kingdom, detailed how the CBP agent (part of the Homeland Security Department) accused him of “being part of the ‘fake news media’” before launching into a “surprising and inappropriate” diatribe that echoed rhetoric used by President Trump in his frequent attacks against the media. Dyer told The Washington Post he had flown from London to Los Angeles for Disney’s D23 Expo in Anaheim, Calif., where he plans to write about Star Wars.

“He wanted to know if I’d ever worked for CNN or MSNBC or other outlets that are ‘spreading lies to the American people,’” Dyer tweeted, referencing two media organizations Trump has repeatedly blasted as “fake news.” “He aggressively told me that journalists are liars and are attacking their democracy.”

He wanted to know if I’d ever worked for CNN or MSNBC or other outlets that are “spreading lies to the American people.” He aggressively told me that journalists are liars and are attacking their democracy.
— James Dyer (@jamescdyer) August 22, 2019

A CBP spokesperson told The Post late Thursday that the agency was aware of Dyer’s experience.

“All CBP officers take an Oath of Office, a solemn pledge that conveys great responsibility and one that should be carried out at all times with the utmost professionalism,” the statement said. “Inappropriate comments or behavior are not tolerated, and do not reflect our values of vigilance, integrity and professionalism.”

Dyer’s account comes as CBP agents have been repeatedly accused of verbally harassing and, in at least one case, detaining traveling journalists. In April, the United States’ ranking in the annual World Freedom Press Index dropped for a third year in a row, a decline researchers attributed to Trump’s incendiary language,
The Washington Post’s Paul Farhi reported. This year, for the first time since the index was launched in 2002, the treatment of journalists in the United States was classified as “problematic.”

Aug. 22

Cyber Wars

washington post logopalantir logoWashington Post, The war inside Palantir: Data-mining firm’s ties to ICE under attack by employees, Douglas MacMillan and Elizabeth Dwoskin​, Aug. 22, 2019. The company provides digital profiling tools to the federal government as it carries out President Trump’s increasingly controversial immigration policies. After Google dropped a defense contract over employee pressure, Palantir’s leaders doubled down on controversial work with the U.S. government

ny times logoNew York Times, Big Tech, a Conservative Provocateur and the Fight Over Disinformation, Nicholas Confessore and Justin Bank, Aug. 21, 2019 (Updated Aug. 22). A political operative built a potent online disinformation mill with his son. When Silicon Valley changed the rules, they tried to go straight. Or did they?

The Western Journal rose on the forces that have remade — and warped — American politics, as activists, publishers and politicians harnessed social media’s power and reach to serve fine-tuned ideological content to an ever-agitated audience. Founded by the veteran conservative provocateur Floyd G. Brown, who began his career with the race-baiting “Willie Horton” ad during the 1988 presidential campaign, and run by his younger son, Patrick, The Western Journal used misleading headlines and sensationalized stories to attract partisans, then profit from their anger.

But Silicon Valley’s efforts to crack down on clickbait and disinformation have pummeled traffic to The Western Journal and other partisan news sites. Some leading far-right figures have been kicked off social media platforms entirely, after violating rules against hate speech and incitement. Republican politicians and activists have alleged that the tech companies are unfairly censoring the right, threatening conservatives’ ability to sway public opinion and win elections.

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Dropped Them, and Won’t Take Their Calls, Kashmir Hill, Aug. 22, 2019. Kicked off the platform, some users are trying — really, really hard — to find a human employee to let them back on.

facebook logoFor a decade, Christopher Reeves, an Uber driver in Seattle, used Facebook for everything: talking with friends, communicating with fellow drivers, meeting singles. But one day in June, as he was uploading photos from a comic book convention and a family trip to Disney Land, he found himself abruptly logged out.

When Mr. Reeves, 32, tried to sign back in, the Facebook page said that his account had been disabled. It requested a photo to verify his identity. He took a selfie with his iPhone, but Facebook rejected it, as well as several other self portraits. Eventually he gave up and sought out a page in Facebook’s help center for people who think their accounts have been disabled by mistake. He provided his name, email address and a photo of his driver’s license.

Days passed. Mr. Reeves heard nothing.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ransomware Attacks Cripple Cities Across America, Manny Fernandez, David E. Sanger and Marina Trahan Martinez, Aug. 22, 2019. As hackers lock networks that power police forces and utilities, officials must operate with hobbled computers, and decide whether to pay ransoms. More than 40 U.S. municipalities have been the victims of cyberattacks this year.

At the public library in Wilmer, Tex., books were checked out not with the beeps of bar code readers but with the scratches of pen on notebook paper. Out on the street, police officers were literally writing tickets — by hand. When the entire computer network that keeps the small town’s bureaucracy afloat was recently hacked, Wilmer was thrown into the digital Dark Ages.

“It’s weird,” said Jennifer Dominguez, a library assistant. “We’ve gone old school.”

This has been the summer of crippling ransomware attacks. Wilmer — a town of almost 5,000 people just south of Dallas — is one of 22 cities across Texas that are simultaneously being held hostage for millions of dollars after a sophisticated hacker, perhaps a group of them, infiltrated their computer systems and encrypted their data. The attack instigated a statewide disaster-style response that includes the National Guard and a widening F.B.I. inquiry.

More than 40 municipalities have been the victims of cyberattacks this year, from major cities such as Baltimore, Albany and Laredo, Tex., to smaller towns including Lake City, Fla. Lake City is one of the few cities to have paid a ransom demand — about $460,000 in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency — because it thought reconstructing its systems would be even more costly.

jane silk kathleen antrim header2

Salem Radio Network, JIP Director Andrew Kreig interviewed on 2020 Democratic candidates, Jane Silk, left, co-host of the Silk-Antrim Show on the Main Street Radio Network, Aug. 22, 2019.

Aug. 21

phil mikan with micWMRD 1420 AM / WLIS 1150 AM (Middletown and Old Saybrook, Connecticut), JIP Director Andrew Kreig interviewed on the Phil Mikan Show, Aug. 21, 2019 (56 min.). Phil Mikan, right, a longtime broadcaster, interviews the Justice Integrity Project's editor on his latest reporting about the late pedophile and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein's death and other complex national news developments.

Aug. 20

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: The 2020 election foreign-based propaganda war has commenced, Wayne Madsen, Aug. 20, 2019 (subscription required). Just as in the 2016 and 2018 elections, far-right email is being disseminated throughout the web from foreign-based “boiler rooms.” In some cases, the email is disguised as health-related links to websites. Upon clicking on the links, email recipients are treated to outrageous and inflammatory “fake news” items.

Consortium News, Opinion, The Pseudo Debate Over Jeffrey Epstein’s Suicide, Edward Curtin, Aug. 20, 2019. Death, sex, power, intrigue, murder, suicide — these are the staples of the 19th century penny press, mass media and the CIA, writes Edward Curtin.

When phrases such as “the deep state” and “conspiracy theory” become staples of both the corporate mainstream media and the alternative press, we know the realities behind these phrases have outlasted their usefulness for the ruling elites who control the United States and for their critics, each of whom uses them refutably or corroboratively. These phrases are bandied about so often that they have become hackneyed and inane.

The debate over whether Jeffrey Epstein committed suicide or not is a pseudo-debate meant to keep people spinning their wheels over nothing. It attracts attention and will do so for many days to come.

It’s akin to asking who pulled the trigger that killed President John Kennedy. That’s a debate that was intended to go nowhere, as it has, after it became apparent that Lee Harvey Oswald surely did not kill JFK. Kennedy’s murder in broad daylight in public view is the paradigmatic event of modern times. It is obvious to anyone who gives minimal study to the issue that it was organized and carried out by elements within the national security state, notably the CIA. Their message was meant to be unequivocal and clear: We can kill him and we can kill you; we are in full control; beware. Then they went on to kill others, including RFK and MLK. It takes little intelligence to see this obvious fact, unless you wish not to or are totally lost in the neighborhood of make-believe.

What is important in the Epstein case is the deep back story, a tale that goes back decades and is explored by Whitney Webb in a series of fine articles for the Mint Press. Read her articles and you will see how Epstein is just the current manifestation of the sordid history of the American marriage between various factions of the American ruling elites, whose business is sexual exploitation as a fringe benefit of being willing members of the economic and military exploitation of the world. A marriage of spies, mafia, intelligence agencies, sexual perverts, foreign governments and American traitors who will stop at nothing to advance their interests.

NBC News, Trump, Investigation: QAnon and an impending judgment day: Behind the Facebook-fueled rise of The Epoch Times, Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins, Aug. 20, 2019. Started almost two decades ago with a stated mission to “provide information to nbc news logoChinese communities to help immigrants assimilate into American society,” The Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media followings of any news outlet.

By the numbers, there is no bigger advocate of President Donald Trump on Facebook than The Epoch Times.

epoch timesThe small New York-based nonprofit news outlet has spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in the last six months, according to data from Facebook’s advertising archive — more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself, and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.

Those video ads — in which unidentified spokespeople thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the “Deep State,” and criticize “fake news” media — strike a familiar tone in the online conservative news ecosystem. The Epoch Times looks like many of the conservative outlets that have gained followings in recent years.

But it isn’t.

Behind the scenes, the media outlet’s ownership and operation is closely tied to Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual community with the stated goal of taking down China’s government.

It’s that motivation that helped drive the organization toward Trump, according to interviews with former Epoch Times staffers, a move that has been both lucrative and beneficial for its message.

Former practitioners of Falun Gong told NBC News that believers think the world is headed toward a judgment day, where those labeled “communists” will be sent to a kind of hell, and those sympathetic to the spiritual community will be spared. Trump is viewed as a key ally in the anti-communist fight, former Epoch Times employees said.

djt portrait dod dominique pineiroIn part because of that unusual background, The Epoch Times has had trouble finding a foothold in the broader conservative movement. That seems to be changing.

Before 2016, The Epoch Times generally stayed out of U.S. politics, unless they dovetailed with Chinese interests. The publication’s recent ad strategy, coupled with a broader campaign to embrace social media and conservative U.S. politics — Trump in particular — has doubled The Epoch Times’ revenue, according to the organization’s tax filings, and pushed it to greater prominence in the broader conservative media world.

Started almost two decades ago as a free newspaper and website with a stated mission to “provide information to Chinese communities to help immigrants assimilate into American society,” The Epoch Times now wields one of the biggest social media followings of any news outlet.

In April, at the height of its ad spending, videos from the Epoch Media Group, which includes The Epoch Times and digital video outlet New Tang Dynasty, or NTD, combined for around 3 billion views on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, ranking 11th among all video creators across platforms and outranking every other traditional news publisher, according to data from the social media analytics company Tubular.

That engagement has made The Epoch Times a favorite of the Trump family and a key component of the president’s re-election campaign. The president’s Facebook page has posted Epoch Times content at least half a dozen times this year— with several articles written by members of the Trump campaign. Donald Trump Jr. has tweeted several of their stories, too.

li hongzhi bbc coat tieIn 2009, the founder and leader of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, came to speak at The Epoch Times’ offices in Manhattan. Li came with a clear directive for the Falun Gong volunteers who comprised the company’s staff: “Become regular media.”

It has also invited scrutiny of the spiritual leader’s more unconventional ideas. Among them, Li (shown in different portraits at right and below left) has railed against what he called the wickedness of homosexuality, feminism and popular music while holding that he is a god-like figure who can levitate and walk through walls.

Li has also taught that sickness is a symptom of evil that can only be truly cured with meditation and devotion, and that aliens from undiscovered dimensions have invaded the minds and bodies of humans, bringing corruption and inventions such as computers and airplanes. The Chinese government has used these controversial teachings to label Falun Gong a cult. Falun Gong has denied the government's characterization.

li hongzhi robeA representative for Li declined an interview request. Li lives among hundreds of his followers near Dragon Springs, a 400-acre compound in upstate New York that houses temples, private schools and quarters where performers for the organization’s dance troupe, Shen Yun, live and rehearse, according to four former compound residents and former Falun Gong practitioners who spoke to NBC News.

While The Epoch Times usually straddles the line between an ultraconservative news outlet and a conspiracy warehouse, some popular online shows created by Epoch Times employees and produced by NTD cross the line completely, and spread far and wide.

One such show is "Edge of Wonder," a verified YouTube channel that releases new NTD-produced videos twice every week and now has more than 33 million views. In addition to claims that alien abductions are real and the drug epidemic was engineered by the “deep state,” the channel pushes the QAnon conspiracy theory, which falsely posits that the same “Spygate” cabal is a front for a global pedophile ring being taken down by Trump.

One QAnon video, titled “#QANON - 7 facts the MEDIA (MSM) Won’t Admit” has almost 1 million views on YouTube. Other videos in the channel’s QAnon playlist, which include videos about 9/11 conspiracy theories and one titled “13 BLOODLINES & their Diabolical End Game,” gained hundreds of thousands of views each.

Travis View, a researcher and podcaster who studies the QAnon movement, said The Epoch Times has sanitized the conspiracy theory by pushing Spygate, which drops the wildest and more prurient details of QAnon while retaining its conspiratorial elements.

But The Epoch Times has itself published several credulous reports on QAnon and for years, the webseries hosts Rob Counts and Benjamin Chasteen were employed as the company’s creative director and chief photo editor, respectively. In August 2018, six months after the creation of "Edge of Wonder," Counts tweeted that he still worked for Epoch Times. Counts and Chasteen did not respond to an email seeking clarification on their roles.

Meanwhile The Epoch Times has promoted "Edge of Wonder" content in dozens of Facebook posts, still visible on its official Facebook page. That page is currently topped with a pinned ad for its Trump coverage that reads, “Where can you get real news that doesn't push any hidden agendas?”

falun gong nazi symbol demonstration

Minghui.org: “Chinese Tourists Need to See This” – 6,000 Falun Gong Practitioners Gather in Taipei for Large-scale Pattern Formation, Zheng Yuyan, Nov. 28, 2016. Visitors to Taipei's landmark Liberty Square were met with a magnificent sight this past weekend. Six thousand Falun Gong practitioners, who had come to Taipei for the annual Falun Gong Cultivation Experience Conference, were peacefully sitting together to form the pattern of the Falun Gong emblem and Chinese written characters.

The Falun pattern measured about 1,000 square meters. The “卍” pattern in the middle is an ancient symbol from Buddhism, and the yin-yang pattern is a symbol from the Daoist School. The Falun thus symbolizes the combination of both the Buddhist and Daoist Schools.

Facebook, Twitter Ban China Ads

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter, Facebook say China used fake accounts to sow discord in Hong Kong, Marie C. Baca and Tony Romm Aug. 20, 2019 (print ed.). Twitter and Facebook said Monday they had taken action against China for using hundreds of fake accounts to sow political discord during the Hong Kong protests, marking the first time the social media giants had identified Beijing directly for spearheading such an operation.

Twitter said it was suspending nearly a thousand Chinese accounts and banning advertising from state-owned media companies, citing a “significant state-backed information operation” related to protests in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Facebook said it was removing five Facebook accounts, seven pages and three groups after being tipped off to the use of “a number of deceptive tactics, including the use of fake accounts.”

facebook logoThe new takedowns by Facebook and Twitter reflect the extent to which disinformation has become a global scourge, far surpassing the once-secret efforts of Russian agents to stoke social unrest in the United States during the 2016 presidential election. Researchers recently have pointed to similar campaigns linked to Saudi Arabia, Israel, China, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, efforts aimed at shaping discussions on social media beyond their borders.

Some of this activity has come under the auspices of state-controlled media. In August, for example, Facebook, Google and Twitter each identified a sprawling disinformation campaign originating out of Iran that posted content — and in some cases, purchased ads — in a bid to amplify accounts with ties to state news organizations.

Facebook said that the pages it removed had about 15,500 accounts following one or more, while 2,200 accounts joined at least one of the groups. The company said its investigation had found “links to individuals associated with the Chinese government.” twitter bird CustomThough Facebook is not considering a ban on advertising from state-sponsored media, the company said it is working on additional transparency measures.

Twitter said that the new advertising policy released Monday was something that had been previously discussed internally. The company said in its blog post that state-backed news media accounts “will be free to continue to use Twitter to engage in public conversation,” just not its advertising products.

New Twitter Controls

george orwell war is peace freedom is slavery ignorance is strength george orwell 22 12 12

SouthFront, Twitter Moves To Ban Adverts From ‘State-Controlled Media,’ Determined By US-Government Funded NGO Freedom House and Co., Staff report, Aug. 20, 2019. On August 19th, Twitter announced that it would ban advertisements from “state-controlled media,” in a blog post. Twitter's announcement was:

twitter bird CustomToday, we are updating our advertising policies with respect to state media. Going forward, we will not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities. Any affected accounts will be free to continue to use Twitter to engage in public conversation, just not our advertising products.

This is a global approach and will be enforced across our entire business.

Why are we doing this? We want to protect healthy discourse and open conversation. To that end, we believe that there is a difference between engaging in conversation with accounts you choose to follow and the content you see from advertisers in your Twitter experience which may be from accounts you're not currently following. We have policies for both but we have higher standards for our advertisers.

This policy will not apply to taxpayer-funded entities, including independent public broadcasters.

How will we define state-controlled media in this context?

This policy will apply to news media entities that are either financially or editorially controlled by the state. It has been informed by established academic and civil society leaders in this space. Sources include Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, Freedom House, the Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Index, the European Journalism Centre’s Media Landscapes Report, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and UNESCO's framework to assess media development and independence.

We will be making policy determinations on the basis of critical issues of media freedom and independence, such as control of editorial content, financial ownership, influence or interference over broadcasters, editors, and journalists, direct and indirect exertion of political pressure, and/or control over the production and distribution process.

This policy will not apply to entities that are solely dedicated to entertainment, sports, and travel content. However, if the content is mixed with news, it will be prohibited.

Next steps: We will be notifying directly affected entities in the coming days. They will have 30 days to offboard from our advertising products, after which we will stringently enforce these policies. In the meantime, no new campaigns will be allowed and we will enforce our policies rigorously. Affected media entities are free to continue to use their Twitter account(s) to organically participate in public conversation, as long as they are in compliance with the Twitter Rules.

Aug. 19

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: When local news goes away, citizens suffer. Gannett's megamerger will probably just inflict more pain, Margaret Sullivan, right, Aug. 19, 2019 (print ed.). Deeper job cuts, almost inevitable, would strike another blow to an industry in crisis.

gatehouse media logoThe recently announced $1.4 billion merger with another giant newspaper chain, GateHouse Media, is not good news for journalists at Gannett’s nationally circulated flagship, USA Today, or its prominent regional papers including the Detroit Free Press, the gannett logo CustomIndianapolis Star, the Des Moines Register, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Arizona Republic.

GateHouse’s approach to its newspapers in recent years has made Gannett look almost munificent by contrast. And although Gannett’s name will be attached to the new company, GateHouse’s business practices seem more likely to prevail.

U.S. Politics / Media

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Trump's neo-fascist street gangs intimidating America's cities, Wayne Madsen (left, author of 16 books, wayne madsen may 29 2015 croppedincluding Trump's Bananas Republic), Aug. 19, 2019 (subscription required). This editor’s cooperative association with wayne madsen trumps bananas coverAustin, Texas-based Alex Jones and his Infowars organization was a lesson in modern political provocation designed to disrupt constitutional order in the United States.

It also provided a unique window on his activities.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s goons begin eating each other alive as Trump circles the drain, Bill Palmer, Aug. 19, 2019. With Donald Trump’s 2020 poll numbers getting uglier by the day, we’re now seeing his own movement turn on itself in striking, and in some ways darkly humorous, fashion.

bill palmer report logo headerFor instance, this past week we’ve seen former Trump White House adviser Anthony Scaramucci finally come out swinging against Donald Trump. Why now, more than two year after Trump fired him? Maybe the Mooch had an epiphany.

geraldoOr maybe he’s doing it for the same reason Fox News goon Geraldo Rivera (right) is finally turning sharply against Trump: now that Trump is in freefall, there’s a career opportunity for those on the far right who kick Trump on his way down.

anthony scaramucci salt conference 2016 croppedThe whole thing has, of course, become a farce. Over the weekend, even as Geraldo was attacking Trump for being horrible, and Scaramucci (left) was attacking Trump for being horrible, Geraldo was also attacking Scaramucci for not having come out against Trump sooner. '

It’s as if only one of them is going to land the gig of “Trump’s chief critic on the right” and they’re trying to race each other to see who gets it. This all came even as racist game show host Chuck Woolery was attacking Geraldo for attacking racist reality show host Donald Trump.

Well-Funded Digital Sites Close

ny times logoNew York Times, Closing of Pacific Standard and Topic Shows Perils of Depending on a Rich Patron, Marc Tracy, Aug. 19, 2019 (print ed.). With the loss of the two award-winning publications, digital media got a little less brainy in the summer of ’19. Pacific Standard and Topic, a pair of award-winning publications that stood out from the pack of click-hungry websites, were founded by rich patrons. The generosity of their benefactors allowed them to publish robust journalism at a time when old-line magazine publishers like Time Inc. were being sold for parts — but it wasn’t enough to keep them from folding.

Both died this summer, when their backers decided they were no longer worth the expense.

Pacific Standard, a magazine that started in 2008 as a close cousin to academic journals and became a general interest publication with an emphasis on essays and investigative journalism, had its last day of business on Aug. 16, after its main backer, the academic publishing company Sage Publications, withdrew its funding.

Sage, a leading publisher of textbooks and academic works, was co-founded by Sara Miller McCune in New York in 1965. With the fortune she made as a publisher, Ms. Miller McCune became a philanthropist, giving money to cultural institutions, schools and a hospital in her adopted home state of California. She founded Pacific Standard in the middle of the recession but stepped away from it after it had burned through millions of dollars.

Nicholas Jackson, the editor in chief since 2015, said in an interview that the end came as a surprise. “We’ve been operating with the understanding that we’re delivering on everything they’ve asked of us and, in fact, overperforming,” Mr. Jackson said, referring to the site’s readership of a few million a month.

Topic, in its two years of existence, was the rare digital publication that combined a high-minded sensibility and lush multimedia presentations heavy on video documentaries and photo essays. Like Pacific Standard, it was largely dependent on a single deep-pocketed patron.

pierre omidyar twitterThe publication was part of First Look Media, a company started by the billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (shown on his Twitter photo). Drew Wilson, the chief operating officer and chief financial officer of First Look Media, said that closing Topic was “more a business decision than a creative decision.”

The magazine was built on the idea that, along with the rest of First Look Media’s entertainment studio, it would subsidize the company’s nonprofit division, First Look Media Works. That is the home of the investigative news site The Intercept, which was founded in 2014 by the journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.

In 2017, First Look Media Works had an operating deficit of more than $12 million, according to tax documents. That same year, Topic made its debut with an issue centered on the theme “State of the Union.”

Aug. 15

Dying Newspapers

Commonwealth Magazine, ‘No more real newspaper’ in Worcester, Michael Jonas, Aug. 15, 2019. The "Ghost Newspaper" era has arrived in Massachusetts, and the worst is almost certainly yet to come.

The state has not yet been hit with vast news deserts, the term of the media moment to describe areas without any newspaper presence following the closure of more than 1,800 US papers since 2004. But the land is becoming so parched of substantive news coverage as to make it the next closest thing. “Ghost newspaper” is the label researchers are using for publications that still churn out a daily issue, but one that is a shell of its former self.

We now have these spectral offerings in abundance.

The latest chapter in the relentless hollowing out of Massachusetts media came with news that columnist Clive McFarlane, a 26-year veteran of the Worcester Telegram, was shown the door. The Worcester Business Journal says he was one of six staffers let go at the paper.

The news prompted a blunt assessment from Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty. “There is no more real newspaper in the city of Worcester,” he told a local radio show.

gatehouse media logoAs MassLive reports, McFarlane’s ouster was just the latest blow to the paper covering New England’s second largest city since it was acquired by the GateHouse chain in 2014.

The bloodletting at the Telegram this week was by no means the only Massachusetts hit in the vast GateHouse portfolio. The nonprofit Poynter media center says two reporters were cut at each of three other GateHouse papers: The Cape Cod Times, the New Bedford Standard-Times, and the Fall River Herald News. The Worcester Business Journal says the Herald News now has no full-time staff photographers.

GateHouse, which owns most of the daily papers in central and eastern Massachusetts, and Gannett, the country’s two largest newspaper chains, recently announced merger plans. New York University business professor Michael Posner predicts the merger will only hasten the continued demise of US newspapers, which have seen their business model decimated by internet advertising and online news distribution.

McFarlane, the deposed Telegram columnist, posted a message on Facebook slamming the “indignity of corporate management.”

“After 26 years writing for this community, I was unceremoniously shown the door today by Gatehouse, deprived even of the long-established protocol of allowing a columnist to bid farewell to his readers,” he wrote.

In 2013, the Telegram was acquired by John Henry from the New York Times Co. in a package deal with the Boston Globe. He soon made it clear he didn’t intend to keep the paper. But Worcester leaders and editors at the paper say he vowed to sell only to a local buyer, as chronicled in this CommonWealth story. “I think you need a local owner,” Henry told a newsroom gathering when he showed up in Worcester in November of that year. “This is not a forced sale. If we don’t find the right owner, you’re stuck with me.”

Months later Henry sold the paper to a Florida-based company, Halifax Media Group, whose major shareholders were three private equity firms. The following year, Halifax was acquired by GateHouse.

Aug. 14

'Conspiracy Theory' As Cover-Up Tool

Off-Guardian, Media Criticism: Guardian Attacks Epstein “Conspiracy Theories,” Kit Knightly, Aug. 14, 2019. The mainstream narrative is shaping up – a story of suicide, neglect and tragic victims.  In two different opinion pieces The Guardian has made its position on the alleged death of Jeffrey Epstein clear – he “probably” committed suicide.

The first, titled "Epstein conspiracy theories are farfetched – but can you blame people?," takes the position that although “conspiracy theories” about Epstein’s apparent suicide are “understandable,” there’s no evidence to support them. Rather, the author endorses the slowly coalescing official narrative. Namely that of complete, systemic incompetence: "The official explanation for Epstein’s death comes down to rank incompetence. And it’s probably true."

A short-sighted attitude to take, which totally ignores a cardinal rule when dealing with state agencies: They will only admit to incompetence if the truth is worse.

The author also attempts to undermine the “conspiracy theories” by pointing out that Epstein was a potential threat to important figures on both sides of the political divide: "Online, conspiracy theories now abound. Observers suggest Epstein was killed by one of the men who may have been implicated in his crimes – maybe Bill Clinton, according to the fringe right, or maybe Donald Trump, according to the fringe left."

An argument rather akin to saying, “He can’t possibly have been murdered, because there were too many people who wanted him dead. There are SO MANY plausible suspects, that the only reasonable explanation is that…none of them did it."

(Also, note the word “fringe,” a manipulative use of language designed to discredit an idea without engaging with it rationally). However, this article – although laced through with traditional mainstream rhetoric about “conspiracy theories” – at least leaves them room to exist.

The Guardian’s other Epstein piece is rather less understanding: "Epstein’s death is a victory for misogyny: it denies accusers the justice they deserve" blares the headline (further evidence that very few people at the Guardian seem to know what “misogyny” really means), before continuing by taking aim at conspiracy theories several times in the text.

Firstly, in an almost word-for-word quote from the previous column: "Commentators on the right speculated that he had been murdered by powerful liberals; those on the left speculated that he had been murdered by powerful conservatives. These theories were not responses to evidence, of which there is little."

And then later claiming conspiracy theories not only “factually wrong” (something no one can know at this stage): The speculations may well be factually wrong – criminal justice experts have pointed out that inmate suicides are common, and that those detained in federal jails often face startling neglect" – but also attempting to 'Mrs Lovejoy' the public by claiming “conspiracy theories” are actually harmful: "The positing of these conspiracy theories is unhelpful, distracting from the important injustice that has been done to Epstein’s victims."

Declaring seeking the truth to be somehow unfair to the victims is a classic trope, deployed most famously against 9/11 Truthers, but common after many such incidents.

There’s also this sentence: "The conspiracy theorists also risk undermining efforts to bring Epstein’s co-conspirators to account. Their suggestions that the financier was killed to cover up the rapes and assaults of powerful men who would rather he be shut up could lend suspicion to anyone pointing out the breadth of his alleged pedophilia ring, giving those who want continued investigations of men such as Dershowitz, Pritzker and Dubin the aura of a maniac in a tinfoil hat."

Which, I’ll be honest, I simply don’t understand. "I think she’s arguing that “conspiracy theorists” talking about “conspiracy theories” might discredit the very real possibility there was an actual conspiracy.

If that’s what she means – because I honestly do not understand the words – well, that’s obviously just crazy. You can’t argue we shouldn’t talk about conspiracy theories, just in case there’s a conspiracy fact.

That’s the attitude of a person so brainwashed by the idea that “conspiracy theorist = crazy person” that they can no longer think in a straight line. Total cognitive dissonance.

The articles are different in tone, but they are united in purpose, and they each hit the same three key points:

  • Epstein “probably” killed himself. After all, inmates commit suicide all the time.
  • Conspiracy theories might look reasonable, but they are factually incorrect and morally harmful.
  • The real tragedy here is the poor victims who will go unavenged. We should all focus on that, not investigating the potential murder.

All this serves to demonstrate – for about the millionth time – the entire purpose of outrage culture and identity politics.

This is fear of being offensive used to control a conversation and dictate narrative: Don’t talk about Epstein being murdered, don’t even think about it. If you do, you’re a misogynist.

aug. Aug.13

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN’s Chris Cuomo threatened to throw a man down stairs for calling him ‘Fredo,’ comparing it to the n-word, Meagan Flynn, Aug. 13, 2019. A profanity-laced video surfaced Monday night showing CNN anchor Chris Cuomo threatening to throw a man down cnn logothe stairs for calling him “Fredo,” referring to the fictional character Fredo Corleone from “The Godfather” films.

andrew cuomoBut the core of the backlash centered on one claim from Cuomo: that calling an Italian person “Fredo” was comparable to using the n-word — an assertion that had many Italian Americans scratching their heads and other critics calling Cuomo out of bounds.

“Are any of you Italian?” Cuomo (shown in a file photo) asked the group of men involved in the confrontation. “It’s an insult to your people. ... It’s like the n-word for us.”

On Monday night, CNN also said it stood by the host.

“Chris Cuomo defended himself when he was verbally attacked with the use of an ethnic slur in an orchestrated setup,” CNN spokesman Matt Dornic said in a statement on Twitter. “We completely support him.”

Cuomo found support in unlikely corners, ranging from rival Fox News host Sean Hannity to onetime White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, while his critics spanned Trump 2020 campaign representatives and other journalists.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Jeffrey Epstein and When to Take Conspiracies Seriously, Ross Douthat, Aug. 13, 2019. Sometimes conspiracy theories point toward something worth investigating. A few point toward the truth.

No, you still don’t want to listen to QAnon, or to our disgraceful president when he retweets rants about the #ClintonBodyCount. But just as Cardinal Theodore McCarrick’s network of clerical allies and enablers hasn’t been rolled up, and the fall of Bryan Singer probably didn’t get us near the rancid depths of Hollywood’s youth-exploitation racket, we clearly haven’t gotten to the bottom of what was going on with Epstein.

Aug. 10

David Talbot via Facebook, Opinion: The "suicide" of Jeffrey Epstein, David Talbot (right, best-selling author of "The Devil's Chessboard," david talbot facebook"Season of the Witch" and "Brothers" and Founder of the Salon Media Group), Aug. 10, 2019.  Well, it's official —- we now live in a criminal, lawless nation where people who know too much about the sleazy lives of the rich and powerful can be "suicided" to death — even when they're on suicide watch in a New York City jail cell!

The "suicide" of Jeffrey Epstein — oh what the hell, let's call it what it really was, a politically necessary execution — reeks of the "suicide" of Craig Spence back in 1989.

Spence, below, a Republican lobbyist with deep ties to the Reagan presidency, ran a Washington call-boy service and, like Epstein, had the craig spencegoods on many of America's decadent elite. After his sex racket exploded in the headlines, Spence told friends he would probably be murdered — a termination that would be called a suicide. And guess what? In November 1989, Spence was indeed found "suicided" in a Ritz Carlton hotel room in Boston.

The list of prominent names on whom Jeffrey Epstein had secret dirt — including video and photos — is endless. It includes, of course, Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. And Epstein's ties to intelligence services, including U.S. and Israeli agencies, are equally obvious.This is how the elite — and the secret police under their command — operate. Key witnesses get paid off or permanently disappeared. But the Epstein case is so fucking obvious it shows that the U.S. oligarchy has become so cocky it doesn't even pretend to be lawful anymore.

A final note on this flaming conspiracy to silence the latest man who knew too much.

For decades, the corporate media have been ridiculing and condemning those who believe that power in the U.S. often operates in darkly clandestine ways. The New York Times, Washington Post, TV networks et al have worked feverishly to marginalize the deep investigative work done by citizen researchers and independent journalists (including me) to shed light on the national security assassination of President Kennedy. Eye-opening investigations into 9/11 — and the undeniable web of connections between Saudi royalty and the hijackers, U.S. agencies' foreknowledge of the hijacker plots, and the Bush-Cheney administration's coverup of inconvenient 9/11 truths — also are routinely blacked out by the mainstream media.

But in the wake of this Epstein bombshell, now, the C-word (as in conspiracy) is even creeping into the prose of NY Times columnists like Paul Krugman. Sometimes the criminality at the top of America becomes so brazen, so obvious that even our press watchdogs are stirred from their slumber.

Aug. 8

U.S. Pro-War Media Advocates

Consortium News, Opinion: For Cliff May, War Pays, Daniel McAdams (Executive Director, Ron Paul Institute), Aug. 8, 2019. About the only thing the Defense of Democracies’ founder does not love about war is fighting it himself, writes Daniel McAdams.

cliff mayTo say that Clifford May, founder of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, loves war would be an understatement. He loves almost everything about war and he thinks the U.S. should be in a lot more of them. He thinks that the U.S. should never go home, should never withdraw troops, should forever be searching for “bad guys” to fight, lest they come find us and fight us here. Because the rest of the world is exclusively focused on how to invade and destroy the United States.

He likes to invoke Sun Tzu and Clausewitz and Plato to make his case for endless wars. Neocons love to do that because it makes them sound erudite and grounded in history — when in fact they are neither. About the only thing Clifford May does not love about war is fighting it himself.

While others of May’s generation were being blown to bits in that lost cause called “Vietnam,” May was drinking brewskis at Sarah Lawrence College and then Columbia University. His experience of war consists of covering it as a pampered correspondent of the shining lights of the mainstream U.S. media like Newsweek and The New York Times.

In a recent Washington Times editorial, tellingly titled, “Why endless wars can’t be ended,” May argues that members of the U.S. military should be constantly in battle. Not a moment’s rest from the killing and being killed. After all "the men and women volunteering to serve in America’s armed forces are not doing so in order to hang around the house drinking brewskies.”

May’s is a rare look into the utter contempt the neoconservatives feel for members of the United States military. Veteran suicides are an epidemic in the United States and are in fact the second leading cause of death in the U.S. military. Veterans make up 18 percent of all U.S. suicides while representing only 8.5 percent of the population.

In The Washington Times piece, May argues passionately against President Donald Trump’s stated goal of removing U.S. troops from their positions occupying parts of Syria. U.S. troops in Syria are, in his telling, “both preventing a revival of the Islamic State, and helping contain the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

This above sentence is key to understanding May’s constant push for more U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Hint: It’s not really about America.

May’s Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is lavishly funded by single-issue billionaires who believe they are helping Israel by sending U.S. troops to the Middle East to constantly provoke and kill those they believe are Israel’s enemies. Thus far it has not brought peace any closer to either Israel or its rivals in the region. In fact, the opposite. But the money keeps flowing so May keeps blowing. And American troops (along with millions of innocents in the target countries) keep on dying.

Twitter Reprisal

twitter bird CustomRoll Call, Locking out ‘Team Mitch’ could cost Twitter, Niels Lesniewski, Aug. 8, 2019. Decision by Republican campaign committees to withhold ad dollars from Twitter could have a tangible effect.

The Republican National Committee, President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign as well as the House and Senate GOP campaign committees took that step in response to the social media platform’s temporary lockout of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s campaign account.

“Twitter has a clear bias against conservatives and Republicans. The hashtag associated the disgusting threats against Mitch McConnell was allowed to trend for an entire day. But McConnell’s posting of video of the threats themselves got his own account suspended. It is ludicrous bias in the extreme,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said in a statement.

The Trump campaign was planning to spend as much as $500,000 on Twitter in August, dependent on performance, according to a campaign source.

“Twitter’s hostile actions toward Leader McConnell’s campaign are outrageous, and we will not tolerate it. The NRSC will suspend all spending with Twitter until further notice,” said Jesse Hunt, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We will not spend our resources on a platform that silences conservatives.”

According to a tweet from RNC Chief of Staff Richard Walters, both the committee and the Trump campaign dollars may not be coming back simply with the restoration of access to McConnell’s “Team Mitch” account.

“Any future ad $ either organization was planning to spend with @Twitter has been halted until they address this disgusting bias,” Walters tweeted.

The NRSC and the National Republican Congressional Committee also announced a temporary stop to Twitter advertising in response to Wednesday’s suspension of access to the McConnell account. The NRCC declined a request for details of Twitter spending, and the NRSC did not immediately respond.

Aug. 7

Media #MeToo Tales

roger ailes wWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Roger Ailes was key player in Palm Beach sexual assaulter club, Aug.7, 2019 (subscription required). Perhaps no one was more instrumental in propelling Donald Trump into the White House than the late founder and CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes.

Ailes, a media adviser to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan and a producer of the Mike Douglas Show in Philadelphia, was an integral part of Trump’s initial “brain trust” of campaign advisers, headed by political dirty trickster Roger Stone.

Abusive Treatment Of Assange, Manning

Consortium News, Analysis: New Fears for Julian Assange, Joe Lauria, right, Aug. 7, 2019. Journalist John Pilger visited imprisoned WikiLeaks joe lauria head bookfounder Julian Assange on Tuesday and has raised an alarm about Assange’s “deteriorated” health. Pilger said in a Tweet on Wednesday that Assange is “isolated” and treated “worse than a murderer.”

“I now fear for him,” Pilger wrote.

Assange (shown below in a graphic by the human rights magazine The Indicter) is suffering from an undisclosed ailment and has been confined to the hospital ward at the maximum security prison for several weeks. He was arrested on April 11 by British police who were called by the Ecuadorian government into its London embassy in apparent violation of international asylum law. Assange had been granted political asylum by Ecuador in 2012. He had been suffering health problems in the embassy but British authorities refused to allow him from leaving the embassy for treatment without being arrested.

julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphicAlmost immediately after his arrest the United States unveiled an indictment against him for alleged intrusion into a government computer although the indictment itself describes normal procedures of investigative journalism: encouraging a source to provide more information and working to protect the source’s identity.

On May 23, Assange was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for possession and dissemination of classified information given to him by WikiLeak‘s source, Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. army intelligence analyst. It was the first time the Espionage Act was used against a journalist for publishing classified information.

Manning, meanwhile, is imprisoned in Alexandria, VA for refusing to testify to a grand jury on Assange’s case. Since Assange has already been twice indicted, it is not clear if a new indictment against him is being prepared.

 Judge Imposes New Manning Fines, Denies Hearing

chelsea manning screen shot 2018 06 05 media convention

The now-imprisoned anti-torture former Army intelligence officer and whistleblower Chelsea Manning, right, speaking in Germany in 2018 (screen shot)

ShadowProof, Judge Denies Chelsea Manning A Hearing, Insists Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars In Fines Are Not Punishment, Kevin Gosztola, Aug. 7, 2019. A federal judge denied Chelsea Manning’s motion to reconsider fines imposed against her for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. He also undermined due process and refused to hold a hearing.

“Manning has the ability to comply with the court’s financial sanctions or will have the ability after her release from confinement,” Judge Anthony Trenga ruled. “Therefore, the imposed fines of $500 per day after 30 days and $1,000 per day after 60 days is not so excessive as to relieve her of those sanctions or to constitute punishment rather than a coercive measure.”

Trenga additionally insisted that he had the authority to confine her and impose fines as well.

“I am disappointed but not at all surprised. The government and the judge must know by now that this doesn’t change my position one bit,” Manning declared in response to the decision.

Manning has been in jail for 147 days. She already owes $38,000 in fines, as of August 7, and she could owe up to $441,000—nearly a half million dollars—if the sanctions continue.

Her legal team said Manning will “remain confined for another year and will face ongoing financial hardship,” unless Judge Trenga or a higher court is convinced that the fines imposed will “never coerce her compliance” and amount to punishment.

“She has no personal savings, an uncertain speaking career that has been abruptly halted by her incarceration, and is moving her few belongings into storage, as she can no longer afford to pay her rent,” Manning’s legal team made clear in their motion.

Manning’s attorneys further indicated that Manning attempted to share her financial records with the federal court in an effort to show that she has debt and “compromised earning capacity,” which has “left her balance sheets near zero.” But the court apparently never completed a financial assessment of her ability to pay fines.

Trenga acknowledged the “substantial number of financial records documenting her assets, liabilities, and current and future earnings” that were shared with the court. Yet, he maintained they did not present “any new evidence, arguments, or legal authorities” that required the court to conclude it had committed an error by imposing detention, as well as fines.

The judge has “almost unreviewable discretion” when it comes to interpreting her financial records, according to Manning’s legal team.

“Despite the fact that Chelsea is currently deeply in debt, and cannot work while incarcerated, Judge Trenga was able to conclude that fines totalling $441,000 fall within the parameters of a ‘coercive’ sanction, and do not intrude into the forbidden realm of the punitive,” her attorneys stated.

He also stated his belief that continued confinement may yet exert a coercive impact upon Ms. Manning, and asserted that he retains the authority to keep her confined while simultaneously imposing daily fines, a point of law vigorously disputed by Ms. Manning’s lawyers.

Trenga maintained that fining and jailing Manning fell within the court’s “traditional contempt powers.” Manning’s attorneys disputed this “point of law” and argued these types of fines are often reserved for corporations because they can absorb fines without suffering homelessness.

“Rarely, individuals are fined, but counsel can find no case in which fines were assessed as to an individual other than where the individual was a sophisticated financial actor and the underlying contempt involved disobedience of a court order directing the management of a large amount of money,” they asserted in their motion.

Manning can appeal the decision, however, the intransigence of the judge does not bode well for someone who has already endured substantial trauma as a result of her return to confinement.

Aug. 6

USA TODAY via Yahoo, 'Headline was flawed': New York Times changed headline about Trump speech after backlash, Jordan Culver and Adrianna Rodriguez, Aug. 6, 2019. A photo of the front page of Tuesday's New York Times sparked immediate criticism on Monday night – including from several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates.

The headline read "Trump urges unity vs. racism." It comes after President Donald Trump addressed the nation after mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, that killed nine and 22 people, respectively.

ny times logoThe headline ran in the Times' first print edition and was changed in subsequent editions, The Times told USA TODAY in a statement Tuesday.

The original headline didn't sit well with a number of Democrats.

"Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by – and often relies upon – the cowardice of mainstream institutions," tweeted Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who told CNN over the weekend that Trump was "responsible for this," said via Twitter: "Lives literally depend on you doing better, NYT. "Please do."

Fellow Democratic presidential candidates Kirsten Gillibrand and Beto O'Rourke – who called the headline "unbelievable" – also sounded off on Twitter.

"The original headline was flawed and was changed for all editions of the paper following the first edition," Danielle Rhoades Ha, vice president of Communications for The Times, said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "The headline in question never appeared online, only in the first print edition."

As a result of the controversy, the hashtag #CancelNYT began trending on Twitter Tuesday afternoon as social media users expressed outrage about the headline. Many demanded the resignation of Times editors while pledging to unsubscribe from the paper and calling for others to do the same.

rupert murdoch 2009 world economic forumw

Thirty five years ago, the Chicago columnist Mike Royko nicknamed Rupert Murdoch (shown in a 2009 David Shankbone photo) "The Alien." All these years later, his cable TV brainwash beam is hijacking America.

Al.com, Seeking refuge from ‘the Alien’ invasion, Kyle Whitmore (the state political columnist for the Alabama Media Group), Aug. 6, 2019.  The Alien. That’s what the late columnist Mike Royko called Rupert Murdoch when the Australian tabloid tycoon bought the Chicago Sun-Times. Rather than abetting the debasement of a newspaper he loved, the columnist defected to the rival Chicago Tribune, something that had once been unthinkable in the city’s fierce newspaper rivalry.

“No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in one of Murdoch’s publications,” Royko said. “He puts out trash.”

That was 35 years ago, but that early incursion should have been a warning. Today, Royko is dead, killed by an aneurism in 1997. But the Alien and his influence are very much alive.

When Murdoch made political bias part of his business model, he empowered one political extreme to deliver its message unchecked and uncorrected. And he invited a television audience to live in a different reality from everyone else — one based increasingly on fear instead of facts. Its promise to be “fair and balanced” was the greatest lie in advertising since “part of this complete breakfast.”

The problem with indulging extremes is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to know where to stop. By the time Barack Obama was elected to office, the network couldn’t have been more disrespectful of the nation’s first African-American president had its anchors called him the n-word on TV. With a white Republican back in the White House, the network’s critiques of presidential golfing habits have vanished.

And yes, race and racism have been core to the Alien’s attack.

fox news logo SmallThe effect this has had on Fox News’ audience has been profound, and if we all live through this invasion, it will be an interesting field of academic study when it’s all over. When the author Luke O’Neil wrote about his estrangement with his mother after she had become obsessed with the network, he was inundated with accounts, mostly from millennials, who’d seen their boomer parents fall victim to what he calls “Fox News brain.”

For too long, Americans have understood radicalization only as something that happens to other people, most of them brown. Recognizing it from the inside will be much harder. But we must. Because what begins with indulging paranoia, ends with tragedy.

Indeed, we have been invaded, not by hordes of aliens sneaking across our border, but one in particular who flies here when he pleases on his private jet.

Aug. 5

Major U.S. Newspaper Merger

washington post logoWashington Post, America’s two largest newspaper chains, GateHouse and Gannett, announce merger, Jonathan O'Connell and Rachel Siegel​, Aug. 5, 2019. The union of McLean-based Gannett and GateHouse Media will create a conglomerate owning hundreds of newspapers.

America’s two largest newspaper publishers will merge in an effort to combat declining circulation and plunging advertising revenue, but will still face pressure to cut costs at hundreds of already cash-strapped publications around the country.

gannett logo CustomThe $1.4 billion purchase of McLean-based Gannett by GateHouse Media, based in Pittsford, N.Y., will create a conglomerate that will own more than 250 daily newspapers and hundreds of weekly and community papers. The new company will retain the Gannett name and will have publications in 47 states, reaching more than 145 million unique visitors each month.

gatehouse media logoExecutives from both companies extolled the deal in a news release as an opportunity to slash up to $300 million in annual overhead costs within 24 months while “continuing to invest in newsrooms” — creating journalism they hope can attract more digital subscribers and advertisers at a time when America employs thousands of fewer journalists than it did a decade ago.

But the efficiencies wrought by the merger may also result in publications that rely less on local reporters and more on USA Today-type stories produced or edited remotely and published in dozens of the company’s publications. Journalists across the country fretted over whether the deal would mean a wave of layoffs.

Andrew Pantazi, a reporter for the Florida Times-Union and president of the newspaper’s guild, said journalists in his newsroom were anxious about any cuts, particularly the elimination of editor roles. Pantazi said the Florida Times-Union has lost its own editors who are reorganized into hubs.

“We’re afraid of that big number: $300 million,” Pantazi said. “We’re afraid of what happens when you have fewer journalists working in the state of Florida.”

• Merger marks shift for troubled newspaper giant

Media Criticism: 2020 U.S. Debates

The Hill Rising, Journalist Michael Tracey: Why the media hates Tulsi Gabbard, Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti, Aug. 5, 2019 (13:21 min. video).  Journalist Michael Tracey shares the behind the scenes story for the Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris moment at the second Democratic debate.

Media and 'Conspiracy Theory'

Off-Guardian, Commentary: Can the Progressive / “Conspiracy” Divide be Bridged? John Kirby, Aug. 5, 2019. People from a variety of advocacy communities who tackle issues ranging from the assassinations of the 1960’s to vaccine safety are rightly upset by a recent NBC News.com op-ed authored by Lynn Parramore, a progressive journalist known for her insightful pieces for Alternet and other outlets.

lynn parramore 2010 c spanIn the article, Parramore (shown on a 2010 C-SPAN appearance) argues that those who espouse “conspiracy theories” might be displaying “narcissistic personality traits,” suffer from “low self-esteem,” and share a “negative view of humanity.” Various studies are cited in support of this claim.

As a filmmaker acquainted both with the author of the op-ed as well as a number of people from the communities under fire, I hope it’s possible to dispel some of the misconceptions on all sides and even find some common ground.

At the outset, it should be acknowledged that Parramore’s piece is an uncharacteristically harsh ad hominem smear, taking its place in a long line of similar attacks on people who have dared question—sometimes at great personal cost—a whole range of suspect official narratives over many years.

But Parramore and many journalists like her are neither assets of an intelligence service nor unthinking tools of big media; she is fully conscious of the ways in which power and wealth can be used collusively (one might even say conspiratorially) to deceive and abuse the public.

So what accounts for a piece like this one? Why does it rankle a progressive like Parramore so intensely when she hears someone mention that the U.S. military-industrial complex had the most to gain from the September 11th attacks, or that Big Pharma may be applying the same racketeering techniques to the ever-expanding vaccination schedule she discovered at play in the opioid crisis?

Those of us who have labored long to publicize state crimes against democracy have our own list of the psychological, political, and economic factors that may be preventing smart people from seeing evidence that we regard as overwhelming.

The primary difficulty may lie in just how smart and thoroughly educated many of these writers are: no one who has spent a lifetime looking into the way the world works wants to think they might have missed something big.

And as Noam Chomsky has pointed out, the more educated we are, the more we are a target for state-corporate propaganda. Even journalists outside the mainstream may internalize establishment values and prejudices.

Which brings us to Parramore’s embrace of the term “conspiracy theory.” Once a neutral and little-used phrase, “conspiracy theory” was infamously weaponized in 1967 by a memo from the CIA to its station chiefs worldwide.

Troubled by growing mass disbelief in the “lone nut” theory of President Kennedy’s assassination, and concerned that “[c]onspiracy theories have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization,” the agency directed its officers to “discuss the publicity problem with friendly and elite contacts (especially politicians and editors)” and to “employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics. Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose.”

As Kevin Ryan writes, and various analyses have shown: "In the 45 years before the CIA memo came out, the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times only 50 times, or about once per year. In the 45 years after the CIA memo, the phrase appeared 2,630 times, or about once per week.”

While it turns out that Parramore knows something about this hugely successful propaganda drive, she chose in her NBC piece to deploy the phrase as the government has come to define it, i.e., as “something that requires no consideration because it is obviously not true.” This embeds a fallacy in her argument which only spreads as she goes on.

Aug.1

ny times logoNew York Times, Final Edition: How One Small-Town Paper Said Goodbye, Richard Fausset, Photographs and Video by Tim Gruber
Aug. 1, 2019. With the distribution of its final issue on May 7, The Warroad Pioneer, which printed about 1,100 copies per week, joined roughly 2,000 newspapers that have closed in the United States over the last 15 years, according to a study by University of North Carolina researchers soberly titled “The Expanding News Desert.”

Today in many American communities, the researchers noted, “there is simply not enough digital or print revenue to pay for the public service journalism that local newspapers have historically provided.”

In Warroad, The Pioneer was full of soft-focus features on residents, reprinted news releases, photos of fishermen with their outsize catches, and news of awards won by children and Shriners. There were the occasional stories, too, about city officials, the school board and local sports.

This, then, was what the desert might look like: No hometown paper to print the obituaries from the Helgeson Funeral Home. No place to chronicle the exploits of the beloved high school hockey teams. No historical record for the little town museum, which had carefully kept the newspaper in boxes going back to 1897.

And what about the next government scandal, the next school funding crisis? Who would be there? Who would tell?

Others imagined the news moving from person to person, unedited and unchecked, on Facebook or other social media networks. “A lot of it is going to be word of mouth through kaffeeklatsches,” said Todd Miller, 57, a former member of the county commission. “And who knows what variant of BS gets passed around there.”

More Newspaper Economics

ny times logoNew York Times, A Paradox at the Heart of the Newspaper Crisis, Marc Tracy, Aug. 1, 2019. Hedge funds have found that they are able to wring profits out of an ailing product: the print newspaper. But for how long?Today, the business could hardly be more dismal. Phil Luciano, a columnist at The Peoria Journal Star, got a story tip recently about Caterpillar, the heavy equipment company that was based in Peoria, Ill., for 90 years before a recent relocation to Cook County.

The tip seemed promising enough. But as one of only seven full-time reporters at the paper, he felt stretched too thin to do much about it.

“Who’s our Caterpillar reporter?” Mr. Luciano asked. “We don’t have one right now.”

In recent years, The Journal Star has been hit with the kind of cutbacks that have become common for newspapers nationwide as they steer a bumpy course toward a digitally focused future. The newsroom had more than 80 guild employees in the 1990s, and now has about a dozen. The Journal Star is still the largest paper in downstate Illinois. But after covering more than 23 counties in its heyday, it now limits itself to three: Peoria, Tazewell and Woodford. And Woodford’s pretty small,” Mr. Luciano said.

The Peoria daily is representative of the newspaper industry as a whole in two other respects. It is owned by a company controlled by a hedge fund — GateHouse Media, which owns more papers than any other company, according to a University of North Carolina study. And even in its reduced state, the paper is profitable.

Around one in four papers in the country, most of them weeklies, have been shut down since 2004, the U.N.C. study found. In that same time span, roughly half of all newspaper jobs have been eliminated as the cumulative weekday circulation of print papers has fallen to 73 million from 122 million.

July

July 31

JFK Assassination Evidence, News Suppression

jfk baldwin indicter graphic

Photo-graphic by The Indicter Magazine, founded and edited by Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli, founder also of Swedish Doctors for Human Rights.

The Indicter: Monthly European review on geopolitical & human rights issues, New NBC Attack On Alec Baldwin, JFK Research Is Attack On indicter logo sloganTruth, Democracy, Andrew Kreig (J.D., M.S.L., attorney and journalist. Director of JIP. Member of the Editorial Board and Associate Editor at The Indicter Magazine), July 31, 2019 (August 2019 issue).

An NBC News column smearing actor and social critic Alec Baldwin as a “conspiracy theorist” this month because of his views on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy constituted an attack, in effect, on NBC’s consumers, particularly those who care about truth and other democratic values.

That is because the July 19 column, "From Trump to Alec Baldwin, conspiracy theories, narcissism and celebrity culture go hand in hand," provided no evidence whatsoever that anything Baldwin had said was untrue or otherwise dubious.

2020 Democratic Debate

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Warren and Delaney had a good night. CNN had a terrible one, Jennifer Rubin, right, July 31, 2019. At the top of Tuesday’s Democratic debate, CNN wasted 25 minutes by, among other things, playing the national anthem, taking jennifer rubin new headshota commercial, reciting the rules and introducing the candidates. It was time that should have been spent questioning cnn logocandidates, and worse, pushed the debate into overtime beyond the 2½-hour mark.

Likewise, spending valuable minutes asking candidates to explain why they are electable does nothing to enlighten voters about the views of these candidates. One has to wonder who made these bizarre choices and why.

Let's Try Democracy, Opinion: Poor Wittle CNN, David Swanson, right, July 31, 2019. CNN gears its questions toward conflict which it imagines is david swanson headgood for ratings. But taking sides with the furthest right candidates is only one way to generate conflict, and not a very successful one. Here are some other ways:

• take sides with the furthest left candidates,
• take sides with nobody,
• ask questions nobody’s likely to have prepared for,
• include moderators who don’t all agree with a plutocratic militarist perspective,
• ask the candidates with 1% support why they don’t quit.

cnn logoWhen I worked for Dennis Kucinich, and it was the more progressive candidates who were lower in the polls and marginalized in the debates, the moderators of these debates actually did what people are now suggesting they could do, namely encouraged the lower polling candidates to get out of the race. They spent significant debate time on that.

Prior to this debate, FAIR and RootsAction.org proposed that CNN add a progressive journalist as a questioner for the Democratic debates. For Republican debates, CNN includes rightwing questioners not normally on CNN. For Democratic debates it does not include leftist questioners traditionally banned from U.S. airwaves. Why?

The fact is that CNN is biased. Aren’t you shocked to hear that? Why do we have to constantly point it out? CNN acts on behalf of its owners, its advertisers, and those it wants access to. There are exceptions. Sometimes it challenges certain entrenched interests, but not usually.

We should not be surprised. But we should never be complacent. We should never accept CNN as it is.

Associated Press via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Ex-Pa. AG Kathleen Kane released from jail, Staff Report, July 31, 2019. A former ap logoPennsylvania attorney general who was convicted of leaking grand jury material and lying about it is out of jail, walking free Wednesday after serving eight months behind bars.

kathleen kane oKathleen Kane (shown at right in a file photo while in office) left the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in the Philadelphia suburbs about 8:20 a.m. When asked by a reporter how she felt, Kane replied “grateful.”

Kane resigned after being convicted in 2016 of perjury, obstruction and other counts for leaking grand jury material to a Philadelphia newspaper and lying about it.

The Scranton native (shown below in a mug shot after arrest) was a little-known former assistant county prosecutor when she ran for attorney general with a campaign largely financed by her then-husband, who helped run a family-kathleen kane mugowned trucking and warehousing business. Kane won in a landslide in 2012, becoming the first woman and first Democrat to win the office.

Democrats embraced her as a rising star and her name began floating in political circles as a potential U.S. Senate candidate.

However, the state Supreme Court appointed a special counsel to investigate Kane’s office in 2014 after former prosecutors with the attorney general’s office complained that a Philadelphia Daily News story had contained information from a grand jury investigation that was protected by secrecy laws. She was charged in 2015.

Prosecutors contended that Kane had leaked the information to smear two former state prosecutors, who she believed had provided information for an earlier story in The Philadelphia Inquirer that revealed her decision not to pursue charges against Democratic state lawmakers in a separate corruption case.

Kane had argued that she had been the victim of selective and vindictive prosecution after clashing with some of the office’s former prosecutors. During her campaign for the attorney general’s office, she raised questions about how it had prosecuted the Jerry Sandusky child molestation case.

After the special counsel began investigating, Kane revealed the exchange of pornographic emails by members of the attorney general’s office and judges. She had also argued that she was wrongly turned down in an effort to keep all Montgomery County judges from handling her case and that evidence against her was illegally obtained.

After appeals failed, she turned herself in to the jail in the Philadelphia suburb of Eagleville at the end of November and began serving a 10- to 23-month term. She eventually had a couple months shaved off for good behavior.

Justice Integrity Project Editor's note: Some commentators have written that she was selectively prosecuted, as she unsuccessfully argued, for persistent efforts to investigative pedophile scandals in Pennsylvania involving powerless youths (as in the Penn State scandal) and powerful perpetators.

Political Claim Against Google

Politico, Tulsi Gabbard borrows from Trump's tech bashing playbook, Cristiano Limo, July 31, 2019. Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is amping up her censorship allegations against the tech industry, adopting one of President Donald Trump’s favorite lines of attack before going on Wednesday night’s debate stage.

tulsi gabbard newGabbard, right, a Hawaii congresswoman running an unorthodox bid for the Democratic nomination, accused Google in court last week of violating her free speech by blocking her campaign’s ad account in the hours after the first Democratic presidential debate. During a prime-time appearance Monday on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” she said her lawsuit was “about taking action on behalf of the American people” against tech titans like Google.

"This is really about the unchecked power these big tech monopolies have over our public discourse and how this is a real google logo customthreat to our freedom of speech and to our fair elections," she told Carlson during an interview, one of several recent appearances she has made on the president’s favorite TV network.

Such attacks echo longstanding accusations by Trump and other Republicans that Silicon Valley giants suppress political viewpoints they don't like. But they set Gabbard apart from most other Democrats, who dismiss Republicans’ censorship claims while slamming tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter for their huge size, alleged anti-competitive behavior and failure to stop the spread of disinformation and hate speech.

Google has disputed the accusations. A spokesperson said in a statement last week that the Gabbard ad suspension was brief and triggered automatically, and that the company moderates content "without bias toward any party or political ideology."

July 30

Poynter Institute, Trouble at the Los Angeles Times: Memo says digital subscriptions way below goal, Tom Jones, July 30, 2019. Digital subscriptions at the Los Angeles Times are way below expectations, and leadership, in a memo to staff, said the future of the paper could depend on solving the issue rapidly.

Whether due to unrealistic expectations or editorial and business failures, the Times is nowhere close to meeting its digital subscription goal. The Times had hoped to double its digital subscriptions from just more than 150,000 to 300,000 this year — a number that would have to be doubled again, the memo said, to come close to covering editorial costs. But midway through the year, the Times is nowhere near that number, having netted only 13,000 digital subscriptions in 2019.

In a memo sent to staff on Monday afternoon and obtained by Poynter, Executive Editor Norman Pearlstine and Managing Editor Scott Kraft wrote, “Our future depends on rapid and substantial subscription revenue growth.”

They added, “Performance for the first half of the year … has been disappointing.”

The memo said that the Times added 52,000 digital subscriptions, but “significant cancellations during the same stretch” left the Times with a net increase of only 13,000. (A current online offer is 99 cents for the first month and $2 per week after that, or about $100 a year.)

Pearlstine will turn 77 in October. He took over as executive editor in June of 2018, not long after billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong paid $500 million to purchase the paper from the Tribune Publishing Company. One of Soon-Shiong’s mandates was to create content that readers would pay for.

On its website, the Times says it has 1.2 million print readers on weekdays and 2.1 million on Sundays.

wikipedia logo

lila tretikov benjamin netanyahu 2015 israel

Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu meets Wikimedia Foundation executive director Lila Tretikov in 2015. Photo | Israel GPO

MintPress News, Investigation / Commentary: The Spin War: How a Small Group of Pro-Israel Activists Blacklisted MintPress on Wikipedia, whitney webbWhitney Webb, right, July 30, 2019 [Investigation excerpted. Click link for full story]. For over ten years, Wikipedia has been a key focus of right-leaning, pro-Israel groups that have effectively weaponized the online encyclopedia as a means of controlling the narrative when it comes to the state of Israel’s more than 50-year-long military occupation of Palestine.

For over a decade, pro-Israel and ultra-nationalist Israeli settler groups have sought to weaponize the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, through concerted covert editing campaigns, offering Wikipedia editing courses to West Bank settlers and even formal alliances between Israel and Wikipedia to allow Israelis to create and edit content in a variety of languages.

In recent years, this alliance between pro-Israel partisans and Wikipedia has stepped up, largely in response to the growth of the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to pressure Israel to comply with international law with respect to occupied Palestine and the blockaded Gaza Strip. As a consequence, news outlets that consistently report on the success of BDS, such as MintPress News, have been targeted on Wikipedia by such partisans, who recently succeeded in blacklisting MintPress as a “reliable source” on the online encyclopedia.

jimmy wales wikipedia logo

Jimmy Wales, the self-described pro-Israel advocate and founder of Wikipedia, is shown at left.

In early June, a small number of partisan Wikipedia editors privately voted to blacklist MintPress News from use as a source on the online encyclopedia website at the behest of a Wikipedia editor who took issue with MintPress’ coverage of current events in Venezuela and Syria. At no point was MintPress ever asked to comment or allowed to respond to any of the allegations made and MintPress is unable to appeal the decision.

Of the Wikipedia editors who voted to discredit MintPress, several were self-listed as experts in video games, computer science and anime, not geopolitical events, while others had previously gained notoriety for partisan promotion of pro-Israel perspectives and/or the U.S.-funded Venezuelan Popular Will political party, of which the U.S.-backed Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó is a member.

The involvement of pro-Israel partisans in the blacklisting of MintPress on Wikipedia is notable in light of the well-documented and unprecedented efforts of the Israeli government to promote the partisan editing of Wikipedia and to subsequently incorporate the online encyclopedia into its national educational curriculum.

The successful effort to blacklist MintPress News on Wikipedia began on June 1 and was initiated by Wikipedia user “Jamesz42,” a Wikipedia editor from Venezuela who has written several English-language Wikipedia articles on the wives of Popular Will politicians as well as on protest leaders and journalists who are aligned with Popular Will.

MintPress is one of several news organizations that have reported extensively on Popular Will’s U.S. government funding, its lack of popular support in Venezuela, and its history of engaging in violence. Yet MintPress is the only independent outlet that has been blacklisted on Wikipedia for reporting these facts. TeleSur, which is partially funded by the Venezuelan government, was also recently blacklisted by Wikipedia and some of the same users that targeted MintPress, including Jamesz42, were involved.

When his claims against MintPress were challenged by another editor, “R2”, Jamesz42 claimed his reason for starting the query as to MintPress’ credibility was that “MintPress News has been used several times as a source in articles about the Syrian Civil War and the Venezuelan crisis, among other controversial topics, which is the reason why I started this RfC [request for comment].”

However, apparently unable to find a factual inaccuracy in MintPress’ Venezuela or Syria coverage, Jamesz42 cited the accidental incorrect placement of a single hyperlink in a recent MintPress article about Microsoft’s Pentagon-funded election software, ElectionGuard, that was the result of a (now-fixed) copy-and-paste error made by the article’s author.

Jamesz42 stated:

The article accuses Microsoft of “price gouging for its OneCare security software,” and links that text to “Microsoft accused of predatory pricing of security software,” an article from The Guardian (RSP entry) that describes the exact opposite: “Incredibly, Microsoft has priced themselves almost 50% below the market leader.” (See Predatory pricing for a definition of the practice.)

The MintPress News article then uses its own false claim to assert that Microsoft’s ‘offering of ElectionGuard software free of charge is tellingly out of step for the tech giant and suggests an ulterior motive behind Microsoft’s recent philanthropic interest in “defending democracy.”'”

The sentence of the article from which Jamesz42 is quoting began by stating: “Considering that Microsoft has a long history of predatory practices, including price gouging …” The link that was originally attached to the text “price gouging” was the Guardian article referenced by Jamesz42, but was originally meant to link to the text reading “predatory practices.”

As noted, this was a copy-and-paste error on the part of the author and the article intended to link to the term “price gouging” — an article from The Verge titled “Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe attempt to justify ‘price gouging’ to Australian hearing” — was fixed when the error was brought to MintPress’ attention. Such corrections are common practice, undertaken by all reputable news organizations and indicative of high standards of integrity and accountability.

Notably, Jamesz42 claims that Microsoft’s predatory practices that include price gouging were invented by MintPress, even though the original version of the article with the copy-and-paste error based this on the claim that Microsoft was known to engage in predatory practices, with price gouging listed as an example, and citations we provided to back the claim, as even Jamesz42 noted.

wikipedia logoThis  copy-and-paste hyperlink error was the main justification for the blacklisting of MintPress on Wikipedia by Jamesz42, along with the fact that MintPress has previously republished content from the websites ZeroHedge and the Free Thought Project — notably in spite of the fact that all content republished on MintPress contains the following disclaimer:

Stories published in our Daily Digests section are chosen based on the interest of our readers. They are republished from a number of sources, and are not produced by MintPress News. The views expressed in these articles are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.”

Evidence-free name-calling and piling-on

After Jamesz42 made these initial claims, another user, “PaleoNeonate,” said that he confirmed his suspicion that MintPress’ reporting was “strange” with a “pro-Israel source” that referred to MintPress as “fringe.” PaleoNeonate then claimed that MintPress is unreliable for republishing “Russian state media” and reporting on “conspiracy theories” on chemical weapons attacks in the Syrian conflict. MintPress has been accused of promoting “conspiracy theories” about well-known, alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syria on several occasions and MintPress reports on the subject were later corroborated by award-winning journalists like Seymour Hersh and Robert Fisk. Notably, this user, PaleoNeonate, is an expert in computer science, not geopolitics.

These caims were followed by user “Alsee,” who was also involved in the effort to blacklist TeleSur. This user stated: “It’s unclear whether MintPress is part of the Russian fake news engine or merely a bunch of ‘useful idiot’ nutters participating in the same content-sharing web of alternative ‘news’ sites,” and also claimed that MintPress “is widely considered unreliable.” Alsee’s evidence for the latter was that Google and Facebook’s censorship of MintPress was proof that the site is “fake news.” Alsee’s comment was responded to by the anonymous moderator account “Newslinger,” who stated that MintPress “clearly has no ambition to be a reliable source.”

Another user, “TheTimesAreAChanging,” without providing evidence, called MintPress “a cesspool of conspiracy theories and misinformation,” and is notably an editor of Wikipedia articles related to video games. The user “IceWhiz” stated that MintPress should be blacklisted “for propagating non-mainstream viewpoints (which are usually UNDUE),” but also provided no further explanation for this assertion.

An additional user, “Bobfrombrockley,” cited the fact-checking organization Newsguard and its rating of MintPress. That rating came several months after MintPress authored a viral exposè of Newsguard’s connections to neoconservatives and former government officials, including former CIA director Michael Hayden. MintPress later authored an in-depth response showing that Newsguard’s rating of MintPress was clearly biased and possibly influenced by our critical reporting on their operations.

“Unreliable” blacklisting seems to mean anti-Israel

Several of the Wikipedia users involved in blacklisting MintPress News have gained varying degrees of notoriety for their pro-Israel partisanship on the online encyclopedia.

The user Icewhiz, who stated that MintPress should be blacklisted for “propagating non-mainstream viewpoints,” has lobbied to delete the entire Wikipedia article on the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, which Icewhiz refers to as the “Israeli military administration in the West Bank.” Prior to lobbying for the article’s removal, Icewhiz had edited the article on the military occupation of the West Bank by removing the entire section about settler violence targeting Palestinians and most of the section about how the military occupation affects Palestinian children, among other pertinent information.

In addition to his efforts to remove information from Wikipedia articles that paint Israel’s military occupation of Palestine in a critical light, Icewhiz also attempted to alter the article on Palestinian nurse Razan al-Najjar, who was killed by an Israeli sniper during the Great Return March protests in the Gaza Strip last year, despite clearly wearing a vest marking her as a medic. Icewhiz added a video of al-Najjar that was later found to have been heavily edited and promoted by the Israel Defense Force as a means of justifying her death and subsequently re-edited the article to promote the IDF interpretation of the video after another editor included information critical of the IDF’s use of the doctored video. Icewhiz also edited the article on Razan al-Najjar to claim that she was “allegedly shot” by the IDF, despite the fact that there has been no disputing the IDF’s responsibility for her death, even from Israel’s government.

Per other threads of Wikipedia, two other users who voted to blacklist MintPress — users “Shrike” and “Stefka Bulgaria” — collaborate or have collaborated with Icewhiz and have defended Icewhiz from accusations of editing with an extreme pro-Israel bias. The user Shrike, who called MintPress “clearly unreliable,” has co-authored articles on historical leaders of the Zionist movement with Icewhiz and currently lives in Israel.

Notably, Shrike was involved in allowing the neoconservative pro-Israel think tank, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA), to edit Wikipedia articles with “protected status,” according to information posted by another user on his profile page. The current president of JCPA is Dore Gold, a former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations during Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister, and the Center receives large amounts of funding from casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Netanyahu and a top donor of U.S. President Donald Trump.

jimmy wales facing tomorrow conference israel 2009 AP photo 09102109924 1 Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales speaks at the ‘Facing Tomorrow’ conference in Israel in 2009 (Tara Todras-Whitehill | Associated Press)

Wales has long made it no secret that he is pro-Israel, having visited the country more than ten times per his own count, leading The Times of Israel to note in 2015 that “While Wikipedia strives for objectivity on Israel, Wales is unabashedly pro.” Years prior, in 2011, when Wales attended the Israeli Presidential Conference, he told Israeli media that “I’m a strong supporter of Israel, so I don’t listen to those critics.”

whitney webbWhitney Webb, right, is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets, including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

July 28

Rolling Stone, The 24/7 Fight Against Fox News, Brian Hiatt, July 28, 2019. On the front lines with Media Matters — the conservative network’s worst nightmare If you believe former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, right, Media Matters for America is the nation’s “most dangerous bill oreilly 2010organization,” which would be quite a feat for a modestly funded nonprofit whose 80 employees spend a lot of their time quietly watching cable news at their desks.

The 15-year-old, left-leaning news-watchdog group’s mission of combating “conservative misinformation” extends to minute-by-minute scrutiny of right-wing media — Fox News, in particular — and its stars, who do not, as a rule, enjoy the attention. Sean Hannity accused MMFA of “liberal fascism,” and said it’s pressuring his advertisers to drop his show; the second part is entirely accurate.

fox news logo SmallIn addition to monitoring broadcasts in real time, Media Matters has a history of unearthing damning past comments by conservatives. Fox’s Tucker Carlson became the latest target in March, when MMFA published his early-2000s sexist and racist on-air banter with shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge (in one clip, Carlson called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys”). He’s been losing advertisers ever since, which was the goal.

Media Matters has been at war with Fox News since May 2004, when the watchdog was founded by David Brock — the singular D.C. fixture who went from right-wing anti-Clinton muckraker to left-wing Clinton insider. He envisioned MMFA as a fact-based, progressive counterweight to the Media Research Center, the conservative group that spent decades claiming to find liberal bias in the media.

Working the refs paid off for the right in credulous coverage of everything from the Iraq War to Paul Ryan’s purported policy prowess: “The right wing…has dominated the debate over liberal bias,” Brock said at the time. “They’ve moved the media itself to the right and therefore they’ve moved American politics to the right.”

Brock stepped back in the wake of the 2016 election and accusations that Media Matters had transformed itself into a Hillary Clinton fan site, to the point of bringing on James Carville as a guest columnist.

But the organization’s core battle is more urgent than ever, to say the least. The Trump presidency is arguably the end result of years of reality manipulation by Fox News and its ilk, with Trump’s supporters convinced he’s rescued them from migrant caravans, Obama’s assault on American values, and the war on Christmas, while any contrary information is, of course, fake. Trump, once a supposed Democrat, seems to have reshaped much of his worldview over the past decade to conform to Fox News’ opinion hosts, even as they now adapt some of their views to match his heterodox ideas. (Talking to dictators without preconditions, for instance, is now double-plus-good.)

July 26

Consumer Protection

sprint tmobile logos

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: If You Own a Cell Phone, You Should Worry About the T-Mobile-Sprint Deal, Editorial Board, July 26, 2019  In allowing the merger, the Justice Department is prioritizing corporate profits over the public interest.

The Justice Department apparently thinks that Americans will benefit from competition among at least four major mobile phone companies. That is the clear logic of its decision on Friday to bless the marriage of T-Mobile and Sprint, two of the four existing mobile phone giants, on the condition that they clear the way for the rise of a new competitor.

It’s a little hard to understand, however, why the government wants to pursue that goal by allowing Sprint to be swallowed and then hoping a new company emerges in its place. Surely it would be more sensible to preserve Sprint as an independent company.

U.S. Political Messaging: Race

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign sees advantage in divisive appeal to working-class whites, Toluse Olorunnipa and Ashley Parker, July 27, 2019 (print ed.). As condemnations have poured in over the past two weeks accusing President Trump of bigotry, his campaign has tried to turn his offensive remarks into a political plus with his base.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Unless Democrats wake up, history could repeat itself, Colbert I. King, July 27, 2019 (print ed.). “Repulsive though he is, nominee Trump’s character defects aren’t what makes him a threat. What does sicken and alarm, and what democratic donkey logoought to concentrate African American minds, is the thought of Trump with the powers of the presidency in his hands.”

Those words of desperation appeared in a column I wrote a few weeks before the polls opened in November 2016. I repeat them today in quiet despair. We seem, once again, to be concentrating on the wrong things.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence logoThree years ago, too few African Americans — no, make that too few Americans — in states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida and Wisconsin gave serious thought to what turned out to be one of the most consequential presidential elections in modern history.

They apathetically stayed at home, thus helping to hand the White House to a man whose monumental defects were staring them in the face — a danger they either refused or were too blind to see.

Wwashington post logoashington Post, Sweden caught in Trump crossfire over arrest of rapper A$AP Rocky, David Nakamura, July 27, 2019 (print ed.). Swedish Ambassador Karin Olofsdotter, on vacation in her hometown, had already been on the phone with a congressman from New York outraged about the treatment of jailed American rapper A$AP Rocky when her phone buzzed with a notification.

sweden flag was a new tweet from the president of the United States declaring that he had spoken with another celebrity rapper, Kanye West, and would be calling Sweden’s prime minister to intervene in Rocky’s case.

donald trump twitter“So many people would like to see this quickly resolved!” Trump wrote on July 19.

For Olofsdotter, the implications of Trump’s social media missive were clear: A high-profile case involving a celebrity and two companions — arrested after a street fight in a case that already included sensitive issues of race, nationality and the rule of law — was now threatening to turn into a bilateral flash point with a leader who has made sowing divisions over those issues a centerpiece of his presidency.

July 26

InStyle.com, In Conversation with Julie K. Brown and Jane Mayer, Two Reporters Exposing Corruption All the Way to the Top, Sarah Cristobal, July 26, 2019. Jane Mayer and Julie K. Brown are two of the most influential investigative reporters in the country. As they continue to expose corruption and abuse at the highest levels, there’s no disputing the power of the press.

How does one define “determination”? It’s spending years chasing a story that you believe in when no one else does. It’s cold-calling leads, knocking on the doors of strangers, and traveling to obscure destinations to try to coax a witness or a victim who doesn’t want to talk to do just that. It’s spending your days poring over a decade’s worth of legal documents that are stacked in comically high piles in your guest room. It’s arranging clandestine meetings with federal marshals in a parking garage using code words like “Charlie” and “low-key.” It’s missing family vacations so you can write, without distraction, a story that attempts to balance the scales of justice.

Determination is in the DNA of Jane Mayer, the New Yorker’s chief Washington correspondent, and Julie K. Brown, a senior investigative reporter at the Miami Herald.

Mayer has written four best-selling books tackling the issues of money, corruption, and power in politics. She’s taken on influential big-donor billionaires (the Koch brothers), contributed to the reporting that led to the televised Senate testimony of Christine Blasey Ford and then–Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and established the through line from President Donald Trump’s office to Fox News HQ.

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot CustomBrown  spent four years investigating and uncovering the abusive conditions in the Florida prison system, spurring a federal civil rights investigation by the Department of Justice. In November 2018 the Herald published “Perversion of Justice,” Brown’s staggering three-part article about financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (with whom she is shown on CNN in separate screenshots).

For the piece, Brown tracked down around 80 alleged victims of Epstein’s abuse (eight of whom went on record). The story also detailed Epstein’s sweetheart plea deal arranged by Alexander Acosta, then the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, who went on to become Trump’s secretary of labor.

July 25

Epstein: The Big Picture

whitney webbMintPress News, Government by Blackmail: Jeffrey Epstein, Trump’s Mentor and the Dark Secrets of the Reagan Era (Part II), Whitney Webb, right, July 25, 2019 (Excerpted; Click link for full story]. Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the U.S. from the Prohibition Era right up through the Age of Trump.

Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who now sits in jail on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors, has continued to draw media scrutiny in the weeks after his arrest on July 6. Part of the reason for this continued media interest is related to Epstein’s alleged relationship to the intelligence services and new information about the true extent of the sexual blackmail operation Epstein is believed to have run for decades.

As MintPress reported last week, Epstein was able to run this sordid operation for so long precisely because his was only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive operation that began in the 1950s and perhaps even earlier.

Starting first with mob-linked liquor baron Lewis Rosenstiel and later with Roy Cohn, Rosenstiel’s protege and future mentor to Donald Trump, Epstein’s is just one of the many sexual blackmail operations involving children that are all tied to the same network, which includes elements of organized crime, powerful Washington politicians, lobbyists and “fixers,” and clear links to intelligence as well as the FBI.

This report, Part II of this series titled “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big To Fail,” will delve into Cohn’s close ties to the Reagan administration, which was also closely tied to the same organized crime network led by the infamous mob figure Meyer Lansky, which was discussed in Part I. Of particular importance is the “Iran Contra” network, a group of Reagan officials and associates who played key roles in the Iran Contra scandal. Though it has remained relatively unknown for years, many key figures in that same network, and several fronts for the CIA that were involved in funneling money to the Central American Contra paramilitaries, were also trafficking minors for their sexual exploitation and use in sexual blackmail rings.

Several of these rings made headlines at one point or another over the years — from the “call boy ring” run by Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, to the Franklin child-sex and murder ring run by Republican operative Larry King, to the scandal that enveloped the Catholic charity Covenant House in the late 1980s.

Yet, as this report will show, all of these rings — and more — were connected to the same network that involved key figures linked to the Reagan White House and linked to Roy Cohn — revealing the true scope of the sordid sexual blackmail operations and sex rings that involved the trafficking of children within the U.S. and even in Central America for their exploitation by dangerous and powerful pedophiles in the United States.

Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the United States from the Prohibition Era right up to the present day and the Age of Trump, a fact made increasingly clear as more and more information comes to light in relation to the Jeffrey Epstein case.

“Roy could fix anyone in the city”

Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene in 2015, the legacy of his mentor, Roy Cohn – as well as Cohn’s influence on his most famous protege — have begun to garner renewed media attention. Many of the profiles on Cohn following Trump’s rise have focused solely on certain shadowy aspects of Cohn’s history, particularly his association with major figures in New York organized crime, his corrupt dealings, and his eventual disbarment. Some of these portrayals even went so far as to label Cohn as politically impotent. While Cohn was known to deal with a sizable amount of sleaze in his career, such depictions of the man fail to note that he had created an influence machine of unrivaled power that included some of the most prominent people in media and politics as well as a cadre of celebrities.

Cohn was closely associated with numerous celebrities, famous politicians and political operatives. Many of his birthday parties over the years attracted such famous figures such as artist Andy Warhol, fashion designer Calvin Klein, and comedian Joey Adams, as well as notable political figures including former Mayor of New York Abraham Beame and then-Assemblyman from Brooklyn and future Senator Chuck Schumer, among others. In 1979 Margaret Trudeau, mother of current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, attended Cohn’s birthday party, where she famously toppled his custom birthday cake; and of course Donald Trump, who became Cohn’s protege in the mid-1970s, was a frequent fixture at social events held in Cohn’s honor.

The politicians, journalists and celebrities invited to Cohn’s exclusive parties were said to be those who “had open accounts in Cohn’s ‘favor bank,’” his nickname for his unofficial balance sheet of political favors and debts that was surely informed and influenced by his extensive involvement in sexual blackmail operations from the 1950s well into the 1980s.

Many of Cohn’s celebrity friendships were cultivated through his relationship with and frequent appearances at the famous and famously debaucherous New York nightclub Studio 54, which was described by Vanity Fair as “the giddy epicenter of 70s hedonism, a disco hothouse of beautiful people, endless cocaine, and every kind of sex.” Cohn was the long-time lawyer of the club’s owners, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.

Among Cohn’s closest friends were Barbara Walters, to whom Cohn often referred as his “fiancee” in public, and whom he later introduced to the head of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, and other high rollers in the Reagan White House. Yet, Walters was just one of Cohn’s powerful friends in the media, a group that also included Abe Rosenthal, executive editor of the New York Times; William Safire, long-time New York Times columnist and New York Magazine contributor; and George Sokolsky of The New York Herald Tribune, NBC and ABC. Sokolsky was a particularly close friend of both Cohn and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, whose involvement in Cohn’s sexual blackmail operation is described in Part I of this investigative series. Sokolsky ran the American Jewish League Against Communism with Cohn for several years and the organization later named its Medal of Honor after Sokolsky.

Cohn was also the attorney and friend of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and, according to New York Magazine, “Whenever Roy wanted a story stopped, item put in, or story exploited, Roy called Murdoch;” and, after Murdoch bought the New York Post, Cohn “wielded the paper as his personal shiv.” According to the late journalist Robert Parry, the friendship between Murdoch and Cohn first began thanks to their mutual support for Israel.

Cohn also leaned on his life-long friend since high school, Si Newhouse Jr., to exert media influence. Newhouse oversaw the media empire that now includes Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, The New Yorker, and numerous local newspapers throughout the United States, as well as major interests in cable television. New York Magazine also noted that “Cohn used his influence in the early ’80s to secure favors for himself and his Mob clients in Newhouse publications.” In addition to Newhouse, Cohn’s other high school pals, Generoso Pope Jr. and Richard Berlin, later became the owners of the National Enquirer and the Hearst Corporation, respectively. Cohn was also a close friend of another media mogul, Mort Zuckerman, who – along with Rupert Murdoch – would go on to befriend Jeffrey Epstein.

Cohn’s media confidants, like journalist William Buckley of The National Review and Firing Line, often attacked Cohn’s political enemies – particularly long-time Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau — in their columns, using Cohn as an anonymous source. Buckley, whom historian George Nash once called “the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure,” received the George Sokolsky medal alongside Cohn’s mob-linked client and “Supreme Commander” Lewis Rosenstiel from the Cohn-run American Jewish League Against Communism in 1966. Buckley later got a heavily discounted $65,000 loan to buy a luxury boat from a bank where Cohn held influence and whose president Cohn had hand picked, according to a 1969 article in LIFE magazine.

Cohn, Murdoch and the Contras

Though Cohn’s influence in the Reagan administration and his friendship with the Reagan family and their inner circle has been acknowledged, less well-known is how Cohn aided the CIA’s covert propaganda efforts that were part of the larger scandal known as Iran-Contra.

Cohn, whose influence over the press has already been detailed, forged close ties with the director of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, even hosting a luncheon in Wick’s honor that was widely attended by influential figures in the conservative press, as well as senators and representatives. Soon after, then-CIA Director and Cohn friend William Casey was spearheading an extensive PR campaign aimed at shoring up public support for Reagan’s Latin American policies, including support of the Contra paramilitaries.

This domestic propaganda effort was technically illegal and required that the CIA outsource the job to the private sector to minimize the risk of fall-out. As Robert Parry reported in 2015, Wick took the lead in obtaining private funding for the effort and, just a few days after Wick promised to find private support, Cohn brought his close friend, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, to the White House.

“The man in the black tuxedo”

Roy Cohn was not the only one close to the Reagan administration who was simultaneously running sexual blackmail operations that abused and exploited children. In fact, there were several figures, all of whom shared direct connections to CIA Director William Casey and other close friends and confidants of Cohn.

The downfall of “Washington’s Jay Gatsby”

After having left his job as an ABC News correspondent in the 1980s, Craig Spence found success as a prominent conservative Washington lobbyist. Spence would soon find his fortunes shift dramatically when, in June 1989, it was revealed that he had been pimping out children to the power elite in the nation’s capital throughout the 1980s in apartments that were bugged with video and audio recording equipment. Much like Jeffrey Epstein, who ran a similar operation, Spence was often likened to Jay Gatsby, the mysterious, wealthy figure from the well-known Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby.

A 1982 New York Times article written about Spence said that his “personal phone book and party guest lists constitute a ‘Who’s Who’ in Congress, Government and journalism” and stated that Spence was “hired by his clients as much for whom he knows as what he knows.” Spence was also known to throw lavish parties, which the Times described as “glitter[ed] with notables, from ambassadors to television stars, from senators to senior State Department officials.” Roy Cohn, William Casey and Roy Cohn’s journalist friend William Safire were just some of the other attendees at Spence’s festivities.

Spence later stated that his contacts within the White House, which allowed him and his “call boys” access, were “top level” officials and he specifically singled out George H.W. Bush’s then-National Security Advisor Donald Gregg. Gregg had worked at the CIA since 1951 before he resigned in 1982 to become National Security Advisor to Bush, who was then vice president. Prior to resigning from his post at the CIA, Gregg had worked directly under William Casey and, in the late 1970s, alongside a young William Barr (emphasis added) in stonewalling the congressional Pike Committee and Church Committee, which investigated the CIA beginning in 1975. Among the things that they were tasked with investigating were the CIA’s “love traps,” or sexual blackmail operations used to lure foreign diplomats to bugged apartments, complete with recording equipment and two-way mirrors.

Barr would later become Bush’s Attorney General, rising to that post yet again under Trump. Furthermore, Barr’s father worked for the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and recruited a young Jeffrey Epstein, then a high school drop-out, to teach at the elite Dalton School, from which Epstein was later fired. A year prior to hiring Epstein, Donald Barr published a science fiction fantasy novel about sex slavery. Notably, the same year Donald Barr hired Epstein, his son was working for the CIA.

Bill Barr has refused calls to recuse himself from the Epstein case, even though he worked at the same law firm that has represented Epstein in the past.

whitney webbWhitney Webb, right, is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets, including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

July 22

Micro Wave News, A Fact-Free Hit on a 5G Critic, Staff report, July 22, 2019. Fabricating History on the New York Times Science Desk. Last Tuesday (July 16), the New York Times devoted most of the front page of its science section to Bill Broad’s latest attack on those who challenge the dogma that wireless radiation is absolutely safe.

“The 5G Health Hazard That Isn’t” is the catchy headline of the Web version of his article. It is followed by “How one scientist and his inaccurate chart led to unwarranted fears of wireless technology.”

Broad focuses on two letters* written about 20 years ago by Bill Curry, a consulting physicist, who openly disapproved of putting Wi-Fi in classrooms. Here’s the nub of Broad’s argument:

“Over the years, Dr. Curry’s warning spread far, resonating with educators, consumers and entire cities as the frequencies of cellphones, cell towers and wireless local networks rose. To no small degree, the blossoming anxiety over the professed health risks of 5G technology can be traced to a single scientist and a single chart.” [emphasis added]

Jeffrey Epstein's Image Rehab

Daily Mail, Jeffrey Epstein partied with Trump's closest advisers including Wilbur Ross, Rudy Giuliani, and Steve Mnunchin at dinner hosted by David Koch just TWO MONTHS after his release from prison, July 22, 2019 (updated from July 21).

  • Jeffrey Epstein, 66, attended a screening and dinner party back in August 2010 for the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in Southampton.
  • The dinner was at the home of David and Julia Koch, and Epstein can be seen in photos chatting with attendees after Peggy Siegal put wilbur rosshim on the guest list
  • 'He was chatting to Jonathan Farklas, Leon Black and Wilbur Ross [right]. He was sitting right near Rudy Giuliani,' wrote Page Six at the time
    Steve Mnuchin was also present, as were designers Tory Burch and Tamara Mellon and billionaires Steven Schwarzman and Henry Kravis
  • Epstein should have been registered as a sex offender in New York at the time but it is unclear if he was as his hearing was not until 2011

Jeffrey Epstein hobnobbed with high-profile guests from the worlds of politics, banking, Hollywood and philanthropy at a Hamptons party just two months after his release by the state of Florida for soliciting a minor. Photos from a 2010 dinner party at the home of David and Julia Koch obtained by DailyMail.com show Epstein as he chats with guests after a screening of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

steven mnuchin wAmong those guests were two men who currently serve in President Trump's cabinet and his most trusted legal adviser.

Steve Mnuchin,left, and his then-wife Heather, Rudy Giuliani, right, and his then-wife Judith and Wilbur Ross all attended the rudy giuliani recentscreening and dinner that followed at the Koch's.

The Wall Street Journal wrote about those who attended the event a few days later, and in the piece noted that Giuliani 'walked out of the theater around the same time as Jeffrey Epstein, leading one observer to remark on the "beautifully done meeting of the prosecutor and the felon."'

Accused mass trafficking pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, left, is shown in a photo with Harvard Law School professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz, one of his defense jeffrey epstein alan dershowitzattorneys.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jeffrey Epstein Pitched a New Narrative. These Sites Published It, Tiffany Hsu. July 22, 2019 (print ed.). After Jeffrey Epstein got out of the Palm Beach County jail in 2009, having served 13 months of an 18-month sentence resulting from a plea deal that has been widely criticized, he began a media campaign to remake his public image.

The effort led to the publication of articles describing him as a selfless and forward-thinking philanthropist with an interest in science on websites like Forbes, National Review and HuffPost.

The Forbes.com article, posted in 2013, praised him as “one of the largest backers of forbes magazine l Customcutting-edge science around the world” while making no mention of his criminal past. The National Review piece, from the same year, called him “a smart businessman” with a “passion for cutting-edge science.”

The HuffPost article, from 2017, credited Mr. Epstein for “taking action to help a number of scientists thrive during the ‘Trump Era’,” a time of “anti-science policies and budget cuts.”

All three articles have been removed from their sites in recent days, after inquiries from The New York Times.

The articles in praise of Mr. Epstein came about partly because of an online publishing model adopted by some news organizations that relied on outside contributors who often wrote for little or no pay, with little or no input from editors.

The article on the Forbes website was attributed to Drew Hendricks, a contributing writer. As The Times revealed in an article last week, he was not the author of the piece. Instead, it was delivered to him by a public relations firm, and he said he was paid $600 to attach his byline and post it at Forbes.com.

A staff of roughly 200 employees produces Forbes’s in-house journalism, but most of the 100 articles the site publishes each day come from a group of nearly 3,000 outside writers. More content means more readers, and the number of unique visitors to Forbes.com has surged nearly 70 percent over the last four years, to 60.9 million last month, according to comScore.

While the number of views has gone up, the limited editing of contributors at Forbes has come in for criticism, with some noting huffington post logoproblematic posts like one in 2014 headlined “Drunk Female Guests are the Gravest Threat to Fraternities.”

Between 2005 and 2018, more than 100,000 contributors took advantage of HuffPost’s open-door model. At the time it was shut down, the HuffPost editor in chief Lydia Polgreen wrote, “Open platforms that once seemed radically democratizing now threaten, with the tsunami of false information we all face daily, to undermine democracy. When everyone has a megaphone, no one can be heard.”

The article on Mr. Epstein published by National Review, the conservative publication founded in 1955 by William F. Buckley Jr., was also national review logoremoved on Friday. It was credited to Christina Galbraith, who identified herself in her bio as a science writer who had published at Forbes and HuffPost.

Ms. Galbraith was also a publicist for Mr. Epstein, according to several news releases promoting Mr. Epstein’s foundations and initiatives in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that included her as a contact. Ms. Galbraith did not respond to requests for comment. In the article that appeared on the National Review site, she described him as having “given thoughtfully to countless organizations that help educate underprivileged children.”

Related Story From 2014

NewMediaWire, Hedge Funder Jeffrey Epstein Rewards Harvard's Legendary Hasty Pudding Institute, Christina Galbraith [emphasis added] March 4, 2014. Over the past year, the well-known science and Harvard philanthropist, Jeffrey Epstein [shown in a photo from the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation], has put his substantial support behind Harvard’s famous and oldest theatrical troupe, the Hasty Pudding Institute of 1770.

jeffrey epstein hands handsUp to now, the Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation has put its funds behind strictly science endeavors at Harvard, notably the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics with a $35 million dollar gift. The foundation has been a growing admirer of the Hasty Pudding’s role in supporting public education and the arts in the Cambridge and Boston communities.

Founded in 1770, by an erudite group of Harvard students as a secret society, "to uphold friendship and patriotism," The Hasty Pudding Institute evolved into a theatrical troupe and Harvard’s oldest. Much is written about Hasty’s theatrical performances, its a cappella singers, the Harvard Krokodiloes, its wit, roast dinners, illustrious guests from Grace Kelly to Elizabeth Taylor and the fun and glamorous awards given to various actors of the year such as Dame Helen Mirren in January 2014.

For example, the Hasty Pudding gives thousands of dollars and support each year to the West End House Boys and Girls Club, which supports low income families with programs in leadership, life skills, academia, sports, nutrition, the arts and free hot meals. Page to Stage, another Hasty Institute program, supports low income children through the playmaking process from conception to performance. In addition to funds for sets, costumes and production, the Hasty Pudding also mentors young students through each aspect from dramatic coaching to light direction.

"The Hasty Pudding Institute had typical beginnings as a secret society in a dorm room," Jeffrey Epstein remarked. "But they have evolved into a theatrical company that uplifts the young community of Cambridge and Boston."

The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation is known for supporting cutting edge science research around the world but it plays an active role in supporting education and youth programs for underprivileged youth across the country from Head Start programs to sports initiatives for juvenile offenders.

Christina Galbraith
Jeffrey Epstein Foundation
(917) 573-76XX

Remembering Muckraking Hoosier

wayne madesen report logo

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), WMR editor's email exchange with "suicided" Indiana political blogger Gary Welsh, Wayne Madsen, (right, author and syndicated columnist), July wayne madsen newer22, 2019 ($30 annual subscription required, excerpted here with permission). Indiana’s most well known political blogger, Gary Welsh, below left, who had uncovered scandal after scandal in Indianapolis, was said to have committed suicide on May 1, 2016.

It was very odd timing. The Indiana Republican primary, which was a last presidential gasp for Senator Ted Cruz’s campaign, was on May 3. Indianapolis was crawling with national media, which rarely ever treads in the capital of the Hoosier State.

gary r welshAlthough Welsh’s popular website, Advance Indiana, had a conservative bent, that did not dissuade Welsh, an attorney, from going after corruption wherever it was found, including the Republican-dominated state legislature and governor’s office. On April 29, two days before Welsh’s death, he posted the results of last-minute polling in Indiana on the campaigns of Donald Trump, Cruz, and Governor John Kasich from the neighboring state of Ohio.

WMR has recovered some of the emails the editor exchanged with Welsh. Our exchanges were similar to those I had with Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Gary Webb, right, just prior to his “suicide” in California in 2004. For gary webb with articlethe first time the emails with Welsh are being revealed.

...

Muckraking reporters like Welsh were once the rule and not the exception in American journalism. Although nationally-syndicated investigators like Drew Pearson, Jack Anderson, and H. L. Mencken received all the kudos, it was the local and state reporters, those like Welsh and Webb, who actually helped clean up public and corporate corruption.

July 19

Trump Threatens $10b Amazon.com Bid

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Says He May Intervene in Huge Pentagon Contract Sought by Amazon, Scott Shane and Karen Weise, July 18, 2019. President Trump said on Thursday that he was looking “very seriously” at intervening in the hard-fought commercial battle for a $10 billion Pentagon cloud computing contract for which Amazon, a company he has frequently attacked, is seen as the leading contender.

amazon logo smallFor the president to weigh in on the award of a major government contract would be highly unusual, raising questions of improper political influence, but the stakes are high and Amazon’s competitors have been lobbying aggressively. Mr. Trump has long carried on a one-sided feud with Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, over some of the company’s business washington post logoactivities and also over what the president refers to as “The Amazon Washington Post,” though Mr. Bezos owns the newspaper personally, not as a corporate asset.

Asked by reporters about the contract known as JEDI, for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, Mr. Trump said he was “getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon.”

“They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” he said.

In fact, the contract has not yet been awarded and has been the subject of a monthslong competition involving Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle and IBM. Pentagon officials decided in April that only Amazon and Microsoft had the capacity to meet the military’s requirements, and they have said they expect to choose the winner in late August.

jeffrey bezos washington postJeff Bezos, shown in a file photo and the founder of Amazon, which has been competing with Microsoft, Oracle and IBM for the Defense Department contract. Mr. Trump called JEDI “a very big contract, one of the biggest ever,” and noted that he had heard “complaining from different companies like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM.”

“Great companies are complaining about it,” he said, “so we’re going to take a look at it. We’ll take a very strong look at it.” He did not repeat his longstanding criticism of Amazon or Mr. Bezos.

As part of his regular attacks on the news media, Mr. Trump has often targeted The Post by lumping it with Amazon. He has also claimed that Amazon has unfairly exploited the United States Postal Service and has not paid its fair share of taxes.

Steve Kelman, a former federal procurement official now at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, said it would be improper for any president to influence the contracting process. “It’s not appropriate and it’s definitely not typical for a president to intervene on a contract,” he said. “That should be left to the Civil Service.”

Kaepernick, Nike Abetting Tea Party's Racism?

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Useful idiots and provocateurs, Wayne Madsen (synicated columnist, author, shown at left in a file photo), July 19, 2019 (subscription required, excerpted with permission). During a period when Donald Trump colin kaepernick nike ad Customwayne madsen may 29 2015 croppedis bringing back the old jingoistic and xenophobic “America: Love it or Leave It” mantra, it is awkward to criticize a person of color for besmirching American history, but trying times call for brutal honesty.

Former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick (at right)...showed himself to either be a useful idiot or a willful tool for elements, not all of which are based in the United States, that are trying to blemish and stain the historical icons of the United States.

Racist President's Media Defenders?

 sebastian gorka twitter

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Defenders of a Racist President Use Jews as Human Shields, Michelle Goldberg, right, July 19, 2019. Trump’s michelle goldberg thumbbigoted attack on four congresswomen of color has nothing to do with fighting anti-Semitism.

Sebastian Gorka (shown above in a file photo), a onetime adviser to Donald Trump, wore a medal from the Vitezi Rend, a Hungarian group historically aligned with Nazism, to one of Trump’s inaugural balls. Gorka was reportedly a member of the group, whose founder, the Hungarian autocrat Miklos Horthy, once said, “For all my life, I have been an anti-Semite.”

Max Berger is a Jewish social justice activist who has long been deeply involved in Jewish communal life. It was Gorka who called Berger an anti-Semite, for having once joined in an internet in-joke about a nonexistent group called “Friends of Hamas.”

If this were just Gorka, you could dismiss it as trolling. But his tweets were only a particularly brazen example of how right-wing gentiles are wrapping themselves in a smarmy philo-Semitism to attack the left, even when that means attacking either individual Jews or the political interests of most Jewish Americans.

July 18

Essence of Epstein Scandal

MintPress News, Hidden in Plain Sight: The Shocking Origins of the Jeffrey Epstein Case, Whitney Webb (shown in her Twitter photo), July 18, 2019 (excerpted). Epstein whitney webb twitteris only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive and sophisticated operation that offers a frightening window into how deeply tied the U.S. government is to the modern-day equivalents of organized crime.

Despite his “sweetheart” deal and having seemingly evaded justice, billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested earlier this month on federal charges for sex trafficking minors. Epstein’s arrest has again brought increased media attention to many of his famous friends, the current president among them.

Media News / Politics

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A random group of ‘Republicans’? CNN doesn’t tell the whole story about a Trump-loving panel, Paul Farhi, July 18, 2019. Members of a Trump booster group have appeared on the network twice before, also without disclosure. There’s no question that the panel of women CNN interviewed about President Trump liked him a lot and don’t think he’s a racist, despite a congressional resolution to the contrary on Tuesday. And no question the women are, as CNN identified them, “Republicans.”

But the network missed telling its viewers a few other things about the women it put on the air Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon in a segment surveying their reaction to criticism of Trump.

cnn logoThe seemingly random group of eight women were, in fact, members of an organized group dedicated to promoting Trump. The group calls itself the Trumpettes of America 2019 Palm Beach Team, although CNN and correspondent Randi Kaye didn’t mention anything about such a group. Nor did the anchors, including Anderson Cooper, who introduced Kaye’s report.

The network also didn’t mention that the Trumpettes have been interviewed on CNN twice before, and that they came up reliably in support of Trump on those occasions, too.

As a result, the segment left the impression that CNN had assembled a panel reflecting a cross-section of opinion from Republican women about the crossfire between Trump and four freshmen Democratic congresswomen of color, whom Trump told to “go back” to their own countries in his Sunday tweets despite all four being American citizens.

Personal Privacy

washington post logoWashington Post, Up to 4 million people are leaking secrets through browser extensions. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Geoffrey A. Fowler​, July 18, 2019. Your prescription. Your flight. Your tax return. An investigation shows that people have been unknowingly leaking personal and corporate information through Chrome and Firefox browser extensions that they may have installed themselves.

My latest investigation into the secret life of our data is not a fire drill. Working with an independent security researcher, I found as many as 4 million people have been leaking personal and corporate secrets through Chrome and Firefox. Even a colleague in The Washington Post’s newsroom got caught up. When we told browser makers Google and Mozilla, they shut these leaks immediately — but we probably identified only a fraction of the problem.

The root of this privacy train wreck is browser extensions. Also known as add-ons and plug-ins, they’re little programs used by nearly half of all desktop Web surfers to make browsing better, such as finding coupons or remembering passwords. People install them assuming that any software offered in a store run by Chrome or Firefox has got to be legit.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democratic leaders warn campaigns to delete FaceApp ‘immediately,’ Hannah Denham and Drew Harwell, July 18, 2019 (print ed.). Millions of users, including Drake, LeBron James and the Jonas Brothers, have posted photos of themselves altered by the app to make them look years older.

July 16

Consortium News, First Person Commentary: Consortium News Target of a Malware Attack as Twitter Takes Down Assange Support Group’s Account, Elizabeth Vos (Consortium News contributor), July 16, 2019. The simultaneous escalation of censorship of Julian Assange’s support base, alongside the latest wave of fact-free attacks on Assange and WikiLeaks‘, raises concern about a coordinated effort to smear Assange while silencing those who counter such dubious reporting.

julian assange cropped with un headerConsortium News was under attack on Monday, days after the premiere episode of the outlet’s live-streamed show, CN Live! The malicious attempt to shut down the website, according to the site’s web host, followed on the heels of the suspension of pro-Assange account Unity4J from Twitter.

Consortium News wrote via Twitter on Monday regarding the cyberattack: “Our website is completely down. Our media host said we have been attacked by malware. They actually tried to blame ‘the Russians’! Every article published since 2011 now gets a 404 Not Found. They are working on it. Problem started slowly on Friday first day of CN Live!”

The hack of Consortium News sparked concern regarding what appears to be an escalating wave of attacks on the independent press, as well as censorship of activists who support independent journalists, including WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Consortium News was restored by 10:44 pm EDT on Monday, but issues related to publishing new material persist.

As news of the attack on Consortium News spread, some Assange supporters connected the event with Twitter’s suspension of the Unity4J movement’s Twitter account. Christine Assange, Julian Assange’s mother and an activist in her own right, Christine Assange tweeted: Christine Assange also wrote on Sunday that she had lost “over 8,000 followers overnight.”

CNLive!‘s inaugural live-stream included an interview with Nils Melzer, the UN rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, who “discussed his work on the condition of imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.“

Consortium News had previously conducted the Unity4J online vigils over a period of months. The Unity4J Twitter account was suspended last Thursday for no known reason. The ban sparked a backlash including independent media coverage from a number of outlets, as well as an impassioned statement from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, who called Twitter “Big Brother” for permanently removing the account. To date, no explanation for Unity4J’s suspension has been made public.

Caitlin Johnstone wrote of the suspension via Medium: "Speaking for myself as a vocal Assange supporter on Twitter, I can say that I’ve been following the @Unity4J account closely since its earliest days and I’ve never once seen it post anything other than highly professional-looking advocacy for Julian Assange. I’ve certainly never seen it post anything that could be construed as abusive, misleading, or otherwise in violation of any of Twitter’s posted rules."

Unity4J was far from the only account targeted recently. Additional Unity4J activists, including many of those associated with running the Unity4J Twitter profile, were also either suspended or locked out of their accounts. One Unity4J admin, Aaron Kesel, who also writes as an independent journalist, said in an interview that they were locked out of their accounts within minutes of publishing an article covering the Catalonian public’s celebration of Assange’s birthday. Activist Post, the site on which the article was published, was likewise reportedly hacked in recent weeks.

On the same day that Consortium News fell under attack, CNN published a conspiracy-theory-laden article accusing Assange of having conspired with “the Russians” to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election from within the Ecuadorian embassy, which CNN described breathlessly as a “command post.” (Little irony that Consortium News was also told that their website being attacked had had something to do with “The Russians.”)

Palmer Report, Commentary: Kellyanne Conway has total meltdown on White House lawn, Bill Palmer, July 16, 2019. Kellyanne Conway is kellyanne conway talkingcurrently facing a couple big problems, beyond the fact that she’s Kellyanne Conway. First, her boss Donald Trump is in the midst of a racist tantrum that’s so unhinged and so far over the top, it seems to finally be at risk of hurting him. Second, her husband George Conway has emerged as one of Trump’s top critics, and last night George flat out stated that Trump is a racist.

This all added up to Kellyanne Conway addressing a group of reporters on the White House lawn today, and let’s just say that it didn’t go well for her. Donald Trump insisted that four freshman Democratic Congresswomen should “go back” to bill palmer report logo headerwhere they came from, which is both racist and bizarre, considering that three out of the four of them were born in the United States to begin with.

When a reporter [broadcast correspondent Andrew Feinberg] asked Kellyanne which countries they were supposed to “go back” to, according to NBC News, Kellyanne fired back at the reporter with “What’s your ethnicity?”

That’s right, she took the horrible thing that Trump said, and she managed to somehow make it even worse. As her exchange with the reporter went on, it became clear that Kellyanne was suggesting that the Congresswomen should go to whatever country their ancestors came from, or that they should go to a country where the population predominantly matches their ethnicity. Instead of acknowledging that Trump incorrectly assumed the four Congresswomen were all immigrants, Kellyanne took Trump’s racist words to an even more over-the-top place.

Kellyanne Conway’s lone skill in politics has always been to respond to every question with so many wall-to-wall lies that no one could get a word in edgewise, and no one could remember what the question was to begin with, leaving the waters fully muddied. But she didn’t do that today. Instead she staked Donald Trump to a more racist position than even he appeared to have been aiming for.

July 15

washington post logoWashington Post, Glenn Greenwald has faced pushback for his reporting before. But not like this, Terrence McCoy, July 15, 2019 (print ed.). For weeks, from a house transformed into a bunker, Greenwald, right, had published allegations casting doubt on the impartiality of the glenn greenwaldcorruption investigation that led to the imprisonment of former Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and contributed to the rise of President Jair Bolsonaro, below left.

In two days, he [Greenwald] would publish another story alleging that the judge who’d overseen Lula’s case, Sérgio jair bolsonaro brazilMoro, a national hero in Brazil for his role taking on corruption, had colluded with prosecutors to convict him.Greenwald, the polarizing American journalist who came to prominence reporting on the U.S. government surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden, had promised months of stories — a steady drip of leaks that could imperil the Bolsonaro agenda. Some members of Brazil's National Congress had called for his deportation. Others accused him of committing a crime. Death threats were rolling in.

Most recently, the federal police, commanded by Moro, now Bolsonaro’s justice minister, reportedly began investigating Greenwald’s finances in a probe that press advocates here see as an attempt to silence him. The public threats against Greenwald represent an early test for Brazil under Bolsonaro, the right-wing former military officer who won the presidency last year with appeals to nationalism, homophobia and nostalgia for the country’s two-decade military dictatorship.

Intrepid Report, Accusing Adam Schiff of ‘criminalizing routine reporting,’ groups call for stripping CIA-backed provision from intelligence legislation, Eoin Higgins, July 15, 2019. ‘Schiff is clearly the resistance to the resistance, and he should drop this provision from his bill.’ A adam schiff officialCIA-backed provision for a bill that could have dire effects on the freedom of the press is quietly making its way through Congress, despite the protestations of civil rights groups to Rep. Adam Schiff, right, the powerful California Democrat who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, to strip the rule.

“Adam Schiff is once again putting the interests of the intelligence agencies in concealing their misdeeds ahead of protecting the rights of ordinary Americans,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, in a statement Thursday.

In the statement, Schuman also accused Schiff of “criminalizing routine reporting by the press on national security issues and undermining congressional oversight in his Intelligence Authorization bill.” Demand Progress was one of 30 groups that signed an open letter (pdf) on July 8 to congressional leaders of both parties calling for the provision to be stripped from the bill.

“This provision is an extremely broad expansion of felony criminal penalties, and delegates authority as to when those penalties apply to the executive branch,” reads the letter. “It would be significantly damaging to transparency, oversight, and accountability, and should be removed from the Intelligence Authorization Act.”

cia logoSection 305 of the Intelligence Authorization Act (pdf), which prohibits disclosure of the identity of agents currently in the field or who have been in the field in the last five years, would be tweaked under the new law to encompass the identities of a far larger number of agents, contractors, and sources—many of whom live and work domestically.

The effect of the law could be massive, Emily Manna, a policy analyst for Open the Government, told Yahoo News in an email.

“This language is almost unbelievably broad, drastically expanding felony criminal penalties for the disclosure of [many categories] of information about the intelligence agencies, even if those disclosures might be in the best interest of the government and the country,” wrote Manna. “There would likely be a significant chilling effect on journalists and government whistleblowers.”

Supporters of the law’s expansion cite WikiLeaks, the online clearinghouse for secure information, as the reason for needing further protections. It’s an argument that’s likely to have an effect on Schiff, who has spent much of the past two years railing against the site for its perceived involvement in the election of President Donald Trump.

Schiff, one of the favorite guests of MSNBC‘s “Rachel Maddow Show,” has cultivated an image of a hero to the so-called liberal “resistance” to Trump since 2017, something that Demand Progress’ Schuman took aim at in his statement.

July 12

Media / Trade Wars

ny times logoNew York Times, As Europe Moves to Tax Tech Companies, U.S. Scrambles to Broker a Deal, Jim Tankersley and Alan Rappeport, July facebook logo12, 2019. Washington is trying to head off efforts by France, Britain and the European Union to impose taxes on companies like Google and Facebook. The digital revenue grab is threatening to set off a cascade of retaliatory measures unless an agreement can be made.

google logo customFor most of the 21st century, wealthy nations have engaged in a race to the bottom on corporate taxes, cutting rates in an effort to poach business activity across borders. Very quickly, that script has flipped.

Developed countries are now moving to impose new taxes on technology companies, like Facebook and Google, that have large presences in their citizens’ daily lives but pay those countries little tax on the profits they earn there.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Congress should show Trump that the Saudi crown prince is no ‘friend’ of America, Editorial Board, July 12, 2019 (print ed.). Though there has been no accountability for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and women who were tortured for seeking mohammed bin salman al saudgreater rights are still in prison, President Trump has returned to calling Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (shown at right) a “friend” who is doing “a spectacular job.”

Fortunately, there remains a bipartisan majority in Congress that rejects this indefensible judgment and the president’s strings-free steps to supply the kingdom with more weapons and nuclear technology. The question is whether a coalition can come together to pass legislation that will reshape U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabia and its brutal and reckless ruler over Mr. Trump’s objections.

July 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Jeffrey Epstein’s case was covered in the media. But one Miami reporter made it big news again, Sarah Ellison and Paul Farhi, July 11, 2019 (print ed). An investigation, entitled "Perversion of Justice," began with a simple question: “I wonder what the women think about this?”

As Julie Brown watched the Senate hearings on Alexander Acosta’s nomination to become secretary of labor in 2017, she couldn’t help but talk to the television.

“Why aren’t they asking him this?” she asked. “Why aren’t they asking him that?”

perversion of justice miami herald logoBrown was frustrated by the limited questioning from senators about Acosta’s role in an unusual secret plea deal that, as a U.S. attorney in Florida, he had struck with Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire financier who had pleaded guilty in 2008 to charges of soliciting prostitution from a minor, serving a mere 13-month sentence that allowed him to leave jail for 12 hours a day.

“It seemed like the lawmakers didn’t know the whole story,” Brown said in an interview.

So, after the Senate confirmed Acosta, Brown, an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald, went to her editor with a simple query: “I wonder what the women think about this.”

jeffrey epstein julie brown cnn screenshot CustomBrown (shown with Epstein in a CNN screenshots) then set out to tell the full story — not from Acosta’s or Epstein’s point of view but from the perspective of the scores of women who were girls when they were allegedly raped and trafficked by Epstein. They were identified in court filings as Jane Doe 1 or Jane Doe 2 or, as Brown darkly joked, “Jane Doe 102.”

Her search resulted in a blockbuster three-part investigation, published in November, in which she and video journalist Emily Michot were able to identify about 80 of Epstein’s accusers. The stories were a slow-burning fuse that led to an explosion: On Saturday, Epstein was arrested on new sex-crimes charges, leading to calls from leading Democrats for Acosta’s resignation over his handling of the case 11 years ago.

Though there have been surges of media attention about Epstein over more than a decade, no journalist had interviewed the women — now nurses and real estate agents and mothers and professionals — until Brown dove into the story last year.

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Alexander Acosta’s past—and present—under the spotlight, Jon Allsop, July 11, 2019. Yesterday, Alexander Acosta, President Trump’s embattled labor secretary, hauled himself before reporters to finally answer some big questions. Acosta finds himself under siege following the weekend arrest of Jeffrey Epstein on sex-trafficking charges.

In 2007, Acosta, then the top US prosecutor in Miami, signed off on a lenient sweetheart plea deal for Epstein and failed to tell Epstein’s victims about it—an illegal move, per a recent court ruling. Acosta gently (for a Trump official, at least) chided the press for overlooking facts about his handling of the Epstein case: the plea deal ensured Epstein did jail time, whereas going to court would have been “the roll of a dice,” Acosta said. He also said, repeatedly, that times have changed, as if he was talking about the 1940s, not the late 2000s.

Trump 'Social Media Summit Today'

Raw Story, Top official explains why some Trump superfans were left out of White House summit: ‘We aren’t that stupid,’ Travis Gettys, July 11, 2019. The White House is hosting a summit for pro-Trump social media personalities, but some of the president’s boosters are wondering why they weren’t invited to the event.

Social media director Dan Scavino, a longtime aide to President Donald Trump, is taking the lead in organizing the summit and forming its agenda, two sources told The Daily Beast.

donald trump twitterBut White House staffers told the website they made the easy choice to exclude some of the president’s more controversial supporters — such as InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, anti-Muslim activist Laura Loomer and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes — who have been banned from Twitter and other social media platforms.

“What benefit would it be to anyone if Laura Loomer were in the same room with the president?” one senior Trump administration official told The Daily Beast. “Why on earth would we do that? We aren’t that stupid. Come on.”

Loomer and other pro-Trump figures have been ranting about their exclusion on Telegram, a Russian messaging app that is one of the only platforms they have left after getting banned from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for various infractions.

“It’s just absolutely disgusting how poorly this summit was planned and how blatant the act was to keep banned individuals out,” Loomer blared on Telegram. “I cannot believe that every single banned person was out of the summit.”

However, the invite list also features a number of controversial, sketchy or fringe characters. At least two Trump superfans — online video personality Bill Mitchell and singer Joy Villa — who buy in to the QAnon conspiracy theory say they have been invited to the White House summit.

QAnon believers are fixated on asking Trump to confirm their conspiracy in person, the website reported, but Mitchell insisted he would resist the urge. “Of course not,” Mitchell told The Daily Beast. “This is about social media bias, not Q.”

Trump-loving cartoonist Ben Garrison — whose drawings feature a svelte, pompadoured president vanquishing various enemies — was disinvited to the event after critics pointed out several plainly anti-Semitic comics he’d done in the past.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump posts deranged “stable genius” meltdown involving random people and bad math, deletes it, Bill Palmer, July 11, 2019. As a general rule, if you have to declare yourself a “stable genius,” it means you’re neither one of those things.

Because so many of Donald Trump’s biggest supporters are openly bigoted, and so many of them tend to express their horrid views in bill palmer report logo headerthreatening or slur-filled ways, some of Trump’s more prominent surrogates have been banned from various social networks. Some of the others have simply made up a laugh-out-loud conspiracy theory about how they’re not more popular because the social networks are conspiring to bury their incoherent rants. Trump is playing up this nonsense by inviting this collection of lunatics to the White House for a closed-door meeting today. Accordingly, Trump posted this maniacal meltdown on Twitter:

"A big subject today at the White House Social Media Summit will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies. We will not let them get away with it much longer. The Fake News Media will also be there, but for a limited period.

The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media. They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public. That’s why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or Alfred E. Newman or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1/1024th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius! Sorry to say that even Social Media would be driven out of business along with, and finally, the Fake News Media!"

YouTube, Dr. Gorka Tells Triggered Reporter At Rose Garden, "You’re A Punk! July 11, 2019 (2 min. video). Former White House aide Dr. Sebastian Gorka tells Playboy Magazine reporter Brian Karem, the same triggered reporter who later had an exchange with Joy Villa at the White House Rose Garden on July 11, 2019. Note: Conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, who identifies himself as an "investigative journalist," also confronts Karem.

Other coverage:

  • Bloomberg, Sebastian Gorka Clashes with Journalist After Trump Refuses Media Questions, July 11, 2019 (1:09 min. video).  Conservative commentator Sebastian Gorka appeared to threaten a journalist from the White House press corps after Trump finished remarks on the 2020 census without taking questions from the media. Earlier, Trump hosted a social media summit at the White House, attended by only conservative news media, including Gorka.
  • WLTX, July 11, 2019. Singer Joy Villa confronted several members of the media over fake news moments after a Rose Garden news conference by President Donald Trump on July 11, 2019. It began when Sebastian Gorka had an exchange of words with one of the reporters, who Gorka said made a threat against him.

July 10

washington post logomohammed bin salman al saudWashington Post, After grisly killing of a journalist, lobbyists and lawyers have reaped millions assisting Saudi Arabia, Beth Reinhard, Jonathan O'Connell and Tom Hamburger, July 10, 2019.  After the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a handful of lobbying firms and think tanks made a move rare in Washington: They publicly severed ties with Saudi Arabia. But months later, some have resumed their relationships with the kingdom. Its crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, suspected of ordering the tortture murder, is shown at right.

Trash Talk Radio

Mediaite, WATCH: Caller Informs Seb Gorka That He Has Been Awarded Journalist of the Year By ‘Dipsh*t Magazine,’ Connor Mannion, July 10, 2019.  Sebastian Gorka got duped by a prank call to his radio show and proceeded to blast the jokester as “a little girl.” The caller, “Jason,” began with effusive praise of Gorka, saying he “loved” the sound of Gorka’s voice. “Radio is meant for you, sir,” Jason said.

July 9

Media / Trump Watch

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump cannot block his critics on Twitter, appeals court rules, Ann E. Marimow​, July 9, 2019. The case has twitter bird Customimplications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

President Trump cannot block his critics from the Twitter feed he regularly uses to communicate with the public, a federal appeals court donald trump twittersaid Tuesday, in a case with implications for how elected officials nationwide interact with constituents on social media.

The decision from the New York-based appeals court upholds an earlier ruling that Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked individual users who were critical of the president or his policies.

Public officials who take to social media for official government business, the court said Tuesday, are prohibited from excluding people “from an otherwise open online dialogue because they expressed views with which the official disagrees,” wrote Judge Barrington D. Parker in the unanimous decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

July 8

ny times logoNew York Times, New Scandals Rock Government’s Foreign Broadcasting Service, Elizabeth Williamson, July 8, 2019.  The United States Agency for Global Media is facing intensified scrutiny after two new cases raised questions about journalistic and financial management. The United States Agency for Global Media, the government’s foreign broadcast service, already struggling to clean house after voice of america logoa series of scandals last year at flagship operations like Voice of America and TV Martí, is now being rocked by two new cases that have raised further questions about its journalistic and financial management.

In one, Tomás Regalado Jr., a reporter for TV Martí, which broadcasts into Cuba, and a cameraman for the network, Rodolfo Hernandez, were suspended amid allegations that they faked a mortar attack on Mr. Regalado during a broadcast from Managua, Nicaragua, last year.

That incident surfaced only days after Haroon Ullah, the former chief strategy officer at the global media agency, which operates Martí and foreign-language networks around the world, pleaded guilty on June 27 in federal court in Alexandria, Va., to stealing government property.

A former deputy to the agency’s chief executive, John Lansing, Mr. Ullah admitted to fleecing the government of $37,000 between February and October last year by claiming reimbursements for expensive hotels he did not book, double-billing the government for official travel and forging a doctor’s note to allow him to fly business class. He faces up to 10 years in prison.

The new problems are unrelated to each other; in the case of Mr. Ullah, the agency said its internal controls flagged the expense fraud. But along with many others over the past two years, the scandals have brought intensified scrutiny and criticism to the agency, formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Created during World War II to be an objective, trusted source of information in nations where freedom of the press is under attack, the agency has 3,500 journalists who reach more than 345 million people in 100 countries each week.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the deep end after Fox News sells him out, Bill Palmer, July 8, 2019. The marriage between fox news logo SmallDonald Trump and Fox News has always been one of convenience. Fox viewers initially wanted to believe in Trump, so Fox played him up at every turn. Trump then rewarded Fox by giving it special access and influence over his administration. The trouble is that Trump has veered so far into Hell, even a growing number of Fox viewers are on the verge of turning on him – and so Fox has had to begin incrementally turning against him in order to preserve its own base. Suffice it to say that Trump isn’t taking the news well.

bill palmer report logo headerDonald Trump launched into not one but two separate rants about Fox News last night, hours apart, giving away just how much it’s eating at him that Fox has begun selling him out. During his ranting, Trump attacked Shep Smith, the Fox weekend anchors (whose names he still doesn’t seem to know), and new Fox personality Donna Brazile. This comes after Trump’s recent attacks on Chris Wallace, Andrew Napolitano, and other Fox faces.

Of course Trump is still reliably getting loyalty from the most craven and extremist of the Fox News personalities, such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. But even that’s merely based on the fact that their respective audiences are still largely aligned with a pro-Trump agenda. The bottom line is that Trump has lost the support of far too many Fox News pundits when it comes to his fragile grip on the least enthusiastic members of his base.

The Trump-Fox marriage was only ever going to work out for both sides if Donald Trump was popular enough that it was in Fox News’ best interest to support him across the board. Fox continues to incrementally sell Trump out – not because his popularity is dropping off, but because Fox expects his popularity to drop off, and it wants to get ahead of it. Fox can survive without Trump, but Trump may not survive without Fox, which is probably why he’s taking it so poorly that Fox is selling him out.

July 7

Media News

RT, Trump invites cartoonist who penned ‘anti-Semitic’ Soros sketch to White House, liberals furious, July 7, 2019. Progressives and liberals took to Twitter to vent, after President Donald Trump invited right-wing cartoonist Ben Garrison to an upcoming White House social media summit. Garrison has been accused of anti-Semitism.

The guest list for Trump’s social media summit, due to take place this Thursday, looks tailor-made to trigger and enrage his opponents. Trump cheerleader Bill Mitchell will be in attendance, as will pro-Trump memesmith ‘Carpe Donktum,’ and now self-described “renegade cartoonist” Ben Garrison.

New York Daily News, Crowd at bar breaks into ‘F--k Trump’ chant during live Fox News report about women’s World Cup (WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE), David Matthews, July 7, 2019. A live Fox News broadcast was interrupted by soccer fans scream "F*** Trump." The U.S. Women’s National Team defeated the Netherlands in the final of the World Cup in France and one cable channel’s attempt to capture fan reactions went a bit sideways. Fox News did a live report from Wallace Bar, a sports bar in Lyon, where the crowd started chanting an obscene phrase that drowned out correspondent Greg Palkot.

July 5

U.S. Media News

Associated Press, Storied African-American newspaper becoming digital only, Staff report, July 5, 2019. he publisher of the storied African American newspaper Chicago Defender has announced it will no longer publish a print version.

In announcing the move to digital-only beginning July 11, Real Times Media CEO Hiram E. Jackson said Friday the newspaper has made significant investment in digital media because of changes in the publishing landscape.

Jackson noted the Defender currently prints 16,000 newspapers. He says the newspaper reaches at least ten times more people on its digital platform. Jackson says Real Times’ other newspapers, the Michigan Chronicle and the New Pittsburgh Courier, will continue to offer a print version.

July 3

Press Crackdown: Brazil

The Guardian, Outcry after reports Brazil plans to investigate Glenn Greenwald, Dom Phillip, July 3, 2019. Federal police reportedly asked glenn greenwald hsmoney laundering unit to investigate the ‘financial activities’ of the US journalist.

Brazil’s Bar Association, journalists and opposition lawmakers have reacted with outrage to reports that the country’s federal police plan to investigate the bank accounts of an American journalist who published leaked conversations between prosecutors and the graft-busting judge who is now Jair Bolsonaro’s justice minister.

The rightwing site the Antagonist (O Antagonista) reported on Tuesday that federal police had asked a money-laundering unit at Brazil’s finance ministry to investigate the “financial activities” of Glenn Greenwald.

brazil flag wavingPolice declined to comment on the allegation but confirmed an investigation had been launched into the hacking of cellphones that led to the leaks.

“This seems to me like an attempt to intimidate the journalist,” said Kennedy Alencar, a leading political commentator on CBN Radio.
Brazil reels at claims judge who jailed Lula collaborated with prosecutors
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“If there is an investigation for doing journalism it is illegal and it is an attempt at intimidation,” said Pierpaolo Bottini, a professor of penal law at the University of São Paulo who heads the press freedom unit at the Brazilian Bar Association.

Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, won a Pulitzer prize for leading the Guardian’s reporting on National Security Agency (NSA) spying revealed by Edward Snowden before co-founding the Intercept website in 2014.

Last month, the publication’s Brazilian edition launched the first in a string of bombshell articles which appeared to show prosecutors in the sweeping Operation Car Wash corruption inquiry colluding with Sérgio Moro, the judge who became a hero in Brazil for jailing powerful businessmen, middlemen and politicians.

The leaked records – which the Intercept said it received from an anonymous source – have had an explosive impact on Brazilian politics and dominated headlines for weeks.

The Blaze, ABC, CBS, and NBC announce they will snub President Trump's 'Salute to America' celebration, Breck Dumas, July 3, 2019. Major networks opting to run shows like 'Jeopardy!' in lieu of live coverage of the Fourth of July event. Major U.S. media networks ABC, CBS, and NBC announced Wednesday that they are all snubbing President Donald Trump's "Salute to America" celebration on the Fourth of July and plan to stick with regularly scheduled shows rather than provide live television coverage of the event.

The Daily Mail reported that the networks will stick with planned nightly newscasts and shows, such as "Jeopardy!" and "Inside Edition," cbs news logoin lieu of airing the Independence Day event featuring a speech from the president. However, the three networks will offer live footage over its respective online and streaming platforms.

In reporting details of President Trump's planned show honoring America's armed forces, CBS News noted the president was carrying forward with the event "despite widespread criticism over the distracting from the holiday."

July 1

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Torture of Julian Assange, Paul Craig Roberts, July 1, 2019. In a few days July 4th will be upon us. We will hear paul craig roberts head sternendless nonsense from insouciant speakers and editorialists about what a great democracy we are, having won our freedom from being a British colony.

One thing the United States most certainly is not is a democracy. A democracy requires an informed electorate, and the United States most certainly does not have an informed electorate. The American media, indeed, the entirety of the Western print and TV media, functions as a Propaganda Ministry for Washington and the ruling oligarchies. The explanations are controlled to serve the agendas of the ruling elites. The persecution and torture of Julian Assange proves conclusively that the First Amendment is a dead-letter Amendment.

Without an honest Fourth Estate it is impossible to prevent a democracy from becoming a tyranny. In America tyranny is far advanced. Suppose that Americans somehow became aware of the truth about Julian Assange's total innocence that has been disclosed by Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. What could they do about it, short of violent revolution and complete elimination of the ruling elites?

Formerly, the US Constitution was revered, but today even law faculties and judges see the Constitution as something to find a way around. The vast majority of Americans themselves have no idea that the Constitution is the bulwark of their independence and liberty.

nils melzer un photoNils Melzer (shown in a United Nations photo) describes how his investigation of Assange's treatment liberated him from the totally false picture that has been created in order to establish the legal precedent that government crimes against humanity cannot be revealed. In the "American Democracy," the people are not permitted to know.

"In the end it finally dawned on me that I had been blinded by propaganda, and that Assange (shown at right) had been systematically julian assange indicter imageslandered to divert attention from the crimes he exposed. Once he had been dehumanized through isolation, ridicule and shame, just like the witches we used to burn at the stake, it was easy to deprive him of his most fundamental rights without provoking public outrage worldwide. And thus, a legal precedent is being set, through the backdoor of our own complacency, which in the future can and will be applied just as well to disclosures by The Guardian, the New York Times and ABC News.

"Even so, you may say, why spend so much breath on Assange, when countless others are tortured worldwide? Because this is not only about protecting Assange, but about preventing a precedent likely to seal the fate of Western democracy. For once telling the truth has become a crime, while the powerful enjoy impunity, it will be too late to correct the course. We will have surrendered our voice to censorship and our fate to unrestrained tyranny.

"This Op-Ed has been offered for publication to the Guardian, The Times, the Financial Times, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian, the Canberra Times, the Telegraph, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Thomson Reuters Foundation, and Newsweek.

None responded positively."

Nils Melzer is a Swiss academic, author and practitioner in the field of international law. Since 1 November 2016, Melzer has been serving as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

June

June 30

Media: Moguls Cancel Cartoonist

djt michael de adder play through june 2019

BoingBoing, Billionaire newspaper monopolist family cancels editorial cartoonist after anti-Trump drawing, Cory Doctorow, ed., June 30, 2019.  Canada's Irving family is one of the richest in the world, owning more land than anyone except the British royals and the Catholic church; they also own virtually all the media in New Brunswick, as well as the industries that those newspapers cover, and they augment their media control over the public discourse with a ruthless approach to their critics.

The Irvings are in the news today due to their role in a massive Canadian scandal that many believe could cost Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party its chance at re-election in October.

Now, the Irvings' newspapers have all canceled Micheal de Adder's editorial strip, after the New Brunswick native drew a comic (shown above) featuring Donald Trump playing golf over the corpses of Salvadoran asylum-seekers Oscar Alberto Martinez and his two year old daughter, Angie Valeria M, whose bodies were photographed after they washed up on the shores of the Rio Grande.

According to de Adder, none of the Irvings' Brunswick News Inc outlets ran the strip.

De Adder is Canada's most-read cartoonist.

De Adder wrote that despite his sorrow at being cut from the papers in his home province, "I’m not a victim. I just finished a book, that will be out in September and I still freelance for some amazing newspapers. It’s a setback not a deathblow."

In a statement, President Wes Tyrell of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists wrote, "The Irvings have considerable corporate interests in the United States, but why would they care about cartoons potentially offending the American president? ...It’s simple really, J.D. Irving, Limited is not only a privately owned conglomerate headquartered in New Brunswick, its also an international behemoth with global reach. Trade has been an issue since Trump took office, trade that affects the Irvings directly, not to mention a host of other issues. And the President himself is an unknown quantity who punishes those who appear to oppose him...A solid reason why an oil company has no business owning newspapers."

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s press secretary bruised after jostling with North Korea security over media, report says, Hannah Knowles, June 30, 2019. New White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham was bruised Sunday in a scuffle between North Korean security and members of the U.S. press pool covering President Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Associated Press reported.

The incident, which was partially caught on video, occurred after Trump became the first sitting U.S. president to visit North Korea and days after Grisham took on the job.

The Secret Service intervened as North Korean guards pushed and shoved American reporters to block them from entering the Inter-Korean House of Freedom south of the border, where Trump and Kim were meeting, according to the AP. “The North Korean security was a little overzealous, at times trying to block US reporters’ view,” wrote Jennifer Jacobs, a senior White House reporter at Bloomberg, adding that the clash “came to body blows.”

Religion / Media

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Mormon’ No More: Reflecting on Church’s Move to Scrap a Moniker, Elizabeth Dias, June 29, 2019. For the Latter-day Saints faithful, a shift away from a longtime name has meant lighthearted screw-ups, logistical complications and reflections on identity.

Last August, leaders of her faith announced a game-changing divine revelation. Russell M. Nelson, the church’s president, said that God had “impressed upon my mind the importance of the name he has revealed for his church.” Church members should no longer call themselves Mormons, or even use the shorthand L.D.S., the church announced.

Instead, they should use the church’s full name and refer to themselves as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Or, if they wanted a shorter version, Latter-day Saints was preferred. As he is revered as a living prophet, the announcement had divine weight.

For the church’s 16 million adherents, the shift has meant lighthearted screw-ups, logistical complications and reflections on an unexpected question: What do you do when a name that has been core to your identity suddenly changes?

The word Mormon has been with the church from the beginning. It comes from the Book of Mormon, the church’s signature text (the main thing associated with the church that is keeping its name), which adherents believe was recorded on gold plates by the prophet Mormon and his son, Moroni.

June 29

WFMJ-TV (Youngstown, OH), Vindicator announces it will stop production, J. Breen Mitchell, June 29, 2019. After more than a century, The Vindicator will permanently cease production. 144 employees and about 250 carriers will lose their jobs on August 31, 2019, after the papers last publication.

According to the Vindicator's General Manager, Mark Brown, he has been trying to find a buyer for the paper since December 2017. "We never thought we would be in this position, being that it was in the family you didn't want to shut it down or lose it but the only way we could see this continue is if we found another buyer," said Brown. Brown adds that most of the revenue comes from the print product. The Vindicator will not be able to keep their website due to Google and Facebook driving down rates for advertising.

The announcement came Friday afternoon, just days after the newspaper marked its 150th anniversary. On Saturday, a letter to readers will be published by Vindicator publisher Betty J.H. Brown Jagnow and general manager Mark Brown explaining the decision. WFMJ is also owned by the same family that owns The Vindicator. In a letter to WFMJ employees dated June 28, Brown said the decision to shut down the newspaper will not affect the television station.

"We have no plans, no intentions, no desire, no thoughts and no interest in selling WFMJ. Period," Brown said. The closing comes at a time when newspapers across the country are struggling for their survival as news consumers increasingly turn to digital options for news and information.

The Vindicator's editorial page editor and Sunday columnists, Bertram de Souza, reflects on his 40-year career and how influential The Vindicator has been within the community.

"I'm losing a part of what has been my life," says Souza. "Politically the Sunday before an election, when we were printing at midnight politicians and their campaign people, would line outside the old building to get the first newspaper off the press and see who we would endorse."

Souza says that the papers General Manager, Mark Brown, supported his column no matter who it may have upset or offended.

Souza says that the papers General Manager, Mark Brown, supported his column no matter who it may have upset or offended.

tim ryan president buttonValley Congressman Tim Ryan [shown in his 2020 presidential campaign button] recently sent out a tweet about the closing of the Vindicator saying this is a heartbreaking announcement. "This is heartbreaking. The Vindicator has been a pillar in our community, and its reporters and staff have always been unwavering in their commitment to truth and transparency. Local newspapers are critical to our democracy. We need to support them."

The paper has been a fixture in the Mahoning Valley since its first issue was published on June 25, 1869. It would eventually become the only daily newspaper in Mahoning County.

June 27

538.com, Analysis: What Went Down On Night One Of The First Democratic Debates Filed under 2020 Election, Staff reports, June 27, 2019. Micah Cohen: What a night! If you missed it and want to relive all the glory chronologically, just start at the bottom of this live blog and scroll up. If you’re not inclined to do that, though, I’ve got two options for you. First, check back here tomorrow — we’re partnering with Morning Consult to measure how the debates change voters’ views of the race. Second, I asked the live blog team to sum up the night’s events in a newspapery headline.

Laura Bronner: Speaking time — measured here by words spoken by each candidate — wasn’t equally distributed across the candidates. It was moderately correlated with candidates’ polling averages (R=0.55), though candidates like Booker, O’Rourke, Klobuchar and Castro spoke a lot relative to their standing in the polls. Warren, who was the polling leader on stage Wednesday night, got fewer words in than her standing would imply.

Who held the floor in night one? Number of words spoken by each candidate during night one of the first Democratic debate

Cory Booker 2181
Beto O’Rourke 1932
Eliz. Warren 1637
Chuck Todd (mod) 1633
Amy Klobuchar 1614
Julián Castro 1588
Tim Ryan 1383
Tulsi Gabbard 1243
Rachel Maddow (mod.) 1163
John Delaney 1060
Lester Holt (mod.) 1001
Bill de Blasio 881
Jay Inslee 875
Savannah Guthrie (mod.) 748
Jose Diaz-Balart (mod.) 377

Word counts exclude words spoken in Spanish

Nate Silver: Looks like Gabbard edged out Booker in search traffic at the end there.

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Media And Public Disagree On Tulsi Gabbard's Debate Performance, B, June 27, 2019. The mainstream media tulsi gabbardseem to judge the Democratic primary debate last night quite differently than the general public.

Quartz cites multiple polls which show that Tulsi Gabbard won the debate: "[T]wo candidates seemed to pique a lot of interest among US voters, at least when judged by who Americans searched for on Google: New Jersey senator Cory Booker and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. A poll by the right-leaning Drudge Report also found Gabbard to be the breakout of the debate with 38% of the vote, well ahead of Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren in second place. Gabbard also topped polls by local news sites including NJ.com and the Washington Examiner."

Now contrast that with the mainstream media.

The Washington Post discusses winners and losers of the debate and puts Gabbard in the second category: "Gabbard was lost for much of the debate. That may not have been her fault — she wasn’t asked many questions — ...."

Duh!

The New York Times main piece about the debate mentions Gabbard only once - in paragraph 32 of the 45 paragraphs long piece. It does not reveal anything about her actual political position: "There was little discussion of foreign policy until near the end of the debate when two little-known House lawmakers, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Tim Ryan of Ohio, clashed over how aggressively to target the Taliban."

The New York Times also has some 'experts' discussing winners and losers. Gabbard is only mentioned at the very end, and by a Republican pollster, as a potential candidate for Secretary of Defense.

CNN also discusses winners and losers. Gabbard is not mentioned at all. NBC News ranks the candidates' performance. It puts Gabbard on place 8 and inserts a snide:
"Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii: Seized an opportunity to highlight her military experience in Afghanistan and her signature anti-intervention foreign policy views, without being tainted by her past sympathetic comments on Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad."

Most of the above media have long avoided to mention Gabbard and to discuss her political positions. It is quite evident that the mainstream media do not like her anti-regime-change views and are afraid of even writing about them.

June 26

Fallen Journalists

Fallen Journalists Memorial, Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019 Introduced, Staff report, June 26, 2019. New Foundation to Embark on Planning, Private Fundraising Campaign for Memorial. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to establish a permanent Fallen Journalists Memorial in Washington, D.C. The legislation and the announcement of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation comes ahead of the one-year anniversary of the shooting at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, that took the lives of five people on June 28, 2018.

The Fallen Journalists Memorial Act of 2019 (H.R. 3465 and S. 1969) authorizes the newly-established Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation (FJM Foundation) to raise funds and work with appropriate entities to site and build a memorial to pay tribute to the journalists who have died while performing their jobs.

In the House, the legislation is sponsored by Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) and Tom Cole (R-OK). In the Senate, the legislation is sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH). No federal funds will be used to plan or build the memorial.

david dreier ben cardin june 26 2019 img 6423“Today marks the beginning of what will be a long and collaborative process,” said David Dreier (shown in a Justice Integrity Project photo clapping his hands as Cardin speaks), Chairman of the Tribune Publishing Company, at an event announcing the FJM Foundation today. “The work of our legislative sponsors to date has been superb. The broad support we have received from the journalistic community and their readers, viewers and listeners from across the country is very inspiring. Journalism is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is important to honor those who have died in pursuit of the truth.”

Also present for today’s event were Senators Cardin and Portman; Congressman Cole; Donald Graham, former publisher of The Washington Post; and Rick Hutzell, Editor, Capital Gazette Communications.

Watch the full press conference.

The Fallen Journalists Memorial Act follows the legal framework established by the Commemorative Works Act (CWA) of 1986 for the placement of commemorative works on federal land in the District of Columbia. It prohibits the use of federal funds and requires the Foundation to follow a process to ensure that the memorial is appropriately designed, constructed and located, and that sufficient funds are provided to the National Park Service (NPS) to maintain the memorial.

The National Press Club Journalism Institute (NPCJI), which is the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club, will host the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation. The Foundation will build support and plan for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and preservation of the memorial. Initial funding will be provided by the Annenberg Foundation and the Michael and Jacky Ferro Foundation. Barbara Cochran, who has a storied career in journalism and is a professor and director of the Washington program of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and president of NPCJI, will serve as President of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation. Dreier will serve as Chairman of the Foundation’s board.

ABOUT THE FALLEN JOURNALISTS MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation (FJM Foundation) will work to enact legislation, raise funds and build a Fallen Journalists Memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C., that will pay tribute to journalists who have died while performing their jobs. The FJM Foundation will operate under the auspices of the National Press Club Journalism Institute (NPCJI), which is the non-profit affiliate of the National Press Club. Learn more at www.fallenjournalists.org and follow on Twitter @FJMemorial.

ABOUT THE NATIONAL PRESS CLUB JOURNALISM INSTITUTE: The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged global citizenry through an independent and free press, and equips journalists with skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire civic engagement. Learn more at www.pressclubinstitute.org.

Frederick News Post (MD), Opinion: Waking up to Empire, Barry Kissin, June 26, 2019. In the June 18 Frederick News-Post, page A1, from The Associated Press: “It appears as if Iran has begun its own maximum pressure campaign on the world. … The development follows apparent attacks last week in the Strait of Hormuz on [two] oil tankers, assaults that Washington has blamed on Iran. While Iran has denied being involved, it laid mines in the 1980s targeting oil tankers around the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of the world’s crude oil passes.”

This is pro-war propaganda — once again part of a campaign to justify American aggression, echoing Pompeo’s determination within hours of the attacks that Iran was responsible. Evidence ignored by the AP (and still by Pompeo) includes the statement by the Japanese owner of one of the tankers that the U.S. is wrong about the way the attack was carried out, that his ship was attacked on the starboard side by a flying object, not by a mine or torpedo. David Stockman, former director of management and budget under Reagan, posts at antiwar.com: “You can virtually bet when the dust settles [these tanker assaults] are false flags … manufactured pretexts for war.”

Until now, most Americans have been insulated from the ramifications of our Global War on Terror. That drastically changes in the event of a war with Iran. We are running out of places to blow up short of igniting global collapse — from which none are insulated except perhaps members of our ruling class of warmongers.

There is a ray of hope that Americans are finally wising up. A few elements in mainstream media are picking up on it. I have demonstrated in many previous letters and op-eds that both of our mainstream political parties are fully supportive of our militarism and our empire. There are very few exceptions, such as Republican Sen. Rand Paul and his father, Ron Paul, who have consistently opposed our Global War on Terror and confronted the litany of lies (pretexts).

In general, though, it is the Republican Party and its supporters who most consistently appear to approve on mindless patriotic grounds our every aggression and war crime. (You know, the “pro-life” crowd.) And so I am choosing a Fox News broadcast to illustrate how the run-up to war with Iran is being questioned even in the mainstream.

On June 13, Tucker Carlson interviewed a pollster from the Eurasia Group Foundation who reported that 80 percent of Americans want a “diplomatic solution” to our conflict with Iran, and that of the remaining 20 percent, a majority believed “Iran had a right to have nuclear weapons” as a ”deterrent,” leaving a mere 8 percent who favored “launching some sort of preventive war on Iran.” Tucker then comments that “this is one of those topics, foreign policy more broadly, war in the Middle East specifically, that proceeds really with no reference at all to what the American public wants. That’s not how a democracy is supposed to operate, is it?”

No — that’s how an empire operates, based not on what the public wants but on what its ruling class wants, which includes the owners of mainstream media and the principals in our military-industrial-intelligence complex.

Everybody knows that Congress has been complicit in all of this.

The loudest people in Congress righteously demand more interventions, more war, greater military and black ops budgets. We have no visible champions of peace, the only way out of the swirling whirlpool we are in.

It will not do to rely on the patriotic myth that American soldiers and special operatives fight for freedom and democracy all across the world. Quite the opposite. They fight for a corrupt, power-mad and cruel empire.

The Grayzone via Global Research, NY Times Admits It Sends Stories to US Government for Approval Before Publication, Ben Norton, June 26, 2019. The New York Times casually acknowledged that it sends major scoops to the US government before publication, to make sure “national security officials” have “no concerns.”

The New York Times has publicly acknowledged that it sends some of its stories to the US government for approval from “national security officials” before publication.

This confirms what veteran New York Times correspondents like James Risen have said: The American newspaper of record regularly collaborates with the US government, suppressing reporting that top officials don’t want made public.

On June 15, the Times reported that the US government is escalating its cyber attacks on Russia’s power grid. According to the article, “the Trump administration is using new authorities to deploy cybertools more aggressively,” as part of a larger “digital Cold War between Washington and Moscow.”

In response to the report, Donald Trump attacked the Times on Twitter, calling the article “a virtual act of Treason.”

The New York Times PR office replied to Trump from its official Twitter account, defending the story and noting that it had, in fact, been cleared with the US government before being printed.

“Accusing the press of treason is dangerous,” the Times communications team said. “We described the article to the government before publication.”

“As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns,” the Times added.

Indeed, the Times report on the escalating American cyber attacks against Russia is attributed to “current and former [US] government officials.” The scoop in fact came from these apparatchiks, not from a leak or the dogged investigation of an intrepid reporter.

The neoliberal self-declared “Resistance” jumped on Trump’s reckless accusation of treason (the Democratic Coalition, which boasts, “We help run #TheResistance,” responded by calling Trump “Putin’s puppet”). The rest of the corporate media went wild.

But what was entirely overlooked was the most revealing thing in the New York Times’ statement: The newspaper of record was essentially admitting that it has a symbiotic relationship with the US government.

In fact, some prominent American pundits have gone so far as to insist that this symbiotic relationship is precisely what makes someone a journalist.

In May, neoconservative Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen — a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — declared that WikiLeaks publisher and political prisoner Julian Assange is “not a journalist”; rather, he is a “spy” who “deserves prison.” (Thiessen also once called Assange “the devil.”)

What was the Post columnist’s rationale for revoking Assange’s journalistic credentials?

Unlike “reputable news organizations, Assange did not give the U.S. government an opportunity to review the classified information WikiLeaks was planning to release so they could raise national security objections,” Thiessen wrote. “So responsible journalists have nothing to fear.”

In other words, this former US government speechwriter turned corporate media pundit insists that collaborating with the government, and censoring your reporting to protect so-called “national security,” is definitionally what makes you a journalist.

June 25

Esquire, Opinion: Sarah Huckabee Sanders Was an Arrogant Liar on Behalf of a Corrupt Administration, Charles P. Pierce, June 25, 2019. With "farewell drinks" on her behalf, the elite political media once again shows it will not stop pretending everything is normal in a time of larval tyranny.

Remember Richard Clarke, in his appearance before the 9/11 Commission, when he prefaced his testimony with an apology? "Your government failed you," he said. Well, in my capacity as spokesman for my entire profession, let me apologize for the following item. Your media has failed you.

From the Washington Post: "Anita Kumar, a Politico White House correspondent who helped put together the farewell drinks, told the Erik Wemple Blog, “I’m actually really happy with the turnout — it’s huge." She added: “And it taught me two things: One, we did the right thing, the thing that we always knew was right that I kind of second-guessed for a minute with all the criticism, which is, we’re meeting with the people that we cover. And it’s important — you have to talk to the people you cover. That’s it.”

The relentless desire of the elite political media to pretend that what we're experiencing is just politics as usual, that it conforms to the usual forms and fashions, and that, you know, the pendulum always swings the other way, (insert mandatory extraneous platitude here) is almost charming in its hopeful and child-like simplicity.

sarah huckabee sanders screenshotFirst of all, this is not a normal administration.* It is a larval tyranny.

Secondly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file photo) was not a normal White House spokesperson. She was an embarrassingly bad liar and an embarrassingly arrogant countrified know-nothing running cover for a criminal gang, and everyone who attended this nightmare with canapes should be fired forthwith and replaced with someone who has covered organized crime for a living.

U.S Courts, Crime

June 24

Vox, Analysis: Chuck Todd’s Trump interview, and the backlash to it, explained, Aaron Rupar, June 24, djt chuck todd june 23 2019 nbc Small2019. President Donald Trump’s pretaped interview on Sunday’s Meet the Press is blowing up — but not for reasons that host Chuck Todd nor NBC News would like. Todd is shown at right in an NBC screengrab at the White House on June 23.

At numerous points throughout the interview, Todd let Trump get away with blatant falsehoods and gaslighting. Todd also teed up a number of softball questions for the president, like “Do you think you’ve been more successful in business or the presidency?” and “Do you speak to any of the former presidents?”

Trump’s interview with Todd comes at the end of a week that began with George Stephanopoulos’s occasionally hard-hitting hour-long interview with Trump and also featured an episode of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show that was devoted almost entirely to a fawning phone call.

While there were a number of newsworthy moments during the Meet the Press interview, Todd was widely criticized for how he dealt with an NBC star turned president who has made a bit of a cottage industry out of bashing his former business partner.

NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen said the interview “was not public discourse” and compared the proceedings to “feeding English sentences into a wood chipper,” while University College London political scientist Brian Klaas criticized Todd for appearing to be unprepared for Trump’s lies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s lies need to be exposed in real time, Jennifer Rubin, June 24, 2019. President Trump has made more than 10,700 false or misleading claims: Washington Post Fact Checker.

Allowing Trump and his ilk to bluster and flat-out lie their way through interviews might be the path of least resistance when trying to cover a lot of ground. However, if Trump and his teammates are not stopped dead in their tracks, the media become a platform for deceiving voters.

Headlines that echo the president — “Trump says Obama did it first” — are equally reprehensible. (It should be “Trump falsely blames Obama for his own policy.”)

We’re at risk of losing not only a shared set of facts but also a uniform belief that there are such things as facts. That’s straight out of the autocratic playbook — one that the media cannot facilitate.

jacob hornberger newFuture of Freedom Foundation, Opinion: The Solution to Trump’s Iran Mayhem, Jacob G. Hornberger, right, June 24, 2019. Undoubtedly, President Trump is fantasizing about the possibility of being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for deciding at the last minute to not bomb Iran in retaliation for Iran’s shoot-down of a Pentagon drone. Apparently experiencing a crisis of conscience, Trump called off the strike when he learned that it would kill an estimated 150 people, which he decided would be disproportionate to the downing of an unmanned drone.

USA Today, Supreme Court limits access to government records in loss for Argus Leader, part of the USA TODAY Network, Jonathan Ellis and Richard Wolf, June 24, 2019. The Supreme Court limited public and media access to government records Monday by expanding a federal law's definition of what can be deemed confidential.

At issue was whether confidentiality, as used in a section of the Freedom of Information Act, means anything intended to be kept secret or only information likely to cause harm if publicized. The high court adopted the broader definition.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the 6-3 decision, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissenting.

A retailers trade group, the Food Marketing Institute, and the federal government had argued for a broad definition that would leave ample room to keep data from the public. Media organizations and public interest groups favored a more narrow definition requiring harm, which would make confidentiality apply to fewer FOIA requests. In 2011, the case began with a request that the Argus Leader newspaper made under the Freedom of Information Act. The Sioux Falls, S.D., newsroom is part of the USA TODAY Network.

Explosion In Book Counterfeiting?

ny times logoNew York Times, What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues, David Streitfeld, June 24, 2019 (print ed.). The Sanford Guide to Antimicrobial Therapy is a medical handbook that recommends the right amount of the right drug for treating ailments from bacterial pneumonia to infected wounds. Lives depend on it.

It is not the sort of book a doctor should puzzle over, wondering, “Is that a ‘1’ or a ‘7’ in the recommended dosage?” But that is exactly the possibility that has haunted the guide’s publisher, Antimicrobial Therapy, for the past two years as it confronted a flood of counterfeits — many of which were poorly printed and hard to read — in Amazon’s vast bookstore.

“This threatens a bunch of patients — and our whole business,” said Scott Kelly, the publisher’s vice president.

amazon logo smallMr. Kelly’s problems arise directly from Amazon’s domination of the book business. The company sells substantially more than half of the books in the United States, including new and used physical volumes as well as digital and audio formats. Amazon is also a platform for third-party sellers, a publisher, a printer, a self-publisher, a review hub, a textbook supplier and a distributor that now runs its own chain of brick-and-mortar stores.

But Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.

That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyer complains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon.

The scope of counterfeiting across Amazon goes far beyond books. E-commerce has taken counterfeit goods from flea markets to the mainstream, and Amazon is by far the e-commerce heavyweight. But books offer a way to see the depths of the issue.

“Being a tech monopoly means you don’t have to care about quality,” said Bill Pollock, a San Francisco publisher who has dealt with fake versions of his firm’s computer books on Amazon.

An Amazon spokeswoman denied that counterfeiting of books was a problem, saying, “This report cites a handful of complaints, but even a handful is too many and we will keep working until it’s zero.” The company said it strictly prohibited counterfeit products and last year denied accounts to more than one million suspected “bad actors.”

President's Media Counselor

Palmer Report, Opinion: Kellyanne Conway has a whole new problem, Bill Palmer, June 24, 2019. When the U.S. Office of Special Counsel kellyanne conway djtannounced earlier this month that Kellyanne Conway, right, had violated the Hatch Act, Palmer Report pointed out that this alone wasn’t going to directly cause any problems for her. It was a criminal act, but not the kind you go to prison for – and Donald Trump obviously wasn’t going to fire her for breaking the law. But now the game has changed for Kellyanne.

When the House Oversight Committee initially announced that it would hold an investigative hearing into Kellyanne Conway’s Hatch Act violations, the committee implied that it would be up to her whether or not she wanted to show up and defend herself. But now the committee has announced that Kellyanne must show up and answer for her crimes after all – and if she doesn’t agree to show up, the committee will vote on whether to subpoena her. Democrats make up the majority of the committee, so if they decide to subpoena her, it’ll happen.

bill palmer report logo headerThat’ll leave Kellyanne with only two bad options. The first would be to show up and testify before the committee, meaning that she’ll be humiliating herself on live national television at a time when the Trump regime doesn’t need any more humiliating scandals. Her second option would be to try to fight the subpoena in court. That might buy her a bit of time, but in the end the courts would order her to show up to Congress and testify under threat of arrest – and in the meantime, it would simply drag out her scandal out longer in the media.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ex-Fox Newser Carl Cameron takes his ‘unfinished business’ to progressive startup, Erik Wemple, June 24, 2019. When folks leave Fox News, they quite often pursue projects that align with the worldview of their former employer. They might launch a conservative talk show airing on Sinclair stations, assist with President Trump’s reelection campaign or throw their time into a Trump-sycophancy website.

Carl Cameron, who covered politics for Fox News over two decades, is veering from that path. “I have a little bit of unfinished business,” says Cameron. He is teaming up with Joseph Romm, an author and reporter on climate science and climate policy at ThinkProgress, an “editorially independent” arm of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Their collaboration is FrontPageLive.com, a news site where progressives can find stories that feed their sensibilities. A news release calls the site “the go-to liberal antidote” to the Drudge Report, the aggregator that for more than two decades has been amplifying news reports with a conservative spin. Romm sees FrontPageLive.com as a “viralizing engine” for the other side. It will populate frequently with audience-tested headlines, while pairing stories with links to action campaigns working on the issue at hand.

fox news logo SmallThe concept stems from Romm’s love of Internet metrics. Over 13 years of blogging at ThinkProgress, Romm has tracked the Web prints for his thousands of postings, with a particular focus on traffic sources. Over the years, he has watched as referral engines for his stuff have gone poof. Years ago, the Huffington Post drove good numbers; the modern, rebranded HuffPost doesn’t. Years ago, Yahoo provided helpful aggregation; no more, he says. And when Facebook changed its algorithm in 2018, says Romm, ThinkProgress traffic took a “big hit.”

June 23

Trump Team, Allies

jamal khashoggi entering consulate

Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi, a Virginia resident and Washington Post columnist, enters the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey last year to process paperwork for his forthcoming marriage as his fiance waited on the street. Saudis chopped him to pieces inside, as documented by a gruesome report by the United Nations last week based in part on audio records of the murder-torture (Surveillance photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Shrugs Off Khashoggi Killing by Ally Saudi Arabia, Michael D. Shear, June 23, 2019.  President Trump on Sunday shrugged off the brutal dismembering of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, just days after a United Nations report described how a team of Saudi assassins called Mr. Khashoggi a “sacrificial animal” before his murder.

donald trump monster abananapeeledcom dcmaThe U.N. report urged an F.B.I. investigation into the slaying. But in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Trump said the episode had already been thoroughly investigated. He said the Middle East is “a vicious, hostile place” and noted that Saudi Arabia is an important trading partner with the United States.

“I only say they spend $400 to $450 billion over a period of time, all money, all jobs, buying equipment,” the president told Chuck Todd, the show’s moderator. “I’m not like a fool that says, ‘We don’t want to do business with them.’ And by the way, if they don’t do business with us, you know what they do? They’ll do business with the Russians or with the Chinese.”

Just days after pulling back from striking Iran for its downing of an American surveillance drone, Mr. Trump also said he was “not looking for war,” but added that if the United States went to war with Iran, “it’ll be obliteration like you’ve never seen before.”

Memorial To Slain U.S. Journalists

Capital Gazette, A year after Capital Gazette shooting, new foundation aims to build memorial to fallen journalists in D.C., Jennifer Badie, June 23, 2019. Tribune Publishing Chairman David Dreier announced Sunday the creation of a foundation that plans to build a memorial to fallen journalists in Washington, D.C.

The announcement comes the week of the anniversary of one of the deadliest attacks on journalists in U.S. history. Last June 28, a gunman entered the Capital Gazette newsroom in Annapolis, killing Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Tribune owns Baltimore Sun Media, the Capital’s parent company.

Dreier, who wrote a column that was published Sunday in the Capital, The Baltimore Sun and other Tribune news sites and papers, said Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, will be among those who will introduce legislation this week to establish the Fallen Journalists Memorial, which “will pay tribute to the journalists who have sacrificed their lives in the name of a free press.”

The Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation, Dreier wrote, “will build support and plan for the design, construction, operation, maintenance and preservation of the memorial. …
A snow globe, a poem, a home: Capital Gazette victims revealed, recalled in the things they left behind

“This is a call to action. We must honor the memories of the journalists who have perished so that they can serve as a reminder of the essential value of journalism to our democracy.”

Cardin’s spokeswoman confirmed Sunday that the senator will be introducing legislation, along with Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, this week that would authorize the foundation to build a memorial on federal land.

“We are privileged to have monuments and memorials to honor those who have helped make our nation and our democracy stronger since its founding days. Missing currently from that honor roll are reporters who have sacrificed everything ... in the spirit of the free, open, and transparent societies and governments that Americans — and all people — deserve,” Cardin said in a statement. “This new memorial will honor the brave souls lost in the shooting at the Capital Gazette and others who lost their lives doing their job in defense of our freedoms.”

He added, “This memorial will be a visible symbol of what is at stake.”

The foundation has been founded under the auspices of the nonprofit National Press Club Journalism Institute. Dreier said the Annenberg Foundation and the Ferro Foundation are providing initial funding.

Dreier will serve as chairman of the foundation. The Capital’s editor, Rick Hutzell, will serve on the board’s advisory panel.

This month, the Newseum added the names of journalists Fischman, Hiaasen, Winters and McNamara to its Journalists Memorial. The Newseum announced it would close at the end of this year; the Johns Hopkins University bought the location. The fate of the memorial wall is unknown.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump compares himself to Kavanaugh in latest sexual assault allegation, Colby Itkowitz, Beth Reinhard, David Weigel, June 23, 2019 (print ed.). “You can’t do that for the sake of publicity,” the president says of such accusations, in general. resident brett kavanaughTrump compared himself to Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, right, on Saturday morning, following a fresh allegation that Trump sexually assaulted a woman in the mid-1990s.

Trump vehemently denied the accusation and said it was akin to the claims of sexual assault that roiled Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the high court in 2018.

“People have to be careful because they are playing with very dangerous territory,” Trump told reporters outside the White House before departing to Camp David. “When they do that, and it’s happening more and more, when you look at what happened to Justice Kavanaugh and you look at what happened to others, you can’t do that for the sake of publicity.”

e jean carrollE. Jean Carroll, left, a magazine writer and advice columnist, alleges that in 1995 or 1996, she encountered Trump at a high-end department store in Manhattan and agreed to help him shop for a gift for a woman. It was there, she says, that Trump attacked her in a dressing room.

She is telling her story for the first time in a new book, excerpts of which were published in New York magazine.

World News

washington post logoPresident Donald Trump officialWashington Post, ‘Let’s make Iran great again’: Trump reaches out to Tehran, still threatens more sanctions, John Hudson and Anne Gearan, June 23, 2019 (print ed.). Iran has shown no interest in renegotiating a new agreement with a Trump administration that has worked to strangle its economy and prevent it from selling oil on the international market.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. launched cyber-strikes against Iran’s missile systems, Ellen Nakashima, June 23, 2019 (print ed.). President Trump approved an offensive cyberstrike that disabled Iranian computer systems used to control rocket and missile launches, even as he backed away from a conventional military attack in response to its downing Thursday of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone, according to people familiar with the matter.

The cyberstrikes, launched Thursday night by personnel with U.S. Cyber Command, were in the works for weeks if not months, according to two of these people, who said the Pentagon proposed launching them after Iran’s alleged attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this month.

June 21

djt fake time covers composite

President Trump created fake Time Magazine covers to enhance his image, as shown above and as reported by David Farthenhold in the Washington Post. Time's actual cover featuring actress Kate Winslow on March 1, 2009 is shown at left, with Trump's fake cover for that date displayed in his golf clubs. But Trump shows scant affection for the magazine's staff in an interview this week for a cover story, as indicted below.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump threatens reporter with prison time during interview, Colby Itkowitz, June 21, 2019. In answer to a question about the Mueller report, President Trump lashed out over a photographer's attempt to take a photo of a letter that Trump showed reporters. President Trump, in an interview this week and on Twitter on Friday morning, again suggested criminal action against American journalists.

During a sit-down interview with Time magazine, Trump showed the reporters a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. When a photographer tried to snap a photograph of the letter, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told him he couldn’t.

time logo ogLater in the interview, the subject turned to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 campaign, and a reporter asked about sworn testimony that Trump tried to limit the investigation to only “future election meddling.”

Rather than answer, Trump lashed out about the photographer’s attempt to take a shot of the letter from Kim, according to a transcript of the interview that Time released Thursday night.

“Well, you can go to prison, instead, because if you use, if you use the photograph you took of the letter that I gave you . . . ” Trump started.

When the Time reporter interjected to continue his line of questioning, Trump went on, “confidentially, I didn’t give it to you to take photographs of it — so don’t play that game with me.”

Trump has been so enamored with his own appearance in the national publication that he had a fake Time cover with his portrait and the headline: “Donald Trump: The ‘Apprentice’ is a television smash!” framed and hung in several of his golf clubs.

washington post logoWashington Post, Product Review: Chrome has become surveillance software. It’s time to switch, Geoffrey A. Fowler, June 21, 2019.Our latest privacy experiment found Google Chrome ushered more than 11,000 tracker cookies into our browser — in a single week. Our latest privacy experiment found Chrome ushered more than 11,000 tracker cookies into our browser — in a single week. Here’s why Firefox is better.

google logo customYou open your browser to look at the Web. Do you know who is looking back at you?

Over a recent week of Web surfing, I peered under the hood of Google Chrome and found it brought along a few thousand friends. Shopping, news and even government sites quietly tagged my browser to let ad and data companies ride shotgun while I clicked around the Web.

This was made possible by the Web’s biggest snoop of all: Google. Seen from the inside, its Chrome browser looks a lot like surveillance software.

Lately I’ve been investigating the secret life of my data, running experiments to see what technology really gets up to under the cover of privacy policies that nobody reads. It turns out, having the world’s biggest advertising company make the most popular Web browser was about as smart as letting kids run a candy shop.

It made me decide to ditch Chrome for a new version of nonprofit Mozilla’s Firefox, which has default privacy protections. Switching involved less inconvenience than you might imagine.

My tests of Chrome vs. Firefox unearthed a personal data caper of absurd proportions. In a week of Web surfing on my desktop, I discovered 11,189 requests for tracker “cookies” that Chrome would have ushered right onto my computer but were automatically blocked by Firefox. These little files are the hooks that data firms, including Google itself, use to follow what websites you visit so they can build profiles of your interests, income and personality.

New York Magazine, E. Jean Carroll: “Trump attacked me in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman,” Sarah Jones, June 21, 2019 (excerpted). The cover story New York published today details an encounter the writer E. Jean Carroll had over two decades ago with Donald J. Trump, in which the then–real-estate mogul allegedly assaulted her in a dressing room of the Bergdorf Goodman department store in midtown Manhattan. Trump is shown in a graphic by A Banana Peeled.

donald trump monster abananapeeledcom dcmaThe episode is one of six incidents Carroll details in the article of attacks on her by men over the course of her life. Another episode involves the disgraced former CEO of CBS, Les Moonves. The cover story is an excerpt from her newest book, What Do We Need Men For? A Modest Proposal, which will be published on July 2 by St. Martin’s Press.

When Carroll meets Donald Trump in Bergdorf Goodman, the encounter starts as a friendly one. Trump recognizes her as “that advice lady”; Carroll recognizes him as “that real-estate tycoon.” Trump tells Carroll that he’s there to buy a gift for “a girl,” and though we don’t learn the identity of this mystery woman, Carroll places the ensuing incident in late 1995 or early 1996, during which time Trump was married to Marla Maples. When Trump asks Carroll to advise him on what to buy, she agrees, and the two eventually make their way to the lingerie section. Trump suggests a lace bodysuit and encourages Carroll to try it on; she, deflecting, jokingly suggests that he try it on instead. After they reach the dressing rooms, events turn violent. In Carroll’s account, Trump shoves her against a wall inside a dressing room, pulls down her tights, and, “forcing his fingers around my private area, thrusts his penis halfway — or completely, I’m not certain — inside me.”

Carroll, 75, is a venerated Elle advice columnist. At the time of the attack, she was well known in her own right. A frequent feature writer for magazines like Playboy and Esquire, she had her own television show on America’s Talking, the precursor to MSNBC.

Carroll is now at least the 16th woman to accuse Donald Trump of sexual misconduct and the 14th to accuse Moonves of similar offenses. The incidents, which date from the 1990s, are highly specific and related with dark humor.

Carroll says that she disclosed the Trump incident to two friends at the time. New York has verified that Carroll did disclose the attack to these friends at the time, and has confirmed that Bergdorf Goodman kept no security footage that would prove or disprove Carroll’s story. New York has also sought comment from Moonves and Trump. Through his representative, Moonves told New York that he “emphatically denies” the incident occurred. A senior White House official said in a statement, “This is a completely false and unrealistic story surfacing 25 years after allegedly taking place and was created simply to make the President look bad.”

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Judge in InfoWars Case Says She’s Been Notified of Death Threats by The FBI, Will Sommer, June 21, 2019. The Connecticut judge presiding over Sandy Hook families’ lawsuit against InfoWars conspiracy theorist Alex Jones said on Friday that she had been targeted by death threats posted on the InfoWars website.

Judge Barbara N. Bellis revealed in a court filing that she had been notified by the FBI and the Connecticut State Police that people had posted “threats” about her on InfoWars. Bellis is presiding over the case involving the Sandy Hook families lawsuit against Jones for claiming that the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in which their children were killed was an elaborate hoax.

In a statement, InfoWars attorney Norm Pattis suggested the threats weren’t serious.

“The fact that no law enforcement agent has contacted us for further information suggests the threats are not serious,” Pattis said. “Even so, we are now searching Infowars website to see what all the fuss is about.”

alex jones headshotJones, right, attacked Bellis on-air on Tuesday, describing the judge as “ignorant” and suggesting that she was part of an organized effort to destroy him.

The death threat revelation comes just days after Sandy Hook attorneys in the case asked the court to take action to protect them from Jones’s on-air rants. Last week, Jones, without evidence, accused the Sandy Hook attorneys of planting child pornography on the InfoWars servers after his own lawyers accidentally sent the plaintiffs’ attorneys child pornography during the discovery process. The plaintiffs’ attorneys said they received so many death threats after Jones’s broadcast that they had to hire security.

Mediaite, April Ryan Kicks Sarah Sanders on the Way Out: I’m Not Coming to Your Party, ‘Girl, Bye!’ Caleb Ecarma, June 21, 2019. CNN analyst and White House correspondent April Ryan dismissed outgoing White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ sendoff party hosted by members of the media, as she instead took to Instagram on Friday to tell Sanders, “Girl, bye.”

“I’m on a cross country flight and very disturbed that in the midst of these serious issues, of possible strikes against Iran, there was no briefing by Sarah Huckabee Sanders in over a 100 plus days,” Ryan began in her video condemning Sanders as she leaves. “The day she should of had a briefing she didn’t. Serious issues of life and death, serious issues of war, and this administration chooses not to brief the American public. Shame.”

“There was potential war, and no stood at the podium to explain to the American public what was going on but we see it in a tweet we deserve better,” she added. “Sarah Huckabee, have your party. I won’t be there. Girl, bye!”

The Atlantic, AOC’s Generation Doesn’t Presume America’s Innocence, Peter Beinart (Professor of journalism at the City University of New York), June 21, 2019. Ocasio-Cortez’s “concentration camps” comment questions an old orthodoxy: that only other countries—and not the U.S. — are capable of evil.

alexandria ocasio cortez officialOn Monday night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez declared in an Instagram video that “the United States is running concentration camps on our southern border.” The following morning, Liz Cheney tweeted, “Please @AOC do us all a favor and spend just a few minutes learning some actual history. 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. You demean their memory and disgrace yourself with comments like this.” After that, the fight was on.

On its face, the fight was about using concentration camp outside the context of the Holocaust. In a subsequent tweet, Ocasio-Cortez linked to an Esquire article noting that the term pre-dates World War II. It quoted the historian Andrea Pitzer, who defines concentration camp as the “mass detention of civilians without trial.” To Ocasio-Cortez’s critics, this was too cute by half. Whatever the term’s historical origins or technical meaning, in American popular discourse concentration camp evokes the Holocaust. By using the term, they argued, the representative from New York was equating Donald Trump’s immigration policies with Nazi genocide, whether she admitted it or not.

But whether you believe Ocasio-Cortez’s terminology was appropriate or offensive, the deeper question is why it provoked such a ferocious debate. The answer: Because for the first time in decades, the left is mounting a serious challenge to American exceptionalism.

 June 20

Media / 9//11 Evidence

ae911 truth continuing education photo AIA

Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), Opinion: American Institute of Architects Terminates AE911Truth’s Continuing Education Provider Status, Staff report, June 20, 2019. On May 31, 2019, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth) was notified by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) that it was terminating our status as an AIA continuing education provider. (A previous seminar is shown above, led by AE911Truth President Richard Gage, at the screen in front.)

AE911Truth was first approved as an AIA continuing education provider in June 2016. This enabled architects to take our courses and receive the continuing education credits they needed to maintain their AIA membership and architecture license.

During our nearly three years as a provider, we offered six live and on-demand courses, each of which was approved by the AIA prior to being introduced. Between September 2017 and April 2018, the AIA conducted an audit of one of our six courses, during which we made a number of minor revisions that brought the course into full compliance with AIA guidelines. The AIA was planning to audit our remaining courses after completing the audit of the first course, but the auditor never contacted us again.

According to the AIA’s managing director of professional development and resources, Stephen Martin, the AIA conducted a more recent review of our courses and, based on the results of that review as well as “past audit concerns,” determined that the “content of the courses and mission of [our] organization [were] incompatible with the mission and intent of the AIA’s continuing education program.” The AIA provided no explanation for its determination and did not respond when asked to provide the results of its review.

In the wake of the AIA’s silent refusal to provide any basis for its determination, we are left to conclude that the abrupt termination of our provider status was motivated not by any incurable deficiencies in our courses but by the AIA’s apparent bias against our mission and against the fundamentally sound analysis contained in our courses. If the mission of AE911Truth and the content of our courses are incompatible with the mission and intent of the AIA’s continuing education program, then something is clearly wrong with the AIA’s continuing education program.

Paradoxically, the AIA’s termination of our provider status comes at the same time as our relatively new outreach program to the engineering profession, known as Project Due Diligence, is beginning to take off. Of the hundreds of engineers we have presented to at local chapter meetings and at state and national conferences, not one has expressed confidence in the official reports issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology after hearing our critique of them. Indeed, the response to our presentation has been overwhelmingly positive.

In our decade of outreach to the AIA and its membership, we have done the very job that the AIA has neglected to do: educate thousands of AIA members about the three worst structural failures in modern history. That the AIA is now making it even harder for us to educate architects — after barring us in 2017 from exhibiting at its national conventions, which we had done from 2009 to 2016 — and will no longer award continuing education credits to architects who take our courses, marks a sad day for the profession.

Nevertheless, we are confident in our ability to disseminate knowledge of the WTC evidence to the architecture and engineering professions. And we know that, in time, organizations like the AIA will be forced to face the truth of the World Trade Center’s explosive demolition and reckon with the fact that they did nothing — or worse — when given the opportunity to be on the right side of history.

For further discussion of this development, we invite you to tune in to this week’s episode of 9/11 Free Fall with AIA members Richard Gage and Henry MacLean and civil engineer Roland Angle, who is the leader of AE911Truth’s Project Due Diligence.

Media News

chuck todd djtPalmer Report, Opinion: Now we know why Chuck Todd made those asinine remarks about Trump’s concentration camps, Bill Palmer, June 20, 2019. This week, Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez somehow managed to create a controversy in the media by merely stating a fact that most of the mainstream media has been afraid to say in exact words: Donald Trump is running “concentration camps” full of immigrant children.

bill palmer report logo headerMeet The Press host Chuck Todd, who routinely tries to make himself look “balanced” by hitting strong Democrats harder than he hits weak Republicans so they’ll look equally bad, acknowledged on-air this week that Ocasio-Cortez was correct. But Todd insisted that she was somehow doing a great disservice to the kids in Trump’s concentration camps by accurately calling them “concentration camps.”

sarah huckabee sanders screenshot

HuffPost, Some White House Reporters Are Throwing Sarah Huckabee Sanders A Goodbye Party, Maxwell Strachan, June 20, 2019. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (shown in a file shot) and the reporters who cover the White House haven’t always had the smoothest relationship. But that isn’t stopping some of those journalists from organizing a goodbye party for the outgoing White House press secretary next week.

On Wednesday, two White House correspondents, Politico’s Anita Kumar and DailyMail.com’s Francesca Chambers, invited fellow reporters and some Trump staffers to “farewell drinks” for Sanders at an upscale D.C. restaurant on June 24, according to a copy of the email invitation obtained by HuffPost.

President Donald Trump announced via Twitter last week that Sanders plans to step down at the end of the month after more than three years with the Trump administration.

“She is a very special person with extraordinary talents, who has done an incredible job!” the president tweeted. “I hope she decides to run for Governor of Arkansas ― she would be fantastic.”

The decision to plan the casual shindig is notable, considering Sanders’ often adversarial relationship with the press. During Sanders’ tenure as press secretary, the once-regular White House briefings became increasingly rare. In April, the Trump administration set a White House record when it went 43 days without hosting a press briefing. Olivier Knox, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, said then that he had been pushing Sanders for more regular briefings to little avail.

That same month, the long-awaited report from special counsel Robert Mueller provided hard evidence that Sanders lied at a White House press conference in 2017 when she claimed the administration had “heard from countless members of the FBI” who’d lost faith in former FBI Director James Comey.

Sanders later told Mueller’s office that the comment had been a “slip of the tongue” and that the assertion, which she’d supposedly heard from “rank-and-file FBI agents,” was “not founded on anything,” according to the special counsel’s report.

Kumar is a member of the WHCA’s board, and Chambers is the organization’s treasurer. But Knox told HuffPost the WHCA had “nothing to do” with the upcoming event.

June 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook Plans Global Financial System Based on Cryptocurrency, Mike Isaac and Nathaniel Popper, June 18, 2019. Facebook unveiled an ambitious plan on Tuesday to create an alternative financial system that relies on a cryptocurrency that the company has been secretly working on for more than a year.

facebook logoThe effort, announced with 27 partners as diverse as Mastercard and Uber, could face immediate skepticism from people who question the usefulness of cryptocurrencies and others who are wary of the power already accumulated by the social media company.

The cryptocurrency, called Libra, will also have to overcome concern that Facebook does not effectively protect the private information of its users — a fundamental task for a bank or anyone handling financial transactions.

Associated Press via CBS News, "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook" publisher apologizes to dad of murdered boy, Staff report, June 18, 2019. "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook" publisher apologizes to dad of murdered boy. A judge in Wisconsin on Monday issued a summary judgment against authors James Fetzer and Mike Palacek.

The father of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre has won a defamation lawsuit against the authors of a book that claimed the shooting never happened — the latest victory for victims' relatives who have been taking a more aggressive stance against conspiracy theorists.

The book, "Nobody Died at Sandy Hook," has also been pulled to settle claims against its publisher filed by Lenny Pozner, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting.

"My face-to-face interactions with Mr. Pozner have led me to believe that Mr. Pozner is telling the truth about the death of his son," Dave Gahary, the principal officer at publisher Moon Rock Books, said Monday. "I extend my most heartfelt and sincere apology to the Pozner family."

 Pozner has been pushing back for years against hoaxers who have harassed him, subjected him to death threats and claimed that he was an actor and his son never existed. He has spent years getting Facebook and others to remove conspiracy videos and set up a website to debunk conspiracy theories.

Lately, the fight has been joined by others who lost relatives in the Dec. 14, 2012, school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. After quietly enduring harassment and ridiculous assertions for years, some have changed their approach, deciding the only way to stop it is to confront it. Their efforts have turned the tables on the hoaxers, including Alex Jones, host of the conspiracy-driven Infowars website.

Robbie Parker, whose 6-year-old daughter Emilie was among 20 first-graders and six educators killed at Sandy Hook, spent years ignoring people who called him a crisis actor. His family moved to the West Coast, but still the harassment didn't stop. He would get letters from people who found his address. He was once stopped in a parking garage by a man who berated him and said the shooting never happened.

"You are taught when you are young that you ignore bullies and eventually they will leave you alone," Parker said. "But as time went on, and my other girls were getting older, I realized they weren't stopping and some of this was getting worse and getting more personal."

Parker is now part of a lawsuit against Jones, has testified before Congress and pushed for changes on social media platforms, such as YouTube, which announced this month it will prohibit videos that deny the Sandy Hook shooting and other "well-documented events."

"It wasn't until the lawsuits and until it became a mainstream news story that people realized they were being complicit in this and started to moderate the content," Parker said.

Pozner is the lead plaintiff in several of at least nine cases filed against Sandy Hook deniers in federal and state courts in Connecticut, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin.

In the case against Jones, the families of eight victims and a first responder say they've been subjected to harassment and death threats from his followers. A Connecticut judge ruled in the defamation case that Jones must undergo a sworn deposition, which is scheduled for July in Texas.

Wisconsin's Dane County Circuit Court Judge Frank Remington ruled Monday that Pozner had been defamed by Fetzer and Palacek, whose book claimed, among other things, that Noah's death certificate had been faked, according to Pozner's lawyer, Jake Zimmerman. A trial to decide damages has been set for October.

"If Mr. Fetzer wants to believe that Sandy Hook never happened and that we are all crisis actors, even that my son never existed, he has the right to be wrong. But he doesn't have the right to broadcast those beliefs if they defame me or harass me," Pozner said. "He doesn't have the right to use my baby's image or our name as a marketing ploy to raise donations or sell his products. He doesn't have the right to convince others to hunt my family."

Before the case went to a judge, Fetzer had said "evidence clearly shows this wasn't a massacre, it was a FEMA drill."

"If you believe otherwise, then you are being played," Fetzer said at the time.

A redacted copy of the actual death certificate is attached to Pozner's lawsuit. Additionally, Pozner has had DNA samples taken and compared with those provided by the Connecticut medical examiner to prove that Noah was his son. He has put Noah's birth certificate, report cards and medical records into the public file in his legal actions.

His goal, he says, is to make sure that "normal people" have access to the truth and aren't persuaded by the hoaxers.

 June 17

alex jones radio logo

Connecticut Post, Lawyers: Alex Jones sent child porn to Sandy Hook families, Daniel Tepfer, June 17, 2019. Conspiracy theorist and InfoWars host Alex Jones sent child pornography to the lawyers for the families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, their lawyers said.

The law firm representing the families of the 2012 mass shooting, stated in court documents filed Monday they have contacted the FBI after discovering child porn in electronic files Jones recently turned over to the Sandy Hook families as a result of their lawsuit against him for calling the tragedy a hoax.

Jones publicly responded on a broadcast of his show that he is being framed by Chris Mattei, the lawyer for the Sandy Hook families and went on making what Mattei and his law firm, Koskoff, Koskoff and Bieder claim are threats against them.

You’re trying to set me up with child porn, I’ll get your ass,” Jones states on the broadcast. “One million dollars, you little gang members. One million dollars to put your head on a pike.” Jones then pounds a photograph of Mattei and goes into a rant at one point stating, “I’m gonna kill…”

Jones’ lawyer, Norman Pattis, denied his client was threatening Mattei or the Sandy Hook families and urged people to watch the broadcast for themselves.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump has berserk meltdown after Fox News reports bad news about him, Bill Palmer, June 17, 2019. For years, Donald Trump and Fox News have had a mutually beneficial relationship. Fox airs misleading and disingenuous stories that benefit Trump, because it’s what Fox’s audience wants to hear. Trump returns the favor by propping up Fox. The trouble is that as Trump becomes more toxic, a growing number of Fox viewers have become sick of him – so Fox has had to go incrementally more negative about him.

bill palmer report logo headerAs Fox News has reported more and more bad news and negative commentary about Donald Trump, we’ve seen Trump increasingly criticize the network – even as he’s sought solace in obscure competing networks like OANN that are still willing to air wall to wall pro-Trump propaganda. Things came to a head this evening when Fox reported its own in-house poll numbers for the 2020 election, and let’s just say they’re not pretty for Trump.

fox news logo SmallTrump posted this tweet: “Fox News Polls are always bad for me. They were against Crooked Hillary also. Something weird going on at Fox. Our polls show us leading in all 17 Swing States. For the record, I didn’t spend 30 hours with @abcnews, but rather a tiny fraction of that. More Fake News.” This came after Fox reported that Trump is behind Joe Biden by ten points, and is also behind every other viable 2020 Democratic nominee.

For the record, all major public polls are showing numbers similar to what Fox News is reporting. Donald Trump’s own leaked internal poll numbers also have him losing badly. Trump is lost in a haze of delusion, and now that even Fox News is reporting how screwed he is, he’s decided that Fox is “fake news” as well.

June 16

Palmer Report, Opinion: New York Times drops the hammer on Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, June 16, 2019. Last night the New York Times published a bombshell story revealing that the United States government has been preemptively hacking Russia as a way of fending off potential 2020 election interference, and that the U.S. military and U.S. intelligence community have been hesitant to discuss it with Donald Trump due to his loyalty to Russia. See: U.S. Escalates Online Attacks on Russia’s Power Grid, David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth. This naturally sent Trump into a rage.

bill palmer report logo headerThe New York Times fired back by posting this reply directly under Donald Trump’s tweet, thus ensuring that those in his timeline saw it: “Accusing the press of treason is dangerous. We described the article to the government before publication. As our story notes, President Trump’s own national security officials said there were no concerns.”

To be clear, Donald Trump has still provided no evidence to support his claim that the New York Times story is “not true.” Nor has he even tried to explain why an American newspaper would be committing “treason” by offending Russia – though it does explain quite a bit about Trump’s own allegiances.

June 15

How Young Trump Bullied

djt 1980s screenshot oprah winfrey show

Donald Trump shown in a 1980s screenshot from an Oprah Winfrey show.

Raw Story, New documents reveal how a young Trump bullied the press for years as he hid his actual wealth, Matthew Chapman, June 15, 2019. On Friday, journalist Jonathan Greenberg published a stunning exposé of how Donald Trump, in his younger years, managed to maintain his brand of success and fortune — and keep attracting investors to his projects — even in the face of devastating business losses and incompetence.

The short answer: he threatened, intimidated, and bullied reporters out of telling the truth about his business empire.

“I turned up three never-before-published letters from Trump to Forbes from 1989, in which he claimed to be worth $3.7 billion,” wrote Greenberg. “We now know that he reported losses of about $100 million that year and that he was treading near insolvency. Then I started to contact other people who had collided with Trump in those years. Journalists told me how he’d tried to block their reporting on his empire — by making up ethical scandals about them, furnishing fake documents and, in one case, threatening to expose the private life of a closeted media executive. Wall Street analysts witnessed a campaign of intimidation that began when Trump got one of them fired for (correctly) doubting his casinos’ ability to pay off their debts.”

In the late 1980s, Trump reportedly put out inflated estimates of his business assets and profitability that were perfectly timed to get him onto the coveted “Forbes 400” list of richest people in America — even though, behind the scenes, his real estate empire was bleeding money and floating junk bonds. But in 1990, when Forbes Senior Editor Richard Stern and writer John Connolly prepared a story on this, Trump bullied them into gutting the story.

“On the Monday of the week the story was to be published, Stern met with Trump to seek a comment he could include in the article,” wrote Greenberg.

“The mogul exploded, threatening to sue Forbes. On Tuesday, ‘orders came from on high’ to change the story’s estimate of Trump’s net worth to $500 million, Stern recalls. ‘I got into a shouting match with [Jim] Michaels,’ Forbes’s powerful top editor, Stern says. ‘Forbes bent. We had to jigger the numbers to give Trump a positive net worth.’ (Michaels died in 2007.) Connolly says the cover line was also changed, from ‘Is Trump Broke?’ to ‘How Much Is Donald Really Worth Now?,’ which is how it appeared on May 14, 1990.”

June 13

Media Matters, Opinion: Sidney Powell, Michael Flynn’s new attorney, is an anti-Mueller conspiracy theorist and Fox regular, Staff report, June 13, 2019. President Donald Trump sidney powellpraised former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s decision to replace his legal team with Sidney Powell, right, a conservative attorney, conspiracy theorist, and harsh critic of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe who has made dozens of appearances on Fox News and Fox Business in recent years.

“General Michael Flynn, the 33 year war hero who has served with distinction, has not retained a good lawyer, he has retained a GREAT LAWYER, Sidney Powell,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning. “Best Wishes and Good Luck to them both!”

After pleading guilty to charges of lying to the FBI in December 2017, Flynn began cooperating with Mueller’s team. Last week, he fired his legal team, a move that “triggered speculation in legal and political circles that he’s considering backing out of his plea deal with the government in a play for a presidential pardon,” according to Politico.

Powell’s hiring should bolster that conjecture. She is a former federal prosecutor who specializes in federal appeals in commercial litigation, but has carved out a sideline as a fox news logo SmallFox pundit. According to her website, “Sidney the Media Figure is highly sought to comment on current legal issues and government investigations—especially the special investigation lead by Robert Mueller and his chief lieutenant Andrew Weissmann,” who the site describes as the “true villain” of her 2014 book, Licensed to Lie: Exposing Corruption in the Department of Justice.

Indeed, Powell is one of a handful of lawyers that Fox’s pro-Trump hosts have relied upon to put a legal gloss on their alternative narrative that Mueller’s investigation was the result of an illegal anti-Trump conspiracy by the “deep state.” She has used Fox’s platform to claim the probe “was set up, basically, to impugn this presidency and to make it as hard as possible for Mr. Trump to carry out his duties” and to describe investigators as “creeps on a mission to destabilize and destroy this president.”

While Powell has a lower profile than more regular legal commentators like Alan Dershowitz or Victoria Toensing, the former federal prosecutor has still made more than two dozen appearances on Lou Dobbs’ Fox Business show, and at least nine additional weekday interviews on Fox News, since January 2018.

Powell has an extremely active presence on Twitter, where she has argued that Flynn’s prosecution is a “horrific injustice” and that Mueller’s team engaged in “obstruction” by “hiding evidence that exonerates him.” As part of a pattern of frequently amplifying conspiratorial rants about the Mueller probe, Powell has also repeatedly retweeted major accounts that promote the QAnon conspiracy theory and shared articles from Alex Jones’ conspiracy theory website, Infowars (in October 2017, Powell was also interviewed by then-Infowars Washington bureau chief Jerome Corsi.).

Powell’s conspiratorial Twitter musings are not limited to the Mueller probe. She has repeatedly tweeted about George Soros, the Jewish billionaire philanthropist who is regularly targeted with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. In December, she accused the Federal Reserve of deliberately trying to “#crash the market” as part of a deliberate plot to destroy Trump “and enrich #Soros & themselves. #Soros has done it before.”

June 12

Big Tech U.S. Regulation

ny times logoNew York Times, House Opens Tech Antitrust Inquiry With Look at Threat to News Media, Cecilia Kang, June 12, 2019 (print ed.). Local journalism has been pushed “to the verge of extinction,” said a member of a committee that plans 18 months of hearings and other scrutiny of the big technology platforms. A congressional investigation into the power of big tech companies began on Tuesday with bipartisan concern from lawmakers that the government’s lax oversight of the industry may be doing more harm than good.

google logo customIn its first hearing about the power held by Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple, lawmakers focused on the decline of the news industry. They said they were troubled that the online digital advertising market, which is dominated by Google and Facebook, had siphoned off too much revenue from news organizations.

“Concentration in the digital advertising market has pushed local journalism to the verge of extinction,” said Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island.

us house logoThe hearing was the start of the House Judiciary Committee’s inquiry into possible anticompetitive behavior by big tech companies, part of a rising wave of federal scrutiny of the industry.

amazon logo smallThe House committee plans several hearings, depositions and interviews with competitors over the next 18 months. In addition, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, the two top antitrust agencies, recently divided antitrust oversight over Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google.

The close reviews could lead to years of troubles for the companies, through lawsuits or new laws. European regulators have already taken a tough stance against the companies, investigating how they handle user data, police speech and limit competition.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Fake Zuckerberg Video Challenges Facebook’s Rules, Cade Metz, June 12, 2019 (print ed.). Last month, the social media company would not remove a doctored video of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Facebook said the video of Mr. Zuckerberg will get the same treatment. Two weeks ago, Facebook declined to remove a doctored video in which the speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, seemed to drunkenly slur her speech. Over the weekend, two British artists released a doctored video of Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, as a sly comment on the spread of false information online.

facebook logoPosted to the Facebook-owned social network Instagram, the video shows Mr. Zuckerberg speaking directly into the camera, boasting of nefarious motives behind his online empire.

“Imagine this for a second: one man, with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures,” he appears to say. “I owe it all to Spectre. Spectre showed me that whoever controls the data controls the future.”

The video is easily recognizable as a fake, in part because the voice paired with the image sounds only marginally like Mr. Zuckerberg. And Spectre is a reference to a fictional, evil organization in James Bond lore. But it serves both as a piece of digital commentary and as a test of the way Facebook handles the spread of false information on its social network.

June 11

2008 UMG Fire Devastated Recordings: Investigation

ny times logoNew York Times Magazine, The Day the Music Burned: It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business — and almost nobody knew, Jody Rosen, June 11, 2019. The fire that swept across the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood on Sunday, June 1, 2008, began early that morning, in New England. At 4:43 a.m., a security guard at the movie studio and theme park saw flames rising from a rooftop on the set known as New England Street, a stretch of quaint Colonial-style buildings where small-town scenes were filmed for motion pictures and television shows. That night, maintenance workers had repaired the roof of a building on the set, using blowtorches to heat asphalt shingles. They finished the job at 3 a.m. and, following protocol, kept watch over the site for another hour to ensure that the shingles had cooled. But the roof remained hot, and some 40 minutes after the workers left, one of the hot spots flared up.

The fire moved quickly.

Eventually the flames reached a 22,320-square-foot warehouse that sat near the King Kong Encounter. The warehouse was nondescript, a hulking edifice of corrugated metal, but it was one of the most important buildings on the 400-acre lot. Its official name was Building 6197. To backlot workers, it was known as the video vault.

About two-thirds of the building was used to store videotapes and film reels, a library controlled by Universal Studios’s parent company, NBCUniversal. But Aronson’s domain was a separate space, a fenced-off area of 2,400 square feet in the southwest corner of the building, lined with 18-foot-high storage shelves. It was a sound-recordings library, the repository of some of the most historically significant material owned by UMG, the world’s largest record company.

One of the few journalists to note the existence of the UMG archive was Nikki Finke, the entertainment-industry blogger and gadfly. In a Deadline.com post on the day of the fire, Finke wrote that “1,000’s of original ... recording masters” might have been destroyed in the warehouse, citing an anonymous source. The next day Finke published a “clarification,” quoting an unnamed representative from the record company: “Thankfully, there was little lost from UMG’s vault. A majority of what was formerly stored there was moved earlier this year to our other facilities. Of the small amount that was still there and waiting to be moved, it had already been digitized so the music will still be around for many years to come.”

The same day, in the music trade publication Billboard, a UMG spokesperson again pushed back against the idea that thousands of masters were destroyed with a more definitive denial: “We had no loss.”

These reassuring pronouncements concealed a catastrophe. When Randy Aronson stood outside the burning warehouse on June 1, he knew he was witnessing a historic event. “It was like those end-of-the-world-type movies,” Aronson says. “I felt like my planet had been destroyed.”

Critique of Dean-Woodward 'Watergate' Story

The Hard Question Show via WCGO 1590 AM / 95.9 FM (Chicago) and Soundcloud, Remember John Dean?, host Blanquita Cullum (former Republican-appointed member of the len colodny croppedBroadcasting Board of Governors, parent of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, etc.), June 11, 2019 (36:40 mins). Silent Coup author Len Colodny, right, challenges the credibility of June 10 House Judiciary Committee expert witness John Dean regarding the Watergate scandal. The challenge is based on Colodny's decades of research, two co-authored books (Silent Coup and The Forty years War). Colodny's scores of tape-recorded interviews with key Watergate figures, including with Dean and former President Gerald Ford, are now housed at The Colodny Collection at Texas A & M University.

Colodny praises the new book Haig's Coup authored by former USA Today investigations editor Ray Locker, published in May by the University of ray locker haigs coupNebraska Press and Potomac Press.

Colodny tells Cullum: "I plead with the American people. Don't be fooled. What you saw yesterday was 'Fools Gold' -- and the Democrats should know better....Somebody needs to tell the president [Trump] to stop what's going on in the sense that we're in this fictitious war between the president and the media. I don't support this president. I wouldn't vote for this president. I have real problems with him. But I don't have probelms with telling the American people the truth."

Background: The "Colodny Collection" has in it the often-suppressed Nixon/Dean tape (March 16,1973), available for listening remotely by clicking len colodny silent coup coverhere. Anyone can hear Nixon and Dean as they lay out a plot to cover up White House involvement (via White House aide Gordon Strachan) in the Watergate break in. Dean would suggest to Nixon a number of ways to cover up the crime, including blaming the campaign's dirty trickster Don Segretti for the crime. Nixon quickly agrees.

At the very end of the tape, Dean assured Nixon that "We will win." The tapes were produced in 1996 under a lawsuit protective order. "What is intriguing," Colodny has said, "is that the mainstream media has no interest in playing or reporting the contents of this tape, with one exception at the New York TImes."

"John Dean's book Nixon's Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It," Colodny has written, "deliberately leaves out this tape and others in this series. Dean made sure we would not know everything Nixon knew, especially everything that Dean told him. The Nixon on this tape is saying things that are so incriminating that the Nixon Library's 'Watergate' exhibit does not contain it. The one place that it is featured is in The Colodny Collection, donated to Texas A & M University."

Media: Fake News, Pelosi, Facebook

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Deepfakes Are Coming. We Can No Longer Believe What We See, Regina Rini (Dr. Rini teaches philosophy at York University in Toronto), June 11, 2019 (print ed.). It will soon be as easy to produce convincing fake video as it is to lie. We need to be prepared.  On June 1, 2019, the Daily Beast published a story exposing the creator of a now infamous fake video that appeared to show House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drunkenly slurring her words. The video was created by taking a genuine clip, slowing it down, and then adjusting the pitch of her voice to disguise the manipulation.

nancy pelosi twitterJudging by social media comments, many people initially fell for the fake, believing that Ms. Pelosi really was drunk while speaking to the media. (If that seems an absurd thing to believe, remember Pizzagate; people are happy to believe absurd things about politicians they don’t like.)

The video was made by a private citizen named Shawn Brooks, who seems to have been a freelance political operative producing a wealth of pro-Trump web content. (Mr. Brooks denies creating the video, though according to the Daily Beast, Facebook confirmed he was the first to upload it.)

We live in a time when knowing the origin of an internet video is just as important as knowing what it shows.

Digital technology is making it much easier to fabricate convincing fakes. The video that Mr. Brooks created is pretty simple; you could probably do it yourself after watching a few YouTube clips about video editing. But more complicated fabrications, sometimes called “deepfakes,” use algorithmic techniques to depict people doing things they’ve never done — not just slowing them down or changing the pitch of their voice, but making them appear to say things that they’ve never said at all.

Facebook Attack On Pelosi

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Facebook’s Zuckerberg reached out to Pelosi after distorted video. She hasn’t called him back, Robert Costa and Elizabeth Dwoskin​, June 11, 2019. The impasse highlights broader tensions within the Democratic Party about the social media company.

June 10

Media: Celebrity Profiles

washington post logoWashington Post, Madonna's furious response to her New York Times profile raises questions about what stars expect from journalists, Sonia Rao, June 10, 2019 (print ed.).  With celebrity journalism, negotiating access can be akin to playing tug of war. The profile might be pegged to a celebrity’s new project, whether a film, album or some sort of charitable undertaking. In such a case, his or her team might grant access on the basis of that project being the article’s central focus. The journalist, however, might prefer to use the project as a jumping-off point to examine the celebrity’s contributions to society. As when writing about any subject wielding a great deal of power — social influence, in this case — the journalist’s ultimate goal is to paint a fair and accurate portrait.

Sometimes that means including details the celebrity might consider unflattering or too personal, but which the journalist deems vital to a truthful and meaningful story. That last bit is where there can be a disconnect between the two points of view, most recently highlighted by one of the most influential pop stars in American history.

In a lengthy Instagram post Thursday morning, Madonna expressed how upset she was by a New York Times Magazine cover story titled “Madonna at Sixty,” published days before the release of her upcoming album, “Madame X.” She wrote that the piece, which centers on how she has navigated the pop-music world she helped shape years ago, fixates on her age and “makes me feel raped.” (She also uses this analogy in the story, after which writer Vanessa Grigoriadis wonders whether to tell her that “women these days were trying not to use that word metaphorically.” On Instagram, Madonna stated that, as a rape survivor, she is “allowed to use that analogy.”)

News Media / Propaganda

SouthFront, Witness Testimonies Reveal Gorgon Face Of White Helmets ‘Humanitarian Activities,’ Staff report, June 10, 2019. It seems that Russia has started apparently late, but still important efforts to counter the White Helmets propaganda narrative in Syria.

syrian white helmetsThe Director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy, Maxim Grigoriev, presented the 250-page study “White Helmets: Terrorist Accomplices and a Source of Disinformation,” on April 25th, 2019. He initially presented his research at event held by the Russian Mission to the UN on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 12th.

According to the aurthor, the research is primarily based on witness testimonies and concludes that the White Helmets NGO is in no way a group of volunteers upholding human rights. He did so by travelling to Syria and interviewing residents and former White Helmets members in Aleppo, Eastern Ghouta and other locations

Grigoriev said that nearly everyone on the staff of the White Helmets were salaried personnel with monthly food rations. Organizationally, the White Helmets is a centrally managed paramilitary organization with a system of punishment for personnel if they fail to comply with the orders of their group leaders.

He said that researchers from his foundation spent over three months in Syria interviewing Syrians, who “talked with them openly, giving names and indicating the sites where the footage of the White Helmets’ staged rescue operations was made.”

The research says that many known members of militant groups were working for the White Helmets and were even chairing some of the group’s local centers in Syria.

June 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Barnes & Noble was sold to a hedge fund after a tumultuous year, Alexandra Alter and Tiffany Hsu, June 7, 2019. Barnes & Noble has been acquired by the paul singerhedge fund Elliott Advisors for $638 million. JIP editor's note: Elliott Advisors is the UK-based affiliated of Elliott Management Corp., whose New York-based parent company was founded by Paul Singer, right, a financially successful investor sometimes described as a ruther "vulture fund" tycoon dealing in distressed properties.

The sale was announced Friday morning following months of speculation over the future of Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the United barnes nobleStates and a critical retail outlet for publishers and authors.

Elliott’s acquisition of Barnes & Noble follows its purchase of the British bookstore chain Waterstones in June 2018. James Daunt, the chief executive of Waterstones, will also act as Barnes & Noble’s C.E.O. and will be based in New York. Waterstones has pursued a strategy that many analysts say is the only way to compete in a marketplace dominated by online sales, by allowing individual Waterstones booksellers to tailor each store to acommunity’s needs and interests. Mr. Daunt, who took over in 2011, has said that Waterstones operates more like a constellation of independent stores, rather than a homogeneous chain.

June 6

U.S. Media News: Local Outlets

KCUR, These KU Students Are Helping Revive Journalism In Eudora, Kansas, Elle Moxley, June 5, 2019. For more than 100 years, Eudora had a weekly newspaper. “We were able to have a sports reporter, somebody that would come out when we had a structure fire and report on it,” said Mayor Tim Reazin, who moved to Eudora in 1997. “We had somebody that sat through the city commission meetings with us.” But since 2004, more than 1,800 newspapers have folded, a third of them in rural communities. Eudora residents lost their paper in 2008. Reazin says the result is citizens are less informed – and starved for coverage.

“Every once in a while we get a mention in the Lawrence Journal-World,” Reazin said. “One of my sons was a starting quarterback this year, and you know, you get this little blurb, a few sentences that say what they did. It’d be great to have those newspaper clippings you don’t get.” That’s why city officials were so enthusiastic when a journalism professor at the University of Kansas approached them about having student reporters cover the town.

It was Teri Finneman’s first year teaching at KU [Kansas University], and she wanted to make sure her students were graduating with the clips and hands-on practice employers want.  “I’m a really big proponent of my students having real-world experience. I do not like doing canned exercises,” Finneman said.

She said a city as large as Eudora – population 6,500 – should have someone covering it. Her students started small, sharing photo galleries on Facebook. When they immediately got likes and shares, Finneman decided her students could do more. She created a website called the Eudora Times and started assigning stories to her reporting. students.

June 5

Media News Roundup

washington post logoWashington Post, YouTube to remove thousands of videos in new fight against hate speech, hoaxes, Elizabeth Dwoskin​, June 5, 2019. The Google-owned video site, along youtube logo Customwith its Silicon Valley peers, is starting to take a broader view of hate speech in the face of criticism that it has failed to prevent the spread of harmful videos that distort world events, hurt children or promote discriminatory ideologies. On Tuesday, for instance, Vox Media called out YouTube for failing to remove homophobic and racist videos attacking one of its reporters.

While YouTube, which has over 1.8 billion daily users, has long prohibited videos that promote violence or hatred against people based on their age, religious beliefs, gender, religion, immigration status, sexual orientation and other protected categories, the new hate speech policy will go further. The policies will specifically ban videos “alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation, or exclusion,” based on those categories. That would include groups that “glorify Nazi ideology,” the company said in its announcement, because such beliefs were “inherently discriminatory.”

washington post logoyoutube logo CustomWashington Post, A right-wing YouTuber hurled racist, homophobic taunts at a gay reporter. The company did nothing, Eli Rosenberg​​, June 5, 2019. YouTube said the videos didn’t violate its policies, and that it would leave them on the site. The decision drew a torrent of criticism as concerns grow about YouTube’s resolve to moderate its content.

washington post logofacebook logoWashington Post, Opinion: Google and Facebook sucked profits from newspapers. Publishers are finally resisting, Margaret Sullivan, June 5, 2019. Bipartisan support in the House and Senate may allow papers — most of them local — to band together as they bargain with the tech giants.

BBC, ABC raid: Outcry as Australian police search public broadcaster, Staff report, June 5, 2019. A police raid on Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC) has drawn fire from bbc news logo2broadcasters and rights groups. Officers arrived at the public broadcaster's Sydney headquarters with search warrants naming two reporters and the news director. The ABC has protested over the raid.

australian flag wavingPolice searched the home of a News Corp journalist on Tuesday, sparking alarm. The BBC said it was "deeply troubling" for a broadcaster to be searched.

The leading journalists' union in the country said the two raids represented a "disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom". Other unions and human rights groups also condemned the actions.

In a statement ABC Managing Director David Anderson said the police raid "raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press".

sweden flag"The ABC stands by its journalists, will protect its sources and continue to report without fear or favour on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest." ABC News director Gaven Morris defended the two journalists who were named along with him in the search warrant.

The police action is related to articles about alleged misconduct by Australian forces in Afghanistan. According to the ABC, Wednesday's search is about the 2017 investigative series known as The Afghan Files which "revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan".

The broadcaster said the series was "based off hundreds of pages of secret defence documents leaked to the ABC." The Australian Federal Police said the warrant was in relation to "allegations of publishing classified material" and that it "relates to a referral received on 11 July 2017 from the Chief of the Defence Force and the then-Acting Secretary for Defence."

washington post logoWashington Post, Meet the GOP operatives who aim to smear the 2020 Democrats — but keep bungling it, Manuel Roig-Franzia and Beth Reinhard, June 5, 2019. It matters little whether Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl's claims are proved — they hardly ever are. But in an era when notions about truth and fiction have been upended, it's now a more dangerous game.

Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl — a pair of boundlessly eager, profoundly unrepentant aspirants to the dankest depths of political chicanery — were watching television together the other day when something caught Burkman’s eye.

There on the screen was Don McGahn, President Trump’s former White House counsel.

It was at that very moment when Burkman remembered that McGahn had connected the unlikely duo — Burkman, the 53-year-old Washington lobbyist, and Wohl, a 21-year-old robert mueller full face fileCalifornian trailed by investment scandals.

Yes, it was McGahn, they agreed, who had put them together a year ago by sharing Wohl’s cellphone number with Burkman. That was before their spree of bungled smears — including a disappearing sexual assault accuser against special counsel Robert Mueller (announced at a news conference that Burkman conducted with his pants zipper down) and a botched attempt last month to paint Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as a sexual predator.

FBI Sex Claims Against Dr. King

david garrow thomas burr npc 5 11 17

Historian David Garrow, left, discusses his 2017 biographry "Rising Star" of Barack Obama with National Press Club President Thomas Burr on May 11, 2017 (Justice Integrity Project photo by Andrew Kreig)

ny times logoNew York Times, His Martin Luther King Biography Was a Classic. His Latest King Piece Is Causing a Furor, Jennifer Schuessler, June 5, 2019 (print ed.). David Garrow found F.B.I. documents alleging King stood by during a rape. But some scholars question whether to trust records created as part of a smear campaign.

When David J. Garrow, a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., sat down last spring to dig through a trove of previously unreleased martin luther king injustice quotegovernment records, it was business as usual for a researcher known for prodigious reporting and doorstop books.

“There’s this weird ability I have of complete recall with regard to what I already know and don’t know,” Mr. Garrow said, describing the experience of wrestling with some 54,000 separate web links posted by the National Archives and Records Administration. “I was just scrolling through the PDFs, looking for new little factoids.”

Mr. Garrow found factoids aplenty, about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s infamous surveillance of Dr. King — and, most controversially, about alleged sexual misconduct by the civil rights leader.

In a 7,800-word article published last week by the British monthly magazine Standpoint, which teased the piece on its cover as “Martin Luther King and #MeToo,” Mr. Garrow nara logoprovides new details about the F.B.I.’s tactics alongside graphic descriptions from documents recounting alleged group sex in bugged hotel rooms. He also names some of Dr. King’s purported lovers, including fellow activists who have never been publicly identified as such.

While Dr. King’s infidelities have long been known in broad outline, Mr. Garrow concludes by saying that the new material — including an explosive allegation that he witnessed, and even encouraged, a rape committed by a fellow minister — “poses so fundamental a challenge to his historical stature as to require the most complete and extensive historical review possible.”

fbi logoThe revelations have sparked a heated reaction. But so far, it has been as much about the ethics and evidentiary standards of Mr. Garrow’s article as it is about Dr. King.

Some fellow historians credit Mr. Garrow with finding potentially important new information about both Dr. King and the F.B.I. attempts to discredit him. But others are denouncing him for publishing incendiary claims generated as part of an F.B.I. smear campaign, without offering any corroborating evidence. And some are accusing him of running roughshod over the privacy of the women with whom Dr. King was allegedly involved.

Columbia Journalism Review, A disastrous conference call for SPJ, followed by a call for impeachment, Andrew McCormick, June 5, 2019. On Saturday, the board of directors for the Society of Professional Journalists met in a video conference call. The organization’s executive director, Alison Bethel McKenzie, had resigned from her paid position in April, and the 18-member board of directors, which is elected and serves on a voluntary, part-time basis, was set to discuss the search for a new one. What should have been a fairly dry, procedural discussion instead devolved into the Zoom meeting equivalent of a reality-show fight, with shouting, veiled personal attacks, and bickering over board bylaws. It was enough to prompt one board member to launch a campaign to impeach SPJ’s president, J. Alex Tarquinio.

society of professional journalists logoEarly in the call, Tarquinio, who is also a freelance journalist, sparred with Patti Newberry, the organization’s president-elect and Tarquinio’s current number-two, who teaches journalism at Miami University in Ohio. The rub, essentially, was that Newberry wanted to lead the committee that will search for a new executive director—a desire which she had shared with fellow board members prior to the meeting as well as Tarquinio—but Tarquinio had appointed someone else, without consulting board members on the decision. During the meeting, Tarquinio accused Newberry of going behind her back.

“It’s very disappointing, and I hope nobody does it in your term,” she told Newberry, giving an exasperated laugh. Newberry, who will replace Tarquinio as president in September at SPJ’s annual conference, visibly scoffed. “Do not chastise me publicly,” she said in response. Newberry attempted to go on, but Tarquinio spoke over her interjection.

Board members attempted several times to raise Tarquinio’s decision and her lack of consultation for discussion. Tarquinio repeatedly dismissed those motions as “out of order.” (Per SPJ’s bylaws, it is the prerogative of the president to appoint the head of the committee.) As the meeting continued, other board members were unable to get a word in edgewise. Tarquinio often failed to recognize members who kept their hands raised. Of those who did manage to speak, many were swiftly shut down. Circumscribed in their tiny video boxes—set against far-flung backgrounds that included home offices and one backyard porch—the board members shook their heads, threw up their arms, and laughed, seemingly in spite of the situation. Tarquinio remained by turns defiant and condemnatory.

“This board is a problem,” Tarquinio said at one point. She repeated herself: “This board is a problem.” And later: “I’m telling you, this board needs to start being supportive, not only of this president but of this [SPJ] staff. You’ve done several things recently that have upset the staff.”

“So have you!” Michael Koretzky, SPJ’s longest serving board member and the editor of Debt.com, answered.

During his decade on the board of SPJ, Koretzky has accrued a reputation as a troublemaker, which he mostly embraces. This is not the first time he has openly called out an SPJ president, and the name of his blog—Journoterrorist.com—is a reference to one former SPJ leader’s description of him. (“I thought it was funny,” he says.) It might easily be said that Monday’s move to impeach Tarquinio is more of the same from Koretzky. But additional members of the SPJ board who spoke with CJR agree that Saturday’s meeting was a low point and reflective of what they see as a tendency by Tarquinio to lead by dictum and to shut down dissent. (At one moment in the video, Tarquinio tells the board, “Let me just say, this entire plan is going to fall apart if I’m not allowed to lead it.”)

To Koretzky, who piped into the call from his home in southern Florida, the shouting was indicative of broader frustration at the direction of the country’s oldest journalist trade organization. According to SPJ figures, membership has declined more than 10 percent over the past year, to about 6,000 people, and journalism in general seems beset on all sides. “I can imagine being a laid-off journalist watching that video and thinking, ‘What a bunch of assholes,’” Koretzky says. “Like, ‘Stop arguing amongst yourselves and help me.’” The conference, as usual, had been recorded; over the remainder of the weekend, Koretzky compiled a supercut from the recording of what he viewed as the meeting’s worst moments—the final result, a rapid-fire barrage of bureaucratic squabbling—which he uploaded to his blog on Monday morning, along with a call to impeach Tarquinio.

Who Killed Bobby? Book Review: A Lie Too Big to Fail, Shane O'Sullivan, right, shane osullivan headshotJune 5, 2019. Lisa Pease’s recently-published book, A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy (Feral House) is well-researched and digs up plenty of interesting new leads, but is undermined by implausible theories and conclusions based on a very selective interpretation of the evidence.

Lisa recently endorsed my book Who Killed Bobby? The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy (2008) on Black Op Radio but said it “didn’t go far enough” and inspired her to write her own. While she conducts an exhaustive survey of the witness testimony, some of her theories go too far, in my opinion, and may be damaging to our hopes of getting the case reopened. I feel obliged to point out the shortcomings of these theories, so that readers new to the case can get a more balanced view of the evidence and make up their own minds.

lisa pease rfk coverAs two of the handful of surviving authors on the case, we share some common ground. We agree that convicted Palestinian assassin Sirhan Sirhan did not kill Robert Kennedy; that Sirhan was a hypnotically programmed patsy; and that a second gunman fired the fatal shot which killed the senator. But Lisa’s book goes well beyond the second gun theory espoused by other authors on the case. Where Phil Van Praag’s analysis of the Pruszynski recording (the only known recording of the shooting) suggests thirteen shots were fired in the pantry, Lisa suggests there may have been seventeen. Where most authors believe there were two shooters in the pantry. Lisa believes there may have been four or five. While it’s generally accepted that Sirhan fired eight shots from his .22-caliber revolver, injuring Paul Schrade and four other bystanders, Lisa argues Sirhan didn’t shoot anybody as he was firing blanks.

The firearms examiners concluded that the bullet which lodged in Kennedy’s neck and the bullets recovered from victims Ira Goldstein and William Weisel were fired from the same gun. The panel also agreed that the bullet recovered from shooting victim Irwin Stroll was a CCI Mini-Mag with the same rifling characteristics as the Sirhan weapon and all four of these victim bullets were consistent with the .22-caliber CCI long rifle ammunition used by Sirhan.

sirhan sirhan 2016The leaded condition of Sirhan’s barrel prevented a positive identification but, as Bradford concluded, a second gun needed to have the same rifling characteristics as Sirhan’s weapon. Phil Van Praag’s tests are based on this. Lisa seemingly ignores it....

Sirhan (shown in a 2016 mug shot) is still in prison, in the desert just outside San Diego, having served more than fifty years for a crime he cannot remember committing and which the evidence shows he did not commit. While I agree with Lisa that he has served his time and should be freed, these implausible theories will not help that cause.

While I disagree with Lisa’s conclusions, the new research in her book is a welcome addition to the small library on the case and I hope we can work together through the new Truth and Reconciliation Committee to seek justice for Sirhan and Bobby Kennedy with the best and most credible evidence available.

Shane O'Sullivan is an Irish writer and filmmaker based in London and best known for his work on the assassination of Robert Kennedy. His works include the feature documentary "RFK Must Die." His book on the case, "Who Killed Bobby?," was published in 2008. This essay is adapted from a presentation that he gave at the “Political Assassinations of the 1960s” conference at Olney Central College, IL on April 7, 2019.

June 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Black Feminist’s Response to Attacks on Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy, Barbara Ransby (history professor, June 3, 2019. We should not become historical peeping Toms by trafficking in what amounts to rumor and innuendo.

As a black feminist and a civil rights historian, I do not need to be persuaded that many black male ministers during the civil rights era were morally duplicitous, felt sexually entitled and slept around. So did many Catholic priests, politicians, Hollywood celebrities and some award-winning male academics.

Many historians have already argued that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been no different. However, David Garrow’s essay published last week in Standpoint, a conservative British magazine — goes much further, making the serious allegation that Dr. King may have witnessed and encouraged a rape. Absolutely any allegation of rape has to be taken seriously. However, this irresponsible account, drawn from questionable documents, has serious shortcomings and risks turning readers into historical peeping Toms by trafficking in what amounts to little more than rumor and innuendo from F. B.I. files.

fbi logoRape, sexual harassment and other forms of sexual assault are very serious accusations in our own time, and all too often women making those charges are doubted, dismissed or simply not believed as in the cases of Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford, who bravely came forward with credible stories, and the R. Kelly accusers who for many years told of their own nightmarish ordeals. The voices of these survivors must be heard and taken seriously, and the perpetrators must be held accountable. The F.B.I. allegations, funneled through Mr. Garrow’s essay, have nothing to do with this effort. It is not a woman’s voice we are being asked to believe here, but the F.B.I.’s — a source with blatantly ulterior motives.

Let me underscore a critical line to draw in our assessment of this new reporting. It is a point that feminist scholars and L.G.B.T.Q. activists have insisted upon for some time. Consenting sexual activity, even activity that mainstream public opinion might not condone, is the prerogative of the adults involved. Rape, on the other hand, is a violent crime. A major problem with Mr. Garrow’s essay, questionable evidence aside, is that he fails to adequately distinguish between the two.

Where is the evidence? And whose story is this? Mr. Garrow has not seen a transcript or listened to the tape of this alleged incident himself. Both are sealed until 2027. The documents he has reviewed were made available inadvertently through the release of the John Kennedy assassination papers by the National Archives. The mention of Dr. King’s having been in the room during an alleged rape “appears only as an annotation,” one handwritten sentence added to the typed summary. Mr. Garrow ascribes the scribble to either William Sullivan, head of the Domestic Intelligence Division, whose personal file was the source of the document containing the rape allegation, or one of his associates. In other words, we don’t even know who the author is.

Mr. Garrow goes on to speculate that the prudish Mr. Sullivan, who may or may not have written the damning sentence, and his aides were unlikely to have embellished this account and had no “apparent motive” to do so. Really? Who knows what motivated them, but the motives of their boss, the notorious F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover, are well known: to destroy and discredit Dr. King and later other black freedom movement leaders. Cointelpro, the counterintelligence program of the F.B.I. that later spied on and subverted the work of groups like the Black Panther Party, was even implicated in an assassination.

Barbara Ransby (@BarbaraRansby), a professor of history, gender and women’s studies and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is the author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom MovementEslanda and Making All Black Lives Matter.

Perception Managementwilliam barr cbs jan crawford 60 minutes may 31 2019

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What was William Barr’s fleece vest trying to tell us? Monica Hesse,June 3, 2019 (print ed.). He could have worn a suit for his TV interview. But the attorney general picked a folksier vibe for floating conspiracy theories.

William Barr showed up to his CBS This Morning interview looking like he was prepared to discuss not the investigation into possible Russian coordination with the 2016 Trump campaign but rather how to bait a fishing hook. The attorney general was working a distinctly “River Runs Through It” cosplay vibe: a tan half-zipped fleece vest over a checked button-down shirt, and in the background, a roaring fire.

To be fair, the interview, which aired Friday, did take place in Alaska, where Barr was traveling. But there are business suits available in Alaska; Barr had worn one earlier on the cub scout webelos badgetrip, during a meeting about rural law enforcement issues. his decision to skip a suit as he held forth on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation seemed like an attempt to communicate a message.

And that message was: I am a man of the people, and I am here to speak truths and help you earn a [Cub Scout] Webelos badge.

May

May 30

Vanity Fair, “Inconsistent, Incoherent, and Poorly Conceived”: As the Times Clamps Down on Reporters Going on MSNBC, Is This a Liberal-Media War? Joe Pompeo, May 30, 2019. The Times recently yanked one of its journalists from Rachel Maddow amid concerns about cable-news “bias.” Dean Baquet “thinks it’s a real issue.” But didn’t MSNBC help rebuild the Times’s business? And aren’t they in the same Trump-era boat?

ny times logoOn Sunday, May 19, New York Times finance editor David Enrich got a request from a producer at MSNBC to appear on Rachel Maddow’s show the following night. Enrich had a red-hot front-page story for Monday’s paper, about anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank flagging suspicious transactions involving Donald Trump and Jared Kushner, and Maddow wanted to bring him on air to talk about it.

rachel maddow headshotMaddow is MSNBC’s ratings queen, jostling with Sean Hannity every night for the crown of most-watched time slot in cable news. That’s why reporters tend to relish the exposure they get from doing her show. Enrich said yes, but after mentioning the planned appearance to the Times’s communications department, he was told he would have to retroactively decline. The reason? The Times was wary of how viewers might perceive a down-the-middle journalist like Enrich talking politics with a mega-ideological host like Maddow.

It’s not just Maddow. The Times has come to “prefer,” as sources put it, that its reporters steer clear of any cable-news shows that the masthead perceives as too partisan, and managers have lately been advising people not to go on what they see as highly opinionated programs. It's not clear how many shows fall under that umbrella in the eyes of Times brass, but two others that definitely do are Lawrence O’Donnell’s and Don Lemon’s, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.

May 29

Media News

washington post logoWashington Post, Pelosi: Facebook’s refusal to remove doctored video proves it wittingly enabled Russian interference, Drew Harwell, May 29, 2019. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Wednesday that Facebook’s refusal to take down an altered video of her shows that the company’s leaders were active contributors to online disinformation and “willing enablers” of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

facebook logoPelosi’s comments to KQED News, her first public response to the video since The Washington Post first reported its spread online last week, revealed a dramatic escalation of tensions between the Democratic leader and the world’s most popular social network.

“We have said all along, ‘Poor Facebook, they were unwittingly exploited by the Russians.’ I think wittingly, because right now they are putting up something that they know is false. I think it’s wrong,” she said, according to a transcript of the conversation provided by Pelosi’s office. “They’re lying to the public. . . . I think they have proven — by not taking down something they know is false — that they were willing enablers of the Russian interference in our election."

“For me, I’m in the arena, I’ve been the target all along,” Pelosi added. But “I wonder what they would do if [Facebook chief executive] Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t portrayed, you know, slowed down, made to look” drunk, she said. If it was “one of their own, would this be — is this their policy? Or is it just a woman?”

Facebook, which declined to comment, has acknowledged the video is false but declined to remove it.

Medium, Assange Is Reportedly Gravely Ill, And Hardly Anyone’s Talking About It, Caitlin Johnstone, May 29, 2019. Julian Assange’s Swedish lawyer Per Samuelson has told the press that “Assange’s health situation on Friday was such that it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him.”

This jarring revelation has been reported by a small handful of outlets, but only as an aside in relation to Sweden refusing Samuelson’s request for a postponement of a scheduled hearing regarding Assange’s detention en absentia for a preliminary investigation of rape allegations. The fact that the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder is so ill that he can’t converse lucidly is itself far more significant than the postponement refusal, yet headlines mentioning Samuelson’s statement focus on the Swedish case, de-emphasizing the startling news from his lawyer.

julian assange indicter imageAs of this writing I’ve been able to find very few news outlets reporting on this at all, the most mainstream being a Reuters article with the very tame headline “Swedish court rejects delay of Assange hearing over ill-health: lawyer”. The Sydney Morning Herald also covered the story without even mentioning illness in headline, instead going with “Swedish court rejects effort to delay Assange hearing”. The much smaller alternative media outlet World Socialist Website has been the only outlet I’ve found so far which reports on Samuelson’s statement in anything resembling its proper scale, publishing a good article titled “Despite Assange’s ill-health, Swedish court rejects delay to hearing” a few hours ago.

This news has been so under-discussed and under-appreciated as of this writing that I didn’t find out about it until hours after the story broke, and I’m very plugged in to both alternative media commentary and WikiLeaks-related news. A report that Julian Assange was so sick he could barely speak all the way back on Friday and we still have no news about how he’s doing now should be hugely significant for everyone who cares about Assange, press freedom, government transparency or peace activism.

May 27

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: The press must do better, Jennifer Rubin, right, May 27, 2019. The New York Times gives prominent placement on its home page to list all of President Trump’s juvenile nicknames for the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, including the racist Native American slur directed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). This serves no purpose other than to highlight his name-calling and reinforce his abusive conduct. Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders goes on “Meet the Press” to repeatedly accuse former FBI director James B. Comey of treason.

The mainstream media must pick up its game. Its role is not to act as Trump’s megaphone for childish insults, which directly aids his efforts to defame presidential opponents. It’s one thing to explain that Trump uses insults and to debunk them; it’s another to reinforce and popularize them.

More important, Republicans who repeat blatantly untrue talking points should not go unchallenged. To do so merely assists Trump in his war on the truth and his efforts to smear national security officials. The courts are doing their part. House Democrats are doing their part. Now, the media need to exercise the same diligence in calling out Trump’s lies. Instead of learning from the mistakes of 2016 — when Trump was allowed to spew his racism and falsehoods at length on live TV coverage of rallies — the media risk a repeat by simply recycling his slurs and lies.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The outsize influence of Fox, CNN and MSNBC, Margaret Sullivan, right, May 27, 2019 (print ed.). Despite limited audience size, cable TV news is, more margaret sullivan 2015 photothan ever, at the center of political controversy. With their limited, aging viewership, you might think cable TV news would be a political afterthought and a business washout. Instead, revenue is astronomical — $5 billion in 2017, according to Pew Research, for the big three: Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.

And the cable networks, undeniably, develop the kind of engagement that marketers call “mindshare” — especially in the political realm.

“Cable TV news has an influence today that is outsized to the literal audience that is watching it,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute.

fox news logo SmallThey often spawn political controversy or are at the center of things themselves: whether Democratic presidential candidates go on Fox News town halls, the fallout of a CNN reporter having his press pass revoked, and MSNBC’s months-long obsession with the Mueller report.

viewership is a fraction of the audience still flocking to the three nightly news half hours on CBS, NBC and ABC: There are more than 9 million viewers for David Muir’s top-rated ABC show, “World News Tonight,” compared with cable’s top-rated competitors, Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow, who each draw about a third of that number.

Nor is it at technology’s cutting edge. By the end of this year, mobile devices will surpass television as the medium attracting the most viewership, according to eMarketer research.

May 25

Facebook: Shameless Fake News Propagandists

monika bickert anderson cooper

CNN Anchor Anderson Cooper challenged Monika Bickert, a high-ranking Republican at Facebook, on why she was defending Facebook's continued distribution of a faked video making Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sound and look drunk by slowing the video's speed. President Trump also promoted the faked video.

washington post logoWashington Post, Facebook defends decision to leave up fake Pelosi video, saying users should make up their own minds, Alex Horton, May 25, 2019. There is no dispute that the Facebook video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) viewed by millions is a fake, deliberately altered to make her appear drunk. YouTube acted fast and removed duplicates. Other social media outlets have not made the same call.

facebook logoFacebook acknowledged the video is “false” but said the videos would remain on the platform.

Amid fierce calls across the public and government for Facebook to remove the video — which has been viewed 2.6 million times — and others like it, a Facebook official took to CNN on Friday to defend its decision.

Monika Bickert, a company vice president for product policy and counterterrorism, said the video was reviewed by fact-checking organizations, and after it deemed the video a hoax, the company “dramatically” reduced its distribution. But Facebook did not remove the video, Bickert said.

The question has vexed lawmakers and Silicon Valley for years, particularly after massive disinformation campaigns were harnessed in the 2016 election: Should we consider platforms like Facebook “news publishers,” and should they handle information like one?

CNN host Anderson Cooper believes the answer is yes and pressed Bickert on her company’s responsibilities.

“You’re making money by being in the news business,” he said. “If you can’t do it well, shouldn’t you just get out of the news business?”

Bickert rejected the premise in a tense back-and-forth. “We aren’t in the news business. We’re in the social media business,” she said, adding the company removes content deemed a threat to public safety and from fake accounts.

Fair Elections: U.S. Gerrymandering

washington post logoWashington Post, New electoral maps for Ohio and Michigan can wait, Supreme Court says, Robert Barnes, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). While they consider the question of partisan gerrymandering, the justices put lower-court decisions finding those states’ maps unconstitutional on hold. The Supreme Court on Friday put on hold lower-court decisions that said Ohio and Michigan had to come up with new electoral maps because of unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

supreme court graphicThe decision was not surprising, because the justices are currently considering whether judges should even have a role in policing partisan gerrymandering. There were no noted dissents in the orders for either state.

The Supreme Court in March heard arguments in similar cases from North Carolina, where judges found that Republicans had manipulated congressional maps to their advantage, and from Maryland, where Democratic lawmakers redrew a district that resulted in a loss for a longtime Republican congressman.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWhile the Supreme Court regularly examines redistricting plans for signs of racial gerrymandering, it has never found a state’s plan so infected with partisan politics that it violates the rights of voters. The decision in the North Carolina and Maryland cases are expected before the end of June.

With the decisions from Ohio and Michigan, federal courts in five states have struck down maps as partisan gerrymanders. The courts in the Ohio and Michigan decisions ordered the states to come up with new maps that could be used in the 2020 elections.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Barr could politicize intelligence with review of Russia probe, officials fear, Shane Harris, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). An executive order gave the the attorney general broad authority to disclose classified intelligence.

It appeared unprecedented to give an official who is not in charge of an intelligence agency the power to reveal its secrets. Current and former intelligence officials said they were concerned that Barr could selectively declassify information that paints the intelligence agencies and the FBI in a bad light without giving a complete picture of their effort. in 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutors worried about constitutional rights disagreed with charging Assange, Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky and Rachel Weiner, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). The Department of Justice officials feared the Espionage Act charges posed serious risks for First Amendment protections and had other concerns, according to people familiar with the matter.

washington post logoWashington Post, 50 years after Apollo, conspiracy theorists are still howling at the ‘moon hoax,’ Joel Achenbach, May 25, 2019 (print ed.). A growing science of conspiracism seeks to understand who these people are, why they embrace such ideas, and whether there is anything that can dislodge a really magnetic conspiracy theory from the mind of a true believer.

May 24

Assange Charges Prompt Freedom Fears

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on April 11, 2019. (Ruptly/YouTube)

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Frightening’: Charges Against Julian Assange Alarm Press Advocates, Michael M. Grynbaum and Marc Tracy, May 24, 2019 (print ed.). A new indictment against the WikiLeaks leader was denounced as a dangerous precedent that could lead to future prosecutions of journalists. While past cases involved government employees who ljulian assange indicter imageeaked information to journalists, the Assange case could lead to the pursuit of a publisher.

Journalists and press freedom groups reacted with alarm on Thursday after the Trump administration announced new charges against Julian Assange, right, the WikiLeaks leader, for publishing classified information, in a case that legal experts say takes direct aim at previously sacrosanct protections for the news media.

wikileaks logo2In indicting Mr. Assange for obtaining, accepting and disseminating classified materials, the Department of Justice opened a new front in its campaign against illegal leaks. While past cases involved government employees who provided material to journalists, the Assange indictment could amount to the pursuit of a publisher for making that material available to the public.

“It’s not criminal to encourage someone to leak classified information to you as a journalist — that’s called news gathering, and there are First Amendment protections for news gathering,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., a lawyer who frequently represents media organizations like CNN. “The ramifications of this are so potentially dangerous and serious for the ability of journalists to gather and disseminate information that the American people have a right to know.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Julian Assange Is No Hero. But This Case Is a Threat to Free Speech, Editorial Board, May 24, 2019 (print ed.). The Trump administration seeks to use the Espionage Act to redefine what journalists can and cannot publish.

The new charges focus on receiving and publishing classified material from a government source. That is something journalists do all the time. They did it with the Pentagon Papers and in countless other cases where the public benefited from learning what was going on behind closed doors, even though the sources may have acted illegally. This is what the First Amendment is designed to protect: the ability of publishers to provide the public with the truth.

President Trump has waged a relentless campaign against the news media, going so far as to repeatedly label it the “enemy of the people.” But with this indictment his administration has moved well beyond dangerous insults to strike at the very foundation of the free press in the United States. The Espionage Act has been used against those who disclose classified information only rarely, for good reason. It has never before been used against a journalist.

Media News / Fake News

washington post logoWashington Post, Faked Pelosi videos, slowed to make her appear drunk, spread across social media, Drew Harwell, May 24, 2019 (print ed.). Distorted videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), altered to make her sound as if she’s drunkenly slurring her words, are spreading rapidly across social media, highlighting how political disinformation that clouds public understanding can now grow at the speed of the Web.

The video of Pelosi’s onstage speech Wednesday at a Center for American Progress event, in which she said President Trump’s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations was tantamount to a “coverup," was subtly edited to make her voice sound garbled and warped. It was then circulated widely across Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

One version, posted by the conservative Facebook page Politics WatchDog, had been viewed more than 2 million times by Thursday night, been shared more than 45,000 times, and garnered 23,000 comments with users calling her “drunk” and “a babbling mess.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Why it’s so alarming that Trump shared an edited video of Pelosi, Editorial Board, May 24, 2019. Did President Trump share a fake clip of Nancy Pelosi? The seemingly simple question is a vexing one to answer. Passing judgment on his behavior is less challenging.

Conservative accounts on social media circulated a clip this week deliberately distorted to make it seem as if the speaker of the House was slurring her speech: “Drunk as a skunk,” commentators declared. The video, which some declared a “deepfake,” employed much too simple technology to merit that term. Deepfakes use artificial intelligence to synthesize human images into a reality that is entirely fabricated; the smear of Ms. Pelosi merely slowed down parts of an existing interview and modified her pitch.

The clip Mr. Trump tweeted alongside the words “PELOSI STAMMERS THROUGH NEWS CONFERENCE” was part of the same narrative, but it was not distorted, or even doctored, so much as it was edited. The clip splices together short segments of Ms. Pelosi (D-Calif.) stuttering in a lowlight reel that offered a misleading impression of a perfectly coherent 21-minute news conference. Mr. Trump did not make this video, or pull it from the right-wing fever swamps of social media. He took it instead from the fever swamp of Fox Business Network.

The clamor for firms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to remove or limit the distribution of these clips as misinformation invites a vexing debate about what counts as fake in the first place. The “slurring” video, accompanied by manufactured accusations of drunkenness, may fall on one side of the line. The stammering video may fall on the other. But drawing that line at all has far-reaching implications. People edit videos all the time, sometimes for fun and sometimes to prove a political point. When does editing become doctoring, and when does doctoring become distorting? Is distorting always impermissible, or does it depend on intent, effect or something else altogether?

May 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange Indicted Under Espionage Act, Raising 1st Amendment Issues, Charlie Savage and Adam Goldman, May 23, 2019. The WikiLeaks founder faces 17 counts in a superseding indictment over his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010. The Justice Department’s move signals a dramatic escalation of a crackdown on leaks and aims squarely at First Amendment protections for journalists.

julian assange indicter imageJulian Assange, right, the WikiLeaks leader, has been indicted on 17 new counts of violating the Espionage Act for his role in publishing classified military and diplomatic documents in 2010, the Justice Department announced on Thursday — a novel case that raises profound First Amendment issues.

The new charges were part of a superseding indictment obtained by the Trump administration that significantly expanded the legal case against Mr. Assange, who is already fighting extradition proceedings in London based on an earlier hacking-related count brought by federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia.

wikileaks logo2The secret documents that Mr. Assange published were provided by the former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who was convicted at a court-martial trial in 2013 of leaking the records.

“Assange, WikiLeaks affiliates and Manning shared the common objective to subvert lawful restrictions on classified information and to publicly disseminate it,” the indictment said.

The Justice Department’s decision to pursue Espionage Act charges signals a dramatic escalation under President Trump to crack down on leaks of classified information and aims squarely at First Amendment protections for journalists. Most recently, law enforcement officials charged a former intelligence analyst with giving classified documents to The Intercept, a national security news website.

Legal scholars believe that prosecuting reporters over their work would violate the First Amendment, but the prospect has not yet been tested in court because the government had never charged a journalist under the Espionage Act.

Though he is not a conventional journalist, much of what Mr. Assange does at WikiLeaks is difficult to distinguish in a legally meaningful way from what traditional news organizations like The New York Times do: seek and publish information that officials want to be secret, including classified national security matters, and take steps to protect the confidentiality of sources.

ny times logoNew York Times, Can Paul Huntsman Save The Salt Lake Tribune? Katherine Rosman, May 23, 2019 (print ed.). Life was tranquil for Paul Huntsman, a scion of a rich and powerful Utah family, before he got into the news business. He spent his workdays managing much of the Huntsman family’s considerable portfolio at the Huntsman building on Huntsman Way. Sundays meant services at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chapel with his wife, Cheryl Wirthlin Huntsman, and their eight children. There were also skiing excursions to Deer Valley and hiking trips to Snowbird, and the parents were regulars at their children’s ballet performances, cheerleading banquets and lacrosse games.

paul huntsman linked inThen Mr. Huntsman, a son of the billionaire industrialist Jon M. Huntsman Sr., bought The Salt Lake Tribune.

Since buying the struggling daily from its hedge-fund ownership group for an undisclosed sum in 2016, Mr. Huntsman (shown at right on his Linked In photo)  has sometimes found himself at odds with family members and the local establishment his ancestors helped shape. He has also been challenged by the task of keeping the paper alive at a time when small newspapers are dying out and big dailies with national followings are growing more dominant.

The Tribune’s weekday circulation has dropped to 32,000 from roughly 61,000 in 2014. Ad revenue plunged 40 percent during Mr. Huntsman’s first two years at the helm, and he has been paying employees out of his own pocket.

Last year, he cut 34 of the newsroom’s 90 journalists. The press watchdog site Poynter, which had cheered his arrival, noted that “the Salt Lake story is a sober reminder that deep pockets and community-spirited good intentions may not be enough.”

In May, Mr. Huntsman announced a strategy that, in his view, would give the paper its best chance at survival: turning it into a nonprofit operation. If the plan gains federal approval, The Tribune would be the first metropolitan daily in the United States to go the nonprofit route. (Other newspapers, including The Tampa Bay Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, are owned by nonprofit corporations but are not themselves nonprofits.)

He started considering the idea a year ago, a few months after his father died. “I got word that some of our main advertisers were going to pull back on ad buys,” he said. “What I knew was going to be a loss was now going to be a monumental loss. Without having my father to address this with, to have him advise me and work through this, it was tough.”

sniper 3d assassin screenshot

A screenshot of the 'Breaking News' mission selection screen from "Sniper 3D Assassin."

National Press Club, How did killing journalists become a game? Julie Moos and Ricardo Sandoval Palos, May 23, 2019. Since at least 2015, the popular game Sniper 3D Assassin has featured a mission that requires players to kill a journalist who has just bribed a police officer. When that mission was made public over the weekend in a tweet by New York Times journalist Jamal Jordan, the gamemaker’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Mac-Vicar told HuffPost, “After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

But the mission has not been removed from all versions of the game. The iOS version in the Apple App store no longer has the “Breaking News” mission, but the Microsoft version in Steam, a popular gaming platform, still included it to play as of Wednesday night, and the Google Play version still shows the mission, though it cannot be played.

Mac-Vicar confirmed this in a brief reply to a LinkedIn message. "Updates are being rolled out, iOS and Google Play are already updated (they represent more than 99.99 of the users), other minor platforms like Amazon and Steam might take some more time,” he said.

The company faced backlash over the weekend for including the mission, then faced backlash from players after removing it.

“I have been playing this game for about a year and loved it & spent real $$ because I will support a good mobile game,” said Skitzo23!!! in a one-star review in the App Store. “What I won’t do is support a company who will REMOVE A LEVEL because of B-----t Activists who call themselves ‘Journalists’ who never even played the game or spent a dime on it!!!”

“I came for the journalist level. Disappointed!” said another one-star review posted after the mission was pulled from the Apple version.

These reactions highlight the danger this mission represents, given the real violence and threats journalists increasingly face. A year ago, four Capital Gazette journalists and another staff member were killed in Maryland. This year, at least five journalists have been killed worldwide, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, and several have been attacked in the U.S. while covering a teacher strike in California and covering a political rally in Texas.

The “Breaking News” mission in the game “seems like pandering to the anti-journalist crowd,” said GamesBeat writer Dean Takahashi in a brief online conversation. “It creates the inaccurate impression that journalists pay sources for stories, and then suggests that anyone who does so deserves to die. It is, of course, horrifying for any non-combatants to be dragged into war, but this scene seems particularly gleeful about doing this with a journalist target. The developers should think about the real-world consequences of their decisions.”

And the platforms hosting the games should consider that as well, said National Press Club President Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak. “Apple, Google, and the other technology platforms that make this game available should think twice before hosting games like this that put journalists at risk,” Kodjak said.

“The fact that this escaped notice for so long demonstrates that violence against journalists is becoming normalized, and that is unacceptable,” said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute.

May 20

Columbia Journalism Review, Opinion: How to deal with obstructive public information officers? Challenge them, Cinnamon Janzer, May 20, 2019. On April 18, Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey announced his intention to make his city the first to ban its police officers from undertaking “warrior-style” training. After the police union announced that it would continue to offer the trainings anyway a few days later, I set out to interview Chief Medaria Arradondo.

Like many government organizations, the Minneapolis Police Department has a public information officer (PIO). In response to an email request, the PIO said that the chief was too busy for an interview, but that I could email him a list of questions as an alternative. I declined; email interviews preclude the dynamic qualities of an in-person interview, and can provide cover for story subjects to craft protective messages with their public relations advisers.

“I deal with dozens of reporters a week who provide written questions for answering,” the PIO replied. “No one has had journalistic issues with it.” I attempted to go around him, but, at every turn, I was informed that all communication had to go through the PIO. I didn’t fare much better with the mayor’s office: after multiple calls and email follow-ups with his press secretary and other members of his communication team, I was provided with a two-sentence statement on the police union’s defiance.

ICYMI: The story of Ernest Hemingway’s $187,000 magazine expenses claim

The resulting story—about the way that Minneapolis residents are policed, reported and written as a former Minneapolis cop was tried and ultimately convicted for a 2017 killing that has left residents “more concerned than ever over police conduct”—was written without the two major public officials at its center answering a single question.

“That’s a straight refusal to answer, and that’s what you need to call it,” Carolyn Carlson, a retired journalist, professor, and former president of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), says. Carlson, whose academic research focused on public information officers, adds, “They try to cloak it like they’re being cooperative when they’re not.”
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The Public Information Officer is a frequently obstructive mechanism thinly veiled by a helpful sounding title. PIO-approved comments shape the narratives of their news coverage across the country on matters that range from the mundane to the extremely consequential.

In a 2014 survey of political and general assignment reporters by Carlson and SPJ, most respondents said the amount of control exerted by PIOs had been increasing and was only getting worse. A 2015 survey uncovered that 74.2 percent of science writers were routinely required to get approval from PIOs to interview employees some, most, or all of the time. A 2016 survey of police reporters found that 54.8 percent of respondents, the majority of whom work as full-time reporters for small and mid-sized papers, were only allowed to interview police chiefs “some of the time” or “rarely.” Fifty-seven percent said that they were prevented by PIOs from interviewing officers or investigators in a timely manner “some of the time,” “most of the time,” or “all of the time.”

In Carlson’s survey of PIOs themselves, 65.9 percent felt some obligation to “supervise or otherwise monitor interviews with members of my agency’s staff.” Those PIOs, Carlson says, “were pretty open that one of their top priorities, if not their top priority, is to represent their agencies in a positive way, which is a fundamentally different objective to what reporters are trying to do.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Pete Buttigieg creates another media moment, Jennifer Rubin, May 20, 2019. Pundits arguing that South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg simply jennifer rubin twittercannot be president because his only civilian public service has been at the local level, or that he is heavy on values and persona but lighter on policy, seem not to have learned anything from 2016.

President Trump won the Republican primary by stringing together media moments, dominating the airwaves and intensifying his audience’s emotions (anger, resentment, etc.). Buttigieg is testing the proposition that Democrats desperate to take back the White House may admire Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s policy parade but what they long for is someone who can beat Trump and reflect their longing to reassert their values (respect for intellect, empathy, tolerance).

Buttigieg, in appearing on Fox News Sunday night, helped his cause tremendously. Projecting the same calm, incisiveness and wit that have impressed other audiences, he won enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation. He created some viral moments that will echo around the mainstream media for days:

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Make him famous in a different way’: In this popular mobile game, you kill a journalist, Angela Fritz, May 20, 2019 (print ed.). The mission is called Breaking News. It’s the seventh mission in the game, and it comes after you’ve upgraded your sniper rifle to shoot at a distance of nearly 1,000 feet with accuracy.

By now, you’ve already taken out, among others, a gunman who allegedly killed several people at a pizzeria last year, someone who stole a backpack from a tourist, a sniper who (without a trace of irony) is killing innocent people, and three men who were guarding a gang’s weapon arsenal.

Breaking News has a clear goal: kill a reporter.

“A journalist bribed a cop and will pick up a briefcase from the cop,” the mission says. “The briefcase is full of sensitive documents. Make him famous in a different way.” (In reality, journalists’ codes of ethics ban them from paying sources for information or material. There would certainly be no bribing.)

Sniper 3D Assassin is a mobile game available on iOS and Android. It has a rating of about 4½ stars, with a combined 12 million reviews on both platforms. The app launched in 2014 and reached 10 million downloads in the first month, according to the developer, TFG, which is based in Brazil. In 2016, the developer claims it was the most-downloaded game in the App Store.

JIP Editor's Note: The game "level" regarding journalists was removed after Huffington Post published a story about it. “Our game Sniper 3D Assassin is fictional and is intended for mature audiences,’ said Michael Mac-Vicar, the CTO of the developing company. ‘At TFG, we work to create games that bring fun and entertainment to users all around the world. As such, we take feedback from our players very seriously. After listening to our community today, we have decided to remove the mission ‘Breaking News’ from the game.”

paul craig roberts rob kall

OpEdNews, Opinion: The Assange/Manning Cases Discredit Humanity, Paul Craig Roberts (shown above at left in a radio interview with OpEdNews Publisher Rob Kall), May 20, 2019. Everyone who is aware of the US government's extraordinary criminal actions at home and abroad bears a heavy weight. The millions of peoples murdered, maimed, orphaned, widowed, and displaced by gratuitous American military aggression comprise a Holocaust of deaths based entirely on lies and false accusations in order to advance secret American and Israeli agendas.

I suspect that the heavy burden of responsibility for mass murder and destruction committed in our name is the reason most Americans prefer the fake news fed to them about how good and wonderful and exceptional we are and how hard our government works to protect us from the nasty folks elsewhere.

This story-line converts the illegal brutal war crimes of the US government against women, children, defenseless citizens, schools, wedding parties, funerals, and farmers in their fields into glorious and brave defenses of our liberty and virtue.

chelsea manning dan behrendt youtube screenshot dmcaIf you want the truth watch the video leaked by Chelsea Manning of US troops enjoying themselves while from the air they machine-gun reporters and innocent civilians walking along a street and follow up by machine-gunning a father and his two young children, babies, who stopped to help the wounded bleeding in the street. The leak of the video that showed the true picture of Washington's wars is the reason Manning (shown at right in a Dan Behrendt screenshot) was tortured and imprisoned.

It is the person who told the truth, not the criminals who committed the murders, who was punished.

I agree that the fake story of America's moral worthiness is much easier to live with than it is to bear the shame of the true story. But in the end the fake story destroys our liberty even more completely than would conquest by a foreign opponent. People are more suspicious of an occupying power than they are of their own government and are less likely to believe foreign occupiers when they lie to them. In contrast, a people's own government can trap them in a false consciousness and keep them there with fake news.

Washington's case against Julian Assange is so contrived and so weak, that the corrupt US attorney assigned to frame-up Assange has resorted to persecution of Manning in an effort to coerce false testimony against Assange from Manning. After being tortured and serving seven years in prison for revealing a US war crime, as Manning was required to do under the US military code, Manning was pardoned by President Obama.

Now Manning is back in prison for a second time after being pardoned, because Manning will not cooperate in the frame-up of Assange by giving false testimony to a grand jury. Without false testimony, the corrupt US attorney hasn't a case that could get a conviction from even the typical insouciant American jury, normally a collection of gullible people julian assange head bookeasily manipulated by the prosecutor.

When Manning (shown in a file photo at left) was imprisoned for 63 days for refusing to tell lies about Assange, Manning spent 28 of those days in solitary confinement. Why?

A week after Manning was released, the corrupt US attorney called Manning again before the grand jury that the corrupt US attorney is using to contrive a case against Assange. Again Manning refused to cooperate in the frame-up, and was again held in contempt and again remanded into federal prison. This time a corrupt US federal district judge, Anthony Trenga, added to Manning's jail time a daily fine of $500 rising to $1,000 daily after 60 days. In other words, the corrupt judge is helping the corrupt US attorney to coerce Manning into cooperating in a frame-up of Assange. Americans need to understand that their judges are not judges. They are operatives of the American police state.

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The Indicter, The Making of a “Rapist,” Pamela Anderson (the famed actress, shown below right), May 2019 issue (first published by the pamela anderson foundation portraitPamela Anderson Foundation on May 20, 2019). Today, I want to speak out as a woman. A woman who has survived rape and sexual abuse. A woman who knows how cruel men can be, and how deep the wounds in a woman’s soul. To this day, I remember the excruciating pain.

To this day, I can feel the agony. To this day, their faces keep haunting my sleep – a fate shared by countless women worldwide. No, I would never defend a rapist, there can never be an excuse for this crime, nor for offenders enjoying impunity. We owe it to ourselves, our sisters and girls to speak out and fight complacency.

But in our resolve to do the right thing, let us never forget the danger of error, and the power of false accusations. For the same factors that make allegations of rape so difficult to prove in a court of law, make them even more difficult to disprove in the court of public opinion. Therefore, false allegations of sexual misconduct have always been the tool of choice for any campaign of mobbing, blackmail or slander. Once someone has been stamped a “rapist”, whether convicted, charged or merely alleged, his reputation has not only been sentenced to death, but has already been executed in public.

And this is the reason I speak out today. I speak out in support of a friend. A friend whom I love dearly, but whose health is crumbling, whose hopes are fading and whose time is running out. A friend who has dared to speak truth to power, who has shone a light on their criminal deeds and who is now paying the price. A friend whose voice has been strangled, whose hands have been shackled and whose name has been slandered. His name is Julian Assange.

julian assange and swedens politically appointed judges indicter graphicLet us remember that Julian has never been convicted for a sexual offense, that he has never even been formally charged with one, and that there never has been any supporting evidence against him. In fact, when the rape allegations first emerged in 2010, Julian voluntarily cooperated with the police, responded to their questions and stayed in Sweden until permitted to leave. Even the chief prosecutor, having carefully considered all the evidence, closed the case, stating that “I don’t think there is reason to suspect that he has committed rape” and that the alleged conduct “disclosed no crime at all”. Only to be re-opened a few days later by a different prosecutor, and based on conveniently modified allegations of fact.

Let us also remember what both complainants have confirmed already years ago: namely that their sex with Julian had always been consensual, that they had never intended to report a crime, but that Swedish police had pressured them into doing so. And when Sweden finally wanted to drop the case in 2013, it was the British who urged them not to get “cold feet.” Sweden complied and, in the following years, went out of its way to ensure that Julian would not be able to defend himself against the rape allegations without at the same time exposing himself to extradition to the US.

On 13 May 2019, Sweden re-opened the very same grotesque investigation for a third time since August 2010. We all know that the rape allegations against Julian are bogus. We all know what is their real purpose. And we all know that Sweden acts in bad faith. As poignantly summarized by Women Against Rape: “The allegations against [Julian] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will”. I fully agree. This is not about justice for rape. This is about the rape of justice. A tragedy for Julian, a disgrace for Sweden and a serious betrayal of all of us believing in justice, democracy and the rule of law.

To me, Julian is a personal friend, a hero, a liberator. To you, he may be an enemy, a traitor, a sleazy snitch. You are entitled to your opinion and don’t have to change your mind. But before you draw your conclusions, please make sure you have really thought this through.

If, after all I said, you still believe Julian is a rapist, did you ever ask yourself whether the mere fact of a ripped condom can really amount to “rape”? A ripped condom which has revealed no trace of DNA? A ripped condom happening in the midst of repeated sexual encounters between consenting adults? A condom which Julian is accused of having ripped intentionally, but without the only other person in the room even noticing the deed? Just in case you didn’t know: that’s all he is being accused of. Pause and think. And then draw your own conclusions.

May 19

cbs news logoCBS 60 Minutes, How the Danske Bank money-laundering scheme involving $230 billion unraveled, Steve Kroft, May 19, 2019. It could be the biggest money-laundering scheme in history, with suspicious money flowing from Russia and former Soviet republics

Money laundering is the way clever crooks hide and eventually spend all of the money they have stolen. And this is a tale about what's believed to be the biggest money-laundering scheme in history.

It involves nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars of very suspicious money from Russia and the former Soviet Union that was funneled into the western banking system right under the noses of major banks and regulators in the United States and Europe, who either facilitated it or turned a blind eye. At the heart of it is a whistleblower, who found one loose thread and decided to pull on it.

howard wilkinson

Related story: National Whistleblowers Center: On Sunday, 60 Minutes featured the case of whistleblower Howard Wilkinson (shown above), the former banker who blew the whistle on the largest money-laundering scandal in world banking history, involving $234 billion. U.S. authorities are reportedly investigating transactions of major banks operating in the U.S., including $150 billion in suspicious transactions handled by Deutsche Bank. The Danske Bank scandal highlights the impact of whistleblowers and their role in holding corporations accountable for wrongdoing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Is revenge porn protected by the Constitution? Some states might say yes, Deanna Paul, May 19, 2019. Forty-five states have revenge-porn laws in place, and appeals courts are beginning to take up cases involving the constitutionality of these statutes.

May 18

Austrian Political / Media Scandal

ny times logoNew York Times, Highlights From the Video That Brought Down Austria’s Vice Chancellor, Christopher F. Schuetze, May 18, 2019. A secretly filmed video that led Heinz-Christian Strache, Austria’s far-right vice chancellor, to step down on Saturday is filled with eyebrow-raising moments, according to excerpts published by the German heinz christian strachenewsmagazine Der Spiegel and the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Mr. Strache, right, not only resigned from his post less than 24 hours after the release of the video footage, which was recorded in July 2017 in a rented villa in Ibiza, Spain. He also vowed to resign as leader of the Freedom Party. The scandal prompted Chancellor Sebastian Kurz later on Saturday to call for a snap election, saying at a news conference in Vienna, “After yesterday’s video, enough is enough.”

Here’s what we learned from the taped conversations, which lasted for hours and were accompanied by more than a little alcohol (as well as sushi, tuna tartar and energy drinks).

Five people took part in the meeting, according to the German news outlets, which examined the tapes but have not released the full recordings.

They included Mr. Strache; a woman who said she was the niece of a Russian oligarch; an interpreter; another Freedom Party official, Johann Gudenus, who seems to have set up the meeting; and Mr. Gudenus’s wife, Tajana.

In the footage, the woman says she wants to invest a quarter-billion euros in Austria, and Mr. Strache explores ways that such a giant investment would help his Freedom Party.

Mr. Strache tells the presumed investor that he’s been to Russia many times and that he has met with advisers of President Vladimir V. Putin to plan for “strategic collaboration,” according to Der Spiegel.

At one point, he suggests that the woman could help his party in the 2017 election. One other option discussed: taking state road contracts away from Austria’s largest construction company, Strabag, one of Europe’s biggest builders, and turning them over to a company she would found.

Since the Freedom Party came to power, it has had an antagonistic relationship with the news media. The crux of the conversation in 2017 was about the woman taking over the tabloid Kronen Zeitung.

In the recorded conversations, Mr. Strache suggests that with her in control, she could give his party favorable coverage and lift its poll numbers. “If she takes over the Krone newspaper three weeks before election and brings us to spot No. 1, then we can talk about anything,” Mr. Strache says.

While suggesting that some of the editorial staff of Kronen Zeitung should be fired, he said most would play along. Mr. Strache called journalists “the biggest” prostitutes on the planet, though he used a crasser term.

Besides his focus on Kronen Zeitung, Mr. Strache seemed to be particularly set on restructuring ORF, Austria’s public broadcaster — even mentioning privatization. “We want to build a media landscape like Orban did,” Mr. Strache says in the tape. Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary has turned his country’s public news media into a pro-government propaganda machine, and allies have gradually bought up whole sectors of the private news industry. During its short time as junior coalition partner, the Freedom Party has attacked Austrian journalists and suggested cutting public broadcast fees.

May 17

Mueller Probe

djt sergey lavrov sergey kislyak wh may 10 2017 tass

President Trump relaxes with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak at the White House on May 10, 2017. U.S. news media were barred from the secret meeting. Photos became available only from the Russian outlet TASS, which entrusted to attend.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judge tells prosecutors to release transcript of Michael Flynn’s call to Russian envoy, Carol D. Leonnig and Rosalind S. Helderman, May 17, 2019. The michael flynn stephen miller jared kushner reince priebustranscripts of the call and a separate voice mail would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of the Mueller probe. A federal judge on Thursday ordered that prosecutors make public a transcript of a phone call that former national security adviser Michael Flynn (shown at center of file photo at right surrounded by Stephen Miller, Jared Kushner and Reince Priebus) tried hard to hide with a lie: his conversation with a Russian ambassador in late 2016.

U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (below at left) in Washington ordered the government also to provide a public transcript of a November 2017 voice mail involving Flynn. In that sensitive call, President Trump’s attorney left a message for Flynn’s attorney reminding him of the president’s fondness for Flynn at a time when Flynn was considering cooperating with emmet sullivan 2012federal investigators.

The transcripts, which the judge ordered be posted on a court website by May 31, would reveal conversations at the center of two major avenues of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. So far they have been disclosed to the public only in fragments in court filings and the Mueller report.

Sullivan also ordered that still-redacted portions of the Mueller report that relate to Flynn be given to the court and made public. Sullivan’s orders came very shortly after government prosecutors agreed to release some sealed records in Flynn’s case. The release was in response to a motion filed with the court earlier this year by The Washington Post, which argued that the public deserved to know more about Flynn’s role in key events and cooperation with investigators.

The newly unsealed portions of court records showed Flynn was a deep source of useful information to the special counsel’s team in 2017 and 2018, helping it probe the Trump campaign’s effort to gain stolen emails and the question of whether Trump sought to criminally interfere in the investigation bearing down on him.

The records confirm the questions that Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former military intelligence officer, helped federal prosecutors answer after his guilty plea. Flynn admitted in 2017 that he tried to conceal the nature of his conversations with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and then began cooperating with Mueller’s team to try to reduce and possibly avoid a prison sentence.

bill palmerPalmer Report, Opinion: No wonder Robert Mueller has been waiting to testify, Bill Palmer, right, May 17, 2019. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee publicly stated that they thought Robert Mueller was going to publicly testify on May 15th – and when they learned it wasn’t going to happen, they didn’t seem too upset about it. Now we know why they were confident Mueller’s testimony would happen soon enough, and why Mueller was waiting.

bill palmer report logo headerLast night Robert Mueller’s prosecutorial team – which apparently still exists on some level – made a court filing in the Michael Flynn case, despite the fact that it wasn’t under obligation to do so, and it wasn’t even close to being up against any deadline. The filing revealed that Flynn witnessed Trump and his underlings commit several crimes. This in turn prompted the judge in the case to order that far more evidence of these crimes be publicly released soon. This, of course, wasn’t coincidence.

democratic donkey logoWith his filing yesterday, Mueller is essentially unredacting the most important pieces of his own report by force, in a way that Attorney General William Barr can’t stop. If Mueller had publicly testified on the 15th as originally planned, would he have been legally able to discuss the Trump crimes that Flynn witnessed? But now that Mueller has found a way to force the Flynn stuff into the public purview, there’s nothing that Trump and Barr can even try to do to stop Mueller from testifying about the Flynn stuff.

We’ll see if Robert Mueller makes other similar moves in the coming days in order to force the key findings of his probe into public view. But it’s now fairly obvious why he’s been waiting to testify. Why fight with Barr’s compromised DOJ about what you can testify about, when you can instead use the courts to change the entire playing field?

May 17

Trump Crony Defamation Suit Against Herald

 djt li yang cindy

Mother Jones, In Defamation Lawsuit, a Trump Donor Acknowledges Providing Chinese Execs "Access" in US, David Corn and Dan Friedman, May 17, 2019. Last week, Li "Cindy" Yang (shown above), the Florida massage parlor entrepreneur and Trump donor who has been part of the recent controversy involving Donald Trump's private resort, Mar-a-Lago, filed a defamation lawsuit against the parent company of the Miami Herald. The suit focused on a Herald story that had placed Yang in the spotlight by reporting she had posed for a photo with Trump at his West Palm Beach golf club during a Super Bowl party in February and noting that Yang had founded the day spa where Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, had been busted for allegedly soliciting prostitution. (Yang sold that particular spa years earlier.)

The suit claims the newspaper published false statements about Yang and her business that suggested illegal conduct had occurred in her spas. But the suit also contained a surprising passage that acknowledged that Yang had also run a business that provided Chinese executives "access to American business and political culture," and this included entry to events at Mar-a-Lago.

After the Herald story appeared in March, Mother Jones reported that Yang owned a firm that had offered to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family via visits to Mar-a-Lago. The company, GY US Investments, noted on its website -- which has since been taken down -- that its business consulting services addressed clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States. On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, the firm said its "activities for clients" included offering them "the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures." The company boasted it had "arranged taking photos with the President" and suggested it can provide clients with access to a "White House and Capitol Hill Dinner."

Weeks after that story was posted, Yang's attorney, Evan Turk, contacted Mother Jones and threatened a lawsuit, claiming the article defamed Yang. In a letter, Turk wrote that the Mother Jones article inaccurately reported that "Cindy Yang runs an investment business that has offerred [sic] to sell Chinese clients access to Trump and his family. This is nothing but false conjecture based on her company's website that offerred [sic] business assistance in America to potential Chinese clientele; a travel package." (No lawsuit has yet been filed.)

Yet in the lawsuit Turk dropped on the Herald, he stated that Yang was in the access business. A paragraph citing her entrepreneurial talents explained how GY US Investments was founded and operated:

"YANG came to the United States [from China] in search of a better life. She realized the American dream through her entrepreneurial acumen. She created GY US Investments which provided access to the American business and political culture through her understanding of opportunity. GY US Investments was a travel package for Chinese businessmen and philanthropists to travel to America. She realized the premium attached to a picture and story that her clients would cherish, while at the same time, supporting charitable causes. She had an opportunity to share her understanding of the Palm Beach charity scene and events publicly promoted at Mar-a-Lago (amongst others). YANG's business model relied upon her reputation and relationships she had painstakingly established during her time spent in the Palm Beach County area.

This complaint together with the GY US Investments website support the conclusion that Yang, who raised money for Trump, used her connections to bring Chinese executives into proximity of the president and Trump family members at his club and perhaps elsewhere.

Yang's lawsuit maintains that due to Herald article, she...

"is no longer able to maintain her current employment as a direct result of the defamatory statements, is no longer able to attend Mar-a-Lago [events], lost her role as an executive volunteer with the Republican Executive Committee, is undergoing psychiatric treatment to cope with the unconscionable fake allegations, suffers from significant headaches, cannot sleep and was forced to relocate as a direct result of the shame she has had to unnecessarily endure."

In the filing, Turk, a supporter of Roger Stone, the longtime Trump adviser who was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and charged with lying to Congress, asserts the Herald story was a hit job that "paints a picture that President Trump is corrupt, and YANG is one of his cronies... The article reads as if it is the playbook for the anti-President Trump manifesto."

In response, the newspaper's managing editor, Rick Hirsch, said, "We stand behind our stories, which accurately reflect publicly available documents and investigations of spas run by Cindy Yang and her family." And a lawyer for the Herald noted that the lawsuit could entail taking depositions from Trump's family members who appeared in photos Yang posted online.

May 16

Hatiz Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi's fiancee, testifies before a U.S. House Committee on May 16, 2019

Hatiz Cengiz, fiancee of murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, testifies before a U.S. House Committee on May 16, 2019 (Aljazeera photo)

 washington post logoWashington Post, ‘I am asking for justice:’ Khashoggi’s fiancee urges Congress to put more pressure on Saudi Arabia in the wake of journalist’s killing, Felicia Sonmez, May 16, 2019. The fiancee of Jamal Khashoggi called Thursday for members of Congress to put greater pressure on Saudi Arabia to answer questions related to the Saudi journalist’s slaying, telling lawmakers, “I am asking for justice.”

jamal khashoggi western suit“This act — this murder — was a great brutality, and the last seven, eight months, nothing was done,” Hatice Cengiz said at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the dangers of reporting on human rights. “We still do not know why he was killed. We don’t know where his corpse is.”

She urged lawmakers to press Saudi Arabia’s leaders and sanction the kingdom in response to the killing of Khashoggi, right, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post.

“In the early days, President Trump said that this would be solved,” Cengiz said. “And Ms. Pelosi talked about how unacceptable this was. But seven, eight months later, we see that nothing has been done, and that is why I’m here today.”

May 15

ny times logoamazon logo smallNew York Times, Amazon and Google on a Collision Course as They Expand, Daisuke Wakabayashi and Karen Weise, May 15, 2019 (print ed.). Amazon wants to sell ads. Google wants to woo shoppers. The two tech giants now have a range of competing interests.

google logo customFor years, Google and Amazon stuck to their strengths. Google’s search monopoly and universe of online services seemed to present little overlap with Amazon’s web commerce empire. But as the ambitions of each have expanded, it is becoming unavoidably, inescapably clear that the technology giants are heading for a collision.

 whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, Commentary: Truth? WTF Is That? Milicent Cranor, May 15, 2019. At a time when the American public seems to be more ignorant than ever, the tools of deception have become more sophisticated.

We live in an age of scams that trick the senses. Photos can be altered, films and videos can be manipulated to an exquisite degree of realism. Malware can add images of nonexistent cancerous lymph nodes to CT scans. Artificial intelligence can generate photorealistic images of people who do not even exist. Videos appear to show someone saying things in a speech they never said. Voice simulators can fool your nearest relative into thinking that’s you on the phone asking for $500 to spring you from a Turkish prison.

And then there are the sophisticated tools of psychological manipulation. The human sock puppets. The trolls who control the internet. The CIA, with its department of perception management and its assets in the media. The unlimited supply of bribable witnesses who will swear to anything. And those who manufacture scandals, like the conservative activists who tried to frame presidential candidate Peter Buttigieg for sexual assault.

David Swanson, Book Review: Where Lyme Disease Came From and Why It Eludes Treatment, david swanson headDavid Swanson, May 15, 2019 (excerpted). A new book called Bitten: The Secret History of Lyme Disease and Biological Weapons by Kris Newby adds significantly to our understanding of Lyme disease, while oddly seeming to avoid mention of what we already knew.

Newby claims (in 2019) that if a scientist named Willy Burgdorfer had not made a confession in 2013, the secret that Lyme disease came from a biological weapons program would have died with him. Yet, in 2004 Michael Christopher Carroll published a book called Lab 257: The Disturbing Story of the Government’s Secret Germ Laboratory. He appeared on several television shows to discuss the book, including on NBC’s Today Show, where the book was made a Today Show Book Club selection. Lab 257 hit the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list soon after its publication.

Newby’s book reaches the same conclusion as Carroll’s, namely that the most likely source of diseased ticks is Plum Island. Newby reaches this conclusion on page 224 after mentioning Plum Island only once in passing in a list of facilities on page 47 and otherwise avoiding it throughout the book. This is bizarre, because Newby’s book otherwise goes into great depth, and even chronicles extensive research efforts that lead largely to dead ends, and because there is information available about Plum Island, and because Carroll’s best-selling book seems to demand comment, supportive or dismissive or otherwise.

In fact, I think that, despite the avoidance of any discussion of Plum Island, Newby’s research complements Carroll’s quite well, strengthens the same general conclusion, and then adds significant new understanding. So, let’s look at what Carroll told us, and then at what Newby adds.

Less than 2 miles off the east end of Long Island sits Plum Island, where the U.S. government makes or at least made biological weapons, including weapons consisting of diseased insects that can be dropped from airplanes on a (presumably foreign) population. One such insect is the deer tick, pursued as a germ weapon by the Nazis, the Japanese, the Soviets, and the Americans.

Deer swim to Plum Island. Birds fly to Plum Island. The island lies in the middle of the Atlantic migration route for numerous species. “Ticks,” Carroll writes, “find baby chicks irresistible.”

In July of 1975 a new or very rare disease appeared in Old Lyme, Connecticut, just north of Plum Island. And what was on Plum Island? A germ warfare lab to which the U.S. government had brought former Nazi germ warfare scientists in the 1940s to work on the same evil work for a different employer. These included the head of the Nazi germ warfare program who had worked directly for Heinrich Himmler. On Plum Island was a germ warfare lab that frequently conducted its experiments out of doors. After all, it was on an island. What could go wrong? Documents record outdoor experiments with diseased ticks in the 1950s (when we know that the United States was using such weaponized life forms in North Korea). Even Plum Island’s indoors, where participants admit to experiments with ticks, was not sealed tight.

And test animals mingled with wild deer, test birds with wild birds.

By the 1990s, the eastern end of Long Island had by far the greatest concentration of Lyme disease. If you drew a circle around the area of the world heavily impacted by Lyme disease, which happened to be in the Northeast United States, the center of that circle was Plum Island.

Plum Island experimented with the Lone Star tick, whose habitat at the time was confined to Texas. Yet it showed up in New York and Connecticut, infecting people with Lyme disease — and killing them. The Lone Star tick is now endemic in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

If Newby agrees or disagrees with any of the above, she does not inform us. But here’s what she adds to it.

The outbreak of unusual tick-borne disease around Long Island Sound actually started in 1968, and it involved three diseases: Lyme arthritis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and babesiosis. A U.S. bioweapons scientist, Willy Burgdorfer, credited in 1982 with discovering the cause of Lyme disease, may have put the diseases into ticks 30 years earlier. And his report on the cause of Lyme disease may have involved a significant omission that has made it harder to diagnose or cure. The public focus on only one of the three diseases has allowed a disaster that could have been contained to become widespread.

Newby, who has herself suffered from Lyme disease, blames the profit interests of companies and the corruption of government for the poor handling of Lyme disease. But her writing suggests to me a possibility she doesn’t raise, namely that those who know where Lyme disease came from have avoided properly addressing it because of where it came from.

Newby assumes throughout the book that there has to have been a particular major incident near Long Island Sound, either an accident or an experiment on the public or an attack by a foreign nation. Burgdorfer reportedly claimed to another researcher that Russia stole U.S. bioweapons. Based on that and nothing else, Newby speculates that perhaps Russia attacked the United States with diseased ticks, coincidentally right in the location where the U.S. government experimented with diseased ticks.

May 14

Media Matters, Opinion: How Fox News pushed a debunked conspiracy theory -- and then rewarded those involved, Matt Gertz, May 14, 2019. Two years ago, Fox News published seth richa story that promoted the conspiracy theory that murdered DNC staffer Seth Rich, right, and not the Russians, had provided DNC emails to Wikileaks. Fox would retract the story a week later, before promising an investigation. That investigation never actually happened -- so we did it for them.

There were five parts to the investigation -- and a comprehensive timeline as well:

• Part 1: Horrible sourcing led to the discredited report. The report that led to the entire event was sourced to a "federal investigator" from an unnamed government agency. The only corroboration was then-Fox contributor Rod Wheeler saying his investigation was "consistent" with that allegation. Based on this flimsy (at best) evidence, Fox published a story that Rich was a source for WikiLeaks, and that Democrats were engaged in a widespread effort to cover it up.

• Part 2: Fox's "news" side correspondent pushed the conspiracy theory on air. Fox News correspondent Griff Jenkins reported on this story for Fox & Friends, putting the credibility of Fox's news side behind it. Jenkins hyped "bombshell new evidence" and even vouched for Wheeler at one point.

fox news logo Small Part 3: Laura Ingraham's ghastly attack on Seth Rich's family. At one point during Fox & Friends's coverage of this conspiracy theory, Laura Ingraham suggested that Rich's parents were squelching efforts to find out the truth about their son’s death for partisan or monetary gain.

• Part 4: Jay Sekulow helped Hannity promote the conspiracy theory -- and then became Trump's lawyer. Just a few weeks before he became Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow appeared on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show to express support for the conspiracy theory about Seth Rich. Sekulow's motives were clear, saying “I think this whole Russian argument, Sean, is such subterfuge from reality.”

• Part 5: Everyone involved was rewarded . How did Fox News responded to this retracted report? As far as we know, no one was punished. In fact, several people involved were actually promoted. The person who edited the story was promoted to managing editor of FoxNews.com. Hannity's executive producer at the time was promoted to vice president and editor-in-chief of Fox News digital. Laura Ingraham was given her own show (where predictably enough she faced backlash for going after the family and friends of victims of gun violence). Newt Gingrich still appears regularly on the network. And, of course, Hannity has faced no negative consequences whatsoever. As one senior Fox employee told CNN at the time: "No one ever gets fired from Fox for publishing a story that isn't true."

• A complete timeline. We've put all the relevant information in one place, in an easy to download and easy to read PDF.

So, why do this? There are some powerful people even today who think that Fox News is like any other news organization, save for a few bigoted opinion hosts. Those people are wrong. Fox News takes conspiracy theories from the fever swamps, and injects them into mainstream GOP politics. It rewards people who participate in this farce, no matter what they got wrong. Fox News is rotten to the core, and sadly, too many people still don't realize it.

May 13

Officials Ramp Up WikiLeaks Crackdown

Consortium News, Sweden Reopens 9-Year Old Rape Investigation Against Julian Assange; Seeks His Extradition, Joe Lauria, May 13, 2019. Sweden’s deputy director of public prosecution, Eva-Marie Persson, said Monday that Sweden would seek the extradition of Julian Assange to face a nearly ten-year old allegation of rape.

julian assange head bookAssange (shown in a file photo) is serving a 50-week sentence at Belmarsh prison in London for skipping bail in the rape case in 2012. Assange had lived inside the Ecuadorian embassy from June 2012 to April 11 this year, when Ecuador lifted his asylum and allowed British police to enter the embassy and arrest him.

eva marie persson deputy public proecutorOn the same day the United States unveiled a sealed indictment accusing Assange of intrusion into a government computer. The U.S. also filed an extradition request for Assange.

Persson (shown at left) told a press conference in Stockholm on Monday that it would be up to British authorities to determine which extradition request — to Sweden or to the U.S. — would take precedence. She also said she wouldn’t speculate on an extradition request from the U.S. to Sweden since one had not yet been made. The BBC reported that “the decision as to which of the two requests take precedence will be made by UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid. He would make his decision primarily on the basis of which alleged offence was considered to be more serious. Rape is likely to be considered more serious than conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. That would mean ordering Assange’s extradition to Sweden.”

Britain may take the opportunity to wash its hands of the politically thorny case of extraditing a publisher to the United States by sending him to Sweden instead, though Persson said Assange could not then be extradited to the U.S. from Sweden without Britain’s consent.

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

RT, Ecuador will give US all documents & devices Assange left in London embassy – report, Staff and wire reporting, May 13, 2019.Ecuador's attorney general has informed Julian Assange's lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder's files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search of the London embassy and sent to the US.

sweden flagWikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tried unsuccessfully to retrieve Assange's personal belongings from Ecuador's UK embassy, where he had been holed up for almost seven years before his arrest and incarceration last month. However, the Ecuadorian government has reportedly greenlighted a US request to provide it with access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April 11.

ecuador flagAlso on rt.com WikiLeaks editor denied entry to Ecuadorian Embassy to retrieve Assange’s belongings

The searches are set to be conducted by police on May 20, El Pais reported, citing a notice sent to Assange's Ecuadorian lawyer Carlos Poveda.

Personal files, Assange's computer, mobile phones, memory sticks, CDs and any other electronic devices uncovered during the searches will then be seized and sent to the US as a part of Ecuador's response to the Department of Justice's judicial request. The US is currently building a case to extradite Assange on hacking charges.

The files contain troves of sensitive information, include communication with lawyers and other legal documents – which, the lawyers argue, deprive him of the right to a proper defense. Having this data will potentially allow the US to "build and create new charges" to extradite Assange in violation of Ecuador's own asylum policies.

julian assange indicter imageNews of the looming handover came as a bolt out of the blue for Assange's defense team, Poveda told RT Spanish, adding that it's impossible to be sure that his things in the embassy haven't been tampered with already.

"Since Mr Assange left the embassy, we cannot know for sure what has been happening inside these rooms," he said. Lawyers have requested CCTV records for the period since Assange's arrest, Poveda said.

wikileaks logo2The US has until June 12 to build a case for extradition. Last week, Assange, who has been serving a 50-week sentence in a maximum-security Guantanamo Bay-style prison for skipping bail, faced an extradition judge for the first time. The WikiLeaks co-founder said he would not surrender himself to extradition for simply "doing journalism" that has earned his site many international awards.

Ecuador's attorney general has informed Julian Assange's lawyer that the WikiLeaks co-founder's files, computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices will be seized during a search of the London embassy and sent to the US.

WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tried unsuccessfully to retrieve Assange's personal belongings from Ecuador's UK embassy, where he had been holed up for almost seven years before his arrest and incarceration last month. However, the Ecuadorian government has reportedly greenlighted a US request to provide it with access to the documents and electronic devices left behind by the jailed WikiLeaks editor after he was hauled out of the embassy by the British police on April 11.

ny times logoNew York Times, Accused of ‘Terrorism’ for Putting Legal Materials Online, Adam Liptak, May 13, 2019. After Carl Malamud posted Georgia’s annotated laws, the state sued for copyright infringement. Both sides have asked the Supreme Court to step in. 

Carl Malamud believes in open access to government records, and he has spent more than a decade putting them online. You might think states would welcome the help.But when Mr. Malamud’s group posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the state sued for copyright infringement. Providing public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials, Georgia’s lawyers said, was part of a “strategy of terrorism.”

A federal appeals court ruled against the state, which has asked the Supreme Court to step in. On Friday, in an unusual move, Mr. Malamud’s group, Public.Resource.Org, also urged the court to hear the dispute, saying that the question of who owns the law is an urgent one, as about 20 other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted.

The issue, the group said, is whether citizens can have access to “the raw materials of our democracy.”

The state, through a legal publisher, makes the statutes themselves available online, and it has said it does not object to Mr. Malamud doing the same thing. But people who want to see other materials in the books, the state says, must pay the publisher.

This is part of a disturbing trend, according to a new law review article, “Who Owns the Law? Why We Must Restore Public Ownership of Legal Publishing,” by Leslie Street, a law professor and librarian at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., and David Hansen, a librarian at Duke. It will be published in The Journal of Intellectual Property Law.

States have struck deals with legal publishers, the article said, that have effectively privatized the law.

Reporters Without Borders, Media Weekly Roundup: Connecticut reporter detained while covering protest, Staff and wire reports, May 13, 2019. Police detained reporter Tara O’Neill on May 9 while she covered a demonstration. O’Neill, who works for Hearst Connecticut Media, was covering a protest in Bridgeport, Connecticut, marking the second anniversary of a police shooting that killed a 15-year-old boy.

When officers ordered everyone off the street during the protest, O’Neill identified herself as a journalist, but was still handcuffed and taken to police headquarters. She was detained for about 30 minutes and eventually released without charge. “The fact that a local journalist was arrested for doing her job and reporting on the actions of police and protesters is extremely troubling,” said Matt DeRienzo, vice president of news and digital content for Hearst Connecticut Media. “The public deserves a full explanation of how it happened and what steps will be taken to make sure that the freedom of the press and the public’s right to know is not infringed upon like this in the future.” There was no comment from the police department.

See also: FOIA restrictions would shield DC officials who use email for personal business: Lawmakers in Washington, DC, are proposing a change in the city’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law that grant any person the right to request access to federal agency records or information. The proposed changes would restrict records requests for government emails to matters relating only to official business, excluding personal emails and conversations. The proposal would also allow DC government agencies to reject requests that don’t include specific details about the documents being requested. T

here are concerns that these proposals could prevent the general public and reporters from exposing ethical breaches in which government officials mix public and private business. The DC Council chairman, who proposed the legislation, said the change is aimed at lowering the number of FOIA requests received, which have put “an increasing burden on our general counsel.”

Assad 2018 Chemical Attack Was Faked: Report

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Syria -- OPCW Engineering Assessment: The Douma 'Chemical Weapon Attack' Was Staged, b, May 13, 2019. On April 7 2018 Syrian 'rebels' claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed dead bodies of mainly women and children.

The claim of the 'chemical attack' was made shortly after U.S. President Trump had announced that he wanted U.S. troops to leave Syria. It was designed to "pull him back in" which it indeed did. In an illegal 'retaliation' the U.S., Britain and France launched a number of cruise missiles against Syria. Most of them failed to reach their targets.

Moon of Alabama published a number of pieces on the issue which are listed below.

It seemed obvious from the very first claims of the 'gas attack' that it did not happen at all. The Syrian government had no motive to use any chemical weapon or an irritant like chlorine in Douma. It had already won the battle. The incident was obviously staged, like others before it, to drag the U.S. into a new attack on Syria.

Shortly after the incident the NATO aligned propaganda group Bellingcat asserted that the cylinders were dropped from helicopters. In June 2018 the New York Times published a rather laughable virtual crime scene analysis of the Douma incident. Neither included an engineering assessment of the impact forces and the related damages on the cylinders and roofs. Neither had visited the scene. From observing superficial visual markings both falsely concluded that the gas cylinders were dropped from helicopters.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which sent a Fact Finding Mission to the scene to investigate the case, made a detailed engineering analysis of the impact and damage. But the results of the engineering assessment were left out of its mealy-mouthed and inconclusive final report (pdf).

Now the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media obtained a copy of the 15 pages long OPCW Engineering assessment of two cylinders observed at the Douma incident.

The engineering assessment confirms our earlier conclusion. The whole scene as depicted by 'rebels' and propaganda organs was staged. The more than 34 dead on the scene were murdered elsewhere under unknown circumstances.

In its discussion of the OPCW engineering assessment and its suppression by the OPCW management, the Working Group states:

The cover-up of evidence that the Douma incident was staged is not merely misconduct. As the staging of the Douma incident entailed mass murder of civilians, those in OPCW who have suppressed the evidence of staging are, unwittingly or otherwise, colluding with mass murder.

Earlier coverage of the Douma incident published by Moon of Alabama:

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?
April 16 - Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down
April 19 - Syria - Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?
April 20 - Syria Sitrep - Cleanup Around Damascus - WMD Rumors Prepare For New U.S. Attack
July 6 - Syria - OPCW Issues First Report Of 'Chemical Weapon Attack' in Douma
July 7 - Syria - Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma

May 12

Los Angeles Times, When a reporter would not betray his source, police came to his home with guns and a sledgehammer, Matt Hamilton, May 12, 2019. Police raided freelance journalist Bryan Carmody’s San Francisco home on May 10 and seized his equipment after he refused to reveal to them a confidential source. Two weeks prior, police appeared at Carmody’s house asking for the identity of a source who had shown Carmody a confidential police report following the February death of the city’s public defender.

About ten police reportedly entered Carmody’s house on Friday morning with a sledgehammer and a warrant claiming they were investigating “stolen or embezzled” property. He refused to disclose the identity of his source to the police or to FBI agents who questioned him about the case. He was then handcuffed for six hours as police ransacked his home with guns drawn and seized his electronic devices, taking at least four tablets, seven computers, 10 hard drives, a dozen phones and two cameras, as well as notebooks Carmody used while reporting.

They eventually found the police report in a safe in Carmody’s home. While San Francisco Police Department defended its actions in a statement, calling the raid “one step in the process of investigating a potential case of obstruction of justice,” press freedom advocates have raised concerns that the raid was in violation of California’s Shield Law.

May 11

Trentonian, Trentonian reporter Isaac Avilucea sues state prosecutors for attacking his reputation, Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman, May 11, 2019. Award-winning Trentonian news reporter Isaac Avilucea is seeking damages and demanding a trial by jury in a lawsuit he filed against bigwigs from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

His complaint against Deputy Attorneys General John Tolleris and Erin O’Leary accuses them of being “motivated by malice” when they falsely attempted to portray Avilucea as a lawbreaking journalist.

The complaint, filed May 7 in the Mercer County Superior Court Law Division, is centered upon the harrowing tale of 2016 and 2017 when representatives of the state AG’s office tried to prevent Avilucea and The Trentonian from publishing sensitive information about a boy who twice brought drugs to school.

Avilucea lawfully obtained a child custody report about a 5-year-old boy who was found with drugs at school on two separate occasions, but Tolleris accused the journalist of stealing the documents, and O’Leary falsely painted Avilucea as an unethical reporter who would do anything to get a story, according to the allegations in his lawsuit and courtroom testimony.

The state temporarily succeeded in silencing The Trentonian for five months, but Avilucea ultimately prevailed in March 2017 when a judge vindicated him and allowed the newspaper to publish articles containing information from the child custody report.

Although he prevailed, Avilucea says he emerged from the ordeal with “serious and irreparable physical and emotional harm” as a direct result of what Tolleris and O’Leary put him through. The journalist also accuses state AG representatives of “retaliation,” saying the authorities had a prior bias against him stemming from his coverage of a police-involved shooting.

On Oct. 26, 2016, Avilucea and The Trentonian were served with a prior restraint, which prevents a media outlet from publishing a story. Avilucea lawfully obtained a child custody report about a 5-year-old boy who was found with drugs at school on two occasions.

A teacher at the former International Charter School of Trenton found the student with 30 packets of heroin in his lunchbox in September 2016. About a month later, child welfare officials were again called out to the boy’s school after a teacher found crack cocaine in his folder, according to court documents lawfully obtained by Avilucea.

A Mercer County Civil Courthouse video feed showed Tashawn Ford, the boy’s mother, had handed over those documents to Avilucea in an open and voluntary fashion. The state, however, attempted to prevent The Trentonian from publishing information contained in the child custody report. DAG Tolleris “accosted” Avilucea and “demanded” him to turn over the documents. Avilucea refused, and Tolleris therefore “ordered” sheriff’s officers to “detain” Avilucea at the courthouse on allegations he possessed stolen property, Avilucea alleges in his complaint.

May 9

ny times logochris hughes wNew York Times, Opinion: It’s Time to Break Up Facebook, Chris Hughes (co-founder of Facebook, age 36, shown at right) May 9, 2019. Mark Zuckerberg (below at left) is a good guy. But the company I helped him build is a threat to our economy and democracy. The last time I saw Mark Zuckerberg was in the summer of 2017, several months before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. We met at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif., office and drove to his house, in a quiet, leafy neighborhood. We spent an hour or two together while his toddler daughter cruised around. We talked politics mostly, a little about Facebook, a bit about our families. When the shadows grew long, I had to head out. I hugged his wife, Priscilla, and said goodbye to Mark.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wSince then, Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, facebook logobecause Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

Mark is a good, kind person. But I’m angry that his focus on growth led him to sacrifice security and civility for clicks. I’m disappointed in myself and the early Facebook team for not thinking more about how the News Feed algorithm could change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders. And I’m worried that Mark has surrounded himself with a team that reinforces his beliefs instead of challenging them.

Reuters via MSN, U.S. charges ex-intelligence analyst with leaking classified documents, Sarah N. Lynch and Susan Heavey, May 9, 2019. A former intelligence analyst was arrested on Thursday over allegations he illegally obtained and disclosed classified national defense information to a journalist, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

nsa official logoThe analyst, Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, had worked at the National Security Agency (NSA) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), and began communicating with the reporter starting in 2013, the department said.

Classified documents were later published by the reporter's online news outlet, the government alleged, without naming the publication or the journalist.

Reuters could not immediately determine the lawyer representing Hale.

The charges unsealed against Hale on Thursday marked the latest in a broad crackdown on media leaks by the Justice Department that started when Jeff Sessions was Attorney General.

During the Trump administration, the government has filed several criminal cases against leakers, including former intelligence analyst Reality Winner who divulged a report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to the Intercept news website.

Hale, who had served in the U.S. Air Force, is charged with five criminal counts, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, the Justice Department said.

According to the indictment, Hale was assigned to work at the NSA while serving on Air Force active duty from December 2011 to May 2013, and later that year also worked as a defense contractor assigned to the NGA.

In April 2013 while he was still at the NSA, prosecutors say Hale met a reporter at a book tour event in Washington.

The next month, Hale confided to a friend that the reporter wanted him to "tell my story about working with drones at the opening screening of (the reporter's) documentary about the war and the use of drones," according to the indictment.

The next month, Hale confided to a friend that the reporter wanted him to "tell my story about working with drones ... and the use of drones," according to the indictment.

After multiple meetings with the reporter, the government said, in February 2014 Hale printed six documents from his classified computer related to his work at NGA and then texted the reporter to see if they could meet in Washington.

The documents were later published by the reporter's online news outlet, the indictment says. Hale is accused of printing a total of 36 top secret documents from his computer, nine of which were related to his NGA work. Of those, he allegedly provided 17 to the reporter or to the reporter's news outlet.

 daniel hale jeremy schahill 2013 cropped screenshot

Author Jeremy Scahill, left, with former intelligence analyst Daniel E. Hale in 2013 at Scahill's book lecture at the Busboys and Poets store in Washington, DC (screengrab).

Moon of Alabama, Opinion: Whom Not To Trust - U.S. Government Indicts Another Intercept Source, b, May 9, 2019. Another source that provided government secrets to The Intercept has been uncovered and indicted by the U.S. government. The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The online magazine is financed by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of Ebay, who's is known for many shady connection to Obama administration and for promoting various regime change efforts.

In June 2017 we wrote about the first case in which an Intercept source got burned:

Yesterday The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.

FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept's reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching one's head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way - the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

Our mistrust towards The Intercept get reinforced by the arrest of another of The Intercept's sources.

Today the Justice Department arrested and charged a former U.S. Airforce soldier, Daniel Everette Hale, 31, of Nashville, Tennessee, who had worked at the National Security Agency (NSA), as an intelligence analyst in Afghanistan, and at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGIA). The Justice Department alleges that Hale leaked several secret and top secret powerpoint presentations and papers to an online outlet:

According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in April 2013, while enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and assigned to the NSA, Hale began communicating with a reporter. Hale met with the reporter in person on multiple occasions, and, at times, communicated with the reporter via an encrypted messaging platform. Then, in February 2014, while working as a cleared defense contractor at NGA, Hale printed six classified documents unrelated to his work at NGA and soon after exchanged a series of messages with the reporter. Each of the six documents printed were later published by the reporter’s news outlet.

According to allegations in the indictment, while employed as a cleared defense contractor for NGA, Hale printed from his Top Secret computer 36 documents, including 23 jeremy scahilldocuments unrelated to his work at NGA. Of the 23 documents unrelated to his work at NGA, Hale provided at least 17 to the reporter and/or the reporter’s online news outlet, which published the documents in whole or in part. Eleven of the published documents were classified as Top Secret or Secret and marked as such.

The indictment, filed on March 7 under seal, includes a list of the meetings and communications that Hale had with the reporter. The first one took place during the reporter's book tour in April 2013 in Washington DC. During that time frame Jeremy Scahill, left, one of the Intercept's founding editors, was on a national book tour promoting his book about Blackwater.

Several stories written by Scalhill based on secret documents were published in the time frames given in the indictment. There are more documents that Scahill published about that fit the time frame and the descriptions in the indictment. In July 23 2014 The Intercept published Blacklisted - The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist.

Consortium News, Opinion: The Revelations of WikiLeaks: No. 2 —The Leak That ‘Exposed the True Afghan War,’ Elizabeth Vos, May 9, 2019. The Afghan Diaries set off a firestorm when it julian assange head bookrevealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad, and the covert role of Pakistan in the conflict.

This is the second article in a series that is looking back on the major works of the publication that has altered the world since its founding in 2006. The series is an effort to counter mainstream media coverage, which is ignoring WikiLeaks’ work, and is instead focusing on Julian Assange’s personality. It is WikiLeaks’ uncovering of governments’ crimes and corruption that set the U.S. after Assange, shown in a file photo, and which ultimately led to his arrest on April 11.

The Diaries revealed the suppression of civilian casualty figures, the existence of an elite U.S.-led death squad & the covert role of Pakistan & Iran in the conflict, and set off a firestorm.

Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake Tribune seeks to become a nonprofit ‘community asset,’ a first for a legacy newspaper, Tony Semerad, May 9, 2019. After years of heavy financial losses, The Salt Lake Tribune is pursuing federal approval to become a nonprofit operation sustained by donations large and small.

Owner Paul Huntsman, who bought Utah’s largest newspaper in 2016, confirmed his lawyers have approached the IRS about changing The Tribune from a privately owned business to a community asset.

The wealthy businessman said he sees the transformation as the best way to sustain the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper and maintain its independence.
Though in its early stages, the move by the 148-year-old publication would mark the first attempt by a legacy U.S. daily to switch to nonprofit status and comes as hundreds of print outlets across the country are strained due to plunging advertising revenues.

In a twofold strategy, attorneys have already sought IRS approval to create an endowed nonprofit foundation to support independent journalism in Utah, with The Tribune as a major recipient of its largesse. The newspaper will also pursue its own nonprofit status as a 501(c)(3), in effect transferring its ownership from Huntsman to a public board. The newspaper currently cannot legally accept tax-deductible donations.

May 8

juan guaido puppet Custom

Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) via Salon, Failed Venezuela coup was fake news — designed to fool people in two nations, Dave Lindorff, May 8, 2019. CNN and the New York Times made major reporting errors in covering the failed coup. Was it laziness or propaganda?

After days of breathless reporting in the U.S. media about public and military support for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro collapsing, and about an April 30 coup by presidential poseur Juan Guaidó (shown above in a graphic), we now know the truth: The whole thing was a fraud, staged at the instigation of Washington in hopes that the Venezuelan people andrank-and-file troops would fall for the trick and think an actual coup was underway.

We also know, from an excellent May 2 report by Michael Fox in the Nation, that the U.S. mainstream media and its reporters in country were promoting that dangerous fraud.

CNN ran Juan Guaido’s video, in which he falsely claimed to be “in the La Carlota air force base.”

Take CNN. In its reporting on the “uprising” announced by Guaidó on Tuesday, April 30, it ran a video from social media depicting Guaidó, accompanied by opposition leader Leopoldo López, along with some armed men in uniform, said to be military defectors, standing behind them. The video claimed they were on the La Carlota military airfield in eastern Caracas, which Guaidó said had been “liberated.” According to CNN, he was addressing “thousands of supporters” on the scene, urging the rest of the Venezuelan military to join the coup and oust the “usurper” Maduro.

But as Michael Fox and other observers noted, CNN didn’t show those “thousands” of supporters — because there were none. Nor did the cable network explain in its report that Guaidó and López were not actually at the airbase, but rather were standing on a highway overpass outside the base — which was, in fact, never in rebel hands at all.
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Guaidó and his “deserting” soldiers quickly left the scene as government troops headed their way, with López later that day holing up in the Chilean and eventually the Spanish embassy, seeking asylum for himself and his family, and with some two dozen soldiers who had deserted in support of Guaidó asking for asylum in the Brazilian embassy.

There are two possibilities here: Either CNN’s U.S.-based editors were lied to by their reporters in Caracas, or they were well aware that their story of the takeover of a military airfield, along with reports of thousands of protesters on the scene in support of Guaidó, was a hoax. It’s not hard to imagine the latter being the truth, because CNN earlier was caught fraudulently reporting that Venezuelan troops had set aid trucks stopped at the Colombian border afire, when in fact the fires had been started by anti-Maduro protesters. Though this truth was proven by other reports and video, CNN never corrected its false story in that case, nor did it discipline its on-the-scene reporters.

Media / Press Freedom

washington post logodana milbank CustomWashington Post, Opinion, The White House revoked my press pass. It’s not just me — it’s curtailing access for all journalists, Dana Milbank, right, May 8, 2019. For the past 21 years, I have had the high privilege of holding a White House press pass, a magical ticket that gives the bearer a front-row seat to history.

I was in the White House the night Bill Clinton admitted his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and the day he was impeached. I was there on Sept. 11, 2001, and the fearful days thereafter, when we were trained to use escape hoods. I watched George W. Bush make the case for the Iraq War and Barack Obama pitch his remedies for the market crash. There, too, I have witnessed the carnival-like briefings and high histrionics of Donald Trump’s presidency.

But no more. The White House eliminated most briefings and severely restricted access to official events. And this week came the coup de grace: After covering four presidents, I received an email informing me that Trump’s press office had revoked my White House credential.

I’m not the only one. It was part of a mass purge of “hard pass” holders after the White House implemented a new standard that designated as unqualified almost the entire White House press corps, including all six of The Post’s White House correspondents. White House officials then chose which journalists would be granted “exceptions.” It did this over objections from news organizations and the White House Correspondents’ Association.

The Post requested exceptions for its six White House reporters and for me, saying that this access is essential to our work (in my case, I often write “sketches” describing the White House scene). The White House press office granted exceptions to the other six, but not to me. I strongly suspect it’s because I’m a Trump critic. The move is perfectly in line with Trump’s banning of certain news organizations, including The Post, from his campaign events, and his threats to revoke White House credentials of journalists he doesn’t like.

White House officials provided me no comment for the record.

I’m not looking for pity. Trump’s elimination of briefings and other changes have devalued White House coverage anyway. But there’s something wrong with a president having the power to decide which journalists can cover him.

Now, virtually the entire White House press corps is credentialed under “exceptions,” which means, in a sense, that they all serve at the pleasure of press secretary Sarah Sanders because they all fail to meet credentialing requirements — and therefore, in theory, can have their credentials revoked any time they annoy Trump or his aides, like CNN’s Jim Acosta did.

In response, it seems, the White House established a clear — if nearly impossible — standard: no credentials to any journalist who is not in the building on at least 90 out of the previous 180 days — in other words, seven of every 10 workdays. The White House wouldn’t provide numbers, but it appears most of the White House press corps didn’t qualify for credentials under the new standard, including regulars for The Post and the Associated Press. (Trump, who has spent more than 200 days at Trump properties and many more on travel, is barely in the White House this much himself.)

More important is that the White House is drastically curtailing access for all journalists. Briefings have been abolished in favor of unscheduled “gaggles” ( on the record, but impromptu and haphazard) in the White House driveway. The Pentagon and State Department have done similarly.

The White House has also restricted access by allowing only one journalist from a news organization at most events, and by admitting journalists to events only if they register days in advance. This has sharply reduced journalists’ attendance at the White House — just in time for the 90-day attendance purge.

Justice Integrity Project, Google Bans Iran's Press TV; What's Next? Guest columnists J. Michael Springmann and Edward C. Corrigan, May 8, 2019. What? On April 19, 2019 (the date of the original Patriots' Day in New England), American tech giant Google disabled the accounts of Press TV, an Iranian news service, and its sister channel HispanTV, an outlet in Spain.

Google denied their access to all its services, including its popular video streaming platform YouTube and its E-mail service Gmail. The company's move took place without prior notice or subsequent explanation.

May 7

Press Freedom / Human Rights

kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

ny times logoNew York Times, Myanmar Releases Reuters Journalists Jailed for Reporting on Rohingya Crackdown, Russell Goldman and Mike Ives, May 7, 2019 (print ed.). Two prizewinning Reuters journalists were released from prison in Myanmar on Tuesday after more than a year in detention for covering the country’s deadly crackdown on the Rohingya minority group, ending a drama that had brought global scrutiny upon the country’s de facto civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

myanmar mapThe two reporters, U Wa Lone, 33 (above rigth), and U Kyaw Soe Oo, 29 (above left, shown in file photos), were arrested in December 2017. They were sentenced in September to seven years in prison under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act for receiving documents from a police officer as part of their investigation into a 2017 massacre of 10 Rohingya villagers.

The men, along with their Reuters colleagues, were awarded in April the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, one of journalism’s most coveted and prestigious honors.

On Tuesday morning, they were mobbed by reporters as they emerged from Insein Prison in Yangon, the country’s largest city. They were both smiling as they walked away from the prison’s gates in the sunshine.

Mr. Wa Lone flashed a thumbs-up sign. “I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues,” he told reporters. “I can’t wait to go to my newsroom.”


The Atlantic, Product Review: Fact-Checking the President in Real Time, Jonathan Rauch, May 7, 2019 (June 2019 Issue). It’s February 2019, and I’m waiting to see whether a robot will call the president of the United States a liar. I have tuned in to the State of the Union address, a speech that I haven’t missed more than a couple of times in my four decades of adulthood. Some addresses were soaring, some were slogs, and one, a magisterial performance by Ronald Reagan, was thrilling, because I watched it in the House chamber, from a press-gallery perch right behind the president.

But I have never had the sense of suspense I feel now, as I sit staring not at a TV, but at a password-protected website called FactStream. I log in and find myself facing a plain screen with a video player. It looks rudimentary, but it might be revolutionary.

May 6

ny times logoNew York Times, CBS Signals New Era, Naming Norah O’Donnell as Lead Anchor, John Koblin and Michael M. Grynbaum, May 6, 2019.  Ms. O’Donnell will become only the third woman ever to assume weekday solo anchoring duties for a network evening newscast.

cbs news logoVeterans like Bob Schieffer looked on as the news division’s first female president, Susan Zirinsky, stepped onto a makeshift stage for an announcement that would signal a new era for the network. Gayle King would be the centerpiece of “CBS This Morning.” Norah O’Donnell was the next anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” only the second woman to hold that role.

Ms. Zirinsky pitched the changes as a fresh start after a painful period for the House of Cronkite, whose hidebound culture had been rocked by declining ratings and workplace misconduct scandals involving Jeff Fager, the longtime leader of “60 Minutes,” and Charlie Rose, the former co-anchor of “CBS This Morning.”

Poynter, UnNews: An index of unreliable news websites, Barrett Golding, Barbara Allen and Daniel Funke (Undated). Misinformation is a thriving industry on the internet, supported by social media shares, advertising dollars and political donations. In the United States, scores of research reports try to measure how falsehoods spread online. These studies often require lists of untrustworthy “news” sources, but many of these lists have grown out-of-date and incomplete.

Better data means better results for researchers, reporters and readers. So the International Fact-Checking Network built a more complete dataset: UnNews, an index of unreliable news sites.

To create the index, we combined five major lists (see below), then eliminated the sites that were no longer active. We only used lists that were public and curated by established journalists or academics, contained original data (rather than information from other lists), stated their criteria for inclusion and defined how they graded different sites (see our methodology for more).

The index’s initial release relies on the five major lists’ determinations and definitions of “unreliable.” Our next release will include more sites and our the criteria we used for inclusion.

But for now, here are the databases of unreliable news sites that we pulled from to create our index:

  • FactCheck.org’s Misinformation Directory (FC), created by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Fake News Codex (FN), widely quoted by Snopes and others, maintained by web developer and data designer Chris Herbert.
  • OpenSources (OS), run by Merrimack University media studies professor Melissa Zimdars.
  • PolitiFact’s Fake News Almanac (PF), by PolitiFact, a joint project of the Tampa Bay Times and Poynter.
  • Snopes’ Field Guide to Fake News Sites and Hoax Purveyors (SN), created by Snopes, the oldest and largest online fact-checking organization.

May 5

Press Freedom / Repression: Myanmar

kyaw soe ooo left wa lone jorge silva reuters photo

washington post logoWashington Post, Security-tech companies once flocked to Myanmar. One firm’s tools were used against two journalists, Timothy McLaughlin, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Myanmar police had two Reuters journalists behind bars, but they wanted more. The reporters, Wa Lone (above right) and  Soe Oo (above at left), were lured into a meeting with police in December 2017 and arrested on claims of violating state secrecy laws as they reported on atrocities against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

The journalists’ detention was quickly condemned by media-freedom groups and rights activists around the world. Myanmar authorities, meanwhile, were not swayed by international pressure. As a next step, they wanted to comb the reporters’ cellphones, according to court documents and an attorney for the journalists.

Authorities turned to a cellphone-breaching technology from an Israeli company, Cellebrite, according to the documents and a defense lawyer’s account.

Cellebrite — which has since left the Myanmar market — was one of numerous technology companies that rushed into Myanmar as the country opened to greater foreign investment in recent years.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, Sinclair to buy regional Fox Sports networks for $9.6B, Staff report, May 5, 2019 (print ed.). Media company Sinclair Broadcasting Group is buying Fox’s regional sports networks for $9.6 billion. The Walt Disney Co. agreed to sell the networks to get regulatory approval for its $71 billion acquisition of Fox’s sinclair broadcast logo customentertainment assets, which was completed in March.

The 21 networks include exclusive local rights to 42 professional teams, including 14 Major League Baseball teams, 16 National Basketball Association teams and 12 National Hockey League teams. Hunt Valley, Maryland-based Sinclair is also buying Fox College Sports. The New York Yankees’ YES Network is being sold separately by Disney.

May 4

Lawfare, The Cyberlaw Podcast: NewsGuard Takes on Fake News, Stewart Baker, March 4, 2019. Our interview is with two men who overcame careers as lawyers and journalists to become serial entrepreneurs now trying to solve the “fake news” problem. Gordon Crovitz and Steve Brill co-founded NewsGuard to rate news sites on nine journalistic criteria—using, of all things, real people instead of algorithms.

By the end of the interview, I’ve confessed myself a reluctant convert to the effort. This is despite NewsGuard’s treatment of Instapundit, which Gordon Crovitz and I both read regularly but which has not received a green check.

May 3

Vice News, “We’re drinking now”: The oldest newspaper in New Orleans just fired its entire staff, David Uberti, May 3, 2019. One of the nation’s last local newspaper wars is officially over. Owners of the New Orleans Advocate announced Thursday that they had bought The Times-Picayune, ending a six-year battle for media turf in a cultural capital grappling with inequality and the long-term fallout from Hurricane Katrina.

In the end, the upstart Advocate, a Baton Rouge-based organization that launched its New Orleans edition in late 2012, overtook the 182-year-old Times-Picayune, which wilted in recent years under wayward ownership of the national chain Advance Publications. The purchase announced Thursday promised to create a unified daily newspaper and website — publishing under both organizations’ flags — held in local hands.
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“This is a trophy,” John Georges, the New Orleans grocery wholesaler who now owns both publications, told VICE News. “We've been competing with the Times-Picayune for the past six years, and we were very successful. But despite that success, there is overlap.”

In an industry where companies are frantically consolidating to cut budgets and stay afloat, that’s code for job losses. “I bought the assets yesterday,” Georges added, as opposed to the newsroom.

ny times logowoody allen tribeca festival 2009 david shankboneNew York Times, Woody Allen Pitched a Memoir. Publishers Weren’t Interested, Alexandra Alter and Cara Buckley, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). Woody Allen has been largely shunned by Hollywood. Celebrities who once vied for roles in his films now say they regret working with him. Amazon has backed out of a multimovie distribution deal with him.

Now, Allen (shown at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival) appears to be losing stature in another quarter of the entertainment industry: publishing.

In the last year, Allen quietly tried to sell a memoir, according to executives at four major publishing houses, only to be met with indifference or hard passes. Before the #MeToo movement roared to life, Allen’s memoir would probably have set off a bidding war and commanded six or seven figures, given his cultural status. But with his career all but derailed by resurfaced allegations that he molested his daughter Dylan Farrow nearly three decades ago — allegations that Allen denies and that have left Americans unsure whom to believe — the prospect of publishing his memoir seems to hold little appeal.

Executives at multiple publishing houses said that an agent representing Allen approached their companies about the memoir late last year, but that they made no offers, largely because of the negative publicity that working with Allen may have generated.

World Press Freedom Day

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why The Times Is Taking Down Its Paywall for 3 Days, Michael Slackman, May 3, 2019 (print ed.). As we mark World Press Freedom Day, our international editor asks each of us to imagine what would happen around the world if journalists, and the public, were not watching.

I am now The New York Times’s international editor, overseeing correspondents covering the world. When I was asked to write about World Press Freedom Day — a United Nations invention that once seemed like a nice acknowledgment and now feels more important than ever — my thoughts returned to [an] afternoon when the gunfire broke out.

After the shooting was over, grieving families pulled me into a morgue. They wanted a witness. Three bodies riddled with buckshot were laid out on cold metal tables, and one young man, very much alive, was leaning over his dead brother, gently caressing his face, kissing his cheeks, crying.

The government tried to do what governments always try to do: change the narrative. It said its forces had been fighting terrorists. But I was there. I saw the police shooting at peaceful protesters. And I worked for a news organization that had sent me there to report what I saw.

We are living at a moment in history when democratic values are under threat by authoritarian leaders. The internet, which holds such promise as a democratizing force, has been co-opted by people peddling divisive, hateful ideologies. Citizens around the world who want to speak out are under siege from their own governments.

Every day, journalists at The Times and other mission-driven, independent news organizations around the world work hard to hold the powerful to account. To celebrate their work and press freedom, The Times is taking down its paywall from May 3 to 5 so everyone who registers can browse as many articles as they like.

As you read today’s news, or some of the remarkable stories I mention here, consider: What if no one were watching?

May 2

Media News: WaPo Caught In Fake News?

Moon of Alabama, Fact Checker Commentary: Venezuela - Coup Failure Necessitates A New Policy, b, May 2, 2019. U.S. media, especially cable TV, is clearly working in favor of venezuela flag waving custom'regime change' in Venezuela. They even avoid to call the intended coup a coup.

Many U.S. journalists who regularly write on South America are extremely biased and have no qualms to lie. Consider this by Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga in today's Washington Post: "A pro-government rally on Wednesday next to Miraflores, the presidential palace, drew about 500 people, far fewer than the multiple rallies of thousands of people supporting Guaidó."

Now watch this drone clip of the described rally:

 One can also compare the WaPo take to the (similar biased) NYT account which at least gets some facts straight: "Across town in central Caracas, thousands of Mr. Maduro’s supporters dressed in red marched along the main highway toward the presidential palace. Most appeared to be retirees or public sector workers. Many were brought in from across the country by public buses that stretched for miles on the side of the highway....It was one of the biggest pro-government demonstrations in Caracas in months, underlining the government’s desire to portray strength and tenacity after the failed uprising."

washington post logoTo get a good picture of the situation in Venezuela and the upcoming new policies one has to combine many sources. Some media and reporters are simply much better than others. A few point how embarrassingly Tuesday's coup attempt and the crazy White House plans failed.

The Associated Press' Matt Lee and Ben Fox have a similar fair take: "For the third time this year, the big moment in Venezuela has turned into a bust. Trump administration officials had expected that Wednesday might turn out to be the beginning of the end for President Nicolas Maduro with senior government figures withdrawing support and the opposition launching a mass uprising with military backing."

The administration is somewhat split about which direction to take. The neoconservative hawks -- Bolton, Pompeo, Abrams and Rubio -- are looking for war, while their boss and the Pentagon are against launching one. Trump wants the votes of the millions of Cuba hawks in Florida, but he has no interest in launching a long war. The Pentagon knows that an invasion of Venezuela would lead to another decades long struggle

May 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Assange sentenced to nearly a year in prison for jumping bail, William Booth and Karla Adam​, May 1, 2019. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was sentenced Wednesday to 50 weeks in a British prison for jumping bail. He apologized to the court, but the judge said he had used his “privileged position” to show disdain for British law.

julian assange head bookAssange (shown in a file photo) next faces an extradition hearing in London related to separate and more serious charges in the United States of conspiring to hack a government password.

Assange, 47, appeared at London’s Southwark Crown Court wearing a black jacket and gray sweater, the bushy white beard seen during his arrest last month now neatly trimmed. He offered a letter of apology and answered the judge in a quiet voice from behind a glass wall in a bland courtroom packed with journalists taking notes.

The Australian citizen had faced up to a year in a British prison for his bail violation — the maximum penalty for such an offense. He broke his bail conditions in 2012 when he fled to the Ecuadoran Embassy in London after Sweden requested his extradition in a case involving sexual assault allegations, including rape. Assange has denied those accusations.

 

April

April 30

ny times logoNew York Times, John Singleton, ‘Boyz N the Hood’ Director, Dies at 51, Richard Sandomir, April 30, 2019 (print ed.). John Singleton, whose powerful debut film, Boyz N the Hood, john singletonearned him an Oscar nomination for best director, the first for an African-American, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 51.

His death, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, was confirmed in a family statement after he was taken off life support. Mr. Singleton had been admitted to the hospital on April 17, reportedly after having a stroke. His family said he had a history of hypertension.

His mother, Shelia Ward, said last week that he was in a coma and filed court papers asking to be appointed his temporary conservator. Several of his children at the time opposed her trying to take control of his medical and financial decision making and publicly disputed her assessment of his medical state.

"Boyz N the Hood,” a bleakly realistic film about three teenagers growing up amid gang violence in South Central Los Angeles, established Mr. Singleton’s credentials and placed him in the conversation with more established African-American directors like Spike Lee, Bill Duke, Julie Dash, Robert Townsend and Reginald Hudlin.

“When I was 18, I saw ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ ” Mr. Singleton said, referring to Mr. Lee’s 1986 breakthrough film, in a YouTube video in 2013. “The movie was so powerful to me, as a young black teen who grew up seeing movies with not a lot of people who looked like me.”

He was 22 when he began shooting “Boyz,” which follows Tre (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his friends Ricky (Morris Chestnut) and Doughboy (Ice Cube) as they try to avoid gangs and drugs. When Ricky is shot and killed by a gang member, Doughboy, his half brother, seeks revenge, but Tre backs away from retribution.

Mr. Singleton had graduated from film school less than a year earlier. He later conceded that when he made “Boyz N the Hood” he did not yet know how to direct a film.

“As the movie was going along, I was learning how to direct,” he said after a 25th-anniversary screening of the film in Manhattan in 2016. “As it becomes more intense and comes on to the third act, the camerawork is more and more fluid, because I’m getting better and better — and taking more chances.”

April 29

avengers endgame poster square crop Small

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Shows Movie Theaters Can Still Be on Top of the World, Brooks Barnes, April 29, 2019 (print ed.). Audiences have splintered into a million personalized subsets. Streaming services are sprouting like mushrooms. Attention spans are now measured in seconds.

For those reasons and others — a decade of stagnant attendance, studios that only seem to make sequels of sequels (of sequels) — movie theaters are seen as a dying business. Why trudge to a theater when Netflix is available in your pocket anytime you want?

Yet almost every multiplex on the planet was gridlocked over the weekend. Avengers: Endgame”took in $1.2 billion worldwide, arriving as the No. 1 movie in at least 54 countries. The euphorically reviewed movie collected a record-breaking $350 million in the United States and Canada, zooming past Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), which had opening-weekend sales of $248 million, or about $270 million in today’s dollars.

“It shows the power of theaters — the ability, even in a hyper-fragmented culture, to deliver that wildly big communal experience,” Megan Colligan, president of Imax Filmed Entertainment, said in an interview.

It also shows that Hollywood is increasingly reliant on spectacle to jolt people away from Facebook, Fortnite, Hulu and Netflix and into movie theaters.

richard lugar lugar center

Former U.S. Senate Foreign Relataions Committee Chairman Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) (Lugar Center photo).

National Press Club, Former Sen. Richard Lugar was a Reliable Source regular, Mark Schoeff Jr. and Andy Fisher, April 29, 2019. For many years during his career on Capitol Hill, former Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., had an apple and yogurt at his desk for lunch. When he joined the National Press Club in 2017, he became a lunchtime regular at the Reliable Source.

Lugar, the longest serving member of Congress from Indiana, died Sunday, April 28, at Inova Fairfax Heart and Vascular Institute in Virginia. The cause of death was complications from chronic inflammatory demylinating polyneuropathy. He was 87.

A former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar was the co-author of legislation with former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., that rid former Soviet bloc countries of thousands of nuclear weapons. He also served as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee during his Senate tenure from 1977-2013.

A former mayor of Indianapolis, Lugar founded the Lugar Center in 2013, a think tank devoted to issues he spent his career pursuing, such as nuclear disarmament, food and energy security and governance. The photo is from the center.

Club member Maureen Groppe wrote a comprehensive Lugar obituary for USA Today .

Lugar became a Club member in March 2017 shortly after the Lugar Center moved to the Willard Office Building. Lugar would walk across the street three times a week to have lunch at the Reliable Source.

Over the course of his career, he appeared at the Club several times. One significant moment was an event promoting the Free Flow of Information Act, a national reporter shield law on which he partnered with then Indiana Rep. Mike Pence.

Lugar had a fondness for the press dating back to being co-editor of his high school newspaper. Throughout his career, he consumed at least six newspapers a day, clipping and filing stories for later reference.

He was drawn to the Club as a speaker and lunch regular because of the dynamic people he could meet and enriching conversations he could have there.

"He also admired the work of the Press Club over his many years as a senator and thought the venue was a great place for serious exchanges between policymakers and the press," said Dan Diller, policy director at the Lugar Center and a longtime top Lugar Senate aide.

April 29

Justice Integrity Project, What Would James Bond Think? How the CIA Relied on 007 for inspiration in its plot to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, Thomas Maier, April 29, 2019. Introduction: Guest columnist Thomas Maier shares below an excerpt from his most recent book, Mafia Spies: The Inside Story of the CIA, Gangsters, JFK and Castro.

During America’s 1960 presidential campaign, Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro and his Russian-backed Communist regime loomed as one of the nation’s top issues. Rumors of a pending U.S. invasion were rampant. And talk about spying floated in the air, thanks to the popular novels about the adventures of the fictional British secret agent, James Bond.

But in real-life, only a few knew of the CIA’s top-secret plan for assassination of Castro by two mobsters, Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli -- apparently not even the candidates

April 24

Politico Magazine, How the Intercept Is Fueling the Democratic Civil War, Steven Perlberg, April 24, 2019. The national security site has found fresh energy as a savvy, progressive attack dog in national politics. But is it undermining its own side?

Founded in 2014 by muckraking national security journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill, the Intercept is still best-known for its first incarnation as an obsessive anti-surveillance reporting enterprise, and an activist voice for privacy and civil liberties—more anti-government than partisan. It built its reputation by publishing stories based on top-secret National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden; it also exposed the controversial U.S. drone strike program and revealed how a British intelligence agency sought to digitally surveil every Internet user.

pierre omidyar twitterBut as it gears up for 2020, the Intercept faces some big questions. One is whether its owner supports the war it is waging. The Intercept is almost totally funded by a single billionaire backer, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (right), who supports the site through parent organization First Look Media. Omidyar, who through a spokesperson declined to comment for this story, appears to live in a different political reality from his own publication. Intercept links are noticeably absent from his Twitter feed, which is filled with reflections on a supposed Trump-Russia conspiracy — pitting Omidyar against Intercept co-founding editor and columnist Greenwald, a deep skeptic of the media’s coverage of the Russia scandal.

And unlike the heroes of the Intercept’s political coverage, Omidyar isn’t some left-wing outsider; he’s a mainstream Democratic donor and was even a supporter of the conservative “Never Trump” super PAC. Several people I spoke to — sources inside the company and other media observers — are now asking: How much longer will the billionaire patron bankroll a news outlet so clearly at odds with his own politics?

ny times logoNew York Times, Julia Angwin Is Out as Editor of New Tech Watchdog Site The Markup, Sapna Maheshwari, April 24, 2019 (print ed.). For the last year, the investigative journalist Julia Angwin has been busy building The Markup, a nonprofit news site dedicated to scrutinizing technology and its effects on society.

The Markup raised more than $23 million in funding, a testament to the reputation that Ms. Angwin, the site’s editor in chief, and another of its founders, Jeff Larson, had established through their work at ProPublica, which they left last year. But on Monday evening, Ms. Angwin was fired from The Markup via email, just months before the site’s planned July start date. On Tuesday, five of the site’s seven editorial staff members resigned, citing her dismissal as the reason.

April 22

Mueller Probe / Media

washington post logomargaret sullivan 2015 photoWashington Post, Opinion: Mueller’s report proves why Trump loves Fox News — and why he needs it now more than ever, Margaret Sullivan, April 22, 2019 (print ed.). It’s no secret that Fox News and the Trump administration are deeply entwined: They are the conjoined twins of misinformation. 

So it hardly raised an eyebrow when the president took to Twitter on Thursday to urge everyone to tune in to Fox for Attorney General William P. Barr’s (misleading) prelude to the release of the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. The results were predictable: Fox’s early news coverage was somewhat straight — kept so largely by the presence of Fox’s designated truth-teller, Chris Wallace.

fox news logo SmallThe follow-up coverage and commentary, though, was outlandishly one-sided, led by Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who was allowed to spin frenetically for what seemed like endless minutes, offering such gems as “there’s not a single surprise” in the report. “Nothing to see here” was the clear message — nothing but the corrupt investigation itself.

I tuned in to Fox for a while Thursday morning, trying the experiment of using it as my only news source for an hour or two. When I emerged and started reading and watching elsewhere — and looked at the report for myself — I felt like I had returned from beyond the looking glass and was back in the real world.

April 21

Salon, Analysis: Reporter Sharmine Narwani on the secret history of America's defeat in Syria, Patrick Lawrence, April 21, 2019. After years covering the "main battlefield in World War III," Narwani says everything you think you know is wrong. When the war in Syria was recently declared decisively over, there were few correspondents or witnesses to turn to for a credible look at exactly what happened during eight years of conflict. The questions were many, but I could count on one hand those worth putting them to. Among these was Sharmine Narwani, whose work I have long counted distinctly thorough and honest amid coverage that — in her view as well as mine — hit a new low by way of collapsed professional standards and abandoned ethics. Narwani’s pieces, written for a variety of publications, consistently reflect her hard work on the ground — work nearly no one else did. She is eyes wide open and beholden to no national interest or media slant.

Having witnessed the Syrian war from start to finish, she now casts it in a usefully broad context. “The Syrian conflict constitutes the main battlefield in a kind of World War III,” she said during our lengthy exchange. “The world wars were, in essence, great-power wars, after which the global order reshuffled a bit and new global institutions were established.” This, in outline, is what Narwani sees out in front of us, now that the Western powers’ latest “regime change” operation has failed.

Narwani and I conducted our exchange via email, Skype and WhatsApp over a period of several weeks in late March and early April. In this, the first of two parts, Narwani dissects the role of various constituencies — radical jihadists and the nations that backed them, the Western press, the NGOs — in prolonging a war that, in her view, could have ended far sooner than it did. I have edited the transcript solely for length. Part 2 will follow.

You returned from Syria just last week — this after going in several times last year. The intervening months were important, given the war has just ended. What have you been seeing on the ground?

April 20

C-SPAN Founder Retires

wsj logobrian lambWall Street Journal, After 40 Years, C-Span’s Founder Signs Off, Kyle Peterson, April 20, 2019 (print ed.). Brian Lamb (shown at right), the man who put Congress on live television as , reflects on the results and explains why the Supreme Court ought to be next. (Lamb, 77, is the founder, executive chairman, and now retired CEO of C-SPAN; an American cable network which provides coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate as well as other public affairs events). 

"Lying is the word that I was use to describe this town," says Brian Lamb, in his usual Midwestern deadpan. "I don't know if it will ever stop. It's gotten worse rather than getting better, and both sides do it. You've got to listen very carefully to what they're saying."

April 19

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on April 11, 2019. (Ruptly/YouTube)

Consortium News, Opinion: UK Blurring Two Very Different Extradition Claims, Jonathan Cook, April 19, 2019. The Swedish and U.S. claims are vastly different, writes Jonathan Cook. But the public conversation in the U.K. is simply about which has first dibs on Assange.

In a previous blog post, I warned that the media and political class would continue with their long-running deceptions about Julian Assange now that he has been dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy. They have wasted no time in proving me right.

Rather than focus on the gross violation of Assange’s fundamental human rights, the wider assault on press freedoms and the attack on Americans’ First Amendment Rights, U.K. politicians are “debating” whether the U.S. extradition claim on Assange should take priority over earlier Swedish extradition proceedings for a sexual-assault investigation that was publicly dropped back in 2017.

In other words, the public conversation in the U.K., sympathetically reported by The Guardian, supposedly Britain’s only major liberal news outlet, is going to be about who has first dibs on Assange.

What these U.K. MPs and The Guardian have done in this front-page story is muddy the waters yet further, with enthusiastic disregard for the damage it might do to Assange’s rights, to Corbyn’s leadership and to the future of truth-telling journalism.

April 18

Mueller Report 

robert mueller waving hands

Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III (file photo)

msnbc logo CustomMSNBC, Live Coverage & Analysis, Staff reporting, April 18, 2019. Redacted Mueller Report released here. Selected MSNBC print and videos on April 18 below:

Media on Mueller-Barr

Palmer Report, Opinion: William Barr comes out swinging, punches himself in the face, falls down, Bill Palmer, April 18, 2019.So much for whatever Donald Trump’s handpicked Attorney General William Barr thought he was trying to accomplish with his press conference this morning. Perhaps Barr thought he could get the media to do his bidding for him today. After all, most major media outlets initially went along with his “summary” of the Mueller report. But this time, to its immense credit, the media had zero interest in taking Barr at his word – and the whole thing quickly blew up in his face.

bill palmer report logo headerBarr may have accomplished one goal this morning, in the sense that he managed to go on television and convince Donald Trump that the Mueller report was somehow good for him. Sure enough, Trump tweeted “No obstruction, no collusion… Game Over.” But in the hour-plus since the redacted Mueller report was released, Trump hasn’t tweeted anything else about it – and with good reason.

The Mueller report is so profoundly ugly for Donald Trump, particularly on obstruction of justice, but also on collusion, the only prevailing headlines coming out of this day are focused on precisely that. Barr’s press conference didn’t even make a dent, unless you count the sidebar coverage about how dishonest Barr was during his press conference.

We don’t know precisely what House Democrats will do with this treasure trove of damning evidence against Donald Trump; as a first step they’re calling for Robert Mueller to publicly testify about his report, and he’ll surely oblige. But if House Democrats want to impeach William Barr for obstruction of justice, Barr just served himself up on a silver platter this morning. Barr was only performing for Trump’s benefit – but unfortunately for Barr, everyone else was watching too.

Corrupt Motives For Ecuador's Assange Delivery?

julian assange screenshot arrest (Ruptly)

London police arresting the bearded WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (screenshot from Ruptly video).

Grayzone via Consortium News, Opinion: How Ecuador’s President Gave Up Assange, Denis Rogatyuk, April 18, 2019. Lenin Moreno was desperate to ingratiate his government with Washington and distract the public from his mounting scandals, writes the Grayzone’s Denis Rogatyuk (Russian-Australian freelance writer, journalist and researcher).

The images of six Metropolitan police officers dragging Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London have enraged citizens around the world. Many have warned that if he is extradited to the U.S. for trial on conspiracy charges – and possibly much more if federal prosecutors have their way – it will lead to the criminalization of many standard journalistic practices. These scenes were only possible thanks to the transformation of Ecuador’s government under the watch of President Lenin Moreno.

Since at least December 2018, Moreno has been working towards expelling the Wikileaks publisher from the embassy. The Ecuadorian president’s behavior represents a stunning reversal of the policies of his predecessor, Rafael Correa, the defiantly progressive leader who authorized Assange’s asylum back in 2012, and who now lives in exile.

While Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Jose Valencia blamed his government’s expulsion of Assange on the Australian journalist’s “rudeness,” the sellout is clearly a byproduct of Moreno’s right-leaning agenda.

Political instability has swept across Ecuador since revelations of widespread corruption in Moreno’s inner circle emerged. The scandal coincided with Moreno’s turn towards neoliberal economic reforms, from implementing a massive IMF loan package to the gradual and total embrace and support for U.S. foreign policy in the region. In his bid to satisfy Washington and deflect from his own problems, Moreno was all too eager to sacrifice Assange.

WikiLeaks’s decision to re-publish the details of Moreno’s use of off-shore bank accounts in Panama, titled “INA Papers” after the name of the shell corporation at the center of the scandal (INA Investment Corporation), appear to be the main cause for the president’s decision to expel Assange from the embassy.

Ecuadorian Communications Minister Andrés Michelena went as far as claiming that the INA Papers were a conspiracy plot between Julian Assange, the former President Rafael Correa and the current Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

The INA Papers scandal has cast a long shadow on Moreno’s regime and shattered its pledge to fight against institutional corruption. The scandal reveals that a close associate of Moreno, Xavier Macias, lobbied for the contract of the Coca Codo Sinclair hydroelectric power plant (valued at $2.8 billion) as well as the ZAMORA 3000 MW plant to be awarded Sinohydro, a Chinese state-owned construction company.

The financial trail from the Chinese corporation passed through bank accounts in Panama belonging to INA Investment Corporation — a shell company originally founded in Belize, a notable tax haven, by Edwin Moreno Garcés, the brother of the current president. The most crucial pieces of evidence indicate that the INA Investment funds were used to purchase a large apartment in Alicante, Spain, and a number of luxury items for Moreno and his family in Geneva, during his time as a special envoy on disability rights for the United Nations.

National Enquirer Sold

ny times logoNew York Times, National Enquirer to Be Sold to James Cohen, Heir to Hudson News Founder, Edmund Lee, April 18, 2019. A new buyer for the tabloid swooped in after talks between its publisher, American Media, and the billionaire Ron Burkle fell apart. The National Enquirer, President Trump’s favorite supermarket tabloid, is about to have a new owner: James Cohen, a son of the founder of the Hudson News franchise. American Media Inc., The Enquirer’s publisher, announced the deal Thursday.

The money-losing title was put up for sale several weeks ago, after its principal owner decided it no longer wanted to be associated with the magazine, according to several people familiar with the matter. The publication attracted the scrutiny of federal investigators for its role in the 2016 presidential campaign.

American Media had been in talks with several potential buyers, including the California billionaire Ronald W. Burkle. After those talks fell apart last week, Mr. Cohen, whose father started the chain of Hudson News shops, swooped in to buy the troubled tabloid.

david pecker croppedAs part of the deal, American Media, led by David J. Pecker, left, a longtime friend of Mr. Trump’s, has also agreed to sell two of its other tabloids: the Globe and the National Examiner. The Washington Post first reported the sale, which it pegged at $100 million.

The principal owner of American Media, the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, led by Anthony Melchiorre, pushed Mr. Pecker to sell The Enquirer after the publication found itself under federal investigation. Mr. Melchiorre no longer saw an upside in being associated with the tabloid, whose financial losses and falling circulation numbers provided further motivation for a sale.

Mr. Pecker is said to have helped Mr. Trump’s candidacy through a deal American Media struck with Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who said she had an affair with the president. The company acquired her story for $150,000 and never published it, a practice known in the tabloid business as catch-and-kill. Federal prosecutors from the Southern District of New York gave Mr. Pecker an immunity deal in its investigation of the arrangement.

national enquirer jeff bezos croppedAmerican Media also signed a non-prosecution deal with federal prosecutors. As part of the agreement, the company affirmed that it had made the payment to Ms. McDougal to “influence the election.” The deal, signed in September, also stipulated that American Media “shall commit no crimes whatsoever” for three years and that, if it did, the company “shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any federal criminal violation of which this office has knowledge.”

That agreement put American Media in a ticklish position, now that federal prosecutors have started investigating claims by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, that he was threatened by the company. Mr. Bezos was the subject of an 11-page Enquirer investigation headlined “Bezos’ Divorce! The Cheating Photos That Ended His Marriage.” In a lengthy blog post a month after the article appeared, Mr. Bezos accused American Media of extortion.

Hudson News, founded by Mr. Cohen’s father, Robert B. Cohen, was sold to the Swiss retail company Dufry in 2008. Mr. Cohen is no longer involved in the chain of newspaper and magazine shops but sits on the board of the new parent company.

Heavy, James Cohen: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know, Kate Prengel, April 19 2019. James Cohen is a magazine distributor and heir to Hudson News. Cohen is also set to become the new owner of the National Enquirer. The tabloid and its parent company, American Media International, have been embroiled in scandal ever since news broke that the National Enquirer had helped cover up rumors of Donald Trump’s reported affair with a woman named Karen McDougal.

karen mcdougalLast year, AMI admitted that it had payed McDougal (shown in a screeenshot) $150,000 as part of a “catch and kill” deal which prevented McDougal from going public with her story about her alleged relationship with Donald Trump. More recently, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos accused the National Enquirer of extortion after the tabloid published a series of texts between Bezos and his girlfriend, Lauren Sanchez. The National Enquirer reportedly payed $200,000 to Sanchez’s brother in return for those texts.

In early April, AMI announced that it had plans to sell the National Enquirer. On April 18, the company said it had reached a $100 million deal with James Cohen. Cohen will also receive the Globe and the National Examiner, which are also owned by AMI, as part of the deal.

April 17

Media News: Hedge Fund Pension Plunder?

washington post logoWashington Post, The hedge fund trying to buy Gannett faces federal probe after investing newspaper workers’ pensions in its own funds, Jonathan O'Connell, April 17, 2019. Alden Global Capital, a prominent hedge fund that controls more than 100 local newspapers, moved nearly $250 million of employee pension savings into its own accounts in alden global capital logorecent years, an unusual move that is triggering federal scrutiny.

The hedge fund, which is the controlling owner of such newspapers as the Denver Post and Boston Herald under the brand MediaNews Group, in some cases moved 90 percent of retirees’ savings into two funds it controlled, according to public records filed with the Labor Department. Most of the money has now been moved back out of the hedge funds. Note: It also owns the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Mercury News of San Jose, the East Bay Times, and The Orange County Register.

gannett logo CustomFederal law generally requires that pension managers avoid conflicts of interest and avoid taking excessive risks with the assets they manage, experts said, though some exemptions are allowed.

Alden is being investigated by the Department of Labor for management of its pensions, a hedge fund spokesman confirmed. The specific nature of the investigation is unclear, but one person familiar with the agency’s inquiry, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is confidential, said the department issued subpoenas to Alden and its partners last year.

The inquiry could become a factor in Alden’s effort to acquire what is now the nation’s largest chain of daily newspapers, Gannett, including USA Today, as at least one prominent lawmaker raises questions about how it would manage the company’s pensions. Alden has faced criticism for its stewardship of local newspapers the company has purchased. Research shows it cuts jobs more rapidly than other owners.

[In depth: Washington Post, A hedge fund’s ‘mercenary’ strategy: Buy newspapers, slash jobs, sell the buildings]

Its subsidiary MediaNews Group, formerly known as Digital First Media, buys newspapers, often reduces jobs and sells off the buildings. For three months, MediaNews Group has been trying to acquire McLean, Va.-based Gannett and its more than 100 newspapers.

us labor department logoA spokesman for MediaNews Group, Hugh Burns, confirmed the Labor Department’s investigation and issued a statement denying any violations of the federal law protecting private pension holders, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

“MNG believes that Alden’s management of the pension plan assets for which it provided management services has at all times complied with all legal requirements, including ERISA,” he said in a statement.

He said that Alden routinely manages pension money for clients, that the funds performed well during the time they were invested with Alden and that less than 1 percent of money in MNG pensions remains with Alden funds.

“In 2017, consistent with its return of other outside capital, Alden began winding down its management of these pension plan assets, making regular cash distributions to the MNG pension plan investors,” he said.

FCC Bans China Mobile

ny times logoajit pai headshot customNew York Times, F.C.C. Chair Plans to Block China Mobile From U.S. Market, Cecilia Kang, April 17, 2019. Ajit Pai, right, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that he would oppose China Mobile’s application to provide cell service to Americans because of security concerns, sinking the company’s chances of entering the United States market.

April 15

The Real News Network, Opinion: The Prosecution Of Julian Assange Is A Threat To Journalists Everywhere, Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, April 15, 2019. The arrest of Julian Assange not only puts the free press in the United States at risk, it puts any reporters who expose US crimes anywhere in the world at risk. As Pepe Escobar wrote

“Let’s cut to the chase. Julian Assange is not a US citizen, he’s an Australian. WikiLeaks is not a US-based media organization. If the US government gets Assange extradited, prosecuted and incarcerated, it will legitimize its right to go after anyone, anyhow, anywhere, anytime.”

The Assange prosecution requires us to build a global movement to not only free Julian Assange, but to protect the world from the crimes and corruption of the United States and other governments. The reality is that Freedom of Press for the 21st Century is on trial.

There are many opportunities for a movement to impact the outcome of this process and to free Julian Assange. The extradition process includes political decisions by both the UK and US governments. Courts are impacted by public opinion. If courts are convinced this case is about political issues, extradition could be rejected.

Last week’s arrest begins the next phase of Assange’s defense as well as the defense of our right to know what governments do in our name. It may seem like this is now a matter only for the courts, but in fact, the prosecution of Assange is political. The extradition case is not a hacking case, as the US is trying to present it, it is a prosecution about exposing war crimes, corporate corruption of US foreign policy and other violations of law by the United States and its allies. The government is trying to change the subject to avoid the facts that Assange exposed.

In fact, the indictment does not even allege hacking. As Glenn Greenwald writes: “the indictment alleges no such thing. Rather, it simply accuses Assange of trying to help Manning log into the Defense Department’s computers using a different username so that she could maintain her anonymity.” Assange lawyer Barry Pollack described why journalists everywhere are threatened: “The factual allegations … boil down to encouraging a source to provide him information and taking efforts to protect the identity of that source. Journalists around the world should be deeply troubled by these unprecedented criminal charges.”

The extradition process is likely to last months, most likely more than a year. The Assange case could go into 2020 or beyond. Issues that could prevent extradition include Assange’s health conditions, human rights concerns, and whether there is a political motivation behind the US request. Not only can Assange appeal through the UK courts, but he may also appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Someone cannot be extradited from the United Kingdom if the extradition is for “political purposes.” The US Department of Justice has tried to avoid the obvious politics of Assange’s case by alleging in the indictment that it is a hacking case. In reality, and everyone knows this reality, Assange is being prosecuted because he exposed war crimes including the wanton killing of journalists and civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, the violation of human rights in Guantanamo Bay and the corruption of US foreign policy by transnational corporations. These are the big elephants in the room that the United States is trying to hide.

The US prison system is seen around the world as inhumane. The UN Committee against Torture issued a report strongly criticizing the US prisons on a number of issues, among them torture and the extensive use of solitary confinement. The US uses long-term solitary more than any other country in the world, on any given day, at least 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in the US. Political prisoners have been held in long-term solitary confinement as demonstrated by the imprisonment of black liberation activists who were held in solitary for decades. And whistleblowers have been held in solitary as was Chelsea Manning during her prosecution, including her most recent incarceration for refusing to testify before the grand jury investigating Assange. The European Court of Human Rights has prevented extradition to the US from the UK in a case involving an alleged terrorist because of inhumane prison conditions.

The US put forward a flimsy indictment that even on its face did not prove the allegation of assisting Manning with the password to access secret documents. The US put forward this weak and relatively mild charge probably to make extradition easier. They sought to avoid the political issue, which could have stopped the extradition. But, they are skirting extradition law with this approach, and if they hit Assange with a superseding indictment when he is extradited, it would be a violation of the doctrine of specialty, which means a person can only face trial for offenses presented to justify that extradition.

CaitlinJohnstone.com, Opinion: The US Government Won’t Care About Your Definition Of Journalism After The Assange Precedent Is Set, Caitlin Johnstone, April 15, 2019. 
Since I published my last article about about the idiotic “Assange isn’t a journalist” smear, this talking point has become more and more commonplace in online discourse. It’s very important to defenders of the political status quo for us all to believe that Assange is not a journalist, because otherwise that would mean they’re cheering for a dangerous precedent which would allow for the prosecution of journalists who exposed the truth about US government malfeasance. And that would mean cognitive dissonance, which all defenders of the political status quo spend most of their day-to-day mental energy running away from.

julian assange cropped with un headerAll of these definitions ultimately boil down to the argument that because Assange doesn’t publish leaks in a way that they feel journalism ought to be practiced, it isn’t journalism and therefore sets no legal precedent for journalists around the world. As though the US government is going to be consulting their feelings about what specifically constitutes journalism the next time they decide to imprison a journalist for doing what Assange did.

It doesn’t work that way, sugar tits. Assange is being prosecuted by the Trump administration for standard journalistic practices, he stands no chance of receiving a fair trial, and it is very likely that he will be hit with far more serious charges for his activities once on US soil. The next time the US government, under Trump or someone else, sees another journalist anywhere in the world doing something similar to what Assange did, there will be nothing stopping them from saying, “We need to lock that person up like we did Assange; they’re doing the same sort of thing.”

It’s just so amazingly arrogant how people imagine that the way their feelings feel will factor into this in any way. You won’t get to define how the US government will interpret what constitutes journalism in the future. Only the US government will. It’s amazing that this isn’t more obvious to more people.

In reality, journalism has always been and will always be defined as an activity. It’s not like being a doctor. If you happen to witness a car crash and you give CPR on the scene, you are not a doctor in that moment, but if you take some photos and post them online with a summary of what you saw then you are engaging in the act of journalism and all the legalities and rules of journalism apply to you.

The particular journalistic activities that the US is currently trying to extradite Assange for is encouraging a source to give him more documents and conspiracy to help Manning hide her identity so that she would not be persecuted for her heroic act of whistleblowing. In other words, Assange was attempting to make sure Manning’s leaks had enough impact to justify the risk, and also to try and make sure she wasn’t caught and tortured for it.

April 12

Guardian, Julian Assange's charges are a direct assault on press freedom, experts warn, Ed Pilkington, April 12, 2019. Parts of the indictment go head-to-head with basic journalistic activities protected by the first amendment, academics say.

The charge sheet accusing Julian Assange of engaging in criminal theft of US state secrets contains a direct assault on fundamental press freedoms and could have a devastating effect on the basic acts of journalism, leading first amendment scholars and advocacy groups have warned.

Prosecutors in the eastern district of Virginia released on Thursday an indictment against the WikiLeaks founder that has been under seal since March 2018. It will now form the basis of the US government’s request for Assange to be extradited from the UK to Alexandria to face trial.

Academics and campaigners condemned large chunks of the indictment that they said went head-to-head with basic activities of journalism protected by the first amendment of the US constitution. They said these sections of the charges rang alarm bells that should reverberate around the world.

Yochai Benkler, a Harvard law professor who wrote the first major legal study of the legal implications of prosecuting WikiLeaks, said the charge sheet contained some “very dangerous elements that pose significant risk to national security reporting. Sections of the indictment are vastly overbroad and could have a significant chilling effect – they ought to be rejected.”

Carrie Decell, staff attorney with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said the charges “risk having a chill on journalism”. She added that the tone of the indictment and the public release from the Department of Justice that went with it suggested that the US government desired precisely that effect.

“Many of the allegations fall absolutely within the first amendment’s protections of journalistic activity. That’s very troubling to us.”

Among the phrases contained in the indictment that have provoked an uproar are:

“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” It is a basic function of journalism to encourage sources to provide information in the public interest on the activities of government.

“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks.” Protecting the anonymity of sources is the foundation stone of much investigative and national security reporting – without it sources would not be willing to divulge information, and the press would be unable to fulfill its role of holding power to account.

“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used the ‘Jabber’ online chat service to collaborate on the acquisition and dissemination of the classified records.” The indictment simi

ny times logoNew York Times, Julian Assange: A Foe of Secrecy Who Inspires Admiration and Fury, Scott Shane and Steven Erlanger, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). From his beginnings as a teenage hacker in Australia to his arrest this week in London, the WikiLeaks founder has been a deeply divisive figure. He has helped empower whistle-blowers and disgruntled insiders, but has never been satisfied with the role of neutral provider of information.

The shaky video clips of Julian Assange’s arrest flashed around the world on Thursday, the white-bearded prophet of the age of leaks being hauled by unsmiling security officers to a gray van marked Police.

“We must resist!” he cried. “You can resist!” It was a scene that the very image-conscious Mr. Assange might appreciate: one man literally fighting the all-powerful state.

It was also the latest — and surely not the last — dramatic turn in a career marked by both brilliant achievement and dubious judgment. Mr. Assange has long had a knack for celebrity, and as a tech-savvy, global, almost stateless figure, he captured the new influence the internet could give to individual citizens.

His creation of WikiLeaks helped empower a generation of whistle-blowers and disgruntled insiders who could operate on an industrial scale, providing disclosures by the terabyte and enraging the powerful in many countries. WikiLeaks collaborated closely with major world publications, including The New York Times, in the release of secret records on the American-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and a quarter-million confidential State Department cables.

ny times logoNew York Times, Is Assange’s Arrest a Threat to the Free Press? Michelle Goldberg, right, April 12, 2019 (print ed.). Last michelle goldberg thumbNovember, federal prosecutors accidentally revealed, in an unrelated court document, that a sealed indictment had been filed against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Many people concerned with civil liberties, including some who despise Assange, were alarmed by the idea that he could be punished for his role in exposing American government secrets. “If Assange can be prosecuted merely for publishing leaked classified documents, every single media outlet is at risk of prosecution for doing the exact same thing,” the lawyer Bradley P. Moss wrote in The Atlantic.

At the time, the public didn’t know what the actual charges were. Now that Assange has been dragged from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he’s lived for almost seven years, and is facing extradition to the United States, we do. He’s been indicted for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, a result of his alleged attempts nearly a decade ago to help former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning crack a password to a government computer.

These charges do not pose quite the threat to a free press that some feared, because hacking is not standard journalistic practice. “The indictment does not charge Assange for the act of publishing, which would have been a serious Rubicon crossed,” Ben Wizner, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s project on speech, privacy and technology, told me. But, as Wizner emphasizes, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about what Donald Trump’s Justice Department is up to. Elements of the Assange indictment could still set a dangerous precedent.

It’s a relief that they found a way to make the case without a frontal assault on journalistic prerogatives. Still, if you read the indictment, a lot of things that journalists do routinely are part of Assange’s alleged crime.

julian assange cropped with un header“It was part of the conspiracy that Assange (shown in a file photo) and Manning took measures to conceal Manning as the source of the disclosure of classified records to WikiLeaks,” says the indictment. Most if not all investigative journalists take such measures to protect their sources. The indictment says, “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange encouraged Manning to provide information and records from departments and agencies of the United States.” Journalists often do this when they urge whistle-blowers to come forward. “It was part of the conspiracy that Assange and Manning used a special folder on a cloud drop box of WikiLeaks” to transmit classified information, the indictment continues. Like many news organizations, The New York Times does something similar, soliciting tips through an encrypted submission system called SecureDrop.

For any of these actions to become part of a criminal conspiracy, there has to be a crime. But as Georgetown law professor David Super points out, “We have right now a criminal code that is bursting at the seams with offenses,” making it easy to break laws without realizing it.

A prosecutor, then, might be able to find a pretext for a similar conspiracy case if, for example, someone decides to leak the Mueller report, or Trump’s tax returns. “This pattern of behavior has already been turned against journalists in many parts of the world,” Super said. Journalists “get prosecuted for pretty mundane stuff, some of which they probably did, but they wouldn’t have been charged for if they didn’t make the regime unhappy.”

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White House Chronicle, Opinion: Information Technology and Democracy — a Light That Failed, Llewellyn King (shown above), April 12, 2019. When the age of communication started (pick your time, but I think it was when we started sending print by telephone in the form of a fax), it was thought that dictators would fall, and democracy would be reinvigorated.

The first big disappointment was Saudi Arabia. When the Saudis began to get uncensored news and information, it was believed that the grip of the royal family and its extreme religious allies would be loosened. It did not happen. Instead, Saudi Arabia was spurred to use its oil wealth to push conservative Islam around the globe, especially in places where it was present but could be radicalized, including Pakistan and Bangladesh. They poured their money into madrassas — religious schools — that preached the Wahhabism, a strict and puritanical interpretation of Sunni Islam.

People ask me why, when the mainstream media daily points up President Donald Trump’s failures and transgressions, his supporters are unmoved, disdaining what is being revealed in favor of what they want to believe. They believe in Trump and they believe in his courtiers at Fox News Channel and on talk radio.

People do not react to raw information but, rather, to information that sits well with them for other reasons: what they are predisposed to believe.

Rupert Murdoch, the boss of Fox News, has had a genius, a real genius, for corralling those who felt ignored by society. He did it in Britain with his hugely successful tabloid newspaper, The Sun, and he has done it here with Fox News. In Britain and in the United States, he found and exploited a nativism that both countries had forgotten they had.

Fox News did not invent Trump; instead, the shoe fit.

How we react to the news depends on our involvement with it in tertiary ways. If you were already convinced of British exceptionalism, you would move toward the hostility to Europe expressed in The Sun. If you think immigrants take jobs, speak strange languages and are usurping our Americanism, you will be gung-ho for Trump’s southern border wall.

In the 1990s you could find, and I did, from Nicaragua to Zimbabwe, old-line communists lamenting the fall of the Soviet Union. They argued that it had not been given a chance. These people really believed that all that was wanted was more of what did not work.

If you are a Trump supporter, you are genuinely amazed that the mainstream media cannot see that what he is doing is great. Democrats and renegade Republicans, like columnist George Will, can find nothing, absolutely nothing, good in the Trump presidency.

People, including AOL founder Steve Case, talked idealistically about the internet in the days when it was getting going as the great, new democratic tool; a boon to global democracy. Wrong. If anything, it stirred up a destructive nationalism.

Information, I have noticed as a journalist who has worked on three continents, does not necessarily shape political opinion.

Political opinion tends to find the media that agree with it, not the other way. But after the two have mated, media can inflame its public partner. Good for two-party rivalry, but not for elucidation.

April 11

Fresno Bee, Devin Nunes’ lawsuits put spotlight on his attorney’s suspension, GOP defamation lawsuits, Kate Irby, April 11, 2019. When Rep. Devin Nunes (a California Republican shown below right) appeared on Fox News to announce his defamation lawsuit against Twitter and a parody account, “Devin Nunes’ cow,” he declared the legal filing would be the first of many.

He followed through with another lawsuit this week against McClatchy, parent company of The Fresno Bee.

devin nunes file flagBoth lawsuits were filed by an attorney based in Charlottesville, Virginia, a solo-practitioner named Steven S. Biss who is making a name for himself suing media organizations for defamation.

With the Nunes lawsuits, Biss has thrust himself into the national spotlight and, like his client, opened himself up to criticism on Twitter and elsewhere.

The attention exposed a factual error in Biss’ initial filing against McClatchy. It also drove social media discussion this week about a similar case he filed that was dismissed without a judgment and his year-long suspension from practicing law a decade ago.

Biss, a graduate of University of Richmond School of Law, did not return a call requesting comment.

Nunes announced the lawsuit seeking $150 million from McClatchy on Monday night. It accuses the publisher and Republican political strategist Liz Mair of defamation and conspiracy against Nunes, citing stories by The Fresno Bee and McClatchy. The stories detailed Nunes’ investment in a winery that had been sued over a yacht party that allegedly included underage sex workers and cocaine, and Nunes’ use of Political Action Committee money to buy tickets to Celtics games.

Less than a day after filing, the lawsuit against McClatchy appeared to be amended Tuesday due to a factual inaccuracy that Biss was lambasted for online.

In the original version of the lawsuit, Nunes and Biss accuse a Fresno Bee reporter of emphasizing the words “woman,” “Devin,” and “cocaine” with a bold font in a tweet about the story on the winery lawsuit. While a screenshot of the tweet in the original lawsuit showed the words in bold font, the original tweet has text only in plain font.

Law blogs called it an “embarrassing mistake over how Twitter works,” and Twitter users started pointing out the discrepancy, noting that when users search certain words on Twitter the resulting tweets show the words searched for in bold.

ny times logoNew York Times, Ron Burkle, Billionaire Investor, Is Said to Be in Talks to Buy National Enquirer, Edmund Lee and Andrew Ross Sorkin, April 11, 2019.  The owners of The National Enquirer are in talks to sell the tabloid to the California billionaire Ronald W. Burkle, according to two people with direct knowledge of the negotiations.

An acquisition of The Enquirer by Mr. Burkle, a Democratic donor with close ties to President Bill Clinton, could raise eyebrows in Washington given President Trump’s fondness for the tabloid, which he has praised on Twitter.

While representatives of The Enquirer, which is owned by American Media Inc., are deep in their negotiations with Mr. Burkle, the deal could still fall apart, according to the two people with direct knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private talks.

Representatives for Mr. Burkle did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Burkle specializes in buying distressed companies and selling them at a profit or rebuilding them to increase their value. He made his initial fortune buying and selling supermarkets in his home state. In 1999, he helped buy the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey franchise out of bankruptcy. The team has won three Stanley Cup championships since then.

April 10

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

washington post logoWashington Post, National Enquirer expected to be sold imminently as parent company faces pressure, Sarah Ellison and Marc Fisher, April 10, 2019. American Media Inc. is actively seeking to sell off the National Enquirer, according to three people familiar with the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The decision to sell came after the hedge fund manager whose firm controls American Media became “disgusted” with the Enquirer’s reporting tactics, according to one of these people.

American Media has been under intense pressure because of the Enquirer’s efforts to tilt the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, who is a longtime friend of American Media’s president and CEO, David Pecker. Pecker and his supermarket tabloid have also been embroiled in recent months in an unusually public feud with Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

In August, just as AMI and two of its top officers were finalizing a non-prosecution agreement with federal investigators, the company’s board of directors started looking for ways to unload the tabloid business “because they didn’t want to deal with hassles like this anymore,” another person said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Personal Technology: Lifting Journalism by Knowing What Readers Are Looking For, Claudio E. Cabrera, April 10, 2019. How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Claudio E. Cabrera, a deputy off-platform director tasked with driving quality traffic from search engines to The Times, discussed the tech he’s using.

What are the contours of your job, exactly?

I work on S.E.O., which stands for search engine optimization. On a daily basis, my job is not just focused on helping to optimize our stories for greater visibility and increased traffic from search engines such as Google. It’s much more.

We have a large newsroom, and we are constantly educating editors, reporters and more on the best practices when it comes to search — whether it has to do with headlines, URLs, timing or story forms. Additionally, we are teaching them how to spot how well their story is doing on search.

I usually start my day around 6 or 7 a.m. and track everything that happened overnight to get an idea of what to focus on in the morning hours. After that, I start making my rounds on competitive websites and using our trends tools to find potential ideas I can pitch to desks or optimize something correctly that we’ve already published. I then start jumping into conversations with desk editors about what they have coming for the day that they want me to keep an eye on. I’m big on getting ahead of things, as it gives much more free time to work on strategic initiatives throughout the day.

On a tools front, I use Google Trends, Kaleida, NewsWhip, Reddit and CrowdTangle. I like these tools because they incorporate search, social and the conversations around them.

Outside of that, it’s important to look at whom we consider to be our competitors and what they are doing daily around general news and trending items. It allows me to see what stories we may be missing and what angles we may not be exploring.

April 9

Columbia Journalism Review, As election season heats up, two historic magazines get new faces, Jon Allsop, April 9, 2019. In recent months, with the 2020 election approaching fast, a bevy of major news organizations have made significant changes atop their mastheads. Adam Moss, the iconic, long-time editor of New York magazine, stepped down, and was replaced by David Haskell.

This week, John Harris, the founding editor in chief of Politico, made way; Matthew Kaminski, the site’s global editor, will replace him. Bill Keller, founding editor of The Marshall Project, is passing that site’s reins to Susan Chira. The LA Times, under new-ish owner Patrick Soon-Shiong, has staffed up impressively across the board; most recently, it added Shani Hilton, a top talent at BuzzFeed, as a deputy managing editor.

cbs news logoIn the world of TV, CBS News appointed Susan Zirinsky as its new president, while the morning shows of CBS, ABC, and NBC all now have female executive producers — a first. Nancy Barnes, formerly of The Houston Chronicle, is settling into her new role as editorial director at NPR. The list goes on.

 Katrina vanden Heuvel is stepping down as editor of The Nation after 25 years in the post. (She’ll stay on as publisher and editorial director, working on strategy and with “select writers.”) During her tenure, vanden Heuvel sought to style the progressive magazine as an “early journalistic alert system” — warning against the war in Iraq, corporate oligopolies, and the “Murdochization” of US media — and oversaw significant subscription growth during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Donald Trump. D.D. Guttenplan, a long-standing presence at The Nation, will soon take over as editor.

Another new editor with 2020 on his mind is Chris Lehmann, who yesterday was named editor of The New Republic. (He comes from The Baffler, where he’ll remain an editor-at-large.) CJR’s Andrew McCormick spoke with Lehmann yesterday. “I want to approach the coming election cycle as what I think it will be: a convergence of social movements as opposed to a top-down, party-driven spectacle,” Lehmann says. “The parties are increasingly hollowed-out institutions that are unable to contain the activist energies within them in the way parties would like. That’s all good for journalism, because journalism is about conflict.”

Editors come and go for all sorts of reasons, but it’s usually best to get changes out of the way before a critical election season gets in full swing. The new crop of editors across our industry must all urgently grapple with campaign coverage that failed, in 2016, to serve readers consistent, substantive information on candidates’ ideas.

April 7

Media News: Murder Motive

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washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: In a book proposal, Khashoggi outlined a U.S.-inspired vision for a new Saudi Arabia, David B. Ottaway, April 7, 2019 (print ed.). David Ottaway is a fellow in the Middle East Program at the Wilson Center. Jamal Khashoggi (right) was working on what he described as an “eye-opener” of a book challenging Saudi Arabia to draw inspiration for its reforms from American institutions and practices when he was savagely murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October. His book proposal illustrates that he was as much a visionary of a new Saudi Arabia as Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, author of the highly ambitious “Vision 2030” and the person who the CIA concluded ordered Khashoggi’s assassination.

Khashoggi’s gruesome murder touched off the worst crisis in U.S.-Saudi relations since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with Congress pressing President Trump to name the instigator and to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

mohammad bin salman cropped file smallThe crown prince (left) tried to convince the White House that Khashoggi was a dangerous Islamist threat to the United States, but his book project reveals just the opposite: He was a great admirer of U.S. democracy and society. He had belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood in his youth but had long since disassociated himself from what Saudi authorities have branded a terrorist organization.

Khashoggi’s book project was outlined in his application for a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, submitted in June 2017. His daughter, Noha, recently agreed to allow me to disclose its content. His book was to be both a primer for Saudis coming to the United States, explaining how American institutions and practices function, and a plea for Saudi leaders to adopt many of them.

Its tentative title: United States for Saudis or U.S. Made Easy for Saudis.

“My plan is to explain American life to the Saudi reader and Arabs in general in a simple storytelling format,” he wrote, noting that at least 750,000 Saudis are graduates of American education institutions, and even more have come as tourists or family members of students. ”My focus will be on the schooling, educational reform [and] control of public funds,” he wrote.

 UK Consumer Protection From New Media?

washington post logoWashington Post, U.K. unveils sweeping plan to penalize Facebook and Google for harmful online content, Tony Romm​, April 7, 2019. The proposal marks a major new facebook logoregulatory threat for an industry that’s long dodged responsibility for what its users say or share.

British regulators on Sunday unveiled a landmark proposal to penalize Facebook, Google and other tech giants that fail to stop the spread of harmful content google logo customonline, marking a major new regulatory threat for an industry that’s long dodged responsibility for what its users say or share.

The aggressive, new plan — drafted by the United Kingdom’s leading consumer-protection authorities and blessed by Prime Minister Theresa May — targets a wide array of web content, including child exploitation, false news, terrorist activity and extreme violence. If approved by Parliament, U.K. watchdogs would gain unprecedented powers to issue fines and other punishments if social-media sites don’t swiftly remove the most egregious posts, photos and videos from public view.

April 5

 washington post logoWashington Post, Jeff Bezos, divorce settlement with Mackenzie Bezos, retains 75 percent of Amazon stock and all voting power, Craig Timberg and Greg Bensinger, April 5, 2019 (print ed.). MacKenzie Bezos also said that Jeff Bezos would retain his full stake in Blue Origin and the Washington Post. MacKenzie Bezos’s stake will be worth roughly $36 billion, making her one of the wealthiest women in the world.

jeffrey bezos washington postAmazon founder Jeff Bezos (shown in a file photo) and his ex-wife, MacKenzie Bezos, announced Thursday a divorce settlement that will leave him with 75 percent of their Amazon stock and all of their joint holdings in The Washington Post and a space-exploration company, Blue Origin. He will retain voting power over all of the Amazon voting shares the couple once owned together.

amazon logo smallThe announcement from the Bezoses -- coming in a tweet from MacKenzie that was retweeted by Jeff -- settled a closely watched matter of corporate governance affecting one of the world’s richest companies, with a market capitalization of $890 billion.

The divorce settlement is likely to remove uncertainty over the extent of Jeff Bezos’s continued control over a company he founded in 1994 and for which he remains chief executive and its largest shareholder. Their marriage lasted 25 years and produced four children.

April 5

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New York Magazine, Commentary: What I’ve Learned From Collecting Stories of People Whose Loved Ones Were Transformed by Fox News, Luke O'Neil, April 5, 2019. I asked a bunch of people how it felt watching their family members be stolen from them by Fox News over the years and it doesn't feel great it turns out. Last week, I devoted an installment of my newsletter Welcome to Hell World to a dozen stories from people who, like me, had close relationships that had been strained or ruined by family members who’d become obsessed with Fox News.

No matter where the stories came from they all featured a few familiar beats: A loved one seemed to have changed over time. Maybe that person was already somewhat fox news logo Smallconservative to start. Maybe they were apolitical. But at one point or another, they sat down in front of Fox News, found some kind of deep, addictive comfort in the anger and paranoia, and became a different person — someone difficult, if not impossible, to spend time with. The fallout led to failed marriages and estranged parental relationships. For at least one person, it marks the final memory he’ll ever have of his father: “When I found my dad dead in his armchair, fucking Fox News was on the TV,” this reader told me. “It’s likely the last thing he saw. I hate what that channel and conservative talk radio did to my funny, compassionate dad. He spent the last years of his life increasingly angry, bigoted, and paranoid.”

Something about the piece struck a chord. It had gone viral, and wave after wave of frustrated and saddened Fox News orphans began to commiserate with me and with each other on Twitter and in my messages. Others wrote of similar phenomenon in Australia with the television channel Sky or in the U.K. with the tabloid Daily Mail. I heard from more than a hundred people who felt like they could relate to what they all seemed to think of as a kind of ideological brain poisoning. They chose Fox News over their family, people told me. They chose Fox News over me.

April 4

Media News

St. Louis Public Radio, Missouri Student Journalists, Teachers Hope Bill Will Stop Censorship By School Admins, Andy Field, April 4, 2019. The Missouri Senate is expected to consider a bill to prevent public-university and high school administrators from censoring articles from student journalists. The Cronkite New Voices Act is part of a nationwide movement to give student journalists the same First Amendment rights as professionals. Currently, 14 states have passed New Voices laws, according to the Student Press Law Center. This year, advocates have or will be introducing versions of the bill in 11 states, including Missouri.

National Press Club, Journalists, political leaders agree on blueprint to rebuild public trust in institutions, Kathy Kiely, April 4, 2019. Journalists, elected officials and government communicators committed to concrete steps aimed at increasing trust and civility in public life during two days of intensive conversations at the National Press Club March 25-26.

Hosted by the Club’s nonprofit Journalism Institute and facilitated by the National Institute of Civil Discourse, the “Dialogue in a Divided Democracy” brought together more than 60 people — news media leaders and the people they cover — for face-to-face conversations about the challenges facing key American institutions. PEN America and the Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership partnered in the event.

April 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Rupert Murdoch’s Empire of Influence Remade the World, Jonathan Mahler and Jim Rutenberg, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). Part 1: Imperial rupert murdoch newReach: Murdoch, 86, right, and his children have toppled governments on two continents and destabilized the most important democracy on Earth. What do they want? Over the last six months, we spoke to more than 150 people about the most powerful media family on earth.

Rupert Murdoch was lying on the floor of his cabin, unable to move. It was January 2018, and Murdoch and his fourth wife, Jerry Hall, were spending the holidays cruising the Caribbean on his elder son Lachlan’s yacht. Murdoch tripped on his way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Few private citizens have ever been more central to the state of world affairs than the man lying in that hospital bed, awaiting his children’s arrival.

As the head of a sprawling global media empire, he commanded multiple television networks, a global news service, a major publishing house and a Hollywood movie studio. His newspapers and television networks had been instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet.

New York Times, Here are six takeaways from The Times’s investigation.

More Investigative Reports

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: Mar-a-Lago: a center for Chinese espionage and prostitution? Wayne Madsen, April 3, 2019 (subscription required; excerpted with permission). WMR was the first to report the possible espionage connection between Cindy Yang, aka Li Yang -- the Mar-a-Lago club habitué and previous owner of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Florida -- and the Chinese Ministry of State Security (Guójiā Ānquánbù) (国家安全部).

The spa/massage parlor was the scene of a law enforcement prostitution sting that nabbed New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and two other wealthy members of Mar-a-Lago, all three major political donors to the GOP and Trump campaign.

greg palast hsGreg Palast Investigative Journalism, Trump May Name Kris Kobach New Immigration Czar, Greg Palast (right), April 3, 2019. Their real agenda: 2020 vote suppression. When the young Kris Kobach created a computer system for the Department of Homeland Security that secretly tracked visiting Muslims, President George W. Bush was so offended that he personally ordered the racially offensive program shut down.

And now Kobach may have power over that Department and all others dealing with immigrants – including Justice and Defense, and the Census — if the AP report that President Donald Trump is considering making Kobach his “Immigration Czar” becomes reality.

kris kobach kansas SmallIt’s an especially cute move by Trump, as this newly crafted position, unlike an apointment to other cabinet level posts, will not require Senate approval, not even a hearing.

I’ve been investigating Kobach (left) for six years for Al Jazeera and Rolling Stone. Trying to get straight answers from Kobach about his racially poisoned vote-purging shenanigans has not been easy. After several refusals to speak with me about our findings, in 2016, I finally tracked him down in Wichita, with my crew pretending to be from a local TV station. (We were indeed with Channel 4 … Channel 4 of London.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Media Companies Take a Big Gamble on Apple, Edmund Lee, April 3, 2019 (print ed.).  Executives have been burned by their previous dealings with big tech apple logo rainbowcompanies. But Apple’s promise of a billion devices worldwide was too good to pass up. Even for Rupert Murdoch.

The tech giant based the service on an app it acquired last year called Texture, which gave readers access to some 200 publications with a single subscription. The revamped and renamed version, introduced with much fanfare last week at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., charges subscribers $9.99 a month ($12.99 in Canada) for content from more than 300 titles, including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Time, The Atlantic and People, as well as The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal. (Also included: Airbnb Magazine, Birds & Blooms, Retro Gamer and Salt Water Sportsman, befitting the app’s conceit as an omnibus newsstand.)

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Washington Post, Inside the spectacular fall of the granddaddy of right-wing conspiracy sites, Manuel Roig-Franzia, April 3, 2019 (print ed.). In the feverish heyday of the “birther movement,” conspiracy-hungry readers swarmed to a website called WorldNetDaily for the latest on the specious yet viral theory that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

The site’s founder, Joseph Farah — a former newspaperman with a dense, jet-black mustache and a cloak-and-dagger mystique — boasted in 2010 that he was well on the way to generating $10 million a year in revenue. His Northern Virginia-headquartered news site, known by the acronym WND, was having its moment by stoking rumors about Obama.

But Farah — a conservative Internet pioneer who’d once been labeled by the Clinton White House as part of a right-wing media conspiracy and was known to sport a pistol on his hip in the office—saw bigger things. Years earlier he’d launched one of the first large-scale digital newsgathering operations; now he wanted to be a player in Christian-themed movies and book publishing, churning out titles by big-name conservatives, such as anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly and future House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

He was building an empire.

A decade later, that realm is being sucked into a tornado of unpaid bills, pink-slipped employees, chaotic accounting, declining revenue and diminishing readership, according to interviews with more than 25 former employees, shareholders, company insiders and authors associated with the firm's flailing publishing units, as well as a review of hundreds of internal documents, including emails and financial statements obtained by The Washington Post.

Even though Farah claimed in WND columns and emails to supporters last year to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations —including tax-deductible contributions — some former employees and contractors have been laid off or had their deals canceled without being paid money they say they were owed. Many authors who signed on with the site’s publishing arm, including former Republican senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, are fuming about allegedly not receiving royalties owed to them.

April 2

washington post logocia logoWashington Post, CIA long relied exclusively on Amazon for its cloud computing. Now it is seeking multiple providers, Aaron Gregg, April 2, 2019. The Central Intelligence Agency is taking early steps toward procuring a massive cloud computing infrastructure to support its national security mission, according to amazon logo smalldocuments reviewed by The Washington Post, with plans to award a contract worth “tens of billions” of dollars to more than one cloud provider by 2021.

The cloud effort, known as the C2E Commercial Cloud Enterprise, builds on an earlier $600 million cloud computing contract that was awarded to Amazon’s cloud computing division in 2013. And it runs parallel to a separate, $10 billion cloud effort being pursued by the Defense Department.

Both efforts are meant to outfit U.S. national security agencies with next-generation cloud computing innovations from Silicon Valley.

April 1

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Tucker Carlson is a white nationalist because he grew up around them, Wayne Madsen, April 1, 2019 (subscription required).  Fox News’s right-wing wunderkind Tucker Carlson draws quite a fan base. For Carlson, his fans include white supremacists, the white identity movement, and garden-variety neo-Nazis.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Most people think local journalism is financially healthy. Here’s the troubling reality, Margaret Sullivan (right), April 1, 2019 (print ed.). The business model margaret sullivan 2015 photofor local news has crumbled, but the public seems blissfully unaware. In the 1990s, 30 percent profit margins were common at regional newspapers and the chains that owned them. Then came some brutal blows. The main source of revenue — print advertising — fell off a cliff as advertisers moved to the Internet or found other ways of reaching their customers. Department stores, once a mainstay of advertising, withered away in the digital economy.

And a new generation of news consumers never developed the daily-newspaper habit that their parents and grandparents had.

Newspapers (and to a lesser extent local TV stations) were forced to cut costs. Often, they did so in a way that made them less valuable to their remaining customers: By eliminating journalists from their newsrooms.

Newspapers cut 45 percent of their newsroom employees between 2008 and 2017.

And some of them — including those owned by hedge funds — are down far more than that. (In Denver, for example, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News boasted 600 journalists not much more than a decade ago; the latter paper has folded and the Post is down to well below 100 in its newsroom.)

But even in their shrunken state, many regional newspapers are producing important public-interest journalism. While this may seem encouraging, the ability to do so is fragile: the gutting of many local papers continues apace.

On Thursday, I will moderate a panel discussion featuring three journalists who exemplify this. (It’s one part of a morning-long event, devoted to saving local journalism, that will be live-streamed on The Washington Post’s website.)

'Reason' Advocate Arrested

Wichita Eagle / Kansas.com, Former candidate, talk radio host arrested on drug charges, Chance Swaim, April 1, 2019. A former candidate who recently launched his own talk radio jim price mugshot cropshow has been arrested and charged with multiple drug offenses.

Republican Jim Price of Wichita (shown in a mugshot) was arrested last month and charged in Sedgwick County. Prosecutors say that on May 17 he had 129.55 grams of dabs, a highly-concentrated hash oil, with intent to distribute, which is a felony in Kansas. He also faces misdemeanor charges of possession of steroids and marijuana, court records show.

He was initially arrested in May on suspicion of illegally possessing a gun and marijuana, but was not charged in court for that case until last week, court records show. The Wichita Eagle first reported that incident in September, when Price was running for a seat in the Kansas House. At that time, Price denied the arrest and charges had not been filed in the case.

Prosecutors filed charges against Price on March 25. That day, he bonded out of jail. The state is not pursuing gun-related charges, according to court filings.

republican elephant logoHis charging documents allege he had between 100 and 1,000 doses of THC dabs. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the the psychoactive compound in marijuana that makes a user feel “high.” A dab is a highly-concentrated THC-based substance that is typically made by extracting THC from marijuana plants with a solvent like alcohol or butane.

Price said in an email that he was recovering from surgery and would answer questions through email.

Between the time a warrant was issued and his arrest, Price launched his own AM talk radio show, “The Jim Price Show,” which airs Saturday nights from 7 to 8 p.m.

On March 12, Price appeared on the conservative talk show “The Voice of Reason” with host Andy Hooser, the treasurer of the Sedgwick County Republican Party. Hooser announced Price’s show as the latest local program on KQAM, a Steckline Communications station.

“It’s good stuff,” Price told Hooser. “I’m looking forward to going in and diving deep, just like you have, and make sure that we talk about the issues as they are real, not where we get this fluffed up stuff at the media level.”

Asked if he thought Price would be allowed to keep his show given the pending criminal court case, Hooser said, “the station itself really doesn’t have anything to do much with the show.”

Hooser said Price actually pays the station to have his show on the air. “It’s kind of like an infomercial of sorts, where he pays for the time on the air to broadcast the show, and there’s a disclaimer on the show as well that you know it’s not in any affiliation with KQAM or Steckline Communications,” Hooser said.

Media News / Political Threat

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Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of a church in South Carolina, with her successors, Pastors Aventer (left) and John Gray on March 31, 2019.

The Christian Post, Hope Carpenter defends Pastor John Gray and wife Aventer, tells critics ‘I cut people,’ Leonardo Blair, April 1, 2019. Pastor Hope Carpenter, co-founder of Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, South Carolina, which was rebranded Relentless Church last year, defended pastors John and Aventer Gray from critics Sunday with a public threat to critics that “I cut people.”

“I love you Pastor John and Pastor Aventer. I believe in you, I’m praying for you, I’m rooting for you. I cut people. I’ve got a knife right in that pocket book,” Carpenter declared after riling up the Relentless congregation with a message she said she got from God to “hold fast.”

hope carpenter crop relentless church greenville sc march 31 2019 facebookSpeaking at the 8:30 a.m. service where she was introduced by Aventer Gray as “one of the greatest women of God that has ever graced the earth,” Carpenter (shown at right in a photo via Facebook) expressed her support for the couple, who succeeded Ron and Hope Carpenter.

The support comes in the wake of a slew of controversies concerning allegations of marital infidelity, the Relentless Church's purchase of a $1.8 million home for the Grays, and John Gray gifting his wife a $200K Lamborghini. The Christian Post, the Greenville News and other media have reported on different aspects of the controversies but on Sunday, Carpenter took aim at the local news source.

“Greenville News, come on. We done went through this. Alright. I’m still here and guess who else still gon’ be here?” she said, pointing to the Grays.

“See, if I did not know what God had brought me through back here and what God brought me through 10 years ago and what God brought me through five years ago, I would not have a deep intertwined root system that would help me to be able to hold on,” Carpenter told the congregation.
Pastor Hope Carpenter (foreground) defends Pastors John and Aventer Gray at Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., on March 31, 2019. | Screenshot: YouTube

In the nearly 30 years that Carpenter did ministry in Greenville with her husband, the couple faced controversies. It was in 2013 that Ron Carpenter revealed to their congregation that Hope had committed adultery multiple times over the previous 10 years and was under psychiatric observation.

"For the last 10 years, I have been masking a situation that has absolutely almost destroyed me. In 2004, the date we dedicated this facility, Easter Sunday 2004, I left here to find a very different woman than I had ever met," he told his church about the woman he courted in a “sex-free” relationship for three and a half years before they got married.

Describing his wife’s behavior at the time as "erratic, reckless, nonsensical, [and] destructive," he told his flock that he "sat through two years of grueling therapy with her to no avail."

The Carpenters moved to San Jose, California, last year and were officially installed as the new pastors of the 14,000-member Jubilee Christian Center, now rebranded as Redemption. They passed on the reins of their South Carolina church, which they founded in 1991, to the Grays.

Hope Carpenter insisted in her message on Sunday at Relentless Church that she survived by “holding fast” to her confession of faith and encouraged the church to do the same.

Related story: Washington Post, ‘I cut people,’ a megachurch pastor warned as she preached. Her target? The local newspaper, Michael Brice-Saddler​, April 2, 2019. The apparent threat toward the Greenville News came after the South Carolina newspaper published stories about the pastors of Relentless Church.

 

March

March 30

ny times logoNew York Times, How Alex Jones and Infowars Helped a Florida Man Stalk Sandy Hook Families, Elizabeth Williamson, March 29, 2019. Mr. Jones and Infowars gave Wolfgang Halbig airtime, a camera crew and help raising money to harass Sandy Hook shooting victims’ parents. In the world of conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones and Wolfgang Halbig fueled each other’s darkest tendencies.

alex jones headshotSoon after the Dec. 14, 2012, mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Mr. Jones, the right-wing provocateur, began spreading outlandish theories that the killing of 20 first graders and six educators was staged by the government and victims’ families as part of an elaborate plot to confiscate Americans’ firearms.

Many of the most noxious claims originated in the mind of Mr. Halbig, a retired Florida public school official who became fixated on what he called “this supposed tragedy” at Sandy Hook. Court records and a previously unreleased deposition given by Mr. Jones in one of a set of defamation lawsuits brought against him by the families of 10 Sandy Hook victims show how he and Mr. Halbig used each other to pursue their obsession and promote it across the internet.

Over several years, Mr. Jones gave Mr. Halbig’s views an audience by inviting him to be a guest on Infowars, his radio and online show. Infowars gave Mr. Halbig a camera crew and a platform for fund-raising, even as Mr. Halbig repeatedly visited Newtown, demanding thousands of pages of public records, including photos of the murder scene, the children’s bodies and receipts for the cleanup of “bodily fluids, brain matter, skull fragments and around 45 to 60 gallons of blood.”

Given practical support and visibility by Mr. Jones, Mr. Halbig hounded families of the victims and other residents of Newtown, and promoted a baseless tale that Avielle Richman, a first grader killed at Sandy Hook, was still alive.

The deposition and its details about Mr. Jones’s operation and his interactions with Mr. Halbig were made public on Friday, days after Avielle Richman’s father, Jeremy Richman, killed himself in Newtown’s Edmond Town Hall, where Avielle Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to brain science that the family established in their daughter’s name, had an office.

March 28

Media Self-Censorship On 9-11

9 11 courthouse news suppresses court filing march 27 2019

AE911Truth.org, Opinion: Courthouse News yanks article for its woefully fair and accurate coverage of 9/11 lawsuit, Ted Walter, March 28, 2019. If you had to pick one example to best encapsulate the mainstream media bias and censorship that have contributed significantly to suppressing the truth about 9/11 for nearly two decades, it would have to be the extraordinary actions of Courthouse News Service earlier this week.

The first extraordinary action came on March 26, 2019, when Courthouse News published the article “FBI Accused of Omitting Evidence From 9/11 Report,” which — to the astonishment of many — offered fair coverage of the lawsuit filed one day earlier by the Lawyers’ Committee for 9/11 Inquiry, Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, and 9/11 family member Bob McIlvaine.

March 27

whowhatwhy logoWhoWhatWhy, ‘Tricky Dick’: Behind the Prevailing Myth, There’s Another Story, Staff Report, March 27, 2019. A new CNN four-part original series on the fall of President richard nixon portraitRichard M. Nixon — Tricky Dick — had its premiere March 17. Its makers promise “fresh insight into a riveting story of politics, power and scandal.”

Frankly, we doubt it. While we believe that most journalists do their level best to tell the truth as they understand it, major news organizations have tended to be corporations participating in the creation of a consensus narrative. It has been the case regardless of topic, and it was no different with the stories we are told about Richard Nixon and his downfall.

The story everyone heard was the one we all remember: Nixon (right) was a bad guy who committed a range of abuses, and paid the price. The heroes were the media and Congress. Russ Baker, founder of WhoWhatWhy, grew up believing that story. He believed it until his own research proved russ bakerotherwise: that Richard Nixon, for all his flaws, was not the architect of Watergate, but the victim of it.

And then Baker, left, stuck to his guns, telling a story that unsettled him deeply but was what he had uncovered. Because that is what an honest journalist does. It is what WhoWhatWhy does.

CNN will tell us a story that is entirely consistent with the prevailing myth, perhaps because its journalists only know the conventional story, but also perhaps in part because it is extremely risky — financially, professionally, in every respect — to break from the crowd.

To learn something with much more “fresh insight” than you will find in Tricky Dick, read on.

ken silversteinWashington Babylon, Investigative Commentary: Is The Intercept An Intelligence Operation? An Ongoing Inquiry, Ken Silverstein (right), March 28, 2019. Washington Babylon has been running a number of stories this week by Tim Shorrock and I which raise the possibility — mine did directly — that Pierre Omidyar’s The Intercept (TI) is an intelligence operation, working in collaboration with the U.S. and/or a foreign government. I understand why some readers might be skeptical of that charge, so let me lay out here some additional information and why I think everyone should be open-minded about the topic.

Let me also say that I don’t have 100 percent proof that TI was and is an intelligence operation, but the preponderance of evidence points that way. And I’m accumulating more evidence every day that makes the case even more compelling.

Before going further, here is a brief, lightly edited excerpt from the first story I ran on this topic. I urge all genuinely interested parties to read the entire story, before or after finishing this one.

Did Omidyar set up The Intercept on behalf of U.S. intelligence, in order to entrap, expose and prosecute whistleblowers? It’s curious: Greenwald was Omidyar’s first hire and he had pretty much exclusive access to Edward Snowden’s NSA treasure trove. When I worked at TI, the Snowden archive was locked in a safe. Omidyar and Greenwald long promised they would make it all available to the public but they never did, and last week, amid staff cuts that will inevitably lead to Omidyar killing the publication, TI announced that the Snowden archive will be sealed off from the public for an undetermined amount of time. So it looks like the most explosive leak in U.S. intelligence history will end up being buried by Omidyar and Greenwald.

I briefly noted in that story that I had previously worked at TI, being one of the first hires in 2014. I quit in disgust in early 2015 and wrote about my experience for Politico.

Back then, I didn’t suspect anything nefarious. I merely thought TI was experiencing a lot of the same problems any web start up would face. I remember joking with colleagues that by hiring so many left-leaning writers and paying them so much money to effectively not write — my two best stories for TI ended up in VICE — Omidyar had effectively decommissioned half of progressive journalism in the country. (Recall here Omidyar is a tech oligarch with rich ties to Silicon Valley, which in turn has deep links to U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies.)

But looking back, I have to wonder: was it merely incompetence and standard problems faced by start ups that kept TI from publishing much, or was it something worse?

March 21

Hypocrisy In High Places?

new yorker logoThe New Yorker, The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center, Bob Moser, March 21, 2019. The firing of Morris Dees, the co-founder of the S.P.L.C., has flushed up uncomfortable questions that have surrounded the organization for years.

morris dees speaker bureauIn the days since the stunning dismissal of Morris Dees (shown in a file photo from his speaker's bureau), the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, on March 14th, I’ve been thinking about the jokes my S.P.L.C. colleagues and I used to tell to keep ourselves sane. During my first few weeks, a friendly new co-worker couldn’t help laughing at my bewilderment. “Well, honey, welcome to the Poverty Palace,” she said. “I can guaran-damn-tee that you will never step foot in a more contradictory place as long as you live.”

“Everything feels so out of whack,” I said. “Where are the lawyers? Where’s the diversity? What in God’s name is going on here?”

“And you call yourself a journalist!” she said, laughing again. “Clearly you didn’t do your research.”

In the decade or so before I’d arrived, the center’s reputation as a beacon of justice had taken some hits from reporters who’d peered behind the façade. In 1995, the Montgomery Advertiser had been a Pulitzer finalist for a series that documented, among other things, staffers’ allegations of racial discrimination within the organization. In Harper’s, Ken Silverstein had revealed that the center had accumulated an endowment topping a hundred and twenty million dollars while paying lavish salaries to its highest-ranking staffers and spending far less than most nonprofit groups on the work that it claimed to do.

The work could be meaningful and gratifying. But it was hard, for many of us, not to feel like we’d become pawns in what was, in many respects, a highly profitable scam.

For the many former staffers who have come and gone through the center’s doors—I left in 2004—the queasy feelings came rushing back last week, when the news broke that Dees, now eighty-two, had been fired. The official statement sent by Cohen, who took control of the S.P.L.C. in 2003, didn’t specify why Dees had been dismissed, but it contained some broad hints. “We’re committed to ensuring that our workplace embodies the values we espouse—truth, justice, equity, and inclusion,” Cohen wrote. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.” Dees’s profile was immediately erased from the S.P.L.C.’s Web site—amazing, considering that he had remained, to the end, the main face and voice of the center, his signature on most of the direct-mail appeals that didn’t come from celebrity supporters, such as the author Toni Morrison.

david pecker cnn screenshot

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

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

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

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

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

March 20

U.S. Restrictions On Press

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

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

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

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

Other Media News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

amazon logo small

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

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

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

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

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

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

Media / Politics / Defamation

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

March 17

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

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

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

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

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

March 16

donald trump apprentice color nbc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 15

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

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

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

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

March 14

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

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

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

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

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

Critics Of Mueller, Defenders of Assange

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion

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

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

Nevada Independent, In the county that claims Mark Twain, an irreverent online publisher faces off with a powerful developer over who is a journalist, Daniel Rothberg, March 17, 2019. Sitting inside his cabin on a Friday afternoon, the tendentious Gold Hill editor Sam Toll sinks into a black office chair.

His yellow cabin — with a sign that says “Old Miner’s Cabin BUILT 1867” — sits in the small community of Gold Hill, adjacent and underneath Virginia City, the seat of Storey County.

“But to answer your question,” he said during an interview. “Do I throw grenades? Absolutely. When I see fraud, waste, abuse, cronyism, lying, double-standard in rules, where the rules don’t apply to the upper echelon but apply to the rest of us chumps, you bet I do. I throw grenades.”

The story of Toll is a complicated tale fueled by the heated public feuds and factions that have existed in Virginia City since the discovery of the Comstock Lode (the credit for which is itself disputed). It is a story about the First Amendment and press freedom. But it is also a story of a rural sheriff and #MeToo. It is about the norms, in 2019, of where journalism ends and politics begin. But it is also about a story questioning the residency of a county commissioner and a brothel owner credited for moving the region to a new bonanza near the Comstock: Big Tech.

“You’ll see this when you read the blog, that their whole focus was attack on my person, on the businesses I was involved in, on my credibility. It was vile, the things that they were putting out,” said Lance Gilman, a Storey county commissioner, owner of the Mustang Ranch brothel and one of the developers of the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center outside of Reno. “My only recourse was to the courts. It was obvious that there was a slander and libel case.”

Earlier this year, the judge dismissed most of Gilman’s claims. Carson City Judge James Wilson noted that Toll’s often irreverent style — what case law calls “lusty and imaginative expressions of contempt” — did not amount to defamation in and of itself. (Toll once wrote satire imagining “Glance ‘The Thrill’ Thrillman” opening up a petting zoo at the brothel).

But the judge sided with Gilman on one claim. Wilson said that articles challenging Gilman’s residence were potentially defamatory, and the judge allowed Gilman to conduct discovery to prove they were.

March 12

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

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

Mueller Report

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

March 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local journalism is dying in plain sight.

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

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

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

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

March 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunshine Week Preview this week:

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

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

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

OTHER EVENTS NEXT WEEK

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

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

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

March 5.

 

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

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

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

Details here.

March 4

Politics / Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

seth rich

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Stone Gag Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 2

Love, Money & Scandal

lauren sanchez jeff bezos david pecker ap via fox news

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

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

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

But then Mr. Bezos went to Hollywood.

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

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

March 1

Reporting On Venezuela

juan guaido nicolas maduro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Investigative Leads From Cohen

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

February 2019

Feb. 27

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

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

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

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

 Feb. 26

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

Feb. 24

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

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

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

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

Feb. 22

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 20

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

But that kind of helpful counsel wasn’t enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feb. 19

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

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

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

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

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