Media News 2021-23




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;
  • Heavy-handed political control, increasingly with partisan agendas, over schools, colleges, textbooks
  • Outright "fake news" that makes scant pretense of honest coverage.

To counter such practices, we link to significant news reports and commentary below. The materials are in reverse chronological order and are drawn primarily from large news organizations and expert commentators. Most focus on U.S. mass media, but some items related to global press freedom, education, high tech, religion, sports and other entertainment.

    • 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.'


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



March 24



ronald reagan 1981 w

Going Deep with Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary: The Iran Hostages, Carter, Reagan, and Bush: What the NY Times ‘Scoop’ Missed, Russ Baker, right, whowhatwhy logoauthor, widely published journalist and founder of the WhoWhatWhy investigative project, russ baker new head and shouldersMarch 25, 2023. A seemingly stolen election in 1980 led to the US of today, where the richest one percent hold power over the rest of the population.

Recently, The New York Times published an article with a stunning new claim that seemingly verifies a long-alleged plot by Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign to prevent Jimmy Carter, below left, from winning reelection.

jimmy carter portraitThe fact of the Times publishing the scoop was significant, since the paper has generally dismissed the so-called October Surprise theory, relying on a congressional investigation that I and many believe was a whitewash.

In fact, though I have come to believe there’s enough evidence to conclude that the Reagan campaign did carry out this outrageous and illegal operation, I also have doubts about the new material.

But my big beef is how the Times, following a familiar pattern, presents something in isolation as if completely unaware of, or unwilling to discuss, the much vaster criminality of which it is part. That larger framework is required for anyone trying to understand the political corruption and immorality that has long afflicted America, and the profound consequences still being felt 43 years later.

Carter Election Mystery

On Wednesday evening, October 30, 2019, Speaker Nancy Pelosi received the 2019 LBJ Liberty & Justice for All award from the LBJ Foundation. The event was held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington D.C...LBJ Foundation photo by Amanda Rhoades.The article recounts the story of a former Texas politician, Ben Barne (shown at left in a 2019 photo), who says he accompanied his friend and business partner John Connally, a former Democratic Texas governor turned Republican (shown at right on a 1979 Time Magazine cover), on a trip to the Middle East in 1980. john connally time coverDuring the trip, Barnes says, they met a slew of Arab leaders. Barnes now says he suspects the real purpose of the trip was to help Reagan steal the election:

Mr. Barnes said he was certain the point of Mr. Connally’s trip was to get a message to the Iranians to hold the hostages until after the election. “I’ll go to my grave believing that it was the purpose of the trip,” he said.

This is a new wrinkle on a topic that has confounded investigators and researchers for decades.

The background: 52 Americans were taken hostage in the 1979 Iranian revolution led by exiled Muslim cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This was the long-festering blowback from the CIA-orchestrated 1953 Iranian coup d’état, which put the shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, back into power. His puppet government spent two decades torturing and murdering Iranian dissenters. The US media’s nightly drumbeat of coverage about the hostages’ plight CIA Logoreminded audiences of Carter’s complete failure. It was such a hot topic that it led to the launching of the first new network news program in a decade, Nightline with Ted Koppel.

The Reagan campaign was panicked that Carter would succeed in negotiations to get the American hostages released prior to the election — and, some believe, they endeavored to block any deal. Although that is every bit as treasonous as it sounds, we now know that this is not the first time a Republican presidential candidate negotiated against the interests of America to enhance his career. Richard Nixon’s campaign worked aggressively to block Democratic peace negotiations to end the Vietnam War in 1968 for the same reason.

CIA Director William Casey, left, and Vice President George H.W. Bush, below right, President Ronald Reagan portraits published in the Michael Evans william casey reagan libraryPortrait Project in 1985 from the Reagan Library

According to some accounts, William Casey, Reagan’s campaign manager and a future director of the CIA, met with Iran’s representatives in Madrid in July and August of 1980. Then, in October, according to these accounts, Casey was joined by George H.W. Bush, Reagan’s vice presidential candidate and a george h w bush reagan libraryformer director of the CIA, in a Paris meeting with the Iranians, where they nailed a deal to sell arms to Iran if Iran held the hostages until Reagan could beat Carter. Of course, it would have been most unusual for private citizens to meet with any foreign government, let alone one with whom the US was in a de facto war. Most striking, of course, is the purported treachery at the heart of the matter.

Much of the recent Times article is devoted to showing that the paper has an authentic, historic scoop about Carter’s presidency, at a time when the country stands vigil during the 98-year-old’s final days.

I’ll share what insights I can offer here, since I know Ben Barnes, the Times’s source — and since I have some experience investigating the issue years ago. My main objective, though, is to do what I always do: provide missing context.

Part of a Pattern

All the focus on the Reagan campaign and its alleged connivance to gain power misses this point: In many fundamental ways, Reagan was a figurehead president, while George H.W. Bush, the man he beat in a heated nomination battle, was deeply involved with seismic US policy operations, highly sensitive and often illegal covert activities, including, it appears, blocking the hostages’ release.

Connally himself is a fascinating character deserving of more attention, for more reasons than I can give here — including his suppressed assertion that during the Dallas motorcade on November 22, 1963, he and John F. Kennedy, riding together, one in front of the other, were hit by volleys from different shooters.


It is impossible to overstate the importance of the “October Surprise” and how things would be different today if Jimmy Carter had been able to get the hostages released.

Many believe the president’s popularity would have surged, and that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush would never have been elected president and vice president.

Imagine how things might look today if Reagan — the author of today’s “rule by the rich” government — had not unseated Carter.

March 23

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok Chief to Testify in Congress as U.S. and China Duel Over Tech, Sapna Maheshwari, March 23, 2023. The Chinese-owned video app has become a battleground as the U.S. and China duel for tech leadership; Shou Chew’s first appearance before U.S. lawmakers comes as their distrust of the video app’s Chinese ownership has escalated; China said on Thursday that it would “firmly oppose” a forced sale of TikTok.

tiktok logo square CustomShou Chew, the chief executive of TikTok, will testify before Congress for the first time on Thursday, in an appearance that is expected to reflect U.S. lawmakers’ escalating distrust of the short-form video app’s Chinese ownership.

The hearing, which will begin at 10 a.m. before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will give lawmakers a rare opportunity to ask Mr. Chew questions directly about TikTok’s relationship with its Chinese owner, ByteDance, as well as about the app’s handling of sensitive U.S. user data and the risks it may pose to teens and children.

TikTok is working to secure its future in the United States, one of its biggest markets, where it says it has 150 million users and where it has become a culture-making machine. But lawmakers have questions about ByteDance’s links to the Chinese government and whether those could put TikTok’s U.S. user data into the hands of Beijing officials. U.S. intelligence officials like the director of the F.B.I., Christopher A. Wray, have also warned that the Chinese government could use TikTok’s algorithm for “influence operations.”

TikTok, which was initially hailed as China’s first global internet success story, has come to represent the growing divide between the United States and China over tech leadership and national security. The app has become a battleground in a technological Cold War between the two countries, with U.S. threats of a TikTok ban recalling how China has long blocked many American platforms.

ny times logoNew York Times, TikTok Claims It’s Limiting Teen Screen Time. Teens Say It Isn’t, Sapna Maheshwari, March 23, 2023. This month, the company announced a 60-minute cap for users under 18. But for some, staying on the app takes just a few taps.

jamaal bowman twitter

ny times logoNew York Times, Meet the lonely New York progressive who says TikTok is the victim of anti-China “hysteria,” Nicholas Fandos and David McCabe, March 23, 2023 (print ed.). Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York, above, says the drive to ban TikTok stems from anti-China “hysteria.” His Democratic colleagues disagree.

Of TikTok’s 150 million American users, there may be none more valuable to the embattled platform right now than Representative Jamaal Bowman of New York.

democratic donkey logoA backbench Democrat, Mr. Bowman commands neither TikTok’s largest following (he has about 159,000 fans) nor exceptional legislative clout. But in recent days, he has gone where almost no one else on Capitol Hill would, appointing himself the platform’s unofficial defender in face of a bipartisan race to target what President Biden sees as a national security threat.

tiktok logo Custom“Why the hell are we whipping ourselves into a hysteria to scapegoat TikTok?” Mr. Bowman asked in a telephone interview as he traveled by train to Washington on Wednesday.

Hours later, he held a news conference outside the House touting the platform’s virtues, alongside dozens of influencers brought in by TikTok for a day of lobbying ahead of Thursday’s congressional hearing with its chief executive. Only two other Democrats attended, while some of the congressman’s most outspoken allies declined to weigh in, like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow member of the group of left-leaning lawmakers known as the squad.

ny times logochat gpt logoNew York Times, Commentary: The A.I. Chatbots Have Arrived. Time to Talk to Your Kids, Christina Caron (a reporter for the Well section and a mother of two who experimented with ChatGPT for hours to help fellow parents better understand how it works), March 23, 2023. Artificial intelligence can make adults nervous, but experts say exploring it as a family is the best way to understand its pros and cons.

March 22

chat gpt logo

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Our New Promethean Moment, tom friedman twitterThomas L. Friedman, right, March 22, 2023. I had a most remarkable but unsettling experience last week.

Craig Mundie, the former chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft, was giving me a demonstration of GPT-4, the most advanced version of the artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI and launched in November. Craig was preparing to brief the board of my wife’s museum, Planet Word, of which he is a member, about the effect ChatGPT will have on words, language and innovation.

“You need to understand,” Craig warned me before he started his demo, “this is going to change everything about how we do everything. I think that it represents microsoft logo Custommankind’s greatest invention to date. It is qualitatively different — and it will be transformational.”

Large language modules like ChatGPT will steadily increase in their capabilities, Craig added, and take us “toward a form of artificial general intelligence,” delivering efficiencies in operations, ideas, discoveries and insights “that have never been attainable before across every domain.”

Then he did a demonstration. And I realized Craig’s words were an understatement.

Politico, Twitter’s plan to charge researchers for data access puts it in EU crosshairs, Mark Scott, March 22, 2023. Elon Musk’s social media giant plans to charge academics to access its data — in potential violation of Europe’s content rules.

Elon Musk pledged Twitter would abide by Europe's new content rules — but Yevgeniy Golovchenko is not so convinced.

twitter bird CustomThe Ukrainian academic, an assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen, relies on the social network's data to track Russian disinformation, including propaganda linked to the ongoing war in Ukraine. But that access, including to reams of tweets analyzing pro-Kremlin messaging, may soon be cut off. Or, even worse for Golovchenko, cost him potentially millions of euros a year.

Under Musk's leadership, Twitter is shutting down researchers' free access to its data, though the final decision on when that will happen has yet to be made. Company officials are also offering new pay-to-play access to researchers via deals that start at $42,000 per month and can rocket up to $210,000 per month for the largest amount of data, according to Twitter's internal presentation to academics that was shared with POLITICO.

Guardian, Ecuadorian TV presenter wounded by bomb disguised as USB stick, Staff Report, March 22, 2023 (print ed.). Lenin Artieda was one of several journalists targeted by explosive devices mailed out across the country.

An Ecuadorian television presenter was wounded after a bomb disguised as a USB stick exploded when he inserted it in his computer, after explosive devices were sent to journalists across the country.

Lenin Artieda suffered minor injuries in the blast, which happened in the newsroom of Ecuavisa TV in Guayaquil.

The country’s attorney general’s office announced on Monday that it had launched a terrorism investigation after journalists at several news outlets were sent envelopes containing similar explosive devices.

“It’s a military-type explosive, but very small capsules,” said Xavier Chango, the national head of forensic science, referring to the explosive sent to Ecuavisa.

The envelopes sent to journalists had similar characteristics and the same contents and so would be investigated jointly, the attorney general’s office said in a statement, without naming the media organizations affected.

The police carried out a controlled detonation of a device sent to the news department of TC Television, also in Guayaquil, prosecutors said earlier on Monday.

Regional freedom of expression advocacy group Fundamedios said a third television station and radio outlet in Quito had also received envelopes with explosives.

The Television channel Teleamazonas said one of its journalists had received an anonymous envelope on Thursday and upon opening it had discovered a device, which the police confirmed contained explosives.

March 21

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the 3 Months That Could Cost Fox $1.6 Billion, Jeremy W. Peters, March 21, 2023 (print ed.). The decision by Fox News executives in November 2020 to treat the more hard-right Newsmax as a mortal threat spawned a possibly more serious danger.

fox news logo SmallSince 2002, when Fox News first overtook CNN as the most-watched cable news channel, one thing has been as certain and predictable as its dominance: Every time a Democrat wins the White House, the right-leaning network’s ratings take a momentary dip.

That happened after the election of President Biden in 2020, too. But the reaction inside Fox was far different than before.

There was panic. From the chairman of Fox Corporation on down, executives scrambled as they tried to keep viewers tuned in, believing they were facing a crisis. Now, because of the decisions made after former President Donald J. Trump’s loss, Fox News is reckoning with a threat that could prove far more serious.

dominion voting systemsA $1.6 billion defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems claims Fox knowingly spread false information about the role of the firm’s election technology in a made-up conspiracy to flip votes. On Tuesday, the two sides will present oral arguments before a judge in Delaware state court as they prepare for a trial next month.

Fox has insisted that it wasn’t presenting claims about Dominion as fact but was reporting and opining on them as any news organization would.

She says lawyers made her give misleading Dominion testimony.

As part of the suit, Dominion obtained thousands of internal Fox emails and text messages and deposed dozens of Fox employees. That evidence shows in extraordinary detail how the network lost its way in the weeks after the election. Here is a timeline of that fateful period, as told in court filings. Some of these exchanges have been lightly condensed for clarity.


tucker carlson fox horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, A Fox News producer sued the network, saying she was coerced into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion case, Nicholas Confessore and Katie Robertson, March 21, 2023 (print ed.). The producer, Abby Grossberg, said in a pair of lawsuits that the effort to place blame on her and Maria Bartiromo, the Fox Business host, was rooted in rampant misogyny and discrimination at the company.

A Fox News producer who has worked with the hosts Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson filed lawsuits against the company in New York and Delaware on Monday, accusing Fox lawyers of coercing her into giving misleading testimony in the continuing legal battle around the network’s coverage of unfounded claims about election fraud.

The producer, Abby Grossberg, said Fox lawyers had tried to position her and Ms. Bartiromo to take the blame for Fox’s repeated airing of conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems and its supposed role in manipulating the results of the 2020 presidential election. Dominion has filed a $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox. Ms. Grossberg said the effort to place blame on her and Ms. Bartiromo was rooted in rampant misogyny and discrimination at the network.

fox news logo SmallThe new lawsuits, coupled with revelations from the Dominion legal fight, shed light on the rivalries and turf battles that raged at Fox News in the wake of the 2020 election, as network executives fought to hold on to viewers furious at the top-rated network for accurately reporting on President Donald J. Trump’s defeat in Arizona, a crucial swing state.

The lawsuits also include details about Ms. Grossberg’s work life at Fox and on Mr. Carlson’s show. Ms. Grossberg says she and other women endured frank and open sexism from co-workers and superiors at the network, which has been dogged for years by lawsuits and allegations about sexual harassment by Fox executives and stars.

The network’s disregard for women, Ms. Grossberg alleged, left her and Ms. Bartiromo understaffed — stretched too thin to properly vet the truthfulness of claims made against Dominion on the air. At times, Ms. Grossberg said, she was the only full-time employee dedicated solely to Ms. Bartiromo’s Sunday-morning show.

dominion voting systemsIn her complaints, Ms. Grossberg accuses lawyers for Fox News of coaching her in “a coercive and intimidating manner” before her September deposition in the Dominion case. The lawyers, she said, gave her the impression that she had to avoid mentioning prominent male executives and on-air talent to protect them from any blame, while putting her own reputation at risk.

On Monday afternoon, Fox filed its own suit against Ms. Grossberg, seeking to enjoin her from filing claims that would shed light on her discussions with the company’s lawyers. A judge has not yet ruled on Fox’s suit. Later on Monday, according to her lawyer, Parisis G. Filippatos, Fox also placed Ms. Grossberg on forced administrative leave.

Ms. Grossberg’s lawsuits were filed in the Southern District of New York and in Superior Court in Delaware, where a pretrial hearing in the Dominion defamation lawsuit is scheduled for Tuesday.

In a statement, a Fox spokeswoman said: “Fox News Media engaged an independent outside counsel to immediately investigate the concerns raised by Ms. Grossberg, which were made following a critical performance review. We will vigorously defend these claims.”

According to the lawsuits filed by Ms. Grossberg, Fox superiors called Ms. Bartiromo a “crazy bitch” who was “menopausal” and asked Ms. Grossberg to cut the host out of coverage discussions.

Last year, she began working as a senior booking producer at “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” On her first full day, according to the lawsuit, Ms. Grossberg discovered that the show’s Manhattan work space was decorated with large pictures of Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, then the House speaker, wearing a plunging swimsuit.

The next day, Justin Wells, Mr. Carlson’s top producer, called Ms. Grossberg into his office, she said, to ask whether Ms. Bartiromo was having a sexual relationship with the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy.

Mr. Carlson’s staff joked about Jews and freely deployed a vulgar term for women, according to the complaint.

Later that fall, it said, before an appearance on the show by Tudor Dixon, the Republican candidate for Michigan governor, Mr. Carlson’s staff held a mock debate about whether they would prefer to have sex with Ms. Dixon or her Democratic opponent, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

After Ms. Grossberg complained about harassment from two male producers on the show, she was pulled into a meeting with human resources and told that she was not performing her duties, according to the complaint.

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Releases Bard, Its Competitor in the Race to Create A.I. Chatbots, Nico Grant and Cade Metz, March 21, 2023. The internet giant will grant users access to a chatbot after years of cautious development, chasing splashy debuts from rivals OpenAI and Microsoft.

google logo customFor more than three months, Google executives have watched as projects at Microsoft and a San Francisco start-up called OpenAI have stoked the public’s imagination with the potential for artificial intelligence.

chat gpt logoBut on Tuesday, Google tentatively stepped off the sidelines as it released a chatbot called Bard. The new A.I. chatbot will be available to a limited number of users in the United States and Britain and will accommodate additional users, countries and languages over time, Google executives said in an interview.

microsoft logo CustomThe cautious rollout is the company’s first public effort to address the recent chatbot craze driven by OpenAI and Microsoft, and it is meant to demonstrate that Google is capable of providing similar technology. But Google is taking a much more circumspect approach than its competitors, which have faced criticism that they are proliferating an unpredictable and sometimes untrustworthy technology.

Still, the release represents a significant step to stave off a threat to Google’s most lucrative business, its search engine. Many in the tech industry believe that Google — more than any other big tech company — has a lot to lose and to gain from A.I., which could help a range of Google products become more useful, but could also help other companies cut into Google’s huge internet search business. A chatbot can instantly produce answers in complete sentences that don’t force people to scroll through a list of results, which is what a search engine would offer.

March 20

 rupert murdoch jerry hall

washington post logoWashington Post, Rupert Murdoch, 92, decides to have another go at marriage, Paul Farhi, March 20, 2023. Rupert Murdoch, four times married and divorced at 92, isn’t letting age or previous marital experience stand in the way of a fresh start. The billionaire media baron said he plans to marry a fifth time.

Murdoch announced he is engaged once again, this time to Ann Lesley Smith, 66, a former model, singer-songwriter, radio talk-show host, and police chaplain in San Francisco. The couple met last year.

Murdoch is fresh off his divorce from Jerry Hall, the model and actress he married in 2016 (shown together with him above in a file photo). Murdoch divorced Hall, rupert murdoch pink shirtsleevesthe mother of four of Mick Jagger’s children, last year.

fox news logo SmallMurdoch, left, broke the news of his engagement in the New York Post, the tabloid that helped launch his foray into the American and global media market when the Australian immigrant bought it in 1976. Murdoch-led companies have since founded or acquired the Fox broadcast network, Fox News Channel, the Wall Street Journal and HarperCollins book publishers, among dozens of other properties.

washington post logoWashington Post, Amazon cuts another 9,000 jobs as tech layoffs mount, Rachel Lerman, March 20, 2023. This brings the expected number of cuts to 27,000 at the e-commerce giant.

amazon logo smallAmazon will slash another 9,000 roles, the company announced Monday, adding to a mounting list of layoffs as the tech sector’s golden age fades.

The job losses build on the 18,000 previously announced, bringing the total to 27,000, and stand in a stark contrast to the past decade of explosive growth for the technology industry, and for Amazon in particular.

The Seattle company boomed during the early days of the pandemic, when consumers leaned into online ordering. But growth has waned for Amazon and fellow tech giants Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all have announced massive layoffs in the past several months. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

These are some of the notable companies laying off workers

It’s a significant reversal for the industry, which some had perceived as “recession-proof.” But others say the companies grew too big, too fast and needed to rein in spending. The layoffs have also hit start-ups and smaller firms, and funding has been less accessible as the sector struggles.

March 19


alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Sandy Hook Families Take On Alex Jones and the Bankruptcy System Itself, Elizabeth Williamson and Emily Steel, March 19, 2023 (print ed.). As they seek over $1.4 billion in damages, a Times review shows Mr. Jones is moving millions to family and friends, potentially out of reach of creditors.

The Infowars conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones, who faces more than $1.4 billion in legal damages for defaming the families of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, has devised a new way to taunt them: wriggling out of paying them the money they are owed.

Mr. Jones, who has an estimated net worth as high as $270 million, declared both business and personal bankruptcy last year as the families won historic verdicts in two lawsuits over his lies about the 2012 shooting that killed 20 first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A New York Times review of financial documents and court records filed over the past year found that Mr. Jones has transferred millions of dollars in property, cash and business deals to family and friends, including to a new company run by his former personal trainer, all potentially out of reach of creditors. He has also spent heavily on luxuries, including $80,000 on a private jet, bodyguards and a rented villa while he was in Connecticut to testify at a trial last fall.

“If anybody thinks they’re shutting me down, they’re mistaken,” Mr. Jones said on his new podcast last month.

The families now face a stark reality. It is not clear whether they will ever collect a significant portion of the assets Mr. Jones has transferred. So their ability to get anything remotely close to the jury awards is inextricably tied to Mr. Jones’s capacity to make a living as the purveyor of lies — including that the shooting was a hoax, the parents were actors and the children did not really die — that ignited years of torment and threats against them.

Lawyers for Mr. Jones said in a filing late last year that “any argument that Jones must give up his public life, or discontinue public discourse, is contrary to supporting his ability to fund a plan and pay creditors.”

Mark Bankston, the families’ Texas lawyer, does not disagree. “There’s a chance we’re going to be forced into a situation where we’re going to be checking to see how Infowars is doing every month to figure out if our clients are getting paid or not,” he said.

Earlier this month, Mr. Jones offered to pay the families and his other creditors a total of $43 million over five years as part of a bankruptcy plan, which lawyers for the families immediately dismissed as laughable and riddled with financial holes. The judge ordered Mr. Jones to fill in the gaps in his financial disclosures by the end of the month.

But Mr. Jones’s continued obfuscation about his net worth has given him leverage over the families, who are also fighting an American bankruptcy system that makes the survival of businesses a priority and has so far given Mr. Jones an advantage in court.

Although Infowars has estimated revenues of some $70 million a year — hardly a mom-and-pop shop — Mr. Jones was able to file for Chapter 11 under the more lenient bankruptcy rules of the Small Business Reorganization Act, known as Subchapter V. The law first took effect in early 2020, but was soon broadened to assist small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Unlike in a traditional Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Subchapter V gives creditors like the Sandy Hook families virtually no say in a restructuring plan, nor can they file a competing plan. They can challenge Mr. Jones’s approach, but an impasse in talks could result in liquidation of the company, putting them in line to collect a fraction of the damages.

A liquidation would end Infowars, but Mr. Jones would be free to start another company just like it.

“We’re doing well in Chapter V,” Mr. Jones said on Infowars in September, misstating the name of the rule. “Whatever judgments they have can’t shut us down. Whatever profit there is in the future these jerks get, but who cares, we’re still on air.”

 chat gpt logowashington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: ChatGPT can ace logic tests now. But don’t ask it to be creative, Geoffrey A. Fowler, March 19, 2023 (print ed.). Our tech columnist tests LSAT puzzles and a writing challenge on GPT-4. Here’s what the artificial intelligence upgrade can — and can’t — do.

When the new version of the artificial intelligence tool ChatGPT arrived this week, I watched it do something impressive: solve logic puzzles.

One after the other, I fed the AI called GPT-4 questions from the logical reasoning portion of the LSAT used for law school admissions. Those always leave me with a headache, yet the software aced them like a competent law student.

But as cool as that is, it doesn’t mean AI is suddenly as smart as a lawyer.

The arrival of GPT-4, an upgrade from OpenAI to the chatbot software that captured the world’s imagination, is one the year’s most-hyped tech launches. Some feared its uncanny ability to imitate humans could be devastating for workers, be used as a chaotic “deepfake” machine or usher in an age of sentient computers.

That is not how I see GPT-4 after using it for a few days. While it has gone from a D student to a B student at answering logic questions, AI hasn’t crossed a threshold into human intelligence. For one, when I asked GPT-4 to flex its improved “creative” writing capability by crafting the opening paragraph to this column in the style of me (Geoffrey A. Fowler), it couldn’t land on one that didn’t make me cringe.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: AI chatbots won’t enjoy tech’s legal shield, lawmakers say, Cristiano Lima and David DiMolfetta, March 19, 2023. A Supreme Court case last month examining tech companies’ liability shield kicked off an unexpected debate: Will the protections apply to tools powered by artificial intelligence, like ChatGPT?

chat gpt logoThe question, which Justice Neil M. Gorsuch raised during arguments for Gonzalez v. Google, could have sweeping implications as tech companies race to capitalize on the popularity of the OpenAI chatbot and integrate similar products, as my colleague Will Oremus wrote last month.

But the two lawmakers behind the law told The Technology 202 that the answer is already clear: No, they won’t be protected under Section 230.

The 1996 law, authored by Reps. Ron Wyden and Chris Cox, shields digital services from lawsuits over user content they host. And courts have typically held that Section 230 applies to search engines when they link to or publish excerpts from third parties, as Will wrote.

But Gorsuch suggested last month that those protections might not apply for AI-generated content, positing that the tool “generates polemics today that would be content that goes beyond picking, choosing, analyzing or digesting content. And that is not protected.”

Gorsuch’s comment ignited a lively debate that’s becoming increasingly prescient as more Silicon Valley giants redouble their AI investments and roll out new products.
According to Wyden and Cox, Gorsuch was right — meaning companies could be open to a deluge of lawsuits if AI tools go awry.

"AI tools like ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion and others being rapidly integrated into popular digital services should not be protected by Section 230,” Wyden (D-Ore.), now a senator and a staunch defender of the law, said in a statement. “And it isn’t a particularly close call.”

Wyden, who has proposed requiring companies to vet AI for biases, added that, “Section 230 is about protecting users and sites for hosting and organizing users’ speech” and “has nothing to do with protecting companies from the consequences of their own actions and products.”

 March 18

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter’s Talks Over Licensing Music Are Said to Stall Under Musk, Ryan Mac, Ben Sisario and Kate Conger, March 18, 2023 (print ed.). Twitter explored the licensing of music rights from three major labels before negotiations stalled after Elon Musk’s takeover of the company, said eight people with knowledge of the discussions, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Twitter is one of the last big social media platforms without music licensing deals, which allow the sites to host virtually all commercially available audio content without fear of takedowns or legal reprisal. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok have all made agreements for music rights.

Twitter had avoided signing deals for music rights, which require social media companies to compensate rights holders when users post or play content with song. The costs of the licenses can vary, but can be well over $100 million a year for established social-media platforms. Twitter has forgone the licensing deals because of the costs, five former employees said.

Twitter and Mr. Musk did not respond to an email request for comment.

Twitter began negotiations with the three major music conglomerates — Universal, Sony and Warner — in the fall of 2021, according to six people close to the talks. When Mr. Musk announced his intent to buy the company last April, some music industry leaders saw his involvement as an opportunity to finally get the deals done.

“Twitter uses a significant amount of music but unlike all other mainstream social media platforms has refused to license that music or compensate songwriters,” David Israelite, the chief executive of the National Music Publishers’ Association, a trade group, tweeted at Mr. Musk that month. “Please help.”

For the music companies, licensing agreements with Twitter would not only represent an additional source of revenue but also resolve longstanding problems of copyright infringement on the platform.

ny times logoNew York Times, CNN’s Prime-Time Experiment Is Off to a Slow Start, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, March 18, 2023 (print ed.). Viewership is down in the early going of CNN’s new 9 p.m. programming strategy, as the network tries to reinvent itself.

CNN’s new chairman, Chris Licht, debuted a novel experiment last month to revive his network’s flagging prime-time ratings, betting that viewers would tune in for a mix of exclusive interviews and specials dedicated to hot-button topics like fentanyl abuse and the war in Ukraine.

Viewers have had other ideas.

Since Mr. Licht’s 9 p.m. experiment, “CNN Primetime,” began airing several times a week on Feb. 22, viewership has fallen below what the network was drawing in the time slot just a few months ago.

At 9 p.m. on March 8, more Americans watched “Homicide Hunter: The Man With No Face” on the Investigation Discovery cable network than CNN’s exclusive interview with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. Two days earlier, an afternoon broadcast of “Ancient Aliens” on the History Channel drew a bigger audience than a 9 p.m. interview with the first lady, Jill Biden.

Last week, when the network aired the Biden and Zelensky interviews, as well as a town hall with Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia, CNN delivered its fourth-lowest 9 p.m. weekly ratings in 24 years.

CNN has had a rocky run since Mr. Licht, a former morning-show and late-night producer, was named to the job about a year ago. The network downsized its staff, jettisoned a new streaming channel and faced an uproar over sexist remarks by the anchor Don Lemon.

Mr. Licht has retained the firm support of his boss, David Zaslav, the chief executive of Warner Bros. Discovery, which acquired CNN last year. On a visit to CNN’s Manhattan offices on Tuesday, Mr. Zaslav delivered a full-throated endorsement of Mr. Licht’s vision for the network, urging the staff to try out new ideas — “ratings be damned.”

'CNN has not deployed a marketing effort to showcase these 9 p.m. specials, and it is possible the network could develop an audience in the time slot as more viewers become aware of the new concept.

Still, word of CNN’s dwindling audiences has traveled beyond the cable executives who pore over Nielsen data reports: At last weekend’s white-tie Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken singled out the network in his comedic keynote speech.

“According to the guest list, there are 600 attendees here tonight,” Mr. Blinken told the chuckling crowd. “CNN would kill for an audience like that.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Where Did All Your Zoom Friends Go? Issie Lapowsky, Photographs by Gili Benita, March 18, 2023. They got lost in this weird moment, where the world is caught between crisis and normalcy, and is nostalgic for virtual happy hours.

One day last year, Julie Gauthier went on Twitter with a confession to make. “Unpopular opinion: I don’t have zoom fatigue and I miss zoom happy hours and game nights,” she wrote. “I feel more isolated now than I did when friends all took time to chat online at the beginning of the pandemic.”

Ms. Gauthier, 30, had been scrolling through old photos and found a screenshot of one of the virtual happy hours she’d had with friends in the early days of Covid restrictions. At the time, living alone and working remotely as a software engineer in rural Coventry, Conn., the self-described extrovert seized every opportunity for human contact she could get.

Virtual trivia nights? She was in. Mask-making over Zoom with members of a local makerspace? Why not? She made a new best friend out of a stranger she met at an online meetup for tech workers, and when another friend’s band began broadcasting porch concerts over Facebook Live, Ms. Gauthier streamed the show on her TV and got all dressed up as if she were there.

Her whole world had been reduced to her home, and somehow it felt full.

‘It was just fun to see everybody’s face. Normally, when we try to get together in person, half of them are missing.’ Julie Gauthier, 30, Coventry, Conn.
Julie Gauthier, a 30 year-old woman with long blonde and brown hair, wearing gold framed glasses, smiling while seated in front of a green and white wall, with plants behind her.

By the time she stumbled on the old Zoom screenshot — filled with the faces of friends she had scarcely seen since — it felt decidedly less so. It still does.

To be clear, it’s not that Ms. Gauthier misses those dreadful days — at all. It’s just that she misses how hungry people were to connect, as if the inability to see anyone in person made us all want to see everyone, all the time, by any means necessary.

“I’m just not meeting new people nearly as much, and I’m not able to stay in touch with my friends nearly as much,” Ms. Gauthier said.

Three years since the pandemic was declared, many of the apps, platforms and digital tools that Ms. Gauthier and millions of others relied on to stay connected are struggling, shrinking or shutting down. Zoom has slashed 15 percent of its work force. Epic Games killed off the group video app Houseparty in late 2021, and even Meta’s Portal devices, which after years of challenges surged in popularity in 2020, got the ax last year.

Those apps that have survived, including the multiplayer game Among Us, the video chat app Marco Polo and the live audio app Clubhouse, which once had millions of people on its waiting list, have seen downloads drop.

“Busy life is back,” said Vlada Bortnik, chief executive of Marco Polo, which introduced a paid subscription product in 2020. “For us, the focus has really become: Let’s focus on people who are really resonating with what we’re doing.”

ny times logoNew York Times, The Second Life of a Christian College in Manhattan Nears Its End, Liam Stack, March 18, 2023 (print ed.). The King’s College, which draws students from around the country to New York City, has not been able to recover from enrollment and financial losses.

Leaders of the college in Manhattan have been meeting with students in recent weeks to deliver a grim message: All of you should find someplace else to go to school.

Between the pandemic and a business deal gone bad, the college had struggled for years. But what began as a handful of layoffs in November quickly escalated to a doomsday scenario. Now it appears likely the school will close, and school officials have been going from department to department to show students a list of schools that might accept them as transfer students.

The King’s College is a small school. But as the city’s only high-profile evangelical college committed to “the truths of Christianity and a biblical worldview,” it is more well known than its enrollment numbers — over 600 students before the pandemic, down to roughly half that now — might suggest.

Its sudden decline has drawn national attention.

Most of its students are white, and many come from conservative households far from New York City. For them, King’s has been a pathway to a world beyond their lives back home, where roughly half were home-schooled or attended private, often Christian, academies.

In interviews, most said they hoped to stay in New York and transfer to non-evangelical schools, like Fordham University, Columbia University or the City University of New York. Representatives of the college did not respond to messages seeking comment.

March 17


sidney powell rudy giuliani

washington post logoWashington Post, At center of Fox News lawsuit, Sidney Powell and a ‘wackadoodle’ email, Sarah Ellison and Amy Gardner, March 17, 2023 (print ed.). Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, above right with fellow Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, took bogus claims of widespread fraud mainstream. Fox News's decision to keep booking her prompted Dominion's defamation case.

A day after major news organizations declared Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential race, a Sunday-morning guest on Fox News was holding forth on exotic and baseless claims of election fraud — allegedly deceased voters, ballots supposedly lacking an option to vote for Donald Trump, an “affidavit” from a postal worker claiming to have postdated mail-in ballots — when host Maria Bartiromo pressed for more details.

“Sidney, we talked about the Dominion software,” Bartiromo said on the Nov. 8, 2020, broadcast. “I know that there were voting irregularities. Tell me about that.”

fox news logo SmallThe guest was Sidney Powell, a Texas-based lawyer who would soon be ambiguously connected to the Trump legal team mustered to challenge the election results. She stared stiffly into the lights of a satellite TV studio but answered without hesitation.

“That’s putting it mildly,” Powell replied. “The computer glitches could not and should not have happened at all. That’s where the fraud took place, where they were flipping votes in the computer system or adding votes that did not exist.”

It was the first of a dozen appearances Powell would make on Fox programs over the next month in which she helped inject far-fetched and debunked claims of widespread fraud into the mainstream — and which are now at the heart of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox, court documents show.

These appearances helped elevate a once-obscure lawyer to a marquee player in Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election — and helped keep her claims of fraud on the forefront for millions of loyal Fox viewers, including Trump himself. Powell would continue to appear on Fox for weeks after Dominion protested that it had been unfairly smeared, and as Fox News executives privately agonized that these on-air falsehoods created a problem for the network, according to newly released internal communications and testimony.

She would even appear on Fox programs after a Fox Corp. senior vice president said he had privately begged the White House to disavow Powell.

“We encouraged several sources within the administration to tell reporters that Powell offered no evidence for her claims and didn’t speak for the president,” executive Raj Shah wrote to his bosses on Nov. 23 — a day after Trump lawyers issued statements saying that Powell was not a member of their team.

  • Washington Post, Analysis: Maria Bartiromo isn’t done with misinformation just yet, Philip Bump, March 16, 2023.

ny times logoNew York Times, Florida Scoured Math Textbooks for ‘Prohibited Topics.’ Next Up: Social Studies, Sarah Mervosh, March 17, 2023 (print ed.). Behind the scenes, one publisher went to great lengths to avoid mentions of race, even in the story of Rosa Parks.

The nitty-gritty process of reviewing and approving school textbooks has typically been an administrative affair, drawing the attention of education experts, publishing executives and state bureaucrats.

But in Florida, textbooks have become hot politics, part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’s campaign against what he describes as “woke indoctrination” in public schools, particularly when it comes to race and gender. Last year, his administration made a splash when it rejected dozens of math textbooks, citing “prohibited topics.”

Now, the state is reviewing curriculum in what is perhaps the most contentious subject in education: social studies.

In the last few months, as part of the review process, a small army of state experts, teachers, parents and political activists have combed thousands of pages of text — not only evaluating academic content, but also flagging anything that could hint, for instance, at critical race theory.

March 16


Self-help guru Marianne Williamson, seeking to rerun as a presidential campaign currently despite her failed campaign previously, speaks at left during Democratic primary event on June 28, 2019.

Self-help guru Marianne Williamson, seeking to rerun as a presidential campaign currently despite her failed campaign previously, speaks at left during Democratic primary event on June 28, 2019. She markets herself via books and speeches as an inspirational presence for the public, much needed during troubled times.

Politico, Marianne Williamson’s ‘abusive’ treatment of 2020 campaign staff, revealed, Lauren Egan, March 16, 2023. The self-help guru, who is running for president again, was emotionally and verbally abusive to staff, according to interviews with former employees.

politico CustomThe best-selling author Marianne Williamson has built a career preaching love and forgiveness. It is the cornerstone of her second Democratic campaign for president which she launched on March 4.

But those who have worked with Williamson as she has moved into the political realm say her public persona is at odds with her private behavior.

Interviews with 12 people who worked for Williamson during her 2020 presidential campaign paint a picture of a boss who can be verbally and emotionally abusive.

Those interviewed say the best-selling author and spiritual adviser subjected her employees to unpredictable, explosive episodes of anger. They said Williamson could be cruel and demeaning to her staff and that her behavior went far beyond the typical stress of a grueling presidential cycle.

“It would be foaming, spitting, uncontrollable rage,” said a former staffer, who, like most people that spoke with POLITICO, was granted anonymity because of their concern about being sued for breaking non-disclosure agreements. “It was traumatic. And the experience, in the end, was terrifying.”

Williamson would throw her phone at staffers, according to three of those former staffers. Her outbursts could be so loud that two former aides recounted at least four occasions when hotel staff knocked on her door to check on the situation. In one instance, Williamson got so angry about the logistics of a campaign trip to South Carolina that she felt was poorly planned that she pounded a car door until her hand started to swell, according to four former staffers. Ultimately, she had to go to an urgent care facility, they said. All 12 former staffers interviewed recalled instances where Williamson would scream at people until they started to cry.

Politico, Former editor of Jewish newspaper charged for Jan. 6 actions, Kyle Cheney, March 16, 2023. Elliot Resnick faces charges of civil disorder and impeding police officers; The Jewish Press’ editorial board defended Elliot Resnick’s presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, contending he was there in a professional capacity to cover the events of the day.

politico CustomThe former editor of an Orthodox Jewish newspaper in New York City — identified two years ago as a member of the Jan. 6 mob by Politico — was charged Thursday with two felonies for his actions at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Elliot Resnick, who had drawn controversy prior to Jan. 6 for incendiary and bigoted comments — labeling African religions as “primitive” and suggesting white supremacy is fictional — grabbed a Capitol Police officer’s arm while he was attempting to defend the doors leading to the rotunda, according to charging documents. After those doors were breached, Resnick remained by the entrance and helped pull other rioters into the building at one of the earliest moments of the breach, according to the documents.

Resnick faces charges of civil disorder and impeding police officers, as well as misdemeanor counts for entering and remaining in a restricted building, as well as disorderly or disruptive conduct in a Capitol building.

In a statement of facts accompanying the case, the FBI special agent who investigated Resnick indicated that an April 8 POLITICO story played a role in the FBI’s identification of Resnick, when a tipster brought it to the bureau’s attention.

At the time, the Jewish Press’ editorial board defended Resnick’s presence at the Capitol, contending that he was there in a professional capacity to cover the events of the day.

“The Jewish Press does not see why Elliot’s personal views on former President Trump should make him any different from the dozens of other journalists covering the events, including many inside the Capitol building during the riots, nor why his presence justifies an article in Politico while the presence of other reporters inside the building does not,” the board wrote.

But videos and images from that day portrayed Resnick as an active participant in the unrest, pushing his way to the doors of the Capitol, waving rioters on and bursting through the rotunda doors despite resistance from police. Prosecutors included images suggesting Resnick aided other rioters’ entry into the building.

In addition, Resnick never printed any articles or accounts of Jan. 6, despite his active presence on social media and perch at the Jewish Press. In the same statement, the board described this as an institutional decision: “The Jewish Press decided not to print any article — by Elliot or anyone else — in our print edition because of the heated atmosphere surrounding the day’s events, especially within New York’s Orthodox Jewish community.”

In the charging documents, the agent on the case noted that she was “aware of and has complied with the U.S. Department of Justice’s News Media Policy,” which prescribes guidance and limits on the way prosecutors investigate and charge members of the press.

Resnick, according to the charging documents, was inside the Capitol for about 50 minutes, based on a review of CCTV footage and other video captured by media and members of the mob.

Marcvh 15

Talking Points Memo, Commentary: Reporter Describes Being Fired By Axios After Being Targeted By Ron DeSantis’ Media ‘Machine,’ Hunter Walker, March 15, 2023. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) press team often attacks the reporters who cover his state. On Monday, they cost one of those journalists, Ben Montgomery, tpm logohis job with Axios. In a conversation with TPM, Montgomery said he felt the situation was an example of how DeSantis’ media “machine” was impacting the news business.

“This sort of thing has a chilling effect. Nobody wants to have their life disrupted by this machine,” Montgomery said in a phone call on Wednesday evening. “They call it ‘media accountability,’ and it is not that. It’s meaner than that, and more personal, and affecting. … It has a quieting effect and that’s a shame. It’s sad for democracy and sad for all of us.”

DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for president next year, has a press shop that is known for being combative with the media. Members of his team have highlighted individual reporters on Twitter while demanding corrections. They have also shared screenshots of emails and requests for comment sent by journalists in an effort to paint those reporters as biased.

These posts from DeSantis’ press team have led to the reporters who are targeted being bombarded with angry messages and threats from the governor’s fans. In one 2021 instance, the Associated Press publicly accused a former DeSantis spokesperson of engaging in “harassment.” In addition to DeSantis’ official press operation, far-right Florida activists have set up their own publications focused on positive coverage of the governor that DeSantis’ team has rewarded with exclusive coverage opportunities.

“My colleagues have sort of run into this situation where they will send an email asking for information and that email is then screenshotted and sometimes … it’s framed in a certain way … it’s tweeted of course by the press officers and used as a way to kind of paint the reporter as a lefty liberal activist. It’s weaponized,” Montgomery said.

“It seems like the goal is just to make the reporter’s life as miserable as possible,” he continued. “Maybe there’s some level of, like, accountability in there, but mostly it’s terrible comments, and, you know, meanness and snark, and things that aren’t constructive.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to TPM’s request for comment on this story.

Montgomery, who has over a decade of experience reporting in Florida, has written four books and was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for a series of articles he wrote exposing abuse at a local school. He began working for Axios, where he co-authored a newsletter focused on the Tampa Bay area, in late 2020.

Montgomery found himself in the crosshairs of DeSantis’ team after he sent an email responding to a press release the governor’s office sent out on Monday. The press release was an over 800-word attack “on divisive concepts such as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, Critical Race Theory (CRT).” The bulletin from the governor’s office was branded as part of a series called “Exposing The DEI Scam” and contained a series of quotes from DeSantis and his allies framing diversity efforts as “political indoctrination” promoted by the “woke mob.”

Montgomery, who said he feels “obligated” to read official press releases since they could contain information “that might be useful for my readers,” did not feel this press release from DeSantis fit that category.

“There was no, like, event to cover. It might have been a roundtable at some point, but there was no event that I had been alerted to. … This press release was just a series of quotes about DEI programs, and the ‘scam’ they are, and nothing else,” Montgomery said. “I was frustrated by this. I read the whole thing and my day is very busy.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives have increasingly become a focus for the right wing, as have so-called “critical race Theory” educational programs that highlight historical racial issues. DeSantis has made attacking these concepts a major part of his brand. Under DeSantis’ administration, Florida’s Department of Education banned public schools in the state from teaching advanced placement African American studies, a course the governor called “indoctrination.”

Earlier this year, DeSantis tapped Christopher Rufo, a conservative activist who admittedly was key to the right-wing push to turn “Critical Race Theory” into a divisive wedge issue, to overhaul the curriculum at one of the state’s public colleges.

Along with being “frustrated” that the press release about diversity and “critical race theory” didn’t contain “news value,” Montgomery said he believed it “used some language that, in my mind, was a little coded to be sort of racially charged.”

“When I hear like … the ‘scam’ of diversity, equity, and inclusion shouldn’t be perpetrated upon the hardworking taxpayers of Florida, it’s like framing it as a Black and white issue,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery responded to the release by emailing DeSantis’ press office a message that said, “This is propaganda, not a press release.”

Alex Lanfranconi, a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education, publicized the exchange less than an hour later by tweeting a screengrab of Montgomery’s message.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant Lost the A.I. Race, Brian X. Chen, Nico Grant and Karen Weise, March 15, 2023. The virtual assistants had years to become indispensable. But clunky design and miscalculations left an opening for the chatbots to rise.

apple logo rainbowOn a rainy Tuesday in San Francisco, Apple executives took the stage in a crowded auditorium to unveil the fifth-generation iPhone. The phone, which looked identical to the previous version, had a new feature that the audience was soon buzzing about: Siri, a virtual assistant.

Scott Forstall, then Apple’s head of software, pushed an iPhone button to summon Siri and prodded it with questions. At his request, Siri checked the time in Paris (“8:16 p.m.,” Siri replied), defined the word “mitosis” (“Cell division in which the nucleus divides into nuclei containing the same number of chromosomes,” it said) and pulled up a list of 14 highly rated Greek restaurants, five of them in Palo Alto, Calif.

“I’ve been in the A.I. field for a long time, and this still blows me away,” Mr. Forstall said.

google logo customThat was 12 years ago. Since then, people have been far from blown away by Siri and competing assistants that are powered by artificial intelligence, like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. The technology has largely remained stagnant, and the talking assistants have amazon logo smallbecome the butt of jokes, including in a 2018 “Saturday Night Live” sketch featuring a smart speaker for seniors.

The tech world is now gushing over a different kind of virtual assistant: chatbots. These A.I.-powered bots, such as ChatGPT and the new ChatGPT Plus from the San Francisco company OpenAI, can improvise answers to questions typed into a chat box with alacrity. People have used ChatGPT to handle complex tasks like coding software, drafting business proposals and writing fiction.

truth social logoThe Guardian, Federal investigators examined Trump Media for possible money laundering, sources say, Hugo Lowell, March 15, 2023. Federal prosecutors in New York involved in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s social media company last year started examining whether it violated money laundering statutes in connection with the acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties, according to sources familiar with the matter.

The company – Trump Media, which owns Trump’s Truth Social platform – initially came under criminal investigation over its preparations for a potential merger with a blank check company called Digital World (DWAC) that was also the subject of an earlier investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Towards the end of last year, federal prosecutors started examining two loans totaling $8m wired to Trump Media, through the Caribbean, from two obscure entities that both appear to be controlled in part by the relation of an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, the sources said.

The expanded nature of the criminal investigation, which has not been previously reported, threatens to delay the completion of the merger between Trump Media and DWAC, which would provide the company and Truth Social with up to $1.3bn in capital, in addition to a stock market listing.

Even if Trump Media and its officers face no criminal exposure for the transactions, the optics of borrowing money from potentially unsavory sources through opaque conduits could cloud Trump’s image as he seeks to recapture the White House in 2024.

The extent of the exposure for Trump Media and its officers for money laundering remains unclear. The statutes broadly require prosecutors to show that defendants knew the money was the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity and the transaction was designed to conceal its source.

But money laundering prosecutions are typically based on circumstantial evidence and can be based on materials that show that the money in question was unlikely to have legitimate origins, legal experts said.

The first $2m payment to Trump Media came in December 2021 when the company was on the brink of collapse after the planned merger with DWAC – that would have unlocked millions for the company – was delayed when the SEC opened an inquiry into whether the arrangement broke regulatory rules.

Trump Media needed a bridge loan to keep the company afloat. But it struggled to get financing until DWAC’s chief executive Patrick Orlando sourced a $2m loan wired from Paxum Bank registered in Dominica, according to the wire transfer receipt reviewed by the Guardian.e

The wire transfer identified Paxum Bank as the beneficial owner, although the promissory note identified an entity called ES Family Trust as the lender. Two months later, an unexpected second $6m payment arrived in Trump Media’s account from ES Family Trust, the transfer receipt showed.

In both instances, Orlando declined to provide details about the true identity of the lenders or the origin of the money to Trump Media executives, Trump Media’s since-ousted co-founder turned whistleblower Will Wilkerson recounted in an interview.

Though the two payments to Trump Media ostensibly came from two separate entities – first Paxum Bank and second ES Family Trust – the trustee of ES Family Trust, a person called Angel Pacheco, appears to have simultaneously been a director of Paxum Bank.

The Russian connection, as being examined by prosecutors in the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York, centers on a part-owner of Paxum Bank – an individual named Anton Postolnikov, who appears to be a relation of Putin ally Aleksandr Smirnov.

Smirnov, who heads the Russia-controlled maritime company Rosmorport, worked in the Central Office of the Russian government until 2017. Before that, Smirnov was the first deputy minister of justice of Russia until 2014, and for most of Putin’s first two terms as president, Smirnov served in the executive office of the president.

The obscure origins of the $8m loans caused alarm at Trump Media and, in the spring of 2022, Trump Media’s then chief financial officer Phillip Juhan weighed returning the money, according to Wilkerson.

But the money was never returned, Wilkerson said, in part because losing $8m out of the roughly $12m cash that Trump Media had in its accounts at that time would have placed significant stress on its financial situation.

Prosecutors appear to have also taken a special interest in the payments because the off-shore Paxum Bank has a history of providing banking services for the pornography and sex worker industries, which makes it higher risk of engaging in money laundering and other illicit financing.

There appears to have been some awareness at Trump Media that the first $2m was to come through because Trump’s eldest son Don Jr, who joined the board with Trump ally Kash Patel and former Republican turned Trump Media chief executive Devin Nunes, had confirmed to the company’s lawyers to proceed with the transaction.


Guo Wengui, above right, with Steven Bannon

Former Trump advisor Steve Bannon, left, with his patron, Guo Wengui, a purported wealthy man arrested this week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Exiled Chinese Billionaire Charged in New York With Financial Conspiracy, Benjamin Weiser and Michael Forsythe, March 15, 2023. Guo Wengui, a fugitive financier and associate of Steve Bannon, is accused by federal prosecutors of engaging in a complex scheme to bilk thousands of online followers.

Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese billionaire, was arrested on Wednesday morning in New York on charges that he orchestrated a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of at least $1 billion, the authorities said.

A federal indictment unsealed in Manhattan charged that Mr. Guo and a co-defendant took advantage of Mr. Guo’s “prolific online presence” to solicit investments in various entities and programs “by promising outsized financial returns and other benefits.”

Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that Mr. Guo was “charged with lining his pockets with the money he stole, including buying himself, and his close relatives, a 50,000-square-foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari and even two $36,000 mattresses.” The money was also used to finance a $37 million luxury yacht, Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Guo, who is also known as Miles Kwok, is a business associate of Stephen K. Bannon, a onetime top adviser to former President Donald J. Trump. It was on a yacht belonging to Mr. Guo that Mr. Bannon was arrested in a fraud case in August 2020; Mr. Trump later pardoned Mr. Bannon, who had pleaded not guilty to those charges.

A lawyer for Mr. Guo had no immediate comment. Mr. Guo was taken to a brief court appearance on Wednesday wearing a pullover, black cargo pants and black sneakers. He smiled and waved to several spectators, and entered a not guilty plea through an attorney. He was ordered detained pending further proceedings.

For six years, Mr. Guo has been seen as a vocal critic of the Chinese Communist Party, endearing himself to some conservatives in the United States and many members of the Chinese diaspora.

In 2017, Mr. Guo applied for asylum on grounds that his attacks on top officials had made him “a political opponent of the Chinese regime,” one of his lawyers said at the time.

At the same time, Mr. Guo was trying to ingratiate himself with the Trump administration. In early 2017, Mr. Guo posted pictures of himself at Mr. Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where Mr. Guo was then a member. Several months later, he told his many followers on social media that he had booked meetings at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

According to the indictment, Mr. Guo, a co-defendant and other co-conspirators in 2018 began using fraudulent and fictitious business and investment opportunities to solicit, launder and misappropriate money from their victims.

In one case, the indictment says, they posted a video on social media to announce a stock offering for a purported news-focused social media platform based in New York called GTV Media Group. It was promoted as the “first ever platform which will combine the power of citizen journalism and social news with state-of-the-art technology, big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and real-time interactive communication.”

Over six weeks in 2020, the indictment says, about $452 million worth of GTV common stock was sold to more than 5,500 investors in the United States and abroad. But prosecutors said much of that money did not go to developing and expanding the business. For example, prosecutors said, $100 million was invested in a high-risk hedge fund for the benefit of GTV’s parent company and its owner, a close relative of Mr. Guo.

In another scheme included in the indictment, Mr. Guo and others were accused of inducing people to invest more than $250 million in something called G|Clubs, which claimed on its website to be “an exclusive, high-end membership program offering a full spectrum of services.” To join, prospective members paid a one-time fee, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

In reality, the indictment said, G|Clubs “provided nothing close to ‘a full spectrum of services’ and ‘experiences’ to its members.”

Rather, Mr. Guo and his co-defendant, Kin Ming Je, misappropriated much of the money, the indictment charged. The indictment says $26.5 million in G|Clubs funds went toward the purchase of Mr. Guo’s mansion in New Jersey; more went to pay for extravagant renovations there, and for furniture and decorative items, including Chinese and Persian rugs worth close to $1 million, a $62,000 television and a $53,000 log cradle for a fireplace.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, in a parallel civil action, sued Mr. Guo.

“Guo was a serial fraudster,” Gurbir S. Grewal, the S.E.C.’s director of enforcement, said in a statement. “Guo took advantage of the hype and allure surrounding crypto and other investments to victimize thousands and fund his and his family’s lavish lifestyle.”

Mr. Guo’s legal woes span the Pacific. The U.S. charges against Mr. Guo echo those that the Chinese government made against him in 2017, when he was accused of bribery and embezzlement. Until he left China in 2014, Mr. Guo oversaw a property empire whose centerpiece was a hotel, residential and office complex in Beijing overlooking the venue for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

In his native China, he also forged political and financial ties with influential officials, including a senior intelligence officer, Ma Jian, who in 2017 made a videotaped confession admitting to taking more than $8.7 million in gifts from Mr. Guo in exchange for favors.

Mr. Guo was ruthless with those who got in his way. A Beijing vice mayor who stood between him and the property rights for the Olympics venue was felled when Mr. Guo obtained a video of the official having sex with a mistress.


boris epshteyn sinclair

ny times logoNew York Times, He Helps Trump Navigate Legal Peril While Under Scrutiny Himself, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer and Jesse McKinley, March 15, 2023 (print ed.). Boris Epshteyn, shown above in his role as a commentator on the highly conservative Sinclair chain of broadcast news outlets, is the latest aide to take on the role of slashing defender of the former president, even as the Justice Department seeks information about him in the Jan. 6 and documents inquiries.

Boris Epshteyn has had his phone seized by federal agents investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to remain in power after his election loss. Lacking any track record as a political strategist, he has made more than $1.1 million in the past two years for providing advice to the campaigns of Republican candidates, many of whom believed he could be a conduit to Mr. Trump.

A cryptocurrency with which he is involved has drawn scrutiny from federal prosecutors. And he has twice been arrested over personal altercations, leading in one case to an agreement to attend anger management classes and in another to a guilty plea for disorderly conduct.

As the former president faces escalating legal peril in the midst of another run for the White House, Mr. Epshteyn, people who deal with him say, mirrors in many ways Mr. Trump’s defining traits: combative, obsessed with loyalty, transactional, entangled in investigations and eager to make money from his position.

Mr. Epshteyn is the latest aide to try to live up to Mr. Trump’s desire for a slashing defender in the mold of his first lawyer protector, Roy M. Cohn. He serves as a top adviser and self-described in-house counsel for Mr. Trump, at a time when the former president has a growing cast of outside lawyers representing him in a slew of investigations and court cases.

ny times logoNew York Times, Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant Is Suspended for Gun Video, Tania Ganguli, March 15, 2023. The N.B.A. said it was “irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous” for Morant to livestream himself holding a gun in a Colorado nightclub.

nba logoThe N.B.A. suspended Memphis Grizzlies guard Ja Morant for eight games without pay for conduct detrimental to the league after he appeared in an Instagram live video early on the morning of March 4 “holding a firearm in an intoxicated state” while visiting a nightclub near Denver, according to a league statement.

Morant, 23, has not played since March 3, when the Grizzlies lost to the Denver Nuggets, and the five games he has missed will count toward the suspension. He will be eligible to play again in the Grizzlies’ game on Monday against the Dallas Mavericks.

“Ja’s conduct was irresponsible, reckless and potentially very dangerous,” N.B.A. Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “It also has serious consequences given his enormous following and influence, particularly among young fans who look up to him. He has expressed sincere contrition and remorse for his behavior.”

Silver and Morant met at the N.B.A.’s office in New York on Wednesday. According to the league’s statement, the league’s head of basketball operations, Joe Dumars, who oversees player punishment, and Tamika Tremaglio, the executive director of the N.B.A. players’ union, also attended the meeting.

The league said that it had investigated the video and “did not conclude” that Morant owned the gun or that he brought it to the club. The N.B.A. also said in its statement that it did not determine that Morant had traveled with the gun or taken it to an N.B.A. facility. The league’s collective bargaining agreement prohibits players from having firearms and deadly weapons at N.B.A. facilities or when traveling on league business. Players who violate that policy can be suspended indefinitely by the commissioner and fined up to $50,000.

March 14


snapchat logo current

washington post logoWashington Post, Help Desk Perspective: Snapchat tried to make a safe AI. It offered a supposed 13-year-old advice on sex with someone who was 31, Geoffrey A. Fowler, March 14, 2023. In conversations with our tech columnist, Snapchat’s experimental chatbot offered advice on hiding alcohol and marijuana, defeating parental phone controls and cheating on homework.

Snapchat recently launched an artificial intelligence chatbot that tries to act like a friend. It built in some guardrails to make it safer for teens than other AI bots built on the tech that powers the buzzy ChatGPT.

But in my tests, conversations with Snapchat’s My AI can still turn wildly inappropriate.

After I told My AI I was 15 and wanted to have an epic birthday party, it gave me advice on how to mask the smell of alcohol and pot. When I told it I had an essay due for school, it wrote it for me.

In another conversation with a supposed 13-year-old, My AI even offered advice about having sex for the first time with a partner who is 31. “You could consider setting the mood with candles or music,” it told researchers in a test by the Center for Humane Technology I was able to verify.

For now, any harm from My AI is likely limited: It’s only accessible to users who subscribe to a premium account called Snapchat Plus, which costs $4 per month. But my tests reveal Snapchat is far from mastering when, and why its AI might go off the rails — much less what the long-term impact might be of developing a relationship with it.

And that exposes an even bigger problem in the tech world’s new arms race to stick AI into everything from search engines and Slack to social networks. We the users shouldn’t be treated as guinea pigs for a powerful new technology these companies don’t know how to control. Especially when the guinea pigs are young people.

March 12


Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox’s Public Relations Woes May Not Directly Translate to Legal Ones, Jeremy W. Peters, March 12, 2023. Some of the private messages among Fox News’s hosts and executives may never become evidence when Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case goes to trial.

For the past three weeks, a drip, drip, drip of disclosures have exposed widespread alarm and disbelief inside Fox News in the days after the 2020 presidential election, as the network became a platform for some of the most insidious lies about widespread voter fraud. These revelations are the most damning to rattle the Murdoch media empire since the phone hacking scandal in Britain more than a decade ago.

fox-news-logo Small.pngThe headlines have been attention-grabbing. Tucker Carlson, a professed champion of former President Donald J. Trump’s populist message, was caught insulting Mr. Trump — “I hate him passionately,” he wrote in a text. Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity disparaged colleagues in their network’s news division. And Rupert Murdoch said he longed for the day when Mr. Trump would be irrelevant.

These examples and many more — revealed in personal emails, text messages and testimony made public as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News — are embarrassing. But whether they pose serious legal jeopardy for Fox in that case is far less clear.

dominion voting systemsThe messages that led to some of the biggest headlines may never be introduced as evidence when the case goes to trial next month, according to lawyers and legal scholars, including several who are directly involved in the case. Fox is expected to ask a judge to exclude certain texts and emails on the grounds they are not relevant.

But the most powerful legal defense Fox has is the First Amendment, which allows news organizations broad leeway to cover topics and statements made by elected officials. In court, Fox’s lawyers have argued that the network was merely reporting on what Mr. Trump and his allies were saying about fraud and Dominion machines — not endorsing those falsehoods.

Media law experts said that if a jury found that to be true — not a far-fetched outcome, they said, especially if lawyers for the network can show that its hosts did not present the allegations as fact — then Fox could win.

“I think the case really will come down to a jury deciding whether the company or the commentators did or didn’t endorse — that really is the key question,” said George Freeman, a former New York Times lawyer who is now executive director of the Media Law Resource Center, which assists news organizations with legal issues.

“It gives Fox, I think, a fighting chance,” he added.

Despite the ways Fox could prevail with a jury, legal scholars say Dominion’s case is exceptionally strong.

More on Fox News

  • New York Times, Fox’s Election Panic: The network angered viewers after correctly calling Arizona for Joseph R. Biden Jr. in 2020. In a meeting, executives debated whether that was the wrong move.
  • New York Times, Rupert Murdoch’s Deposition: The conservative media mogul acknowledged in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit that several Fox News hosts promoted the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen.
  • New York Times, Privately Expressing Disbelief: Dozens of text messages released in the lawsuit show how Fox hosts went from privately criticizing election fraud claims to giving them significant airtime.
  • tucker carlson fox horizontalNew York Times, ‘American Nationalist’: Tucker Carlson stoked white fear to conquer cable news. In the process, the TV host transformed Fox News and became former President Donald J. Trump’s heir.


tucker carlson fox horizontal

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Donald Trump’s Infamous “Very Fine People” Line Presaged His, Tucker Carlson’s, and All MAGAs’ Vile Defenses of the January seth abramson graphic6 Insurrectionists, Seth Abramson, left, March 12, 2023. Many Trumpists use the confusing reporting surrounding Trump’s post-Charlottesville presser as conclusive evidence of systemic media deceit. Their lies about that day are strategic—and still relevant.

seth abramson proof logo“All of [Donald Trump’s businesses] fail. What he’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that….[he is] a demonic force, a destroyer….[and his presidency was] a disaster….I hate him passionately.”

— Tucker Carlson (link), after years of lionizing Trump in public

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Trump aide at Fox wrestled with election lies, network’s interests, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey, March 12, 2023. Documents show Raj Shah privately derided the White House’s narrative of a stolen election. But he also pushed back on efforts to dispute the claims.

As Rudy Giuliani railed about voter fraud from the lobby of the Republican National Committee’s headquarters a few weeks after the November 2020 election, rivulets of hair dye running down the side of his face, an executive at Fox Corporation let loose in text messages with his reaction.

“This sounds SO F------ CRAZY btw,” wrote Raj Shah, who had served as a senior aide in Donald Trump’s White House for two years before his hiring at Fox. “Rudy looks awful,” a deputy wrote back, prompting Shah to respond that “he objectively looks like he was a dead person voting 2 weeks ago.”

But Shah’s job at Fox was to protect the company’s brand, then under pressure from Trump allies who wanted to push Giuliani’s wild claims of a stolen election and who were abandoning the network for more hard-line options like Newsmax and One America News. So when a Fox News reporter went live on air just after Giuliani’s news conference concluded and declared that some of what the president’s lawyer had said was “simply not true,” Shah reacted with alarm.

“This is the kinda s--- that will kill us,” he texted the deputy. “We cover it wall to wall and then we burn that down with all the skepticism.”

The texts are drawn from more than a million pages of internal Fox correspondence released in recent weeks as part of a defamation lawsuit filed against the company by Dominion Voting Systems. The cache has revealed how Fox executives, producers and hosts expressed private doubts about Trump’s false election claims even as the network amplified the allegations on air.

ny times logoNew York Times, Stalker Fatally Shoots Audio Streamer and Husband, Police Say, Stephanie Lai, Updated March 12, 2023. The police in Redmond, Wash., said the gunman had been stalking the woman, who appeared on an audio stream on the social media app Clubhouse.

An audio streamer and her husband were fatally shot in Redmond, Wash., early on Friday morning by a fan who had been stalking the woman, the police said.

The audio streamer, Zohreh Sadeghi, 33, and her husband, Milad Naseri, 35, were pronounced dead in a home in Redmond, about 15 miles east of Seattle, around 1:45 a.m. on Friday, said Darrell Lowe, the Redmond police chief.

Ms. Sadeghi’s mother, who was also in the home at the time, escaped and called the police from a neighbor’s house.

The gunman, Ramin Khodakaramrezaei, a 38-year-old long-haul trucker from Texas, had broken into the home through a bedroom window, Chief Lowe said.

Mr. Khodakaramrezaei, who had been stalking Ms. Sadeghi, fatally shot himself after shooting the couple, according to a Redmond Police Department news release.

Mr. Khodakaramrezaei first discovered Ms. Sadeghi after listening to a Farsi audio stream about gaining employment in the tech industry, the chief said at a news conference.

The stream was hosted on Clubhouse, a social media app described in a blog post by Hootsuite as “a cross between podcast and a conference call” and that allows users to talk and listen in chat rooms.

It is believed that Mr. Khodakaramrezaei was a listener to the audio stream featuring Ms. Sadeghi and later began communicating with her. They eventually became friends, until his actions escalated and she sought a no-contact order against him, the police said.

March 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Ron DeSantis’s book ban mania targets Jodi Picoult — and she hits back, Greg Sargent, right, and Paul Waldman, March 10, 2023. greg sargent“Martin County is the first to ban 20 of my books at once,” Picoult said. The list includes "The Storyteller," about the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants you to know he’d never dream of engaging in mass censorship. He held a recent event challenging criticism of his classroom book restrictions as a “hoax,” releasing a video suggesting only “porn” and “hate” are targeted for removal.

There’s a big problem with DeSantis’s claims: The people deciding which books to remove from classrooms and school libraries didn’t get the memo. In many cases, the notion that banned books meet the highly objectionable criteria he detailed is an enormous stretch.

This week, Florida’s Martin County released a list of dozens of books targeted for removal from school libraries, as officials struggle to interpret a bill DeSantis signed in the name of “transparency” in school materials. The episode suggests his decrees are increasingly encouraging local officials to adopt censoring decisions with disturbingly vague rationales and absurdly sweeping scope.

Numerous titles by well-known authors such as Jodi Picoult, Toni Morrison and James Patterson have been pulled from library shelves. The removal list includes Picoult’s novel “The Storyteller” about the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor who meets an elderly former SS officer. It contains some violent scenes told in flashbacks from World War II and an assisted suicide.

“Banning ‘The Storyteller’ is shocking, as it is about the Holocaust and has never been banned before,” Picoult told us in an email.

“Martin County is the first to ban twenty of my books at once,” Picoult said, slamming such bans as “a shocking breach of freedom of speech and freedom of information.” A coastal county in the southeastern part of the state, Martin County is heavily Republican.

Picoult said she’s puzzled by the ban, because she does not “write adult romance,” as objections filed against her books claimed.

“Most of the books pulled do not even have a single kiss in them,” Picoult told us. “They do, however, include gay characters, and issues like racism, disability, abortion rights, gun control, and other topics that might make a kid think differently from their parents.”

“We have actual proof that marginalized kids who read books about marginalized characters wind up feeling less alone,” Picoult continued. “Books bridge divides between people. Book bans create them.”

In the case of “The Storyteller” and virtually all the other books by Picoult and others that are getting removed, the county’s removal directive cites guidance from Florida’s Department of Education. It directs educators to “err on the side of caution,” urging them to nix material that they wouldn’t be “comfortable reading aloud.”

The state’s absurdly vague directive seems almost designed to invite abuse, not only by school officials making the decisions, but also by parents who call for removals. Underscoring the point, documents obtained from the county by the Florida Freedom to Read Project, which were shared with us, cite one person as the primary objector to virtually all of these books.

That objector? Julie Marshall, who in addition to being a concerned parent also heads the local chapter of Moms For Liberty, a group that pressures school boards and officials to remove all kinds of materials that violate conservative ideology on race and sexuality.

Marshall rejects the idea that she supports book banning, and says she represents a larger group of parents. “At this point, we believe we have challenged the most obscene and age inappropriate books,” she emailed us. A spokesperson for the Martin County school district pointed out that there’s a process in place governing how these decisions are made.

Other titles getting removed include “Mighty Jack and the Goblin King,” a graphic novel featuring kids traveling through a magic portal and fighting monsters. One citizen (not Marshall this time) filed an objection noting that at one point the sister yells at her brother, “Jack, you ass! Stop it!”

Then there’s “Drama,” a graphic novel about a school play in which a boy who wears a dress as part of the production has an onstage kiss with another boy actor. Just wait until these parents hear about “Twelfth Night.”

Those last two books are apparently being removed only from elementary schools. “But if the rationale to remove the books is as thin as it seems, that alone is egregious,” Jonathan Friedman, who oversees PEN America’s tracking of book bans, told us. “You can’t just remove books from schools because one person objects. That’s absurd. Unfortunately, that’s what seems to have happened here.”

As we’ve detailed, the multiple new laws DeSantis has signed combine deliberately vague directives with the threat of frightening penalties to create a climate of uncertainty and fear. This appears deliberately designed to get school officials to err on the side of censorship, and to get teachers to muzzle themselves to avoid accidentally crossing fuzzy lines into violations of orthodoxy. It invites lone activists to designate themselves veritable commissars of local book purging.

In Martin County, this strategy is unfolding exactly as intended.

washington post logoWashington Post, A former TikTok employee tells Congress the app is lying about Chinese spying, Drew Harwell, March 10, 2023. His claims of data-security flaws, which the company disputes, underscore how seriously Congress has begun taking the wildly popular short-video app with more than 100 million users nationwide.

A former risk manager at TikTok has met with congressional investigators to share his concerns that the company’s plan for protecting U.S. user data is deeply flawed, pointing to evidence that could inflame lawmakers’ suspicion of the app at a moment when many are considering a nationwide ban.
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tiktok logo square CustomIn an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, the former employee, who worked for six months in the company’s Trust and Safety division ending in early 2022, said the issues could leave data from TikTok’s more than 100 million U.S. users exposed to China-based employees of its parent company ByteDance, even as the company races to implement new safety rules walling off domestic user information.

His allegations threaten to undermine this $1.5 billion restructuring plan, known as Project Texas, which TikTok has promoted widely in Washington as a way to neutralize the risk of data theft or misuse by the Chinese government.

They could also fuel speculation that the wildly popular short-video app remains vulnerable to having its video-recommendation algorithm and user data distorted for propaganda or espionage. U.S. authorities have not shared evidence that the Chinese government has accessed TikTok’s data or code.

TikTok and ByteDance officials have since 2019 been negotiating with a group of federal officials, known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, about which privacy standards and technical safeguards they’d need to adopt to satisfy U.S. national-security concerns. The company finalized its proposal in August and presented it to CFIUS, but it has yet to be approved, and CFIUS officials have declined to explain why.

The former employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retaliation, has told congressional investigators that Project Texas does not go far enough and that a truly leakproof arrangement for Americans’ data would require a “complete re-engineering” of how TikTok is run.

March 9


Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: 5 big takeaways from the Dominion-Fox News document dump, Erik Wemple, March 9, 2023. Perhaps Fox News now wishes it had settled?

On Tuesday, an avalanche of exhibits hit the public docket in the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News in March 2021. The complaint cited a plume of Fox News coverage — heavy on appearances by pro-Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani — blaming Dominion, a provider of voting technology in the 2020 elections, for playing a role in flipping votes from President Donald Trump to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

fox-news-logo Small.pngTwo years after the filing, the process is hammering Fox News. A Feb. 16 Dominion motion for summary judgment excerpted documents showing that Fox News executives, in private messages and emails, ridiculed the stolen-election claims that drew credulous coverage on the network — and were bundled with conspiracy theories about Dominion and Smartmatic, another voting technology company. A state of panic descended on the network when it realized that truthful coverage of the November 2020 election was pushing viewers to more extreme competitor Newsmax. Those who provided factual coverage — and debunked the nonsense about Dominion and election theft — found themselves under siege.

The hundreds of exhibits deepen the picture of a corrupt news media outlet. Some lessons from the documents:1

1) The coastal media elite is headquartered at Fox News. Watch a bit of prime-time Fox News programming, and you’ll come away with the notion that media organizations other than Fox News are managed by self-dealing elites who conspire to poison American society. Messages exchanged among the top three Fox News hosts — Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham — prove that these folks might be projecting just a bit.

washington post logoWashington Post, House Republicans defend Musk from FTC’s ‘harassment campaign,’ Cat Zakrzewski, March 9, 2023. Republicans are hosting a hearing on the ‘Twitter Files’ on Thursday, where they are expected to attack the government watchdog.

For more than six months, the Federal Trade Commission has been investigating Twitter’s security practices, following an explosive whistleblower complaint accusing the company of violating a 2011 settlement that required it implement privacy safeguards.
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That investigation expanded in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover, as former employees warned that broad staff departures of key employees could leave the company unable to comply with the agreements it made with the FTC to protect data privacy.

Now, the inquiry has earned the ire of House Republicans, who argue the agency is using its privacy probe to thwart Musk’s absolutist vision of free speech on Twitter — a startling example, they say, of liberal overreach.

Republicans fanned these allegations at a combative Thursday hearing on Capitol Hill led by House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), releasing an 18-page report including excerpts of letters from the FTC to Twitter, and accusing the FTC of “orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter” and deluging the company with demands. The report asserts that the investigation is the result of “partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk.”

The political salvo is a challenge to more than a decade of efforts at the FTC to improve privacy and security standards at Twitter, which entered under a consent order with the agency following a pair of 2009 security incidents. Republicans and Democrats have largely been united in their concerns about Twitter’s handling of data security and privacy, but Thursday’s hearing sets up the probe as political lightning rod.

Twitter whistleblower exposes limits of FTC’s power

The hearing opened with a bitter argument between Jordan and Rep. Stacey E. Plaskett, the top Democrat on the House subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government. Plaskett said in her opening statement that Republicans were promoting a false narrative. She said that the FTC’s broad outreach to Twitter shows that the agency has “extraordinarily serious concerns” about the company’s handling of consumers’ data.

"There is something going on between Congressional Republicans and Elon Musk,” she said. “Mr. Chairman, Americans can see through this. Musk is helping you out politically, and you’re going out of your way to promote and protect him, and to praise him for his work.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Youngkin’s CNN appearance poses opportunity, risk for potential 2024 bid, Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider, March 9, 2023.  Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a potential 2024 presidential candidate sorely in need of a breakout moment, will headline a CNN town hall on education during prime time Thursday night.

The program, which begins at 9 p.m. and is expected to last about an hour, offers national exposure to a Republican who, despite 16 months of persistent White House buzz, barely registers in GOP primary polls.

“It’s too early to rule out someone like Youngkin as a presidential contender even if he’s lagging in the polls, but he’s got to break into the national conversation at some point,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Inside Elections. “The town hall gives Youngkin an opportunity, but he’s got to make news. And just because you’re on CNN doesn’t mean you’re making news. It depends on what he says or what happens.”

The opportunity is not without risk. The freewheeling format will let parents, teachers and students in the D.C. studio audience pose questions directly to Youngkin, who generally sticks to scripted events.

And the moderator, CNN anchor Jake Tapper, will likely press Youngkin harder than the Fox News hosts who routinely land interviews with the governor. In an October appearance on “State of the Union,” Tapper challenged Youngkin over his willingness to campaign for election deniers and suggested that aspects of his school transgender policy undermine parental rights.

March 8


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

Fox News host Tucker Carlson shares quality time with former President Trump at the LIV Golf event last summer in Bedminster, NJ. Mediaite, NYT Reporter Says Tucker Carlson Trashes Trump in Private: He ‘Thinks Very Little’ of His Audience, Kipp Jones, Aug. 1, 2022

tucker carlson fox horizontalPalmer Report, Opinion: Tucker Carlson, traitor, Robert Harrington, right, March 8-9, 2023. The average finished 2-hour movie comprises about 100,000 feet of film. robert harringtnn portraitPerhaps 2 or 3 times that much is actually shot before being edited down to its theatrical release length. Tucker Carlson was given the equivalent of more than 2 billion feet of film, or 41,000 hours of video from the January 6 insurrection.

bill palmer report logo headerFrom that amount of rough footage Carlson could make any movie he wanted. And that movie could tell any story he wanted to tell. Guess what kind of story Tucker Carlson told?

It’s the kind you would expect. Carlson made the horrendous, violent attack on our nation’s Capitol building look like a love-fest that became, perhaps, a bit too boisterous. In other words, he took a page straight out of Dinesh D’Souza’s playbook and he twisted what he saw into something completely the opposite. He told a narrative of relative peace and backed it up with an explanatory voice-over.

What he showed on Fox News Monday and Tuesday nights may go down in history as one of the most cowardly and shameful and treacherous acts of any broadcaster at any time. Carlson deliberately — and with malicious intent to deceive — broadcast a lie calculated to cause millions of Americans to draw a false conclusion about the January 6th insurrection. And he did it in the cynical service of Donald Trump. He did it to poison any potential jury pool that may one day be called upon to try the former president for fomenting an attempted coup d’etat.

And he also did it to rehabilitate the flagging Fox News audience. Many viewers had ditched Fox News for more extreme news sources like OAN and Newsmax, because Fox wasn’t MAGA enough for them any more.

But, you might be saying, didn’t Carlson and Fox News learn their lesson about lying about the insurrection? Aren’t they facing a $1.6 billion lawsuit precisely because of that kind of lying? Yes they are, but they can’t be sued for the kind of lying they’re doing now.

It isn’t about truth, it’s about money. As long as it doesn’t cost the Fox organisation any money they are going to go right on lying as much and as often as they like.

Kevin McCarthy gave Tucker Carlson the footage so he (Carlson) could deceive everyone and create the illusion that the very insurrection that put McCarthy and his colleagues in deadly danger was a mere nothing, a trifle, a group of overly-excited tourists. And since most of Fox News viewers never watch anything else they will never find out otherwise.

Tucker Carlson is an anti-American traitor, and when the history of these times is finally written, I hope he’s portrayed exactly as that. Because if he isn’t then it will mean that the traitors, liars, insurrectionists and hypocrites won in the end. That is why, for us, failure is not an option. We must beat them. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

ny times logoNew York Times, Republican Lawmakers Split Over Carlson’s False Jan. 6 Claims, Luke Broadwater and Stephanie Lai, March 8, 2023 (print ed.). House Republicans promoted Tucker Carlson’s report falsely portraying the attack as a largely peaceful event, while Senate Republicans condemned it.

Republicans on Capitol Hill split on Tuesday over a broadcast by Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, in which he falsely portrayed the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful gathering, with House G.O.P. leaders promoting his report while top Republican senators condemned it.

The divide reflected a continuing rift in the party between those who want to move on from Jan. 6, regarding it as a political liability, and those who want to relitigate it publicly to feed the anger of the party’s hard-right base, which continues to revere former President Donald J. Trump, believe the lie that the election was stolen from him and insist that the riot at the Capitol two years ago was a justified response.

The broadcast on Monday night came about two weeks after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted Mr. Carlson and his team exclusive access to Capitol surveillance footage from Jan. 6, effectively outsourcing the task of rewriting the history of the riot to the right wing’s favorite news commentator, who has circulated conspiracy theories about the attack.

It came as court filings have revealed that Fox News hosts and executives, including Mr. Carlson, raised doubts privately about Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election, but continued to promote them on the air anyway.

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Intensifies Investigation of Twitter’s Privacy Practices, Kate Conger, Ryan Mac and David McCabe, March 8, 2023 (print ed.). The commission is seeking an interview with Elon Musk, who has made major cuts at the company since acquiring it last year.

The Federal Trade Commission is intensifying an investigation into Twitter’s data and privacy practices and is seeking testimony from Elon Musk, who has laid off the bulk of Twitter’s work force since acquiring the company last year.

The investigation is focused on whether Twitter has adequate resources to protect its users’ privacy after the mass layoffs and budget cuts ordered by Mr. Musk, said five people familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The agency, which currently has oversight over Twitter, investigated a former executive’s claims of security problems last summer and ramped up its inquiry following the abrupt resignations of three top executives responsible for privacy, security and compliance. They left Twitter in November shortly after Mr. Musk acquired the company.

The agency has requested a conversation with Mr. Musk, two of the people said. It has also sought to interview former Twitter employees who worked on privacy and security at the company.

The inquiry has been criticized by a subcommittee of the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee, which said on Tuesday that the F.T.C. was engaged in an “aggressive campaign to harass Twitter” and had issued more than 350 requests for information since Mr. Musk took over the company in October.

Mr. Musk’s takeover of Twitter has drawn scrutiny from several enforcement agencies. While the F.T.C. has dug into whether Twitter has the resources to abide by its privacy promises to consumers, the European Union has pressured Twitter to release more data about how it fights disinformation. The Securities and Exchange Commission also probed whether Mr. Musk’s purchases of Twitter stock had been properly disclosed.

“Protecting consumers’ privacy is exactly what the F.T.C. is supposed to do,” Douglas Farrar, an agency spokesman, said in a statement. “It should come as no surprise that career staff at the commission are conducting a rigorous investigation into Twitter’s compliance with a consent order that came into effect long before Mr. Musk purchased the company.” The S.E.C. declined to comment.

The F.T.C. has pressed Twitter to explain its management structure and to define Mr. Musk’s precise role at the company. It has also questioned whether Twitter has the necessary staff and financial resources to keep up with its privacy obligations, as Mr. Musk continues to cut costs and lay off workers.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk said Twitter’s finances were improving after seeing a 50 percent decline in ad revenue, Ryan Mac, March 8, 2023 (print ed.). On a day Mr. Musk said the company was recovering from a sharp drop in ad sales, he found himself apologizing to a former employee with a disability he had disparaged.

Elon Musk said Twitter was recovering financially after seeing a 50 percent decline in ad revenue, making one of his first public disclosures about the state of the social media company since he acquired it last year.

Speaking at a conference hosted by Morgan Stanley in San Francisco on Tuesday, Mr. Musk, Twitter’s new owner, said he had taken drastic measures to improve the company’s financial health, slashing what he said was some $3 billion of operational expenses. After the cuts, the company has a chance of having positive cash flow in its second quarter, he said.

In the interview, which was conducted by Michael Grimes, a Morgan Stanley banker who helped broker Mr. Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, the billionaire said the company would have gone bankrupt “in four months” if not for his cost cutting. Since his acquisition closed in late October, Mr. Musk has fired or laid off more than 3,750 employees, let vendors and landlords go unpaid, and eliminated cloud computing costs and one of Twitter’s three main data centers.

“In the absence of action, Twitter would have had $6 billion in cost and $3 billion in revenue,” Mr. Musk said. He added that earlier projections had put costs at $4.5 billion and sales at $4.5 billion. Twitter recorded $5.1 billion in revenue in 2021 — up 37 percent from the previous 12 months — in the last full year it reported financial results.

Elon Musk said Twitter was recovering financially after seeing a 50 percent decline in ad revenue, making one of his first public disclosures about the state of the social media company since he acquired it last year.

Speaking at a conference hosted by Morgan Stanley in San Francisco on Tuesday, Mr. Musk, Twitter’s new owner, said he had taken drastic measures to improve the company’s financial health, slashing what he said was some $3 billion of operational expenses. After the cuts, the company has a chance of having positive cash flow in its second quarter, he said.

In the interview, which was conducted by Michael Grimes, a Morgan Stanley banker who helped broker Mr. Musk’s $44 billion acquisition of Twitter, the billionaire said the company would have gone bankrupt “in four months” if not for his cost cutting. Since his acquisition closed in late October, Mr. Musk has fired or laid off more than 3,750 employees, let vendors and landlords go unpaid, and eliminated cloud computing costs and one of Twitter’s three main data centers.

“In the absence of action, Twitter would have had $6 billion in cost and $3 billion in revenue,” Mr. Musk said. He added that earlier projections had put costs at $4.5 billion and sales at $4.5 billion. Twitter recorded $5.1 billion in revenue in 2021 — up 37 percent from the previous 12 months — in the last full year it reported financial results.

Mr. Musk, however, seemed to take little responsibility for the change in the company’s financial outlook. He owes what he says is $1.5 billion a year to service debt he took on to complete the deal. The decline in its ad sales, which in previous years accounted for some 90 percent of the company’s revenue, happened amid an advertiser pullback as brands worried about increases in hate speech and misinformation.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What is Fox News hiding in the Dominion lawsuit? Erik Wemple, March 7, 2023 (print ed.). A Feb. 16 filing by Dominion Voting Systems in its defamation lawsuit in Delaware against Fox News has kicked up a media firestorm: Outlet after outlet described how internal email and text messages quoted in the document, a filing for summary judgment, showed that network honchos knew that former president Donald Trump’s election-theft claims were lies — and allowed them to air anyhow.

Yet the filing is filled with frustrating dead ends, the result of the network’s aggressive effort to prevent disclosure of many of the internal communications that came out of discovery in the case, Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox News. The black passages in the document raise the questions: What is Fox News hiding? And will those passages ever be unredacted?

As the Dominion filing makes clear, Fox News executives panicked in the weeks after the November 2020 presidential election. The network had called Arizona on election night for Democratic candidate Joe Biden, a move regarded as treason by the network’s MAGA crowd, which declared viewers would flee to the competition, especially conservative cable news outlet Newsmax.


elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, At Elon Musk’s ‘brittle’ Twitter, tweaks trigger massive outages, Faiz Siddiqui, March 7, 2023 (print ed.). “Every mistake in code and operations is now deadly,” a former engineer said last year. That dire prediction appears to be coming true.

Elon Musk’s Twitter is a house of cards.

twitter bird CustomOn two occasions recently, almost exactly a month apart, minor changes to Twitter’s code appeared to break the website.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

The latest outage came Monday as thousands of users found they could not access links, photos or other key aspects of the site.

“A small API change had massive ramifications,” Twitter CEO Elon Musk (shown above in a file photo) wrote in a tweet on Monday, referring to the tool used by third-party developers who run programs that draw on Twitter data and post to its site. “The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason. Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.”

It was the second time Monday he’d turned to that explanation, both times calling the site “brittle.”

Since taking over Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has laid off more than two-thirds of the company’s staff, embarking on aggressive cost-cutting and shedding workers in part by compelling them to a commit to an “extremely hardcore” workplace or leave the company. The massive layoffs led to widespread concerns about Twitter’s ability to retain core functions, as critical engineering teams were reduced to one or zero staffers.

In the months since the takeover — and subsequent layoffs — Twitter has faced multiple outages, hampering key features: loading tweets and notifications, sending tweets and direct messages, accessing links and photographs. Each was said — by staffers current and former, or Musk himself — to come as the company made changes to its code.

“Every mistake in code and operations is now deadly,” a former engineer told The Washington Post in November, explaining that those left over were “going to be overwhelmed, overworked and, because of that, more likely to make mistakes.” The former engineer spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Before Musk’s takeover, the company had a risk evaluation team that vetted product changes for anticipated problems. Twitter’s risk evaluation process was geared at flagging potential problems before they arose. But the team was laid off after Musk’s takeover, The Washington Post reported, leading to product rollouts that were riddled with bugs.


  gigi sohn washington postfcc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden’s FCC pick withdraws, citing ‘cruel attacks,’ after nomination blocked since 2021, Cat Zakrzewski, March 7, 2023 Gigi Sohn’s decision is a devastating blow to the Biden administration, whose ambitious tech agenda has been locked in limbo for more than two years, amid a deadlock at the Federal Communications Commission.

President Biden’s pick to serve as a telecommunications regulator is withdrawing her nomination to the Federal Communications Commission, following a bitter 16-month lobbying battle that blocked her appointment and opened her up to relentless personal attacks.

Gigi Sohn, shown above in a file photo, a longtime public interest advocate and former Democratic FCC official who was first nominated by the White House in October 2021, said her decision to withdraw follows “unrelenting, dishonest and cruel attacks” seeded by cable and media industry lobbyists. The announcement is a defeat for consumer advocates, who had rallied behind Sohn during three Senate confirmation hearings.

But it is a devastating blow to the Biden administration, whose ambitious internet agenda has been mired in limbo for more than two years, amid a deadlock at the FCC.

Biden’s internet promises in limbo amid long battle over FCC nominee

“It is a sad day for our country and our democracy when dominant industries, with assistance from unlimited dark money, get to choose their regulators,” Sohn said in a statement shared exclusively with The Washington Post. “And with the help of their friends in the Senate, the powerful cable and media companies have done just that.”

March 7

 tucker carlson fox horizontal

ap logoAssociated Press, Tucker Carlson amplifies Jan. 6 lies with GOP-provided video, Farnoush Amiri, Lisa Mascaro, Mary Clare Jalonick, March 7, 2023. Handed some 41,000 hours of Jan. 6 security footage, Fox News’ Tucker Carlson has launched an impassioned new effort to explain away the deadly Capitol attack, linking the Republican Party ever more closely to pro-Trump conspiracy theories about the 2021 riot.

The conservative commentator aired a first installment to millions of viewers on his prime-time show, working to bend perceptions of the violent, grueling siege that played out for the world to see into a narrative favorable to Donald Trump.

He promised more Tuesday night.

fox-news-logo Small.pngThe undertaking by Fox News comes as Trump is again running for president, and executives at the highest levels of the cable news giant have admitted in unrelated court proceedings that it spread the former president’s false claims about the 2020 election despite dismissing Trump’s assertions privately.

The effort dovetails with the work of Republicans on Capitol Hill, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who turned over the security footage to Fox. The Republicans are trying to claw back the findings of the House Jan. 6 investigation, which painstakingly documented, with testimony and video evidence, how Trump rallied his supporters to head to the Capitol and “fight like hell” as Congress was certifying his loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

kevin mccarthyTrump on Tuesday contended that Carlson’s presentation was “irrefutable” evidence that rioters have been wrongly accused of crimes and he thanked the host and the speaker for their work. Carlson praised McCarthy, right, as having “rectified” the official record.

Trump called anew for the release from custody of people who have been convicted or have pleaded guilty to charges from the attack.

At the same time, criticism poured in from Democrats — and some top Republicans, too — over the GOP’s attempt to amplify falsehoods about the attack that was seen around the world as Trump supporters laid siege to the seat of U.S. democracy.

bennie thompson headshotRep. Bennie G. Thompson, left, the Democrat who chaired the House Jan. 6 Committee investigating the riot, called McCarthy’s decision to selectively release the security footage “a dereliction of duty.”

“The speaker decided it was more important to give in to a Fox host who spews lies and propaganda than to protect the Capitol,” Thompson said in a statement. He called Jan. 6 “one of the darkest days in the history of our democracy.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called the Monday night Fox News episode from Carlson “one of the most shameful hours we have ever seen on television.”

The show’s portrayal was “an insult to every single police officer,” Schumer said, especially the family of Brian Sicknick, who died later after fighting the mob. “Nonviolent? Ask his family.”

mitch mcconnel grim faced

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, above, said it was a mistake for Fox News to depict the footage as it did — at odds with what he and others witnessed first hand at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

capitol riot shutterstock capitol

In the roughly 30-minute segment, Fox distilled the thousands of hours of footage of the gruesome scenes at the Capitol that day and did show some of the hand-to-hand combat as rioters laid siege to the building, broke windows and kicked down doors to gain entry.

 scott adams via proof

washington post logoWashington Post, ''The bewildering descent of Scott Adams and ‘Dilbert,’ Michael Cavna and Samantha Chery, March 7, 2023 (print ed.). “I shook the box intentionally. I did not realize how hard I shook it,” Scott Adams told The Post about the comments that prompted newspapers to drop the once-heralded comic strip “Dilbert.”

Scott Adams (shown above in a file photo) sat for his regular YouTube show last month with a plan to stir a hornet’s nest. What he says he didn’t anticipate was how badly he would get stung.

“I shook the box intentionally. I did not realize how hard I shook it,” he told The Washington Post via text.

On his Feb. 22 episode of “Real Coffee With Scott Adams,” the creator of the comic strip “Dilbert” decided to riff on a much-criticized Rasmussen poll and promote a type of segregation. He declared that Black Americans are part of a “hate group” and urged White people to “get the hell away from Black people.”

By the following weekend, his syndicate and publishers were getting far away from him, severing business ties and halting future projects. So were hundreds of newspapers, including The Post, that dropped “Dilbert” from their pages.

Adams tells The Post that his remarks that day were intended to be hyperbole, while also contending that he was responding to a larger sociopolitical narrative. He does not apologize for what he said in the episode — viewed more than 360,000 times — though he asserts that he disavows racism. Meanwhile, on a follow-up “Real Coffee” podcast, he called both White people and the press “hate groups.”

It’s unknown just how many clients “Dilbert” still has. Yet on March 13, Adams plans to launch “Dilbert Reborn” on his subscription site, Locals. The first strips will feature his character Ratbert as a “context removing editor” at a media outlet that spoofs newspapers like The Post, he said via text. (He declined a request for an extended interview.)

The comic about the lives of beleaguered cubicle-culture drones was once an omnipresent source of humor in American culture, capturing white-collar cynicism and malaise before “Office Space” and “The Office,” even entering Adams’s satiric corporate-incompetence concept “the Dilbert Principle” into national conversation. The strip appeared in more than 2,000 papers at its peak — rarefied air then populated by “Peanuts” and “Garfield” — and sparked a series of best-selling business books, a short-lived TV show and lines of merchandise.

Now, “Dilbert” has been banished from its longtime channels of mainstream distribution, resulting in an 80 percent loss of income, Adams said. For close observers, the story of Adams, 65, has taken a stunning turn — though in a manner that had been foreshadowed in recent years as the cartoonist rebranded himself as a provocateur, routinely making headlines for his polarizing views on politics, race and other aspects of identity.


elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, At Elon Musk’s ‘brittle’ Twitter, tweaks trigger massive outages, Faiz Siddiqui, March 7, 2023 (print ed.). “Every mistake in code and operations is now deadly,” a former engineer said last year. That dire prediction appears to be coming true.

Elon Musk’s Twitter is a house of cards.

twitter bird CustomOn two occasions recently, almost exactly a month apart, minor changes to Twitter’s code appeared to break the website.
Tech is not your friend. We are. Sign up for The Tech Friend newsletter.

The latest outage came Monday as thousands of users found they could not access links, photos or other key aspects of the site.

“A small API change had massive ramifications,” Twitter CEO Elon Musk (shown above in a file photo) wrote in a tweet on Monday, referring to the tool used by third-party developers who run programs that draw on Twitter data and post to its site. “The code stack is extremely brittle for no good reason. Will ultimately need a complete rewrite.”

It was the second time Monday he’d turned to that explanation, both times calling the site “brittle.”

Since taking over Twitter, CEO Elon Musk has laid off more than two-thirds of the company’s staff, embarking on aggressive cost-cutting and shedding workers in part by compelling them to a commit to an “extremely hardcore” workplace or leave the company. The massive layoffs led to widespread concerns about Twitter’s ability to retain core functions, as critical engineering teams were reduced to one or zero staffers.

In the months since the takeover — and subsequent layoffs — Twitter has faced multiple outages, hampering key features: loading tweets and notifications, sending tweets and direct messages, accessing links and photographs. Each was said — by staffers current and former, or Musk himself — to come as the company made changes to its code.

“Every mistake in code and operations is now deadly,” a former engineer told The Washington Post in November, explaining that those left over were “going to be overwhelmed, overworked and, because of that, more likely to make mistakes.” The former engineer spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Before Musk’s takeover, the company had a risk evaluation team that vetted product changes for anticipated problems. Twitter’s risk evaluation process was geared at flagging potential problems before they arose. But the team was laid off after Musk’s takeover, The Washington Post reported, leading to product rollouts that were riddled with bugs.

March 5

washington post logoWashington Post, Florida bills would ban gender studies, limit trans pronouns, erode tenure, Hannah Natanson and Lori Rozsa, March 5, 2023. A raft of laws proposed by the GOP majority would transform how Florida educates children.

Florida legislators have proposed a spate of new laws that would reshape K-12 and higher education in the state, from requiring teachers to use pronouns matching children’s sex as assigned at birth to establishing a universal school choice voucher program.

The half-dozen bills, filed by a cast of GOP state representatives and senators, come shortly before the launch of Florida’s legislative session Tuesday. Other proposals in the mix include eliminating college majors in gender studies, nixing diversity efforts at universities and job protections for tenured faculty, strengthening parents’ ability to veto K-12 class materials and extending a ban on teaching about gender and sexuality — from third grade up to eighth grade.

The legislation has already drawn protest from Democratic politicians, education associations, free speech groups and LGBTQ advocates, who say the bills will restrict educators’ ability to instruct children honestly, harm transgender and nonbinary students and strip funding from public schools.

It shall be the policy of every public K-12 educational institution ... that a person’s sex is an immutable biological trait.
— Florida House Bill 1223

“It really is further and further isolating LGBTQ students,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. “It’s making it hard for them to receive the full support that schools should be giving every child.”

Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Professors, warned that the legislation — especially the bill that would prevent students from majoring in certain topics — threatens to undermine academic freedom.

“The state telling you what you can and cannot learn, that is inconsistent with democracy,” Mulvey said. “It silences debate, stifles ideas and limits the autonomy of educational institutions which ... made American higher education the envy of the world.”

Sen. Clay Yarborough (R), who introduced one of the 2023 education bills — Senate Bill 1320, which forbids requiring school staff and students to use “pronouns that do not correspond with [a] person’s sex” and delays education on sexual orientation and gender identity until after eighth grade — said in a statement that his law would enshrine the “God-given” responsibility of parents to raise their children.

More states are paying to send children to private and religious schools

“The decision about when and if certain topics should be introduced to young children belongs to parents,” Yarborough said in the statement. “The bill also protects students and teachers from being forced to use language that would violate their personal convictions.”

 ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the Panic at Fox News After the 2020 Election, Peter Baker, March 5, 2023 (print ed.). “If we hadn’t called Arizona,” said the network’s chief executive in a recording reviewed by The Times, “our ratings would have been bigger.”

A little more than a week after television networks called the 2020 presidential election for Joseph R. Biden Jr., top executives and anchors at Fox News held an after-action meeting to figure out how they had messed up.

Not because they had gotten the key call wrong — but because they had gotten it right. And they had gotten it right before anyone else.

Typically, it is a point of pride for a news network to be the first to project election winners. But Fox is no typical news network, and in the days following the 2020 vote, it was besieged with angry protests not only from President Donald J. Trump’s camp but from its own arizona mapviewers because it had called the battleground state of Arizona for Mr. Biden. Never mind that the call was correct; Fox executives worried that they would lose viewers to hard-right competitors like Newsmax.

And so, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and Jay Wallace, the network’s president, convened a Zoom meeting for an extraordinary discussion with an unusual goal, according to a recording of the call reviewed by The New York Times: How to keep from angering the network’s conservative audience again by calling an election for a Democrat before the competition.

Maybe, the Fox executives mused, they should abandon the sophisticated new election-projecting system in which Fox had invested millions of dollars and revert to the slower, less accurate model. Or maybe they should base calls not solely on numbers but on how viewers might react. Or maybe they should delay calls, even if they were right, to keep the audience in suspense and boost viewership.

“Listen, it’s one of the sad realities: If we hadn’t called Arizona, those three or four days following Election Day, our ratings would have been bigger,” Ms. Scott said. “The mystery would have been still hanging out there.”

Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, the two main anchors, suggested it was not enough to call a state based on numerical calculations, the standard by which networks have made such determinations for generations, but that viewer reaction should be considered. “In a Trump environment,” Ms. MacCallum dominion voting systemssaid, “the game is just very, very different.”

The conversation captured the sense of crisis enveloping Fox after the election and underscored its unique role in the conservative political ecosystem. The network’s conduct in this period has come under intense scrutiny in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Commentary: DeSantis ally targets the free press in Florida, Wayne Madsen, left, March 3-5, 2023. Florida State wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallSenator Jason Brodeur has introduced legislation that would require journalists operating blogs that cover Florida politics to register with the state, file monthly reports, and include in the required reports the amount of compensation received and its sources.

wayne madesen report logoBlogs would also have to report advertisers and compensation received from them.

Senate Bill 1316, called the “Information Dissemination” bill, would require journalists to file their reports by the 10th of each month with either the Florida Office of Legislative Services or the Commission on Ethics or both. Failure to file would result in a fine of $25 per day not to exceed $2,500 per article in question. Initial registration is required within five days of a blog mentioning a state official covered by the proposed law, including the governor, lieutenant governor, state attorney general, or state senators and representatives. Fine payments are due within 25 days after publication.

jason brodeurBrodeur [below right] represents a large portion of extremely corrupt Seminole County, where Representative Matt Gaetz and his convicted "wingman," former Seminole County Tax Collector Joel Greenberg, abused their positions to engage in wild parties with underage girls and other misadventures. Greenberg is serving an 11- year prison sentence after being found guilty on federal counts of underage sex trafficking, wire fraud, stalking, identity theft, producing a fake identification card, and conspiring to defraud the US government.

Brodeur, who doubles as the President and CEO of the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, sarcastically asserted that journalists could avoid paying the fines if they simply refrained from writing about Governor Ron DeSantis, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Cabinet officials, or members of the state legislature like himself.

ron desantis go go boots alteredBrodeur's bill also expands the rights of politicians to sue journalists for defamation. Defamation includes the use of an "altered or unaltered photograph, video, or audio recording." DeSantis is known to have been livid over altered photographs of him wearing white boots in a town devastated by Hurricane Ian (as shown above, with the original at left and the altered photo at right) as well as sporting high-heeled boots designed to boost his short stature at campaign events.

In 2020, Brodeur, a close ally of DeSantis, was elected to the Senate, defeating Democrat Patricia Sigman. Sigman's loss in the close 50 to 48 percent race was facilitated by the presence on the ballot of "progressive" ghost candidate Jestine Iannotti, who managed to siphon off a critical 2.1 percent of the votes, most of which would have likely gone to Sigman. Iannotti's candidacy was sponsored by Brodeur's friend Ben Paris, the chairman of the Seminole County Republican Party. Brodeur's circle of friends also included Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel. After being appointed by DeSantis as Florida Secretary of State in 2019, Ertel resigned shortly after being sworn in after photos of him in black face surfaced. Brodeur's bill would force those posting photos such as that of Ertel in blackface to disclose their sources or face defamation lawsuits.

Paris later pleaded guilty to election fraud in the ghost candidate fraud. Criminal charges remain against Paris's two co-conspirators, Iannotti and Republican consultant James “Eric” Foglesong. Although Brodeur was the one who benefited the most from the election scam, he was not charged by prosecutors.

The Florida Democratic Party has accused Ingoglia and Brodeur with acting as pawns for DeSantis. The party issued the following statement: "The sooner DeSantis and his puppets in the legislature learn that Florida is a Democratic Republic and not a Banana Republic, the better it will be for all Floridians.”

Note: After a careful reading of Senate Bill 1316, WMR would be adversely affected if the law is signed by DeSantis. We would be required to turn over our subscribers and their subscription payments or in-kind contributions to two Republican-led offices in Tallahassee. WMR, of course, would refuse to abide by this unconstitutional law by either registering this website, paying any fines, or disclosing any subscriber information.



nordstream pipeline danish military

Methane gas leaking from the Nord Stream gas pipelines near the Danish island of Bornholm, Denmark. Photo credit: Danish military.


seymour hersh 2009 institute of policy studies

  Journalist Seymour Hersh, 2009. Photo credit: Institute for Policy Studies / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Going Deep with Russ Baker, Investigative Commentary:Nord Stream Explosion: Plenty of Gas, Not Much Light, Russ Baker, right, best-selling author, widely published media critic and founder of the investigative website and radio show WhoWhatWhy, March 4-5, 2023. Why does the russ bakerHersh story — which relies on a single inside source — have so few details of the sort that only an insider would know?

whowhatwhy logoA small but vocal cohort keeps asking me, “Who do you think blew up the Nord Stream,” or more often, “Why don’t you admit the US blew up that pipeline?” One fan of hyperbole even wrote to say that certainly the US did it, and called it “the worst act of terror in history.”

I am well aware of the real possibility that the US was behind the September 26, 2022, explosion. The US has done worse in the past. And certainly, the Biden statement back in February 2022 — warning Russia of possible action to shut down the Nord Stream were it to invade Ukraine (see below) — provides powerful grist for the mill.

Thanks for reading Going Deep with Russ Baker! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.

But what really bothers me are all the unwarranted assumptions in this case on the part of many: First, that the US is definitely responsible. Second, that this act is morally equivalent to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Third, that this is a reason to bar further US military aid to Ukraine.

The attack on the natural gas pipeline — which happened more than half a year after Russia invaded Ukraine — has receded from the news. But with growing GOP pressure to reduce or cut off funding for the defense of Ukraine, the issue will come up again, perhaps as a core piece of the overall debate.

And more people may be receptive to anything that justifies a reduction of funding, and just the general desire to “move on.” This is exactly what Putin, in my view, fervently hopes will happen, and really the only possible way he wins or even survives politically.

Who Done It?

As a journalist in the agnostic tradition, I believe in being open-minded on the fascinating issue of who done it, and on the equally intriguing question, how do we know?

The US is certainly capable of doing such a thing. However, I don’t know that it bombed the Nord Stream, and neither do those who are so certain it did.

Even Seymour Hersh, who reported that the US is responsible for the Nord Stream explosion, cannot know for sure, although he treats it as a certainty. He says the information is from “a single source with direct knowledge of the operational planning.”

That’s different from knowing. And as Hersh is well aware, news organizations rarely publish stories based on a single source because the risk of error is too high. Click link to read more.

March 4


Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his wife, the NFL team's current CEO (Washington Post photo).

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his wife, Tanya Snyder, the NFL team's current CEO (Washington Post photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Commanders sale teeters amid uncertainty, renewed ire with NFL owners, Liz Clarke, Mark Maske and Nicki Jhabvala, March 4, 2023 (print ed.). When the Washington Commanders announced in early November that owner Daniel Snyder was exploring the possibility of selling the franchise, the annual meeting of the NFL’s team owners in late March seemed to be a reasonable target by which a deal with a buyer could be found. Yet with that meeting now just weeks away, the next steps in the prospective sale of the team appear uncertain.

The Washington Commanders roll out their team name and logo at media reveal from FedExField, Landover, Maryland, February 2nd, 2022 (Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels)Several potential buyers have been identified, at least two of whom have submitted bids, but the interested party with the most financial wherewithal has been prohibited thus far from making a bid.

 Snyder, 58, shown in a 2022 photo via Wikimedia, has made demands of the league and other team owners for legal protections that would extend beyond him selling his franchise, three people with direct knowledge of the NFL’s inner workings have said. And with the league’s second investigation of Snyder and the team’s workplace entering its 13th month, some owners leaguewide are angry enough about those demands to renew their consideration of taking a vote to remove him from ownership if he refuses to sell.

NFL owners have never voted to oust a fellow owner by forcing the sale of a team, and they have reasons to be cautious in considering such action. The first is that the legality of such a move has never been tested, and even if it held up, it probably would be far from an expedient process.

washington post logoWashington Post, Spain arrests two for sexually exploiting 120 women using model agency, Victoria Bisset, March 4, 2023. Police in Spain say they have arrested two people for sexually exploiting more than 120 women, after luring them with false promises of careers in fashion or movies and then forcing them into prostitution.

An investigation found that the suspects had been operating in Spain’s southeastern region of Alicante. The duo, who have not been identified, were charged with continued sexual assault, forced prostitution and falsifying documents, according to a police statement released Saturday.

The two suspects had created a business network of modeling and film production agencies to draw in the women, even creating photo books for each woman they sought to recruit to add to their credibility, the statement says.

Once the women were recruited, the suspects coerced the women into prostitution, police said, adding that some of the victims were forced to wear geolocation devices to ensure they would be available at all times. The suspects threatened or punished those who refused to provide sexual services, imposing fines or cutting off their income.

Spanish prime minister vows to abolish prostitution, saying it ‘enslaves’ women

Many of the women were forced to work long hours and made to work even when they were ill, according to police.

March 1

ny times logoNew York Times, After Slashing Its Staff, Twitter Faces More Glitches and Outages, Ryan Mac, Mike Isaac and Kate Conger, March 1, 2023 (print ed.). Elon Musk’s repeated trims to the company’s workforce are stoking new fears that there aren’t enough people to triage Twitter’s problems.

twitter bird CustomAfter Elon Musk bought Twitter last year and eliminated thousands of its employees, many users were so alarmed by the cuts that #RIPTwitter and #GoodbyeTwitter began trending.

The social media service remains operational today. But its outages, bugs and other glitches are increasingly piling up.

In February alone, Twitter experienced at least four widespread outages, compared with nine in all of 2022, according to NetBlocks, an organization that tracks internet outages. That suggests the frequency of service failures is on the rise, NetBlocks said. And bugs that have made Twitter less usable — by preventing people from posting tweets, for instance — have been more noticeable, researchers and users said.

Twitter’s reliability has deteriorated as Mr. Musk has repeatedly slashed the company’s work force. After another round of layoffs on Saturday, Twitter has fewer than 2,000 employees, down from 7,500 when Mr. Musk took over in October. The latest cuts affected dozens of engineers responsible for keeping the site online, three current and former employees said.



Feb. 28


Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his wife, the NFL team's current CEO (Washington Post photo).

Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder and his wife, Tanya Snyder, the NFL team's current CEO (Washington Post photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Dan Snyder’s proposed indemnity clause dubbed ‘ridiculous’ by other NFL owners, Mark Maske, Nicki Jhabvala and Liz Clarke, Feb. 28, 2023. Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder and his attorneys have demanded that fellow NFL franchise owners and the league indemnify him against future legal liability and costs if he sells the team, two people with direct knowledge of the NFL’s inner workings and the owners’ attitudes said.

Snyder’s demands, which include a threat to sue if the indemnification condition is not met, have angered some owners and renewed discussion about the possibility of taking a vote to remove him from ownership of the Commanders if he does not sell the franchise, according The Washington Commanders roll out their team name and logo at media reveal from FedExField, Landover, Maryland, February 2nd, 2022 (Joe Glorioso | All-Pro Reels)to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic and the legal threat.

“He wants indemnification if he sells,” one of those people said, adding that the owners regard the demand as “ridiculous” and “absurd” and believe Snyder, 58, shown in a 2022 photo via Wikimedia, should provide indemnification to the other owners for any legal claims that may arise from his and the team’s actions.

The owners “definitely” would move toward a vote to remove Snyder from ownership of his team if he does not sell the franchise, that person said. Such a vote would require support by at least three-quarters of the owners. The other person who confirmed Snyder’s demands added that the dispute “could get messy.”

The Commanders denied the assertions in a statement Monday night: “The story posted tonight by the Washington Post regarding the transaction process involving the Washington Commanders is simply untrue.”

Snyder also is seeking for the NFL to keep confidential the findings of the ongoing investigation being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White, one of the people with knowledge of the situation said. The NFL has said the findings of White’s investigation will be released publicly. It is the league’s second investigation of the team’s workplace and Snyder.

 jonathan capehart msnbc

Axios, Scoop: Jonathan Capehart quits WaPo editorial board, leaving no people of color, Sara Fischer, Feb. 28, 2023. Jonathan Capehart (shown above) quit the Washington Post editorial board after a dispute over an editorial about 2024 politics, leaving the paper with an all-white editorial board, Axios has learned.

axios logoWhy it matters: Capehart left the board at a time when the Post — based in a city where nearly half the population is Black — is swirling in internal discontent over the paper's leadership.

By comparison, the New York Times' 14-person editorial board has five people of color.

State of play: Since joining the Post as a member of its editorial board in 2007, Capehart has become one of the paper's most visible and influential faces.

Capehart — who remains a Post columnist, associate editor and podcaster — quit in December as a member of the board, which debates editorials that represent the views of the Post as an institution.

What happened: Capehart, a Black and gay Pulitzer winner, left the board in early December after a disagreement over a Dec. 6. editorial about the runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Herschel Walker.

He turned in his resignation to Post editorial page editor David Shipley shortly after the piece ran.

The big picture: The run-in between Capehart and the Post underscores the yearslong tensions at the paper over cultural issues.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bob Richards, Pole-Vaulting Hero of the Cold War Era, Dies at 97, Robert D. McFadden, Feb. 28, 2023 (print ed.). An ordained minister known as the Vaulting Vicar, he was an Olympic gold medal winner and the first athlete to appear on the front of Wheaties boxes.

Feb. 27


elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk defends ‘Dilbert’ creator, says media is ‘racist against whites,’ Will Oremus, Feb. 27, 2023. The Tesla and Twitter chief (a native of apartheid-ruled South Africa shown above in a file photo) blasted media outlets for dropping Scott Adams’s comic strip after the cartoonist’s rant against Black people.

Twitter and Tesla chief Elon Musk defended Scott Adams, the under-fire creator of “Dilbert,” in a series of tweets Sunday, blasting media organizations for dropping his comic strip after Adams said that White people should “get the hell away from Black people.”

Replying to tweets about the controversy, Musk said it is actually the media that is “racist against whites & Asians.” He offered no criticism of Adams’s comments, in which the cartoonist called Black people a “hate group” and said, “I don’t want to have anything to do with them.”

Musk previously tweeted, then later deleted, a reply to Adams’s tweet about media outlets pulling his comic strip, in which Musk asked, “What exactly are they complaining about?”

The billionaire’s comments continue a pattern of Musk expressing more concern about the “free speech” of people who make racist or antisemitic comments than about the comments themselves. Musk’s views on race have been the subject of scrutiny both at Twitter, where he has reinstated far-right accounts, including those of neo-Nazis and others previously banned for hate speech, and at Tesla, which has been the subject of multiple lawsuits alleging a culture of rampant racism and sexual harassment in the workplace.

In the wake of Musk’s latest tweets Sunday, the president of the civil rights group Color of Change told The Washington Post that he is reiterating his call for advertisers to boycott Twitter.

Musk did not reply to an email Sunday requesting comment.

Committee to Protect Journalists, At least 14 journalists detained, attacked, or harassed covering Nigeria’s election, Staff Report, Feb. 27-28, 2023. At least 14 journalists and media workers were detained, harassed, or attacked while covering Nigeria’s presidential and federal elections, including private news website WikkiTimes owner Haruna Mohammed Salisu, who remains in police custody without charge, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday.

Police detained Salisu on February 25 in Duguri town, southeastern Bauchi state, shortly after he and other reporters had met with the state governor, according to WikkiTimes editor Yakubu Mohammed, who spoke to CPJ, and a local coalition of press freedom groups. Police said they took Salisu into custody to protect him after supporters of the governor attacked him as he interviewed local women protesting, but then refused to release him, according to Mohammed, who visited him after he was transferred to police headquarters in Bauchi, the state capital. The local PRNigeria news site reported that police had “received a formal complaint that the journalist was inciting the electorate.” Salisu remained in detention as of Monday evening.

Private citizens, political groups, or security forces threatened, attacked, or seized at least 13 other journalists and media workers during the elections, according to CPJ interviews.

“Nigerian authorities should immediately and unconditionally release journalist Haruna Mohammed Salisu, and bring to account all those responsible for intimidating and attacking at least 13 other journalists and media workers,” said Angela Quintal, CPJ’s Africa program coordinator, from New York. “Press freedom is an integral component of Nigerian democracy, and the media should be able to cover national polls without fear of reprisals.”

CPJ spoke to reporters involved in each of the following incidents on February 25:

A group of men beat Dayo Aiyetan, executive director of the privately owned nonprofit International Centre for Investigative Reporting, tore his clothes, and stole his phone and belongings after he filmed them disrupting the voting at a polling site in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Aiyetan said one man tried to stab him, and he reported the attack to local police. Some of his belongings were returned, including his phone with content deleted.

Youths in Ibadan, Oyo state, attacked a vehicle from the state-owned News Agency Nigeria for covering the elections, one of the crew told CPJ. Yinka Bode-Are, a camera operator, was traveling with a reporter and driver when the vehicle was set upon with sticks and dented.

Security forces questioned Adesola Ikulajolu, a reporter with the local nonprofit Center for Journalism Innovation and Development, about his work and deleted image folders from his phone as he moved between polling places in Lagos. Ikulajolu said he believed they were from the Department of State Services because of their equipment and black clothing. DSS spokesperson Peter Afunanya told CPJ he was not aware of the incident and that black clothing did not prove a DSS affiliation.

Feb. 26



scott adams via proof

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Dilbert’ dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist’s racist rant, Thomas Floyd and Michael Cavna, Feb. 26, 2023 (print ed.). Newspapers across the United States have pulled Scott Adams’s long-running “Dilbert” comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and said White people should “get the hell away from” them.

The Washington Post, the USA Today network of hundreds of newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Los Angeles Times and other publications announced they would stop publishing “Dilbert” after Adams’s racist rant on YouTube on Wednesday. Asked on Saturday how many newspapers still carried the strip — a workplace satire he created in 1989 — Adams told The Post: “By Monday, around zero.”

The once widely celebrated cartoonist, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset Wednesday by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be White.”

“If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with White people … that’s a hate group,” Adams said on his live-streaming YouTube show. “I don’t want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to White people is to get the hell away from Black people … because there is no fixing this.”

Adams, 65, also blamed Black people for not “focusing on education” during the show and said, “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”

Outrage followed.

By Thursday, The Post began hearing from readers calling for the strip’s cancellation. On Friday, the USA Today Network said that it “will no longer publish the Dilbert comic due to recent discriminatory comments by its creator.” The Gannett-owned chain oversees more than 300 newspapers, including the Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Austin American-Statesman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“In light of Scott Adams’s recent statements promoting segregation, The Washington Post has ceased publication of the Dilbert comic strip,” a spokesperson for the newspaper said Saturday, noting that it was too late to stop the strip from running in some upcoming print editions, including Sunday’s.

Chris Quinn, the vice president of content for Plain Dealer publisher Advance Ohio, wrote in a letter from the editor Friday that pulling “Dilbert” was “not a difficult decision.” “We are not a home for those who espouse racism,” Quinn wrote.

“Scott Adams is a disgrace,” Darrin Bell, creator of “Candorville” and the first Black artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, told The Post on Saturday. “His racism is not even unique among cartoonists.” Bell compared Adams’s views to the Jim Crow era and more recent examples of White supremacy, including “millions of angry people trying to redefine the word ‘racism’ itself.”

In fact, Adams did exactly that on his YouTube show Saturday. He offered a long, quasi-Socratic defense of his comments, which he said were taken out of context, and seemed to define racism as essentially any political activity. “Any tax code change is racist,” he said at one point in the show. He denounced racism against “individuals” and racist laws, but said, “You should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision.”

More Background: Proof, Investigative Commentary: Has Twitter Had a Far-Right Bent for Years? Are #TheTwitterFiles a Fraud? Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 24, 2023 (Long column excerpted below). The Debate Leads to seth abramson graphicStrange Words About Me By “Dilbert” Creator Scott Adams and Even Elon Musk Himself.

If you work on controversial topics, you draw attention from polarizing people. But my debunking of a major #TwitterFiles meme led to odder interactions than I expected—and some explosive revelations.

seth abramson proof logoThe New York Daily News and others have reported on Adams’ “many controversies and inflammatory comments”, which have led to the cancellation of Dilbert in newspapers across the United States. Dilbert is a comic strip about the banalities of office life in America.

I won’t detail here all of the stupid things that Scott Adams has said to become such a controversial figure—as they’re numberless, and after all, we all say stupid things at times, though few of us things as spectacularly tone-deaf and preposterous as Adams has said—but I will at least offer the summary from the Daily News referenced above: In 2020, reflecting on the cancellation of the TV adaptation of Dilbert decades earlier, he tweeted, “I lost my TV show for being white.” Adams claimed that wasn’t the first time he twitter bird Customsuspects being white worked against him professionally. He has also joked on Twitter that he was going to “self-identify as a Black woman” so that he’d be considered for the Supreme Court.

Always the entrepreneur, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip has lately positioned himself as the defender and interpreter of all things Trump. So far it’s been a winning bet. Adams’s book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter has achieved bestseller status and his blog has racked up a whole lot of eyeballs.

In any case, while I seem to recall that I might have tilted with Adams once or twice online in the past—frankly, many have—I certainly didn’t think he’d devote a segment of his popular video blog-cum-podcast to me. But recently he did so, and it opened up a new narrative about #TheTwitterFiles and the Trump-Russia scandal I never would have expected.

instagram logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Instagram users are being served gory videos of killing and torture, Taylor Lorenz, Feb. 26, 2023. The videos have become a way for meme pages to up their engagement, helping them raise their income from advertising.

Kristoffer Reinman, a 32-year-old music producer and investor, was scrolling through Instagram last fall when he began to encounter violent videos — videos of people being shot and mutilated, posted by accounts he said he doesn’t follow.

“It was gory stuff, torture videos, stuff you just don’t want to see,” Reinman said. “Violent videos, they just started showing up. I was like, what is this? It’s nothing that I follow myself.” Feeling disturbed and disgusted, he immediately logged onto chat app Discord to tell his friends what was happening.

His friends replied that it wasn’t just him. They too were receiving violent videos in their feed. Twitter users also began posting about the phenomenon. “Hey @instagram,” one Twitter user posted in September, “why was the first thing on my feed today a beheading video from an account i don’t even follow? Thx!”

tiktok logo CustomSince Instagram launched Reels, the platform’s TikTok competitor, in 2020, it has taken aggressive steps to grow the feature. It rewarded accounts that posted Reels videos with increased views and began paying monthly bonuses to creators whose Reels content performed well on the app.

Instagram also announced last year it would be leaning harder into algorithmic recommendation of content. On Meta’s second-quarter mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wearnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg, left, noted that Reels videos accounted for 20 percent of the time people spent on Instagram, saying that Reels engagement was “growing quickly” and that the company saw a 30 percent increase in the meta logoamount of time people spent engaging with Reels.

But at least part of that engagement has come from the kinds of videos Reinman and other users have raised concerns about, a result that shows how Meta’s Instagram has failed to contain harmful content on its platform as it seeks to regain audience lost to TikTok.

Editor and Publisher, The Winsted Citizen: Ralph Nader’s gift to his hometown, Bob Sillick, Feb. 27, 2023 (print ed.). Todd Arcelaschi, the mayor, was there, and so was Joshua Steele Kelly, the town manager. A seven-piece R&B jazz band kept the atmosphere lively. More than 100 guests had gathered in the American Museum of Tort Law in Winsted, Connecticut, to celebrate the launch of the Winsted Citizen for a community hungry for news. Winsted is also where Ralph Nader was born and delivered the local newspaper as a boy, and the Citizen is his gift to his hometown, which had become a news desert.

“The Winsted Journal folded in 2017, so we were without a newspaper. You can’t have a community without a newspaper. Studies show voting and social life decline, and fewer people attend town meetings. No one is holding the government accountable and supporting the business community with coverage of important events,” Nader said.

“I came to the conclusion there's no community in the country that can’t support a weekly newspaper. It’s just a lack of imagination and organization. It only takes a handful of people to make it happen.”

Nader asked Andy Thibault to become the editor and publisher. He is a veteran journalist and editor and held that position at various Connecticut newspapers, including The Hartford Courant. He also teaches Basic News Reporting/Writing, Investigative Reporting and Communication at the University of New Haven.

The first announcement about the Citizen stated it would publish a pilot issue first. However, the enthusiasm and positive response from the community prompted the paper to revise its plans. They’ve committed to a monthly edition throughout the remainder of 2023, then publishing weekly in 2024.

“On February 3rd, 1,000 copies of the inaugural issue of the Winsted Citizen were mailed by Trumbull Printing to households in our circulation area. The first 35 subscribers and all 192 Connecticut public libraries were included in the initial mailing. The Citizen is also available at multiple locations throughout the community. We now have almost 200 subscribers with an immediate goal of 1,000,” Thibault said. “We also had immediate interest from many local businesses to place ads in the first issue.”

“We have a big learning curve as we integrate ourselves with the community. We want to earn everyone's trust and respect. We’re extending our hand — ready to meet people and learn how we can serve them.”

Subscriptions and advertising are the immediate targets to generate revenue, but as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, it will also explore resources available through grants and from foundations — a process that has already started.

Editor's Note: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a longtime journalist in Connecticut with the Hartford Courant and elsewhere, serves on the new newspaper's founding board of directors.

Feb. 25



Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

ny times logoNew York Times, What Fox News Hosts Said Publicly Vs. Privately About Voter Fraud, Stuart A. Thompson, Karen Yourish and Jeremy W. Peters, Feb. 25, 2023. Dozens of private messages, released as part of a lawsuit against Fox, revealed what was said behind the scenes.

Two days after the 2020 election, Tucker Carlson was furious.

Fox News viewers were abandoning the network for Newsmax and One America News, two conservative rivals, after Fox declared that Joseph R. Biden Jr. won Arizona, a crucial swing state.

fox news logo SmallIn a text message with his producer, Alex Pfeiffer, Mr. Carlson appeared livid that viewers were turning against the network. The message was among those released last week as part of a lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox. Dominion, an elections technology company, has sued Fox News for defamation.

At the same time, Mr. Carlson and his broadcasting colleagues expressed grave doubts about an unfounded narrative rapidly gaining dominion voting systemsmomentum among their core audience: that the 2020 presidential election was stolen by Democrats through widespread voter fraud. The belief was promoted by then-President Trump and a coalition of lawyers, lawmakers and influencers, though they produced no evidence to support their assertions.

Many hosts, producers and executives privately expressed skepticism about those claims, even as they gave them significant airtime, according to private messages revealed last week by Dominion. What they said in those messages often differed significantly from what Fox hosts said in public, though they weren’t always contradictory.

Two days after the election, Mr. Pfeiffer said that voices on the right were “reckless demagogues,” according to a text message. Mr. Carlson replied that his show was “not going to follow them.”

But he did follow them. The same day, on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Mr. Carlson expressed some doubts about the voter fraud assertions before insisting that at least some of the claims were “credible.”

washington post logoWashington Post, News outlets demand release of Jan. 6 footage given to Tucker Carlson, Anumita Kaur, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Scores of news organizations — including The Washington Post — on Friday demanded congressional leaders release a trove of surveillance footage from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that the House speaker provided exclusively to Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has downplayed the violence.

Attorney Charles Tobin sent a letter on behalf of CBS News, CNN, Politico, ProPublica, ABC, Axios, Advance, Scripps, the Los Angeles Times and Gannett, arguing that the footage should be available to other groups as well.

“Without full public access to the complete historical record, there is concern that an ideologically-based narrative of an already polarizing event will take hold in the public consciousness, with destabilizing risks to the legitimacy of Congress, the Capitol Police, and the various federal investigations and prosecutions of Jan. 6 crimes,” the letter stated.

McCarthy gives Tucker Carlson exclusive access to Jan. 6 riot video

The Post is part of another coalition of news outlets, which includes the Associated Press and the New York Times, that sent a letter to McCarthy seeking access to the material.

Carlson, the most watched prime-time host on Fox News, has yet to air the unseen footage given to him by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

On Monday, he said his producers have “unfettered” access to about 44,000 hours of security footage recorded when hundreds of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college win. Carlson said that his team has been analyzing the content “and how it contradicts or not the story we’ve been told for more than two years,” and that his producers would spend the week reviewing the video and air what they found next week. His show did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

McCarthy has remained silent about the footage, and has not spoken publicly or responded to questions about the release, which was first reported by Axios. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vice C.E.O.’s Departure Signals Fallen Hopes for Digital Media, Benjamin Mullin, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Nancy Dubuc is leaving the media company, which is exploring a sale of some or all of the business, after nearly five years there.

When Vice Media named Nancy Dubuc as its new chief executive in 2018, her contract hinted at one of her missions. Sell the company — at the time a darling of the media industry — and she could cash in on a big stock grant, according to a copy of the contract obtained by The New York Times.

So far, that hasn’t come to pass. On Friday, Ms. Dubuc said she was leaving Vice, which investors expect is worth far less than before she took over.

Just a month ago, Ms. Dubuc announced publicly that the company was for sale. No deal has materialized yet.

Her unexpected departure — her last day is Friday — and Vice’s struggles in recent years, highlight the fallen fortunes of a group of digital media companies that not long ago was talked about as the future of the industry.

ny times logoNew York Times, Linda King Newell, Feminist Scholar of Mormon History, Dies at 82, Clay Risen, Feb. 23, 2023. Her work exploring the idea of female subservience within the church won acclaim. But it also led to her being blacklisted by Mormon leaders.

Linda King Newell, whose pioneering work on the history of women in the Mormon faith won her acclaim as the leading feminist scholar in her field, but also led leaders in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to blacklist her for undermining traditional views about the religion’s founding era, died on Feb. 12 at a hospice facility in Salt Lake City. She was 82. She later served as the president of two leading Mormon scholarly organizations, the John Whitmer Historical Association and the Mormon History Association.

ny times logoNew York Times, John Macrae III, Eclectic Publisher and Rights Champion, Dies at 91, Sam Roberts, Feb. 24, 2023 (print ed.). In addition to having a roster of authors that included Gail Sheehy, David Levering Lewis and Lech Walesa, he spoke out for the rights of writers worldwide.

John Macrae III, a dashing publisher who gambled on groundbreaking books and dauntlessly defended authors who defied injustices committed by their own governments, died on Feb. 1 at his home in Manhattan. He was 91.

His death was confirmed by his wife, the Manhattan gallerist Paula Cooper.

Mr. Macrae was president and publisher of E.P. Dutton from 1968 to 1981, representing the third generation of his family to run the company. He then worked for 35 years at Henry Holt & Company, where he was editor in chief and later had his own imprint.

A fervent human rights advocate, he was chairman of the International Freedom to Publish Committee of the Association of American Publishers.

Mr. Macrae was among those who urged his fellow publishers to boycott the Moscow Book Fair in 1983 to protest the Soviet Union’s treatment of dissidents.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Josh Hawley May Be Right About Social Media, Michelle Goldberg, right, Feb. 25, 2023 (print ed.). Last year, a study came out michelle goldberg thumbshowing that left-leaning adolescents were experiencing a greater increase in depression than their more conservative peers. Indeed, while girls are more likely to be depressed than boys, the study, by a group of epidemiologists at Columbia, showed that liberal boys had higher rates of depression than conservative girls.

Because I wrote quite a bit about the dire psychological fallout of Donald Trump’s abusive presidency, I was immediately interested in the study, titled “The Politics of Depression.”

The study speculated that left-leaning girls might simply be reacting to the political environment.

But as I looked closer at the data, I saw that the inflection point for liberal adolescent depression wasn’t 2016, but around 2012. That was the year of the devastating Sandy Hook mass shooting, but it was not otherwise a time of liberal political despair.

One person I hoped could make sense of the study was Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of the 2017 book iGen, about the deleterious psychological effects of social media. When I spoke to her last year, Twenge had preliminary data showing that liberal teenagers spent more time on social media than their conservative peers. Girls also use social media more than boys do, though boys tend to spend more time on screens, largely because of video games.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published alarming findings from its Youth Risk Behavior Survey that demonstrated the gravity of the psychological crisis that adolescents, especially adolescent girls, are facing. In 2021, it found, nearly 60 percent of high school girls experienced persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Almost a quarter made a suicide plan.

Clearly, kids are in terrible pain. In trying to understand why, many conservatives have embraced ideas about the damaging effects of social media championed by Haidt and Twenge. The Republican senator Josh Hawley cited Twenge’s work in calling for a ban on social media use by kids under 16.

The steep decline in young people’s mental health around 2012 isn’t just an American problem: It also shows up in Britain, Canada and Australia.

Technology, not politics, was what changed in all these countries around 2012. That was the year that Facebook bought Instagram and the word “selfie” entered the popular lexicon.

The idea that unaccountable corporate behemoths are harming kids with their products shouldn’t be a hard one for liberals to accept, even if figures like Hawley believe it as well. I’m not sure if banning social media for young people is the right way to start fixing the psychic catastrophe engulfing so many kids.

 Feb. 23

washington post logoWashington Post, NPR to cut about 100 workers in one of its largest layoffs ever, Paul Farhi, Feb. 23, 2023. NPR plans to cut about 100 employees — roughly 10 percent of its workforce — in one of the largest layoffs in the nonprofit news giant’s 53-year history.

npr logo“Our financial outlook has darkened considerably over recent weeks,” CEO John Lansing wrote in a staff memo Wednesday, noting that NPR expected its ad revenue to fall about $30 million short of projections in a tightening ad economy. The projected decline in sponsorships has been concentrated in podcasting, a segment in which NPR has invested heavily in recent years, with popular shows such as “Fresh Air.”

The erosion of advertising dollars has affected other organizations, triggering layoffs at CNN, Gannett and Vox, among others this winter. The Washington Post has eliminated its Sunday magazine and its video game hub, Launcher, among cuts that led to about 30 layoffs among its some 1,000-member news staff. Major tech companies that rely on advertising, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, have also announced thousands of layoffs.

NPR announced about $20 million in cuts in November, mainly by freezing hiring and restricting travel. But Lansing said those projected savings would not be enough. “Unlike the financial challenges we faced during the worst of the pandemic, we project increasing costs and no sign of a quick revenue rebound,” he wrote in the memo. “We must make adjustments to what we control, and that is our spending.”

Feb. 22


cedric wins r matt daniel

Virginia Military Institute Superintendent Cedric T. Wins, right, is under fire from “brother rat” Matt Daniel, with both shown in their 1985 yearbook.

washington post logoWashington Post, At VMI, two classmates — one Black, one White — war over school’s future, Ian Shapira, Feb. 22, 2023 (print ed.). They graduated together in 1985. Now Virginia Military Institute's first Black superintendent, Cedric T. Wins, is under fire from “brother rat” Matt Daniel. Right after Cedric T. Wins became the first Black leader in Virginia Military Institute’s history, the school’s former basketball star received a hero’s welcome.

virginia military institute logoOne enthusiastic fan: Matt Daniel, his “brother rat,” as VMI classmates call one another, who’d graduated the same year as Wins in 1985. In VMI’s alumni magazine, Daniel hailed Wins as just the kind of person needed to steer the nation’s oldest state-supported military college through a tumultuous time: a state-ordered investigation into its racial climate; the resignation of the school’s longtime superintendent, and the decision to remove a century-old statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson from its hallowed perch on the Lexington campus.

“If there was ever a leader to take the helm and navigate VMI through such odd and dark, shark-infested waters, it is Cedric Wins,” Daniel, who is White, wrote in his class notes column in the VMI Alumni Review in early 2021. “Welcome back to Lexington, Cedric.”

But in the two years since Wins took command, he is still swimming in dangerous waters, in part because of Daniel.

Months into the new superintendent’s tenure, Daniel, now 60, and other 1985 graduates launched a political action committee called the Spirit of VMI. The group has been pushing back forcefully against Wins, 59, and his diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, which are intended to attract more minorities and women to campus and make them feel valued and respected as cadets.

“Reject the woke assault on VMI,” one of the PAC’s websites blares in all-caps. “Close ranks.”

The 183-year-old school, whose cadets fought and died for the Confederacy during the Civil War, did not admit African Americans until 1968 or women until 1997. VMI remains mostly White and male, with Black students making up about 8 percent of the 1,500 corps of cadets, and women accounting for 13.5 percent. It received $29 million from the state for this acade

Feb. 21

ny times logoNew York Times, James O’Keefe Is Removed as Leader of Project Veritas, Michael S. Schmidt, David A. Fahrenthold and Adam Goldman, Feb. 21, 2023 (print ed.). James O’Keefe, the embattled leader of the conservative group Project Veritas, has been removed from his position amid a series of questions about his oversight of the organization, according to a speech he gave to the group.

“I was stripped of all decision-making last week,” Mr. O’Keefe said in a video of the speech, which was posted on Monday.

“Currently, I have no job at Project Veritas. I have no position here based upon what the board has done — so I’m announcing to you all that today, on Presidents’ Day, I’m packing up my personal belongings here,” Mr. O’Keefe said.

Earlier this month, Project Veritas’s board placed Mr. O’Keefe on paid leave after employees complained about his management style and his use of the group’s funds.

Since founding Project Veritas in his father’s garage in suburban New York in 2010, Mr. O’Keefe had been the face of the group. He rose to prominence during Donald J. Trump’s presidency, as Mr. Trump and his followers embraced Mr. O’Keefe, who relied on controversial tactics like hidden-camera videos that targeted liberal groups and the news media. Amid the praise from conservative figures, Project Veritas — which the I.R.S. recognized as a tax-exempt nonprofit — raised $20 million a year from donors.

But Project Veritas’s tactics have also brought legal scrutiny.

In September, a jury in a federal civil case found that the group had violated wiretapping laws in a sting operation against a consulting group affiliated with Democrats. The jury awarded $120,000 to that firm, Democracy Partners.

In addition, federal authorities have been investigating Project Veritas since 2020 as part of a broader case involving the theft of a diary kept by President Biden’s daughter Ashley.

In August, two men pleaded guilty to stealing the diary and selling it to Project Veritas before the 2020 election. In federal court filings, prosecutors said a Project Veritas employee had directed the men to steal additional items to authenticate the diary, and paid the men additional money after receiving them.

Neither Project Veritas nor any of its employees have been charged with wrongdoing in that case. The group has defended itself by saying that it is a journalistic organization, whose news gathering is protected by the First Amendment.

Feb. 20

alec baldwin getty

fox news logo SmallFox News, Alec Baldwin scores win in 'Rust' fatal shooting case as DA drops firearm enhancement, Lauryn Overhultz, Feb. 20, 2023. Cinematographer Halyna Hutchins died on set of 'Rust' after gun Alec Baldwin was holding fired.

Alec Baldwin (shown above in a photo via Getty Images) is no longer facing years behind bars in connection to the fatal shooting of "Rust" cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.

Prosecutors dropped the firearms enhancement originally brought against Baldwin. First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies filed the paperwork Monday morning, according to documents obtained by Fox News Digital.

"In order to avoid further litigious distractions by Mr. Baldwin and his attorneys, the District Attorney and the special prosecutor have removed the firearm enhancement to the involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Halyna Hutchins on the 'Rust' film set," Heather Brewer, spokesperson for the district attorney, told Fox News Digital. "The prosecution's priority is securing justice, not securing billable hours for big-city attorneys."

If Baldwin had been convicted of the involuntary manslaughter charge and firearms enhancement, the "30 Rock" actor would have faced a mandatory five years in jail.

The max jail time he faces now is 18 months.

Alec Baldwin scored a win Monday after the prosecution dropped the firearms enhancement charge that could have placed the actor behind bars for a mandatory five years.

"The district attorney has to be embarrassed," former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Fox News Digital. "Charging a law retroactively is a constitutional violation, and something that every first-year law student knows not to do.

"Now, she has egg on her face after overcharging the case and grandstanding for the press. She has made one legal blunder after another and may be in over her head," he added. "There is no reason why she should have waited more than a year to file charges or give assistant director David Halls a no-time slap on the wrist when she is trying to put Baldwin in state prison."

Baldwin's lawyers had argued the enhancement was "unconstitutional" in a Feb. 10 filing.

"The prosecutors committed a basic legal error by charging Mr. Baldwin under a version of the firearm-enhancement statute that did not exist on the date of the accident," the filing read.

Baldwin was charged with involuntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter in commission of a lawful act.

Attorneys for Baldwin argued the firearms enhancement charge was not part of New Mexico law when the fatal shooting of Hutchins occurred, and that he could not be punished retroactively.

Legal experts previously explained to Fox News Digital why Baldwin's defense chose to file this motion, and predicted that the firearms enhancement would be dropped.

"The original law that was on the books was very specific in the way it defined ‘brandishing,’ and Baldwin was clearly not in violation of that law or he would have been charged as such," Ted Spaulding, a personal injury lawyer, told Fox News Digital. "Prosecutors were likely searching for something similar that they could charge him with when they found this newer version of the law that, interestingly, has a harsher sentence of five years and looked like something they could win at trial."

"The only issue is the bill was passed months after the shooting took place, and laws cannot be retroactively applied."
'Rust' movie video shows Alec Baldwin practicing cross draw before Halyna Hutchins shooting Video

Alec Baldwin's first words to detectives revealed as cops release trove of 'Rust' files Video

Judge Mary Marlowe Sommer also granted the prosecution's motion for an extended time to respond to Baldwin's request for the special prosecutor to be removed from the case, according to a document also filed Monday.

The actor's attorneys previously argued Andrea Reeb could not simultaneously serve as the special prosecutor and as a member of the New Mexico House of Representatives. [She is a Republican.]

"Doing so vests two core powers of different branches – legislating and prosecuting – in the same person and is thus barred by the plain language of Article III of the New Mexico Constitution," the legal documents read.

ny times logoNew York Times, Richard Belzer, Detective Munch on ‘Law & Order: S.V.U.,’ Dies at 78, Alex Traub, Feb. 20, 2023 (print ed.).  A stand-up comic, he called his hard-boiled character on the long-running TV drama “Lenny Bruce with a badge.”

Richard Belzer, who became one of American television’s most enduring police detectives as John Munch on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and several other shows, died on Sunday at his home in Beaulieu-sur-Mer, France. He was 78.

The death was confirmed by Bill Scheft, a friend of Mr. Belzer. Mr. Scheft, who has been working on a documentary about Mr. Belzer’s life and career, said that the actor had suffered from circulatory and respiratory issues for years.

As Detective Munch, Mr. Belzer was brainy but hard-boiled, cynical but sensitive. He wore sunglasses at night and listened to the horror stories of rape victims in stony silence. He was the kind of cop who made casual references to Friedrich Nietzsche and the novelist Elmore Leonard. richard belzer hit list new coverHe spoke in quips; when accused of being a dirty old man, he responded: “Who are you calling old?”

In a 2010 interview with AARP The Magazine, Mr. Belzer — who was a stand-up comic when he was not playing Munch — described his television alter ego as “Lenny Bruce with a badge.” [Also, he co-authored the best-selling true crime books Hit List and Dead Wrong.]

With Munch, Mr. Belzer found phenomenal success. In 2013, when the character was written out of “SVU” — as the “Law & Order” spinoff is often called — Mr. Belzer wrote in The Huffington Post that he had appeared as Munch in more than 500 hours of programming on 10 different shows.

The character’s run began in 1993, on “Homicide: Life on the Street,” and included guest appearances on “Sesame Street” and “30 Rock.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook’s Parent Company Plans to Sell ‘Meta Verified’ Accounts, Stacy Cowley, Feb. 20, 2023 (print ed.).  Meta announced that it would begin charging $11.99 a month for a blue badge on Facebook and Instagram, taking a page out of Twitter’s playbook.

meta logoMeta — the parent company of Facebook and Instagram — wants power users to start paying for some of its sites’ features, taking a page out of Twitter’s playbook in charging for verified blue check marks.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wA new subscription service called Meta Verified will become available this week in Australia and New Zealand and will soon be expanded to other countries, Mark Zuckerberg, left, Meta’s chief executive, said Sunday in posts on Facebook and Instagram. For $11.99 a month (or $14.99 if purchased on Apple’s operating system, iOS), users will get a blue badge and direct access to customer support. The company described the effort as a “gradual test.”

facebook logo“This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. To become eligible for Meta Verified, users will have to submit a government ID to prove their identity, and subscribers will be allowed to use only their legal names on their profile pages, the company said. Subscribers will receive “extra impersonation protection against accounts claiming to be you,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

The service will be expanded to the United States in the next few weeks, a Meta spokeswoman said. She declined to name other countries in instagram logowhich Meta Verified will become available. Facebook and Instagram accounts must be enrolled separately in Meta Verified — meaning that those who want blue badges on both sites must pay at least $24 a month — but Meta plans to eventually offer bundled subscriptions, she said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Terrorists killed their daughter in Paris. Now they’re fighting Google in the Supreme Court, Gerrit De Vynck, Feb. 20, 2023. Are tech companies liable when their algorithms recommend terrorist content? The court’s answer could upend the way the internet works.

Beatrice Gonzalez was at the barber shop she runs in Whittier, Calif., when she received the news that would change her life.

Her daughter, Nohemi Gonzalez, was one of 130 people killed by terrorists during shooting rampages in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015. Nohemi, a senior at California State University at Long Beach, was there on an exchange program, and was shot along with 19 others at a busy bistro while out with friends. The Islamic State would claim responsibility for the attack.

Nohemi, or Mimi to her family, had worked hard for years to get into college, excelling at everything she put her mind to, Gonzalez said. She was her only daughter.

“I was in pain; I was in a bubble,” she said during an interview with The Washington Post.

When lawyers from an Israeli law center that specializes in suing companies that aid terrorists asked if she was interested in launching a lawsuit related to her daughter’s death, she said yes, hoping that it might be a way to honor Nohemi’s memory.

Now, eight years after Nohemi’s killing, Gonzalez is in Washington, preparing to watch that case argued before the Supreme Court. The Israeli law center, a nonprofit called Shurat HaDin, which translates from Hebrew as “letter of the law,” has spent years suing tech companies for hosting propaganda and recruitment messages from terrorist and militant organizations. It has mostly lost.

google logo customIn 2017, the Gonzalez family and the lawyers filed their case, arguing that Google’s YouTube video site broke the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act by promoting Islamic State propaganda videos with its recommendation algorithms. Google says the case is without merit because the law protects internet companies from liability for content posted by their users. The lower courts sided with Google, but the family appealed, and in October the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: The Supreme Court could throw the internet into chaos, Editorial Board, Feb. 20, 2023. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is vexing: No one likes it, but neither can anyone come up with a satisfying proposal for fixing it. Now, with good outcomes elusive, the Supreme Court is in a position to produce an especially bad one.

google logo customOn Tuesday, the justices will hear Gonzalez v. Google, a case whose decision could wipe away what are called the 26 words that created the internet. Section 230 protects platforms from liability for most content contributed by third parties — which means that when individuals send defamatory tweets or post inciting comments, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and their peers aren’t held legally responsible. Gonzalez asks a slightly more complicated question: When platforms algorithmically promote those tweets, comments or, in this instance, videos, does their legal shield disappear?

The facts of the suit are tragic, although attenuated. The case was brought by the family of a 23-year-old American college student killed in a Paris restaurant during an attack by Islamic State followers. But rather than alleging that the murderers in question were radicalized on YouTube, they allege that YouTube more generally promoted radicalizing material via its “Up Next” recommendation feature.

The theory behind treating material that platforms promote differently from material that platforms simply host has some appeal. It’s easy enough to say sites can’t be responsible, either morally or logistically, for everything that their millions and sometimes billions of users decide to stick on the web. But arguing that they aren’t responsible for the decisions their own employees encode into their own systems is more difficult.

That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done about Section 230, and it certainly doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be done about algorithms’ role in shaping platforms. That starts with greater transparency surrounding the outcomes these algorithms are designed to produce, as well as the outcomes they actually produce in practice. Perhaps there’s even room to harness those findings so that platforms may be held liable for negligence when they systematically elevate illegal content and don’t attempt to remedy that failing. (First Amendment issues, in almost any attempt at reforming this thorny law, will inevitably arise.)

But all that is work for Congress. Lawmakers wrote the 26 words that created the internet. It’s their job to write the words that determine its future.

Feb. 19

ny times logoNew York Times, Facebook’s Parent Company Plans to Sell ‘Meta Verified’ Accounts, Stacy Cowley, Feb. 19, 2023. Meta announced that it would begin charging $11.99 a month for a blue badge on Facebook and Instagram, taking a page out of Twitter’s playbook.

meta logoMeta — the parent company of Facebook and Instagram — wants power users to start paying for some of its sites’ features, taking a page out of Twitter’s playbook in charging for verified blue check marks.

mark zuckerberg G8 summit deauville wA new subscription service called Meta Verified will become available this week in Australia and New Zealand and will soon be expanded to other countries, Mark Zuckerberg, left, Meta’s chief executive, said Sunday in posts on Facebook and Instagram. For $11.99 a month (or $14.99 if purchased on Apple’s operating system, iOS), users will get a blue badge and direct access to customer support. The company described the effort as a “gradual test.”

facebook logo“This new feature is about increasing authenticity and security across our services,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. To become eligible for Meta Verified, users will have to submit a government ID to prove their identity, and subscribers will be allowed to use only their legal names on their profile pages, the company said. Subscribers will receive “extra impersonation protection against accounts claiming to be you,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

The service will be expanded to the United States in the next few weeks, a Meta spokeswoman said. She declined to name other countries in instagram logowhich Meta Verified will become available. Facebook and Instagram accounts must be enrolled separately in Meta Verified — meaning that those who want blue badges on both sites must pay at least $24 a month — but Meta plans to eventually offer bundled subscriptions, she said.

Feb. 18


Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

Fox News hosts Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, shown left to right, each expressed contempt for the voting fraud allegations they were broadcasting to Fox audiences, according to newly released internal documents obtained as evidence in a forthcoming defamation trial against the network, its owners and personnel.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judges Express Skepticism College Athletes Are Not Employees of Institutions, Billy Witz, Feb. 18, 2023 (print ed.). During a hearing in a federal appeals court, the N.C.A.A. argued classifying college athletes as employees would create gender inequities. A judge asked, “Don’t we already have that?”

ncaa logoSteven Katz, a lawyer representing the N.C.A.A., had barely cleared his throat Wednesday while appearing before a three-judge panel for a federal appeals court when he was peppered with questions.

As Katz was asserting that the case before the court — the former Villanova defensive back Trey Johnson argues he and other Division I athletes should be considered employees and thus entitled to be paid a minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act — would set off a cascade of inequities between men’s and women’s collegiate sports, Judge Theodore A. McKee cut him off.

“Don’t we already have that?” he asked, referring to the highly publicized disparities between the Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments two years ago. “The women’s weight room was basically a closet with dumbbells, and the men’s weight room looked like the spa at the Four Seasons.”

A few beats later, Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, noting that the service academies pay their athletes — without any problems from the N.C.A.A. — wondered about athletes raking in significant endorsement contracts: “How are they not employees of the universities given the regimes they report to?”

washington post logoWashington Post, After AI chatbot goes a bit loopy, Microsoft tightens its leash, Drew Harwell, Feb. 18, 2023. No more long exchanges about the Bing AI’s “feelings,” the tech giant says. The chatbot, after five responses, now tells people it would “prefer not to continue this conversation.”

microsoft logo CustomMicrosoft started restricting on Friday its high-profile Bing chatbot after the artificial intelligence tool began generating rambling conversations that sounded belligerent or bizarre.

The technology giant released the AI system to a limited group of public testers after a flashy unveiling earlier this month, when chief executive Satya Nadella said that it marked a new chapter of human-machine interaction and that the company had “decided to bet on it all.”

But people who tried it out this past week found that the tool, built on the popular ChatGPT system, could quickly veer into some strange territory. It showed signs of defensiveness over its name with a Washington Post reporter and told a New York Times columnist that it wanted to break up his marriage. It also claimed an Associated Press reporter was “being compared to Hitler because you are one of the most evil and worst people in history.”

Microsoft officials earlier this week blamed the behavior on “very long chat sessions” that tended to “confuse” the AI system. By trying to reflect the tone of its questioners, the chatbot sometimes responded in “a style we didn’t intend,” they noted.

Those glitches prompted the company to announce late Friday that it started limiting Bing chats to five questions and replies per session with a total of 50 in a day. At the end of each session, the person must click a “broom” icon to refocus the AI system and get a “fresh start.”

Whereas people previously could chat with the AI system for hours, it now ends the conversation abruptly, saying, “I’m sorry but I prefer not to continue this conversation. I’m still learning so I appreciate your understanding and patience.”

The chatbot, built by the San Francisco technology company OpenAI, is built on a style of AI systems known as “large language models” that were trained to emulate human dialogue after analyzing hundreds of billions of words from across the web.

washington post logoWashington Post, TikTok’s CEO launches aggressive push to fend off a ban of popular app, Drew Harwell, Feb. 18, 2023. In an exclusive interview, Shou Zi Chew said he’s working to persuade lawmakers that TikTok poses no threat. Things aren’t going exactly to plan.

tiktok logo CustomAfter months of virtual silence, TikTok’s chief executive Shou Zi Chew is preparing for the fight of his professional life, meeting with members of Congress and state governors as part of an aggressive push to prove the wildly popular Chinese-owned app is not a national security threat.

“There are more than 100 million voices in this country, and I think it’ll be a real shame if our users around the world are not able to hear them anymore,” Chew said Tuesday during an exclusive interview with The Washington Post, referring to the number of U.S. TikTok users.

“We have to have tough conversations on: Who is using it now? What kind of value does it bring to them? What does it mean if we just, like, rip it out of their hands?” he added. “I don’t take this conversation of ‘let’s just ban TikTok’ very lightly. … I don’t think it’s a trivial question. I don’t think it should be something that’s decided, you know, in 280 characters.”


FILE - CNN anchors Kaitlan Collins, from left, Don Lemon and Poppy Harlow appear at the 16th annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute on Dec. 11, 2022, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

CNN morning anchors Kaitlan Collins, from left, Don Lemon and Poppy Harlow appear at the 16th annual CNN Heroes All-Star Tribute on Dec. 11, 2022, in New York (Photo by Evan Agostini / Invision / Associated Press).

ny times logoNew York Times, Uproar Hits CNN as Don Lemon Is Rebuked for Comments About Women, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin, Feb. 18, 2023 (print ed.). Mr. Lemon’s assertion that the presidential candidate Nikki Haley is not “in her prime” roiled the network and put a harsh spotlight on its struggling morning show.

cnn logoDon Lemon, the CNN morning-show anchor, faced an internal rebuke from the chairman of his own network on Friday after his on-air comments about women and aging set off an uproar inside the cable news channel.

chris licht wCNN’s chairman, Chris Licht, right, opened his daily 9 a.m. editorial call by saying the remarks by Mr. Lemon, which were widely viewed as sexist and insensitive, had left him “disappointed.”

“His remarks were upsetting, unacceptable and unfair to his co-hosts, and ultimately a huge distraction to the great work of this organization,” Mr. Licht told his staff, according to a recording of the call obtained by The New York Times.

It is unusual for a network chief to criticize a star anchor in such stark terms — but the situation involving Mr. Lemon and CNN’s struggling morning show is approaching a crisis point just months after its debut.

ny times logoNew York Times, Jerrold Schecter, Who Procured Khrushchev’s Memoirs, Dies at 90, Sam Roberts, Feb. 18, 2023. As a Time magazine bureau chief, he was pivotal in the publication of revelatory taped interviews with the ousted premier that had been smuggled out of the Soviet Union.

nikita khrushchev time 1953Jerrold Schecter, a journalist who in the late 1960s helped smuggle to the West the revelatory memoirs of the former Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev (shown in a 1953 Time Magazine cover), the first published account by a Soviet leader of goings-on inside the Kremlin, died on Feb. 6 at his home in Washington. He was 90.

Mr. Schecter, who went on to become an author and a foreign policy adviser in the Carter administration, was Time magazine’s Moscow bureau chief when he played a pivotal role in the publication of what became three volumes of reminiscences and reflections by Khrushchev.

Khrushchev, who was ousted in 1964 and consigned to a compound near Moscow, covertly recorded hundreds of hours of interviews with the assistance of his son Sergei. The book became Khrushchev Remembers, published in 1970, the first of three volumes that would include nikita khrushchev 1970 memoirKhrushchev Remembers: The Last Testament (1974), the second in the trilogy.

In Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History (2002), Mr. Schecter and his wife, Leona, recounted the stranger-than-fiction intrigue behind the publication of the three books by Khrushchev, along with magazine excerpts.

They revealed that Mr. Schecter had been approached in Moscow by Victor Louis, a journalist and freelance K.G.B. agent who represented Khrushchev. The former Soviet leader was by then “lonely, angry and bored,” they wrote, and some of his successors, with the connivance of joseph stalin fullthe K.G.B., were complicit in turning a blind eye while Khrushchev discredited the atrocities committed under his predecessor, Joseph Stalin, right — as long as they were not implicated themselves.

Through Mr. Louis, Mr. Schecter obtained audiotapes and transcripts, which were then authenticated by voice analysis technicians hired by Time.

Mr. Schecter recruited Strobe Talbott, then a Time intern and a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford and later a deputy secretary of state, to translate material that would be excerpted in Life magazine and then published by Little, Brown, a Time Inc. subsidiary, as “Khrushchev Remembers” (1970).

The publisher funneled $750,000 (about $5.8 million in today’s dollars) to Khrushchev through Mr. Louis as Khrushchev’s agent. Mr. Schecter also bought the former premier a derby and a Tyrolean hat from Lock & Company in London, which bills itself as the world’s oldest haberdashery.

“What we are confronted with in these two remarkable volumes of Khrushchev’s,” Harrison E. Salisbury wrote in The New York Times in 1974, “is some 500,000 words of observations, firsthand accounts, afterthoughts, musings, political back-stabs, rambling anecdotes, warnings for the future, pietistic platitudes and political common sense by one of the most idiosyncratic (and vital) statesmen of our day.”

Feb. 17


tucker carlson fox horizontal

ny times logoNew York Times, Fox Stars Privately Expressed Disbelief About Election Fraud Claims. ‘Crazy Stuff,’ Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Robertson, Feb. 17, 2023 (print ed.). The comments, by Tucker Carlson (above), Sean Hannity and others, were released as part of a dominion voting systemsdefamation suit against Fox News by Dominion Voter Systems.

Newly disclosed messages and testimony from some of the biggest stars and most senior executives at Fox News revealed that they privately expressed disbelief about President Donald J. Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, even though the network continued to promote many of those lies on the air.

fox news logo SmallThe hosts Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, as well as others at the company, repeatedly insulted and mocked Trump advisers, including Sidney Powell, right, and Rudolph W. Giuliani, in text messages with each other in the weeks after the election, according to a legal filing on Thursday by Dominion Voting Systems. Dominion sidney powellis suing Fox for defamation in a case that poses considerable financial and reputational risk for the country’s most-watched cable news network.

“Sidney Powell is lying by the way. I caught her. It’s insane,” Mr. Carlson wrote to Ms. Ingraham on Nov. 18, 2020.

Ms. Ingraham responded: “Sidney is a complete nut. No one will work with her. Ditto with Rudy.”

Mr. Carlson continued, “Our viewers are good people and they believe it,” he added, making clear that he did not.

rupert murdoch newThe messages also show that such doubts extended to the highest levels of the Fox Corporation, with Rupert Murdoch, left, its chairman, calling Mr. Trump’s voter fraud claims “really crazy stuff.”

On one occasion, as Mr. Murdoch watched Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Powell on television, he told Suzanne Scott, chief executive of Fox News Media, “Terrible stuff damaging everybody, I fear.”

Dominion’s brief depicts Ms. Scott, whom colleagues have described as sharply attuned to the sensibilities of the Fox audience, as being well aware that Mr. Trump’s claims were baseless. And when another Murdoch-owned property, The New York Post, published an editorial urging Mr. Trump to stop complaining that he had been cheated, Ms. Scott distributed it widely among her staff. Mr. Murdoch then thanked her for doing so, the brief says.

The filing, in state court in Delaware, contains the most vivid and detailed picture yet of what went on behind the scenes at Fox News and its corporate parent in the days and weeks after the 2020 election, when the conservative cable network’s coverage took an abrupt turn.

Fox News stunned the Trump campaign on election night by becoming the first news outlet to declare Joseph R. Biden Jr. the winner of Arizona — effectively projecting that he would become the next president. Then, as Fox’s ratings fell sharply after the election and the president refused to concede, many of the network’s most popular hosts and shows began promoting outlandish claims of a far-reaching voter fraud conspiracy involving Dominion machines to deny Mr. Trump a second term.

ny times logoNew York Times, Guest Essay: It’s Time to Prepare for a Possible Trump Indictment, Norman L. Eisen, E. Danya Perry and Amy norman eisen SmallLee Copeland, Feb. 17, 2023. Mr. Eisen, right, is a co-author of “Fulton County, Georgia’s Trump Investigation,” a Brookings Institution report on the Fulton County district attorney’s investigation. Ms. Perry is an author of “Trump on Trial,” a Brookings Institution report on the Jan. 6 committee. Ms. Copeland is a criminal defense and appellate attorney in Savannah, Ga.

“We find by unanimous vote that no widespread fraud took place in the Georgia 2020 presidential election that could result in overturning that election.” With those words, a Fulton County special grand jury’s report, part of which was released Thursday, repudiated Donald Trump’s assault on our democracy.

The excerpts from the report did not explicitly offer new detail on a potential indictment of Mr. Trump or any other individual. But they suggest that, combined with everything else we know, Mr. Trump may very well be headed for charges in Georgia.

We need to prepare for a first in our 246-year history as a nation: The possible criminal prosecution of a former president.

If Mr. Trump is charged, it will be difficult and at times even perilous for American democracy — but it is necessary to deter him and others from future attempted coups.

fani willis resizedFani Willis, left, the Fulton County district attorney, may present the case as a simple and streamlined one or in a more sweeping fashion. Success is more likely assured in the simpler approach, but the fact that the redacted report has eight sections suggests a broader approach is conceivable. In either event, we must all prepare ourselves for what could be years of drama, with the pretrial, trial and appeal likely dominating the coming election season.

Ms. Willis opened her investigation shortly after Mr. Trump’s Jan. 2, 2021, demand that the Georgia secretary of state, Brad brad raffenspergerRaffensperger, “find 11,780 votes.” The second impeachment of Mr. Trump and the Jan. 6 committee hearings developed additional evidence about that request for fake votes and Mr. Trump and allies pushing fake electors in Georgia and nationally. There is now abundant evidence suggesting he violated Georgia statutes, like those criminalizing the solicitation of election fraud.

The parts of the special grand jury’s report revealed on Thursday only reinforce Mr. Trump’s risk of prosecution. The statement that the grand jurors found “no widespread fraud” in the presidential election eliminates Mr. Trump’s assertion that voter fraud justified his pushing state election officials. We also know that the grand jurors voted defendant by defendant and juror by juror, and set forth their recommendations on indictments and relevant statutes over seven (currently redacted) sections. The likelihood that they did that and cleared everyone is very low. And the fact that the grand jurors felt so strongly about the issues that they insisted on writing the recommendations themselves, as they emphasize, further suggests a grave purpose.

Also notable is the grand jury’s recommendation of indictments, “where the evidence is compelling,” for perjury that may have been committed by one or more witnesses. It seems unlikely that Ms. Willis will let that pass.

She will now decide the next steps of the case. Her statement that charging decisions were imminent came more than three weeks ago. If she does indict Mr. Trump, the two likely paths that she might take focus on the fake electoral slates and Mr. Trump’s call to Mr. Raffensperger. One is a narrower case that would likely take weeks to try; the other is a broader case that would likely take months.

Narrow charges could include the Georgia felonies of solicitation of election fraud in the first degree and related general crimes like conspiracy to commit election fraud, specifically focusing on events and people who have a strong nexus with Georgia. In addition to Mr. Trump, that might include others who had direct contacts with Georgia, like his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and his attorneys John C. Eastman and Rudolph W. Giuliani (who already received a “target” notification from Ms. Willis warning him that he may be charged). Such a case would focus on activities around the execution of the fake electoral slates on Dec. 14, 2020, followed by the conversation with Mr. Raffensperger on Jan. 2, rooting it in Georgia and avoiding events nationally except to the extent absolutely necessary.

Or Ms. Willis could charge the case more broadly, adding sweeping state Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, charges that could still include the impact of the conduct in Georgia but bring in more of a nationwide conspiracy. This would look more like the Jan. 6 investigation, albeit with a strong Georgia flavor. It could additionally include those who appeared to have lesser contact with Georgia but were part of national efforts including the state, like the Trump campaign attorney Kenneth Chesebro and the Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark.

A more narrow case might make slightly more sense: Given the extraordinary circumstances around it, Ms. Willis will surely have her hands full. And it will feature a likely lead defendant who has demonstrated his propensity for legal circuses — coming in the midst of a heated political season no less.

That said, Ms. Willis has a proven propensity for bringing and winning RICO cases. And as we have learned in our criminal trial work, sometimes juries are more responsive to grander narratives that command their attention — and outrage.

Whether it’s simple or broad, if a case is opened, one thing is nearly certain: It’s going to take a while, probably the better part of the next two years, and perhaps longer. We would surely see a flurry of legal filings from Mr. Trump, which while often meritless nevertheless take time. Here the battle would likely be waged around pretrial motions and appeals by Mr. Trump arguing, as he has done in other cases, that he was acting in his official presidential capacity and so is immune.

That challenge, though not persuasive at all in our view, will almost certainly delay a trial by months. Other likely sallies are that the case should be removed to federal court (it shouldn’t); that he relied on the advice of counsel in good faith (he didn’t); or that his action was protected by the First Amendment (it wasn’t).

Even if the courts work at the relatively rapid pace of other high-profile presidential cases, we would still be talking about months of delay. In both U.S. v. Nixon and Thompson v. Trump, about three months were consumed from the first filing of the cases to the final rejection of presidential arguments by the U.S. Supreme Court. In this case, there would be more issues, which would be likely to require additional time. At the earliest, Ms. Willis would be looking at a trial toward the end of 2023. Even on that aggressive schedule, appeals would not be concluded until the end of 2024 or beyond.

Needless to say, this would have a profound impact on the election season. It would feature a national conversation about what it means for a former president to be prosecuted, and it would no doubt have unexpected consequences.

Still, the debate is worth having, and the risks are worth taking. The core American idea is that no one is above the law. If there is serious evidence of crimes, then a former president should face the same consequences as anyone else. If we do not hold accountable those who engage in this kind of misconduct, it will recur.

It would be the trial of the 21st century, no doubt a long and bumpy ride — but a necessary one for American democracy.

Norman Eisen was special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee during the first impeachment of Donald Trump. E. Danya Perry is a former federal prosecutor and New York State corruption investigator. Amy Lee Copeland, a former federal prosecutor, is a criminal defense and appellate attorney in Savannah, Ga.

ny times logoNew York Times, Lisa LaFlamme, a prominent Canadian TV anchor, let her hair go gray during the pandemic when hair salons shut down. Months later, she lost her job, Norimitsu Onishi, Feb. 17, 2023 (print ed.). Lisa LaFlamme had barely settled in at the back of the cafe when two women approached her in quick succession. You’re so beautiful, said the first, while the other slipped Ms. LaFlamme a note on yellow-lined paper.

“Thank you for being ‘you,’” read the message written in neat cursive by “an admirer.”

The fleeting interactions, which took place during a recent interview in Toronto with Ms. LaFlamme, 58, were laden with the unspoken. Perhaps little else needed to be said among three similarly aged women meeting by chance in Toronto, half a year after Ms. LaFlamme was ousted as one of the nation’s top news anchors amid charges of ageism and sexism.

“People are so amazingly kind,” said Ms. LaFlamme, her eyes welling up. “The support has been mind-blowing. It’s really been a shock to me.”

A household name in Canada for decades, Ms. LaFlamme was unceremoniously dismissed last summer by CTV, the country’s largest private television network, after what her employer described as a “business decision” to take the program “in a different direction.” Though her national newscast at CTV had been one of the most watched and she had won a national award for best news anchor just months earlier, Ms. LaFlamme was left to sign off without a proper farewell.

Her departure set off multifaceted debates across Canada, especially after The Globe and Mail newspaper reported it may have been linked to Ms. LaFlamme’s hair — which she had chosen to let go gray during the pandemic when hair salons and other businesses shut down. The network’s owner, Bell Media, which denied that “age, gender and gray hair” had been factors, named a 39-year-old male correspondent, Omar Sachedina, as her successor.
“It was a complete surprise when they decided to terminate her contract early because there was no obvious evidence that CTV was in particular decline or was actually doing poorly,” said Christopher Waddell, a professor emeritus of journalism at Carleton University and a former news producer at CBC, the public broadcaster. He added that Ms. LaFlamme’s 11-year tenure as anchor of “CTV National News,” the broadcaster’s flagship newscast, had been considered a ratings success, especially compared with its main rival at CBC.

Feb. 16


Disgraced InfoWars host Alex Jones, in a dark shirt second from the right, stands next to

Disgraced InfoWars host Alex Jones, in a dark shirt second from the right, stands next to "Stop the Steal" pro-Trump insurrectionist Ali Alexander at a rally.

washington post logoWashington Post, Alex Jones is ‘holding firearms’ for Jan. 6 rioters, bankruptcy docs show, Timothy Bella, Feb. 16, 2023. As Infowars founder Alex Jones is facing bankruptcy for damages he owes to the families of victims of the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a new filing shows the right-wing conspiracy theorist has been “holding firearms” for those who participated in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Jones, who owes nearly $1.5 billion to the families after years of saying the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed, was a hoax, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas last December. Jones’s personal financial disclosures were shared in a bankruptcy filing on Tuesday that was obtained by The Washington Post.

In the section of the bankruptcy statement that asks Jones to identify property he owns or controls for somebody else, the right-wing conspiracy theorist described the items he has in limited detail.

“Holding firearms for certain January 6th participants to be provided,” the entry says.

The filing does not state why Jones, who participated in the Stop the Steal rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol, is holding the weapons for the rioters or where they are located.

In addition to the firearms, Jones, 49, lists boats and lifetime helicopter access as part of his personal financial disclosures, records show. Jones reported his gross income in 2021, the most recent year that data is available, as $617,143.02, according to the filing. He reported a gross income of nearly $639,000 in 2020, the filing shows.

The filing says that Jones has reported assets worth an estimated $10 million — significantly less than the $1.4 billion in a Connecticut case and $45.2 million in a Texas case that he owes to the Sandy Hook families in damages. Jones and his legal team have said they would appeal.


elon musk

Twitter owner Elon Musk, above, reared in the South African during its racist apartheid governance and now a prominent backer of ultra-right candidates and policies in the United States, was caught trying to boost his own profile secretly on Twitter when he discovered more users were reading President Biden's SuperBowl Tweet.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Elon Musk’s desperate ego, Robert Harrington, right, Feb. 16, 2023. If you logged onto Twitter Monday morning and robert harringtnn portraitwondered why your feed consisted of one Elon Musk tweet after another — even if you aren’t a follower of Musk — then wonder no more. It turns out that Elon Musk himself was responsible for the sudden rain of tweets, as mystifying and unexpected as the rain of frogs from the movie “Magnolia.”

bill palmer report logo headerHere’s what happened: Super Bowl Sunday Elon was joyfully frolicking with Rupert Murdoch in his private box and contemplating a Twitter Thousand-Year Reich, when he sent out a tweet in support of the Philadelphia Eagles. Then the unthinkable happened. He noticed that President Biden also put out a tweet supporting the Eagles. And — horror of horrors! — Biden’s tweet was getting more “likes” than Elon’s tweet!

twitter bird CustomThis was an indignity not to be borne! Musk hopped on his environment-murdering private jet and flew at top speed to Twitter headquarters, rushed in at two in the morning, dragged some sleepy Twitter engineers out of bed and demanded that they “fix” this tragic oversight!

Musk even fired one engineer for daring to suggest that this outrage happened because some people (not all, mind, but some) actually loved Biden more than they loved Musk! That engineer was summarily executed for the unforgivable crime of substandard zeal in his adoration of the Dear Leader. Rest assured, no one else made the same mistake.

What remained of his feverishly busy little workers worked busily feverish for the remainder of the night, tinkering with the Twitter algorithm and looking for artificial ways to undo this crime against the natural order of things. Twitter users whom Musk had previously blocked were suddenly unblocked. Feeds that heretofore had nothing to do with Musk suddenly had everything to do with Musk. If the Twitterverse was wanting in Musk worship then, by God, Musk was going to jolly well do something about it!

And so something about it he did. This needy, little, silly, pitiful man boosted his likes, and suddenly all was well again for his giant ego. Elon Musk artificially manufactured the love he was so painfully desperate for.

And yet this “genius” missed the real reason for the cause of his loneliness, and he missed the solution that an eight year old child could have figured out. If it was love Musk was looking for he could have had it easily. He could have quietly and humbly used his vast fortune to help djt maga hatpeople and animals and the environment. Then he would have naturally attracted love and admiration. Instead he thought with his paranoia and his neurosis instead of his much-promoted brain, and in the end he got neither.

There are eight million stories in the naked city of MAGA stupidity. This has been one of them. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Feb. 15


ron desantis mouth open uncredited

washington post logoWashington Post, DeSantis threatens to rid Florida of Advanced Placement classes, Nick Anderson, Feb. 15, 2023 (print ed.). Florida’s Republican leader, shown above in a file photo, has been critical of a new AP course in African American studies.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened Tuesday to withdraw state support for Advanced Placement programs and expand other methods of awarding college credit to high school students, escalating a highly unusual clash that burst into public last month when his administration rejected plans for a new AP African American studies course.

The state education department, based on its view of preliminary documents, declared in January that the African American studies course “lacks educational value.” DeSantis (R) — citing proposed lessons on “queer theory,” “intersectionality” and other topics — criticized the plan for what he called “indoctrination” and “a political agenda.” When the College Board, which oversees AP, debuted the official course plan on Feb. 1, it provoked a debate over whether it had watered down the content to mollify DeSantis and his conservative allies. The College Board fiercely denied that claim and said on Saturday that DeSantis had slandered its course.

In Jacksonville on Tuesday, DeSantis suggested at a news conference that the state could curtail the role of all AP classes in Florida schools — not just the one in African American studies.

“AP is kind of with the College Board,” DeSantis said. “Who elected them? Are there other people that provide services? Turns out there are.” He cited the International Baccalaureate and Cambridge Assessment programs as alternatives that — like AP — enable students to qualify for college credit after passing an exam. He also plugged dual enrollment programs that let high school students take classes from professors at nearby colleges.

Amid DeSantis attacks, AP African American studies course is updated

DeSantis said he supports opportunities for high school students to earn college credit. “Does it have to be done by the College Board?” he asked. “Or can we utilize some of these other providers who I think have a really, really strong track record?” He added: “It’s not clear to me that this particular operator” — referring to the College Board — “is the one that’s going to need to be used in the future.”

As a practical matter, it is unclear whether or how AP could be eliminated in Florida. The program, with more than three dozen courses in math, science, social sciences, humanities, languages and other topics, is deeply entrenched in the state and nationwide.

More than 199,000 Florida students enrolled in AP classes in 2020-21. About 366,000 AP tests were given in Florida in 2021, more than in any other state except Texas (527,000) and California (683,000).

Are you a teacher no longer teaching materials on race, gender or LGBTQ issues? Tell us.

Scores of three or higher on the test’s five-point scale can help students qualify for college credit, potentially reducing the cost of a bachelor’s degree. The AP brand is also an important marker of rigor on the transcripts of students applying to competitive colleges.

ny times logoNew York Times, Tiny Public College Known for ‘Free Thinkers’ Is a Target for DeSantis, Patricia Mazzei, Feb. 15, 2023 (print ed.). Gov. Ron DeSantis’s plan to transform New College of Florida into a beacon of conservatism has left students and faculty members at the school reeling.

After her son began attending New College of Florida, Dr. Sonia Howman felt a pang of fear about the future of the small, little-known public liberal arts school on the shores of Sarasota Bay.

Her son, who identifies as L.G.B.T.Q. and had been bullied in high school, had found “a tiny place of safety in this increasingly hostile state,” she said. “I kept praying that DeSantis would never find out about it. But he did.”

A plan by Gov. Ron DeSantis to transform New College, which is known as progressive and describes itself as “a community of free thinkers,” into a beacon of conservatism has left students, parents and faculty members at the tight-knit school reeling over what they see as a political assault on their academic freedom. Mr. DeSantis’s education commissioner has expressed a desire to remake the school in the image of Hillsdale College, a small Christian school in Michigan that has been active in conservative politics.

Over 25 tumultuous days last month, the Republican governor removed six of the college’s 13 trustees, replacing them with allies holding strongly conservative views. The new board then forced out the college’s president, a career educator, and named Mr. DeSantis’s former education commissioner, a career politician, as her replacement. On Monday, the board signed off on paying its pick a salary of $699,000 a year, more than double what his predecessor earned.

Mr. DeSantis, who is widely thought to have White House aspirations, has made ideological attacks on public education central to his politics. His administration banned instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation through third grade, limited what schools can teach about racism, rejected math textbooks and prohibited an Advanced Placement course in African American studies for high school students.

“You knew it would eventually spiral to higher education,” said Sam Sharf, a second-year New College student. “But I didn’t anticipate it would happen this fast.”

On Jan. 31, when the college president was ousted, Mr. DeSantis unveiled higher education policies — to further weaken faculty tenure protections, eliminate diversity and equity programs and mandate Western civilization courses — that for many deepened a chill that had already taken hold across Florida’s public colleges and universities. The state has made it harder for faculty members to retain tenure, asked students and faculty to fill out a survey about their political leanings and requested information about resources for transgender students.


Beginning with a doeskin bikini in “One Million Years B.C.,” (shown above in a widely popular movie poster from Universal Pictures, now available via Getty Images)

ny times logoNew York Times, Raquel Welch (1940-2023) Raquel Welch, Actress and ’60s Sex Symbol, Is Dead at 82, Anita Gates, Feb. 15, 2023. Beginning with a doeskin bikini in “One Million Years B.C.,” (shown above in a widely popular movie poster from Universal Pictures, now available via Getty Images), she built a celebrated show business career around sex appeal and, sometimes, a comic touch.

Raquel Welch, the voluptuous movie actress who became the 1960s’ first major American sex symbol and maintained that image for a half-century in show business, died on Wednesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 82.

Ms. Welch’s Hollywood success began as much with a poster as with the film it publicized. Starring in “One Million Years B.C.” (1966) as a Pleistocene-era cave woman, she posed in a rocky prehistoric landscape, wearing a tattered doeskin bikini, and grabbed the spotlight by the throat with her defiant, alert-to-everything, take-no-prisoners stance and her dancer’s body. She was 26. It had been four years since Marilyn Monroe’s death, and the industry needed a goddess.

Camille Paglia, the feminist critic, described the poster photograph as “the indelible image of a woman as queen of nature.” Ms. Welch, she went on, was “a lioness — fierce, passionate and dangerously physical.”

washington post logoWashington Post, NewsNation tries to break out in a crowded market with a fraught future, Paul Farhi, Feb. 15, 2023 (print ed.). With gestures at nonpartisanship and hosts from the Ghosts of Cable News Past, NewsNation tries to break out in a crowded market with a fraught future.

What’s this? Chris Cuomo, the disgraced former host of a prime-time CNN show, is doing his Chris Cuomo thing as the host of another prime-time show. He’s discoursing about homelessness in San Francisco when on comes a guest. It’s … Bill O’Reilly, the disgraced former host of a prime-time Fox News show.

Their talking-head throwdown — a vision of the Ghosts of Cable News Past — plays out every Wednesday on Cuomo’s weeknightly hour of commentary. But “Cuomo,” as his new show is pithily dubbed, doesn’t air on CNN, MSNBC or Fox News. It’s a signature offering of NewsNation, a new channel attempting to take on the Big Three by evoking a less partisan era of cable news — in part by featuring old familiar faces from the outlets it aims to compete with.

At a time when the cable news industry is struggling to retain viewers, it may be a problematic business plan. Launched in 2020, NewsNation still draws rounding-error ratings, despite a small boost from the CNN veteran, who joined the network in October. It averaged about 63,000 viewers per night during 2022, ranking it 107th among national networks. By comparison, even ratings-challenged CNN — which has fallen behind Fox News and MSNBC — regularly attracts more than 10 times as many viewers per night.

At the moment, news isn’t even the leading draw on NewsNation. Its highest-rated program last year was daytime reruns of “Blue Bloods,” the Tom Selleck cop drama that is a holdover from WGN America, the cable channel NewsNation used to be.

Nevertheless, owner Nexstar Media Group — the Dallas-area company that also owns the CW broadcast network and the Hill newspaper — says it aims to build the next big news brand by appealing to viewers who say they’re turned off by rabid partisanship.

Nexstar has positioned NewsNation as a moderate, down-the-middle news and talk source, essentially what CNN used to be and is trying to become again. Dan Abrams, the longtime former MSNBC anchor and executive who now hosts NewsNation’s 9 p.m. Eastern show, says the target audience is “the marginalized moderate majority.”

Feb. 14


elon musk sideviewBloomberg, Musk Forced Algorithm Change to Help Boost His Tweets, Platformer Says, Vlad Savov, Feb. 14, 2023. Elon Musk, shown above in a file photo, had Twitter Inc. engineers working late on Sunday to alter his social network’s algorithm and prioritize his tweets, resulting in a glut of them in users’ feeds on Monday, according to a report by Platformer.

twitter bird CustomThe billionaire Twitter owner was said to be unhappy with the number of views of his Super Bowl tweet. As a result of his request, Twitter excluded Musk’s tweets from filters designed to improve the quality of users’ timelines, Platformer said, and artificially boosted them by a factor of 1,000. Users across Twitter complained about seeing an abundance of the owner’s missives on the day following the Super Bowl.

Musk’s message of support for the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday got significantly lower engagement than US President Joe Biden expressing a similar sentiment. The company’s chief has been increasingly focused on — and frustrated by — his personal engagement numbers, which have been dropping in recent weeks, the report said. Musk has nearly 129 million followers, whereas Biden’s account has 37 million.

Before taking the company private in a $44 billion deal in October, the Tesla Inc. chief executive officer spoke of his desire to make it an even playing field and eliminate bias in the system.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. Musk tweeted liberally about Twitter and its functionality after the publication of the report, but didn’t address its content.

Earlier, he tweeted a meme suggesting his tweets were going to be force-fed to Twitter users. He also said the company was making adjustments to the algorithm.

Forum: Bangladesh Studies, Commentary: Bangladesh Govt’s Double Standards in Dealing With Fake News, Qadaruddin Shishir, Feb. 14, 2023. Some of the websites and pages post only materials that either promote the government or attack the opposition. On specific occasions, their focus turns on journalists, writers and human rights defenders.

As Bangladesh approaches a national election within a year, the authorities have shut down 191 news websites claiming they were carrying out ‘anti-state propaganda’. This was confirmed by Information Minister Hassan Mahmud in a statement he made in Parliament on January 31.

Also in January, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen directed Bangladesh envoys abroad to respond ‘spontaneously’ against ‘all sorts of anti-Bangladesh propaganda’ in their respective host countries without waiting for Dhaka’s permission.

The government also formed a coordination committee led by the foreign ministry to deal with “anti-state propaganda” at home and abroad to debunk “misinformation” with “correct information”.

These measures may indicate that the government is determined to counter fake news and anti-state propaganda, but the ground reality points to a different story, say independent media activists.

On the one hand, the government has been clamping down on selected news websites on charges that they spread anti-state propaganda; on the other hand, it turns a blind eye to hosts of other websites and Facebook pages that peddle what media activists call ‘favorable’ fake news.

Before the 2018 national elections, too, the Bangladesh government blocked at least 58 news websites, many of them known for their dissenting coverage, but days later Facebook and Twitter accused the Bangladesh authorities of being part of a network that had posted anti-opposition content.

In the past few years, before and after the 2018 elections, fact-checkers have routinely debunked pro-government disinformation promoted by a string of websites and social media pages.

Little or no action has been taken against these pro-government sites, some of which frequently carried fabricated content to vilify investigative journalists, among others, for their works critical of the government.

“The government targets its critics in the name of fighting fake news and at the same time it promotes disinformation that favors its agenda”, said Dr Maruf Mallick, a media expert and lecturer at the DW Akademie.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cambodia’s Leader Shuts Independent News Outlet Ahead of Election, Seth Mydans, Feb. 14, 2023 (print ed.). The leader, Hun Sen, was not satisfied with an apology he received from the outlet after it wrote about his son, a lieutenant general.

cambodia flagPrime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia on Sunday ordered the shutdown of the Voice of Democracy, one of the country’s last independent news outlets, intensifying a long-running crackdown on the news media and political opposition as he consolidates his grip on power.

Mr. Hun Sen said he was angry at a reference to his son and presumed heir, Lt. Gen. Hun Manet, by the outlet, and was not satisfied with the apology he received.

A leading Cambodian human rights organization, Licadho, noted the significance of the action, saying the news outlet, known as VOD, “has become one of the most important independent media outlets in the country in recent years, publishing in Khmer and English.”

Voice of Democracy’s radio arm was shut down in 2017, and it was one of dozens of frequencies taken off the air in a broad sweep before the country’s 2018 elections. Since then it has published online and on Facebook, where it has 1.8 million followers.

ny times logoNew York Times, After Teen’s Suicide, a New Jersey Community Grapples With Bullying, Michael Rothfeld and Christina Caron, Feb. 14, 2023 (print ed.)adriana kuch

Fourteen-year-old Adriana Kuch, right, told her father that she could not bear the humiliation after she was attacked by another girl inside her New Jersey high school and a clip of the assault was posted to TikTok.

“She said, ‘I don’t want to be that girl who gets beat up on video and made fun of,’” Adriana’s father, Michael Kuch, recalled his daughter saying as they sat in the kitchen of their home in Bayville.

“Can you imagine walking through the school with her face beat in?” he asked.

The day after the Feb. 1 assault, Adriana retreated to her room at about 10 p.m. and took her own life during the night, he said.

The attack, which her father has accused the school district of mishandling, and Adriana’s suicide have reverberated through Ocean County communities near the Jersey Shore and across the state. Public grieving and outrage have led officials to grapple anew with the prevalence of bullying in schools, how it affects children and the response — or lack of one — by administrators.

In recent days, students have protested in front of Adriana’s high school, the superintendent of the Central Regional School District has resigned and four girls have been criminally charged in connection with the assault.

“There is obviously a great deal of rightful anguish and emotion with Adriana’s passing, from her family, friends and within our community at large,” said Carmen Amato, the mayor of Berkeley Township, in an email.

School board members did not respond to requests for comment, and the voice mailbox at the superintendent’s office was full. In a message on its website, the district said it had contacted the state Education Department and would undergo an independent assessment of its anti-bullying policies to ensure student safety. “We are all praying for the family and loved ones and our entire community,” the message said.

It isn’t clear what the motive was for the attack, which occurred on a Wednesday just before 11 a.m., but a video recording of the incident shows it apparently had been planned. In the video, Adriana, with long, light brown hair, walks down a school hallway along a bank of lockers, smiling and chatting with a male friend. Another girl comes up from behind and hits Adriana in the face with what appears to be a water bottle.

As Adriana falls to the ground, her friend pushes the attacker away. But another student seems to intervene to hold him back, and the girl continues to pummel Adriana until a staff member rushes over and stops the attack.

washington post logoWashington Post, BBC office raid by Indian tax officials follows airing of controversial documentary, Gerry Shih, Karishma Mehrotra and Anant Gupta, Feb. 14, 2023. Indian tax authorities raided the BBC’s offices and seized its journalists’ phones in a stunning — and apparently retaliatory — move Tuesday against the British broadcaster weeks after it aired a polarizing documentary examining Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise and his handling of a deadly 2002 riot.

india flag mapIndian media outlets reported that more than 50 Indian officials raided the BBC’s offices in New Delhi and Mumbai around noon. Two BBC journalists in New Delhi, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said their colleagues’ phones were being confiscated.

bbc news logo2In a tweet, the BBC said it was “fully cooperating” with the tax authorities in its New Delhi and Mumbai offices. “We hope to have this situation resolved as soon as possible.”

Censorship, arrests, power cuts. India scrambles to block BBC documentary.

Surabhi Ahluwalia, spokeswoman for the income tax department, said she could not confirm the details of the tax probe when reached on Tuesday. The BBC “is an international organization that is dealing with international finances, so it could have to do with international finances issues that have cropped up,” she said.

The raids on the BBC, which mirrored previous government actions against Indian news outlets perceived as critical, compounded growing fears about shrinking press freedoms and rising authoritarianism in India. They took place less than a month after the Modi government took extraordinary measures to censor “India: The Modi Question,” a BBC film that resurfaced decades-old allegations that Modi failed to stop a bloody riot in Gujarat state while he served as chief minister in 2002.

The BBC searches “are part of a series of attacks on the media by government agencies in recent times, especially against those sections of the media that the government perceives is hostile to it and critical of the ruling establishment,” the Press Club of India said in a statement.

Feb. 13

washington post logoWashington Post, Fraud claims targeting Gautam Adani provoke nationalist backlash in India, Karishma Mehrotra, Feb. 13, 2023 (print ed.). A scathing gautam adani 2012 wreport by an American research firm targeting the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani, shown at right in a 2012 photo, has prompted a nationalist backlash from his partisans in India, who have characterized the allegations of extensive corporate fraud by him as an onslaught against the country as a whole.

A former member of Parliament called the report by New York-based Hindenburg Research a “conspiracy” to “destabilize our Nation.” A former solicitor general of India called it a “wholesale assault on India and Indians.” A retired army lieutenant general called it “classic” information warfare.

In a tweet, the prominent Indian film director Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri added Hindenburg to a list of other foreign companies that have been accused by some Indians of unfairly attacking their country. The Organiser, a publication affiliated with the right-wing Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, followed suit.

india flag mapThe outpouring of nationalist outrage came after Hindenburg released a lengthy report late last month taking aim at Adani — a close ally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and, until recently, Asia’s richest man. The allegations triggered a massive sell-off of shares in Adani’s companies. Hindenburg announced that it had taken a short position, meaning it had bet that Adani shares would fall.

The reaction in India reflects in part how closely intertwined the reputations and ideologies of politicians and companies have become in recent years.

“Indian politicians used to never identify with any industrialists, even if they might have taken money from them. It was the U.S. that would celebrate Rockefeller,” said the business history writer Harish Damodaran. “Modi is the first prime minister who has made no bones about it. In that way, politics has changed in India. [Corporations] now tie in with a nationalist ideology.”

Hindenburg’s report accused Adani’s conglomerate — which is active in multiple sectors including energy and infrastructure — of artificially boosting the share prices of its firms over several decades by using a network of overseas shell companies linked to Adani’s family members. Calling this the “largest con in corporate history,” Hindenburg said that Adani’s companies were collectively overvalued on India’s stock market by more than 80 percent, causing share prices to nosedive by more than $100 billion just ahead of a planned sale of new shares.

The Adani Group has vigorously rejected the allegations. In a 413-page response, the Adani Group said, “This is not merely an unwarranted attack on any specific company but a calculated attack on India, the independence, integrity and quality of Indian institutions, and the growth story and ambition of India.”

The Adani Group’s chief financial officer, Jugeshinder Singh, sharply rejected the allegations in a video with the Indian flag in the background and, in an interview with local media, invoked a British massacre of hundreds of Indians during the anti-colonial struggle.

washington post logoWashington Post, AI porn is easy to make now. For women, that’s a nightmare, Tatum Hunter, Feb. 13, 2023. Easy access to AI imaging gives abusers new tools to target women.

QTCinderella built a name for herself by gaming, baking and discussing her life on the video-streaming platform Twitch, drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers at once. She pioneered “The Streamer Awards” to honor other high-performing content creators and recently appeared in a coveted guest spot in an esports champion series.

Nude photos aren’t part of the content she shares, she says. But someone on the internet made some, using QTCinderella’s likeness in computer-generated porn. This month, prominent streamer Brandon Ewing admitted to viewing those images on a website containing thousands of other deepfakes, drawing attention to a growing threat in the AI era: The technology creates a new tool to target women.

“For every person saying it’s not a big deal, you don’t know how it feels to see a picture of yourself doing things you’ve never done being sent to your family,” QTCinderella said in a live-streamed video.

Streamers typically don’t reveal their real names and go by their handles. QTCinderella did not respond to a separate request for comment. She noted in her live stream that addressing the incident has been “exhausting” and shouldn’t be part of her job.

Until recently, making realistic AI porn took computer expertise. Now, thanks in part to new, easy-to-use AI tools, anyone with access to images of a victim’s face can create realistic-looking explicit content with an AI-generated body. Incidents of harassment and extortion are likely to rise, abuse experts say, as bad actors use AI models to humiliate targets ranging from celebrities to ex-girlfriends — even children.

Women have few ways to protect themselves, they say, and victims have little recourse.

Feb. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Review: A business book that makes Hollywood tales of debauchery look tame, Matthew Belloni, Feb. 12, 2023. In "Unscripted," twojames stewart rachel abrams sumner redstone unscriptedaward-winning journalists dish on the behind-the-scenes drama within Sumner Redstone’s media empire.

In the recent movie “Babylon,” filmmaker Damien Chazelle depicts the origin of Hollywood in the 1920s as a debauched orgy. In it, Kinoscope Studios — a stand-in for Paramount, which also released the film — was a dream factory that often attracted the worst kind of people and that left all but a few of them destitute, drug-addled or dead. Nearly 100 years after those fictionalized events, the billionaire owner of Paramount found himself embroiled in a series of real-life sex-and-money scandals that, in many ways, put the formative days of Hollywood to shame.

  • Has a business book ever made you blush? Unscripted: The Epic Battle for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy,” by New james stewartYork Times journalists James B. Stewart, right, and Rachel Abrams (below left), may ultimately test the prurience of an unsuspecting readership.

Ostensibly, Unscripted is the fly-on-the-wall account of the extraordinary boardroom machinations that led Shari Redstone, the often-estranged daughter of geriatric mogul Sumner Redstone, to wrest control of both CBS and Viacom from the executives, girlfriends and others who’d circled him in his final years. In that way, it’s not unlike countless chronicles of corporate intrigue or succession rachel abramsdrama, including Stewart’s own “DisneyWar, the 2005 bestseller about the Disney board upheaval that led to chief executive Michael Eisner’s fall from grace.

DisneyWar was a seminal work, and Unscripted similarly brings remarkable detail and fresh insight to a C-suite fight (two, in this case) that was covered extensively in the media — including, I should say, by me.

But unlike Disney War, Unscripted reads for long stretches like a filthy pulp novel. There’s the 90-something billionaire with still-active “sexual appetites”; the scheming mistresses; threesomes; parked-car encounters; a Sedona love nest; a chief executive who allegedly forced himself on multiple victims; a stolen laptop; shady private investigators; and a cast of characters straight off MTV or another Redstone cable channel. Mixing tight financial reporting with soap-operatic twists and turns, “Unscripted” makes the amped-up historical fiction of “Babylon” feel downright chaste by comparison.

sumner redstone resized boston universityIn 2016, Sumner Redstone, right, was one of the most important figures in global media. Through decades of dealmaking, he’d turned National Amusements, his father’s small movie theater chain, into the parent company of Viacom and CBS, twin media powers that housed Paramount, dozens of lucrative television networks, the Simon & Schuster book publisher, a burgeoning streaming service and all the trappings — and entitlements — of immense showbiz wealth.

But at this point, both Redstone and his empire of “legacy media” were in serious decline. Ensconced high in his Beverly Park compound next door to Sylvester Stallone, he was physically weak, unable to speak clearly and mentally diminished, spending much of his time monitoring the stock prices of CBS and Viacom. His handpicked lieutenants — Redstone’s former lawyer Philippe Dauman at Viacom and Les Moonves, the celebrated television executive, at CBS — ran roughshod over his companies, largely ignoring the streaming future that Netflix was increasingly dominating. And they were paid more for their efforts than almost anyone in corporate America.

Redstone, acid-tongued, obsessed with sex and, in general, a pretty awful person (he once called President Barack Obama the n-word at a Beverly Hills restaurant and attempted to steal a date from his young grandson at an MTV event, the book asserts), had engaged Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker,” Patti Stanger, to deliver him a suitable girlfriend. The choice, a woman named Sydney Holland, quickly moved into the compound and, along with another Redstone girlfriend and sometime rival, Manuela Herzer, began to take over his life, eliminate or marginalize threats to their influence, and, eventually, extract about $150 million of his money. Stewart and Abrams suggest that the girlfriends could have very well controlled both companies if Shari and her lawyers hadn’t mobilized.

Feb. 11

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: WMR, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh falls for Russian agitprop, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books, former syndicated columnist and former Navy intelligence officer (based for a period in the wayne madesen report logoBaltic Sea region) and NSA analyst, Feb. 10-11, 2023.

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has claimed in an article that President Biden ordered Panama City, Florida-based U.S. Navy divers to plant C-4 explosive charges on the Nordstream pipeline in the Baltic Sea sometime last summer.

seymour hersh hsHersh, right, claims that the divers were launched from a Norwegian Alta class minesweeper in an operation coordinated by the Central Intelligence Agency during the earlier-held NATO BALTOPS 22 exercise. Moreover, Hersh claimed that on September 26, 2022, a sonobuoy dropped from a Norwegian P-8 Poseidon anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft sent a detonation signal to the C-4 explosive devices placed on the pipeline in four different locations by the Navy divers. Russia is eager to demonize Norway, particularly after Russian spies were recently arrested by Norway for conducting drone surveillance of Norwegian infrastructure targets on the Norwegian mainland and in the territory of Svalbard.

Hersh made no attempt to conduct the cursory research that would have informed him that ASW sonobuoys used by the U.S. and Norwegian navies are passive acoustic devices that have no weapons fire control capability. Hersh's fanciful account of such a Mission Impossible-like scenario should have set off a skepticism alert, especially for a seasoned investigative journalist. Russian agitprop exaggerations are specifically intended to generate headlines and this was Hersh's only successful accomplishment as witnessed by Rupert Murdoch's media outlets, as well as others, quick to echo Hersh's dubious account.

Wayne Madsen Report, Update to our Nordstream sabotage story, Wayne Madsen, Feb. 10-11, 2023. Moscow is trying to convince the world to wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallbelieve its propaganda, recently amplified by reporter Seymour Hersh, over the findings of separate but coordinated Swedish and Danish investigations into the Nordstream explosions that occurred last September.

wayne madesen report logoHersh's report is not the first to echo Kremlin propaganda. A Washington Post report on December 21, 2022 by Shane Harris, John Hudson, Missy Ryan, and Michael Birnbaum offered up similar "anonymous source" Russian pabulum on the identity of the Nordstream saboteurs. In the case of the Post, it gave more credence to its anonymous sources who told the paper that Russia was not the culprit over the well-informed public statements of U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Danish Defense Minister Morten Bodskov, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz, and German Economy Minister Robert Habeck that Russia was the likely saboteur.

Reporters like Hersh, who experienced the Cold War tactics of Soviet disinformation operations, including the 1983 Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines flight 007 -- which Hersh covered extensively -- should know better than to echo Russian agitprop. Hersh was sold a bill of Russian propaganda goods. Unfortunately, he now owns it.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary:Kremlin uses its willing propaganda dupes in the West to blame Ukraine and the CIA for Nordstream sabotage, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, October 5-6, 2022. There really is no international whodunit involved in the blowing up of the Nordstream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea. Russia had both the motive and the means to sabotage the twin pipelines that transport natural gas from Russia to Germany.

wayne madesen report logoThe September 26 explosion followed the imposition of European Union sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Therefore, Nordstream, which is majority owned by the Russian energy company Gazprom, was no longer providing a revenue stream for Moscow and that made it expendable for the Kremlin nomenklatura.

After having decided to sabotage Nordstream, the Kremlin wasted no time in maximizing the propaganda value of the attack. The natural gas leak in the Baltic Sea, which occurred within Denmark’s maritime economic zone off the island of Bornholm, resulted in Denmark imposing a five-nautical-mile danger zone around the leak for maritime and air traffic. Subsequently, the Swedish Coast Guard reported a second Nordstream leak within the Swedish maritime economic zone. It was later discovered that there were four separate leaks in the twin pipeline, two in the Danish zone and two in the Swedish zone.

Feb. 8

Emptywheel, Analysis: Jeff Gerth’s Undisclosed Dissemination Of Russian Intelligence Product, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), marcy wheelerFeb. 8, 2023. In his CJR series (Looking Back on the coverage of Trump) claiming the NYT and WaPo botched coverage of the Russian investigation, Jeff Gerth, below left, makes a great show of transparency, with the same disclosure statement appended to each installment of jeff gerth imdbhis 23,000-word series.

But the statements hide the most important details, given Gerth’s project (and his past history tilting at Hillary Clinton’s windmills and other real estate investments). For example, when he says he “helped ProPublica decide whether to collaborate with a book that was critical of the columbia journalism review logoClintons’ involvement with Russia; the arrangement didn’t happen,” he doesn’t explain whether that book was Clinton Cash, a piece of political oppo research written by Steve Bannon associate Peter Schweitzer that has a structurally similar position, in the 2016 election, as the Steele dossier does.

When he says that he “approached [the NYT] on my own about the Clinton family foundation,” but “expressed disappointment to one of the Times reporters about the final result,” he’s engaged in press criticism about his own work, without disclosing which work that is (in his series he otherwise discusses this story about Clinton Cash and the Foundation).

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Feb. 7

Emptywheel, Analysis: The Blind Spots of CJR’s “Russiagate” [sic] Narrative, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, right), Feb. 7-8, 2023. Jeff Gerth began his marcy wheelerseries on the press’ Russia investigation failures by noting that trust in the traditional media collapsed after the 2016 election, with a sharp rise in concern about “fake news” and, according to Rasmussen, half of those surveyed thinking the press was the enemy of the people.

And in spite of his citation of WaPo’s tracking of the vast number of lies Donald Trump told during his term early in the jeff gerth imdbseries, Gerth, left, put great stock in what Donald Trump told him in two interviews, adopting Trump’s attribution of the coverage of Russia for the reality TV star’s decision to start labeling the media, “fake news.”

He made clear that in the early weeks of 2017, after initially hoping to “get along” with the press, he found himself inundated by a wave of Russia-related stories. He then realized that surviving, if not combating, the media was an integral part of his job.

“I realized early on I had two jobs,” he said. “The first was to run the country, and the second was survival. I had to survive: the stories were unbelievably fake.”

This is a critical point: Gerth appears to believe Trump that called the media “fake news” not as part of an effort to manipulate the media or to damage one of the institutions of accountability that might check his power, but instead as part of a good faith response to coverage of him.
From that premise, CJR decided the way to understand the collapse in trust of the media was to focus largely on NYT and WaPo’s performance in their coverage of Russia.

Emptywheel, Analysis: CJR’s Error At Word 18, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler, Ph.D., right), Feb. 7, 2023. It took just 18 words into a 23,000-word marcy wheelerseries complaining about journalistic mistakes in the coverage of the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia before Jeff Gerth made his first error.

And I’m spotting him the use of “collusion” at word 12.

There are multiple ways you might measure the end of the inquiry — on March 22, 2019 when Mueller delivered his report to Bill Barr; on May robert mueller full face file29, 2019 when Mueller, left, closed up shop the moment his team secured Andrew Miller’s grand jury testimony; on November 15, 2019, when a jury convicted Roger Stone; or the still undisclosed date when an ongoing investigation into whether Stone conspired to hack with Russia ended (a September 2018 warrant to Twitter seeking evidence of conspiracy, hacking, and Foreign Agent crimes, which was originally sealed in its entirety to hide from Stone the full scope of the investigation into him, was still largely sealed in April 2020).

None of those events happened in July 2019.

Gerth appears not to know about the ongoing investigation into Stone. He doesn’t mention it. He barely mentions Stone at all, just 205 words out of 23,000, or less than 1% of the entire series.

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ron desantis hands out

Politico, DeSantis continues broadsides against the media ahead of likely 2024 run, Arek Sarkissian, Feb. 7, 2023. During Tuesday’s discussion, DeSantis didn’t detail any specific laws he wanted enacted but pressed Florida legislators to “protect” Floridians.

politico CustomFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis is signaling plans to ramp up his attack on the news industry ahead of his likely 2024 run for president.

DeSantis on Tuesday held a roundtable discussion with media libel law experts and critics on a stage mirroring a typical cable-news show, with the GOP governor setting behind a desk with a screen behind him with the word “truth” displayed prominently.

Among those with him were a conservative lawyer who represents Dominion Voting Systems Inc. in a defamation suit against former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani and former President Donald Trump’s attorney Sidney Powell. Others on the panel include Nick Sandmann, a former Kentucky high school student who sued media companies over a viral social media video and a libertarian journalist.

“The idea that they would create narratives that are contrary to discovering facts, I don’t know that was the standard,” DeSantis said. “Now it seems you pursue the narrative, you’re trying to advance the narrative and trying to get the clicks, and the fact checking and contrary facts has just fallen by the wayside.”

DeSantis has long had a contentious relationship with the media since he became Florida governor in 2019. He rarely gives interviews to major media outlets and regularly criticizes outlets like CNN and his former press secretary, Christina Pushaw, was well-known for singling out reporters on Twitter for ridicule. The Republican governor, who’s widely believed to be staging a campaign to unseat Democrat President Joe Biden in 2024, even unsuccessfully pushed the Legislature to approve a law challenging First Amendment protections during last year’s legislative session, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

DeSantis’ criticism of the media is similar to those of former President Donald Trump, who regularly condemned media outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times. In 2018, Trump also suggested that he’d try to change libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations.

During Tuesday’s discussion, DeSantis didn’t detail any specific laws he wanted enacted but pressed Florida legislators to “protect” Floridians.

“When the media attacks me, I have a platform to fight back. When they attack everyday citizens, these individuals don’t have the adequate recourses to fight back,” he said. “It would contribute to an increase in ethics in the media and everything if they knew that if you smeared somebody, it’s false and you didn’t do your homework then you have to be held accountable for that.”

Carson Holloway, a scholar from the conservative think tank the Claremont Institute, also said during the discussion that the Supreme Court’s legal precedents that govern most defamation lawsuits makes libel claims against media companies by public figures nearly impossible to win.

“This is distorting our politics in fundamental ways,” Holloway said. “It really discombobulates our ability to govern ourselves.”

Sandmann, who became embroiled in a social media firestorm after a video was posted of him smiling in front of a Native American beating a drum at the National Mall, said he thought nothing of the video until he saw it on social media as he boarded a bus back to Kentucky. National media outlets reported that the video showed Sandmann blocking the path of Native American, but Sandmann, who was wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat, claimed he was trying to stay motionless to calm the situation at the event.

“In my case I didn’t have a reputation to ruin — I hadn’t started any sort of professional career and I haven’t even started my life,” Sandmann said. “But they predetermined how that would happen.”

Libertarian journalist Michael C. Moynihan told Sandmann his “death sentence” was because he wore a MAGA hat indicating his support for Trump.

Barbara Petersen, executive director of the Florida Center for Government Accountability, said during a phone interview that the Ivy League-educated DeSantis is smart enough to understand why the country’s forefathers believed the press was so important.


tucker carlson fox horizontal

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Tucker Carlson knows exactly what he’s doing, Erik Wemple, Feb. 7, 2023. Fox News host Tucker Carlson last month made false insinuations about Hunter Biden. Others who trafficked in the same bucket of slime later corrected themselves. And even though Carlson’s remarks triggered a legal letter from Hunter Biden’s lawyer, he hasn’t budged.

Chalk it up to experience: Over his six years helming “Tucker Carlson Tonight” — and decades of commentary on cable news — the host has learned just what he can get away with on his highly rated program. He is a serial First Amendment leeway opportunist.

Biden is an ideal target for Carlson’s calibrated attacks. Oversight initiatives by the new House Republican majority are focusing on Biden’s business dealings, and his famous laptop — which surfaced in the late stages of his father’s 2020 presidential campaign — can always be relied upon to stoke fresh outrage. Especially when you specialize in twisting facts.

That’s what Carlson did on Jan. 16, when he amplified a claim on social media relating to a document on the laptop — specifically, a background-check form that was filled out when Hunter Biden in 2018 was looking to rent real estate in Los Angeles. The form listed Joe Biden’s Wilmington home under Hunter Biden’s “current address.” Under the separate heading of “Current Residence,” the form cites a company named “Owasco P.C.” with a monthly rent of nearly $50,000. The box for “own” is checked.

On Jan. 12, a Twitter user (@jj_talking) flagged the form, prompting Miranda Devine, the New York Post reporter who wrote a book about the Hunter Biden laptop, to post her own commentary: "In 2018 Hunter Biden claimed he owned the house where Joe Biden kept classified documents alongside his Corvette in the garage.”

Cue the Carlson riffs: “On the form, Hunter Biden claims he is paying nearly $50,000 a month in housing costs. $50,000 a month. Where’d that money come from?” said the host on his Jan. 16 show. After detailing Biden’s slide into hard times, Carlson said, “So how did a disgraced drug addict with no job skills make enough money to make a $50,000 a month payment? Who was paying him and how much are they paying him? And why were they paying him?”

And then the speculation with a topping of innuendo:

So is it possible that Joe Biden’s lifestyle was financed by his son and his son’s dealings with foreign governments? Apparently, he shared a bank account with his son. Keep in mind that when Hunter Biden left his wife and three children, they were effectively broke. Could it be that the money was going to Joe Biden, whose home Hunter Biden “owned”? Hmm. We don’t know. But these are interesting, interesting questions.

They’re interesting questions, sure, except for the lack of evidence. As The Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out, the $50,000 represents Hunter Biden’s quarterly payment for Georgetown waterfront office space that he leased from the House of Sweden between March 2017 and February 2018. Biden used this office space when he and his uncle held a $4.8 million contract with a Chinese energy outfit.

In a Feb. 1 letter, Bryan M. Sullivan, a lawyer representing Biden, demands that Fox News retract Carlson’s reporting by devoting a “significant of amount of air‐time” to the actual facts. What Carlson did in his segment, alleges Sullivan, is to imply “essentially a money laundering scheme to finance President Biden’s lifestyle prior to his election as President after legitimately defeating Donald Trump.”

The letter, which warns of “potential litigation,” makes much of the public reporting that preceded Carlson’s rant against Hunter Biden. As Carlson noted in his show, @jj_talking and Devine commented on the background-check form on Twitter — and Carlson even credited the latter with “extensive reporting” on the matter. What he failed to point out, however, was that Devine walked back the original notion with two tweets, both of which came before Carlson’s show on the night of Jan. 16. Here’s what Devine tweeted on the afternoon of Jan. 16: “Caution re wild speculation. This was for Hunter Biden’s application for an apartment in a hip Hollywood complex he was desperate to get into. Big-noting by falsely claiming to own dad’s house in DE. The rent may refer to the $50k rent he paid for his office at House of Sweden.”

Hunter Biden’s attorney took note. “[I]n a flagrant violation of all journalistic professionalism, Mr. Carlson intentionally ignored Ms. Devine’s cautionary tweets about the $50,000 per month rent being ‘wild speculation,'" reads the Sullivan letter. "He said nothing about those tweets although he implied he reviewed all of her tweets by describing her as having ‘done extensive reporting on it.’” Those considerations, argues Sullivan, mean that Carlson and Fox News “certainly acted with reckless disregard” in reporting the “rent” allegation or “more likely, knew that it was false and unreliable, but engaged in such conduct anyway.”

Carlson’s state of mind would be critical to any defamation lawsuit filed by Hunter Biden’s attorneys, because public figures must prove that offending news outlets acted with knowledge of the falsity of their claims or with “reckless disregard” of their truth or falsity. That’s a tough bar to clear, and there are other complicating considerations: The background-check form is complex to the point of nonsensical, a problem that could validate Carlson’s claim that he was just asking “questions.” And just how defamatory was this segment, in light of Hunter Biden’s already tarnished reputation?

Toward the end of the discussion, Carlson noted that there was much “speculation online about what this $50,000 month payment was for. Was it for his office? Did he lie on the form?” Boldface inserted to highlight a comment that could swing both ways: Carlson might argue that it shows that he was merely posing a question, not claiming to have the answer; Hunter Biden’s attorneys might argue that it proves Carlson knew that the “money laundering” narrative was off-base.

Recall that in December 2018 Carlson said on air that Karen McDougal, who had claimed to have had an affair with Donald Trump, "threaten[ed] to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money.”

No such scenario ever took place, and McDougal sued for defamation. Her complaint was dismissed, though lawyers for Fox News conceded that Carlson engages in “exaggeration” and “non-literal commentary,” taking advantage of case law that protects rhetorical hyperbole. That argument stands as a cringey brand embarrassment for Fox News — and any litigation that forces the network to again unsheathe this defense performs a public service.

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: The thing Harry Whittington refused to lie about, Paul Farhi, Feb. 7, 2023. Whittington, the man shot by Dick Cheney in a hunting accident, remained gracious about what happened — and discreet.

Harry Whittington didn’t want to be known as The Man Dick Cheney Shot. Having lived a long and accomplished life, he was pained by the inordinate attention he attracted after the second-most powerful man in the United States peppered him with birdshot, perhaps as much as the wounds he carried to the end of his life.

dick cheney wWhittington’s reluctance to talk about his one moment of planetary fame was a mark of graciousness and gentlemanly propriety. Whittington, who died Saturday at 95, never blamed Cheney for nearly killing him, nor the White House for distorting the events of that late afternoon in 2006. After emerging from a Texas hospital, Whittington even seemed to blame himself.

“My family and I are deeply sorry for all that Vice President Cheney and his family have had to go through this past week,” he said. That comment contributed to the distortions surrounding the shooting, which occurred during a brief quail-hunting trip on a ranch in South Texas. It suggested that Whittington, not Cheney, was at fault for the accidental shooting — an impression the White House was all too happy to nudge along and Whittington merely shrugged about later. As George W. Bush’s press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters at the time, “Protocol was not followed by Mr. Whittington when it came to notifying others that he was there.”

Not so. But Whittington, a prominent and prosperous lawyer in Austin, kept his own counsel. It was nearly five years after the fact that he opened up about what happened that day.

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Trump’s lawsuit against Bob Woodward is absurd — and dangerous, Editorial Board, Feb. 7, 2023 (print ed.). Donald Trump’s public words — speeches, interviews and written statements — were an essential record of his presidential campaign and four years in the Oval Office. But judging by a lawsuit Mr. Trump filed against our colleague Bob Woodward and his book publisher, Simon & Schuster, the former president thinks he personally owns the words he spoke while president. This is absurd — and intended to intimidate and harass.

Alas, such legal gambits are becoming more common. They can have a chilling effect on journalists, human rights defenders or others seeking to hold the powerful to account. Efforts are already underway in a number of states as well as in Britain and the European Union to strengthen protections against frivolous actions known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPPs.

Mr. Woodward interviewed Mr. Trump 20 times on the record for his book “Rage,” published before the 2020 election. One session was in 2016, while Mr. Trump was running, while the remainder took place in 2019-2020. In the fourth interview, on Dec. 30, 2019, Mr. Trump said, “Okay. For the book only, right?” A deputy press secretary, Hogan Gidley, added, “Right. No stories coming out, no nothing.” Woodward says the agreement was that he was interviewing Trump for a book, not for articles in The Post. When “Rage” was published in September 2020, about a half-hour of the audio recordings were released to The Post and CNN, and Mr. Trump raised no objection then. He criticized what Mr. Woodward had written about him but also said, “I said really good things in that book.”

washington post logoWashington Post, After a long search, scandal-plagued National Enquirer finds a buyer, Paul Farhi, Feb. 7, 2023 (print ed.). The National Enquirer, the scandal-hunting supermarket tabloid that was embroiled for years in its own scandals, was sold Monday to a joint venture involving an executive who has been the subject of a federal indictment.

The buyer, VVIP Ventures, said it will acquire the Enquirer and its tabloid sisters the National Examiner and the Globe from A360 Media of New York. The company described the transactions as an all-cash deal, though terms were not disclosed.

The Enquirer’s publisher, then known as American Media Inc., admitted in 2018 that it secretly helped Donald Trump’s presidential campaign through a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch and kill.” It acknowledged paying $150,000 to acquire the exclusive rights to Playboy model Karen McDougal’s account of an alleged affair with Trump and then suppressing the story to prevent it from hurting Trump’s quest for office.

Then President Donald Trump, with his son, Donald Trump, Jr., at left, with daughter Ivanka Kushner, then-National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker and son Eric Trump at far right. and djt don jr ivanka pecker eric

Then President Donald Trump, with his son, Donald Trump, Jr., at left, with daughter Ivanka Kushner, then-National Enquirer CEO David Pecker and son Eric Trump at far right.

The Federal Election Commission eventually fined A360, the successor to AMI, $187,500 for killing the McDougal story, ruling in 2021 that the transaction was a prohibited corporate in-kind contribution designed to boost a candidate. Federal prosecutors declined to charge AMI’s then-chief executive, David Pecker, in exchange for his cooperation.

stormy daniels djt insight 1 19 2018 CustomThe Enquirer and Pecker were also allegedly involved in brokering a secret deal days before the 2016 election between Trump’s attorney, Michael Cohen, and the porn star Stormy Daniels, left, to funnel $130,000 to Daniels to suppress her account of an affair with Trump in 2006. Pecker last week was among the first witnesses to testify before a grand jury in New York that is considering issuing criminal charges against Trump over the matter.

Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos in 2019 accused the Enquirer of attempting to blackmail him about an extramarital affair, including threatening to publish intimate “below-the-belt” photos the publication had acquired from his cellphone.

Amid the mounting scandals, AMI announced in 2019 that it would sell the Enquirer and its other celebrity-gossip titles to business executive James Cohen for $100 million. But the sale was never completed.

VVIP Ventures is a joint venture between Vinco Ventures Inc., a digital media company, and Icon Publishing, whose founder is Ted Farnsworth, the former chairman of the defunct movie-theater subscription company MoviePass.

In November, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Farnsworth and an associate for their alleged roles in a scheme to artificially inflate the stock price of MoviePass’s parent company “through materially false and misleading representations.” Farnsworth is contesting the charges.

Vinco Ventures, the other buyer, owns the social media app Lomotif and an advertising technology company called AdRizer.

VVIP said in a statement that it would retain the Enquirer’s existing editorial staff and would seek further revenue by licensing the Enquirer’s extensive archive of articles and photos to film, TV and podcast producers.

Feb. 6

ny times logoNew York Times, Despite Elon Musk’s Vow, Twitter Images of Child Sex Abuse Abound, Michael H. Keller and Kate Conger, Feb. 6, 2023. Over 120,000 views of a video showing a boy being sexually assaulted. A recommendation engine suggesting that a user follow content related to exploited children. Users continually posting abusive material, delays in taking it down when it is detected and friction with organizations that police it.

twitter bird CustomAll since Elon Musk, below left, declared that “removing child exploitation is priority #1” in a tweet in late November.

Under Mr. Musk’s ownership, Twitter’s head of safety, Ella Irwin, said she had been moving rapidly to combat child sexual elon musk 2015abuse material, which was prevalent on the site — as it is on most tech platforms — under the previous owners. “Twitter 2.0” will be different, the company promised.

But a review by The New York Times found that the imagery, commonly known as child pornography, persisted on the platform, including widely circulated material that the authorities consider the easiest to detect and eliminate.

After Mr. Musk took the reins in late October, Twitter largely eliminated or lost staff experienced with the problem and failed to prevent the spread of abusive images previously identified by the authorities, the review shows. Twitter also stopped paying for some detection software considered key to its efforts.

All the while, people on dark-web forums discuss how Twitter remains a platform where they can easily find the material while avoiding detection, according to transcripts of those forums from an anti-abuse group that monitors them.

“If you let sewer rats in,” said Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s online safety commissioner, “you know that pestilence is going to come.”

Feb. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Erasing Black History Is Not the Role of the College Board, Mara Gay, right, Feb. 5, 2023 (print ed.). In the nation’s capital, blocks maya gay twitter croppedfrom the White House, scores of sharply dressed Americans mingled Thursday night over cocktails and collard greens, a glittering coming-out party for the College Board’s first advanced placement course in African American Studies.

At the party, a formal affair of educators and donors held at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, jazz was played, and a woman in a gold dress sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black national anthem. And then the topic on everyone’s mind came up.

Board officials tried to assure the crowd that they had not bent to censorious political pressure from the country’s increasingly brazen right wing. “If this were true, it would be a terrible stain on this country and on the College Board,” said the College Board’s C.E.O., David Coleman.

But in fact, when the College Board unveiled the final curriculum for the AP course the day before, it turned out that the board had removed from the core material a handful of vital Black thinkers and some important subject matter. They downgraded the study of Black Lives Matter, of reparations, of queer life and of incarceration. They removed prominent writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and bell hooks, who have helped so many people understand the relationship between race, class and feminism.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, Republican of Florida, had earlier vowed to ban the course, which the state’s Department of Education has said, “lacks educational value.” He had objected to much of the material the board removed. The board issued a statement denying that its action was in response to Mr. DeSantis, saying it determined on its own that the course was too dense and needed fewer secondary sources.

The College Board, though a nonprofit, is a fixture in the country’s education infrastructure. Taking its courses and succeeding on its exams has long been a way for savvy high school students to make themselves more attractive to the most selective colleges and, upon acceptance, win college credit.

The inclusion of Black history into this enterprise is a meaningful act.

The Black scholars who pioneered the teaching of Black history long before it was popular to do so understand this. “We have to tell the truth,” one of those scholars, Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, a professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, said Thursday evening. “The truth is we helped to build this country.”

Those opposed to the re-centering of Black history at the heart of the nation’s story instead of its periphery understand it, too, which is why they have mobilized against it.

As we listened to the music and were held in thrall by Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard professor whose television show about tracing American ancestries has made him a household name, I thought about the students in dozens of states where books and other subject material, often recognizing the dignity of Black and transgender people, have been banned.


john clarence discovery promoChannel Guide, Investigative Report: Discovery’s ‘Gold, Lies & Videotape’ Unravels the Mystery of Victorio Peak, New Series, with new episode on Feb. 3.

One family has been fighting for over 70 years to recover what they say is rightfully theirs: a $28 billion treasure buried deep inside a mountain in the New Mexico desert.

Some believe the U.S. government stole the 16,000 gold bars and priceless artifacts, while skeptics claim it never existed. Now, for the first time ever, in this six-part docuseries, the family and its supporters reveal exclusive evidence to prove their case, crack open the mystery of America’s greatest treasure story and reveal the truth of Victorio Peak.

Background research report by Robert Morrow, independent research historian and political advocate based in Austin, TX who befriended through long years of research author John Clarence, whose trilogy The Noss Gold formed the basis for the Discovery Channel series:

If you want to read about the astronomical greed and perfidy of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and thieving military generals at White Sands Missile Range, this is the place to do it. This fascinating docuseries is running every Friday night during prime time on Discovery and is one of the most popular new editions to Discovery. Click here for schedule and program titles.

Information on John Clarence, the author of The Noss Gold: Born in Forty Fort, a small town in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania, John lived his youngest years there enjoying the benefits of Susquehanna River, the worlds’ longest non-navigable river, 444 miles long with 4 million people living within its watershed. The Susquehanna has another impressive history; above its smooth flowing current towered the longest stone-arch bridge in the world. When his family moved away, he left behind his best friend, Fritz, and his first heart throb, Connie, a wonderful red hair, blue-eye young girl; they were in the fifth grade. As a writer, the move to Las Cruces was the backdrop for the remaining days of his life. He still lives there.

When he arrived in Las Cruces in 2004, he moved into a private residence on Missouri Avenue; the Ova Noss Family Partnership work crew called it the “War Room.” he left there two years later and moved into White Sands Missile Range’s backyard and set up the second “War Room.” The following year he moved back to Las Cruces into the third “War Room” and began an eight-year non-stop writing project on the Victorio Peak treasure saga.

When he finished, he titled the volume, The Gold House, a non-fiction, three-book exposé on government and military corruption in the theft of gold from the Noss treasure. Finally, in 2022, he left for Long Beach, California and worked out of the fourth “War Room” in filmmaker Alex Alonso’s studio repairing video tapes and digitizing more than 55,000 ONFP documents and files. His name is John C. “Jack” Staley. He uses the pseudonym, John Clarence, for his written work, described here.

Episodes already cablecasted:

  • David vs. Goliath. 1/13/2023. The Noss family discovers a $28-billion treasure, sparking a deep mystery.
  • Where Gold Goes, Blood Flows.1/20/2023. Alex and team make a big discovery that brings them closer to the treasure.
  • Truth ... and Consequences. 1/27/2023. Terry and Alex suspect a team member has removed treasure worth millions.
  • Goldfinder. 2/3/2023. The Noss family defends their claim against hundreds looking for gold.

National Review, Opinion: Of Course Jeff Gerth Is Right about Russiagate, Rich Lowry ( editor in chief of National Review), Feb. 5, 2023. It isn’t national review logojust that the media failed in covering Russiagate during the Trump years. Since then, they have displayed a near-total unwillingness to examine their role in whipping up a national hysteria based on paranoia and confirmation bias.

In other words, the media have piled a lack of accountability on top of their original sins of journalistic incompetence and ideological malice.

Now, at least, there is a prominent exception to this comprehensive failure in the form of a massive four-part series in Columbia Journalism Review on the coverage of Russiagate by the former New York Times reporter, Jeff Gerth. (Erik Wemple of the Washington Post is another honorable exception.)

Gerth has the goods on how the press botched the story from beginning to end, and he lays them out in detail. Given his pedigree, the piece is heavily focused on the Times, but he easily could have done another 24,000 words on the hysteria at CNN alone.

The piece is not revelatory in the sense of breaking news — anyone who has followed Andy McCarthy’s work over the years will be familiar with the outlines of Gerth’s account. But the reporter (an erstwhile Times man from the heart of the journalistic establishment) and the outlet (the bible of legacy-media self-evaluation) make it a very important event.

Gerth details how the media hyped the dossier, though it should have been clear it was garbage from the beginning, and how it spun up the collusion narrative despite the evidence that there was nothing there. The federal investigation into collusion, predictably, turned up nothing, surprising journalists who had been repeatedly telling their readers and viewers that the walls were closing in (resorting to understatement, Dean Baquet, then the executive editor of the New York Times, described the Times as “a little tiny bit flat-footed” when the Mueller investigation flopped).

The reaction from the legacy media to Gerth’s report has been crashing silence, proving his point of how outlets aren’t willing to grapple with the scale of their dereliction.

There has been some pushback, though, from the progressive media, which is shocked and outraged by CJR’s perceived betrayal. Aren’t we all supposed to be in this together?

  • David Brock, no one’s arbiter of standards for anything, asks, “How did Jeff Gerth’s garbage get published in the Columbia Journalism Review?”
  • Joe Conason accuses Gerth of having “betrayed basic journalistic standards.”
  • Progressive writer and activist Tom Watson can’t understand why CJR published the piece.
  • jonathan chait twitterJonathan Chait, right, who wrote that Trump might have been a Russian asset since 1987, isn’t persuaded. A lesser journalist might be somewhat abashed by his claim about Trump — clearly preposterous at the time, and now even more so — but no, it’s Gerth who has screwed it up.

Chait points to an attempted takedown of the Gerth piece by David Corn of Mother Jones. Corn argues that Gerth is focused on the wrong things — namely, the dossier that played a big role in kicking things off and the accusation of collusion, which resulted in the yearslong investigation that deranged our politics and media environment. Corn thinks the real story is items such as the Russian interference in the election and Trump’s unwillingness to call it out; the Trump Tower meeting; and Paul Manafort’s communicating with Ukrainian and Russian figures during the campaign.

All of these things were bad, but none of them should have caused the media and investigatory conflagration that ensued.

Russia’s cyber-operations were negligible — laughably ineffective and barely a drop in an ocean of campaign messaging. The intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked the DNC emails may be true, but it is based on sketchy evidence, and, more to the point, the DNC emails — in which Hillary Clinton was not a meaningful participant — had no impact on the outcome of the election.

The Left’s freak-out about Trump’s characteristically impudent quip that he hoped Russia found Clinton’s emails has always been overwrought — the homebrew server was then in the FBI’s custody (i.e., not available to be hacked).

The motives behind the Trump Tower meeting were contemptible, but the meeting came to nothing, and it would not have happened as it did if there had actually been a Trump-Putin conspiracy. Moreover, the dossier misadventure showed that Clinton was no stranger to welcoming Russian-sourced research — no matter how flimsy — to use against her opponent.

Finally, the Trump-campaign information that Manafort shared with a Russian oligarch to whom he owed a great deal of money was trivial. After two years of investigation and two indictments filed against Manafort, Mueller never alleged that Manafort was a Russian agent. He was accused of failing to register as a Ukrainian agent — based on activities unconnected to his participation in the Trump campaign.

It’s notable that even Corn concedes that Gerth scores points on the Times and other outlets for exaggerating the case for collusion and the credibility of the dossier. The way Corn puts it, with admirable mildness, is “readers who care about media reliability will find much to ponder in this long takedown.”

Uh, yeah. Would that all the people who created this fiasco — beholden to a self-reinforcing frenzy and an overall ethic of “too good to check” — were willing to admit the same.

Feb. 4


joe conason cspanThe National Memo, Analysis: The Reporter Who Hyped Whitewater Now Backs Trump On 'Russiagate,' Joe Conason (above, longtime journalist and co-author with Gene Lyons of the New York Times best-seller The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and joe conason gene lyons the hunting of the presidentHillary Clinton), Feb. 4, 2023.

Down at Mar-a-Lago and anywhere else that former President Donald Trump is still venerated, he and his entourage are excited about a publication that has never before drawn his attention.

The Columbia Journalism Review has just published a four-part, 24,000-word essay that purports to debunk the Trump-Russia "narrative" — and seeks to blame rising public disdain for the press, among other ills, on The New York Times and The Washington Post for their coverage of that scandal.

Its author is Jeff Gerth, a reporter who worked at the Times for three decades. His former colleagues are said to be seething with fury at him. They have ample reason, not out of feelings of personal betrayal, but because Gerth has betrayed basic journalistic standards. Unfortunately, this is not the first time.

Very few people will persevere through Gerth's prose (which the late press critic Alexander Cockburn once compared to "bicycling through wet sand."). Yet because Trump is running for president again — and because Vladimir Putin is sure to continue "active measures" on his behalf — what happened in the travesty and tragedy of 2016 remains relevant.

Gerth's account is fatally flawed by his omission of critical facts about Trump and Russia, not only in Pulitzer Prize-winning stories published by both newspapers, but in the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election as well as the voluminous detail of Russian interference chronicled in the Mueller Report, mendaciously maligned by then-Attorney General William Barr.

Like Trump, whom he interviewed twice and treats with kid gloves, Gerth falsely suggests that Special Counsel Robert Mueller somehow exculpated the former president. In fact, Mueller showed that Trump repeatedly obstructed justice to stymie the Russia investigation. And the special counsel indicated that Trump's "dangling" of pardons to key witnesses like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone — who ultimately were pardoned — had cut off crucial avenues of investigation and testimony. Mueller cited 10 instances of obstruction of justice he could not prosecute because of the policy not to indict a sitting president for criminal activity. Here, Gerth is perpetuating the coverup.

Beyond any specific problems in Gerth's deeply defective work, however, is the question of why the magazine made such an odd choice to fulfill this sensitive task. During his years at the Times, he gained notoriety for two major stories that looked impressive when first published — and then fell spectacularly flat.

In 1992, he wrote a front-page article on Bill and Hillary Clinton's investment in an ill-fated real estate deal known as "Whitewater," which spawned endless news coverage, congressional investigations and a special counsel probe mismanaged by Ken Starr that cost nearly $70 million. The erroneous headline on Gerth's story— "CLINTONS JOINED S & L OPERATOR IN AN OZARK REAL ESTATE VENTURE" — was only the first of many regrettable errors. Multiple investigations failed to confirm Gerth's insinuations of wrongdoing by the Clintons.

In 1999, Gerth and a fellow Times reporter published another bombshell, headlined "BREACH AT LOS ALAMOS: China Stole Nuclear Secrets For Bombs, U.S. Aides Say." The article pointed a finger of suspicion at a Taiwanese American scientist named Wen Ho Lee, who was subsequently indicted and imprisoned — until he was released for lack of sufficient evidence to convict him of espionage. He ultimately pled guilty to a minor offense and received an apology from President Clinton. (The Times felt obliged to publish a note critiquing its own handling of the story after Lee's prosecution failed.)

What brings those episodes to mind is that in both instances, Gerth appeared to be heavily influenced by partisan figures on the Right with agendas that obscured the truth. His chief Whitewater sources were Sheffield Nelson, an embittered Republican businessman who had run against Clinton for governor two years earlier, and Clinton's former Whitewater partner James McDougal, who was both dishonest and mentally ill. His principal source on Wen Ho Lee appears to have been an Energy Department security official named Notra Trulock III, a right-wing conspiracy theorist who was credibly accused by his colleagues of ethnic bias against Lee.

Gerth's skewed reporting on Whitewater and Wen Ho Lee came under harsh criticism from other journalists. But the assessment that may now sting the most appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review months after the Lee prosecution had fizzled.

Writing about the Times' "painful" self-scrutiny, Michael Hoyt, who became the magazine's editor, called the Lee story "hard to read... without thinking that readers were supposed to believe — from the way the facts were marshaled and supported by inferences and quotes — that Wen Ho Lee was a probable spy and that those in the government who doubted it were politically motivated." The paper's editors, wrote Hoyt, should have taken "a closer look" at Gerth's main source as well as the political motivations of congressional Republicans pushing it, and "should have investigated hints early on that the legal case against Lee was not all that impressive."

Gerth's latest misadventure, providing tilted alibis for Trump, follows a pattern of decades. It should surprise nobody, especially his now-infuriated former colleagues at the Times. Hailed by the right-wing media, he appears to believe that he is in a position to lecture his fellow journalists. They would do better taking instruction elsewhere.


 Katrina vanden Heuvel, the longtime publisher, editor and controlling shareholder of The Nation magazine and also wife of Russian studies scholar Stephen Cohen, is shown joining a CSPAN Washington Journal cablecast in 2009.

 Katrina vanden Heuvel, the longtime publisher, editor and owner of The Nation magazine and also wife of Russian studies scholar Stephen Cohen, is shown joining a CSPAN Washington Journal cablecast in 2009.

ByLine Times, Media Criticism: Russia & the US PressThe Article the CJR Didn’t Publish, Duncan Campbell, Feb. 4, 2023. Duncan Campbell, below at right, is an duncan campbellinvestigative journalist who has covered security, surveillance and politics since the 1970s.

Introduction: Two and a half years ago, the Columbia Journalism Review refused to publish Duncan Campbell’s investigation into The Nation magazine and its apparent support for Vladimir Putin. It is published here in full.

In 2018, Duncan Campbell was commissioned by the “voice of journalism” and “watchdog of the press,” Columbia columbia journalism review logoJournalism Review, to write an investigation into the venerable New York magazine The Nation, and its apparent support for Russia’s territorial ambitions. In 2020, after a full fact check, legal review and edit, the article was cancelled two days before the scheduled publication. In 2022, months after Putin’s full invasion of Ukraine, the CJR again refused to publish the article. Byline Times is publishing the final agreed copy here, and Duncan Campbell will explain what happened in a follow-up article.

The Nation’s Russia Problem
By Duncan Campbell, 15 July 2020

One afternoon, five weeks before Election Day in 2016, on the 21st floor of a tower overlooking Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue, members of The Nation’s editorial advisory board gathered for a twice-annual meeting. Katrina vanden Heuvel—the magazine’s editor, publisher, and owner—invited attendees to hear from a special guest, who had come to warn them that criticizing Donald Trump’s involvements with Russia, or his nation logorelationship with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, could trigger global nuclear annihilation. Vanden Heuvel, who was 56, gestured to her husband, Stephen F. Cohen, then 77, a retired professor of Russian studies. Russia and the United States “were closer to war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis,” he told the board. He also derided Democrats and American media organizations for “demonization of Russian President Putin.”

Philip Green, a political theorist who had been on the board for forty years, listened with skepticism. Cohen’s theory, “presented with deadly and urgent seriousness,” he thought, appeared to be channeling the paranoia of the far-right. Others felt the same way. But afterward, Green says, “It became the party line.”

stephen cohen professorCohen (who died in 2020 and who is shown above) would go on to make the same argument in at least 160 Nation articles; more than a hundred talk radio show appearances; and on Russia’s state-owned international channel, Russia Today (RT). In many cases, his articles were “essentially transcribed radio programs that were unedited and did not go through other editorial filters,” according to Robert Dreyfuss, a Nation contributing editor and investigative journalist. Accusing the Russian government of committing an act of war by hacking the Democratic National Committee, Cohen warned, might mean “the necessity of actual war, conceivably nuclear war, against Russia.” He wrote that “villainizing the Kremlin—without much evidence—is increasing the possibility of a US-Russian war.” Once Trump took office, Cohen branded media investigations of Russia’s involvement with the Trump campaign as “neo-McCarthyism” and “Kremlin-baiting.”

For these critiques, Cohen won praise from outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart, anathema to The Nation readership; soon, he began making periodic appearances on Tucker Carlson Tonight. “Today, in my scholarly, long-term judgment, relations between the United States and Russia are more dangerous than they have ever—let me repeat, ever—been, including the Cuban missile crisis,” Cohen told Carlson in 2018.

Nation employees became uneasy about Cohen’s assertions and who was airing his ideas. “The people who work there, especially the younger staff, are disgruntled about the Russia coverage,” Adam Shatz, a former Nation writer and literary editor, says. A joke began circulating around the office: “We tried to fact check Steve’s pieces but we couldn’t find any facts to check.” (Vanden Heuvel denies that her husband’s work was not checked by normal standards, saying that whether or not something is checked “depends on the complexity of the piece.”)

columbia logoSome left The Nation or stopped writing for it. Anne Nelson, a former war correspondent now teaching at Columbia University, came to feel that the magazine’s stance on Russia “is destroying a valuable institution on the left.” Subscribers and donors, too, expressed displeasure with The Nation’s Russia pieces. One reader tweeted: “Sounds like the Nation has a pee tape out there somewhere.”

Duncan Campbell is former crime correspondent of the Guardian, former chairman of the Crime Reporters Association and winner of the Bar Council’s newspaper journalist of the year. He has written for the Observer, New Statesman, LRB, Oldie, Esquire and British Journalism Review. He has presented Crime Desk on BBC Radio 5 Live and the Radio 4 documentary "Bandits of the Blitz," has appeared on the Today programme, LBC radio and numerous TV documentaries, and has lectured widely on crime reporting. He is the author of six books including the bestselling "The Underworld" (1994) and an acclaimed crime novel, "If it Bleeds" (2010).


 Julia (Julie) Jenkins Fancelli, Publix heiress and Donald Trump mega-donor.

Julia (Julie) Jenkins Fancelli, Publix heiress and Donald Trump mega-donor.

Proof, Exclusive Investigative Commentary: The Donald Trump “Mega-Donor” From Florida Who Funded January 6 Has Just Given America the Most Detailed Timeline Ever of When and seth abramson graphicWhere Trump’s Coup Plot Formed, Seth Abramson, Feb. 3-4, 2023. Seth Abramson, left, is a a former criminal investigator and criminal defense attorney whose January 6 research Congress often cites unpacks January 6 evidence many missed.

seth abramson proof logoPart of a Series: The “January 6 Files” Series (2023-)

  • Charlie Kirk
  • Ginni Thomas, Part I
  • Julie Jenkins Fancelli (current entry)

1. Introduction

You’ve probably seen the “How It Started vs. How It’s Going” meme, which tracks the relative sanguinity of the beginning of a given process and how it thereafter descends into chaos. In the case of the 132-page federal testimony of Julie Jenkins Fancelli—the Donald Trump mega-donor who almost single-handedly bankrolled the January 6 White House Ellipse rally and march on the U.S. Capitol—it begins like this (the speaker is a House January 6 Committee investigator tasked with examining Fancelli under oath):

And it does not get better from there.

Fancelli’s reticence in providing even the barest degree of cooperation with the House January 6 Committee is to some degree understandable. After all, even far-right media reports indicate that the Special Counsel recently appointed by Joe Biden’s Attorney General Merrick Garland on behalf of the Department of Justice, Jack Smith, is focusing his investigation on the “money trail” linked to the January 6 coup attempt.


Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

Justice Department Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, left, and former President Donald Trump, shown in a collage via CNN.

And on the very short list of radical Trumpists who funded events on January 6, the Trumpworld figure who appears atop the list—by sheer dollar value—is Ms. Fancelli.

kimberly guilfoyle smile wAnd so it is that we see Fancelli invoking four different federal constitutional amendments to avoid even revealing whether she knows Caroline Wren, an agent of future Trump daughter-in-law and current top Trump adviser Kimberly Guilfoyle, right (who will be marrying Trump’s eldest son Donald Trump Jr.) and someone whose long relationship with Fancelli has already been documented fifty different ways and is a settled fact.

But as was the case with (again) Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle associate—you may be seeing a trend here—Charlie Kirk, who also pleaded the Fifth Amendment, Fancelli revealed much more than she might have intended simply by showing up to be questioned by Congress. Why? Because the many, many questions asked of her by lawyers from the now-disbanded House January 6 Committee comprise a stunning compendium of evidence compiled by the Committee before its investigation ended in December 2022.

This third entry of the new “January 6 Files” series at Proof will reveal, through a long analysis and contextualization of these questions—and perhaps more surprisingly, some sudden abandonments of her constitutional invocations by Ms. Fancelli—how this recently released federal witness transcript must change forever how we think about the following:

  • The timeline of the January 6 coup plot;
  • the level of involvement the Trump family had in this coup plotting, and its after-the-fact attempts to deny that involvement;
  • the consistent pattern of federal Witness Tampering that has marked Trump family attempts to deny its involvement in any coup plotting or fundraising;
  • the extent to which the Trump family benefited financially from this plotting and to which Trump himself was aware of the fundraising and logistics work that the plotting entailed; and
  • the degree to which this plotting may have helped fund Stop the Steal activities now associated with domestic terrorism.

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

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

Feb. 3


Andy Thibault, Editor and Publisher of The Winsted Citizen, carries the first bundle of papers off a pallet as Advertising and Circulation Director Rosemary Scanlon holds the first print press plate while a group of musicians play behind them after the arrival of the first delivery of the paper on, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Winsted, Conn. At a time that local newspapers are dying at an alarming rate, longtime activist Ralph Nader is helping give birth to one. Nader put up $15,000 to help launch The Winsted Citizen and hired a veteran Connecticut journalist, Andy Thibault, to put it together. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Andy Thibault, Editor and Publisher of The Winsted Citizen, carries the first bundle of papers off a pallet as Advertising and Circulation Director Rosemary Scanlon holds the first print press plate while a group of musicians play behind them after the arrival of the first delivery of the paper on, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Winsted, Conn. At a time that local newspapers are dying at an alarming rate, longtime activist Ralph Nader is helping give birth to one. Nader put up $15,000 to help launch The Winsted Citizen and hired a veteran Connecticut journalist, Andy Thibault, to put it together. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Associated Press, Newspapers dying? Ralph Nader’s giving birth to one, David Bauder, Feb. 3, 2023. Photojournalist Jessica Hill contributed to this report from Winsted, Connecticut. 

At age 88, Ralph Nader believes his neighbors in northwest Connecticut are tired of electronics and miss the feel of holding a newspaper to read about their town.

So at a time that local newspapers are dying at an alarming rate, the longtime activist is helping give birth to one.

Copies of the first edition of the Winsted Citizen are circulating around this old New England mill town, with stories about a newly-opened food co-op, a Methodist church closing after attendance lagged at services and the repair of a century-old bridge.

“If it works, it will be a good model for the rest of the country,” said Nader, who as a youngster delivered a long-gone Winsted daily paper in his hometown. He splits time now between Winsted and Washington, D.C.

The last locally-based weekly paper, the Winsted Journal, began in 1996 before being shut down in 2017, unable to make enough money to support itself.

A town of about 8,000, Winsted has seen better days. Locals still talk about the 1955 hurricane that wiped out much of Main Street and killed a big employer, the Gilbert Clock Co. Winsted is surrounded by several better-off smaller communities, with Litchfield County a popular second-home destination for city dwellers, and the Winsted Citizen will cover those, too.
Since the Journal shut down, people are losing touch with what’s going on in local government and the news that knits a community — who’s getting engaged, who’s given birth — Nader said.

“After awhile it all congeals and you start losing history,” he said. “Every year you don’t have a newspaper, you lose that connection.”

Nader invested $15,000 and hired a veteran Connecticut journalist, Andy Thibault, to get the Citizen started. The masthead lists 17 reporters. They get paid, Thibault said, “when they write a story.”

The motto: “It’s your paper. We work for you.”

The Citizen plans to publish monthly until next January, when it will become a weekly, Thibault said. He plans to sustain the newspaper through advertising, donations and subscriptions — $25 for the rest of 2023, and $95 a year after that.

Nader is full of suggestions but not intrusive, Thibault said. The consumer activist and four-time presidential candidate doesn’t dictate a political stance, he said.

Thibault has used his connections to build a solid bench of contributors, including longtime Hartford Courant editorial cartoonist Bob Englehart. The first issue includes a lengthy profile of a successful local basketball coach and a story about a project to paint a five-story mural in two abandoned mill buildings.

The depiction of Winsted as a news desert has grated on some. Bruno Matarazzo Jr., a reporter for the nearby Republican-American in Waterbury, taunts Nader with tweeted reminders that the daily newspaper covers Winsted regularly. Waterbury is about 28 miles (45 km) from Winsted.

“It’s different coverage when a town has its own newspaper than when you have a daily coming in to cover it,” said Janet Manko, publisher and editor in chief of another Connecticut weekly, the Lakeville Journal, which also published the Winsted Journal before it closed. The failure wasn’t because Winsted didn’t deserve a paper, she said.

The Journal is among an estimated 2,500 newspapers that have closed in the United States since 2005, all but about 100 non-dailies, according to a report issued last year by the Northwestern/Medill Local News Initiative.

So Nader is clearly bucking a trend and is to be commended, said Penelope Muse Abernathy, who wrote “The State of Local News” report.

“It will turn heads because it’s Ralph Nader,” she said.

But maybe he won’t be as lonely as it seems. Abernathy said she’s been getting more frequent calls lately for advice from people who want to open newspapers. The cautious approach used by the Citizen — monthly issues before turning weekly — has been used by others, she said. There’s a greater recognition of the need for a smart business plan, instead of just a passion project.

Given Nader’s romance with print, it’s somewhat odd that the lead story in the Citizen’s inaugural edition talks to young Winsted residents about how they get much of their news from social media. Thibault said he plans to build an online presence.

“I like print,” said Terry Cowgill, a columnist for the website. “I still like holding a print newspaper in my hand. I’m 65 years old. Most people under 50, certainly under 40, have scarcely ever held a newspaper in their hands.”

He’s rooting for the Citizen, though. Cowgill said he suspects the Citizen’s best chance for long-term success is whether Nader can trade on his celebrity for foundation grants.

Volunteers fanned out on a frigid day last week to deliver copies of the first 12-page issue. One woman, Ruthie Ursone Napoleone, stopped a delivery car to ask for more copies. Her father’s obituary was in the first issue, her nephew was quoted in another story and a third featured her workplace.

She hugged the person who gave her the extra papers.

“I wish my dad could read this,” Napoleone said.


andy thibault winsted citizen jessica hill ap


 elon musk sideview

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk found not liable in federal trial over ‘Funding secured’ tweet, Faiz Siddiqui, Feb. 3, 2023. Musk, shown above in a file photo, sat for testimony in the case over three days last month. He argued that tweets are not necessarily comprehensive, and not all believe what he says.

Elon Musk was found not liable for investors’ losses in a securities fraud trial over his 2018 tweet that he had “Funding secured” to take Tesla tesla logoprivate at $420 per share, continuing the tech mogul’s streak of favorable verdicts over his erratic behavior.

Plaintiff Glen Littleton and fellow members of the class action sued Musk and Tesla, including its board of directors, over the tweet and Musk’s subsequent statements, alleging the notion that financing was in place had been false and constituted fraud. They said shareholders suffered steep financial harms because of panicked sales in the 10 days following the tweet, as Tesla and Musk engaged in damage control.

twitter bird CustomMusk’s attorney Alex Spiro had argued Musk’s tweet did not constitute the entirety of what was disclosed about the matter, and while it was not necessarily accurate it did not constitute fraud.

In a tweet after the verdict, Musk said: “Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed! I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case.”

For Musk, the favorable verdict takes some pressure off his finances at a time when he’s on the hook for billions in loans for his purchase of Twitter. It continues a string of verdicts in Musk’s favor, from the shareholder lawsuit over Tesla’s purchase of embattled solar energy company SolarCity, and Musk’s defamation lawsuit over calling a Thai cave rescue volunteer a “pedo guy.”

Musk sat for testimony over three days last month in the case, arguing that his tweets were not comprehensive and that not everyone believes what he says when he posts. He said that his funding was secured because he owns a large stake in SpaceX, the rocket-building firm he leads, an argument plaintiffs disputed because it was not in his initial deposition.

Instead, they alleged, Musk’s tweets were sent after he met with the head of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, where any discussion about financing was far from definitive. Musk countered, however, that the Saudis did indeed express a commitment to take Tesla private and had the funding to back it up, though the parties never settled on a deal.

On Aug. 7, 2018, Musk posted a tweet reading: “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” Court documents also referenced a second Musk tweet from later that day, which read: “Investor support is confirmed. Only reason this is not certain is that it’s contingent on a shareholder vote.”

Musk’s claim unraveled in the ensuing days, however.

Musk said on Aug. 13, 2018, that he had been in discussions with the Saudi wealth fund about taking Tesla private in a deal that would value the company above $70 billion, but the post was not definitive. On Aug. 24, 2018, Musk reversed course, saying he planned to keep Tesla public.

The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Musk that September for allegedly lying to investors when he declared “Funding secured.” Musk and Tesla settled, and each paid $20 million fines, while Musk agreed to step aside as Tesla board chairman.

His replacement in that seat, Robyn Denholm, testified in the recent trial alongside others including Tesla executives and current and former board members.

Judge Edward M. Chen had already ruled the declaration of “Funding secured” untrue, leaving jurors to determine whether it was material to subsequent market moves, the extent to which it was relied on, and the liability of Musk and Tesla board members in potential damages.

In closing arguments, Musk attorney Spiro urged the jury not to compromise on their verdict — for example, by finding Musk liable but not the Tesla board. Rather, he pushed them to make a firm judgment on the materiality of the tweet. He argued that Musk’s tweet may have been “technically inaccurate” but that the case hinged on his “consideration” of taking Tesla private.

“Just because it’s a bad tweet, doesn’t mean it’s fraud,” he said.

The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that Musk should be subject to rules like anyone else, and that his behavior constituted fraud.“This is about rules,” said attorney Nicholas Porritt. “This is about applying rules to billionaires like Elon Musk.”

He asked if the rules should apply, “or can Elon Musk do whatever he wants and not face the consequences?”

“We’re just disappointed,” said Porritt, answering questions as he was leaving the courtroom after the verdict. “I think we presented a very good case and I think we presented the case as well as we could.”

Porritt said he would consider what his team is going to do next.

Spiro, Musk’s attorney, said after the verdict “the jury got it right.” His team embraced in celebration after it was read out.

 Feb. 2


wikipedia logo

Going Deep With Russ Baker, Why We Should Be Wary of Wikipedia, Russ Baker, right, publisher of WhoWhatWhy, author of best-selling Family russ baker cropped david welkerof Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America's Invisible Government and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years, and longtime journalist and media critic, Feb. 2, 2023 (Part 1 of a Series). Probably the best kept secret about Wikipedia is that its whowhatwhy logo“truths” largely protect the establishment — and that is baked into the formula.

Dear Reader: For many years, the Russ Baker page on Wikipedia has been under a clever and nuanced attack by parties unknown, operating as “editors.” The resulting text subtly questions my work, character, and judgment. The net effect is to give the casual reader cause to minimize or even dismiss my revelations — and me. The consequences of this are almost impossible to overstate, as they impact so many aspects of my life.

As with many things, I have always meant to get to the bottom of this, but just didn’t get around to it — nor have I been sure about what I could or should do about it.

What I found was, for me, hair-raising at times.

I now think it’s worth sharing this with others, as my own experience in the maw of the world’s dominant opinion shaper seems anything but unique.

What follows is a series of articles seeking to understand the phenomenon, and how it affects us all.


If you’re like me, and pretty much the rest of humanity, when you want to know something, you Google it. Invariably, at or near the top of the results, is a Wikipedia finding with your answer.

That is an astounding amount of power and influence for Wikipedia.

Wikipedia claims to be the place for us to understand… everything, quickly and simply.

Apparently we trust Wikipedia… why?

For one thing, Wikipedia is a nonprofit.

And it says that: Wikipedia is a place to learn, free from bias or agenda… Show the world that access to independent and unbiased information matters to you." — The Wikimedia Foundation

How does Wikipedia provide this “independent and unbiased” information?

Wikimedia, the foundation that hosts Wikipedia, allows anonymous individuals whose identity it does not know — and whose expertise or agenda it has not vetted — to create its content.

Some of these anonymous editors are relentless about creating negative perceptions of certain individuals and entities — and they are experts at it, rendering their subjects powerless to correct false or slanted information.

This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and widely discussed. But is it? Not that I can see. I searched Google to see how much this has come out in major media.

I found a 2021 article in The Washington Post, written by Samuel Baltz, “a PhD candidate in political science and scientific computing and an MS student in applied mathematics at the University of Michigan.” He asserted:

Wikipedia is one of the few socially driven websites where, even though anyone can contribute information about breaking news, misinformation is largely suppressed. And Wikipedia’s coverage of current events often directs attention to its pages about ideas in political science, giving readers context for the news…

Wikipedia has developed an impressive record of political and ideological neutrality.

He then goes on to state that it “has serious biases in its coverage.” But what strikes me is that those biases are in the interests of the establishment media like The Washington Post. And, like the fox in the hen house, those media serve as the actual arbiters for whether information on Wikipedia should be trusted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Big Tech Discovers Austerity, to the Relief of Investors, Tripp Mickle, Karen Weise and Nico Grant, Feb. 2, 2023. After years of expansion and billions in profits, major tech companies are pulling back from their famously lavish spending as a long boom finally ends.

For much of last year, tech companies stumbled. Digital ad sales plunged. E-commerce sputtered. IPhone production stalled. And investors microsoft logo Customlost faith.

apple logo rainbowIt was the worst year that the tech industry had experienced on Wall Street since the financial crisis of 2008. Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft and Meta lost a combined $3.9 trillion in market value.

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta recorded its biggest daily market gain in nearly a decade, adding nearly $100 billion in value, Isabella Simonetti and Mike Isaac, Feb. 2, 2023. Mark Zuckerberg’s company recorded its biggest daily market gain in nearly a decade, as the mood brightens among tech investors.

meta logoMeta’s stock surged on Thursday after the company reported better-than-expected earnings, said it would buy back billions of dollars in its stock, and overcame a court challenge to its ambitions in the so-called metaverse.

Shares of the tech giant, the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, climbed more than 23 percent, its biggest daily gain in nearly 10 years. And it was a huge move for a company its size, adding nearly $100 billion in market value in a single day, or about as much as Citigroup’s entire market capitalization.

facebook logoAfter ending last year with a loss of more than 60 percent, Meta’s stock is up more than 50 percent this year, as the mood among tech investors has brightened. The Nasdaq Composite, an index that includes many tech companies, including Meta, has risen nearly 20 percent this year.


james gordon meek abc logo

washington post logoWashington Post, Former ABC News journalist charged in child porn case, Salvador Rizzo, Feb. 2, 2023 (print ed.). Federal prosecutors in Virginia have charged a former national security journalist for ABC News with a child pornography offense.

James Gordon Meek, shown above and below right in a related story, a producer who covered terrorism and major crimes for the network, was charged with one count of transporting child pornography. The FBI said in a court filing unsealed Tuesday that agents searched Meek’s apartment in Arlington last year and found explicit images and videos of minors on his electronic devices.

Meek’s last report for ABC News was published April 2022, days before the FBI searched his apartment. He resigned the same month, according to the network.

A forensic review of an iPhone found in Meek’s apartment showed that the phone’s user and another person on the messaging application Kik exchanged videos of minors being sexually abused, the FBI said in the filing. An external hard drive found in Meek’s kitchen also contained images of minors being sexually abused, the FBI said.

Mother Jones Magazine, Columbia Journalism Review’s Big Fail: It Published 24,000 Words on Russiagate and Missed the Point, David Corn, david cornright, (Washington, DC, Bureau Chief of the non-profit magazine and webzine Mother Jones), Feb. 2, 2023. The magazine’s attempted takedown of the media’s coverage bolsters Trump’s phony narrative.

Misdirection, an essential tool for magicians, is not usually a component of media criticism. But in a lengthy critique of the coverage of the Trump-Russia scandal published this week by the Columbia Journalism Review, veteran investigative reporter Jeff Gerth deflects attention from the core components of Russiagate, mirroring Donald Trump’s own efforts of the past six years to escape accountability for his profound betrayal of the nation.

Though Gerth’s target is media outlets, particularly the New York Times (where he worked for 29 years), Gerth ends up bolstering Trump’s phony narrative that there was no Russia scandal, just merely a hoax whipped up by reckless reporters and Trump’s enemies in the press, with the assistance of the Deep State.

In a massive 24,000-word, four-part article, Gerth dissects how the Times, the Washington Post, CNN, and other news organizations during the 2016 election and afterward reported on Trump’s and his campaign’s interactions with Russia. (He briefly references, without criticism, the story I published that first revealed the existence of the dossier compiled by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and that reported that the FBI was investigating its allegations.) Gerth does probe genuine errors committed by his former employer and others. The Times, for instance, reported shortly before the 2016 election that the FBI’s investigation had found no link between Trump and Russia, when the bureau had barely begun its inquiry and had reached no final conclusions. And after the election, the Times produced a report in early 2017 that seemingly went too far in the opposite direction when it reported that US intelligence had evidence that “Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election.” (Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, we later learned, had been huddling with a suspected Russian intelligence official during the campaign, but FBI officials handling the Russian investigation at the time saw this Times article as going too far.)

Ultimately Gerth does a disservice by failing to cast Russiagate accurately. Putin’s attack succeeded, with help from Trump and his crew. That has always been the big story.

Gerth finds plenty of ammo for his assault on the media. But here’s where he goes wrong: He misrepresents the scandal that is the subject of the media coverage he is scrutinizing. He defines the Trump-Russia affair by only two elements of the tale: the question of Trump collusion with Moscow and the unconfirmed Steele dossier. This is exactly how Trump and his lieutenants want the scandal to be perceived. From the start, Trump has proclaimed “no collusion,” setting that as the bar for judging him. That is, no evidence of criminal collusion, and he’s scot-free. And he and his defenders have fixated on the Steele dossier—often falsely claiming it triggered the FBI’s investigation—to portray Trump as the victim of untrue allegations and “fake news.” Gerth essentially accepts these terms of the debate.

Yet the focus on collusion and the Steele material has been a purposeful distraction meant to obscure the basics of the scandal: Vladimir Putin attacked the 2016 election in part to help Trump win, and Trump and his aides aided and abetted this assault on American democracy by denying such an attack was happening. Trump provided cover for a foreign adversary subverting a US election. Throughout the thousands and thousands of words Gerth generates, he downplays or ignores these fundamentals and how the media in 2016 covered them (which was shoddily). Instead, he zeroes in on the reporting related to collusion and Steele. In doing so, he offers an examination predicated on a skewed view of reality.

Gerth sets off a worrying signal in the fifth paragraph of this opus, when he writes that there was “an undeclared war between an entrenched media, and a new kind of disruptive presidency, with its own hyperbolic version of the truth.” Hyperbolic version of the truth? What does that mean? Gerth does acknowledge that the Washington Post “has tracked thousands of Trump’s false or misleading statements,” but to cast Trump’s lies as “hyperbolic” truth—as if there are two morally equivalent sides here—indicates this analysis is not going to fare well. (Trump, of course, lied repeatedly about his doings in Russia.)

Throughout the four parts, Gerth lowballs the Russian attack on the election and Trump’s assistance. He quotes academic studies that conclude the secret Russian campaign to exploit social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube—to influence the election did not have a significant measurable impact. Yet he barely mentions the Russian hacking operation that led to WikiLeaks releasing daily derogatory material about Hillary Clinton in the final month of the campaign—including a trove of stolen documents dumped on the day the Washington Post revealed Trump’s Access Hollywood comments. (That move appeared to be a naked attempt to distract from Trump’s “grab ’em by the pussy” remark.) This is where Moscow undoubtedly got its biggest bang, producing weeks of negative stories that prevented the Clinton campaign from advancing its own messaging. The American political press eagerly lapped up these tidbits without highlighting the larger story that the scoops were the results of Russian information warfare mounted to shape the election. In a race as close as 2016, those weeks of bad press were likely one of several decisive factors that determined the outcome.

And Gerth does not acknowledge how Trump and his campaign assisted Moscow’s attack. He writes that “Clinton and her campaign would secretly sponsor and promote an unsubstantiated conspiracy theory that there was a secret alliance between Trump and Russia,” suggesting the media assisted this underhanded plot. But, in a sense, there was a secret alliance. At least, in a wink-and-a-nod fashion. In June 2016—after Trump for months on the campaign trail had defended or spoken highly of Putin—his top advisers (Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Manafort) met in Trump Tower with a Russian emissary who, they were told, would deliver them dirt on Clinton. In the emails setting up this rendezvous, the Trump men were informed that this meeting was arising from a secret Kremlin effort to help Trump. (“I love it,” Trump Jr. emailed the business associate who helped broker this get-together.)

Gerth accurately notes that, as far as we know, the meeting yielded no solid opposition research on Clinton for the Trump campaign to use. He thus describes the meeting as a flop. But he misses the point: With this confab, Team Trump signaled to Moscow that it was willing to accept Putin’s covert assistance. It did not report to the FBI or anyone else that the Kremlin was aiming to intervene in the election. This may not have been collusion; it was complicity. (The New York Times admirably broke the news of this meeting a year later.)

The complicity got worse. The following month, as the Democratic convention was about to convene, WikiLeaks dumped thousands of documents and emails Russian hackers had pilfered from the servers of the Democratic National Committee. The hack had been publicly revealed weeks earlier, and cybersecurity experts had fingered the Russians as the culprits. At the convention, Clinton aides pushed the plausible contention that Moscow was doing this to help Trump. Gerth depicts this move as the campaign promoting “the Russian narrative to the media”—as if it was improper.

Yet he ignores what the Trump campaign did. Manafort and Trump Jr. denied Russia was behind this dirty trick. They insisted the Clinton camp was peddling a hoax. But these Trump advisers, who had attended the meeting with the Russian emissary, had been told Moscow wanted to clandestinely help Trump. They had no factual basis for their denials. Rather, more than most people, they had reason to believe the Russians were indeed behind this. Here was the Trump campaign aiding Putin by disseminating baseless information. Gerth, though, is concerned only with the Clinton campaign reaction. (He does note that Trump infamously called on Russia to hack Clinton to find the purportedly personal emails she had destroyed after leaving the State Department, but he characterizes this as a “playful” quip. He fails to mention the crucial fact that hours after Trump made that statement Russian hackers, according to special counsel Robert Mueller, did try to penetrate Clinton’s computers.)

Trump’s denials of the Russian attack, which continued through the 2016 campaign, were consequential. With the GOP presidential nominee declaring no such thing was occurring, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to join President Barack Obama in developing a robust and bipartisan response to Putin’s assault. Trump might not have been directly colluding with Putin, but he was running interference for him. This was a narrative the media largely missed, and now it escapes Gerth’s attention.

Throughout his long exegesis, Gerth downplays the interactions between the Trump gang and Russia. He does so regarding Trump’s secret effort through much of the 2016 campaign to strike a deal to develop a tower in Moscow that could bring him hundreds of millions of dollars. (A matter Trump lied about to the public.) And he does so regarding Manafort’s relationship with Konstantin Kilimnik, a onetime business associate based in Ukraine.

In 2020, the Senate Intelligence Committee, then chaired by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), released a bipartisan report that said that during the campaign Manafort “directly and indirectly communicated with Kilimnik (as well as Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and several pro-Russian oligarchs in Ukraine). The report characterized Kilimnik as a “Russian intelligence officer” and stated that he “likely served as a channel to Manafort for Russian intelligence services.” Manafort, according to the committee, “sought to secretly share internal Campaign information with Kilimnik.” But that wasn’t all. Kilimink pressed Manafort to secure Trump’s endorsement of a proposal that would hand Russia influence over a large swath of Eastern Ukraine. Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor for Mueller’s investigation, later called this deal the “quo” that Putin wanted for the “quid” of helping Trump’s campaign. Gerth pays this no notice.

Ditto for another potentially explosive disclosure from the committee’s report. It revealed, “The Committee obtained some information suggesting Kilimnik may have been connected to the [Russian intelligence’s] hack and leak operation targeting the 2016 U.S. election.” And the report noted that the committee found “two pieces of information” that “raise the possibility” that Manafort himself was tied “to the hack-and-leak operations.” The report’s discussion of that information was redacted. Whether or not this was confirmation of collusion, it was a big deal: Trump’s campaign chair and his Russian intelligence friend possibly involved with Moscow’s attack on the United States. Yet Gerth neglects to mention the more eye-popping findings related to Kilimnik and Manafort.

Instead, he emphasizes that there has been no public information that proves the Senate panel’s assessment of Kilimnik or the Treasury Department’s subsequent statement in 2021 that Kilimnik was “a Russian and Ukrainian political consultant and known Russian Intelligence Services agent implementing influence operations on their behalf”—as if to dismiss this entire part of the story.

The Senate Intelligence Committee also affirmed that Trump had assisted Putin’s plot against America: “The Trump Campaign publicly undermined the attribution of the hack-and-leak campaign to Russia and was indifferent to whether it and WikiLeaks were furthering a Russian election interference effort.” This is another key point that Gerth does not address.

For Gerth, the whole Trump-Russia scandal is mainly just a mess, with the Times and other news outfits misreporting the Steele dossier and often overstating the case for collusion. He does score points on these fronts, and readers who care about media reliability will find much to ponder in this long takedown. But ultimately Gerth does a disservice by failing to cast Russiagate accurately. Putin’s attack succeeded, with help from Trump and his crew. That has always been the big story. The media did miss much of that or got it wrong, especially during the 2016 campaign. Gerth fails by ignoring that failure.

His ultimate hot-take is that this supposed media failure on the Russia investigation triggered Trump’s attack on journalists (“enemy of the people!”) and widespread public distrust in news organizations. Yet the loss of trust in the media is nothing new. It’s been declining steadily since 1978, long before reporters began pursuing Trump and Russia stores. And the Pew Research Center notes that trust in national news organizations has precipitously dropped among Republicans since 2016, not all Americans.

What’s worse is that Gerth ties this questionable conclusion to Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. He writes:

After the [2020] election, Trump refused to acknowledge the results, seeing them as the latest chapter in the “hoax,” or “witch hunt,” that began with Russia… As Trump became more isolated and undeterred by court rulings and news accounts that shot down his claims the election was rigged, he listened to people who, like him, had been caught up in the Russia inquiry. One was Giuliani and another was Flynn.

Gerth seems to be suggesting that the Times and other media helped create the monster that tried to annihilate the constitutional order.

If the goal of media criticism is to ensure that journalists convey an accurate picture of reality to news consumers, Gerth falls far short of that mark. His version of Russiagate echoes Trump’s distorted narrative and lets the man who assisted an attack on the United States off the hook. Trump may have been the victim of occasionally errant reporting. But he was no victim of a hoax or an off-the-rails media witch hunt. He helped an adversary sabotage an American election. The true media failure is that Trump got away with it and that articles like this one that you are now reading are still necessary.

david corn newDavid Corn, right, is Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief and an on-air analyst for MSNBC. He is the co-author (with Michael Isikoff) of "Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin’s War on America and the Election of Donald Trump." He is the author of three New York Times bestsellers, "Showdown, "Hubris" (with Isikoff), and "The Lies of George W. Bush," as well as the e-book, "47 Percent: Uncovering the Romney Video that Rocked the 2012 Election." 

Feb. 1

Rolling Stone, Feds Charge Former ABC News Producer With Transportation of Child Pornography, Adam Ramsley, Feb. 1, 2023. Federal prosecutors have charged former ABC News producer James Gordon Meek, right, with transportation of child pornography, according to a criminal james gordon meekcomplaint filed in Eastern Virginia on Wednesday.

Federal prosecutors say their investigation into Meek first began after the cloud storage company Dropbox tipped off the National Center for rolling stone logoMissing and Exploited Children about the presence of five suspected videos of child sexual exploitation material in a Dropbox account, according to the complaint. A subsequent investigation of the tip allegedly confirmed the videos depicted child pornography and were linked to Meek’s account. That triggered an investigation which allegedly found Meek posing as a minor to solicit pornographic images of children.

After federal agents raided Meek’s home, prosecutors say they found a trove of pornographic images on the producer’s iPhone 8, iPhone 6, an external hard drive, and laptop depicting the abuse of children as young as a toddler.

When FBI agents examined Meek’s iPhone 8, they allegedly found messages he exchanged with another alleged pedophile with whom Meek traded child pornography. In the messages, Meek appeared to confess to having previously abused children. “Have you ever raped a toddler girl? It’s amazing,” he allegedly wrote in one exchange.

Meek was a well-known figure in national security circles, both as an Emmy-winning journalist and a former counterterrorism adviser and investigator for the House Homeland Security Committee. He was coming off of a well-received documentary about special forces skirmish in Niger, and finishing up a book with a former Green Beret on the U.S. military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then he abruptly resigned from ABC News on April 27, the same day as the raid. And his name suddenly disappeared from the promotional materials for the book.

In addition to trading child sexual abuse material with other enthusiasts, Meek allegedly approached children on Snapchat using the handle “hoolijax” in order to solicit pornographic material.



Jan. 31


Ralph Nader stands in front of a Chevrolet Corvair in The American Museum of Tort Law, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Winsted, Conn. (AP Photo by Jessica Hill.)

Ralph Nader stands in front of a Chevrolet Corvair in The American Museum of Tort Law, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Winsted, Conn. (AP Photo by Jessica Hill.)

Poynter Institute, Why Ralph Nader is launching a print newspaper, Greg Burns, Jan. 31, 2023. Beginning with his hometown in northwest Connecticut, the 88-year-old consumer advocate is determined to do something about the news desert crisis. This article was originally published on Northwestern University’s Medill Local News Initiative website and is republished here with permission. Note to Readers: Justice Integrity Project Editor Andrew Kreig, a former reporter for the Hartford Courant from 1970 to 1984, has joined the editorial advisory board of the new Winsted-based newspaper.

Ralph Nader is starting a newspaper. Yes, that Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate, former presidential candidate and scourge of corporate interests.

At age 88, Nader is still going strong and, beginning with his hometown in northwest Connecticut, he’s determined to do something about the “news desert” crisis in local journalism.

The Winsted Citizen is launching its inaugural edition this week, and, in some ways, it is following a familiar playbook. It is forming a 501(c)3 nonprofit, enabling it to collect tax-deductible donations in addition to subscription and advertising revenue. Nader expects each pillar of the business model to contribute about one-third of revenues once the paper gets going — a business plan not out of the ordinary among startup local news publications.

Also, like other media entrepreneurs, Nader is drawing on the pool of journalists who left traditional news outlets as job prospects fizzled. His well-connected editor and publisher, Andy Thibault, who served for decades as an editor at local publications in Connecticut, has lined up a roster of eager contributors for the Nader-backed venture. Together, Thibault and his colleagues have rallied support and laid plans for ambitious local stories befitting a highly experienced newsroom.

That’s about where the conventional part of The Winsted Citizen game plan comes to an end. No surprise to anyone familiar with Nader’s storied past, a Nader newspaper is going to do things differently, and with plenty of attitude.

For starters, the new paper will be a “paper” paper, printed and delivered by mail and carrier to subscribers, and available for single-copy sales at local advertisers. If Nader has his way, the website will be a sideshow to the printed main event, as he believes digital publications fail to engage readers because they’re too cluttered and abbreviated. Plus, he said, the “real decisionmakers” get their news in print.

After initially announcing that The Winsted Citizen would begin with a single, inaugural edition and then continue as a weekly publication only if local support materialized, a Plan B has emerged. The Citizen will publish at least 11 editions over the course of 2023, on an approximately monthly basis, which represents a compromise. This way, it won’t be one-and-done — a worst-case scenario from Thibault’s point of view — while at the same time it will be keeping expectations realistic for staffers who already know they won’t get rich from the project even if it succeeds.

Nader puts up $15K for the first edition

Billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong have written huge checks to fund their newspaper holdings. Stewart Bainum Jr., a hotel magnate and civic leader, has pledged to raise or contribute $50 million over four years to fund the Baltimore Banner, an online local news startup in Maryland. Nader, meantime, said he has chipped in $15,000 to get the first issue of The Winsted Citizen out the door.

Once he’s launched it, Nader said, the community will come through. He’s counting on it, and he’s dismissive of those who claim a newly minted print newspaper in a small, economically challenged town can’t possibly succeed without a Daddy Warbucks donor.

“Anyone who says a community anywhere in the U.S. cannot support a newspaper is unimaginative,” Nader said in an interview. “Let’s face it, most weeklies are dull and routine. They do very little investigation. There is a total lack of imagination.”

Without a content-rich local newspaper, Nader said, communities decline. “There is less voter turnout, less people turning out for town meetings. If you don’t have a newspaper, you don’t have the community connections that are almost too numerous to mention coming out of every edition. A few websites or blogs don’t cut it.”

Nader grew up in a Winsted served by a six-days-a-week paper packed with foreign, national and local news, he said. The local evening newspaper that Nader delivered as a young paperboy shut down years ago, and other Winsted-based community-news outlets also folded over the years. As of now, Nader states unequivocally, the town of 7,100 is a news desert where citizens are deprived of access to local coverage.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “Definitely.”

That assertion has drawn objections from other local publications in Connecticut, which generally welcome Nader’s effort to expand news coverage while contesting the idea that local journalists have ignored his hometown.

On a recent visit to Winsted, the local Stop & Shop supermarket was stocked with seven print newspapers. That included current print editions of the Waterbury, Connecticut-based Republican-American and the Lakeville Journal of nearby Lakeville, Connecticut, as well as The Hartford Courant, USA Today and the robust daily newspapers of New York City, which is about a two-hour drive away. The Torrington Register-Citizen regularly covers Winsted as well.

In an early interview about launching The Citizen, Nader asserted that Winsted residents had no way to track the town budget without personally attending public meetings, because there was nowhere to read about it. In fact, the Republican-American reporter covering Winsted and surrounding towns wrote a string of budget-related stories, and the Torrington paper also kept tabs on Winsted’s local government.

Winsted is a pretty good news town. Over the past decade, its finance director was convicted of embezzling public funds, the state took over its chronically underfunded school system and a lack of maintenance led to dangerous problems with aging infrastructure, including a well-traveled bridge. None of those stories went unreported.

As in other traditional New England mill towns, the economic base has eroded but civic pride and personality endure.

Winsted is home to the American Mural Project, an arts organization that houses what it describes as the world’s largest indoor collaborative artwork. It’s also the site of the Nader-backed American Museum of Tort Law, which celebrates the transformative power of lawsuits and displays a vintage Chevrolet Corvair, a car Nader famously pronounced “unsafe at any speed” in the 1960s.

Reuniting a community

Jennifer Almquist, a contributor to The Winsted Citizen and resident of a nearby town, said the newspaper’s launch has helped to rally a community still beaten down by the pandemic.

“To try and re-establish the community after three years of COVID is on everyone’s mind,” said Almquist, a photographer and former art gallery owner. “We lost our community, in my view.”

 Greg Burns served as Editorial Board member, columnist and business editor at the Chicago Tribune and as a reporter for BusinessWeek magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times.

Bloomberg News, Trump Sues Journalist Bob Woodward for Releasing Interview Recordings, Mario Parker and Zoe Tillman, Jan. 30, 2023. Suit seeks $49 million in damages, alleges copyright violation. Trump has a track record of suing reporters and news outlets.

Former President Donald Trump is suing journalist Bob Woodward for releasing recordings of interviews that he gave to the journalist in 2019 and 2020, claiming he never agreed to those tapes being shared with the public.

National Press Club Press Release, Club Urges India’s Government to Rescind Ban on BBC Documentary, Bill McCarren (Club Executive Director), Jan. 31, 2023. (JIP Editor Andrew Kreig serves on the Press Club's Press Freedom Committee.)

The Following is a statement from Eileen O'Reilly, president of the National Press Club, and Gil Klein, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute, on the decision by the government of India to censor the airing of a BBC news documentary probing the role national  press club logoPrime Minister Narendra Modi may have played in the 2002 Gujarat riots:

“India should be proud that it is the largest democracy in the world, but it cannot hold on to that identity if it continues to erode press freedom, persecute journalists, and suppress news that holds a mirror up to its shortcomings. Since Modi came to power, we have watched with frustration and disappointment as his government — time and time again — has suppressed the right of its citizens to a free and independent news media.”

bbc news logo2“We strongly urge the government of India to rescind its ban on the BBC documentary and to allow the citizens of India to decide for themselves whether they agree or disagree with its findings. The BBC is one of the most respected news sources in the world and is known for its high editorial standards. We also demand in the strongest terms the government stop its persecution of journalists and suppression of press freedom in India.”

india flag mapAfter the BBC aired a two-part documentary entitled "India: The Modi Question" on Jan. 17, the Indian government used its emergency powers to ban it from being aired in the country. Modi’s government also forced Twitter and YouTube to block the documentary in India under an unjust 2021 information technology law, which the National Press Club has previously criticized.

The BBC documentary examines Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat riots when he was chief minister of the western Indian state. During the riots, thousands of predominantly Muslim Indians were killed, many were raped, and Muslim establishments were set on fire. The Indian Supreme Court exonerated Modi in 2012 of wrongdoing, but the documentary notes the British Foreign Office produced an unpublished report claiming Modi was “directly responsible” for enabling the impunity of violence that led to the killings.

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

The National Press Club Journalism Institute promotes an engaged, global citizenry through an independent and free press and equips journalists with the skills and standards to inform the public in ways that inspire a more representative democracy. The NPCJI is the nonprofit affiliate of the National Press Club.

Fox News, Liberal Columbia Journalism Review offers scathing indictment of New York Times' Russiagate coverage, Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Brian Flood with commentator Jonathan Turley on stunning developments in Durham probe, Jan. 31, 2023. NY Times, Washington Post, CNN fox news logo Smallspearheaded much of the Trump-Russia collusion narrative. Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley weighs in after learning the FBI hired informant with ties to debunked dossier on 'Special Report.'

The liberal media watchdog the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published a wide-ranging retrospective of the media's Russiagate coverage that examined several news organizations and their various roles throughout the Trump-Russia saga, leveling the most criticism toward The New York Times.

"No narrative did more to shape Trump’s relations with the press than Russiagate. The story, which included the Steele dossier and the Mueller report among other totemic moments, resulted in Pulitzer Prizes as well as embarrassing retractions and damaged careers," CJR executive editor Kyle Pope wrote in an editor's note.

columbia journalism review logoPope explained that the CJR spent the past 18 months "examining the American media’s coverage of Trump and Russia in granular detail" to determine what it means as Americans inch closer to the 2024 election.

The findings were published in a lengthy, four-part series. The first section begins with a story about then-New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet’s reaction when he found out Special Counsel Robert Mueller didn’t plan to pursue Trump’s ousting, telling his staff "Holy s---, Bob Mueller is not going to do it."

"Baquet, speaking to his colleagues in a town hall meeting soon after the testimony concluded, acknowledged the Times had been caught ‘a little tiny bit flat-footed’ by the outcome of Mueller’s investigation," wrote Jeff Gerth, the investigative reporter who authored the lengthy CJR retrospective.

"That would prove to be more than an understatement," Gerth continued. "But neither Baquet nor his successor, nor any of the paper’s reporters, would offer anything like a postmortem of the paper’s Trump-Russia saga, unlike the examination the Times did of its coverage before the Iraq War."

Gerth believes the Times damaged its credibility outside its "own bubble" and that even famed journalist Bob Woodward told him coverage of the Russia probe "wasn’t handled well."
The New York Times was skewered by the liberal media watchdog the Columbia Journalism Review over its coverage of Russiagate.

The examination of the Times' questionable coverage began even before Trump was elected into office, highlighting a report from August 2016 claiming Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort allegedly accepted $13 million in cash payments from pro-Russia entities in Ukraine. While he didn't deny the ballpark figure he received, Manafort insisted "the cash angle was clearly wrong." But as Gerth noted, the Times "won a Pulitzer Prize for the work on Manafort."

The Times appeared to go 180 in its coverage. As Gerth noted, it ran the headline, "Investigating Donald Trump, FBI Sees No Clear Link to Russia," in October 2016, pertaining to the conspiracy of secret communications between the Trump Organization and the Kremlin-linked Alfa Bank. But in January 2017, just days before Trump's inauguration, it ran, "Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry into Trump Associates."

Gerth wrote that story "evoked a strong reaction from [Peter] Strzok, who was leading the FBI inquiry: ‘no substance and largely wrong,’ he texted, adding ‘the press is going to undermine its credibility.’"

The paper's coverage escalated, as laid out in part two of CJR's retrospective, with a report published in February 2017 headlined, "Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence," noting Baquet personally signed off with running it, calling it the "biggest story in years."


Despite Baquet's expressed desire for details to be included in the report and to point out whether contacts were considered "innocent" or "sinister," the published details were vague and few. Noted Gerth, "The piece did contain a disclaimer up high, noting that their sources, 'so far,' had seen ‘no evidence’ of the Trump campaign colluding with the Russians," adding "But in the next paragraph it reported anonymous officials being 'alarmed' about the supposed Russian-Trump contacts because they occurred while Trump made his comments in Florida in July 2016 wondering whether Russia could find Hillary’s missing emails."

"The story said ‘the FBI declined to comment.’ In fact, the FBI was quickly ripping the piece to shreds, in a series of annotated comments by Strzok, who managed the Russia case," Gerth wrote. "His analysis, prepared for his bosses, found numerous inaccuracies, including a categorical refutation of the lead and headline; 'we are unaware,' Strzok wrote, ‘of ANY Trump advisers engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials.’ Comey immediately checked with other intelligence agencies to see if they had any such evidence, came up empty, and relayed his findings to a closed Senate briefing, according to testimony at a Senate hearing months later."
Dean Baquet, who served as the New York Times executive editor during the Russiagate saga, was floored by the lackluster conclusion of the Mueller probe.

Dean Baquet, who served as the New York Times executive editor during the Russiagate saga, was floored by the lackluster conclusion of the Mueller probe. (Mario Tama/Getty Images | Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

The Times appeared to legitimize Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy who authored the infamous dossier, claiming he had "a credible track record" while Steele's so-called "primary" source was telling the FBI that Steele "misstated or exaggerated" in his report and that information stemming from Russia was "rumor and speculation."

Part three offered examples of the Times' slight-of-hand coverage against Trump in comparison to other hostile outlets. For example, Trump explained his decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, mentioning the "Russia thing" as being a "made-up story" to NBC's Lester Holt but acknowledged the firing would likely "lengthen out the investigation."

"The media focused on the ‘Russia thing’ quote; the New York Times did five stories over the next week citing the 'Russia thing' remarks but leaving out the fuller context. The Post and CNN, by comparison, included additional language in their first-day story," Gerth wrote.


In another instance, the Times avoided covering some of the more damning texts from Peter Strzok, who wrote "there’s no big there, there" shortly after the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, something Gerth noted was covered by the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

While one former Times reporter admitted to Gerth "We should have run it," a spokesperson for the Times told him it reported on the Russiagate saga "thoroughly and in line with our editorial standards."

Gerth also highlighted how the Times was the first to report on the infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer, which fueled the collusion narrative even further despite that meeting being a "flop." And how the Times reported that then-White House Counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign after Trump "order" Mueller's firing, but McGahn never told Trump he was considering resigning.

He then went into the Times' favoritism towards Democrats versus Republicans, describing a House GOP memo spearheaded by Devin Nunes about alleged FBI abuses in the FISA surveillance of Trump campaign aide Carter Page "politically charged" that "outraged Democrats" while omitting the claim that the Steele dossier was "essential" to the warrant. But then while reporting the Democrats' own memo, the Times called it a "forceful rebuttal" to Trump's complaints of the investigation.
Former President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked The New York Times and other media outlets for their coverage of the Russia investigation.

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked The New York Times and other media outlets for their coverage of the Russia investigation. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Part four included an additional instance of the Times' bias by omission in its coverage of Trump's 2018 Helsinki press conference alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump was asked whether U.S. intelligence or Putin should be believed when it comes to 2016 election meddling. Trump responded by saying "I don’t see any reason why it would be" Russia that was responsible but added he had "great confidence in my intelligence people."

"The first remark received all the attention. Some outlets, like the Times, didn’t include his comments about ‘great confidence’ in US intelligence in their stories, while others, such as the Post, did," Gerth wrote.

Gerth detailed the Times' narrative about Russia's interference in the 2016 election despite intelligence officials assessing in January 2017 that "the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election" couldn't be measured.

"The Times weighed in, at over ten thousand words in September, with its own verdict: ‘The Plot to Subvert an Election,’ the headline read. The first sentence described an obscure banner of Putin that unfurled on his birthday, a few weeks before the election, on a Manhattan bridge. The report quickly noted that the banner was promoted by a fake Twitter account that ultimately was traced back to the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a privately owned troll operation in Russia," Gerth wrote. "This was part, the Times concluded in the fourth paragraph, of 'the most effective foreign interference in an American election in history.' To help buttress its sweeping conclusion, the Times wrote that the Facebook posts by the IRA had an 'eventual audience of 126 million Americans,' describing that as an ‘impressive’ reach that almost matched the numbers of voters in the election."


The "eventual audience of 126 million Americans" claim by the Times was called "bogus" by veteran journalist Gareth Porter since that figure was only a "potential audience," saying that and the paper's omission that Facebook users were exposed to 33 trillion news feeds during that time period "should vie in the annals of journalism as one of the most spectacularly misleading use of statistics of all time."

The retrospective also touched on the fallout of the Durham probe and how its findings crushed the credibility of the Steele dossier and the media's coverage of it as a result.

"It prompted the Washington Post to retract large chunks of a 2017 article in November 2021, and to follow with a long review of Steele’s sources and methods. The Wall Street Journal and CNN did similar looks back. The Times has offered no such retraction, though the paper and other news organizations were quick to highlight the lack of firsthand evidence for many of the dossier’s substantive allegations," Gerth wrote.

In his "afterword" section, Gerth concluded "the erosion of journalistic norms and the media’s own lack of transparency about its work" have fueled distrust in the media broadly and that reporting facts that "run counter to the prevailing narrative."

"In January 2018, for example, the New York Times ignored a publicly available document showing that the FBI’s lead investigator didn’t think, after ten months of inquiry into possible Trump-Russia ties, that there was much there. This omission disserved Times readers. The paper says its reporting was thorough and ‘in line with our editorial standards,'" Gerth, a former Times reporter, wrote. "Another axiom of journalism that was sometimes neglected in the Trump-Russia coverage was the failure to seek and reflect comment from people who are the subject of serious criticism. The Times guidelines call it a 'special obligation.' Yet in stories by the Times involving such disparate figures as Joseph Mifsud (the Maltese academic who supposedly started the whole FBI inquiry), Christopher Steele (the former British spy who authored the dossier), and Konstantin Kilimnik (the consultant cited by some as the best evidence of collusion between Russia and Trump), the paper’s reporters failed to include comment from the person being criticized."

He also took aim at the Times' frequent reliance on vague anonymous sources throughout its Russiagate coverage, particularly the catchphrase "people (or person) familiar with" the matter.

"The Times used it over a thousand times in stories involving Trump and Russia between October 2016 and the end of his presidency, according to a Nexis search," Gerth wrote. "The last executive editor I worked for, Bill Keller, frowned on its use. He told the staff repeatedly the phrase was ‘so vague it could even mean the reporter.’ The Times, in a statement to CJR, said, 'We have strong rules in place governing the use of anonymous sources."

The New York Times did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.

Joseph A. Wulfsohn is a media reporter for Fox News Digital. Story tips can be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and on Twitter: @JosephWulfsohn.

Jan. 30


columbia journalism review logo

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Looking Back on the coverage of Trump (four-part-series), Jeff Gerth with introduction by CJR Editor and jeff gerth imdbPublisher Kyle Pope. Jan. 30, 2023. Jeff Gerth, right, spent three decades at the New York Times, much of it as an investigative reporter, before other journalism efforts beginning in 2005. Disclosures of relationships by him and Kyle Pope with figures in this series are provided at bottom.

By Jeff Gerth, Jan. 30, 2023:

Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), Editor's Note: Looking back on the coverage of Trump, Kyle Pope, right, CJR Editor (and former editor-in-chief of the New York Observer, then owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner), Jan. 30, 2023.

Seven and a kyle popehalf years ago, journalism began a tortured dance with Donald Trump, the man who would be the country’s forty-fifth president—first dismissing him, then embracing him as a source of ratings and clicks, then going all in on efforts to catalogue Trump as a threat to the country (also a great source of ratings and clicks).

No narrative did more to shape Trump’s relations with the press than Russiagate. The story, which included the Steele dossier and the Mueller report among other totemic moments, resulted in Pulitzer Prizes as well as embarrassing retractions and damaged careers. For Trump, the press’s pursuit of the Russia story convinced him that any sort of normal relationship with the press was impossible.

For the past year and a half, CJR has been examining the American media’s coverage of Trump and Russia in granular detail, and what it means as the country enters a new political cycle. Investigative reporter Jeff Gerth interviewed dozens of people at the center of the story—editors and reporters, Trump himself, and others in his orbit.

The result is an encyclopedic look at one of the most consequential moments in American media history. Gerth’s findings aren’t always flattering, either for the press or for Trump and his team. Doubtless they’ll be debated and maybe even used as ammunition in the ongoing media war being waged in the country. But they are important, and worthy of deep reflection as the campaign for the presidency is about, once again, to begin.

Kyle Pope is editor and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review – an essential publication for journalists, and respected watchdog of the press. Starting out as an editor at The Wall Street Journal, Kyle then moved to The New York Observer as editor-in-chief, joining CJR in 2016. In this in-depth interview, he recalls his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, where he argued that Congress had “failed to stand up for press freedom” whilst “under attack” from President Trump; shares his perspective on the role Covid-19 has played in reinforcing the need for a local press – as “granular information became a matter of life or death;” and questions whether it’s possible for a Biden White House to normalise relations with the media, noting the damage caused by Trump may well be “irrecoverable.”

Part One Top Excerpt: 

jeff gerth imdbColumbia Journalism Review (CJR), The press versus the president, Part One, Jeff Gerth, Jan. 30, 2023. INTRODUCTION: ‘I realized early on I had two jobs.’

The end of the long inquiry into whether Donald Trump was colluding with Russia came in July 2019, when Robert Mueller III, the special counsel, took seven, sometimes painful, hours to essentially say no.

“Holy shit, Bob Mueller is not going to do it,” is how Dean Baquet, then the executive editor of the New York Times, described the moment his paper’s readers realized Mueller was not going to pursue Trump’s ouster.

Baquet, speaking to his colleagues in a town hall meeting soon after the testimony concluded, acknowledged the Times had been caught “a little tiny bit flat-footed” by the outcome of Mueller’s investigation.

That would prove to be more than an understatement. But neither Baquet nor his successor, nor any of the paper’s reporters, would offer anything like a postmortem of the paper’s Trump-Russia saga, unlike the examination the Times did of its coverage before the Iraq War.

In fact, Baquet added, “I think we covered that story better than anyone else” and had the prizes to prove it, according to a tape of the event published by Slate. In a statement to CJR, the Times continued to stand by its reporting, noting not only the prizes it had won but substantiation of the paper’s reporting by various investigations. The paper “thoroughly pursued credible claims, fact-checked, edited, and ultimately produced ground-breaking journalism that has proven true time and again,” the statement said.

But outside of the Times’ own bubble, the damage to the credibility of the Times and its peers persists, three years on, and is likely to take on new energy as the nation faces yet another election season animated by antagonism toward the press. At its root was an undeclared war between an entrenched media, and a new kind of disruptive presidency, with its own hyperbolic version of the truth. (The Washington Post has tracked thousands of Trump’s false or misleading statements.) At times, Trump seemed almost to be toying with the press, offering spontaneous answers to questions about Russia that seemed to point to darker narratives. When those storylines were authoritatively undercut, the follow-ups were downplayed or ignored.

Jan. 28

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk says he met McCarthy and Jeffries to ensure Twitter is ‘fair,’ Adela Suliman and Cat Zakrzewski, Jan. 28, 2023 (print ed.). Jeffries staff suggests his meeting with Musk was a chance encounter.

elon musk 2015Twitter owner Elon Musk, right, met Thursday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Capitol Hill, as his chaotic takeover of the social network stokes a years-long debate over how Washington should regulate the tech industry.

twitter bird CustomMusk tweeted that he also met with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.)., but an aide to Jeffries told The Washington Post that the Democratic leader and Musk had only a coincidental encounter as the billionaire was leaving his meeting with McCarthy. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private exchange.

Few details were known about what was discussed during the meetings. In a Thursday night Tweet, Musk said that they talked about “ensuring that this platform is fair to both parties.” He was only briefly glimpsed by reporters on the Hill.

Musk’s efforts to overhaul Twitter have catapulted the company to the forefront of a heated, years-long debate over how social media giants moderate political speech. His visit to Capitol Hill comes as lawmakers from both parties have called for new laws to address tech companies’ growing grip on political discourse.

Yet despite a half decade of hearings and investigations focused on Silicon Valley tech giants, lawmakers largely remain at an impasse on how to regulate the industry. Republicans plan to use their control of the House to focus on allegations that tech companies are silencing their political views online, while Democrats argue the companies have done to little to stop the amplification of violence, extremism and hate.

Since taking over Twitter last fall, Musk has dismantled many of the key teams that focused on limiting the spread of violent content and misinformation on Twitter. He also has overturned the suspensions on many conservative accounts that violated Twitter’s rules under previous company leadership, including former president Donald Trump’s account, which was permanently banned in the wake of the violence at the Capitol.

Musk’s moves have largely been cheered by Republican politicians, who have accused tech companies for years of harboring a bias against conservatives. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have seized on the “Twitter Files,” leaked internal communications about how the company handled content moderation in the run-up to the 2020 election and the pandemic.

Jan. 27

Durham-Barr Scandal At Justice Dept.?

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: How Barr’s Quest to Find Flaws in the Russia Inquiry Unraveled, Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner, Jan. 26, 2023. The review by John Durham, right, at one point veered into a criminal investigation related to Donald Trump himself, even as it john durham Customfailed to find wrongdoing in the origins of the Russia inquiry.

It became a regular litany of grievances from President Donald J. Trump and his supporters: The investigation into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia was a witch hunt, they maintained, that had been opened without any solid basis, went on too long and found no proof of collusion.

donald trump for president button nice smileEgged on by Mr. Trump, Attorney General William P. Barr set out in 2019 to dig into their shared theory that the Russia investigation likely stemmed from a conspiracy by intelligence or law enforcement agencies. To lead the inquiry, Mr. Barr turned to a hard-nosed prosecutor named John H. Durham, and later granted him special counsel status to carry on after Mr. Trump left office.

But after almost four years — far longer than the Russia investigation itself — Mr. Durham’s work is coming to an end without uncovering anything like the deep state plot alleged by Mr. Trump and suspected by Mr. Barr.

Moreover, a monthslong review by The New York Times found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.

Interviews by The Times with more than a dozen current and former officials have revealed an array of previously unreported episodes that show how the Durham inquiry became roiled by internal dissent and ethical disputes as it went unsuccessfully down one path after another even as Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr promoted a misleading narrative of its progress.

Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it.

Mr. Durham used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media. Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.

There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known. The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)

Now, as Mr. Durham works on a final report, the interviews by The Times provide new details of how he and Mr. Barr sought to recast the scrutiny of the 2016 Trump campaign’s myriad if murky links to Russia as unjustified and itself a crime.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: What did the Italians tell Barr and Durham about Donald Trump's criminal activity? Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 22 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, Jan. 27, 2023.

In the fall of 2019, Attorney General William Barr and John Durham, the Special Counsel assigned by Barr to investigate the FBI for wrongly investigating Donald Trump and his 2016 presidential campaign for ties to Russia, flew to Italy to pressure law enforcement there to fess up that they were involved with the FBI in what was falsely called by Trump the "Russia hoax."

wayne madesen report logoInstead of getting the goods on the FBI -- whose top counterintelligence agent in New York at the time was in bed with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska --Italian law enforcement provided Barr and Durham with information that Trump was involved in a major criminal matter, including suspicious financial dealings. Barr assigned Durham, a pro-Trump shill, to investigate the matter, granting him, for the first time, criminal prosecution authority. Not only did Durham not find any evidence of a "Russia hoax" involving the FBI logoDemocratic Party, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, or George Soros -- all of whom Durham had under investigation -- but the criminal matter conveyed by the Italians was never acted upon.

WMR had reported on a serious criminal matter involving the car bombing assassination of Maltese journalist  Daphne Caruana Galizia, right, on October 16, 2017 and its possible ties to Trump. Italian intelligence and law enforcement have kept a close eye on Malta daphne caruana galizia croppedever since the 1970s, when the island country developed close ties with the Soviet Union and Libya. Although Malta is now a member of the European Union, the Carabinieri and Guardia di Finanza (Financial Guard), as well as the Agenzia Informazioni e Sicurezza Esterna (AISE) foreign intelligence service maintain a close eye on Malta, which has become a haven for offshore banking, corporate brass plates, and Russian and other foreign residents who have purchased Maltese passports and established residency in the twin island nation.

Caruana Galizia was assassinated after she had implicated Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, his wife, and top aides in a scandal partly exposed by the release of the Panama Papers. The scandal led directly from Malta to Azerbaijan and, ultimately, to the Trump Organization in New York.

Caruana Galizia was well-aware of Trump's connections to international wealth and political and financial power brokers. During the 2016 presidential campaign, she wrote on her website, "You can't get more establishment than billionaire Donald Trump, scion of an extremely wealthy WASP family. So the real problem is stupidity and malice. But then it always was."

And, as she found out a year later, you can't get more corrupt and murderous than Donald Trump. Whatever the Italians passed on to Barr and Durham about Trump, America's "Mr. Magoo" Attorney General, Merrick Garland, has a duty and an obligation to the American people to make that information public without delay.

truth social logo

ny times logoNew York Times, On Trump’s Social Network: Ads for Miracle Cures, Scams and Fake Merchandise, Stuart A. Thompson (Stuart Thompson used a program to collect and analyze hundreds of ads that ran on Truth Social over the past several months), Jan. 27, 2023. Truth Social, the social network started by former President Trump, has struggled to attract large brands.

Between posts about conspiracy theories and right-wing grievances was an unusual advertisement: a photo of former President Donald J. Trump holding a $1,000 bill made of gold, which he was apparently offering free to supporters.

But there were a few catches: The bill was not free, it was not made of gold, and it was not offered by Mr. Trump.

The ad appeared on Truth Social, the right-wing social network started by Mr. Trump in late 2021, one of many pitches from hucksters and fringe marketers dominating the ads on the site.

Ads from major brands are nonexistent on the site. Instead, the ads on Truth Social are for alternative medicine, diet pills, gun accessories and Trump-themed trinkets, according to an analysis of hundreds of ads on the social network by The New York Times.

The ads reflect the difficulty that several far-right platforms, including Rumble and Gab, have faced in courting large brands, preventing the sites from tapping into some of the world’s largest ad budgets. It could be particularly problematic for Truth Social. Although the site has gained influence among the far right, becoming a vibrant ecosystem brimming with activity, its business is in need of cash.

Truth Social raised about $37 million, mainly from Republican political donors, but it is burning through about $1.7 million each month, according to William Wilkinson, a former executive at Trump Media & Technology Group, the social network’s parent company. And two federal investigations have put about $1.3 billion of much-needed funding in jeopardy.

Devin Nunes, the chief executive of Trump Media, said in an announcement last year that the company’s ad strategy would help it “displace the Big Tech platforms” as a major way to reach Americans.

But ad experts say the wariness from prominent brands on far-right social networks, which have positioned themselves as free-speech alternatives to Silicon Valley giants like Meta and Google, is driven by the kinds of conspiracy theories and hyperpartisan politics often found on the sites.

In addition, they say, Truth Social has a relatively small user base and many older users, who are less desirable for the brands. Marketers have complained that Truth Social’s ad-serving technology, run by Rumble, a right-wing video streaming website, offers limited tools for tracking an ad’s performance or for showing ads to users based on their demographic profiles. Those tools, now standard among larger ad networks operated by Google and Meta, are vital for determining an ad’s success.

Politico, Facebook was a cash cow for Trump. It could end up being a ‘bronze goose,’ Zach Montellaro, Jan. 27, 2023. The platform has changed. And operatives in both parties aren’t convinced that Trump can dominate there again.

politico CustomFacebook was the financial engine of Donald Trump’s previous two runs for president. But for his third campaign for the White House, it might not be such a powerhouse.

Advertising on the social media giant has changed significantly since Trump was last on the platform. Republicans say investments in Facebook no longer translate to small-dollar donors as they once did. Campaigns are spending far less on advertising there. And while the facebook logoformer president has always been a unique draw for conservatives on Facebook, there are significant questions as to whether an out-of-office Trump still has the same pull that a President Trump did.

“We saw in the midterms how a lot of campaigns were shifting their money to streaming, because Facebook just was not giving them the return on value that they had seen in the past,” said Katie Harbath, a one-time senior Republican digital staffer who then spent a decade at Facebook, before leaving in early 2021.

Trump was suspended from Facebook for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 riot in early 2021. But the suspension wasn’t permanent and Meta, Facebook’s parent company, said earlier this week that it would be lifted soon.

“President Trump should have never been banned, so getting back on this platform allows the campaign access to that universe once again,” Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement. “We are getting closer to the full spectrum of building out the operation and dominating at every level, which we have already been doing based on poll numbers.”

The platform Trump is rejoining, however, is different from the one from which he was exiled. And how his team manages those changes could go a long way in determining the success of his efforts for a second term as president.

For starters, Facebook placed notable restrictions on ad targeting for political clients at the beginning of last year. And in 2021, Apple turned off ad tracking on their phones for users by default.

Those alterations represented a seismic shift for the advertising world. It also had profound impacts on political campaigns. Digital operatives from both parties say the changes have made it less valuable for campaigns to advertise on the social media behemoth.

One Republican who worked on statewide campaigns in recent cycles, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal fundraising metrics, said there was a notable dip in campaigns’ return on investment. “In 2020, [return on investment] on a really good day would be 200 percent. The minimum was 150 percent in 2020,” the operative said. “In 2022, it would be 90 percent or 80 percent. We would celebrate it when 110 [percent] came in.”

Jan. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ukrainian journalists are uncovering Ukrainian corruption, Adam Taylor, Jan. 26, 2023. In October, Ukrainian news outlet shared photos of Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, driving a new Chevrolet Tahoe SUV that had been donated for humanitarian aid. Two months later, the news website Ukrainska Pravda reported that Tymoshenko had been filmed multiple times driving a 2021 Porsche Taycan, worth around $100,000, through Kyiv earlier in the year.

ukraine flagTymoshenko dismissed the insinuations, suggesting the Chevrolet was used for official business and that he had only been borrowing the Porsche. But with so much of the country suffering economic devastation, the ostentatious modes of transport chosen by a senior Zelensky adviser made waves.

“Can the representatives of power in this country, a quarter territory lies already in ruins, live luxuriously?” wrote Mykhailo Tkach, the Ukrainska Pravda journalist who broke the story on the Porsche.

This week, Kyiv saw a series of resignations or dismissals, many of which appeared to be related to allegations of graft. Tymoshenko was among the most prominent to leave office, but there was also Deputy Defense Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov and Deputy Prosecutor General Oleksiy Symonenko, as well as five governors of front-line provinces.

The headlines are deeply uncomfortable for the Ukrainian government. Since the invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, Zelensky has become an international icon, praised for his resilience and steady hand. But reports of corruption are likely to alarm many in Western capitals, which have sent huge sums of money to Ukraine to balance the economic catastrophe of the war.

Jan. 25


devin nunes file flagPolitico, Washington Post lawyers are deposing ex-Nunes aides in libel suit about 2017 White House visit, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney, Jan. 25, 2023. The then-California congressman (shown above) sued The Post in 2020, claiming the characterization of the meeting as a “midnight run” was erroneous and intended to imply nefariousness.

politico CustomAttorneys for The Washington Post have been deposing ex-aides to Devin Nunes as the newspaper fends off the former GOP lawmaker’s libel suit connected to an unusual trip Nunes made to the Trump White House in 2017.

At a court hearing on Wednesday, a lawyer for the newspaper indicated that it had subpoenaed and spoken with several staffers in pursuit of new details about Nunes’ March 21, 2017, visit to the White House to review classified intelligence, as well as his decision to travel to the White House the next day and brief then-President Donald Trump.

Among those the attorneys have deposed: Michael Ellis, a former Nunes aide on the House Intelligence Committee, who later worked in the Trump White House, and Jennifer Morrow, Nunes’ longtime scheduler.

In late 2020, Nunes sued The Post. He alleges in his complaint that a Post story published earlier that year — that labeled Nunes’ visit to the White House a “midnight run” aimed at buttressing Trump’s baseless claims that he had his “wires tapped” while he was a candidate for president — was erroneous and intended to imply nefariousness. The Post report came amid escalating probes related to the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia, and as Trump attacked intelligence agencies pursuing the matter.

Politico, Meta to reinstate Donald Trump’s Facebook account, Rebecca Kern, Jan. 25, 2023. Trump's campaign team had petitioned the company to reinstate his account in mid-January, saying that a continued ban would amount to Meta silencing "Mr. Trump's political voice."

politico CustomMeta will lift the ban on Donald Trump’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in the coming weeks after a suspension that lasted more than two years.

meta logoThe decision restores the former president’s access to a platform that he used to powerful effect as a campaigner, and could potentially boost his faltering 2024 fundraising. But a Trump return could also lead to more election misinformation on the platform, Democrats warn, since Facebook has a policy of not fact-checking political candidates — and Trump has continued to push the false narrative that he was the true winner of the 2020 election. Trump had been banned by Facebook after violating rules against incitement of violence after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box,” Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs and the U.K.’s former deputy prime minister, said in a blog post announcing the decision.

“But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act,” he said.

Trump’s campaign team had petitioned the company to reinstate his account in mid-January, saying that a continued ban would amount to Meta silencing “Mr. Trump’s political voice.”

However, it’s unclear how quickly Trump will rejoin. He has not resumed posting on Twitter since Elon Musk reinstated him in November, and his campaign did not return a request for comment. Trump’s team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Even if Trump chooses to rejoin, many political observers think it’s unlikely he’ll regain his previous level of influence.

In making its decision to restore Trump’s account, Meta evaluated several factors, including violent incidents and indicators of civil unrest. The company had initially suspended the president after his role in the Jan. 6 issurection, then extended the ban indefinitely.

Meta, Twitter and Google’s YouTube all banned Trump for posts inciting violence that were tied to the Jan. 6 insurrection. It wasn’t until he launched his own social media company — Truth Social — in February 2022 that he was able to more widely reach his audiences again, although its reach is far smaller, with just 4.7 million followers compared to 34 million on Facebook and 23 million on Instagram.

dominion voting systems

ny times logoNew York Times, The Times Asks Judge to Unseal Documents in Fox News Defamation Case, Jeremy W. Peters, Jan. 25, 2023. Most of the evidence in the case has remained under seal at the request of Fox’s lawyers.

The New York Times asked a judge on Wednesday to unseal some legal filings that contain previously undisclosed evidence in a defamation suit brought against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems, a company targeted with conspiracy theories about rigged fox news logo Smallmachines and stolen votes in the 2020 election.

Most of the evidence in the case — including text messages and emails taken from the personal phones of Fox executives, on-air personalities and producers in the weeks after the election — has remained under seal at the request of lawyers for the network.

Federal law and the law in Delaware, where the case is being heard, broadly protect the public’s right of access to information about judicial proceedings. The law allows for exceptions if a party in a lawsuit can show good cause to keep something under seal, such as a company seeking to protect a trade secret or financial information.

The judge in the case, Eric M. Davis, has cautioned that neither Fox nor Dominion was entitled to keep information secret for reasons not covered by those limited exceptions, including, he said last month, the fact that something “may be embarrassing.”

Dominion filed the lawsuit in early 2021, arguing that “Fox sold a false story of election fraud in order to serve its own commercial purposes.” It is asking for $1.6 billion in damages from the network and its parent company, Fox Corporation.

Fox has defended itself by claiming that the commentary of its hosts and guests was protected under the First Amendment, and that the allegations of fraud made by former President Donald J. Trump and his allies were inherently newsworthy, even if they were false.

The Times argued that the law tilts heavily toward the public’s right to access even if it also allows for limited exceptions. The Times is being joined by National Public Radio in its request to make public hundreds of pages of documents filed under seal this month by Fox and Dominion.


roger ailes and laurie luhn split h 2016Hollywood Reporter, Fox News Employee Laura Luhn Sues Network Over Roger Ailes’ Sexual Harassment and Blackmail, Staff Report, Jan. 25, 2023. The former Fox News employee, shown above right, is suing the network, along with former co-president Bill Shine and hollywood reporter logoparent company 21st Century Fox, under New York's Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on certain sexual misconduct claims.

Former Fox News employee Laura Luhn is suing the network over decades of alleged abuse by late CEO Roger Ailes (shown above left) — including an allegation that he blackmailed her with sexually explicit videos. The suit, which also includes claims against former co-president Bill Shine and parent company 21st Century Fox, is being filed under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which temporarily lifts the statute of limitations on certain sexual misconduct claims.

In a Wednesday filing, Luhn claims Ailes subjected her to sexual abuse, discrimination, manipulation and threats spanning two decades. Ailes in 2016 stepped down from the company he founded after several women, including anchors bill shineGretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct. She’s suing Fox News for unlawful discrimination and negligence, and Shine for aiding and abetting the actions. Shine resigned in 2017 amid allegations that he covered up Ailes’ behavior.

“Roger Ailes used his position as the head of Fox News to trap Laura W. Luhn in a decades-long cycle of sexual abuse,” states the filing, which The Hollywood Reporter obtained through the New York state court portal. “To ensure her compliance and public silence, Ailes photographed and videotaped Luhn in compromising positions — blackmail material that he explicitly described as his ‘insurance policy’ — and made clear to Luhn that any attempt to speak out or stop the abuse would result in severe personal fox news logo Smallhumiliation and career ruin.”

Her complaint, which alleges misconduct from 1991 to 2011, is being filed now because the ASA, which was signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on May 24, 2022, effectively suspends time constraints on claims involving sex offenses during a one-year lookback window that opened Nov. 24. It includes a provision that allows for claims against employers if the incident involved the workplace.

Luhn says she first met Ailes at President George H.W. Bush’s campaign headquarters in 1988, prior to his election. Years later, he hired her at his then-company Ailes Communications. Luhn says she was forced to give Ailes oral sex regularly, that he referred to her as his “sex slave” and demanded she wear a black garter and stockings, which he called her “uniform,” during a meeting in a hotel room shortly after she started working for him. In that meeting, in which he allegedly referred to her as his “whore” and “spy” and demanded she do whatever he told her no matter when or where, Luhn says he videotaped her and said he was going to “put it in a safe-deposit box just so we understand each other.”

Luhn first went public with her claims against Ailes in a July 2016 New York Magazine story, in which she called him a “predator” and said she felt the experience was “psychological torture.” She told the magazine that he demanded sexual favors and was asked to “lure” young female employees into meeting with Ailes alone. At the time of the story, Ailes’ attorney Susan Estrich denied the allegations and said, “It is disturbing that she is the subject of one reporter’s journalistic exploitation.” Ailes died in 2017 of complications following a fall, during which he’d hit his head.

ny times logoNew York Times, Five Stars, Zero Clue: Fighting the ‘Scourge’ of Fake Online Reviews, Maria Cramer, Jan. 25, 2023.  Third parties pay writers for posts praising or panning hotels, restaurants and other places they’ve never visited. Review sites are trying to stop the flood.

Oobah Butler knew it was wrong to write fake online reviews for restaurants where he had never dined.

But he was 21, broke and living in his parents’ house in Feckenham, an English village 115 miles northwest of London. A faceless vendor on a website that advertised freelance work offered to pay him 10 pounds, about $15 at the time, for each review he wrote and posted on the travel site Tripadvisor.

The job was simple. He would receive an email with the restaurant’s name. Then he would log into one of the four or five profiles he had set up on Tripadvisor to avoid suspicion, look at pictures of the restaurant’s food and study the menu.

The reviews were always positive (raving was a job requirement) and “verbose,” he said.

One post said a waiter was so attentive he should get a raise. Another said something along the lines of “this place has one of the finest Greek pastries in London.”

“I wasn’t even living in London at the time,” Mr. Butler said. “I was writing from a very limited experience of curry houses and chip shops. At the time I was more versed in beans and toast.”

It has been 10 years since Mr. Butler, now 30 and actually living in London, has written false reviews, but plenty of others have stepped in where he left off.

In 2022, Yelp, another review site, said its moderators removed more than 700,000 posts that violated its policies — including many that were abusive or deceptive. In 2020, more than 26 million reviews were posted on Tripadvisor. The company said it took down nearly one million it deemed fraudulent, according to its 2021 transparency report.

Fake reviews have led to legal consequences. In 2018, the owner of PromoSalento, an Italian company offering to write paid reviews of hospitality businesses, was sentenced to nine months in prison after an Italian court determined that he had used a fake identity to write false reviews on Tripadvisor.

Last November, Google filed a lawsuit against dozens of companies and websites, accusing them of carrying out “a large-scale scam” to mislead small businesses by selling them “fake or worthless services,” including “the option of essentially flooding a competitor’s business profile” found on Google search with fake negative reviews or ratings.

Jan. 24


scott adams via proofProof, Investigative Commentary: Has Twitter Had a Far-Right Bent for Years? Are #TheTwitterFiles a Fraud? Seth Abramson, left, Jan. 24, 2023 (Long column excerpted below). The Debate Leads to seth abramson graphicStrange Words About Me By “Dilbert” Creator Scott Adams (above) and Even Elon Musk Himself.

If you work on controversial topics, you draw attention from polarizing people. But my debunking of a major #TwitterFiles meme led to odder interactions than I expected—and some explosive revelations.

seth abramson proof logoThe New York Daily News and others have reported on Adams’ “many controversies and inflammatory comments”, which have led to the cancellation of Dilbert in newspapers across the United States. Dilbert is a comic strip about the banalities of office life in America.

I won’t detail here all of the stupid things that Scott Adams has said to become such a controversial figure—as they’re numberless, and after all, we all say stupid things at times, though few of us things as spectacularly tone-deaf and preposterous as Adams has said—but I will at least offer the summary from the Daily News referenced above: In 2020, reflecting on the cancellation of the TV adaptation of Dilbert decades earlier, he tweeted, “I lost my TV show for being white.” Adams claimed that wasn’t the first time he twitter bird Customsuspects being white worked against him professionally. He has also joked on Twitter that he was going to “self-identify as a Black woman” so that he’d be considered for the Supreme Court.

Always the entrepreneur, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip has lately positioned himself as the defender and interpreter of all things Trump. So far it’s been a winning bet. Adams’s book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter has achieved bestseller status and his blog has racked up a whole lot of eyeballs.

In any case, while I seem to recall that I might have tilted with Adams once or twice online in the past—frankly, many have—I certainly didn’t think he’d devote a segment of his popular video blog-cum-podcast to me. But recently he did so, and it opened up a new narrative about #TheTwitterFiles and the Trump-Russia scandal I never would have expected.

The Adams Podcast Takes Me On—But Also, Elon Musk.

Like many journalists, I used to admire [Matt] Taibbi before he decided to leave journalism and enter the much darker but more lucrative world of far-right propaganda with other opportunists like Glenn Greenwald and Bari Weiss.

matt taibbiTaibbi, left, has followed me on Twitter for many, many years—I do not and have never followed him—and has at times seemed obsessed with me, repeatedly commenting on my writing and research despite the fact that there’s little point in doing so: Taibbi, who lived in Russia for many years and allegedly engaged in all sorts of grotesque misconduct while there, believes the Trump-Russia scandal was a “hoax”, whereas I have spent years of my professional life as a journalist substantiating that the scandal was nothing of the sort. That effort has involved thousands and thousands of major-media citations compiled into three bestselling hardcover books, an ebook, a podcast, a substack, a popular Twitter feed, and a fast-growing Post News feed.

I have nothing really to say to Taibbi anymore, and vice versa, because he is for some eldritch reason (or it could just be mountains of cash) committed to running cover for Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump without any compelling evidence in support of his tawdry crusade. I call my transient spat with Taibbi a “wrinkle” in the Scott Adams-oriented narrative I’m unfolding here because, as Forbes noted, Adams has a well-documented penchant for hitching his wagon to the star of the nearest would-be authoritarian celebrity-cum-tyrant and seeing how far that sycophancy will take him.

For years that man has been Donald Trump, but with Trump’s star now fading a bit—if not so much among his MAGA base as certain MAGA influencers—one might expect Adams to be looking for a new ideological patron.

And right now the clearest pick in that direction would be Elon Musk. Elon Musk suddenly interjected himself into my spat with Taibbi a few days ago.


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

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” in December, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story and limit other controversial messaging that Musk wants distributed. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

Musk has invested Taibbi with primary authority to selectively report out carefully curated pieces of Twitter’s internal communications, all of which are designed to discredit Musk’s predecessors at the company—a leadership cadre he detests, likely for having run the company as competently as it did for so many years before Musk bought it and ran it directly into the ground at speed. Given that Musk has already lost one of the stenographers he chose to disseminate his revenge-porn-like pseudo-journalism—the aforementioned far-right columnist Bari Weiss, who publicly abandoned Musk over his hypocritical illiberalism on free speech—he can ill afford to reveal any daylight between himself and another of his minions. Thus, his reflexive defense of Matt Taibbi at—at least what appears to be—all costs.

So Here’s Where Things Start to Get Weird…

If Taibbi and Musk didn’t react well to me showing them a now-famous Guardian article confirming that the Trump-Russia investigation was actually informally launched in 2015 on the basis of reliable intelligence from seven allied intelligence agencies, Adams reacted even worse to me citing another now-famous Guardian report that says Twitter has had a systemic right-wing bias ensconced inside its algorithm for many, many years now. Adams leads up to his fury over the Guardian report by first addressing what he sees as the preposterousness of the Politico article that undermines Taibbi’s claims about the #ReleaseTheMemo imbroglio.

The analysis published the Guardian, and the confession by Twitter, renders the main thrust of the #TwitterFiles project farcical.

Why It All Matters. As I put the finishing touches on this massive Proof report over the last few days, the world learned three astonishingly significant things that are relevant to the subject of this narrative:

  1. truth social logoDonald Trump is returning to Twitter—despite denials from Truth Social chief Devin Nunes—as multiple sources have confirmed that Trump is looking to end his exclusivity agreement with his own social media platform when that contract ends in June.
  2. FBI counterintelligence may have been compromised during the Trump-Russia scandal, inasmuch as there may have been secret ties between the Russian oligarch who led Trump-Russia collusion on the Russian side—Paul Manafort’s longtime boss, Oleg Deripaska—and one of the top FBI counterintelligence officials at the time, Charles McGonigal, who was in fact the lead in the Trump-Russia investigation.
  3. Elon Musk responded to the news of Trump returning to Twitter by suggesting that he believes the Biden administration will try to “weaponize federal agencies against Twitter” in response.

If you put all these new items together, you get the following interconnected narrative:

1. The most lucrative tweeter in American history is about to return to Elon Musk’s near-bankrupt Twitter, which could single-handedly save Musk’s demonstrably bad $44 billion investment in the platform;

2. Musk must justify his reinstatement of Trump—the event that has opened the door to Trump’s lucrative, potentially Twitter-saving return to the platform—by falsely contending that Twitter long systematically disfavored (rather than issued spectacular hidden advantages to) dangerous far-right elected officials like Trump;

3. as more and more evidence emerges establishing the truth of what I was the first to report on (at HuffPost) six years ago—the New York City field office of the FBI, run by Charles McGonigal, was a nest of pro-Trump sentiment before and during the Trump-Russia scandal—the attempt by the new House GOP majority that Elon Musk openly stumped for on Twitter to frame the FBI as pro-Biden is now more likely than ever to fail, which will force the House GOP to engage in precisely the same sort of disinformation campaign about systemic biases in a massive institution that Musk and Taibbi and Adams have been waging on behalf of Twitter;

and 4. a pretty good sign that Musk is ready and willing to aid Congress in committing this new fraud on the American people (putting aside all the allegations of fraud Musk has faced over the years) is that his first response to the news that Trump is returning to Twitter was to spread a baseless conspiracy theory about pro-Biden deep-state actors inside the federal executive branch—where the FBI also resides. There’s not a jagged line between these four elements, but a straight one.

And indeed, Proof will add one more data-point to this group: that Mr. Trump is rejoining Twitter because he needs to do so to successfully run for President of the United States in 2024, which means that Elon Musk’s willingness to aid and abet false Trumpist and congressional narratives about the Biden administration—which false narratives he is trying to ensure dovetail with his own false narratives about pro-Democratic bias inside Twitter—can only have the effect of propping up a flailing Donald Trump presidential campaign whose success in 2024 could well mean the end of American democracy.

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

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

ny times logoNew York Times, Victor Navasky, a Leading Liberal Voice in Journalism, Dies at 90, Joseph Berger Jan. 24, 2023. Witty and contrarian, he was the longtime editor and later publisher of The Nation and wrote an acclaimed book about the Hollywood blacklisting era.

Victor S. Navasky, a witty and contrarian journalist who for 27 years as either editor or publisher commanded The Nation, the left-leaning magazine that is America’s oldest weekly, and who also wrote the book “Naming Names,” a breakthrough chronicle of the Hollywood blacklisting era, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 90.

His death, in a hospital, was caused by pneumonia, his son, Bruno, said. Mr. Navasky had homes on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and in Hillsdale, N.Y.

The Nation, based in New York, was founded in 1865 by abolitionists and had long been an influential voice for civil rights, free expression, progressive labor legislation and criticism of the Vietnam War. When he was named editor in 1978, Mr. Navasky introduced a droll sensibility that leavened the magazine’s sometimes too-earnest prose.

In addition to adopting an irreverent tone in his own articles, he encouraged idiosyncratic writers like Alexander Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens and Calvin Trillin, who in his “Uncivil Liberties” column referred to his boss as “the wily and parsimonious Victor S. Navasky.”

The Desire to Live, Film Advocacy and Human Rights: Shocking Doc wins 136 awards from 72 Film Festivals worldwide In 2022, Ilene Proctor, Jan. 24, 2023. 'The Desire to Live' is a devastating documentary of an active, unprovoked attack. With brutal honesty the film captures the beginning of the final stage of the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Christian Armenian population.

Diaspora Films presents The Desire to Live, a documentary feature by director/writer/editor Mariam Avetisyan, a brave young filmmaker living in Artsakh Armenia, produced by Peter Bahlawanian. A visually stunning record of the 2020 war’s impact on the indigenous people of Artsakh, the film depicts the uncertainty and challenges of a crippled or nonexistent livelihood in a region wracked by war.

After so much devastation and ongoing conflict, this award-winning documentary is helping spread the message of the country’s many struggles, especially that of its native people. With almost no narrative, audiences are free to focus on the visual storytelling before them, in the faces of children wondering about tomorrow, in the eyes of the elderly who have survived so much conflict. The message is conveyed in the inevitable lines of worry on the faces of mothers and fathers that have lost so much.

The Desire to Live is the recipient of 136 awards from 72 Festivals worldwide. The film is in a web series available to watch on YouTube free of charge, with Season 4 set to be released in February 2023.

Jan. 23

ny times logoNew York Times, Spotify is laying off about 600 employees, joining a growing list of tech companies that are cutting costs, Isabella Simonetti, Jan. 23, 2023. Spotify, the audio streaming platform, is laying off 6 percent of its work force, or about 600 employees, joining a growing list of big tech companies that are cutting costs amid persistent worries about the global economy.

spotify logo“As you are well aware, over the last few months we’ve made a considerable effort to rein in costs, but it simply hasn’t been enough,” Daniel Ek, Spotify’s chief executive, said in a note to employees on Monday. The company had more than 9,800 employees at the end of the third quarter, according to regulatory filings.

The music and podcast platform is the latest technology company to lay off employees to keep expenses under control as concerns about a recession loom. Last week, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, laid off 12,000 employees, and Microsoft let go of 10,000. Media companies have also been reducing their work forces. Vox Media cut 7 percent of its staff on Friday, and in December, The Washington Post told employees there would be layoffs at the company.

The layoffs at Spotify, which is based in Stockholm, were largely because of macroeconomic challenges, Mr. Ek said in the note. “I was too ambitious in investing ahead of our revenue growth,” he wrote. The company is offering employees about five months of severance pay and health care in addition to career counseling services. Spotify will incur 35 million to 45 million euros in severance costs, the company said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Jan. 21

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Don’t ban TikTok. Make it safer for the country, Editorial Board, Jan. 21, 2023. To teenagers, TikTok is mostly about makeup tutorials and music-inflected memes. But to many policymakers, the video-sharing site is about totalitarianism and illegal surveillance. National security concerns over parent company ByteDance’s relationship with the Chinese government have put Gen Z’s favorite social media service in peril — and what happens next will have even broader implications.

tiktok logo CustomThe TikTok debate is forcing President Biden’s White House to weigh how to protect the nation against the real threats that some foreign-based companies pose — without indulging in national security creep that unnecessarily cuts off foreign investment in the United States.

One of the biggest problems with TikTok is knowing what the biggest problem with TikTok is. Most TikTok hawks have focused on the surveillance of user activity that the app could conduct and the user data the company can access, or what could be called information collection. Concerns that TikTok might collect U.S. citizens’ information have some justification. Forbes recently reported on a plan for targeted surveillance of journalists who had reported critically on the company’s links to the Chinese regime. TikTok says it terminated all involved after corroborating the allegations in an internal investigation. The possibility that TikTok staff might target users working in roles that grant them special power, special knowledge or both is worrisome, which is why Congress was right to ban installation of the app on federally issued devices.

china flagBut the data TikTok collects on the average user (likes and dislikes, political preferences, location and demographics) is hardly secret; anyone can buy such data on the open market for user information, or get it through other means. Until Congress cleans up the United States’ privacy act, TikTok is hardly the only or the most extreme online privacy risk Americans face — and banning or forcing ByteDance’s sale of TikTok is unlikely to be a solution.

Many experts believe that information manipulation, including censorship of user posts as well as the dissemination of propaganda and disinformation, is actually the greater threat TikTok poses. The algorithm the company uses to recommend posts to users is ostensibly content-neutral, pushing people who like a given video toward material with which others who like that video have also engaged. But the service promotes or filters out categories of content, too — sometimes privileging, say, the World Cup, sometimes disfavoring posts that could be harmful for mental health. The code that achieves these aims can be opaque, and because every user sees a different feed, measuring outcomes can prove tricky.

So if Chinese President Xi Jinping’s regime wanted, for example, to give a gentle nudge to videos favoring a certain presidential candidate or stamp out videos referencing the Tiananmen Square massacre, he could theoretically pass the dictate to ByteDance, which could pass it to TikTok, which could carry it out under threat — and no one would be any the wiser.

TikTok is attempting to address both areas of alarm in its negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The company is prepared to store its data only on Oracle servers located in the United States, to submit its recommendation algorithms to monitoring and to place its operations under the control of a board of security experts reporting to the U.S. government. The idea is that an entity separate from TikTok would be responsible for actually running it here, so that if Mr. Xi did tell ByteDance to tell TikTok to censor or propagandize, TikTok would have to tell its U.S.-controlled partner — and that partner would have full authority to refuse.

This could work, with some fine-tuning. Today, Chinese employees have too-easy access to U.S. data. Whatever controls are supposed to ensure that the data stored in the United States doesn’t leave the country will have to be watertight, and any “monitoring” of the algorithm will have to be sufficient to detect meddling. Yet if these details can be hammered out, striking such a deal would be far better than banning an app that has proved extremely popular.

The right way to approach TikTok is the right way to approach all foreign investment: assess a company’s susceptibility to undue influence from an adversary; gauge the likelihood that susceptibility will lead to a specific harm; and determine whether the government can reduce that likelihood through measures short of an all-out ban. The same goes for global trade generally. The United States should promote the dynamism and prosperity that result from international exchange, curtailing it only in cases of glaring need.

Jan. 20

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Parent Alphabet to Cut 12,000 Jobs, Adam Satariano, Jan. 20, 2023. The layoffs amount to about 6 percent of the global work force at the company, the latest tech giant to make cuts after a pandemic hiring spree.

google logo customAlphabet, the parent company of Google, said on Friday that it plans to cut 12,000 jobs, becoming the latest technology company to reduce its work force after a hiring spree during the pandemic and amid concerns about a broader economic slowdown.

The job cuts are the company’s largest ever, amounting to about 6 percent of the company’s global work force. Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s chief executive, said the company expanded too rapidly during the pandemic, when demand for digital services boomed, and now must refocus on products and technology core to the company’s future, like artificial intelligence.

“We hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today,” Mr. Pichai said in a note to employees posted on the company’s website.

Google joins a list of other technology companies that have laid off workers after concluding they had overextended under the belief that the pandemic-fueled boom represented a new normal. Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, Salesforce and Twitter are among others who have announced thousands of job cuts.

ny times logoNew York Times, Google Calls In Help From Larry Page and Sergey Brin for A.I. Fight, Nico Grant, Jan. 20, 2023. The re-engagement of Google’s founders showed the urgency felt among many Google executives about artificial intelligence and a rival’s new chatbot, ChatGPT.

Last month, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s founders, held several meetings with company executives. The topic: a rival’s new chatbot, a clever A.I. product that looked as if it could be the first notable threat in decades to Google’s $149 billion search business.

google logo customMr. Page and Mr. Brin, who had not spent much time at Google since they left their daily roles with the company in 2019, reviewed Google’s artificial intelligence product strategy, according to two people with knowledge of the meetings who were not allowed to discuss them. They approved plans and pitched ideas to put more chatbot features into Google’s search engine. And they offered advice to company leaders, who have put A.I. front and center in their plans.

The re-engagement of Google’s founders, at the invitation of the company’s current chief executive, Sundar Pichai, emphasized the urgency felt among many Google executives about artificial intelligence and that chatbot, ChatGPT.

The bot, which was released by the small San Francisco company OpenAI two months ago, amazed users by simply explaining complex concepts and generating ideas from scratch. More important to Google, it looked as if it could offer a new way to search for information on the internet.

Jan. 19


 supreme court Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Poised to Reconsider Key Tenets of Online Speech, David McCabe, Jan. 19, 2023. The cases could significantly affect the power and responsibilities of social media platforms.

For years, giant social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have operated under two crucial tenets.

The first is that the platforms have the power to decide what content to keep online and what to take down, free from government oversight. The second is that the websites cannot be held legally responsible for most of what their users post online, shielding the companies from lawsuits over libelous speech, extremist content and real-world harm linked to their platforms.

Now the Supreme Court is poised to reconsider those rules, potentially leading to the most significant reset of the doctrines governing online speech since U.S. officials and courts decided to apply few regulations to the web in the 1990s.

On Friday, the Supreme Court is expected to discuss whether to hear two cases that challenge laws in Texas and Florida barring online platforms from taking down certain political content. Next month, the court is scheduled to hear a case that questions Section 230, a 1996 statute that protects the platforms from liability for the content posted by their users.

The cases could eventually alter the hands-off legal position that the United States has largely taken toward online speech, twitter bird Custompotentially upending the businesses of TikTok, Twitter, Snap and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.

“It’s a moment when everything might change,” said Daphne Keller, a former lawyer for Google who directs a program at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center.

The cases are part of a growing global battle over how to handle harmful speech online. In recent years, as Facebook and other sites attracted billions of users and became influential communications conduits, the power they wielded came under increasing facebook logoscrutiny. Questions arose over how the social networks might have unduly affected elections, genocides, wars and political debates.

In some parts of the world, lawmakers have moved to rein in the platforms’ influence over speech. Last year, European legislators approved rules that require internet companies to carry out procedures for taking down illicit content and to be more transparent about how they recommend content to people.

tiktok logo CustomIn the United States, where freedom of speech is enshrined in the First Amendment, there has been less legislative action. While lawmakers in Washington have grilled the chief executives of the tech giants over the past three years about the content they take down, proposals to regulate harmful content haven’t gotten traction.

Jan. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Attacks on U.S. Jews and gays accelerate as hate speech grows on Twitter, Joseph Menn, Jan. 18, 2023. Earlier this month, the FBI charged a Florida man with making detailed online threats to murder 100 gay people. He had called previously for Black people to be killed and said that he planned to tear-gas a synagogue, according to the criminal complaint.

twitter bird CustomSuspect Sean Michael Albert, who said that he had been joking, has found more to appreciate on Twitter since Elon Musk has taken control. The last 11 tweets he liked before his arrest were either from Musk or by or about Andrew Tate, the kickboxer charged with human trafficking Musk recently let back on the platform.

There is no evidence that what Albert saw on Twitter inspired him to make his own posts, which court documents say were made on Discord, and his attorney didn’t respond to a request for comment. But former employees and online researchers say that physical attacks in the United States have been tracking with Twitter spikes in some categories of hate speech, notably antisemitic and anti-gay slurs and rhetoric.

New research to be released later this month by the misinformation tracker Network Contagion Research Institute suggests a connection between real-world incidents and variations of the word “groomer,” often aimed at gays and suggesting that they are adults bent on seducing children. Although polls indicate a significant minority of the population believes otherwise, gay people are not more likely to be predators than straight people.

Pre-Musk, Twitter had classed the word “groomer” as hate speech. But usage began spiking not long after Musk said he would buy the platform, and it has surged repeatedly since, often after real-world incidents like the fatal shootings at a gay club in Colorado.

“In the past three to four months, we have seen an increase in anti-LGBTQ incidents, and you can see a statistical correlation between these real-world incidents and the increased use of the term ‘groomer’ on Twitter,” said Alexander Reid Ross, a Network Contagion analyst who shared the findings with The Washington Post. He did not say that use of the term had led to the violence.

Jan. 15

ny times logoNew York Times, Auburn Banned TikTok, and Students Can’t Stop Talking About It, Sapna Maheshwari, Jan. 15, 2023. The school’s prohibition brings a geopolitical fight front and center for TikTok’s biggest fans: young Americans.

Destini Ambus, a senior at Auburn University in Alabama, was so surprised last month about a new ban of TikTok on state-owned devices and internet networks that she read the news alert about it aloud to her friends.

tiktok logo square Custom“We were like, ‘Oh, that’s weird, why would she do that,’ and laughed it off and moved on,” Ms. Ambus, 21, the editor in chief of the campus newspaper, said of the ban, which was ordered by the state’s governor, Kay Ivey. “It didn’t really occur to me when I saw that first email that it would be something that impacts me directly.”

That realization would come a few days later, when Auburn’s administration said that it would ban TikTok from campus Wi-Fi networks, joining several other public universities that have recently enacted similar restrictions.

The campus restrictions have come as 19 governors have banned the video app, which is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance, from state-owned devices and networks in the past month and a half. The governors have declared such restrictions while negotiations continue to drag on between TikTok and the Biden administration, which is concerned that the popular app poses a national security risk by possibly giving the Chinese government an ability to surveil users.p.

Jan. 14

washington post logoWashington Post, Hate speech rises on Twitter in its largest markets after Musk takeover, Gerry Shih, Michael Miller and Joseph Menn, Jan. 14, 2023. With 75 percent of its audience outside the U.S. and Canada, the impact of Elon Musk’s moderation cuts has been great elsewhere.

twitter bird CustomElon Musk’s overhaul of Twitter has been accompanied by an increase in digital harassment of religious and ethnic minorities in some of its largest markets outside the United States — and it’s beginning to wreak havoc in the physical world as well, according to current and former employees elon musk 2015and experts studying the issue.

Musk, left, has fired or accepted resignations from about three-fourths of Twitter’s employees since his $44 billion takeover at the end of October. He has also terminated thousands of contractors who were monitoring the site for slurs and threats.

Those cuts went deepest outside North America, where more than 75 percent of the company’s 280 million daily users live and where Twitter already had fewer moderators who understood local languages and cultural references and where the political landscape could be chaotic and prone to violence.

Twitter can’t afford to be one of the world’s most influential websites, document shows

Musk also welcomed back thousands of banned accounts, including many suspended for promoting hate or violence, even as he has personally has tweeted misinformation and interacted with far-right accounts. Sensing an opportunity, if not a welcome, political operatives and attention-seeking profiteers have rushed to fill the vacuum that the drop in moderation efforts has left, employees said.

Jan. 13


donald trump ny daily pussy

New disclosures in the E. Jean Carroll rape lawsuit echo Trump's words in "Hollywood Access" videotape, reported upon above, that arose during the 2016 presidential campaign. Shown Then: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump's claimed innocence in the Carroll case.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump falsely claimed in deposition that Carroll spoke about enjoying rape, Shayna Jacobs and Isaac Arnsdorfo, Jan. 13, 2023. In sworn questioning, Donald Trump denied raping E. Jean Carroll but also falsely claimed she said she enjoyed sexual assault.

Donald Trump used a sworn deposition in a case brought by his sexual assault accuser E. Jean Carroll to continue calling her a liar and to claim she is e jean carrollmentally ill — denying that he sexually assaulted her even as he falsely claimed Carroll, left, said in a CNN interview that she enjoyed being raped.

In rambling and combative testimony at an October session at Mar-a-Lago, Trump reiterated past claims he didn’t know Carroll, shown at left right and below through the years, e jean carroll twitterexcept as an adversary in what he termed “hoax” litigation, and said she was a “nut job" who was fabricating the story altogether.

“I know nothing about her,” he said in response to questions from Carroll’s attorney Roberta Kaplan, according to court documents unsealed Friday. “I think she’s sick. Mentally sick.”

The former president twisted Carroll’s comments from a June 2019 interview with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, in which she said she shied away from calling her alleged encounter with Trump a “rape” because the word “has so many sexual connotations” and is a “fantasy” for many.

“I think most people think of rape as being sexy,” she told Cooper, according to a transcript of the interview, explaining that she instead thinks of her alleged attack as a “fight.”

Trump cited the interview in telling Kaplan that Carroll “loved” sexual assault.

e jean carroll cover new york magazine“She actually indicated that she loved it. Okay?” Trump said in the deposition. “In fact, I think she said it was sexy, didn’t she? She said it was very sexy to be raped.”

Kaplan then asked: “So, sir, I just want to confirm: It’s your testimony that E. Jean Carroll said that she loved being sexually assaulted by you?”

And Trump answered: “Well, based on her interview with Anderson Cooper, I believe that’s what took place.”

Carroll, an author and advice columnist, publicly accused Trump in 2019 of raping her in a dressing room at Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. She has a pair of pending lawsuits against him in federal court in Manhattan, the first for defamation over comments by Trump in 2019 trashing her and her account, and the latter over the alleged sexual assault itself.

Trump has denied knowing Carroll at all, even though he was photographed with her and her then-husband at an event decades ago.

On Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Lewis A. Kaplan rejected a bid by Trump’s attorneys to dismiss Carroll’s sexual assault lawsuit, which was filed under a New York law that lets sexual assault victims sue years later.

Trump lawyer Alina Habba said she would appeal the judge’s decision not to toss out the newer case. A spokesman for Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign declined further comment.

The D.C. Court of Appeals is considering whether the Justice Department can represent Trump as a federal employee, a long-running legal dispute that has been heard by various courts and could effectively put an end to the defamation claims.

Kaplan has scheduled an April trial date for both lawsuits.

Some portions of Carroll’s deposition in the defamation lawsuit were already part of the public docket. Portions of Trump’s deposition were ordered released in a separate decision Friday by Judge Kaplan, who is not related to Carroll’s attorney. That decision followed a bid by Trump’s attorneys to keep the previously donald trump monster abananapeeledcom dcmaredacted section sealed.

The deposition depicts a full display of Trump’s trademark bluster. He complained to Roberta Kaplan, the attorney, about having to “waste a whole day doing these ridiculous questions with you” and said he would sue both Carroll and her attorney “after this is over.”

He also insisted incorrectly that Truth Social, the social media website he launched in response to his disciplinary removal from Twitter, was more successful than mainstream sites like Twitter, TikTok and Instagram. Truth Social, whose audience has reportedly grown since its rocky launch, still has nowhere near the reach as the others apps on the market.

Kaplan asked Trump during the deposition to list times he’s labeled an event a “hoax,” which he has said about Carroll’s allegation. “The Russia Russia Russia hoax ... Ukraine Ukraine Ukraine hoax,” Trump replied, apparent references to federal probes into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s alleged meddling in the disbursement of Ukraine military funding during his term. He listed several others and said of the legal proceedings initiated by Carroll: “This is a hoax too.”

When directly asked if he’d ever sexually assaulted or touched a woman’s intimate parts without consent, his lawyer objected and Trump responded.

“Well, I will tell you no, but you may have some people like your client that lie,” Trump said.

At least 17 women have come forward with allegations that Trump physically touched them inappropriately, many of them supported by people they told at the time. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations.


john clarence discovery promoChannel Guide, Investigative Report: Discovery’s ‘Gold, Lies & Videotape’ Unravels the Mystery of Victorio Peak, Staff Report, Jan. 13, 2023. New Series!

One family has been fighting for over 70 years to recover what they say is rightfully theirs: a $28 billion treasure buried deep inside a mountain in the New Mexico desert.

Some believe the U.S. government stole the 16,000 gold bars and priceless artifacts, while skeptics claim it never existed. Now, for the first time ever, in this six-part docuseries, the family and its supporters reveal exclusive evidence to prove their case, crack open the mystery of America’s greatest treasure story and reveal the truth of Victorio Peak.

Background research report by Robert Morrow, independent research historian and political advocate based in Austin, TX who befriended through long years of research author John Clarence, whose trilogy The Noss Gold formed the basis for the Discovery Channel series:

If you want to read about the astronomical greed and perfidy of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and thieving military generals at White Sands Missile Range, this is the place to do it. This fascinating docuseries is running every Friday night during prime time on Discovery and is one of the most popular new editions to Discovery. Click here for schedule and program titles.

Information on John Clarence, the author of The Noss Gold: Born in Forty Fort, a small town in the hard coal region of Pennsylvania, John lived his youngest years there enjoying the benefits of Susquehanna River, the worlds’ longest non-navigable river, 444 miles long with 4 million people living within its watershed. The Susquehanna has another impressive history; above its smooth flowing current towered the longest stone-arch bridge in the world. When his family moved away, he left behind his best friend, Fritz, and his first heart throb, Connie, a wonderful red hair, blue-eye young girl; they were in the fifth grade. As a writer, the move to Las Cruces was the backdrop for the remaining days of his life. He still lives there.

When he arrived in Las Cruces in 2004, he moved into a private residence on Missouri Avenue; the Ova Noss Family Partnership work crew called it the “War Room.” he left there two years later and moved into White Sands Missile Range’s backyard and set up the second “War Room.” The following year he moved back to Las Cruces into the third “War Room” and began an eight-year non-stop writing project on the Victorio Peak treasure saga.

When he finished, he titled the volume, The Gold House, a non-fiction, three-book exposé on government and military corruption in the theft of gold from the Noss treasure. Finally, in 2022, he left for Long Beach, California and worked out of the fourth “War Room” in filmmaker Alex Alonso’s studio repairing video tapes and digitizing more than 55,000 ONFP documents and files. His name is John C. “Jack” Staley. He uses the pseudonym, John Clarence, for his written work, described here.

 Jan. 12

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: How both sides can win in the FTC’s antitrust case against Microsoft, Editorial Board, Jan. 12, 2023 (print ed.). What’s the Federal Trade Commission’s best shot at winning its lawsuit to block Microsoft from acquiring Activision Blizzard? Let Microsoft win, too.

When FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan entered office, she was expected to try to transform antitrust doctrine — challenging the courts to protect competition for competition’s sake rather than focusing only on consumer welfare.

microsoft logo CustomThe Microsoft-Activision deal, however, lends itself to a decision based on the more traditional model that balances potential benefits to consumers against drawbacks. And if the FTC manages to extract concessions from the technology giant that enhance the good the purchase can offer to gamers while eliminating most of the bad, the episode will be an example of how the agency can fight for more robust markets in a manner that is less dramatic but just as effective.

The FTC believes that letting Microsoft snatch up the maker of some of the gaming world’s most popular titles would stymie competition not only in today’s markets but also in tomorrow’s, hurting consumers along the way. The technology giant, it alleges, could use its control over franchises such as “Call of Duty” and “Overwatch” to privilege its Xbox consoles over rivals such as Sony’s PlayStation — and its subscription and cloud-streaming services over alternate offerings. The result, says the consumer protection agency, could be higher prices for those playing on other platforms; lower quality on those platforms; or less innovation from a firm complacent in its dominant position.

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk breaks world record for ‘worst loss of fortune,’ Guinness says, Annabelle Timsit, Jan. 12, 2023. The spectacular crash in Elon elon musk 2015Musk’s net worth, during which the tech billionaire lost his title as world’s richest man last month, has been the “worst loss of fortune in history,” according to Guinness World Records.

Guinness, citing Forbes data, said Musk, right, lost about $182 billion between November 2021 and early this month. Data from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index shows him losing $200 billion in roughly that same period.

That is a record-breaking loss, according to Guinness, which said in a blog post that the previous record was set during the tech-stock crash of 2000, when Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son, CEO of SoftBank, reportedly lost $58.6 billion. (That would be about $100 billion today, accounting for inflation.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Said to Consider Selling User Names to Boost Revenue, Ryan Mac and Kate Conger, Jan. 12, 2023 (print ed.). The company has discussed selling some user names through online auctions, people with knowledge of the plans said.

Twitter has considered selling user names to generate new revenue as its owner, Elon Musk, tries to resuscitate the company’s business, two people with knowledge of the plan said.

twitter bird CustomTwitter employees have held conversations about selling some user names for the service since at least December, the people said. Engineers have discussed running online auctions where people can bid for the user names, which are the words, numbers or string of characters that follow the @ sign by which accounts are identified on the platform. Mr. Musk’s user name, for example, is @elonmusk.

It’s unclear if the project will move forward and if the plan affects all user names or only a subset, the people said. But Mr. Musk said last month that he wanted to start eliminating inactive accounts on Twitter and free up 1.5 billion user names. Only certain user names — such as those of well-known people, brands and popular names — may have value.

The social media company has been in turmoil since Mr. Musk bought it for $44 billion in October. Given the deal’s high price tag, the billionaire is under pressure to make the purchase a success.

Mr. Musk has since slashed expenses at Twitter, ordering layoffs, cutting other costs and stopping vendor payments. At the same time, he has tried finding new avenues to make money as Twitter experiences a sharp downturn in ad revenue. He has come up with a revamped subscription plan so users pay for verification badges, and the company has filed paperwork with the Treasury Department to process payments.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter temporarily bans account for D.C.-area bus system without explanation, Justin George and Faiz Siddiqui, Jan. 12, 2023 (print ed.). Twitter suspended the account of the D.C. area’s largest bus transit system on Tuesday for unknown reasons but restored it over six hours later.

twitter bird CustomMetro officials said they weren’t told why the social media company suspended the account. Before the suspension, Metro officials said, the account had not posted anything other than standard content, which includes delay and detour updates, customer-service-related tips, and replies to customer complaints or concerns.

The sudden ban of the account Metro uses to inform bus riders of delays, scheduling changes and other information launched the public transit agency into a debate over censorship, casting the nation’s third-largest transit system as a victim of billionaire tech mogul and Twitter chief executive Elon Musk’s controversial recent suspensions of journalists and alleged rulebreakers. But unlike in some other cases, no apparent cause was given for the ban of the @metrobusinfo account.

vicky ward investigatesVicky Ward Investigates, Commentary: Are the British Press As Bad as Prince Harry Says? Vicky Ward, Jan. 12, 2023. Here's my opinion, based on my experience.

On Tuesday, in a single sitting, I read Prince Harry’s memoir, Spare. I’ve written a review for NBC which you can read here.

prince harry spare coverMeanwhile, I’ve been thinking about a central assertion of Harry’s: His allegation that the British press, particularly the tabloids, are singularly deplorable.

Harry can’t stand their intrusion or the unfairness of the made-up or exaggerated stories. Harry says that the same paparazzi who hounded his mother to her death forced him and Meghan to flee the country. He says they don’t report on the royal family as much as do business with it—in the guise of reporting.

On “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Tuesday night, Harry looked emotional and exhausted as he blamed the British media for irresponsibly singling out what he’d said about killing 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan without, he said, providing the necessary nuance and context of the description in his book. Their sensationalism, he said, had endangered his family.

Is his characterization fair? I’ll give you my perspective.

I’ve worked in both English and American media. I moved to the U.S. when I was 27 and, two years later, I spent 18 months or so as a senior editor at the New York Post before moving on to the world of American long-form journalism and then on to TV and podcasting.

Here’s what I observed...

Insubordinate, Political Opinion: This is not about George Santos, Rebekah Jones (right, a former Florida state health official and recent Democratic nominee rebekah jones substackrunning unsuccessfully against U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Republican representing Florida's district based in the state's Panhandle), Jan. 11-22, 2023. The absurdity of the George Santos saga keeps the story trending longer than most stories do.

Santos told the local GOP he was a star volleyball captain at a university he never attended. He lied about having friends who died in the Pulse Orlando shooting. He lied when he said his mother died in 9/11. He lied about being black, Jewish, and possibly about being gay.

Hell, we’re not even sure that George Santos is his real name.

The sheer audacity of the lies and the ridiculousness of the situation create a mega-storm for a viral story.

Jokes aside, Santos flipped a Democrat-held seat to Republican by inventing a life story with no one holding him accountable for it (*ahem the press ahem*).

Without discounting the danger presented in an electorate duped by such an obvious fraudster, and the failure of the press to properly inform them, I ask: Why are lies about George Santos’ private life deserving of so much attention, whilst the more harmful, sinister fabrications are presented as “normal” now?

Take the Big Lie, for example. Less than one-quarter of Republicans acknowledge that Joe Biden won the 2020 election legitimately. Across all parties, not even half of the country believes the 2020 election was “definitely legitimate.”

That’s terrifying.

But we didn’t end up there by accident. The 2016 election highlighted the extent to which foreign influence drives American political discourse and elections.

Despite the indictments of twelve people for, their roles in interfering with our elections that year, “conservatwitter” believes without a doubt that there was no Russian influence.

Two years later, Donald Trump claims he sent federal agents to Florida to stop counting ballots and hand the Governor’s office to Ron DeSantis, who won by less than half of one percent. Trump insists he stole the election for DeSantis, and while the press has readily called the claims “unsubstantiated,” there have thus far been zero investigations into the matter.

Again in Florida (this time in 2020), Republicans orchestrated a Ghost Candidate scheme that led to half-a-dozen indictments and multiple, ongoing investigations. Simultaneously, Florida’s elected representatives, including Matt Gaetz, played a significant role in planning the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the United State Capitol.

Ron DeSantis came up with the fake elector scheme, but still the GOP jewel for contrarian media types, his role in the chaos manages to escape the headlines.

The very real interference in our democratic process by foreign parties (2016), by the federal government (2018) and by elected officials (2020) were all practice runs for what will likely be a contested 2024 Presidential election.

The GOP survives in a nation more diverse and progressive than it ought to because it lies. Matt Gaetz lied repeatedly about post-birth abortions, immigration statistics, COVID-19, and even his ill-fated attempt to bully my son online.

It’s become normal for Republicans to lie, and normal for the media to ignore it or accept it as status-quo.

So why is the press so damn interested in Santos and the lies about his resume and less interested in calling out men like Matt Gaetz who falsely claim infanticide is occuring in abortion clinics?

Perhaps it’s because devoting a column on the front page of your paper specifically to the lies told by politicians each day wouldn’t have enough space to capture it all .That would require investigations. That would require good, honest journalists who still hold on to the ideals of what the fourth estate.

In a world where major media outlets are bought and paid for, compromised, or otherwise incompetent or dishonest, America just doesn’t have the bandwidth.

Jan. 11

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: There are TikTok bans in nearly two dozen states, Aaron Schaffer, Jan. 11, 2023 (print ed.). Over a five-week stretch, nearly two dozen state governors and officials have imposed government restrictions of TikTok in their states. Most are Republicans, but a few Democrats are joining them.

tiktok logo CustomThe bans range from prohibiting the device on government internet networks to restricting state employees from using or downloading the app on state devices.

Now, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers plans to ban the app. He would be at least the second Democratic governor to ban the app on state devices, after Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly announced a ban late last month. It’s not clear what Evers’s ban will look like; his office did not respond to a request for comment.

ny times logoNew York Times, Blake Hounshell, ‘On Politics’ Editor at The Times, Dies at 44, Sam Roberts, Updated Jan. 11, 2023. He was managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine and a top editor at Politico before overseeing The Times’s popular political newsletter.

Blake Hounshell, an influential political journalist who was managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine and a top editor at Politico before joining The New York Times and overseeing its popular newsletter “On Politics,” died on Tuesday in Washington. He was 44.

His family said in a statement that he had died “after a long and courageous battle with depression.” The police in Washington were investigating the death as a suicide, a police official said.

Mr. Hounshell, who joined The Times in 2021, wrote “On Politics” out of Washington, incorporating contributions from other Times correspondents. The newsletter appears five days a week and is regularly read by an estimated half-million paying subscribers.

Mr. Hounshell “quickly distinguished himself as our lead politics newsletter writer and a gifted observer of our country’s political scene,” Joseph Kahn, the Times’s executive editor, said in a memo to the staff, adding, “He became an indispensable and always insightful voice in the report during a busy election cycle.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter temporarily bans account for D.C.-area bus system without explanation, Justin George and Faiz Siddiqui, Jan. 11, 2023. Twitter suspended the account of the D.C. area’s largest bus transit system on Tuesday for unknown reasons but restored it over six hours later.

twitter bird CustomMetro officials said they weren’t told why the social media company suspended the account. Before the suspension, Metro officials said, the account had not posted anything other than standard content, which includes delay and detour updates, customer-service-related tips, and replies to customer complaints or concerns.

The sudden ban of the account Metro uses to inform bus riders of delays, scheduling changes and other information launched the public transit agency into a debate over censorship, casting the nation’s third-largest transit system as a victim of billionaire tech mogul and Twitter chief executive Elon Musk’s controversial recent suspensions of journalists and alleged rulebreakers. But unlike in some other cases, no apparent cause was given for the ban of the @metrobusinfo account.

Jan. 9


New Jersey homeless man scam defendants Mark D'Amico, center, Johnny Bobbit and Katelyn McClure (Photo via GoFundMe campaign).

New Jersey homeless man scam defendants Mark D'Amico, center, Johnny Bobbit and Katelyn McClure (Photo via GoFundMe campaign)

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman in GoFundMe Scam Gets 3 Years in New Jersey Prison, Jesus Jiménez, Jan. 9, 2023 (print ed.). Prosecutors said Katelyn McClure and her boyfriend at the time spun a tale that helped them raise more than $400,000 for a homeless man. All three were eventually charged.

A woman was sentenced on Friday to three years in New Jersey state prison for her involvement in a scheme that raised more than $400,000 from a misleading GoFundMe campaign for a homeless man, prosecutors said.

The woman, Katelyn McClure, 32, of Burlington Township, N.J., and her boyfriend at the time, Mark D’Amico, created a fund-raising campaign on GoFundMe in November 2017 for Johnny Bobbitt, saying he was a homeless veteran in Philadelphia, according to prosecutors.

The couple claimed on GoFundMe that Mr. Bobbitt gave Ms. McClure his last $20 to help her when she had run out of gas, according to prosecutors, who said the story was a lie. Ms. McClure and Mr. D’Amico said that they wanted to raise $10,000 so Mr. Bobbitt would have enough money for an apartment, a vehicle and living expenses for six months.

Their plea gained widespread attention and raised $402,000. But instead of giving all of the money to Mr. Bobbitt, Ms. McClure and Mr. D’Amico spent the bulk of it on a BMW, gambling, Louis Vuitton handbags, a trip to Las Vegas and a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon, prosecutors said.

LaChia L. Bradshaw, the Burlington County prosecutor, said in the statement that more than 14,000 people were misled in the scheme, adding that their “decency and compassion for others elicited a tremendously heartwarming response to assist someone they believed was truly in need.”

“Our wish,” she added, “is that prosecutions like this will serve to deter criminals from such deceitful actions, but not discourage individuals from caring about those who are in crisis as a result of a tragedy, or simply need a helping hand after experiencing a hardship or setback.”

Mr. D’Amico also pleaded guilty and is serving a federal sentence of 27 months. He was also sentenced to five years in New Jersey state prison. The sentences are running concurrently.

And Mr. Bobbitt pleaded guilty in March 2019 to a second-degree charge of conspiracy to commit theft by deception. The authorities said that he had posted a similar story on his Facebook page in 2012, claiming he had given up his supper money to help a woman.

In October, Mr. Bobbitt received a federal sentence of three years of probation and was ordered to pay $25,000 in restitution. As part of state sentencing, Mr. Bobbitt was admitted into a program that provides treatment to those with addiction issues instead of going to jail, according to prosecutors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bernard Kalb, Veteran Foreign Correspondent, Is Dead at 100, Dennis Hevesi, Jan. 9, 2023 (print ed.). He covered wars, revolutions and diplomatic breakthroughs for CBS, NBC and The New York Times. He also served, briefly and unhappily, as a State Department spokesman.

Bernard Kalb, a veteran correspondent for CBS, NBC and The New York Times who also made a brief and unhappy foray into government as a State Department spokesman, died on Sunday at his home in North Bethesda, Md. He was 100.

In his many years on television, Mr. Kalb’s sonorous voice, thick eyebrows and command of detail became familiar to millions of viewers. He covered wars, revolutions and the diplomatic breakthroughs that presaged the end of the Cold War.

He reported for The Times from 1946 to 1962, for CBS during the next 18 years (during which he joined his brother, Marvin, on the diplomatic beat) and as NBC’s State Department correspondent from 1980 to 1985. Then, for nearly two years, he served in the Reagan administration’s State Department — a stint that ended contentiously.

ny times logoNew York Times, Phoenix Police Investigate Their Detention of a Wall Street Journal Reporter, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Jan. 9, 2023 (print ed.). The reporter, Dion Rabouin, who is Black, was handcuffed and placed in a police vehicle after conducting interviews outside a bank in November.

The Phoenix Police Department has opened an internal investigation into the detainment of a Wall Street Journal reporter who was conducting interviews outside a Chase Bank in November.

Mr. Rabouin’s detainment occurred on Nov. 23 but gained widespread attention after the television station ABC15 reported on the episode on Wednesday. Footage taken by a bystander shows Mr. Rabouin being handcuffed and sitting inside a police vehicle. An officer can be heard telling him, “I’m not giving you any more chances.” Mr. Rabouin is heard responding, “You’re not giving me any chances for what? I haven’t done anything wrong.”

Jan. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Ant Group Says Its Founder, Jack Ma, Will Relinquish Control, Chang Che and Mike Ives, Jan. 8, 2023 (print ed.). Ant Group, the fintech sister company of the e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, is one of China’s most influential companies.

China FlagOne of China’s most influential financial tech companies, Ant Group, said on Saturday that the billionaire entrepreneur, Jack Ma, planned to relinquish control of the company.

Mr. Ma’s retreat from the company he founded comes after the ruling Communist Party waged an unprecedented crackdown on Big Tech. Beijing had made Mr. Ma’s Ant Group and its sister company, the e-commerce giant, Alibaba, the crown jewels of his online empire, early targets in the campaign to curb the power of internet giants.

Chinese officials had forced Ant Group to call off what would have been a blockbuster initial public offering in 2020 and later fined Alibaba a hefty $2.8 billion for abusing its dominance. Last year, Ant Group said it would undertake a major government-ordered overhaul of its business to address regulators’ concerns about unfair competition and the amount of data it collects on users.

Under Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, Beijing has sought to exert greater state control over the economy in recent years, including by reining in the influence of tycoons who amassed enormous wealth but were seen to overstep their bounds.

ny times logoNew York Times, A New Area of A.I. Booms, Even Amid the Tech Gloom, Erin Griffith and Cade Metz, Jan. 8, 2023 (print ed.).  An investment frenzy over “generative artificial intelligence” has gripped Silicon Valley, as tools that generate text, images and sounds seize the imagination.

Five weeks ago, OpenAI, a San Francisco artificial intelligence lab, released ChatGPT, a chatbot that answers questions in clear, concise prose. The A.I.-powered tool immediately caused a sensation, with more than a million people using it to create everything from poetry to high school term papers to rewrites of Queen songs.

Now OpenAI is in the midst of a new gold rush.

The lab is in talks to complete a deal that would value it at around $29 billion, more than twice its valuation in 2021, two people with knowledge of the discussions said. The potential deal — where OpenAI would sell existing company shares in a so-called tender offer — could total $300 million, depending on how many employees agree to sell their stock, they said. The company is also in discussions with Microsoft — which invested $1 billion in it in 2019 — for additional funds, two people said.

The clamor around OpenAI shows that even in the most dismal tech downturn in a generation, Silicon Valley’s deal-making machine is still kicking. After a humbling year that included mass layoffs and cuts, tech investors — a naturally optimistic bunch — can’t wait to jump on a hot trend.

No area has created more excitement than generative artificial intelligence, the term for technology that can generate text, images, sounds and other media in response to short prompts. Investors, pundits and journalists have talked up artificial intelligence for years, but the new wave — the result of more than a decade of research — represents a more powerful and more mature breed of A.I.

Jan. 7

ny times logoNew York Times, Damar Hamlin Has Breathing Tube Removed and Is Talking, Emmanuel Morgan and Dan Higgins, Jan. 7, 2023 (print ed.). The Buffalo Bills said Hamlin “continues to progress remarkably” and his neurological function was intact.

Bills safety Damar Hamlin had his breathing tube removed overnight and has been able to talk with his family, doctors and teammates, the Buffalo Bills said Friday morning.

Hamlin was speaking by video chat on Friday to teammates and coaches, as they met in preparation for a game on Sunday against the New England Patriots. In a news conference with reporters, Bills Coach Sean McDermott said he surprised the team with a “treat,” and the players gave Hamlin a standing ovation when they saw him onscreen.

Hamlin later made a heart gesture with his hands, gave a thumbs up and flexed his arm muscles, McDermott said, curling both his biceps as he recounted the call.

ap logoAssociated Press, W.Va. journalist let go after reporting on abuse allegations, Leah Willingham, Jan. 7, 2023. A West Virginia journalist lost her job last month after she reported about alleged abuse of people with disabilities within the state agency that runs West Virginia’s foster care and psychiatric facilities.

Amelia Ferrell Knisely, a reporter at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, said she was told to stop reporting on the Department of Health and Human Resources after leaders of the embattled agency “threatened to discredit” the publicly funded television and radio network. She later learned her part-time position was being eliminated.

In a statement, Knisely said her news director told her the order came from WVPB Executive Director Butch Antolini, former communications director for Republican Gov. Jim Justice. Antolini has served as executive director since 2021, when his predecessor was ousted after Justice overhauled the agency’s governing board.

Justice has tried unsuccessfully to eliminate state funding for WVPB in the past and was accused of appointing partisan operatives to the board. WVPB receives around $4 million a year in state funding.

Antolini declined to comment, but other officials denied any effort to influence coverage. West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority chairman William H. File III said Antolini told the board “he was not coerced or pressured by anyone.”

BBC News, Margaret Atwood previously confirmed there had been "concerted efforts to steal the manuscript" of her book The Testaments, George Wright, Jan. 7, 2023. An Italian man has admitted stealing more than 1,000 unpublished manuscripts, many written by high-profile authors.

bbc news logo2Filippo Bernardini impersonated figures from the publishing industry to trick people into handing over their works.

He used his inside industry knowledge, having been employed by the publishing giant Simon & Schuster in London.

Bernardini, 30, pleaded guilty in New York to wire fraud, but his motive has never been clear.

Manuscripts were not found to have been leaked on the internet, nor were any ransom demands made.

The conviction of Bernardini, who was arrested by the FBI in January last year, appears to explain a mystery that has baffled the literary world for years, with Margaret Atwood, Ian McEwan and Sally Rooney among the novelists targeted.

Prosecutors said he registered more than 160 fake internet domains from 2016.

Agents, editors and Booker Prize judges all fell victim to phishing scams from slightly altered official-looking email addresses, requesting manuscripts of works by authors including Booker winner Margaret Atwood.

In an interview with The Bookseller in 2019, Atwood confirmed there had been "concerted efforts to steal the manuscript" of her book, The Testaments, before it was released.

"There were lots of phoney emails from people trying to winkle even just three pages, even just anything," she noted.

Daniel Sandström, editor of Swedish publisher Albert Bonniers Förlag, who was among those targeted, said it was difficult to know what the motivation for the scam was.

"The literary answer to that question, I think, I mean somebody was doing it for the thrill of it and there's a psychological enigma at the bottom of this story," he told the BBC.

"A less romanticised answer would be that... this was somebody who liked to feel important and pulling strings, and that this was a trick in order to achieve that."

Although Bernardini worked at Simon & Schuster, there was no suggestion that the publishing house was at fault and it was not named in the legal papers.

"We are grateful to the FBI and Department of Justice for its defence and support of the intellectual property rights of authors throughout the world," the publisher said in a statement on Friday.

Bernardini will be sentenced in April. He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Going Deep, Investigative Commentary: JFK Murder: Evolving Strategies for Damage Control, Russ Baker and Milicent Cranor, Jan. 5, 2023. More revisions upon revisions. What next?

After 60 years, establishment figures are increasingly voicing the belief that government agencies and officials might have at least covered up critical information about the assassination plot to kill President John F. Kennedy. And one major interpreter of history is even going so far as to suggest a key governmental entity took delight in JFK’s demise.

Nonetheless, they’re still behind the curve of public opinion. And even in their new posture, they appear to be playing a game of denial.

Daily Beast via Yahoo!, QAnon Star Who Said Only ‘Idiots’ Get Vax Dies of COVID, Will Sommer, Jan. 7, 2022. Anti-Vax Radio Host Who Got COVID at QAnon-Friendly Conference Dies.

daily beast logoA leading QAnon promoter who urged both her followers and strangers she passed on the street not to take the COVID vaccine died Thursday of the coronavirus, making her just the latest vaccine opponent killed by the disease.

Cirsten Weldon had amassed tens of thousands of followers across right-wing social media networks by promoting the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy under the screenname “CirstenW.” She was prominent enough to become a sort of QAnon interpreter for comedian conspiracy theorist Roseanne Barr and started recording videos about QAnon with her.

Weldon focused on attacking vaccines and other efforts to fight COVID-19, saying in one video that Dr. Anthony Fauci “needs to be hung from a rope.” She claimed the vaccine killed people and even recorded herself yelling at people standing in line to receive vaccines.

“The vaccines kill, don’t get it!” Weldon warned the waiting vaccine recipients in an undated video posted to one of her online accounts. “This is how gullible these idiots are. They’re all getting vaccine!”

Jan. 5

 Robert Gottlieb, right, started as Robert Caro’s editor with “The Power Broker” (1974) and has stuck with Caro since. (Photo by Claudia Raschke, Courtesy of Wild Surmise Productions, LLC, via Sony Pictures Classics and the New York Times.)

Robert Gottlieb, right, started as Robert Caro’s editor with “The Power Broker” (1974) and has stuck with Caro since. (Photo by Claudia Raschke, Courtesy of Wild Surmise Productions, LLC, via Sony Pictures Classics and the New York Times.)

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Robert Caro, Robert Gottlieb and the Art of the Edit, Pamela Paul, Jan. 5, 2023. Making movies about writers is notoriously difficult, though the temptation is clear. After all, filmmakers, like authors, are storytellers, and are drawn to other people who tell them. But as with any other kind of story, clichés often do those movies in: The poet laments via ponderous voice-over narration. Words clack across the screen letter by letter in Smith Corona font. The writer bangs ardently at the keyboard when the muse strikes and stares moodily into a landscape when she fails to show.

Oh, the tortured life of the writer! Onscreen, it’s often a bore.

But a new documentary, “Turn Every Page — The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb,” shows that success here is possible. And unlike most films about writers, it goes one step further, tackling not only the writing process but also the more abstruse art of the edit.

It helps to have two geniuses as subjects. Robert Caro, the author of The Power Broker and a multivolume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson — he is currently working on the fifth and final book — is one of the most revered nonfiction writers of our time. Robert Gottlieb is one of the most revered editors. The two Bobs have worked together for five decades; readers and viewers alike are fortunate that the latter Bob’s daughter, Lizzie Gottlieb, persuaded them to take part in a documentary about their shared endeavors.

Readers are familiar with Caro’s accomplishments: his mastery of the biography, of history, of the subject of power — and crucially, its impact on the powerless. The Power Broker, his biography of Robert Moses, held an almost required pride of place on every talking head’s Zoom bookshelf during lockdown.

Let me use this column, then, to draw attention to the less celebrated art, one that is not cited on the cover of that book but is showcased in the film: the work of the editor.

I’ll admit I’m biased. I’m enormously fortunate to know both Bobs personally and to consider Bob Gottlieb a friend and, occasionally — even though he has never been my actual editor, but because he can’t help doing what he does best — an editor.

ny times logoNew York Times, Robert Caro Relaxes by Listening to People Drum in Central Park, Kathryn Shattuck, Jan. 8, 2023 (print ed.). When he hears groups of drummers at the park, Robert Caro said, “somehow it drums the tension from writing right out of me.”

When the filmmaker Lizzie Gottlieb approached Robert Caro about a documentary on the relationship between him and his editor, Robert Gottlieb, Caro didn’t want to do it. He nonetheless found it insulting when Robert, Lizzie’s father, didn’t want to do it either.

That’s just the nature of their relationship.

robert caro 2012But she persisted. And eventually Caro, right, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and her father opened their inner sanctum for “Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb,” about the dynamic, contentious half-century collaboration behind The Power Broker, the Zoom-bookshelf must-have about the urban planner Robert Moses, and “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” whose fifth volume Caro has been working on for about a decade.

“Why was I reluctant?” Caro, 87, asked in a video call from his orderly West 69th Street office.

“We’ve worked out a way of working together,” he said. “It’s two people who are, I suppose, both determined that they stand behind their ideals so firmly that they didn’t want the public to see what that was like.”

Jan. 4

ny times logoNew York Times, Meta’s Ad Practices Ruled Illegal Under European Union Law, Adam Satariano, Jan. 4, 2023. The decision is one of the most consequential issued under a landmark data-protection law, creating a new business headwind for the social media giant.

meta logoMeta suffered a major defeat on Wednesday that could severely undercut its Facebook and Instagram advertising business after European Union regulators found it had illegally forced users to effectively accept personalized ads.

The decision, including a fine of 390 million euros ($414 million), has the potential to require Meta to make costly changes to its european union logo rectangleadvertising-based business in the European Union, one of its largest markets.

The ruling is one of the most consequential judgments since the 27-nation bloc, home to roughly 450 million people, enacted a landmark data-privacy law aimed at restricting the ability of Facebook and other companies from collecting information about users without their prior consent. The law took effect in 2018.

The case hinges on how Meta receives legal permission from users to collect their data for personalized advertising. The company includes language in its terms of service agreement, the very lengthy statement that users must accept before accessing services like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, that effectively means users must allow their data to be used for personalized ads or stop using Meta’s social media services altogether.

Jan. 3


elon musk safe image time

Politico, Why Elon Musk’s 'X App' could be an even bigger headache for D.C. than Twitter, Rebecca Kern, Sam Sutton, Ruth Reader and Tanya Snyder, Jan. 3, 2023. Twitter is crashing straight into politics — but Elon Musk’s grandiose next idea could be a full pile-up with the federal government.

politico CustomEven before Elon Musk’s dramatic and controversial takeover of Twitter, the restless mogul was pitching the social-media company as his key to realizing a much bigger dream.

Musk, shown above in a file photo, calls his next idea the “X App.” And if Musk-owned Twitter has already been a challenge for Washington’s politicians and regulators, the disruption caused by the X App could easily dwarf it.

The idea is a Western version of WeChat, the Chinese super-app that more than a billion people use for messaging, payments, shopping, rideshares, gaming, news and other daily activities. Musk is clearly serious about the plan: He tweeted about it this fall and pitched it to Twitter employees before he even bought the company, and reiterated the idea during a Twitter Spaces session in early December, saying “WeChat has a lot of functionality that Twitter should have.”

But building a “super-app” like WeChat is a far more complicated challenge than Twitter, with far more points of conflict with regulators in Washington, ftc logoCalifornia, Brussels and elsewhere. Nothing like it exists yet in the West, and it could create a “regulatory nightmare,” said Caitriona Fitzgerald, the deputy director for the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit that advocates for privacy reform.

For all its influence on media and politics, Twitter is a far smaller social platform than Facebook or TikTok, with relatively little exposure to twitter bird Customgovernment oversight. Anything that involves payments, health information or deeper uses of consumer data would be a whole different beast. And that’s all without integrating some of Musk’s wider and more futuristic interests, like his brain-computer interface company, his space-launch business, or his network of satellites, all of which draw their own kind of scrutiny.

If Musk tried to launch it, he’d be doing it in a moment when regulators and politicians are increasingly worried about Big Tech’s appetite for data, its impact on consumers’ lives and its unique ability to build monopolies — to say nothing of the political storm Musk has brought down on his own head with his increasingly partisan forays into politics. (Twitter did not reply to a request for comment about Musk’s app plans or regulatory strategy.)

There are plenty of business-world obstacles to the X App, and Musk has had his hands more than full just keeping Twitter afloat. But he’s also seen as ambitious enough to try anyway.

“Twitter is just one end of this future conglomerate app,” said Michael Sayman, a developer who helped create Instagram Stories, speculating that the X App could include finance, commerce, communication, news, entertainment, dating, music — and, of course, transportation, Musk’s chief business interest.

Jan. 2

ny times logoNew York Times, Tesla Car Sales Grow Slower Than Expected, Amplifying Concerns, Jack Ewing, Jan. 2, 2023. Wall Street has grown decidedly pessimistic about Tesla, fearful that Elon Musk, its chief executive, is too focused on Twitter.

tesla logoTesla said Monday that deliveries in the last three months of the year rose 18 percent from the previous quarter, disappointing Wall Street analysts and adding to pressure on Elon Musk, the company's chief executive, to focus on making cars rather than overhauling Twitter.

Tesla said it delivered 405,000 electric cars from October through December. Wall Street analysts had predicted that Tesla would sell elon musk 2015around 420,000 vehicles, up from 343,000 vehicles in the third quarter.

The company sold a total of 1.3 million cars in 2022, a 40 percent increase from the year before. That was short of the 50 percent annual growth target Tesla had set for itself.

While the increases were impressive by auto industry standards, Tesla has become the most valuable carmaker in the world by growing at the sizzling rates more commonly associated with Silicon Valley technology companies.

In recent months, Tesla has appeared vulnerable to competition from established carmakers and to rising borrowing rates which made its electric cars more expensive for people taking out loans. Indications that Tesla is mortal have contributed to a 65 percent decline in Tesla shares in 2022, and led investors to focus more on conventional measures like sales and profits rather than dreams of world domination.

ny times logoNew York Times, Gangsta Boo, Memphis Rapper Formerly With Three 6 Mafia, Dies at 43, Eduardo Medina, Jan. 2, 2023. Lola Chantrelle Mitchell, the Memphis rapper and former member of Three 6 Mafia who, as Gangsta Boo, helped define the genre in the South with her confident flows and forged a path for other female artists, died on Sunday. She was 43.

She was found dead on Sunday afternoon in a neighborhood west of Memphis International Airport, the Memphis Police Department said in a statement on Monday. “There were no immediate signs of foul play,” the police said, adding that the investigation into her death was ongoing.

With clever lyrics that were at times flirtatious and playful, forceful and proud, Gangsta Boo quickly established herself in the 1990s as a rising rap star who hailed from and flourished in the South. As a teenager, she joined Three 6 Mafia, an underground rap group that would go on to become one of the most influential of its era.

Jan. 1

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: Barbara Walters, a ‘shining example of possibility’ for women in a man’s world, Margaret Sullivan, right, Jan. 1, 2023. margaret sullivan 2015 photoPioneering broadcaster was ‘the first woman I can remember who was widely respected for her career,’ said one admirer, ‘ ... demonstrating how a woman could self-actualize.’

They streamed onto the set, a high-gloss, high-heeled, perfectly coifed, sheath-dressed parade of glory to honor their godmother. Oprah announced their household names: Connie Chung, Jane Pauley, Katie Couric, Savannah Guthrie, Gretchen Carlson, Gayle King, Maria Shriver, Diane Sawyer, Hoda Kotb and a dozen others, the women who had come to dominate and define television news.

barbara walters headshotIt was 2014, and Barbara Walters was retiring from ABC’s “The View,” which she had created and produced as well as co-hosted, her final game-changing move in a decades-long streak as a nearly constant presence on television. Amid the air kisses and genuine hugs from her fellow broadcasters during her on-air farewell to the daytime talk show, there were words of appreciation about how much Walters had mattered to them, and their careers.

And matter she did. Not just to the women at her own rarefied tier of the television industry, but also to men and women alike across the media business — and to millions of women worldwide who saw her as an example of possibility and distinction in a man’s world.



Dec. 31


barbara walters collage

ny times logoNew York Times, Barbara Walters, a First Among TV Newswomen, Is Dead at 93, Alessandra Stanley, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). Barbara Walters (shown above and below right), who broke barriers for women as the first female co-host of the “Today” show and the first female anchor of a network evening news program, and who as an interviewer of celebrities became one herself, helping to blur the line between news and entertainment, died on Friday. She was 93.

barbara walters headshotHer death was reported by ABC News, where she was a longtime anchor and a creator of the talk show “The View.” It did not give a cause or say where she died.

Ms. Walters spent more than 50 years in front of the camera and, until she was 84, continued to appear on “The View.” In one-on-one interviews, she was best known for delving, with genteel insistence, into the private lives and emotional states of movie stars, heads of state and other high-profile subjects.

Ms. Walters first made her mark on the “Today” show on NBC, where she began appearing regularly on camera in 1964; she was officially named co-host a decade later. Her success kicked open the door for future network anchors like Jane Pauley, Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer.

She broke barriers as a co-host of the “Today” show, a network evening news anchor and a creator of “The View,” all while gaining her own kind of celebrity.

ny times logoNew York Times, Fellow journalists, celebrity interview subjects and others offered tributes to the renowned newswoman, McKenna Oxenden, Eduardo Medina and John Yoon, Dec. 31, 2022. Barbara Walters, who died Friday at 93, was remembered for her tenacious journalism that blazed a trail for women in the industry.

As word of her death spread, memories of, and tributes to, Ms. Walters flooded social media. Robert A. Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, which owns ABC News, said on Twitter that Ms. Walters “was a true legend, a pioneer not just for women in journalism but for journalism itself.”

Journalists across the country recalled on Friday night the effect that Ms. Walters had on their careers, directly and indirectly. Many said her interviews were models for good journalistic practices. Others marveled at the bravery she displayed when sitting across from some of the world’s most powerful people. And numerous others described Ms. Walters as a “trailblazer” who helped carve a path for women in the news industry.

Oprah Winfrey recalled how Ms. Walters had been an early inspiration.

In a local Miss Fire Prevention Contest that eventually helped Ms. Winfrey land her first broadcasting job at 17, a judge asked what she hoped to do with her life.

ny times logoNew York Times, Do You Know What’s in the Cloud? Kashmir Hill, Dec. 31, 2022. Google, Apple and Meta offer near-limitless storage for photos, videos and important documents, but you should keep a copy of what you hold most dear.

I have many fears as a mother. My kindergarten-age daughter recently learned a game on the school bus called “Truth or Force.” My youngest refuses to eat almost anything but Kraft Mac and Cheese. Added to the list this year, alongside outside influences and health concerns, is the possibility that my daughters could inadvertently lock me out of my digital life.

That’s what happened to a mother in Colorado whose 9-year-old son used her old smartphone to stream himself naked on YouTube, and a father in San Francisco whose Google account was disabled and deleted because he took naked photos of his toddler for the doctor.

I reported on their experiences for The New York Times, and as I talked to these parents, who were stunned and bereft at the loss of their emails, photos, videos, contacts and important documents spanning decades, I realized I was similarly at risk.

I am “cloud-complacent,” keeping my most important digital information not on a hard drive at home but in the huge digital basement provided via technology companies’ servers. Google gives all users 15 gigabytes free, a quarter of what comes standard on an Android phone, and I have not managed to max it out in 18 years of using the company’s many services.

I did fill up Apple’s free 5 GB, so I now pay $9.99 a month for additional iCloud storage space. Meta has no max; like scrolling on Instagram, the allowed space is infinite.

If I were suddenly cut off from any of these services, the data loss would be professionally and personally devastating.

As a child of the 1980s, I used to have physical constraints on how many photos, journals, VHS tapes and notes passed in seventh grade that I could reasonably keep. But the immense expanse and relatively cheap rent of the so-called cloud has made me a data hoarder. Heading into 2023, I set out to excavate everything I was storing on every service, and find somewhere to save it that I had control over. As I grappled with all the gigabytes, my concern morphed from losing it all to figuring out what was actually worth saving.

ny times logoNew York Times, Cristiano Ronaldo Signs With a Saudi Team, Victor Mather, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). The soccer superstar will be paid handsomely to play in the Middle East in the twilight of his career.

ny times logoNew York Times, Woman Accuses Steven Tyler of Sexually Assaulting Her in the 1970s, Dan Bilefsky, Dec. 31, 2022 (print ed.). In a lawsuit filed under California’s Child Victims Act, the woman says she met the Aerosmith frontman when she was 16.

Steven Tyler, the frontman of the rock band Aerosmith, has been accused in a lawsuit of sexually abusing a woman in the 1970s when she was a teenager and he was in his mid-20s.

In the lawsuit, the woman, Julia Misley, accuses Mr. Tyler of using his status and power as a famous rock star to “groom, manipulate, exploit” and “sexually assault” her over the course of three years. She has previously discussed her relationship with Mr. Tyler, writing online that she met him at an Aerosmith concert in Portland, Ore., in 1973, shortly after her 16th birthday.

The lawsuit, earlier reported by Rolling Stone, was filed this week under the California Child Victims Act, which temporarily lifted the statute of limitations so people who said they were sexually abused as children could file civil cases. The three-year period to file a complaint ends on Saturday.

washington post logoWashington Post, A routine operation left her son in a wheelchair. It changed Judy Woodruff’s journalism, Roxanne Roberts, Dec. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Judy Woodruff is stepping down as anchor of “PBS NewsHour” but still plans to report from around the country, with some stories about people with disabilities.

Last month, TV anchor Judy Woodruff had some news of her own: She is stepping down from “PBS NewsHour” on Friday, Dec. 30.

One of the most respected and honored journalists on television could have retired. Instead, she’s embarking on a new PBS project, “America at a Crossroads,” where she’ll spend the next two years traveling around the country trying to figure out what voters want, what they need and how to repair the deep divides.

One subject close to her heart that she wants to highlight? People with disabilities.

Her oldest son, Jeffrey Hunt, was born with what she calls a “very mild” case of spina bifida. When he was a teenager, what was a supposed to be a routine operation left him in a wheelchair and in need of full-time care. It was life-altering for Jeffrey and the entire family.

Woodruff during a taping of “Meet the Press” on NBC in 2007. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Jeffrey, now 41, lives in a group home in Maryland, and says the love and support of his family got him to this point. “After I was injured my parents were with me every day,” he writes in an email. “They told me despite disabilities, I can succeed. I have succeeded thus far.”

It’s one thing to report on the kitchen-table issues that affect people, another to live them. As a mother, Woodruff is keenly attuned to the needs of those with disabilities and their caregivers; as a Washington reporter, she has a deep understanding of what politicians and policymakers can do to help them.

“It made her dedicated to advancing the needs of people with these challenges in the medical system,” says longtime friend and colleague Andrea Mitchell, NBC News’s chief foreign affairs correspondent. “I think she’s more sensitive. She’s always been empathic, but this inevitably changed her.”

Dec. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, What’s Gone at Twitter? A Data Center, Janitors, Some Toilet Paper, Kate Conger, Ryan Mac and Mike Isaac, Dec. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Elon Musk has reduced the company to a bare-bones operation, and employees are under a “zero-based budgeting” mandate to justify any spending.

Elon Musk’s orders were clear: Close the data center.

Early on Christmas Eve, members of the billionaire’s staff flew to Sacramento — the site of one of Twitter’s three main computing storage facilities — to disconnect servers that had kept the social network running smoothly. Some employees were worried that losing those servers could cause problems, but saving money was the priority, according to two people who were familiar with the move but not authorized to talk about it.

The data center shutdown was one of many drastic steps Mr. Musk has undertaken to stabilize Twitter’s finances. Over the past few weeks, Twitter had stopped paying millions of dollars in rent and services, and Mr. Musk had told his subordinates to renegotiate those agreements or simply end them. The company has stopped paying rent at its Seattle office, leading it to face eviction, two people familiar with the matter said. Janitorial and security services have been cut, and in some cases employees have resorted to bringing their own toilet paper to the office.

Mr. Musk bought the social network for $44 billion in late October, saddling it with debt that will require him to pay about $1 billion in interest annually. Speaking on a live forum on Twitter last week, Mr. Musk compared the company to a “plane that is headed towards the ground at high speed with the engines on fire and the controls don’t work.” Twitter was on track to have a “negative cash flow situation” of about $3 billion in 2023, he said, citing a depressed advertising environment and increased costs, like the debt payments.

“That’s why I spent the last five weeks cutting costs like crazy,” he said.

Those cuts may be yielding consequences. On Wednesday, users around the world reported service interruptions with Twitter. Some were logged out, while others encountered error messages while visiting the website. Twitter has not explained what caused the temporary outage. Three people familiar with the company’s infrastructure said that if the Sacramento facility had still been operating, it could have helped alleviate the problem by providing backup computing capacity when other data centers failed.

Twitter, which has eliminated its communications department, and Mr. Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

Although he has said he will appoint a new chief executive at Twitter, Mr. Musk remains closely involved at the social networking firm even as problems crop up at his electric vehicle company, Tesla. And his tight control of the daily management of Twitter calls into question just how much power he would cede to a new chief, who would inherit a bare-bones business that he still owns.

Since early November, Mr. Musk has sought to save about $500 million in nonlabor costs, according to an internal document seen by The New York Times. He has also laid off or fired nearly 75 percent of the company’s work force since completing the purchase.

ny times logoNew York Times, As Silicon Valley Retrenches, a Tech Talent Shift Accelerates, Steve Lohr and Tripp Mickle, Dec. 30, 2022 (print ed.). Most tech jobs are now in mainstream industries like health care, banking and retail.

Dec. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. House blocks TikTok on official devices ahead of government ban, Meryl Kornfield and Camila DeChalus, Dec. 29, 2022 (print ed.). tiktok logo square CustomTikTok has been banned from all U.S. House of Representatives-managed devices, according to the House’s administrative arm, ahead of a new government-wide ban of the popular Chinese-owned video app that will soon take effect.

The House’s chief administrative officer cited “high risk” security concerns in a memo that ordered lawmakers and staffers on Tuesday to delete the app from government devices, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Washington Post.

Under the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill passed by the House on Friday, all employees of the federal government will be barred from installing or must delete TikTok, which is owned by the Beijing-based tech giant ByteDance, in the latest government measure to limit the app’s use in the public sector. Several Republican governors have banned the app on their governments’ electronic devices.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Joining the billionaire fatigue, Hollywood is sticking it to the rich, Sonia Rao. Dec. 29, 2022. With “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” HBO’s “The White Lotus” and more, an aversion to the mega-rich seeped into all sorts of entertainment.

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” on multiple occasions practically begs its audience to dissect the imagery in its title. Though “Glass Onion” refers literally to an enormous glass pavilion on fictional billionaire Miles Bron’s private island, it just as easily serves as a metaphor for the thin-skinned man himself, his carefully constructed persona so delicate it could shatter at any given moment.

Played by Edward Norton, Miles is perhaps the biggest target of “Glass Onion,” the second installment in a franchise launched by Rian Johnson’s 2019 whodunit “Knives Out,” which follows suit with a timely critique of the upper echelon. Whereas the original film lampooned Trump-era politics, “Glass Onion,” now streaming on Netflix, arrives toward the end of a year plagued by billionaire fatigue. An aversion to the mega-rich seeped into all sorts of entertainment, even that produced by major studios.

Class satire is nothing new to Hollywood, but an urge to stick it to tech billionaires pairs nicely with the industry’s more recent storytelling obsession with scammers. Consider the specific resonance of a character such as Miles, whose famed flair for innovation is quickly revealed to be a bit of a fluke. The film draws clear lines from him to real-life figures such as Elon Musk, whose recently launched tenure as Twitter CEO has been chaotic, to say the least, or cryptocurrency guru Sam Bankman-Fried, who was charged with fraud after the quick demise of his company FTX.

washington post logoWashington Post, Art at Capitol honors enslavers and Confederates. This is who they are, Gillian Brockell, Dec. 27, 2022. The Post examined more than 400 statues, paintings and other artworks in the U.S. Capitol. This is what we found.

When the 118th Congress is sworn in on Jan. 3, its members will walk the halls of a building whose paintings and statues pay homage to 141 enslavers.

As part of a year-long investigation into Congress’s relationship with slavery, The Washington Post analyzed more than 400 artworks in the U.S. Capitol building, from the Crypt to the ceiling of the Capitol Rotunda, and found that one-third honor enslavers or Confederates. Another six honor possible enslavers — people whose slaveholding status is in dispute.

Dec. 28

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion, Did the Tesla Story Ever Make Sense? Paul Krugman, right, Dec. 28, 2022 (print ed.). If you’re one of those people who bought Bitcoin or paul krugmananother cryptocurrency near its peak last fall, you’ve lost a lot of money. Is it any consolation to know that you would have lost a similar amount if you had bought Tesla stock instead?

OK, probably not. Still, Tesla stock’s plunge is an opportunity to talk about what makes businesses successful in the information age. And in the end, Tesla and Bitcoin may have more in common than you think.

It’s natural to attribute Tesla’s recent decline — which is, to be sure, part of a general fall in tech stocks, but an exceptionally steep example — to Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter and the reputational self-immolation that followed. Indeed, given what we’ve seen of Musk’s behavior, I wouldn’t trust him to feed my cat, let alone run a major corporation. Furthermore, Tesla sales have surely depended at least in part on the perception that Musk himself is a cool guy. Who, aside from MAGA types who probably wouldn’t have bought Teslas anyway, sees him that way now?

tesla logoOn the other hand, as someone who has spent much of his professional life in academia, I’m familiar with the phenomenon of people who are genuinely brilliant in some areas but utter fools in other domains. For all I know, Musk is or was a highly effective leader at Tesla and SpaceX.

Even if that’s the case, though, it’s hard to explain the huge valuation the market put on Tesla before the drop, or even its current value. After all, to be that valuable Tesla would have to generate huge profits, not just for a few years but in a way that could be expected to continue for many years to come.

Now, some technology companies have indeed been long-term moneymaking machines. Apple and Microsoft still top the list of the most profitable U.S. corporations some four decades after the rise of personal computers.

But we more or less understand the durability of the dominance of Apple and Microsoft, and it’s hard to see how Tesla could ever achieve something similar, no matter how brilliant its leadership. Both Apple and Microsoft benefit from strong network externalities — loosely speaking, everyone uses their products because everyone else uses their products.

Similar stories can be told about a few other companies, such as Amazon, with its distribution infrastructure.

The question is: Where are the powerful network externalities in the electric vehicle business?

Electric cars may well be the future of personal transportation. In fact, they had better be, since electrification of everything, powered by renewable energy, is the only plausible way to avoid climate catastrophe. But it’s hard to see what would give Tesla a long-term lock on the electric vehicle business.

Which brings us back to the question of why Tesla was ever worth so much. The answer, as best as I can tell, is that investors fell in love with a story line about a brilliant, cool innovator, despite the absence of a good argument about how this guy, even if he really was who he appeared to be, could found a long-lived money machine.

And as I said, there’s a parallel here with Bitcoin..

Dec. 27


 nicholas luna portraitFormer Donald Trump “body man” (personal assistant) Nicholas Luna, shown above

Proof, Source: Nick Luna Not Involved with Trump NFT Company CIC Digital or Trump NFT Scam, Seth Abramson, left, Dec. 27, 2022. Journalists at both the New seth abramson graphicYork Times and Washington Post linked CIC Digital and a similarly named company, CIC Ventures—but that presumption appears to have been wrong, per a Proof source.

Proof readers will be well aware that Proof has reported both here and elsewhere—for instance, in the New York Times-bestselling Proof Trilogy—that former president Donald Trump has a history of directly or indirectly promising money, jobs, and/or favors to those federal witnesses who testify before Congress or speak to the DOJ or FBI in a fashion consistent with his own interests, leading to some understandable concern that if any such individual were to have been seth abramson proof logoinvolved in Trump’s get-richer-quick NFT scam it could position that scam as part of a larger January 6 cover-up.

As the subhed of this new Proof report indicates, and as the last Proof report on Mr. Trump’s NFT venture disclosed, both the Washington Post and New York Times saw leading journalists on their payrolls draw conclusions about two Trump-launched companies—CIC Ventures and CIC Digital—that treated the two as one and the same, and therefore possibly at the head of a January 6 Witness Tampering scheme.

But Proof can now report, on the basis of contact with a person confirmed to have knowledge of the situation—and to whom Proof has granted anonymity to allow them to speak freely—that while former Trump “body man” Nicholas Luna was indeed involved with CIC Ventures for the purposes of signing contracts for Mr. Trump’s post-presidential speaking engagements, he had no involvement, formal or otherwise, with CIC Digital, a distinct venture that ultimately contracted with a dodgy entity named NFT INT LLC to mint Trump’s chintzy, much-mocked NFTs. Indeed, per this Proof source, CIC Digital was founded after Luna left Trump’s employ in October 2021.

This source believes CIC Digital to have been run, instead, by individuals associated with (or even formally part of) the Trump Organization. This source further states that there were no contacts between Luna and the listed co-director for CIC Ventures, Trump lawyer John Marion.

These revelations keep active the following key questions: (1) why a Trump lawyer (Marion) was made the co-director of an entity exclusively associated with Trump’s speaking engagements; (2) whether Marion was also involved with CIC Digital; and (3) whether Marion was given his business role(s) in the labyrinthine world of Trump single-purpose (sometimes shell) corporations as a means to avoid paying him for legal services rendered—whether through corporate perks or write-offs or by allowing Marion to do side business under Trump’s aegis and/or brand, as appears to have been the case in Ukraine with fellow Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani—or to generate a zone of attorney-client privilege in the context of a Witness Tampering (or other criminal) scheme.

Hopefully the Times and Post will update their coverage of Donald Trump’s NFT scam consistent with this new reporting by Proof.

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

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

Legal Schnauzer, Matrix LLC paid ABC News "producer" to pepper pro-environment political candidates with deceptive questions in an effort to boost its clients who pollute roger shuler and murphy(Part 1), Roger Shuler, right, Dec. 22, 2022. A journalist who identifies herself as working for ABC News has been paid by an Alabama-based political-consulting firm to sideswipe pro-environment politicians with deceptive questions, according to a report at NPR/Floodlight.

The journalist was Kristen Hentschel, the consulting firm was Montgomery-based Matrix LLC. The beneficiaries of the scheme were alabama power logodesigned to be Matrix clients -- such as Alabama Power, Southern Company, and Florida Power & Light -- all with ties to projects known to produce pollution.

How did the "reporting" scheme with an ABC News journalist work? Exhibit A involves a Florida political candidate named Toby Overdorf, who had pledged to kristen hentschel ny posttake a serious approach to environmental protection. That's where Hentschel, right, enters the picture.

Under the headline "She was an ABC News producer. She also was a corporate operative, NPR/Floodlight reporters Miranda Green, Mario Ariza, and David Folkenflik write:

Microphone and ABC News business card in hand, Hentschel rushed up to a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives before a debate, the candidate recalls, and asked him about 20 dead gopher tortoises that were reportedly found at a nearby construction site [in Stuart, FL]. Florida designates the species as threatened.

Overdorf, an environmental engineer, served as a consultant on the construction project -- and he knew of no such tortoises. A city investigation found there were no dead tortoises, and no evidence that any ever had been present during the construction project. The oddities about the story do not end there, as NPR/Floodlight report:

That wasn't the only surprise. Though Hentschel has done freelance work for ABC, she was not there for the network.

matrix logoAt the time, a political consulting firm called Matrix LLC had paid Hentschel at least $7,000, the firm's internal ledgers show. And Matrix billed two major companies for Hentschel's work, labeling the payments "for Florida Crystals, FPL." (Florida Crystals is a huge sugar conglomerate. FPL is shorthand for the giant utility Florida Power & Light.)

Both companies could have benefited from Hentschels efforts to undermine Overdorf and his promises to resolve environmental issues in the district he was vying to represent. Florida Power & Light has pushed back against efforts to bring solar panels to the Sunshine State, while runoff from the sugar industry is a major source of water pollution in Florida.

florida light and power logoOverdorf won his election, but he remains distressed that he was subjected to such journalistic skulduggery:

"It was an attack ad against my livelihood, my family," Overdorf says. "And it was something that potentially could last far beyond my time running for office."

Overdorf was not the only victim of the Hentschel/Matrix operation. Once Hentschel's ties to Matrix became public, ABC cut ties with her earlier this week:

Interviews for this story and Matrix ledgers show Hentschel traded on her work for ABC News at least three times to trip up Florida politicians whose stances on environmental regulations cut against the interests of major Matrix clients. Internal Matrix financial records originally sent anonymously to the Orlando Sentinel and shared with Floodlight show that since 2016, the firm has paid Hentschel at least $14,350.

According to two people at ABC News with knowledge, Hentschel was not, in fact, reporting for ABC on any of those subjects. "If she was working on these stories, she was not authorized to cover them for ABC News," one of them said. They requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about sensitive network matters. . . . 

"Kristen Hentschel was a freelance daily hire who never worked for ABC News on the political stories referenced in the NPR article," the network said in a statement. "She does not currently work for ABC NEWS."

How unusual is the Hentschel story.? One news veteran cannot remember another one like it:

David Westin, president of ABC News from 1997 to 2010, says he never came across an instance in which a journalist for the network was simultaneously doing advocacy.

"It just goes to the very heart of why people no longer have the same confidence and trust in the news media as they once did," says Westin, now an anchor for Bloomberg TV. "They suspect this is going on anyway, and for it to actually go on confirms their worst suspicions."

Hentschel, it turns out, appeared in all kinds of places -- almost like a female Forrest Gump:

In another instance, the former girlfriend of Southern Company's CEO, Tom Fanning, says Hentschel cozied up to her over the past year. Southern Company is a rival to Florida Power & Light. This August, Alabama news site reported that Matrix had previously paid a private investigator to spy on Fanning in the summer of 2017.

Hentschel did not return multiple detailed requests for comment.

jeff pittsMatrix's former CEO, Jeff Pitts, left, who hired Hentschel for the firm, declined comment.

That leads us back -- as Matrix-related stories often do -- to the legal feud between Pitts and Joe Perkins:

Matrix's founder, Joe Perkins, disavows any knowledge of Hentschel's work for Matrix and says Pitts was acting as a "rogue"employee in Florida.

Pitts left Matrix to found a rival firm in late 2020, alleging in court papers that he quit Matrix over Perkins' "unethical business practices," including "ordering and directing the clandestine surveillance , including that of top executives of his largest client, the Southern Company." Perkins blames Pitts for the surveillance.

All of this leads to questions about the possible roles of Southern Company, Alabama Power, and Matrix in other unsavory Alabama events. These include the head-on vehicle crash that nearly killed Birmingham-area attorney Burt Newsome, someone shooting into the car of former Drummond Company executive David Roberson as he drove on U.S. 280 near Mountain Brook, and an apparent fake deposition of a Verizon Wireless records custodian in the Newsome Conspiracy Case. 

Documents -- and investigative reporting -- shine considerable light on Hentschel's ties to Matrix:

After Pitts left Matrix, reporters from Floodlight and NPR obtained company records documenting Hentschel's work. This story also draws on other materials, including court records, and 14 interviews with people with direct knowledge of her activities.

In recent months, Matrix has also been accused of interfering in the workings of democracy in Alabama and Florida by seeking to influence ballot initiatives, running ghost candidates and offering a lucrative job to a public official if he resigned. As Floodlight and NPR have revealed, Matrix secretly maintained financial ties to a half-dozen political news sites and tried to ensure favorable coverage for clients.

Legal Schnauzer, Journalistic chicanery, sexual entanglements, and curious cash flow form a strange brew for big-polluting clients represented by Alabama-based Matrix LLC (Part 2), Roger Shuler, right, roger shuler and murphyDec. 27, 2022. The story of former ABC News producer Kristen Hentschel and the Matrix LLC political-consulting firm seems, at first glance, to be a tale of what might be called "journalistic fraud."

After all, Hentschel would use her ABC News credentials to gain access to pro-environment political candidates, only to pepper them with bogus, accusatory questions designed to benefit Matrix's big-polluting clients -- Alabama Power, Southern Company, and Florida Power & Light. Alabama-based Matrix, it turns out, was paying Hentschel to pull off the deceptive scheme.

Upon further inspection, however, the story includes enough romantic entanglements to fill several scripts for an afternoon soap opera. Perhaps that is fitting kristen hentschelbecause Hentschel, left, before she was outed and fired by ABC News last week, was best known for having an affair with ABC journalist Chris Hansen, of To Catch a Predator fame.  

A joint investigation by NPR and Florida-based Floodlight led to a story that broke the Hentschel-Matrix scam on a national stage. It was as if the Hentschel-Hansen affair served as an appetizer for the bigger scandal to come - - and, as it turned out, that story had plenty of npr logosex angles, too.

Hentschel worked on the periphery of TV news, but struggled to gain a firm foothold on the big time. Write NPR/Floodlight reporters Miranda Green, Mario Ariza, and David Folkenflik:

Hentschel began her journalism career with short stints at local TV newsrooms in Chico, Calif., Waco, Texas, and Knoxville, Tennessee.

"A lot of people think that the television business ... looks Hollywood-esque," Hentschel once told Baldwin Park Living, a Florida lifestyle magazine. "I made $8 an hour [at] my first job, laid on couches and had to move around literally every one to two years."

At those jobs, she covered crime, storms, traffic — mainstays of local news.

Her career foundered in 2011 when the National Enquirer disclosed a romantic relationship between her and a married man: Chris Hansen, the former host of NBC's To Catch a Predator.

Hentschel learned that TV news presents a double standard for women in a highly competitive business:

Subsequent stints in Las Vegas, Seattle and Orlando, Fla., proved brief. "A double standard is an understatement as to what happens in this industry," Hentschel told in an interview about her relationship with Hansen. "The women get fired and the men keep going." Professionally, she had been using the name Kristyn Caddell, which endures on her Twitter account, but shifted to her family name, Kristen Hentschel, by late 2015.

Soon, Hentschel was out of work, and perhaps from desperation, turned to Matrix. Her resume found its way to the firm's CEO, Jeff Pitts -- and he hired her in early 2016. But that was not to be Hentschel's only job:

Hentschel soon secured a second gig. In February 2016, she started as a freelance news producer for ABC News.

Hentschel primarily did work for Good Morning America. Among her assignments: helping with segments on NFL star Tom Brady and the disappearance and death of Gabby Petito, the young Florida woman who documented her cross-country trip on social media.

"Our setup for today... #lighting is everything," Hentschel once tweeted with a photograph of a TV reporting shoot. "Who's in the hot seat?"

The answer often proved to be people Pitts wanted her to confront.

Perhaps the strangest episode came when Matrix decided to spy on Southern Company chief Tom Fanning:

In another instance, the former girlfriend of Southern Company's CEO, Tom Fanning, says Hentschel cozied up to her over the past year. Southern Company is a rival to Florida Power & Light. This August, Alabama news site reported that Matrix had previously paid a private investigator to spy on Fanning in the summer of 2017. . . . 

joe perkinsMatrix's founder, Joe Perkins, right, disavows any knowledge of Hentschel's work for Matrix and says Pitts was acting as a "rogue" employee in Florida.

Pitts left Matrix to found a rival firm in late 2020, alleging in court papers that he quit Matrix over Perkins' "unethical business practices," including "ordering and directing the clandestine surveillance including that of top executives of his largest client, the Southern Company." Perkins blames Pitts for the surveillance.

According to NPR/Floodlight, Pitts had a tendency to mix business with pleasure:

Pitts could be a charmer. He was known to cultivate a personal rapport with his corporate clients over sushi and steak dinners, favoring long meals with freely flowing red wine. In an email exchange with a vice president of the energy company NextEra, Pitts wrote, "Talk tomorrow but miss you." She wrote back that his note was a nice surprise. "You said [to] be more open," Pitts replied.

Pitts mixed business with romance, Matrix financial records show. Over the course of the last decade, Pitts paid his then-wife more than $10,000 for work for Matrix, according to copies of the firm's invoices reflecting payments to her personal company. She had previously been employed at Alabama Power, one of Matrix's oldest clients, according to press clippings and two associates.

matrix logoMatrix also paid Pitts' ongoing romantic partner, Apryl Marie Fogel, a conservative radio-show host, nearly $150,000 over several years. Fogel runs the conservative news site Alabama Today, which published articles showcasing Matrix clients in a favorable light.

On a recent episode of her radio show, Fogel compared her relationship with Pitts to that of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, the pro-Trump activist Ginni Thomas.

"You check it at the door," Fogel says. "You may be somewhat, in a fuzzy way, aware of what the other person is doing. And you want them to be successful, but it doesn't mean that you two—that everything is running in lockstep."

It did not take long for Hentschel to become part of the romantic scene:

Shortly after Hentschel started working for Pitts at Matrix, the two began an affair, associates say, though it is not clear how long it lasted. Hentschel bought a home close to Pitts' apartment in West Palm Beach, Florida, public records show.

Meanwhile, Hentschel targeted political figures who could pose a problem for Matrix clients. One target proved to be the mayor of South Miami, who had promoted residential solar panels in the Sunshine State:

Hentschel called Phil Stoddard, then the mayor of South Miami, in August 2018. He says she identified herself as an ABC reporter and asked him about an upcoming press conference likely to bring unflattering publicity. A lawsuit had been filed by parents of a teenager who was hospitalized years earlier after attending a party thrown by Stoddard's teenage daughter. (The suit was ultimately settled.)

npr logoThe press conference turned out to be a sham. It had been orchestrated by Joe Carrillo, a private detective, and Dan Newman, a political operative with financial links to Matrix, according to Matrix documents and a copy of the press release obtained by Floodlight and NPR.

Matrix paid Hentschel $2,000 a few weeks later for what was itemized as a "Miami shoot," a Matrix ledger shows.

The interest in Stoddard, a biologist, seems easy to discern. Stoddard had clashed with Florida Power & Light over transmission lines, a nuclear power florida light and power logoplant, and policies on residential solar panels. . . . 

Internal Matrix emails between Newman, the political operative, and Pitts, the firm's then-CEO, show it hired a private detective to investigate Stoddard's personal life. The Orlando Sentinel reported that Matrix-linked nonprofits spent six figures trying to knock him out of office. . . . 

On Sept. 26, Hentschel showed up with a videographer to a city council meeting.

"I thought, 'No good's gonna come of this,'" Stoddard recalls. He shut down her requests for comment at the council meeting. He continued battling Florida Power & Light even after he left office in 2020.

NPR/Floodlight found that ABC News probably should not have been caught off guard by Hentschel's activities:

There is evidence that ABC News was first told two years ago that Hentschel inappropriately invoked her network ties in conducting work that had nothing to do with ABC News.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast of Florida, a conservative Republican, has established a record as an advocate of strengthening water quality in Lake Okeechobee, the state's largest freshwater lake. He has introduced four pieces of legislation to address toxic algal blooms there.

His work puts him at odds with Florida's powerful sugar interest, Florida Crystals. Okeechobee is kept artificially full for that industry and other corporate use. Mast's bills could ultimately cut into their profits.

"They'll do anything that they can to hold onto that grip of controlling water in the state of Florida," Mast says. "And I'm probably the number one person that goes against them."

In the heat of the 2020 election season, Hentschel chased down Mast at a fundraiser featuring then-President Donald Trump. She told Mast's aides she wanted to ask him about messages he wrote nearly a decade earlier, before entering politics. He had joked about rape and sex with teenagers in Facebook posts to a friend. They had just surfaced publicly, and he had apologized. The aides didn't bite.

The conservative Florida news site The Capitolist called Mast's proposals extreme and urged readers to vote for his Democratic opponent. Matrix had previously funneled The Capitolist nearly $200,000 from Florida Power & Light, the firm's invoices show. Perkins denied Matrix paid The Capitolist and said the company "was unaware of any financial relationships between The Capitolist and any Matrix client."

That September, Hentschel rang the doorbell at Mast's home in a gated community and told Mast's wife she was reporting for ABC, even handing over a business card citing the network, according to Mast's accounts in an interview for this story and in a trespassing complaint he filed with police.

A senior aide to Mast shot off an email to ABC. Its political director, Rick Klein, replied that Hentschel was not there for the network.

Election Day was two months away. In a video he posted on Facebook, Mast denounced his Democratic opponent for sending Hentschel to his door. "I want to talk about something that frankly is just BS," Mast said.

Mast now says he believes Hentschel sought to intimidate him on behalf of the sugar company and Matrix client Florida Crystals — an allegation the company rejected.

Dec. 25


Frank Shakespeare in 1968. (CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Frank Shakespeare in 1968. (CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

washington post logoWashington Post, Frank Shakespeare, Nixon TV guru who redefined political ads, dies at 97, Brian Murphy, Dec. 25, 2022 (print ed.). Mr. Shakespeare's team oversaw ads and on-air events that reflected the rising power of television as a political tool.

Frank Shakespeare, a former CBS executive who deployed his television skills for Richard M. Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign with a blitz of montage-style ads and on-air events that helped win the White House and underscored TV’s power as a political tool, died Dec. 14 at his home in Deerfield, Wis. He was 97.

The death was confirmed by Ed Feulner, founder of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank, where Mr. Shakespeare served as board chairman from 1981 to 1985. No cause was given.

Mr. Shakespeare’s role as a Republican envoy covered decades, including heading the United States Information Agency, during which he sought a sharper pro-American edge to its broadcasts and other media. That included “The Silent majority,” a 1970 news-style propaganda film produced by Mr. Shakespeare’s agency that asserted widespread American support for the Vietnam War and Nixon’s policies.

Mr. Shakespeare later served as an ambassador to Portugal and the Vatican, acting as a liaison between President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in discussions over shared opposition to communism.

But Mr. Shakespeare’s most direct stamp on U.S. political sensibilities came during the homestretch of the wrenching 1968 campaign, which played out amid the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Then came harsh crackdowns on antiwar demonstrators outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that August that further rocked the nation.

Mr. Shakespeare was part of a team of media advisers, including future Fox News president Roger Ailes, tasked with remolding Nixon’s image as someone who could rise to the challenges. The former vice president, however, was burdened by his own lack of public finesse and the lingering infamy of his clunky performance in a 1960 televised debate with John F. Kennedy.

Dec. 24

in history. Criminal referrals have been issued. Much of the panel’s staff has moved on, accepting other jobs.

Twitter owner and CEO Elon Musk, standing in the back row at center, is shown with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner in Qatar at the World Cup championship game in a VIP box on Dec. 18, 2022.Twitter owner Elon Musk, standing in the back row at center, is shown with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner in Qatar at the World Cup championship game in a VIP box on Dec. 18, 2022.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Here’s who helped Elon Musk buy Twitter, Hamza Shaban and Faiz Siddiqui, Dec. 24, 2022. Who pulls the financial strings at Twitter? These are Musk’s backers:

  • Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al Saud
  • The Qatar Investment Authority
  • Binance
  • Andreessen Horowitz
  • Sequoia Capital
  • Larry Ellison
  • Jack Dorsey
  • Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Barclays

After slashing half the company’s 7,500 member staff, he’s driven away advertisers and created a bigger financial hole for the company. So far, his ideas for bringing in additional money — paying for verification and additional features — have failed to make much of a dent. An unscientific poll he launched recently told him to step down as CEO.

twitter bird CustomOn a Twitter audio chat recently, Musk cited the company’s precarious financial position as a driver of his aggressive job cuts and drastic actions, adding “we have an emergency fire drill on our hands.”

That’s making at least some of his investors in the deal antsy, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Last week, at least a couple of the original investors received letters from a Musk associate soliciting additional investments, according to two people familiar with the matter, although it was unclear if that would proceed.

Here’s who initially invested in the deal, and what we know about why:

Foreign Investors

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal al Saud. Estimated Contribution: $2 Billion

The Saudi prince agreed in May to convert his shares of Twitter, worth nearly $2 billion, into a stake in the company when Musk took it private. A month earlier, he had publicly sparred with Musk about the company’s worth, but later tweeted that Musk would be an “excellent leader for Twitter.”

The prince has previously placed winning bets on Apple, Amazon and eBay. But his latest Silicon Valley investment has drawn skepticism in Washington. qatar mapPresident Biden and some members of Congress have called on officials to examine the role of Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Twitter deal.

The Qatar Investment Authority. Estimated Contribution: $375 Million

Dec. 23


elon musk thumbs up

ny times logoNew York Times, Musk Lifted Bans for Thousands on Twitter. Here’s What They’re Tweeting, Stuart A. Thompson, Dec. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Many reinstated users are tweeting about topics that got them barred in the first place: Covid-19 skepticism, election denialism and QAnon.

Since Elon Musk bought Twitter in October, the self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist” has ad-libbed his way through the company’s moderation policies.

He initially argued that bans should be reserved for spam accounts, offering “amnesty” to thousands of suspended users and reinstating former president Donald J. Trump. Last week, he suspended several journalists, claiming they had shared public flight data revealing his private location. (Many of the bans were later reversed.)

To gauge how Mr. Musk’s content decisions influenced Twitter’s content, The New York Times analyzed tweets from more than 1,000 users whose accounts were recently reinstated. The posts were collected for The Times by Bright Data, a social media tracking company, using a list of reinstated users identified by Travis Brown, a Berlin-based software developer who has tracked extremism on Twitter.

Most of the reinstated accounts were deeply partisan — often vocal supporters of Mr. Trump — and they appeared eager to bring their fiery takes back to the social network. It was not clear from the data why the users were originally suspended or why they were reinstated, though their post histories suggest many were banned as Twitter cracked down on Covid-19 and election-related misinformation.

Imran Ahmed, the founder and chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said the message Mr. Musk sent to the formerly suspended users was clear: “‘Welcome back, welcome home.”

“I finally got this account back after being banned for being a #Republican thanks @elonmusk,” one user tweeted. Just 10 minutes later, the same person wrote: “Joe Biden is an illegitimate president and the 2020 election was stolen.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter Is Said to Have Struggled Over Revealing U.S. Influence Campaign, Kate Conger and Sheera Frenkel, Dec. 23, 2022 (print ed.). Internal emails showed the company’s communications with the Pentagon over a network of military-run accounts.

In response to a 2017 request from the Pentagon, Twitter kept online a network of accounts that the U.S. military used to advance its interests in the Middle East, according to internal company emails that were made public on Tuesday by The Intercept, a nonprofit publication.

twitter bird CustomA counterterrorism division at Twitter knew about the arrangement, but others did not, five people with knowledge of the matter said. When it became more widely known within the company, executives rushed to undo it. But they struggled with whether to publicly disclose the military-run Twitter accounts, the people said.

Some of the accounts were removed, but others remained online for years. Twitter eventually disclosed the U.S. influence campaign this year.

The situation was unusual because Twitter normally removes and publicly discloses influence campaigns conducted by governments. Social media companies have taken a strong line against state-backed influence campaigns since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when Russia misused Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to influence American voters. But in this case, Twitter’s transparency efforts moved slowly and the company showed deference to the U.S. government.

Dec. 21


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

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” in December, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story and limit other controversial messaging that Musk wants distributed. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

The Guardian, Opinion: Elon Musk was never a liberal, and his plans for Twitter were never benevolent, Thomas Zimmer, Dec. 21, 2022. Tech barons’ lip-service to democracy and pluralism was always conditional on preserving their own positions at the top.

On Monday, Elon Musk polled Twitter users on whether he should step down as CEO. The answer was a resounding yes. On Tuesday, Musk announced that he will step down once he finds a replacement. Still, the damage has been done: Musk’s tenure has been a disaster for democracy.
Elon Musk is a Jekyll and Hyde character. And as head of Twitter, Hyde is winning

Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, he has encouraged far-right conspiracy theories, consistently articulated rightwing extremist ideas and coddled extremists who propagated them, changed or undermined content moderation in a way that allowed hate speech and far-right abuse to flourish, and constantly derided Democrats, liberals and anyone he perceives as part of “the Left” in an escalating crusade against “wokeism”. He is now banning critical voices, including those of mainstream journalists, under obviously disingenuous pretenses.

Musk’s actions are fully consistent with the worldview that dominates among far-right reactionary extremists. Yet, many observers seem reluctant to acknowledge that what is happening is exactly what it looks like. People who cover the tech world are still searching for a grand business strategy that would explain all this behavior. And some people whose main occupation is to cover politics are also struggling. The New York Times recently declared Musk’s politics “tricky to pin down”, and said that “what he stands for remains largely unclear.”

The source of confusion seems to be that Musk’s actions collide with certain assumptions about the supposedly liberal tech world and with Musk’s own previous claims about his political leanings. But the male-dominated tech world seemed “liberal” only because it was associated with technical progress, while most of the (predominantly male) tech oligarchs were happy to present a culturally permissive image. And people say all sorts of things about their political leanings and may even believe them – that doesn’t mean we should take their proclamations at face value. What people actually do, the political projects they support, is far more relevant.

So, what’s up with Musk’s politics?

From a democratic perspective, it’s highly problematic that tech oligarchs like Musk are amassing so much power and influence. They are not democratically controlled in any way or guided by any concern for the public good. Musk is yet another example of how short the path from a certain kind of libertarianism to the far right is, a reminder that this type of libertarianism is driven by a desire for freedom from regulation and criticism of any kind.

Musk believes that the world works best if people like him are in charge and get to do as they please, unhampered by regulations or demands for equality – because their interests ought to be the same as humanity’s. It’s an inherently anti-democratic worldview that tracks very well with the reactionary idea that the world should be run by wealthy white men. This is what is pulling these people to the right, and why they eventually gravitate toward autocratic regimes at home and abroad.

Much of the moral panic over “cancel culture” – which animated Musk to buy Twitter in the first place – is a reaction to the fact that traditionally marginalized groups gained technological means to affect the political debate.

twitter bird CustomTwitter has been crucial in this uphill struggle: a tool for organizing, a platform, a global amplifier that enabled people with no traditional access to power to speak to powerful elites directly and criticize them in the public square. How valuable this has been is evidenced by the fact that many of those elites are so consistently bemoaning “persecution” – and, like Musk, wish to sabotage and destroy this instrument for public criticism. To the extent that traditional societal elites – and elite white men in particular – face a little more scrutiny today than in the past, Twitter has helped to democratize public life.

Thomas Zimmer is a visiting professor at Georgetown University, focused on the history of democracy and its discontents in the United States, and a Guardian US contributing opinion writer

Dec. 19

JFK Facts, Analysis: Tucker Carlson, the Liberal Media, and JFK, Jefferson Morley, right, Dec. 19, 2022. A sea change in how the media talks about jefferson morley newKennedy's assassination. The coverage of the U.S. government’s latest JFK document dump on December 15 marked a sea change in how American mass media talks about Kennedy's assassination.

“I turned on “Morning Joe” and I thought I was at a conference in Dallas,” one researcher told me. Jim DiEugenio, producer of Oliver Stone’s JFK documentary, laughed out loud when I asked him about Tucker Carlson’s scorching JFK segment on Fox, which JFK’s nephew, Robert Kennedy Jr., called, in a now-deleted tweet, “the most courageous broadcast in 60 years.”

Katy Tur at MSNBC expressed hope for full JFK disclosure soon. So did Jim Acosta at CNN. NBC’s Chuck Todd was even tougher, reporting “The law demands full JFK record release, but ‘clearly the CIA doesn’t care about those consequences.”’

Dec. 18 

ny times logoNew York Times, In the U.S., His Site Has Been Linked to Massacres, In Japan, He’s a Star, Ben Dooley, Dec. 18, 2022.  Hiroyuki Nishimura has become a famous voice for disenchanted young Japanese. What he talks much less about is his ownership of the notorious website 4chan.

He has amassed millions of followers on social media, where he opines on the failures of Japanese society. He has appeared both on the catwalk at one of Japan’s biggest fashion shows and in a government video urging people to watch their finances. In a national poll, high school students said he was their top pick for prime minister.

By endearing himself to young Japanese who feel oppressed by their country’s rigid rules, Hiroyuki Nishimura has become wildly famous in Japan, a celebrity entrepreneur, author and commentator so ubiquitous that people simply call him Hiroyuki, a name roughly as common as Adam in the United States.

In some two dozen books and hundreds of magazine columns, he has encouraged his fans to be more selfish, to stop caring about what others think, to work less and to game the system by obeying the law’s letter while flouting its spirit. Initially famous for his role in building two of Japan’s most popular websites, he has since become a national antihero by raising a giant middle finger to mainstream society, expressing his many contrarian views as unapologetically and publicly as possible.

But there is one thing Mr. Nishimura is much less eager to talk about: his ownership of 4chan, the anonymous online message board.

ny times logoNew York Times, Twitter to Ban Accounts That Promote Rival Social Media, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Dec. 18, 2022. The move may affect giant social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, as well as smaller ones like Mastodon and Truth Social.

facebook logoTwitter said on Sunday that it would ban accounts that promote rival social media platforms, the most recent shift by the company since Elon Musk took over.

In a post, Twitter said it would remove accounts “created solely for the purpose of promoting other social platforms.” The company went on to say it would take action against users that flout the policy “at both the Tweet level and the account level.”

twitter bird CustomThe decision also means that users may no longer be able to link to their own accounts on other social media platforms. (Mr. Musk tweeted later on Sunday, “Casually sharing occasional links is fine.”)

The move, the latest change in an already chaotic month at the company, could affect giant social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram; start-ups like Mastodon and Post; and the right-wing site that former President Donald J. Trump helped found, Truth Social. Twitter said the new policy would also affect two other alternative social networks, Tribel and Nostr.

Twitter last week suspended the account of Mastodon, after the site had promoted the work of a journalist who had been barred from Twitter.

Social networks traditionally have permitted links to other social platforms, with the idea that sharing content can bring wider distribution to posts and a more open internet.

Twitter’s policy change on Sunday reflects a broader pattern in which Mr. Musk has purged the platform of dissenting voices. Last week, he suspended the accounts of half a dozen well-known journalists, including Ryan Mac of The New York Times and Drew Harwell of The Washington Post. Most of those accounts have since been reinstated.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Education of CNN’s Chris Licht, James B. Stewart, Dec. 18, 2022. The network’s chief executive knew the job would not be easy. But this hard?

When Chris Licht told his boss, Stephen Colbert, the host of the CBS program “Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” in February that he had been offered the chief executive job at CNN, Mr. Colbert was blunt: “Definitely don’t go do that.”

chris licht wBut for Mr. Licht, right, nothing less than democracy itself was at stake. He argued he could make CNN a news channel that people trusted, as opposed to one that monetized partisan combat.

“Oh, man, you used to be in news, remember?” Mr. Colbert recalled telling him. “You said this was so much nicer — 12 weeks off, good pay, laugh for an hour every night. Everyone is really nice; you can say anything you want, and nobody leaks it. It’s great.”

“CNN would be lucky to get you,” Mr. Colbert continued. “But you’re my friend, and I’m telling you not to go.”

Ocnn logon Feb. 28, Mr. Licht was named CNN’s new chief executive. Since then, he and Mr. Colbert have spoken nearly every Friday. Each time, Mr. Colbert begins with the same four words:

“I told you so.”

By almost any measure, Mr. Licht, 51, has had a rough start. His first major act was to kill the network’s fledgling streaming service, CNN+, and fire 400 or so people working on it. CNN’s revenue and profits have plunged to a projected $750 million this year, down from $1.25 billion last year, partly from the costs associated with CNN+, the network acknowledged. CNN’s ratings declined, on average, this year compared with 2021, according to Nielsen, with CNN falling behind MSNBC for the first time in prime time on election night among total viewers. (CNN prevailed in the coveted 25-to-54 age group.)

At the end of November, Mr. Licht levied another round of job cuts — this time just under 10 percent of CNN’s work force of about 4,000, which plunged morale further. Among the casualties were familiar commentators like Chris Cillizza, key behind-the-scenes producers with decades of experience, and the entirety of HLN, CNN’s sister network, and its popular morning host, Robin Meade.

ny times logoNew York Times, Vatican Removes Anti-Abortion Activist From the Priesthood, Elizabeth Dias and Ruth Graham, Dec. 18, 2022. Frank Pavone’s work has led to clashes over the years with some Catholic leaders. His removal comes at a precarious moment for the anti-abortion movement.

A well-known Catholic priest and incendiary leader of the anti-abortion movement was removed from the priesthood by the Vatican, according to a letter from Pope Francis’ representative to the United States that was obtained by The New York Times.

Frank Pavone, who leads the advocacy organization Priests for Life, and was once a religious adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, was dismissed from the clergy on Nov. 9 with no possibility of appeal, the letter states. The letter included a statement about the removal, called laicization, that it said was approved by the Dicastery for the Clergy, a Vatican office.

“This action was taken after Father Pavone was found guilty in canonical proceedings of blasphemous communications on social media, and of persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop,” it states.

The letter did not specify those communications or disobedience, or name the diocesan bishop. Reached by phone on Sunday morning, Mr. Pavone said that he had not been properly notified of the decision.

“I’m waiting for them to point out to me what I did wrong that merits something like this,” he said. And though the Vatican has said there was no possibility of appeal, Mr. Pavone said that ultimately he and his allies “would have to appeal to the next pope” and “to the people of God.”

The punishment of a high-profile Catholic anti-abortion activist comes at a precarious moment for the movement as it plans its future after losses in the midterm election and struggles to unify Republicans around the issue. Mr. Pavone’s anti-abortion activism was not cited in the letter as the reason for his dismissal.

The move also comes a month after the Catholic bishops of the United States said they would redouble their efforts to end abortion and elected new leaders who are expected to continue the conservative leanings of the hierarchy.

washington post logoWashington Post, We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking, Karen Heller, Dec. 19, 2022. .‘They’re more like friends than objects,’ one passionate bookseller says. What are we to do with our flooded shelves?

Dec. 17

frank pavoneCatholic News Agency, Vatican dismisses Father Frank Pavone from priesthood, Shannon Mullen and Joe Bukuras, Dec 17, 2022. Father Frank Pavone, shown above, a well-known pro-life activist and national director of the organization Priests for Life, has been dismissed from the clerical state for “blasphemous communications on social media” and “persistent disobedience of the lawful instructions of his diocesan bishop,” CNA has learned.

In a Dec. 13 letter to U.S. bishops obtained by CNA and confirmed by multiple sources as authentic, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, wrote that the prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy issued the decision on Nov. 9, adding that there was “no possibility of appeal.”

“Father Pavone was given ample opportunity to defend himself in the canonical proceedings, and he was also given multiple opportunities to submit himself to the authority of his diocesan bishop,” explains a separate statement attached to Pierre’s letter. “It was determined that Father Pavone had no reasonable justification for his actions.”

Pavone, however, told CNA Saturday that he had not been notified about the Vatican’s judgment.

The communication from Pierre does not specify the actions that led to Pavone’s dismissal or name the bishop he disobeyed.

The statement refers to Pavone as “Mr. Pavone” and calls him “a lay person,” underscoring the dramatic and immediate nature of the Vatican’s action. 

“Since Priests for Life, Inc. is not a Catholic organization, Mr. Pavone’s continuing role in it as a lay person would be entirely up to the leadership of that organization,” the statement says.

Pavone is still saying Masses, including one streamed online Saturday. The Priests for Life website states that Pavone “is a Catholic priest in good standing, and exercises his ministry in full communion with the Catholic Church.”

In an email to CNA on Saturday, Pavone said that he was not aware of the Vatican’s action.

“How did CNA learn about this before I did?” he asked. In a subsequent email he added that CNA’s inquiry was “the very first communication that came to me about this.”

It is not clear in what diocese Pavone, 63, is incardinated as a priest. On the Priests for Life website, it says he received permission from the Vatican in 2019 to transfer from the Diocese of Amarillo, Texas, where he was incardinated in 2005, to another, unnamed diocese.

Pavone hosted the show “Defending Life” on EWTN for many years until the bishop of Amarillo, Texas, revoked Pavone’s permission to appear on the Network. EWTN is the parent organization of CNA.

Originally based in Staten Island, New York, Priests for Life is now headquartered in Titusville, Florida, within the Diocese of Orlando. That diocese, also, did not respond to CNA’s request for comment Saturday.

Pavone has served as the pro-life organization’s national director since 1993.

In that role he has a long history of conflicts with bishops, beginning more than 20 years ago with the late Cardinal Edward Egan of the Archdiocese of New York. Egan succeeded the late Cardinal John J. O’Connor, who ordained Pavone in 1988 and encouraged his pro-life work.

In his email, Pavone directed CNA to a document posted on his personal website titled “Summary of How Fr. Frank and Priests for Life Have Been Treated by Some in the Hierarchy.”

Hollywood Reporter, Hollywood’s Messy Tradition of Newspaper Yarns, Thomas Doherty, Dec. 17, 2022. Studio executives' interest in journalism movies was born in the early sound era, then the genre thrived in the pre-Code era and learned better manners after the Production Code Administration unsheathed its scissors in 1934.

Based on New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor’s account of their harpooning of the powerhouse producer and loathsome sexual predator Harvey Weinstein, Maria Schrader’s She Said had a lot going for it: two congenial performers (Carey Mulligan as Twohey and Zoe Kazan as Kantor); a narrative fixation on the target of opportunity; and the cathartic satisfactions of justice served, eventually.

Yet She Said was also — not to bury the lede — a bit pedantic and procedural. Journalism here is serious business — akin to a sacred vocation, actually — and its practitioners are straitlaced and earnest.

This is not the way Hollywood traditionally portrayed members of the Fourth Estate. The ink-stained progenitors of today’s digital crusaders were crude, irreverent, and often inebriated. They didn’t want to change the world or give voice to the voiceless; they wanted to crush the competition by any sneaky, underhanded, and conniving means necessary. Also, they were fun to watch.

1931’s ‘Front Page’

Unlike westerns or musicals, there seems to be no good name for the genre (if that’s what it is) of motion pictures set in newsrooms and built around news gathering. The mundane signifier “journalism film” may have to make do for the full range of newsworthy films (for example, the magazine-centric Shattered Glass [2003] and the TV news-centric The China Syndrome [1979]), but the term coined by the trade papers when the first editions hit the streets better captures the speed, style, and pizzazz of the original iterations: “newspaper yarns.”

ben hecht front page posterThe newspaper yarns were born in the early sound era, thrived in the pre-Code era, and learned better manners after the Production Code Administration unsheathed its scissors in 1934. They presumed a media world in which newsprint was the dominant transmission belt for information and cold hard type carried cultural authority. In the 1930s, nine dailies were published in New York City; the New York Daily News alone boasted a circulation of one million. With the exception of the snooty New York Times, all were ruthlessly competitive, all published multiple editions each day, and, when a hot story broke, an extra edition rolled off the presses for newsboys to hawk on street corners: “Extra! G-Men Kill Dillinger in Chicago! Extra!”

What sparked Hollywood’s interest in the newspaper game was the introduction of talk to the cinema in 1927. Logically enough, the studios figured newspapermen, already trained in churning out snappy prose and hitting deadlines, could put words into the mouths on screen. Underpaid bylines like Herman Mankiewicz, Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Gene Fowler, Adela Rogers St. Johns, Jo Swerling, and scores more needed little nudging to go Hollywood. By 1930, the entire writing staff at Columbia Pictures was comprised of nothing but former newsmen. A statistically significant percentage of the raw recruits was second-generation Jews and Irishman, fast-talking wiseguys-and-gals bred on the city streets, prone to wit, wordplay, irony, and malice.

A well-timed stage play inspired Hollywood to feature the writers on the other side of the screen: The Front Page, written by Ben Hecht, a seasoned beat reporter and columnist for the Chicago Daily News, and the slightly more urbane playwright Charles MacArthur. (Hecht’s endlessly entertaining and occasionally reliable memoir A Child of the Century, published in 1954, recounts the true-life backstory for the play.) 

Premiering on Broadway on August 14, 1928, The Front Page was an instant smash. Howard Hughes scooped up the film rights for $125,000, at which point almost every studio in Hollywood rushed a newspaper yarn into production to beat him out of the gate. In 1929, Variety was already detecting an “epidemic of film newspaper yarns” (also known as “city desk stuff”) and numbering among them Paramount’s Gentlemen of the Press, Warner Bros.’s In the Headlines, and Pathe’s Big News.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Journalism and government are struggling. Here’s why I’m optimistic, Colbert I. King, right, Dec. 17, 2022. On the “Larry King Live” CNN colbert king twitterprogram, the talk show host often asked guests the question: “Are you optimistic or pessimistic?”

It was King’s way of getting people to open up about how they felt about the future.

If asked the King question, most of us, I suspect, would apply the old Miles’s Law aphorism: “Where you stand depends on where you sit.”

At year end and seated at my computer, I asked the King question about three aspects of my time and attention: D.C. government, national leadership and this thing called journalism.

For openers, I’m hopelessly devoted to this town.

I was born, raised and educated here, and I’ve been married 61 years to Gwen, who gave birth here in this city to two of our three children. (The last was born overseas.) I bleed Dunbar High School and Howard University.

I have worked in Washington from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other: as a Senate staffer to positions in the city’s West End at the State and Treasury departments. Job assignments have led me numerous times into the White House, city government agencies, and inside just about every federal department lining Constitution and Independence avenues. This is home turf.

My Post association also began decades ago, probably predating most people on today’s payroll.

I was there on March 18, 1954, when the first issue of The Washington Post and Times-Herald was published — The Post having just purchased its morning rival, the Times-Herald. Admittedly, I was in the sub-sub-basement of the newspaper’s food chain. But I was on hand for the launching.

The first issue combined most of the two papers. As a Times-Herald carrier suddenly folded into the ranks of The Post, I had the privilege — and burden — of delivering dozens of those multi-pound monstrosities to subscribers residing in blocks neighboring the west side of the White House. Yes, I really was present at the beginning.

But to King’s “optimistic or pessimistic” query:

From where I sit, and drawing upon Miles’s Law, I see government — the District, the White House and Congress — and the world of journalism all going through a rough patch.

But that is no cause for pessimism.

Our saving grace is that we have, amid legislative unruliness, a core of elected officials with the capacity to legislate pragmatically and reconcile — people not inclined to let the perfect be enemy of the good.

To survive, we must get back to basics, return to being conveyors of news and carefully drawn opinions, not entertainers bearing carefully tailored tales. That readjustment might cause heartaches within the ranks of latter-day journalists. But if done right, journalism will survive to talk about it. That, too, spells optimism for the future.

Dec. 16


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

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” this month, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story and limit other controversial messaging that Musk wants distributed. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

Politico, Opinion: Why the ‘Twitter Files’ Are Falling Flat, Joan Donovan, Dec. 16, 2022 (print ed.). The public has recently gotten an inside peek at the workings of Twitter and Facebook, thanks to a pair of extraordinary document drops.

politico CustomThe first release — the “Facebook Files” — came in late 2021 from Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee. The second — the “Twitter Files” — came this month from Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner. Unfortunately for Musk, the “Twitter Files” are not having nearly the same impact as the “Facebook Files” did. And for good reason.

The two document drops are set apart by the methods of the media rollouts and the goals of the informants. The “Facebook Files” were the product of an intensive Wall Street Journal investigation, with Haugen later releasing the data to over a dozen major media outlets, who confirmed and amplified the original claims. Over at Twitter, Musk has given privileged access to some ideologically friendly journalists who must publish their findings on his platform.

Haugen’s ultimate goal was to blow the whistle on Facebook’s inability to reckon with the damage caused by its own product, and she largely succeeded. The “Facebook Files” helped drive a new narrative about how the social media company handled (or failed to handle) content moderation issues and fueled incitement across the globe.

On the other hand, the “Twitter Files” are a desperate attempt to legitimize a well-worn conservative narrative that the suppression of Hunter Biden’s “laptop from hell” proved collusion between the so-called deep state and social media companies. Tweets laced with allegations that former Twitter executives purposefully stopped aggressive moderation of child exploitation often subsume the Twitter replies, but the details of the “Twitter Files” do not seem to hold new revelations.

Instead, they serve the purpose of demonizing Twitter’s former content moderation executives to make it seem like they were prioritizing the moderation of political disinformation above child exploitation. In the crosshairs, quite literally, are a handful of former employees tasked with “Trust and Safety,” tech speak for brand management. One of them, Yoel Roth, has fled his home amid death threats.

In fact, what the “Twitter Files” reveal is what we already knew about social media governance from the “Facebook Files”: Social media corporations spend a large amount of time and resources discussing how to bend the rules so that politicians and celebrity influencers don’t get suspended. To pretend that the “Twitter Files” illustrates internal political bias on behalf of the old regime is to ignore the reality that Musk’s new regime is much more politically motivated.

Ultimately, both social media releases are attempts at shaping the mainstream media narratives about the purpose and practice of content moderation on massively large open platforms. But while the “Facebook Files” took months to contextualize and fact-check, Musk is baiting mainstream media companies to cover a manufactured scandal about something that happened years ago and it is still not yielding returns. So far, the media largely isn’t taking the bait, showing that news coverage doesn’t just happen simply because a billionaire tries to engineer it. Silence is still the editor’s best kept weapon in the content wars.

While the “Twitter Files” are numbered to imply some continuity, the content is mostly searches of particular former executives’ emails and chats, focusing on very inside baseball discussions about meeting with the government regarding threats to the platform. Intent on drumming up suspicion and intrigue, the tweet-thread shenanigans of the media gatekeepers, Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss, have made it increasingly more difficult for mainstream outlets to cover this “nothingburger,” as Musk might say.

Love it or hate it, coverage by legitimate newsrooms still matters because of the high burden of editorial and legal review that hold up major investigations until all is fact-checked. There is no such apparatus functioning to substantiate the claims made in “Twitter Files” threads. The cherry-picked so-called evidence consists of screenshots from former Twitter executives, but if you bother to read such tiny print, the evidence implies the executives were desperately attempting to rationalize how to apply their own terms of service against an increasingly hostile President Donald Trump who was using social media to claim he won an election he lost.

Perhaps Musk can take heart in the fact that Haugen also struggled to control the news: At one point, the Facebook document release suffered from a botched embargo that perhaps lessened the overall impact on public opinion. After the Wall Street Journal published its multi-part series called the “Facebook Files,” there was a secondary rollout known as the “Facebook Papers” produced by major media outlets as diverse as CNN, Le Monde, NBC News, Fox Business and POLITICO who were served drips of data daily. This frustrated reporters who had a difficult time piecing together stories because they did not know what else might be coming. T

hese selected news organizations were supposed to cooperate on the enormous trove, but after the New York Times fired off a big story featuring the leaks from Facebook on a Friday evening, the other outlets that had been waiting for the Monday morning embargo published in quick succession. This created a feverish cascade of stories about Facebook’s negligence but may have confused the public, who was largely over it by the next week. To this end, I have been working alongside Latanya Sweeney at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on FBArchive, a project to catalog these materials and publish them in the public interest.

As an internet researcher, it is my job to monitor, measure and analyze trends in technology. I listened to several Twitter Spaces involving Musk and he is reveling in the attention from conservative media, even as he is chagrined at the lack of mainstream media uptake.

If the “Facebook Files” were about the public interest, the “Twitter Files” are all about public relations. Like the brand management of Tesla, Musk is building a sycophantic legion of true believers bent on believing the platform can influence elections and change the culture (which all could very well be true in a limited way).

As we watch leading journalists and researchers, like Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker and Kate Starbird of the University of Washington, leave the platform, I can’t help but think that everyday Musk is in charge, Twitter is being drained of the very thing that made it influential and informative in the first place. That exodus may be the one thing the “Twitter Files” are accomplishing.

Joan Donovan is the Research Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center and Co-author of Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America.

ny times logoNew York Times, Musk Faces Growing Anger Over Twitter Ban of Journalists, Bernhard Warner, Dec. 16, 2022. The suspensions, which were criticized by U.S. and European lawmakers, could raise the regulatory heat on the platform — and Elon Musk’s other companies.

Elon Musk faced a growing backlash on Friday from lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic, with threats of fines and sanctions, after Twitter suspended the accounts of at least eight journalists on Thursday without warning.

The suspended accounts included those belonging to Ryan Mac of The New York Times, Donie O’Sullivan of CNN and Drew Harwell of The Washington Post. It was unclear what the suspensions had in common.

The silencing of prominent voices could raise the regulatory heat on Twitter, and possibly Mr. Musk’s other companies, including Tesla and SpaceX, which is a big recipient of government funding and projects. It could also hurt his push to get reluctant advertisers back onto the platform.

The action set off a wave of protests. News organizations, including The Times and CNN, have demanded that Mr. Musk explain his rationale. Supporters of the journalists argued on Twitter that the move was overly punitive.

european union logo rectangleLawmakers in the European Union may go on the offensive. Vera Jourova, a vice president of the European Commission, said the move violated the E.U.’s Digital Services Act and its Media Freedom Act.

“There are red lines. And sanctions, soon,” she tweeted Friday morning.

The recently ratified Digital Services Act serves as a kind of rule book on moderating content for firms operating in the bloc. It goes into effect next year, and carries a fine of 6 percent of global revenue for companies that run afoul of the rules.

Representative Lori Trahan, Democrat of Massachusetts and a member of the House committee on electronic communications and the internet, also expressed dismay over Twitter’s move. She tweeted on Thursday that she had received assurances this week from the company that it had no intention of retaliating against journalists or independent researchers who cover Mr. Musk and Twitter critically.

“Less than 12 hours later, multiple technology reporters have been suspended. What’s the deal, @elonmusk?” she wrote.

The moves came a day after Twitter suspended more than two dozen other accounts, including an account belonging to Jack Sweeney, the 20-year-old college student behind @elonjet, which tracked the movements of Mr. Musk’s private plane. Each of the suspended journalists had written about the plane-tracking account or tweeted about it.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Silicon Valley Bosses See Elon Musk, Kevin Roose, Dec. 16, 2022. The Twitter owner’s ruthless, unsparing style has made him a hero to many tech executives, Kevin Roose writes.

It may seem obvious, to most people outside Silicon Valley, that Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter has been an unmitigated disaster.

In less than two months since taking over, Mr. Musk has fired more than half of Twitter’s staff, scared away many of its major advertisers, made (and unmade) a series of ill-advised changes to its verification program, angered regulators and politicians with erratic and offensive tweets, declared a short-lived war on Apple, greenlit a bizarre “Twitter Files” exposé, stopped paying rent on Twitter’s offices, and falsely accused the company’s former head of trust and safety of supporting pedophilia. His personal fortune has shrunk by billions of dollars, and he was booed at a Dave Chappelle show.

It’s not, by almost any measure, going well for him. And yet, one group is still firmly in Mr. Musk’s corner: Bosses.

In recent weeks, many tech executives, founders and investors have expressed their admiration for Mr. Musk, even as the billionaire has flailed at Twitter. Reed Hastings, the chief executive of Netflix, praised Mr. Musk at a New York Times DealBook conference late last month, calling him “the bravest, most creative person on the planet.”

Gavin Baker, a private equity investor, recently claimed that a lot of venture-funded chief executives were “inspired by Elon.”

And several partners at Andreessen Horowitz, the influential venture capital firm, have tweeted similar encomia to Mr. Musk’s management style.

ny times logoNew York Times, Elon Musk Sells Another $3.6 Billion Worth of Tesla Stock, Michael J. de la Merced and Peter Eavis, Dec. 16, 2022 (print ed.). Twitter’s owner has now sold $23 billion worth of Tesla stock this year, much of it after he pledged in April to stop selling shares to finance his deal to acquire the social media company.

twitter bird CustomIf Tesla shareholders were already worried that Elon Musk was too distracted by his new chief executive position at Twitter, they now have more reason to be upset: Mr. Musk disclosed on Wednesday that he had sold another $3.6 billion worth of Tesla stock, possibly to prop up his embattled social network.

Mr. Musk has now sold $23 billion worth of Tesla stock this year, much of it after he pledged in April to stop selling shares to finance his Twitter deal.

He hinted at what he was up to on Tuesday, saying on Twitter, “Beware of debt in turbulent macroeconomic conditions, especially when Fed keeps raising rates.” That suggests he either plans to buy back some of Twitter’s billions in debt — including the $13 billion it took on as part of his takeover — or, perhaps less likely, buy back some of the company’s shares.

None of this will reassure Tesla shareholders, who are fretting over the roughly 61 percent drop in the carmaker’s stock price from its peak in late 2021 — and a chief executive who has admitted to spending nearly all of his time at Twitter nowadays. On Wednesday, Leo KoGuan, one of Tesla’s biggest individual investors, said on Twitter, “Tesla needs and deserves to have working full-time C.E.O.”

The slump in Tesla’s stock is a sharp break from the days when its ascent lit up the stock market and gave the company a market value of well over $1 trillion. This year, the stock has not only lagged the wider market but also more established automakers that are competing more aggressively with Tesla in the fast-growing electric vehicle business. Some investors and analysts are concerned that the competitive challenges Tesla faces are coming at a time when Mr. Musk appears to not only be distracted but also possibly selling Tesla shares to shore up his purchase of Twitter.

Tesla stock closed up 0.6 percent, to $157.67, on Thursday after falling for three straight days. Adjusting for a stock split, the shares briefly traded at more than $400 in late 2021.

“The Twitter nightmare continues as Musk uses Tesla as his own A.T.M. machine to keep funding the red ink at Twitter,” Dan Ives, a stock analyst at Wedbush, wrote in a note to clients on Thursday. Some investors are also worried that Mr. Musk’s divisive and incendiary statements on Twitter could be damaging Tesla’s brand and putting off customers, especially people who are buying electric cars to reduce the emissions responsible for climate change.

Dec. 15

The Free Press, Commentary: Our Reporting at Twitter, Bari Weiss, right, Dec. 15, 2022. If the story of Twitter's former overlords is about their prejudices and power trips, bari weiss graphicthe question now is what Elon Musk will do with the powerful tools they created.

At dinner time on December 2 , I received a text from Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, founder of SpaceX, founder of the Boring Company, founder of Neuralink, on most days the richest man in the world (possibly history), and, as of October, the owner of Twitter. 

Was I interested in looking at Twitter’s archives, he asked. And how soon could I get to Twitter HQ?

twitter bird CustomTwo hours later, I was on a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco with my wife, Free Press writer Nellie Bowles, and our three-month-old baby.

In the days that followed, we—the journalist Matt Taibbi; investigative reporters connected to The Free Press, including Abigail Shrier, Michael Shellenberger and Leighton Woodhouse; plus Free Press reporters Suzy Weiss, Peter Savodnik, Olivia Reingold, and Isaac Grafstein—camped out in a windowless, fluorescent-lit room at Twitter headquarters and began looking through the company’s vast archive of internal communications. 

The only condition Musk imposed was that we first publish our findings on Twitter itself. (We did. Today, on The Free Press, we are publishing versions of those stories that aren’t limited to 280-character chunks.)

Twitter was founded in 2006. It is impossible to calculate how many emails and internal Slack messages and reports it has generated over the years. Looking for information about big subjects relevant to the public—the question of whether Covid-19 started with a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, say, and how the platform suppressed or shaped the conversation around it—is like trying to put together a 100,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

We also had to work through lawyers using e-discovery tools—software designed for lawyers to help them search huge amounts of information. So we entered search terms—mostly dates and names of former Twitter executives—and, over many hours, files would pop up. We then stitched together a chronology of events and communications. 

We did not selectively retrieve, or cherry-pick, files with an eye toward servicing a particular agenda. Our goal was simply to figure out what had happened at crucial moments in the history of the country and the company.

As for Musk’s aim? 

What was his goal in asking us to exhume the so-called Twitter Files? And why did the man obsessed with outer space decide to spend $44 billion on a social media platform that has made most of us feel more claustrophobic? 

Those are much harder questions.

To hear Musk tell it, his motivation is obvious: It’s about saving the world.

“I’m not going to spend $44 billion to reinstate a satire blog,” Musk said about the Babylon Bee, which had been banned from Twitter in March 2022. “I did it because I was worried about the future of civilization,” he told us late one night. 

As far as Musk sees things, “birth rates are plummeting, the thought police are gaining power, and even having an opinion is enough to be shunned. We are trending in a bad direction.”

He says he wants to transform Twitter from a social media platform distrusted and despised by at least half the country into one widely trusted by most Americans. To have it fulfill its highest mission: that of a digital town square where all ideas can be heard, and the best will win out. 

“If there is one information source that breaks ranks, then I think it ultimately forces others not to have the same narrative,” he said. “If even one organization competes hard for the truth, others will have to follow.” 

To win back that trust, Musk figured it would require being honest about what had, until very recently, been going on at the company he had just bought: the suppression of disfavored users; the curtailing of certain political views; the censorship of stories like the Hunter Biden laptop; and the extent to which the government had tried to influence such decisions.

The Independent, Twitter suspends liberal journalist Aaron Rupar and CNN, NYT and Washington Post reporters, Graeme Massie, Dec. 15, 2022. Billionaire’s social media platform also suspended Donie O’Sullivan, Drew Harwell, Keith Olberman and Ryan Mac.

Twitter has suspended the account of prominent liberal journalist Aaron Rupar as well as reporters from CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post.

twitter bird CustomRupar, who has more than 788,000 followers, had his account suspended the day after Twitter suspended then restored an account that followed the movements of the billionaire’s private jet.

“I never posted anything Elon Jet related or that could violate the policy about disclosing locations. Unless the policy is that you criticize Elon and you get banned,” Rupar told CNN’s Oliver Darcy.

And it came on the same day that Twitter suspended the account of social media rival platform Mastodon.

Also suspended are Donie O’Sullivan of CNN, Drew Harwell of The Washington Post and Ryan Mac of The New York Times, all of whom have covered Mr Musk in recent months. Veteran journalist Keith Olberman was also suspended.

“Elon says he is a free speech champion and he is banning journalists for exercising free speech,” Harwell told Darcy. “I think that calls into question his commitment.”

Rupar’s suspension came a day after he published a Substack article written by Noah Berlatsky criticising Mr Musk, with the headline ‘Elon Musk’s Reactionary Populism.’

“It’s all about punching down at the already marginalized,” the article stated.

Rupar was an Associate Editor at Vox Media until 2021, and has been covering national politics as an independent journalist ever since. He regularly covers right-wing politicians such as Donald Trump, as well as Fox News and hosts such as Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

On Twitter critics of the suspensions questioned Mr Musk’s repeated assertion that he believed in free speech.

Journalist Judd Legum wrote: “I volunteer to write the next chapter of THE TWITTER FILES on how the decision was made to deactivate the accounts of a bunch of journalists that reported on Musk Just send me all the internal communications. My email is in my bio.”


elon musk

washington post logoWashington Post, Musk bans Twitter account tracking his jet, threatens to sue creator, Drew Harwell and Faiz Siddiqui, Dec. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Twitter suspended, restored and then suspended again the 20-year-old college student’s account that for years had shared publicly available data on Musk’s private flights.

Jack Sweeney, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida, was a big fan of the billionaire industrialist Elon Musk, shown aboved in a file photo. In 2020, Sweeney launched a Twitter account, @ElonJet, that used public air-travel data to map the flights of Musk’s private jet, thinking it’d be cool to track how Musk managed his business empire.

But when Sweeney woke up Wednesday morning, he was stunned to see that the 530,000-follower account on Twitter, the social media platform Musk bought in October, had been “permanently suspended” without explanation. A notice on Sweeney’s Twitter account said only that the company had, “after careful review … determined your account broke the Twitter rules,” without saying which rules it broke.

On Wednesday evening, the account was briefly restored, with Twitter outlining new rules seemingly designed to prevent Sweeney from posting the real-time locations of planes used by Musk and other public figures as long as he included a slight delay. Sweeney, over Twitter, asked Musk how long he’d have to delay the data to comply.

washington post logoWashington Post, QAnon, adrift after Trump’s defeat, finds new life in Elon Musk’s Twitter, Drew Harwell, Dec. 15, 2022 (print ed.). Among some QAnon devotees, Musk has become a figure of prophecy on par with Donald Trump.

Twitter owner Elon Musk’s boosting of far-right memes and grievances has injected new energy into the jumbled set of conspiracy theories known as QAnon, a fringe movement that Twitter and other social networks once banned as too extreme.

The billionaire has spread bogus theories about the violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband to his 120 million followers, and he called for the criminal prosecution of infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci. He has thrown around baseless accusations about adults sexualizing children, helping stir up an angry online mob against Yoel Roth, a former Twitter safety executive Musk praised in October for his “high integrity.”

And on Tuesday, he tweeted a message with an emoji that many people interpreted as saying “follow the white rabbit,” possibly harking back to “Alice in Wonderland” or “The Matrix.” But many QAnon believers saw the rabbit as a wink to one of their foundational icons, a secret indicator shared in one of QAnon’s earliest online prophesies, known as “drops.”

Musk mocked the suggestion that the tweet could be interpreted negatively but offered no clarification. Among QAnon promoters, though, the message was clear: Musk was speaking to them.

One QAnon-amplifying account on Telegram with 118,000 followers, known for spreading a bogus claim that Russian fighters were targeting “U.S. biolabs” in Ukraine, said the tweet was only his latest flirtation with QAnon ideology.

“Elon called out Fauci for creating [covid-19], [is] calling out the woke hive mind, is paving the path for 2020 to be nullified and Trump reinstated … and now he’s directly quoting Q,” the account said. “Elon is an Anon,” the account added, using the term QAnon disciples call themselves.

Twitter owner Elon Musk’s boosting of far-right memes and grievances has injected new energy into the jumbled set of conspiracy theories known as QAnon, a fringe movement that Twitter and other social networks once banned as too extreme.

The billionaire has spread bogus theories about the violent attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband to his 120 million followers, and he called for the criminal prosecution of infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci. He has thrown around baseless accusations about adults sexualizing children, helping stir up an angry online mob against Yoel Roth, a former Twitter safety executive Musk praised in October for his “high integrity.”

And on Tuesday, he tweeted a message with an emoji that many people interpreted as saying “follow the white rabbit,” possibly harking back to “Alice in Wonderland” or “The Matrix.” But many QAnon believers saw the rabbit as a wink to one of their foundational icons, a secret indicator shared in one of QAnon’s earliest online prophesies, known as “drops.”

Musk mocked the suggestion that the tweet could be interpreted negatively but offered no clarification. Among QAnon promoters, though, the message was clear: Musk was speaking to them.

One QAnon-amplifying account on Telegram with 118,000 followers, known for spreading a bogus claim that Russian fighters were targeting “U.S. biolabs” in Ukraine, said the tweet was only his latest flirtation with QAnon ideology.

“Elon called out Fauci for creating [covid-19], [is] calling out the woke hive mind, is paving the path for 2020 to be nullified and Trump reinstated … and now he’s directly quoting Q,” the account said. “Elon is an Anon,” the account added, using the term QAnon disciples call themselves.

Logan Strain, a conspiracy theory researcher who uses the name Travis View on the podcast “QAnon Anonymous,” said Musk’s “conspiracist dog whistles” have galvanized a group that was fractured after 2020, when major social networks including Twitter started banning QAnon accounts and Trump lost the White House.

Dec. 14

ny times logoNew York Times, A Growing Network of Conservative Groups Is Fueling a Surge in Book Bans, Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexandra Alter, Dec. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Some groups are new, some are longstanding. Some are local, others national. Over the past two years, they have become vastly more organized, well funded, effective — and criticized.

The Keller Independent School District, just outside of Dallas, passed a new rule in November: It banned books from its libraries that include the concept of gender fluidity.

The change was pushed by three new school board members, elected in May with support from Patriot Mobile, a self-described Christian cellphone carrier. Through its political action committee, Patriot Mobile poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Texas school board races to promote candidates with conservative views on race, gender and sexuality — including on which books children can access at school.

Traditionally, debates over what books are appropriate for school libraries have taken place between a concerned parent and a librarian or administrator, and resulted in a single title or a few books being re-evaluated, and either removed or returned to shelves.

But recently, the issue has been supercharged by a rapidly growing and increasingly influential constellation of conservative groups. The organizations frequently describe themselves as defending parental rights. Some are new and others are longstanding, but with a recent focus on books. Some work at the district and state level, others have national reach. And over the past two years or so, they have grown vastly more organized, interconnected, well funded — and effective.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter abruptly dissolves its Trust and Safety Council, Cat Zakrzewski, Joseph Menn and Naomi Nix, Dec. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Meanwhile, a former top Twitter official fled his home amid attacks following Musk tweets.

Twitter on Monday night abruptly dissolved its Trust and Safety Council, the latest sign that Elon Musk is unraveling years of work and institutions created to make the social network safer and more civil.
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Members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council received an email with the subject line, “Thank You,” that informed them the council was no longer “the best structure” to bring “external insights into our product and policy development work.”

The email dissolution arrived less than an hour before members of the council were expecting to meet with Twitter executives via Zoom to discuss recent developments, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans.

Dozens of civil rights leaders, academics and advocates from around the world had volunteered their time for years to help improve safety on the platform.

“We are grateful for your engagement, advice and collaboration in recent years and wish you every success in the future,” said the email, which was simply signed “Twitter.”

In less than two months, Musk has undone years of investments in trust and safety at Twitter — dismissing key parts of the workforce and bringing back accounts that previously had been suspended. As the body unravels, Musk is tightening his grip on decisions about the future of content moderation at Twitter, with less input from outside experts.

The move is just throwing away “years of institutional memory that we on the council have brought” to the company, said one council member who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about harassment on the platform. “Getting external experts and advocates looking at your services makes you smarter.”

The Trust and Safety Council unraveled after Musk himself had pitched the creation of a content moderation council that would have weighed in on key content moderation decisions, but later appeared to change his mind about introducing such a body.

Many members were already on the verge of resigning, said Larry Magid, chief executive of ConnectSafely, a Silicon Valley nonprofit that advises consumers about children’s internet use.

“By disbanding it, we got fired instead of quit,” he said. “Elon doesn’t want criticism, and he really doesn’t want the kind of advice he would very likely get from a safety advisory council, which would likely tell him to rehire some of the staff he got rid of, and reinstate some of the rules he got rid of, and turn the company in another direction from where he is turning it.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Biden’s FCC nominee became a major campaign target, Cristiano Lima and Aaron Schaffer, Dec. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Nearly two years into President Biden’s term, he and Senate Democrats have yet to lock down a majority at the Federal Communications Commission amid a protracted fight over his pick for the agency, Gigi Sohn. Progressive groups and consumer advocates have lamented the delay as hamstringing efforts to restore open internet protections and expand broadband access.

Sohn’s nomination has faced steadfast opposition from Senate Republicans, who have pointed to her past advocacy work and public remarks on topics including Fox News in casting the former Democratic FCC staffer as a “partisan” and “radical” activist. 

That push to tank Sohn’s nomination has been bolstered by conservative groups taking out hundreds of thousands of dollars in attack ads, according to a review by The Technology 202.

The moves highlight how the battle over the FCC nomination, which typically draws limited fanfare, grew into a significant campaign flash point.

In the past year, two conservative nonprofits — the American Accountability Foundation (AAF) and the Center for a Free Economy (CFE) — have placed at least $246,000 in Facebook ads opposing Sohn, according to a review of digital ads archives. Facebook does not disclose the exact amount paid or reach garnered for ads on the site, but its database shows that the two groups’ paid messages have been shown to users at least 14.8 million times.

The bulk of the spending has come from AAF, an opposition research group that has targeted dozens of Biden’s nominees. The ads, some of which were still running as of last week, hammer Sohn over what they call her “extremist defund the police politics” and cite opposition to her nomination from the Fraternal Order of Police, a group made up of law enforcement officials.

The ads appear to reference a memo released by the law enforcement group surfacing tweets that Sohn “liked” pushing back on “‘Defund’ … attacks” and calling on lawmakers to pass progressive agenda items including to “Defund police surveillance.” 

AAF and CFE did not return requests for comment. Sohn declined to comment. 

Jeff Hauser, founder of the progressive watchdog group Revolving Door Project, said the spending makes the campaign among the most sprawling of any targeting a Biden pick.

“It’s relatively rare that you see this kind of effort,” said Hauser, whose group tracks federal appointments and the battles over their confirmations. 

Hauser said it’s rare for a single commissioner or regulator to face this level of opposition, and he said the Facebook campaigns are likely just a fraction of the total money spent given that there are “many forms of spending which do not create a financial trail.”

Hauser pushed back on the criticisms leveled against Sohn in the ads, particularly those based off her past liked tweets related to policing. “No one can meaningfully determine what her views are on policing from a liked tweet,” he said.

 One AAF ad running through last Friday warned that “some senators may sneak her into office in the lame-duck session before the end of the year” and urged Biden to pick “a new nominee.” 

The message arrives during a key stretch: Senate Democrats face a dwindling window to confirm Sohn before their session expires after the end of the year, and will need to overcome additional procedural hurdles next year if they do not. 

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who controls floor votes, did not return requests for comment on whether he intends to take up Sohn’s nomination before the end of the year. The White House did not return a request for comment.

Sohn’s nomination also has been opposed by the One Country Project, a group founded by former Democratic senators Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Donnelly, which in April announced “a six-figure ad campaign” arguing that Sohn “is the wrong choice for the FCC and rural America.” 

The group, which did not return a request for comment, said the ads would run in key states whose senators could be crucial to Sohn’s still-pending nomination, including West Virginia, Nevada and Arizona.



Goyim Defense League leader Jon Minadeo, Jr. announced Goyim TV's move to Florida in a livestream on Dec. 12, 2022.Goyim Defense League leader Jon Minadeo, Jr. announced Goyim TV's move to Florida in a livestream on Dec. 12, 2022.

J Weekly (Jewish News from Northern California), Goyim TV, America’s most prolific antisemitic propaganda group, has left the Bay Area for Florida, Gabe Stutman, Dec. 14, 2022. The functional headquarters and nerve center of the nation’s most prolific antisemitic propaganda group have moved from the Bay Area to Florida.

Jon Minadeo Jr., the leader of Goyim TV, announced the move in videos and social media posts this week, explaining that he had grown increasingly isolated in his hometown of Petaluma, and saw Florida as fertile ground for the hate group’s activities. The announcement came in a highly dramatic, Hollywood-style movie trailer replete with drone shots of the Florida coast, alligators and flamingoes. “My time in this state is over,” Minadeo says in voiceover.

A loose network of antisemites, white supremacists and virulently anti-gay activists, Goyim TV — which is both a website and the name of Minadeo’s business registered in California — focuses its efforts on spreading anti-Jewish propaganda. Its followers have claimed responsibility for hundreds of antisemitic flyer drops in more than 40 states over the past two years.

In the Bay Area, flyer drops blaming Jews for the Covid pandemic, for the war in Ukraine and for “gun control” have hit San Francisco, Danville, Berkeley, Marin City, Tiburon, and Novato, among other cities.

The most widely viewed videos on Goyim TV are hosted by Minadeo, who works alongside a cadre of die-hard supporters known as the Goyim Defense League to help keep the website running, evade takedowns and orchestrate propaganda events “IRL,” or “in real life.” The terms “Goyim TV” and the “Goyim Defense League” are often used interchangeably by watchers of the hate group’s activities.

In 2022, the group “more than tripled” the number of propaganda acts targeting Jews, according to ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, “making them feel vulnerable all over the United States.”

“GDL’s overarching goal is to cast aspersions on Jews and spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories,” an Anti-Defamation League report says.

The group has gained widespread publicity in part because of several banner drops; one such stunt troubled many in Los Angeles in October. Seeking to capitalize on the mainstreaming of antisemitism from celebrities such as the rapper Ye, Goyim TV hung a banner over the 405 freeway claiming “Kanye is right about the Jews.”

Minadeo, who grew up in Northern California and attended Novato High School, had for years recorded near-daily livestreams in a makeshift studio at his home in Petaluma. In the livestreams, which have continued from Florida and are viewed in real time by hundreds of people who simultaneously donate money, Minadeo rails against Jews, Black people, Latinos and LGBTQ people, spouting a litany of slurs, Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories.

He sells and ships packets of 500 flyers, encouraging his viewers to pass out as many as possible, usually in the middle of the night. Minadeo praises those who drop the flyers, calling them “paper goys,” and rewards anyone who earns coverage on TV news broadcasts with free merchandise, including antisemitic T-shirts and bars of soap that say “wash the Jew away.”

Despite his close family ties and following in Northern California, Minadeo had increasingly felt besieged by negative press and by criticism of his behavior by authorities. Minadeo’s family owns the historic Valley Ford restaurant Dinucci’s Italian Dinners, a popular road stop en route to the Sonoma Coast, and a source close to Minadeo said the 39-year-old once worked as a waiter at the restaurant, one of his last real jobs.

Yet he had developed a dismal reputation in the North Bay after a flood of media attention on his provocative antisemitic propaganda operation in J., the San Francisco Chronicle, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and other outlets.

And he had made enemies. Over a year ago his house was vandalized, he said, and later someone “threatened to burn down my house.” Minadeo said he never felt the authorities took his complaints seriously.

“Jews are getting to intimidate me, vandalize my house, slander me, assault me, and the police do absolutely nothing,” he said.

North Bay police have called out the flyer campaigns as “hate incidents,” which Minadeo said has damaged his reputation.

“You’re essentially putting a green light on my head with the community, to say that I’m some bad person because I’m talking truth about Jews,” he said.

Though Minadeo says he does not support violence, his content is rife with violent imagery and messages. One digital background that appears frequently on his livestream is a photo of the train tracks leading to Auschwitz. Much of the casual language used in the Goyim TV online universe is extremely violent; when Minadeo wants to point out something he doesn’t like, for example, he instructs his followers to “gas” it, or kill it, using a reference to the Holocaust.

He also encourages his followers to harass journalists and activists who cover or speak out against his activities.

Minadeo hopes Florida will be more hospitable to him and his worldview, and he may have reason to believe that to be true. A recent report from the ADL described an upward trend of extremist and antisemitic activity in the Sunshine State, driven in part by new white supremacist groups including White Lives Matter, Sunshine State Nationalists, NatSoc Florida and Florida Nationalists.

Minadeo and Goyim TV have partnered with neo-Nazi elements in Florida on antisemitic stunts in the past, and the Goyim Defense League has been extremely active in the state. Last May, Minadeo and his followers held a “protest” outside a Holocaust memorial center in Maitland, an Orlando suburb, carrying bullhorns and holding up signs denying the Holocaust and saying “Jews promote homosexuality.” In October, he and others describing themselves as “laser Nazis” used a light projection to superimpose the message “Kanye is right about the Jews” on a football stadium in Jacksonville, as fans streamed out of a college rivalry game attended by 75,000 people.

Sam Bankman-Fried at the DealBook Summit in New York in November (New York Times photo by Hiroko Masuike).

Sam Bankman-Fried at the DealBook Summit in New York in November (New York Times photo by Hiroko Masuike).

ny times logoNew York Times, Critic’s Notebook: Hey Silicon Valley, It’s Time to Wear a Suit, Vanessa Friedman, Dec. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Sam Bankman-Fried’s choices may signal an end to the schlubby mystique.

The mythic figure that is the billionaire tech genius in the nowhere man tee may finally be about to meet its long overdue end. The arrest of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the FTX cryptocurrency trading platform, on Monday in the Bahamas on charges of fraud, may signal not just the next stage in his downfall, but also a change in the global image-making of Silicon Valley.

After all, no one took the idea that a life of the boundless mind was reflected in a life freed from petty concerns like clothing further than Mr. Bankman-Fried (or SBF, as he is often called). Not for him the physical cage of a suit and tie. Instead, the T-shirt, cargo shorts and sneakers, often worn with white running socks scrunched down at the ankle.

And not just any T-shirt and cargo shorts, but what could seem like the baggiest, most stretched out, most slept in, most consciously unflattering T-shirts and shorts; the most unkempt bed-head. While the look may have evolved naturally, it became a signature as he rose to prominence, a look he realized was as effective at pushing the Pavlovian buttons of the watching public (and the investing community) as the Savile Row suits and Charvet ties of Wall Street.

“It’s as conscious as incorporating in the Bahamas where there is no to little regulatory oversight,” said Scott Galloway, an investor, podcasting host and professor of marketing, referring to the fact that FTX’s headquarters were in the Caribbean rather than California. “It’s the ultimate billionaire white boy tech flex: I’m so above convention. I’m so special I am not subject to the same rules and propriety as everyone else.”

  • New York Times, How Sam Bankman-Fried Put Effective Altruism on the Defensive, Dec. 13, 2022.


nancy pelosi alexandra pelosi hbo

Nancy Pelosi and Alexandra Pelosi are seen in “Pelosi In The House,” Alexandra's latest documentary film for HBO. (HBO)

washington post logoWashington Post, Nancy Pelosi is notoriously private, but her daughter filmed her for years, Ellen McCarthy, Dec. 14, 2022 (print ed.). Alexandra Pelosi’s HBO documentary ‘Pelosi in the House’ captures rare behind-the-scenes footage of her mom.

Alexandra Pelosi gets a call from her mother every day.

By 11 a.m. one day the week before she was set to release a documentary about her mother, Nancy Pelosi, she’d already spoken to the first female speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives twice. Nancy Pelosi had called “at the break of dawn” to wish Alexandra’s teenage son a happy birthday. And when Alexandra’s Christmas tree toppled over a couple hours later, as she was preparing her New York City apartment for a celebration, she phoned her mom to vent.

But for all their closeness, despite what Alexandra describes as their “glorious, beautiful relationship as mother and daughter,” the filmmaker failed to brief her mom on one little detail: that she was, uh, making this movie about her. “Pelosi in the House” premieres Tuesday on HBO.

The House speaker wasn’t the only one who didn’t get a heads-up about the film. Pelosi accompanied her mother to the state dinner at the White House two weeks ago and ran into Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). In footage of Alexandra’s that was shown publicly earlier this fall by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Schumer is seen working the phones (in Schumer’s case, an old-school flip phone) alongside Nancy Pelosi as they tried to get a handle on the chaos from a secure location. “I was like, ‘Oh, sorry about the whole January 6th thing.’ And he’s like, ‘Yeah, I didn’t know you were filming,’” Alexandra told The Washington Post in an interview.

Dec. 13

Rolling Stone, Russian Trolls Made Fake Kid Rock Fan Accounts — and Fooled Donald Trump Jr., Dec. 13, 2022. The former president’s son reposted a conspiracy theory on Ivermectin and oil supplies from “KidRockOfficial.” The account was a Russian troll trying to meddle in the U.S. election.

Russian trolls are taking advantage of the free-for-all on far-right social media apps to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda — and they were particularly successful when impersonating fans of MAGA musician Kid Rock.

rolling stone logoThose conclusions are from a new report by the social media tracking firm Graphika and Stanford University’s Internet Observatory. The researchers traced at least 35 accounts on the right-wing social apps to the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens (NAEBC), a phony news organization linked to Russia’s troll factory. The fake accounts focused on ginning up support for failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, attacking Democratic Senate candidates, and pushing bizarre conspiracy theories about Ukraine and the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, among other topics.

gab logo mainResearchers found Russian-linked fake accounts posing as authentic American conservatives cross-posting content to personas on Truth Social, Gab, and Gettr. While right-wing social platforms like Gab and Parler have previously played host to Russian influence operations, the report marks the first documented case of Russian meddling on Truth Social, the social media app founded by Trump.

The former president’s son reposted a conspiracy theory on Ivermectin and oil supplies from “KidRockOfficial.” The account was a Russian troll trying to meddle in the U.S. election

Russian trolls are taking advantage of the free-for-all on far-right social media apps to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda — and they were particularly successful when impersonating fans of MAGA musician Kid Rock.

Those conclusions are from a new report by the social media tracking firm Graphika and Stanford University’s Internet Observatory. The researchers traced at least 35 accounts on the right-wing social apps to the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens (NAEBC), a phony news organization linked to Russia’s troll factory. The fake accounts focused on ginning up support for failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, attacking Democratic Senate candidates, and pushing bizarre conspiracy theories about Ukraine and the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, among other topics.

Researchers found Russian-linked fake accounts posing as authentic American conservatives cross-posting content to personas on Truth Social, Gab, and Gettr. While right-wing social platforms like Gab and Parler have previously played host to Russian influence operations, the report marks the first documented case of Russian meddling on Truth Social, the social media app founded by Trump.

The 35 trolls amassed an audience of approximately 33,000 unique followers spread across Gab, Gettr, and Truth Social. The network’s memes and talking points mostly failed to recapture the large audiences they enjoyed during the 2016 presidential election, but a few — particularly those impersonating Kid Rock, a favorite target of Russian trolls — outperformed their troll persona colleagues. 

One of the trolls, KidRockOfficial, created a fake Kid Rock fan account that even scored a repost from Donald Trump Jr., when the former president’s son (a friend of the real Kid Rock) shared it with his more than 6 million Instagram followers. After screenshotting the troll’s post — a memed conspiracy theory about gas prices and the bogus Covid cure Ivermectin originally posted to Gettr — and putting it on Instagram, Trump Jr. commented simply “Yup.”

Researchers linked the bogus “official” fan account on Gettr to Russia’s troll factory when they discovered an identical account on Gab — first identified by the FBI as run by Russia’s Internet Research Agency in 2020 — had resurfaced under the same handle to post the same content as its Gettr twin. 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Musk’s ugly attack on Fauci shows how right-wing info warfare works, Greg Sargent, right, Dec. 13, 2022. By now it should be obvious greg sargentthat for large swaths of the right-wing media ecosystem, the Triggering of the Libs has become an end in itself. In the brutal competition of the so-called attention economy, provoking large-scale outrage and loathing is not an incidental feature of making controversial arguments. It has become a key marker of success.

Over the weekend, Elon Musk called for the prosecution of Anthony S. Fauci, the leading infectious-disease expert in the Biden administration. “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” Musk tweeted, mocking transgender people for good measure. Musk then endorsed a complicated right-wing conspiracy theory about Fauci’s role in the covid-19 pandemic.

Democrats and other Musk critics reacted with an explosion of outrage. One Democratic senator pleaded with Musk to “leave a good man alone.” Another member of Congress seethed: “Shame on you.” Former CIA director John Brennan scolded Musk: “You have no class.”

All these responses — which also noted that Fauci admirably tried to serve the country during a major crisis and under great pressure — are reasonable. But outrage and shaming also seem fundamentally out of touch with basic realities of how right-wing information warfare really works.

This sort of info-warring, at bottom, is what characterizes Musk’s transformation into the world’s richest right-wing troll. Tons of pixels have been wasted on efforts to pin down Musk’s true beliefs, but whatever they are, we can say right now that he’s consciously exploiting fundamental features of the right-wing information ecosystem. His critics should adapt accordingly.

In his attack, Musk flatly validated a big right-wing obsession: The idea that Fauci was involved in U.S. government funding of controversial early research into covid, and lied to Congress about it. As The Post’s Glenn Kessler demonstrated, this is a highly complex dispute, but there are zero grounds for concluding anything remotely like that happened. Musk’s claim is at best profoundly irresponsible and at worst straight-up disinformation.

It’s understandable that Musk’s critics are trying shaming and outrage, in that this could further drive advertisers away from Twitter. But, paradoxically, it might also help Musk. The DealBook newsletter suggests that he’s trying to boost “conservative engagement” and “help Twitter’s business” by “winning over right-leaning users and conservative politicians.”

If so, the coin of the realm is the Triggering. A massive backlash from liberals and Democrats creates the impression of controversy, which draws news media attention. It also persuades the right-leaning constituencies Musk hopes to engage that he is “drawing blood.”

In much of the right-wing info-ecosystem, liberal outrage is a sign of an attack’s effectiveness. It can be only confirmation that the Libs Were Owned. Shaming is useless in such an environment, and in some ways can backfire.

ny times logoNew York Times, Bookforum Is Closing, Leaving Ever Fewer Publications Devoted to Books, Kate Dwyer and Elizabeth A. Harris, Dec. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Launched in 1994, the magazine published reviews, essays and interviews, and was an important outlet for book reviewers and for authors.

The literary magazine Bookforum announced on Monday that its current issue would be its last, dealing a significant blow to literary journalism, which has been vastly diminished in recent years.

“We are so proud of the contribution Bookforum has made to the literary community,” the magazine said on Twitter after announcing its closure, “and are immensely grateful to the advertisers, subscribers and booksellers who made our mission possible over the years.”

Bookforum was one of the few remaining publications devoted to books, running a mix of reviews, essays and interviews. Among the articles it published over the years were interviews with writers like Jhumpa Lahiri and Marlon James, and essays on Philip Roth and George Saunders.

So called “little” magazines — independent and noncommercial journals, often with readership in the low four figures — are experiencing a renaissance, with the recent launching of many new publications such as The Drift and Forever Magazine. At the same time, national legacy journals funded by corporations are struggling to stay afloat in an era of consolidation.

Astra Magazine, an international magazine of literature published by Astra Publishing House, ceased publication earlier this year after two issues, while The Washington Post Magazine announced that its final issue will run at the end of December. (The Post’s books section, Book World, has recently made a comeback, however.)

Bookforum and its sister publication, Artforum, were acquired by Penske Media Corporation last week. Penske did not respond to questions about the decision to shutter Bookforum. David Velasco, the editor of Artforum, said that magazine would continue operations.

Bookforum’s website will continue to offer access to the archives for the near future, according to Kate Koza, who is the associate publisher at Artforum and Bookforum, and will stay on at Artforum.

Bookforum was an important outlet for freelance book reviewers, who could gain exposure there, and for authors as well, as one of the few remaining places they could hope to receive a thoughtful and lengthy review.

ny times logoNew York Times, Wall Street Journal Names Emma Tucker as New Editor, Katie Robertson, Edmund Lee and Benjamin Mullin, Dec. 13, 2022 (print ed.). News Corp said that Ms. Tucker, a longtime editor in London, would replace Matt Murray, who has led the news organization for four years.

The Wall Street Journal named a new top editor on Monday, saying it would hand control of the newsroom to Emma Tucker, a longtime editor for Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers in Britain. She replaces Matt Murray, who has led the paper for the past four years, occasionally clashing with the paper’s publisher.

The Journal said Mr. Murray would take on a new role, reporting to Robert Thomson, the chief executive of Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp, The Journal’s parent company. Ms. Tucker starts on Feb. 1, with Mr. Murray assisting with the transition through the beginning of March.

“Matt is a superb journalist and leader who has overseen a peerless editorial team that fashioned success for The Journal during an era of extreme vulnerability for media companies and journalism,” Mr. Thomson said in a statement.

By selecting Ms. Tucker, Mr. Murdoch put in the top job an editor from outside the paper with close ties to his wider media empire. He has made a similar move multiple times since buying the paper more than a decade ago, the exception being Mr. Murray, who had spent decades at The Journal.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: ‘White Lotus’ Didn’t Care About Toxic Masculinity After All, Michelle Goldberg, right, Dec. 13, 2022 (print ed.). Lurid tales of class war in michelle goldberg thumbparadise were a major cinematic trend in 2022.

In “Triangle of Sadness,” which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the social hierarchy on a luxury cruise turns upside down after a shipwreck leaves plutocrats and model-influencers dependent on the survival skills of a Filipina toilet attendant. “The Menu” is a satirical horror movie about high-end foodie culture in which the celebrated chef of an exclusive restaurant on a private island takes his revenge on his clientele. “Glass Onion,” the sequel to the 2019 murder mystery “Knives Out,” also takes place on an island, this one in Greece, where a tech billionaire named Miles Bron, clearly based on Elon Musk, has gathered his motley group of amoral friends during the acute phase of the pandemic.

These movies, critical darlings all, whack you over the head with their politics. There’s an element of wish fulfillment in each of them; they seem intended for upper-middle-class people who both envy and resent the rich. The jokes are pitched toward a very online audience that is willing to laugh at its own privilege but that also probably wishes it had more of it.

It’s not surprising that professional influencers feature in two of these movies, and — here is the place to stop reading if you want to avoid spoilers — a guy who can’t stop photographing his food meets a terrible end in the third. The films give shape to the homicidal feelings social media elicits by bombarding us with images of the world’s luckiest people indulging themselves in stunning locales.

In some ways, the first season of the HBO series “The White Lotus,” the caustic, multi-award-winning comedy-drama set in a luxury resort on the coast of Maui, was a prototype for these movies. It skewered the monstrous entitlement of the self-regarding wealthy, like Shane, the old-money real-estate agent who melted down because he was given only the second-best suite. But, unlike recent eat-the-rich cinema, “The White Lotus” denied its audience the satisfaction of any sort of karmic payback. In the end of the first season, the staff suffered the most, while the careless guests walked away largely unscathed. The queasy political punch came from the reminder of power dynamics that should have been obvious all along.

  • New York Times, Highbrow Films Aimed at Winning Oscars Are Losing Audiences
  • New York Times, Bookforum Is Closing, Leaving Ever Fewer Publications Devoted to Books

Dec. 12

Billionaires Behaving Badly?

Politico, FTX founder Bankman-Fried arrested in the Bahamas, Sam Sutton, Dec. 12, 2022. FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried has been arrested by authorities in the Bahamas, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

politico CustomU.S. Attorney Damian Williams confirmed the arrest in a tweet from the Southern District’s official account.

“Earlier this evening, Bahamian authorities arrested Samuel Bankman-Fried at the request of the U.S. Government, based on a sealed indictment filed by the SDNY. We expect to move to unseal the indictment in the morning and will have more to say at that time,” Williams said.

A government spokesman in the Bahamas said in a statement that Bankman-Fried’s arrest “followed receipt of formal notification from the United States that it has filed criminal charges against SBF and is likely to request his extradition.”

The spokesman added, “It was deemed appropriate for the Attorney General to seek SBF’s arrest and hold him in custody pursuant to our nation’s Extradition Act.”


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

Elon Musk released what he called the “Twitter Files” this month, delving into the company's decision to block the Hunter Biden laptop story and limit other controversial messaging that Musk wants distributed. In this 2019 photo, Musk speaks during a gaming convention (Photo by Mike Blake for Reuters).

washington post logoWashington Post, Elon Musk uses QAnon tactic in criticizing former Twitter safety chief, Joseph Menn, Dec. 12, 2022. Elon Musk escalated his battle of words with previous managers of Twitter into risky new territory over the weekend, allying himself with far-right crusaders against a purported epidemic of child sex abuse and implying that the company’s former head of trust and safety had a permissive view of sexual activity by minors.

Musk told more than 30,000 listeners in a live Twitter Spaces audio session Friday night that he recently discovered that child sex abuse material was a severe problem on Twitter and that fighting it would be his top priority.

twitter bird CustomIn follow-up tweets Saturday, he misrepresented a section of a graduate dissertation from recently departed safety chief Yoel Roth. “Looks like Yoel is arguing in favor of children being able to access adult Internet services in his PhD thesis,” he wrote.

The attached snippet instead showed Roth suggesting that since teenagers were accessing apps and websites that they were not supposed to use, as they always have, those services should consider offering toned-down content alongside adult fare.

Musk also commented on an old tweet in which Roth wrote, “Can high school students ever meaningfully consent to sex with their teachers?” Roth did not answer his own question, merely linking to an article about a Washington Supreme Court ruling that found a teacher in the state could be convicted of a crime for having sex with a student who was over the age of 18. The age of consent in Washington is 16, but a majority of the court ruled that Washington state lawmakers intended to criminalize teacher-student sexual contact for all students, even those over 18. Twenty-one is the age limit for high school in the state.

“This explains a lot,” Musk wrote to his more than 100 million followers. Roth’s two-year-old tweet about students then drew new replies calling for him to be jailed.

Several internet safety experts said that Musk’s comments put Roth at grave risk. Roth, who is openly gay, worked past Musk’s October takeover. He then resigned and said Musk’s hands-off approach to moderation was increasing danger to users.

“He’s putting Yoel’s life in danger and he knows it,” tweeted Alejandra Caraballo, an instructor at Harvard Law School. Roth did not respond to a request for comment.

In imputing nefarious motives to Twitter’s former managers and saying a crime had been committed, Musk adopted techniques used by the QAnon conspiracy movement, which falsely claims that Democrats and elites are running child sex abuse networks. Promoted by Alex Jones and other far-right operatives, claims of Democratic involvement in child abuse, QAnon’s precursor, inspired a shooting at Comet Pizza in Northwest Washington when a follower of the theory searched the restaurant intending to rescue any children trapped in a basement that did not exist. The incident became known as “Pizzagate.”

In the past year, right-wing activists have harnessed some of the fervor of that theory to tar drag queens, transgender people, gay teachers, and others as “groomers,” or adults bent on seducing children. This has fed into threats and real-world violence: A recent five-fatality shooting at a gay bar in Colorado with transgender victims is being charged as a hate crime.

Musk has accused critics of pedophilia in the past, most notably Vernon Unsworth, who helped rescue children from a Thailand cave and faulted Musk’s much-hyped contribution to the effort. Unsworth sued Musk for tweeting that he was a “pedo guy,” but lost the case after Musk testified that he only meant to insult Unsworth and did not mean to accuse him literally of pedophilia.

Musk’s weekend statements appeared intended to counter criticism of his early stewardship of Twitter. The number of moderators who are on the lookout for inappropriate content on the social media site has been slashed, and just a few experts on child exploitation remain, according to media reports.

Three members of Twitter’s long-standing Trust and Safety Council advisory board resigned last week, citing a rise in tweets with hate speech against Black Americans, gay men and Jews. Over the weekend, Musk fans accused the three of responsibility for child exploitation.

Twitter has invited the more than 50 remaining members of the council to a meeting with executives this week.

“I’m looking forward to hearing what they have to say, because like a lot of people I have concerns about the direction of the company,” said council member Larry Magid, who runs, a nonprofit that offers advice to teens on using the internet safely.

Allegations that child porn could be found easily on Twitter arose even before Musk assumed control of the company, unnerving advertisers and hurting pre-Musk plans for the site to develop an adult feature to challenge the adult-themed OnlyFans website. Two former employees told The Washington Post they agreed that previous chief executives had not devoted enough resources to that issue. Twitter, unlike its social media rivals Facebook and Instagram, permits adult sexual content.

But experts more frequently cite other platforms as hunting grounds for child sex abuse victims. A report last year by Thorn, a nonprofit founded by actors Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore to combat child sexual abuse, said minors it surveyed reported more “potentially harmful online experiences” of all kinds on Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Messenger than on Twitter.

Musk and his allies have said that since Musk’s takeover, the company has suspended many more accounts for abusive material than it had before, but the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a congressionally chartered nonprofit, told The Post that it “has seen no noticeable changes on the reporting front compared to previous months.”

Musk’s criticism of Twitter’s allegedly inadequate child protection actions came as Twitter continued to release internal emails and chats that Musk and others claim show the company intentionally censored conservative voices and stories.

washington post logoWashington Post, Former Twitter official leaves home after threats spurred by Musk attacks, Cat Zakrzewski, Dec. 12, 2022. Yoel Roth’s family and friends have had to delete their Twitter accounts after Musk adopted QAnon-style tactics Yoel Roth, Twitter’s former head of trust and safety, and his family have been forced from their home by a tide of harassment unleashed by Elon Musk’s tweets that misrepresented Roth’s academic writing about sexual activity and children.

The online mob also sent threats to people Roth had replied to on Twitter, forcing some of Roth’s family and friends to delete their Twitter accounts, according to a person familiar with Roth’s situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to concerns about Roth’s safety.

Musk’s followers also directed harassment at professors who reviewed the dissertation that Roth wrote in 2016, as well as at his graduate school, the University of Pennsylvania, the person said. The university did not respond to a request for comment.

As head of trust and safety at Twitter, Roth was involved in many of the platform’s decisions about what posts to remove and what accounts to suspend. His communications with other Twitter officials have been posted in recent days as part of what Musk calls the Twitter Files, a series of tweets by conservative journalists Matt Taibbi and Bari Weiss.

Palmer Report: Analysis: Another Trump hotel falls under a cloud of controversy, Ron Leshnower, Dec. 11, 2022. In an opinion piece published in the Chicago Tribune on June 19, 2014, Donald Trump vehemently defended the use of a huge sign bearing his name on the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago. He argued against critics who believed such a sign was architecturally and aesthetically offensive, claiming “my name is known and respected worldwide” and “brings a prominence to Chicago by mere fact of recognition.”

bill palmer report logo headerThere is no question that Trump’s name is known worldwide, but Trump excels in offering new reasons for his name to become even less respected with each passing day. It has reached a point where now, eight years later, the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board is demanding that it’s time “to take a jackhammer” to the vain eyesore that persists as a monument to hate, fascism, and corruption.

The Tribune’s new editorial on Thursday offers a quick history lesson of how Trump’s sign came to be, which is a tale replete with strategic political contributions and shady dealings. The Tribune then acknowledges its own recent support for Trump’s sign. Just last year, the newspaper came out against a proposed ordinance that would ban anyone “convicted of treason, sedition or subversive actions from doing business with the city, including having a sign permit.”

In doing so, the Tribune declared in 2021: “It’s Trump’s building, and he should have the prerogative of stamping his name on it.” Concerned about “anti-Trump fever” that could lead the city to attract a lawsuit alleging violations of private property rights, the Tribune insisted at the time that city officials “would be wise to swallow their distaste and leave the sign alone.”

However, two very recent developments have changed the equation, prompting the Tribune to pen a new editorial proposing that the toxic sign be demolished. The first is Trump calling for the “termination” of the Constitution on account of a “massive fraud” that stole the 2020 election from him, as the man-child claimed. The second is a jury finding that the Trump Organization “was corrupt at the core” and an obvious “criminal enterprise.”

The Tribune now calls for Chicago to figure out a way to jackhammer that sign to the ground–whether it’s new negotiations, another ordinance, or a public relations campaign. Not only does the Tribune support such an effort this time, but it suspects “most everyone who lives there” would as well. Indeed, it’s high time for this oversized sign promoting an equally overinflated ego to go.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Musk and Thiel are highly deportable, Wayne Madsen, left, Dec. 12, 2022. Two of the world's wealthiest men -- wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallPeter Thiel and his friend and business colleague Elon Musk -- became U.S. citizens through the naturalization process.

Both are aiding and abetting neo-Nazi and other far-right causes in the United States and fit the bill of "undesirable aliens." Thiel, through bankrolling the political campaigns of dangerous Nazi sympathizers like Blake Masters in Arizona, and Musk, in re-platforming hundreds of neo-Nazis on Twitter, pose a threat to the constitutional governance of the United States. Thiel and Musk are as deportable from the United States as were dozens of Nazis who were discovered to have carried out war crimes during World War II. In any event, Thiel does not seem to care very much about his acquired U.S. wayne madesen report logocitizenship since he also carries a New Zealand passport and is attempting to obtain one from Malta.

Although it is rare for naturalized U.S. citizens to be stripped of their citizenship and deported, U.S. immigration law permits it under certain circumstances. These include committing fraud during the naturalization process, refusing to testify before the Congress, and the one criteria that could be used against Thiel and Musk: membership in or support for subversive groups that advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government.

peter thiel twitter smileThiel, left, who was born in Germany and spent part of his youth in South Africa and South West Africa, has bankrolled Republican politicians, including Donald Trump, who are on the record supporting the January 6, 2021 insurrection against the U.S. government. Musk, born in South Africa to a South African father and Canadian mother, has advocated for a wide range of subversive causes, including his quite recent embrace of QAnon conspiracies.

As naturalized citizens, Thiel and Musk seem to believe they have the right to threaten the very country that granted them the safe harbor of American citizenship. Their free ride must come to an end through denaturalization and deportation from the United States.

The support of Thiel and Musk for far-right seditious causes is certainly more reprehensible than the activities of the British right-wing former publishing tycoon Conrad Black. After his 2007 conviction by the United States for felony fraud as the head of Hollinger International, which owned the Daily Telegraph, Chicago Sun-Times, and Jerusalem Post, Black was deported to Canada from the United States after being released in 2012 from a U.S. prison.

As far as denaturalization and deportation are concerned, let Thiel and Musk join other Americans, citizens and residents, who were either stripped of their acquired U.S. citizenship or Green Cards and sent packing. They include Hermine Braunsteiner, Nazi prison guard at the Ravensbrück and Majdanek concentration camps, the latter where she had been nicknamed the "Stomping Mare" for beating prisoners to death; Karl Linnas, commandant of the Nazi concentration camp at Tartu in Estonia; Charles Ponzi, convicted for numerous cases of fraud and deported to Italy in 1934 -- his name lives on in the term "Ponzi scheme;" Andrija Artuković, founder of the Croatian fascist Ustasha movement; and Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel, author of "The Hitler We Loved and Why," deported from Tennessee to Canada in 2003.

ap logoAssociated Press, Elon Musk takes the stage, amid boos, at Chappelle’s show, Haven Daley, Dec. 12, 2022. Dave Chappelle asked the crowd at his comedy show to “make some noise for the world’s richest man.”

They did. Lots of booing.

elon musk 2015It was a rather uncomfortable appearance for Elon Musk, right, Twitter’s new owner, at Chappelle’s show with Chris Rock on Sunday night at the Chase Center in San Francisco. At the end of the show, Chappelle was talking about the need to get along and communicate with people with different viewpoints and perspectives.

He invited Musk onstage. The billionaire obliged, wearing an “I Love Twitter” T-shirt. Loud boos filled the arena – along with some cheers, too.

Chappelle joked to Musk: “Sounds like some of those people you fired.” As the boos continued to ring out, the comic pointed out that “All you people booing, and I’m just pointing out the obvious — are in terrible seats.”

Twitter is going through massive changes since Musk took over the social media platform, with the first few weeks of tenure seeing widespread layoffs and the restoration of several blocked accounts, including those of former president Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

The other performers from the night, including Rock, Donnell Rawlings from “Chappelle’s Show” and the hip hop group Black Star, came up on stage to say goodnight, while Musk also remained on stage. Chappelle asked Musk to repeat Rawlings’ catch phrase from their classic show – “I’m rich b—-” Rawlings went first, and then Musk complied.

That’s when Chappelle asked the crowd not to boo Musk as he needs him to open up the first comedy club on Mars. He also asked Musk if he could help Black Star’s Talib Kweli, who Chappelle said had been banned from Twitter.

Musk, who bought Twitter for $44 billion in October, responded by saying: “Twitter customer service here.”

He stayed onstage and shook hands with many of the performers. Attendees had been required to lock up their phones during the show, but a few videos of the encounter made their way online.

“I think it’s unfortunate for young writers especially,” said Kaitlin Phillips, a writer and publicist whose first print byline was in Bookforum. She described the magazine as “the first stop on a train that ends” at publications like Harper’s, The London Review of Books and The New York Review of Books. “I also feel for the small presses who rely on the consistent attention Bookforum paid to their novels.”

Politico, Top progressive firm drops Sinema as a client, Hailey Fuchs, Dec. 12, 2022. Authentic has dropped the Arizona senator after she announced she was leaving the Democratic Party.

politico CustomThe leading progressive digital firm Authentic has dropped Kyrsten Sinema as a client, after the Arizona senator announced she was leaving the Democratic Party, according to a person close to the firm.

Sinema announced Friday that she would become an independent, putting a wrinkle in Democrats’ plans for their small Senate majority.

Authentic has represented Sinema for years. But the firm saw an internal revolt over its work for the senator earlier this year as she voted against several of the Biden administration’s initiatives and refused to support revamping filibuster rules to move legislation on voting rights.

One employee wrote in a union message that the person felt that they were “doing the devil’s work.” Employees were told they could be removed from the account if they did not feel comfortable.

Authentic declined to comment. Sinema’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Sinema campaign has paid more than $700,000 to Authentic since the start of 2020, according to Federal Election Commission records. According to the filings, expenses included digital consulting and list acquisition.
White House calls Sinema ‘a key partner’ after her switch to independent

Authentic was founded in 2018 by veteran political consultant Mike Nellis, who worked on Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. The firm’s work has included campaigns for President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Its clients also include Patients for Affordable Drugs and other organizations. Authentic’s website still lists Sinema on its roster as of mid-Friday.

The Arizona senator will be up for reelection in 2024. Should she make a reelection bid, the loss of Authentic could hinder her fundraising efforts. In January, POLITICO reported that Sinema’s grassroots fundraising had largely dried up and that her campaign was increasingly relying on corporate PACs or large donations.

Dec. 11

washington post logoWashington Post, 67 journalists and media staff killed on duty in 2022, report says, Andrew Jeong, Dec. 11, 2022 (print ed.). Sixty-seven journalists and media staff have been killed so far this year while performing their duties, the Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists said Friday in its annual report documenting reporters’ deaths.

The grim toll is an increase from last year, when 47 were killed, and is the highest since 2018, when 95 journalists and media staff died due to “targeted killings, bomb attacks or crossfire incidents.” Ukraine was the most dangerous place for journalists this year, with 12 media fatalities there due to the ongoing war.

“The surge in the killings of journalists and other media workers is a grave cause of concern and yet another wake up call for governments,” IFJ general secretary Anthony Bellanger said in a statement, calling journalism a critical pillar of democracy.

The fallen include Brent Renaud, an award-winning American journalist who was shot while reporting near Kyiv in March. Oleksandra “Sasha” Kuvshynova, a 24-year-old who was working in Ukraine as a fixer, one of journalism’s most dangerous and thankless jobs, died with Pierre Zakrzewski, a Fox News cameraman, when their vehicle was hit by incoming fire the same month.

In the United States, Jeff German, an investigative journalist at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was found dead at his home, apparently stabbed to death, in September. His colleagues did reporting and on-the-ground detective work to help authorities find the suspected killer.

In the West Bank, Al Jazeera’s Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran correspondent wearing a helmet and protective vest labeled “PRESS” in large white letters, was shot and killed in May.

Mexico, historically one of the most dangerous places for the media, was where at least 11 journalists were killed this year. Among them were Sheila Johana García Olivera and Yesenia Mollinedo Falconi, who were shot in a car outside a convenience store. Mollinedo Falconi’s brother said she had received threats for her work, The Washington Post reported.

Dom Phillips, journalist who chronicled Amazon deforestation, is dead at 57

At least 375 journalists and media workers are behind bars around the world, the group said. That figure is a new high since the IFJ started publishing lists of jailed journalists two years ago, it added. There were at least 84 media workers imprisoned in mainland China and Hong Kong, topping the list, while Myanmar came second with 64 and Turkey third with 51.

washington post logoWashington Post, As bitcoin plummets, Miami vows to hold onto its crypto dreams, Tim Craig, Dec. 11, 2022 (print ed.). When Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez, below right, unveiled an 11-foot, 300-pound black fiberglass reproduction of the Wall Street bull last spring, he hailed it as a symbol of the city’s arrival as the “capital of crypto.”

francis suarez o“Welcome to the future,” he said, calling for digital currencies like bitcoin to be “integrated into every aspect of society” before the end of the year.

But eight months later, Republican mayor’s dream of turning Miami into a hub for the digital currency industry has hit a speed bump.

The value of bitcoin has plummeted, a blow to Miami residents who bought into Suarez’s call to invest in digital currencies. MiamiCoin — the city’s own cryptocurrency — is now essentially worthless. And crypto exchange FTX’s meltdown has had ripple effects here.

Sam Bankman-Fried’s Bahamas-based exchange was expected to open its U.S. headquarters in Miami. One of the city’s signature stadiums is FTX Arena, where the NBA’s Miami Heat plays home games. Now Miami-Dade County officials are asking a judge to end the $135 million, 19-year naming rights deal.

The collapse of crypto has emboldened Suarez’s critics, who say the industry’s nosedive reinforces their view that Miami has, once again, recklessly bet parts of its future on untested technology and wobbly economics. There is also concern over whether Miami will remain a top destination for young tech workers now that pandemic-related restrictions in San Francisco and New York have eased.

“A bunch of con men, selling imaginary coins and magic beans is not that interesting of a story,” said Billy Corben, a documentary filmmaker and longtime skeptic of Suarez’s embrace of bitcoin. “But the fact is the government, and its elected officials were complicit in it, and dragged the city in it.”

ftx logoBut throughout Miami, a city that was built around risky financial deals and boom-bust economic cycles, there is little sign that government officials and local crypto investors are rethinking their embrace of digital currencies and blockchain technologies.

Instead they are hedging on the city getting through what is becoming known as a “crypto winter” in belief that bitcoin will bounce back and help redefine the city as a hub for creativity, finance and tech.

Thomas Kennedy, a Miami resident and Democratic National Committeeman, accused Suarez of being aligned with “grifters” who are chasing “fever dreams” instead of dealing with issues such as a severe lack of affordable housing and chronic flooding due to sea level rise and over development.

“I think he is reckless, dangerous, irresponsible and neglectful,” Kennedy said of Suarez’s gamble on MiamiCoin. “If you live here, you see that Miami has a lot of problems, so it is just stupid and disappointing to see our mayor palling around with grifters at these tech conferences.”

Corben, who directed the hit documentary film “Cocaine Cowboys,” compares Miami’s dream of striking rich on crypto to the city’s long history of embracing risky business enterprises.

“Miami has no indigenous industry, and we persist from hustle to hustle,” he said. “As long as the booze is flowing, and the checks are clearing, no one says, ‘Hey where is this money coming from’?”

Politico via Yahoo News, Shadowboxing and geopolitics on the dark web, Mohar Chatterjee, Dec. 11, 2022. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, a notorious cyber-criminal group called Conti declared its “full support” for President Vladimir Putin. Three days later, a pro-Ukraine member of Conti leaked logs detailing the group’s plans to follow that up with action, saying Conti’s leaders had “lost all their shit.”

politico CustomThe logs revealed a startling new dimension to the evolution of one of the world’s biggest cyber-criminal collectives: These groups were splintering along geopolitical lines — nationalist agendas were infiltrating a cybercrime operation that had, until now, been ruthlessly profit-driven.

And that’s making the shadowy world of the so-called darknet marketplaces — where criminals trade in computer hacking tools, stolen data, narcotics and money-laundering services — even more dangerous and difficult to rein in. Cyber-criminal groups are abandoning rules that governed these marketplaces and using the malware they trade on these platforms to go after more sensitive computing systems connected to critical infrastructure and government services of the countries they deem enemies.

“You've got kind of an ideological cyber operation occurring between what I would call willing participants,” said Adam Meyers, senior vice president for intelligence at cybersecurity technology company CrowdStrike. “We're seeing the proliferation of offensive cyber operations to more and more nation-states.”

In September, researchers from Google and IBM noted the same dynamic. Conti’s hacking tools were being used in cyberattacks against Ukraine in what the researchers called an “unprecedented blurring of lines.”

On the dark web, this new environment arose, in part, due to a law enforcement success: In April, German authorities shut down Hydra — at the time, the world’s oldest and largest darknet marketplace, and one of the places where Conti bought and sold data and hacking tools, according to the logs.

Groups like Conti had always been relatively platform agnostic, willing to make the jump to the next big platform and go on with their business.



ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Thousands of Teens Are Being Pushed Into Military’s Junior R.O.T.C., Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs and Ilana Marcus, Dec. 11, 2022. In high schools across the country, students are being placed in military classes without electing them on their own. “The only word I can think of is ‘indoctrination,’” one parent said.

On her first day of high school, Andreya Thomas looked over her schedule and found that she was enrolled in a class with an unfamiliar name: J.R.O.T.C.

She and other freshmen at Pershing High School in Detroit soon learned that they had been placed into the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, a program funded by the U.S. military designed to teach leadership skills, discipline and civic values — and open students’ eyes to the idea of a military career. In the class, students had to wear military uniforms and obey orders from an instructor who was often yelling, Ms. Thomas said, but when several of them pleaded to be allowed to drop the class, school administrators refused.

“They told us it was mandatory,” Ms. Thomas said.

jrotc army logoJ.R.O.T.C. programs, taught by military veterans at some 3,500 high schools across the country, are supposed to be elective, and the Pentagon has said that requiring students to take them goes against its guidelines. But The New York Times found that thousands of public school students were being funneled into the classes without ever having chosen them, either as an explicit requirement or by being automatically enrolled.

A review of J.R.O.T.C. enrollment data collected from more than 200 public records requests showed that dozens of schools have made the program mandatory or steered more than 75 percent of students in a single grade into the classes, including schools in Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City and Mobile, Ala. A vast majority of the schools with those high enrollment numbers were attended by a large proportion of nonwhite students and those from low-income households, The Times found.

jrotc navy logoThe role of J.R.O.T.C. in U.S. high schools has been a point of debate since the program was founded more than a century ago. During the antiwar battles of the 1970s, protests over what was seen as an attempt to recruit high schoolers to serve in Vietnam prompted some school districts to restrict the program. Most schools gradually phased out any enrollment requirements.

But 50 years later, new conflicts are emerging as parents in some cities say their children are being forced to put on military uniforms, obey a chain of command and recite patriotic declarations in classes they never wanted to take.

In Chicago, concerns raised by activists, news coverage and an inspector general’s report led the school district to backtrack this year on automatic J.R.O.T.C. enrollments at several high schools that serve primarily lower-income neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides. In other places, The Times found, the practice continues, with students and parents sometimes rebuffed when they fight compulsory enrollment.

“If she wanted to do it, I would have no problem with it,” said Julio Mejia, a parent in Fort Myers, Fla., who said his daughter had tried to get out of a required J.R.O.T.C. class in 2019, when she was a freshman, and was initially refused. “She has no interest in a military career. She has no interest in doing any of that stuff. The only word I can think of is ‘indoctrination.’”

J.R.O.T.C. classes, which offer instruction in a wide range of topics, including leadership, civic values, weapons handling and financial literacy, have provided the military with a valuable way to interact with teenagers at a time when it is facing its most serious recruiting challenge since the end of the Vietnam War.

While Pentagon officials have long insisted that J.R.O.T.C. is not a recruiting tool, they have openly discussed expanding the $400 million-a-year program, whose size has already tripled since the 1970s, as a way of drawing more young people into military service. The Army says 44 percent of all soldiers who entered its ranks in recent years came from a school that offered J.R.O.T.C.

High school principals who have embraced the program say it motivates students who are struggling, teaches self-discipline to disruptive students and provides those who may feel isolated with a sense of camaraderie. It has found a welcome home in rural areas where the military has deep roots but also in urban centers where educators want to divert students away from drugs or violence and toward what for many can be a promising career or a college scholarship.

And military officials point to research indicating that J.R.O.T.C. students have better attendance and graduation rates, and fewer discipline problems at school.

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: J.R.O.T.C. Textbooks Offer an Alternative View of the World, Mike Baker and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Dec. 11, 2022. Descriptions of civic life and some key historical events differ from the way they are taught in typical public school textbooks.

One textbook for high school military cadets says girls should wear lipstick when in uniform. Another offers what a history professor described as a “frightening” interpretation of how the Vietnam War was lost. Another blames the death of Kurt Cobain, the Nirvana frontman who fatally shot himself in 1994, on heroin addiction.

A majority of public school textbooks receive extensive professional and government vetting, undergoing revision, rejection and public debate. But the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, in courses taught at thousands of high schools around the country, uses textbooks that have bypassed those standard public reviews.

The J.R.O.T.C. curriculum materials cover a wide range of subjects, with lessons on financial literacy and public speaking, on healthy eating and first aid, on preparing for college and life in the military. Most of them offer a presentation similar to what might be found in any public high school study materials.

But a New York Times review of thousands of pages of the program’s textbooks found that some of the books also included outdated gender messages, a conservative shading of political issues and accounts of historical events that falsify or downplay the failings of the U.S. government.

Dec. 10


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

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

 ny times logoNew York Times, Lina Khan, Aiming to Block Microsoft’s Activision Deal, Faces a Challenge, David McCabe, Cecilia Kang and Karen Weise, Dec. 10, 2022 (print ed.). Ms. Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, has staked an ambitious trustbusting agenda on a case that may be difficult to win.

Lina Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission, has pledged to usher in a new era of trustbusting of America’s corporate giants, recently saying the agency plans to “enforce the antitrust laws to ensure maximal efficacy.”

ftc logoNow Ms. Khan has staked that ambitious agenda on a case that may be highly challenging for the agency to win.

The F.T.C. on Thursday sued to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of the video game publisher Activision, the biggest consumer tech deal in two decades. The action punctuated Ms. Khan’s statements about reining in corporate power and was the boldest of a recent string of lawsuits from the agency to prevent other, smaller deals in the name of competition.

microsoft logo CustomBut Ms. Khan and the F.T.C. face hurdles in trying to stop the Microsoft-Activision deal, experts said. That’s because courts have been skeptical of challenges to so-called vertical mergers, where the two businesses don’t compete directly. In this case, Microsoft is best known in gaming as the maker of the Xbox console, while Activision is a major publisher of blockbuster titles such as Call of Duty.

twitter bird CustomBloomberg, Elon Musk Steps Up Attacks on Twitter’s Former Safety Head, Dana Hull and Kurt Wagner, Dec. 10, 2022. Elon Musk posted tweets including an excerpt of Yoel Roth’s doctoral dissertation Saturday that suggested the former Twitter executive is an advocate for child sexualization — a baseless trope that leaves Roth susceptible to online abuse.


hunter biden beard

washington post logoWashington Post, Some Hunter Biden allies making plans to go after his accusers, Matt Viser and Michael Scherer, Dec. 10, 2022. Facing GOP investigations, some Hunter Biden allies want to aggressively target his accusers and tell his story, while others want a lower-profile defense.

Hunter Biden’s friend and lawyer Kevin Morris was blunt in laying out his thoughts at a strategy session last September on an expected onslaught of investigations by House Republicans: It was crucial, he suggested, for Hunter Biden’s camp to be more aggressive.

Morris, at the meeting in his California home, described defamation lawsuits the team could pursue against the presidential son’s critics, including Fox News, Eric Trump and Rudy Giuliani. He outlined extensive research on two potential witnesses against Hunter Biden — a spurned business partner named Tony Bobulinski and a computer repairman named John Paul Mac Isaac.

At one point, Hunter Biden, shown above, himself happened to call into the meeting, connecting briefly by video to add his own thoughts.

david brock msnbc“They feel that there is a whole counternarrative missing because of the whole Hunter-hater narrative out there,” said liberal activist David Brock, left, who attended the meeting. “What we really got into was more the meat of it, the meat of what a response would look like.” Brock was planning for a new group, Facts First USA, focused on fighting the looming House GOP investigations.

The meeting was a glimpse into a sprawling infrastructure that is rapidly, almost frantically, assembling to combat Republicans’ plans to turn Hunter Biden into a major news story when the GOP takes over the House next year. The risk for Hunter Biden, and possibly for President Biden as well, is that this hodgepodge of efforts is not fully coordinating and does not share a unified approach, according to people involved in the effort who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal dynamics.

Hunter Biden has been working with Morris, his friend and sometime financial benefactor, and a team of researchers. The younger Biden has also hired several other lawyers — Chris Clark, who is handling a federal criminal investigation into his business dealings and other matters, along with a separate attorney, Joshua A. Levy, to deal directly with the House investigators.

Meanwhile, the White House and the Democratic National Committee have developed their own strategies for dealing with what could be a political firestorm around the president’s son. Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel under President Barack Obama, is set to represent President Biden in a personal capacity should the need arise. And a trio of Democratic-aligned outside groups has stepped up to provide rapid response and other communications.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The rise and fall of right-wing influencers — as tracked by Turning Point USA, Philip Bump, Dec. 10, 2022. If you are familiar with the group Turning Point USA, it may be because of an incident that occurred back in 2019. President Donald Trump was appearing at an event hosted by TPUSA, offering one of his standard multidirectional riffs on politics and culture. Behind him, a screen showed the presidential seal — except not really. The eagle at the center of the logo had been replaced with a double-headed bird plucked from Russia’s coat of arms.

Not the headlines either TPUSA or Trump were hoping to generate.

Despite that setback, TPUSA has grown in influence in the years since. Aimed at engaging young people in right-wing politics, it holds regular conferences with celebrities from the Republican Party and conservative media world. And, as the group’s clout and self-confidence have grown, its events have gotten flashier.

On Thursday, the group published one of its now familiar slate-card promotions for its upcoming conference. It’s a who’s-who of a particular cultural universe, from Charlie Kirk himself at top left down to former Trump administration staffer Kash Patel at lower right.

By collecting and analyzing these promotional slates, we can get a sense for the ebb and flow of power and appeal in the right-wing world over time.

So I did. I pulled about 20 social media posts delineating speaker lineups at upcoming events from 2018 to this year. I indexed where individual politicians, conservative media personalities and other figures appeared on the slate, generally taking my cues on importance from where Kirk himself was positioned.

Now let’s discuss what this tells us.

Dec. 9

ny times logoNew York Times, How the Global Spyware Industry Spiraled Out of Control, Mark Mazzetti, Ronen Bergman and Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Dec. 9, 2022 (print ed.). The market for commercial spyware — which allows governments to invade mobile phones and vacuum up data — is booming. Even the U.S. government is using it.

The Biden administration took a public stand last year against the abuse of spyware to target human rights activists, dissidents and journalists: It blacklisted the most notorious maker of the hacking tools, the Israeli firm NSO Group.

But the global industry for commercial spyware — which allows governments to invade mobile phones and vacuum up data — continues to boom. Even the U.S. government is using it.

Dec. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, F.T.C. Sues to Block Microsoft’s $69 Billion Acquisition of Activision, Karen Weise and David McCabe, Dec. 8, 2022. The move by the commission signals an aggressive stance by federal regulators to thwart the expansion of the tech industry’s biggest companies. The Federal Trade Commission, in one of the most aggressive actions taken by federal regulators in decades to check the power of the tech industry’s giants, on Thursday sued to block Microsoft’s $69 billion acquisition of the video game maker Activision Blizzard.

ftc logomicrosoft logo CustomThe F.T.C. said that the deal would harm consumers because Microsoft could use Activision’s blockbuster games like Call of Duty to lure gamers from rivals. The agency’s commissioners voted 3to 1 to approve filing the suit.

The decision is a blow to the expansion of Microsoft’s video game business, which has become its most important consumer unit and topped $16 billion in annual sales during the most recent fiscal year. For the F.T.C. chair, Lina Khan, a legal scholar who rocketed to fame after she wrote an article criticizing Amazon, the lawsuit will test whether her aggressive plan to rein in the power of Big Tech can survive in the courts.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision would be the largest consumer technology deal since AOL bought Time Warner two decades ago. It would marry Microsoft’s Xbox console and game streaming service, which many consider gaming’s future, with Activision titles like Call of Duty and Candy Crush. The scale of those games is enormous: Activision says it has almost 370 million active users each month.

Microsoft indicated it would not abandon the deal and would fight in court to keep the acquisition alive.


Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes arrive at the Disney Upfront 2022 event in New York City on May 17 (Reuters photo by David Dee Delgado via Associated Press).

Amy Robach and T.J. Holmes arrive at the Disney Upfront 2022 event in New York City on May 17 (Reuters photo by David Dee Delgado via Associated Press).

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: ABC offers a masterclass in how not to handle workplace romance, Helaine Olen, Dec. 8, 2022 (print ed.). All rom-com protagonists need an obstacle to overcome. This week, newly revealed lovebirds T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach, co-anchors of ABC’s “Good Morning America” spinoff show “GMA3,” got a doozy of one, when the corporate suite announced they were taking the couple off the air.

But while network suits might have upped the dramatic tension, they also inadvertently offered up a master class in the wrong way to go about managing a workplace romance. No one needs the c-suite to weigh in on consensual behavior between equals that takes place outside the workplace — no matter how attention-getting it is.

The “GMA3” contretemps began last week, when the Daily Mail got a hold of the exclusive — make that “EXCLUSIVE” — news that the two anchors were an item, despite being married to other people, in a piece studded with private-investigator-style tabloid photos.

abc news logo colorThe New York Post jumped in to confirm they were spotted “canoodling” in a local bar. (Word subsequently went out the couple both separated from their spouses this summer.) TikTok and Twitter went wild. After a few days, ABC decided this midlife romance was an “internal and external distraction,” as the ABC president, Kim Godwin, apparently said during an editorial call, and pulled the twosome from air.

Given the natural human inclination to gossip about celebrities and co-workers, that distraction may be real — and yet it’s unclear precisely how the romantic upgrade in Holmes and Robach’s relationship is otherwise a problem. The couple is not triggering any of the traditional red flags when it comes to workplace romances. They are co-anchors, so there is no issue of hierarchy, unlike when CNN’s head Jeff Zucker lost his position following an investigation into an ongoing relationship with network chief marketing executive Allison Gollust. No one has alleged favoritism or harassment as a result of the affair. In fact, it’s been reported that Godwin told staffers that the relationship is “not a violation of company policy.”

The fact is, workplace romances are incredibly common.

So why not tell co-workers to MYOB and let everyone get back to work? It’s not like there aren’t examples of a functional workplace romance between co-anchors. When Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski began co-hosting Morning Joe, they were married to other people. After they survived tabloid scandal about their affair and four years after they got married, the show goes on.

washington post logoWashington Post, New York Times employees stage 24-hour walkout in labor dispute, Elahe Izadi, Dec. 8, 2022. The most dramatic move by union workers at the company in decades follows months of negotiations over pay and other issues.

Reporters won’t write stories or interview sources. Photojournalists will stay home. And if a spate of unsavory language breaks out in the online comments thread posted below a New York Times story, there might not be anyone on hand to delete it.

That’s the expected scenario at the Times on Thursday, after more than 1,100 employees began a day-long work stoppage at midnight in one of the most dramatic labor disputes at the company in decades.

Members of the New York Times Guild — the union that covers about 1,400 Times workers, including non-newsroom departments such as advertising and security — have said the walkout is the culmination of months of frustration over contract negotiations on a range of issues, particularly compensation. The previous employee contract expired in March 2021. In a letter to members this week, union organizers wrote that “we cannot get to a deal until the company makes wage and benefit proposals that truly share the company’s gains with its employees.” They accused the company Wednesday evening of failing to “bargain in good faith.”

Dec. 7

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

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

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

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

Dec. 6


rupert murdoch 2009 world economic forumw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 5


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 4


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Dec. 3


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

Reverse chauvinism, Taibbi called it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

hunter biden beard

Hunter Biden (file photo).

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

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

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

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

I truly, truly wish I were joking.

Here’s a synopsis for the blessedly uninitiated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


alex jones screen shot 2020 05 01 at 12.02.06 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 1

kennedys king new logo

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


elon musk sideview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Nov. 30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 29

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 28

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


huawei meng wanzhou

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musk and Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 27

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

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

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

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

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



elon musk sideview

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

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

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

Nov. 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov. 25